“Fantastic Beasts is a very dark adventure that addresses fear, tolerance and bigotry. Sound familiar today?”
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (2016) 4 Stars (out of 5)
During the 2016 Presidential Campaign, the term XENOPHOBIA became associated with a segment of Donald Trump’s supporters. To clearly understand the true intent of the modern meaning — “an aversion to persons unfamiliar”, we need to go back to the ancient Greek terms. XENOS — which can be translated as either “stranger” or “guest”. And PHOBOS — which means either “fear” or “flight”. XENOHOBIA, according to the dictionary, “came to us by way of New Latin and first appeared in English print in 1903.” (Merriam-Webster.)
Make no mistake that in this very dark world that J.K. Rowling has brought us into, we find a very divided society filled with factions of distrust and hate. She has created a society who clearly lives under a conspiracy theory fear of behavioral differences with violent results. Behavior is judged with enforced controlling restrictions. There are those who have power and those who do not. As a result, this dark film has become even darker today.
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM takes place 70 years before the first HARRY POTTER book was published. Set in 1926, it centers on Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, brilliant as always) — as a “magizoologist” who arrives in New York City with a case full of strange creatures who quickly escape. And what an adorable and extraordinary menagerie of beasts they are. Each CGI beast is incredibly creative and interesting, with very different personalities.
FANTASTIC BEASTS is also a very funny and very clever dramatic adventure of XENOPHOBIA, dripping with political commentary. Fans of the HARRY POTTER books are going to be evenly divided on this film. Some will be under whelmed. I happened to really like this two hour escape from reality. My take — which may surprise a few of you is this: FANTASTIC BEASTS is absolutely not for kids. It is written and produced for kids who have grown up with Harry Potter and are now our “millenials”. I cannot overstate this observation.
Credit David Yates, the film’s director — who directed the last four Harry Potter movies and has also grown up. I continue to be amazed at the wizardry of Eddie Redmayn, who seems to disappear into each role he takes on. I only have one criticism. Newt Scamander speaks with a heavy British accent and I found myself unable to clearly understand some of his dialogue. From the clever opening to the final credits, you really have to sit up and pay attention. Unlike a book, with a movie you do not have the luxury of turning back a few pages and re-reading a paragraph again.
Credit the visual magic from cinematographer Philippe Rousselot and film editor Mark Day. Fiona Weir did a masterful job of casting 139 credited roles . Also credit production designers Stuart Craig and James Hambidge. The art direction team was led by David Allday, with set direction by Anna Pinnock and costume design by Colleen Atwood.
Credit the outstanding musical score to eight times Academy Award nominee James Newton Howard, who has scored over 100 films.
The character names are hard to spell and equally challenging to pronounce. Dan Fogler, who plays Jacob Kowalski, Newt’s unexpected loyal friend on this adventure, is terrific. He may be familiar to you as a stand-up comedian and with his guest appearances on a variety of TV shows. He also received Broadway’s Tony Award as Best Featured Actor in The 25th Annual Putname County Spelling Bee.
Other lead performances includ: Katherine Waterston as Porpentina Goldstein; Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein and Colin Farrell as Percival Graves. Other familiar actors include Johnny Depp, Ron Perlman and Jon Voight.
It is the expectation of Warner Bros. to now follow the magical HARRY POTTER films ($7.8 Billion global box office to date) with a new five film franchise. When the credits begin to roll, you will already be thinking about so many wonderful possibilities for Beast 2. They have left so many things opened for the sequel.
“YOU HAVE TO DELIVER WHAT THE FANS ARE EXPECTING, BUT YOU ALSO HAVE TO DELIVER MORE.”
Greg Silverman, Warner Bros. president of creative development and worldwide production.
PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS
According to the New York Times, 38 new 2016 films will be released during the month of November. 47 additional films will be released throughout December. It is impossible for any film critic to see every film as it was intended — shown at a large screen movie theatre with state of the art sound. We will see as many as 5 films per week for the remainder of the year. In addition, we are expected to view scores of the CD screeners that we are now receiving in the mail. They are sent directly to us to view at home by the studios. It is the studios who determine in advance which films (and in what categories) they will promote for an Academy Award nomination.
Next week I will review and compare two new films.
THE EAGLE HUNTRESS (2016) follows Aisholopan, a 13-year-old girl, as she trains to become the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter, and rises to the pinnacle of a tradition that has been handed down from father to son for centuries. Set against the breathtaking expanse of the Mongolian steppe, THE EAGLE HUNTRESS features some of the most awe-inspiring cinematography ever captures in a documentary, giving this intimate tale of a young girl’s quest the dramatic force of an epic narrative film.
In contrast, THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN is an absolutely wonderful and charming “coming-of-age” mainstream film. We return to the familiar world of high school teenagers trying to find their comfort zone and confidence. I absolutely loved this film — and you will too.
For trailers and release dates please visit Movies Coming Soon: