Film Review: “Fantastic Beasts : The Crimes of Grindelwald”

 

FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston
Directed by: David Yates
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 2 hrs 14 mins
Warner Bros.

Is “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” fantastic or criminal? The answer falls somewhere in the middle. This second installment of what is intended to be a series of “Fantastic Beasts” films, all from the mind of “Harry Potter” creator J.K. Rowling, is a long-winded tale that lacks the charm of its 2016 predecessor. The story is predictably darker in tone, but a bulk of the over two-hour running time is a snooze fest.

Set in 1927, “Crimes of Grindelwald” begins excitingly enough as we watch Johnny Depp play the steely fanatical villain Gellert Grindelwald, regarded as one of the two most powerful wizards around, make a daring yet well-planned escape from the British Ministry of Magic. That’s when the story comes to a screeching halt as we are then forced into the world of mild-mannered Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he tries to get his international travel ban lifted.

Not much has changed with our hero since the original – he refuses to take sides, rarely makes eye contact with anyone, and has trouble communicating with the opposite sex. Newt is offered the chance to work alongside his brother for the Ministry of Magic in order to locate the powerful yet troubled Obscurial Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller, “Justice League”), but he refuses. However, he cannot turn down his former teacher Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) so he travels secretly to Paris with his Muggle sidekick in-tow, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) who’s fighting with wizard girlfriend Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol).

It’s all rather sluggish and overly contrived as we are bombarded with a dizzying array of plot points for not only this film, but also for the “Fantastic Beasts” sequels that are already planned. There is little in the way of suspense even though more and more characters are introduced who are trying to find Credence for a variety of reasons, some more mysterious or nefarious than others. Rowling’s story also tries to rekindle the endearing romance in the first film between Newt and Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston). Unfortunately, Rowling’s screenplay fails as their bumbling stumbling relationship feels like something straight out of a TV sitcom.

The character of Newt ends up becoming a boring, overshadowed distraction instead of a hero as we are left with wanting more of Law and Depp. Both are a treat to watch on the silver screen with Law successfully being able to make his own mark on a character already forged in the minds of “Harry Potter” followers by Michael Gambon and the late Richard Harris. Depp delivers one of his better performances as Grindelwald as he stays away from being overly quirky and gives his character a magnetic solemnity.

The pace is picked up in the last third of “Crimes of Grindelwald” as secrets are revealed, characters die, and those still living chose sides. Plenty of magical special effects abound but none are necessarily ground breaking or spell binding. Maybe it’s a sophomore slump and the “Fantastic Beasts” series will get better, but in the meantime it’s a disappointing pill to swallow.

Blu-ray Review “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Actors: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly, Lowell Landes
Director: Benh Zeitlin
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
DVD Release Date: December 4, 2012
Run Time: 94 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

…once there was a Hushpuppy and she lived with her daddy in The Bathtub

Before getting into “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, I was not sure what to expect. This little indie keeps your attention from the moment it starts. It is extremely brutal and honest but that is the charm of this film. Quvenzhané Wallis really gives a wonderful performance playing Hushpuppy. She delivers such a fantastic performance that I wouldn’t be surprised to see award bells ringing in her future. Then Mix in some giant prehistoric beasts and you have yourself one enthralling film. Since this is Benh Zeitlin’s directorial debut, it is quite impressive. I am sure we will get some amazing things in the future. As we enter the end of the year, I would recommend checking out this little indie drama.

Official Premise: Teeming with magic, beauty and pure joy, this crowd-pleasing winner at the Sundance Film Festival has emerged as one of the year’s most acclaimed films. Newcomer Quvenzhan‚ Wallis delivers an “Oscarr-worthy performance” (Philadelphia Daily News) as Hushpuppy, the six-year-old force of nature in an isolated bayou community. When her tough but loving father Wink (Dwight Henry) succumbs to a mysterious malady, the fierce and determined girl bravely sets out on a journey to the outside world. But Hushpuppy’s quest is hindered by a “busted” universe that melts the ice caps and unleashes an army of prehistoric beasts.

The Blu-ray presentation from 20th Century Fox is no joke. It is being delivered as a combo pack with a Blu-ray and DVD discs, as well as a downloadable digital copy. The film is low-budget but that doesn’t stop it from looking and sounding amazing. The 1080p transfer is extremely sharp and looks great. The audio included is a very impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. This works well with the film’s scale and score. If you enjoyed this film be sure to check out the digital flipbook at http://www.comeseethewild.com/.

The special features are decent for this Blu-ray release. There are about 15 minutes of deleted scenes, each includes commentary from director Benh Zeitlin. There are the initial audition tapes for Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry. “The Making of Beasts of the Southern Wild” is a nice look into the production. It sort-of makes up for a lack of commentary track on the release. “Glory at Sea” is Ben Zeitlin’s first short film, from 2008 and in sort-of a lead into this film. There is a feature on the music with composer Dan Romer. “The Aurochs” looks into creation of the enormous beasts, I wish this was longer! Lastly there is a theatrical trailer included.