Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: A Chase

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is inspired by the companion book by J. K. Rowling. The book actually has no real plot. It was  a Harry Potter mock textbook that Rowling created to benefit a charity.  The movie suffers a bit because unlike the Harry Potter series, there is no real back story from which it can draw. It relies almost solely on capturing the wizarding world of Harry Potter without Harry and the gang.

It is 1926, and we meet the author of the textbook used at wizarding schools, Newt Scamander who is played by Oscar winner, Eddie Redmayne. Newt has come to America with his suitcase full of magical creatures on a mission which in order to remain spoiler free, I won't reveal.  Problems ensue when Newt has his suitcase confused and switched with one belonging to a baker. Newt, along with a No-mag (Muggle for you Potterheads) baker named Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and a former Magic Investigator Porpentina 'Tina' Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and her mind-reading sister,
Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), must recapture the beasties that escaped from his suitcase.  Along the route, there will be brushes with abused children (Ezra Miller, Faith Wood-Blagrove, Jenn Murray) and their evil adopted mother (Samantha Morton), with a power-hungry magician, Graves (Colin Farrell), with the somewhat Puritanical American wizards, with a newspaper magnet (Jon Voight) and his sons (Josh Cowdery and Ronan Raftery), and with an evil Voldemort-like wizard named Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) whom we barely meet. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a chase. It is a love story. It is a magical adventure and a fun watch.

The movie gets a bit slow in the middle and it takes time to develop. Our bad guys need some work as they lack the depth of menace that we saw in characters from the original series like Voldemort, Snape, and Lucius Malfoy. I had forgotten, for example, the in the original series it was Grindelwald that gave Aldus Dumbledore his legendary status from their duel. Still, since there are four sequels planned for this series, one can only guess at how the characters will develop now that the foundation is set for them. 

All in all, the movie is fun. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in 3-D is well worth the money and the cast turn in some fun performances. I must admit that the budding romance between Jacob the Baker and Queenie the mind-reader was probably the most charming part of the movie. There are great moments of excitement and some stunning special effects. I'm glad I went and I will probably buy the Blu-Ray. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Strange Is Wonderfully Strange

I am going to try and be spoiler free. Marvel's latest add to the Marvel Cinema Universe is Doctor Strange starring consummate actor Benedict Cumberbatch as the mystical superhero. Strange is a slightly different comic book hero. He is a supernatural protector of the Earth. He can bend time and space.

The movie is an origin story about how the arrogant and egotistical neurosurgeon, Doctor Stephen Strange becomes a sorcerer. To do this, he must conquer his arrogance. Along the route, he is tutored by the Ancient One, played by another superior actor, Tilda Swinton. She, along with other Masters of magic, Wong, played by Benedict Wong, and Mordo, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, protect the Earth from forces in the supernatural realms of multiple universes.  Mordo is something of Strange's foil. Where Strange is a rule-breaker, Mordo is the unbending, straight arrow.

It befalls Strange and Mordo that they must defeat the dark sorcerer, Kaecilius, played by Mads Mikkelsen. Kaecilius wants eternal life and has, along with his followers, turned to the dark immortal, Dormammu. The battle between the magicians is epic.

What makes Doctor Strange work is that it is multifaceted. The acting is well done. The special effects are some of the best I've seen in a long while. More importantly, Doctor Strange is like most of the really good superhero movies, character driven. It is exciting, dark at times, light-hearted at others. We see the growth and changes in all the characters from Strange's arrogant charm to Mordo's need for a world of black and white. It is, in short, a well-crafted movie. 
Doctor Strange is well worth the time. Its effects will dazzle in 3-D. I will buy the Blu-Ray.