Movie: FANTASTIC BEASTS and WHERE to find them
Rating: PG-13, some fantasy action violence
Jeanne: "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is supremely fantastic! One has to wonder how J. K. Rowling comes up with all of this stuff, but it appears her imagination is limitless. And choosing Eddie Redmayne to play Newt Scamander is a stroke of genius. He is so completely endearing and quietly effective.
Newt, the Wizarding World's star magizoologist, has arrived in New York City. It's 1926 and there is a segment of the population organized by Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton) which is railing against the wizards led by President Seraphina Picquery (Carmen Ejogo) and Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), Director of Magical Security for the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA). Newt is here simply to return the beasts, which he's been capturing, to a sanctuary in Arizona where they will be safe. Come to find out, beasts were recently banned in New York.
In a rather haphazard encounter with an American Muggle named Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) in a bank, Newt's suitcase is switched with his. Newt is then arrested by Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and taken to the MACUSA headquarters. Graves demands to see the contents of Newt's suitcase and the error is exposed. Tina and Newt race to find Jacob, but it is too late. A few of the beasts have escaped and now it is imperative that they be found before they can be captured and harmed.
Directed by David Yates, with a screenplay by Rowling herself --- her first time --- "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" has an enormous amount of action and fun to offer. The beasts are adorable and incorrigible, as one would expect. They are wonderfully colorful and highly entertaining.
My favorite is the Niffler, a small furry guy resembling a porcupine. He's wildly attracted to shiny objects and seems to have endless places to store them. The scene in the jewelry store is hilarious, especially when Jacob and Newt end up covered in diamonds standing in front of the cops.
David is not a fan --- nor was he a Harry Potter devotee. But I love al the weird and wonderful creatures and characters which Ms. Rowling can devise. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is the first of five films in this series. Yates has signed on to direct all of them --- and I'm positive they will maintain their loyal HP fans.
Opinion: See It Now!
David: Renowned author J. K. Rowling --- the creator of all things Harry Potter, in case you've been living under a rock --- has written her first screenplay, and in the process has unleashed the wildest collection of creatures since the original "Star Wars" in 1977. With names like Niffler (a furry platypus/otter beast with a penchant for stealing jewelry) and Erumpent (essentially a glowing rhinocerous), Rowling's keen imagination should please the most loyal of Potter fans. Actually, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" takes place in 1926 New York City --- beautifully re-created here --- many decades before Harry ever stepped foot into Hogwarts.
The film has a vast variety of wondrous visual effects, not the least of which has super wizard Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and a "no-maj"/Muggle named Jacob (Dan Fogler) disappearing into a suitcase. My personal favorite creature is Pickett, a green, stick figure --- praying mantis-type thing --- that lives in Newt's pocket and can display emotion. I also liked the newspaper headlines from the era that bemoaned all the strange events that were going on as a result of the beasts being unloosed on the city.
However --- like "Doctor Strange" --- I personally don't share a penchant for these fantasy films. At the risk of alienating my daughter, a huge Potter devotee, I was never overly fond of the franchise. Now "Fantastic Beasts" promises to be another of Rowling's long-term odysseys, with a minimum of two more entries.
Nevertheless, you have to admire the incredibly complex scale that these movies encompass. With a budget approaching $190 million, with more than 11,000 extras, and up to 350 construction workers building NYC replicas in England, it's incredible how director David Yates keeps it all together. He made the first four Potter films, and is scheduled to lead the rest. Based on just the sheer magnitude of "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", far be it for me to not give the film a positive rating.
Opinion: See It Now!