Tag Archives: Colin Farrell

Coming to America

Eddie Redmayne brings Harry Potter legacy stateside 

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell & Dan Fogler
Directed by David Yates
PG-13
In theaters Nov. 18, 2016

The “boy wizard” Harry Potter exited the movies in 2011 after a $10 billion box-office run of eight hugely popular films. But he never really left.

But author J.K. Rowling kept the character alive and well in a London stage play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and in new tales on her Potterworld website. And the legacy certainly thrives in Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them, a spin-off “prequel” that takes place 70 years before the events depicted in the first Harry Potter movie.

Beasts—written and co-produced by Rowling and directed by David Yates, who also directed the final four Harry Potter flicks—is the story of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a young Hogwarts-trained “magiczoologist” who comes to New York City in 1926 on a mission to “rescue, nurture and protect” the world’s magical creatures.

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEMNewt is also documenting his travels, like a wizard-ing Charles Darwin, for a book that will be called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them—which will also, decades later, become one of Harry Potter’s textbooks.

But the Big Apple isn’t a very hospitable place, at that particular time, particularly for wizards. As Nazi fascism spreads abroad, the dark specter of an evil wizard-warlord, Gellert Grindelwald, looms even larger, and the public views anyone with any twinkle of magical abilities with fear and suspicion. A sect of witch-hunting fanatics, the Second Salemers, rallies to ferret out wizards in New York City, putting America’s own benevolent Magical Congress on the defensive.

So when some Newt’s “beasts” get loose from his carry-on, it creates quite a stir—and sets off something like a 1920s version of the game Pokèmon Go as Newt scurries and scrambles trying to find them all.

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEMIn a movie called Fantastic Beasts, you’d expect some fantastic beasts, and you can indeed find them here. There are teeny green Bowtruckles, whimsical, shy, plant-like sprouts that can come in quite handy, say, if you’ve got a lock to pick. The regal Thunderbird, an enormous avian creature (the Hippogriff in later Potter lore), can sense danger and create storms. The primate-like Demiguise has shiny silver fur, when he’s not invisible. An Occomy, a plumed, dragon-like bird, hatches from pure silver eggs worth a fortune and can grow—or shrink—to any size, filling up a department store or diving into a teacup. The Erumpent, a love-stuck, rhino-like behemoth, has a gigantic glowing horn.

But everyone’s favorite will be the Niffler, a rascally, kleptomanic cross between a mole and a platypus that can’t keep his tiny paws off coins, watches or anything worth snatching.

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Katherine Waterson

Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), the director of security for the Magical Congress, comes down hard on Newt for smuggling creatures into the states—but, as his last name suggests, Graves may also have other, hidden, more sinister motives. Katherine Waterson is Tina, a witch who becomes Newt’s ally. Alison Sudol, from TV’s Transparent, plays Tina’s free-spirited sister and roommate, Queenie. Ezra Miller is Credence Barebone, a troubled young man with a painful past. Tony Award-winning Broadway actor Dan Fogler steals his scenes (and the hearts of the audience) as Jacob Kowalski, a loveable-lug “No-Mag” (non-magical) factory worker, World War I veteran and aspiring baker exposed to the world of magic through his new friendship with Newt.

Fantastic Beasts will delight Harry Potter fans who’ve been pining for more big-screen magic for six years. It has moments of humor, whimsy and fun, and it creates a new world of fanciful characters and detail. But its overall tone is dark, casting its fantasy adventure against a very serious backdrop of dread, paranoia and oppression that recalls not only history’s long shadows but also many of today’s pitched, polarized emotions. And it seems like a Hollywood fizzle when a movie so rich in wizardly wonders and escapist marvel builds to a standard, blockbuster-y blowout, with 10 minutes of crashing, booming CGI destruction and noise. Yes, a major city gets demolished once again, and yet no one seems to get seriously injured or killed—just like in almost every modern superhero smash-fest.

Early in the film, Tina watches Newt catch one of his creatures, place it back in his grip and quickly snap it shut. “What else have you got in there?” she asks him.

A lot! And in more ways than one—there are four more Beasts movies planned. Expect to see a lot more of Newt, Tina, Queenie and Jacob.

Redmayne, an Oscar-winning actor, is fine in his role—gangly, earnest, a bit bumbling, striking the right tones as a scientist devoted to his work and his precious supernatural subjects. But Newt’s valise: Man, that’s one crazy road case, and it deserves its own star billing. It holds his magical menagerie, all his clothes and toiletries, and it serves as the portable portal to his fabulous, other-dimensional workshop, lab and zoo. And somehow it’s a zip to get through customs.

So if you’re getting me anything for Christmas, please look into one of those nutty suitcases. That would be a totally fantastic present.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Nanny & the Mouse

The story behind the story behind the story of ‘Mary Poppins’

SAVING MR. BANKS

Saving Mr. Banks

Starring Tom Hanks & Emma Thompson

Directed by John Lee Hancock

PG-13, 123 min.

A Walt Disney movie about Walt Disney making a Walt Disney movie, Saving Mr. Banks is a story behind a story behind a story that will strike a sentimental chord with anyone who remembers Disney’s 1964 hit about a certain singing, flying British nanny.

The true tale of how Uncle Walt convinced P.L. Travers, the writer of Mary Poppins, to sell him the rights to turn her storybook series into the now-classic movie musical is spun here into a witty, heart-tugging yarn about Disney’s unstoppable force confronting Travers’ immoveable object.

Tom Hanks plays the avuncular Disney, atop his Magic Kingdom empire in 1961 and trying to finally come through on a 20-year promise to his young daughters to take their favorite childhood character, Mary Poppins, from the storybook to the screen. The prickly Travers (Emma Thompson), the British author of the series of books featuring the English nanny with magical powers, has consistently, persistently tuned down Disney’s offers.

But now, in a financial bind, Travers finally agrees to come to Los Angeles and proceed with a film treatment as long as she’s given script approval and made part of the process. She tells Walt to his face, however, that she won’t have her fiercely guarded Mary “turned into one of your silly cartoons.”

SAVING MR. BANKSThe movie toggles between Travers’ comically difficult work with Disney and his staff, and flashbacks to her golden-glow childhood in Australia with her alcoholic father (Colin Farrell), building connections between the author, her past and her literary creation that don’t become evident until much later in the movie.

Travers hates everything, at least initially—everything about Los Angeles, Hollywood, Disney and the movie his company is trying to make. She hates Dick Van Dyke, the actor hired as the star.  She hates the songs, written by the crack Disney tunesmith siblings Robert and Richard Sherman (B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman). She hates the idea of dancing penguins.

SAVING MR. BANKSPaul Giamiatti has a recurring role as the friendly chauffeur hired by Disney to squire Travers around, becoming the only American she meets to really break through her icy shell. (It’s enough to make you wonder how the same actor could be playing a heartless slave broker just a few multiplex doors down in 12 Years A Slave.)

We all know how things turned out: Walt compromised just enough to win the tug of war, and the movie got made the way he envisioned it. Disney’s Mary Poppins was a smash. Critics praised it, fans adored it and it helped segue Disney from cartoons into live-action features. It won five Academy Awards.

As he did in The Blind Side, director John Lee Hancock pours on the emotion, so much so that it sugarcoats the shortcomings in the script, which fails to neatly, completely wrap up the rather dense details of Travers’ daddy issues and why exactly Mr. Banks, the father of the children in “Mary Poppins,” was in need of being saved.

But Thompson does a fine job, and so does Hanks, especially in a late scene together where their two characters warm to each other when he shares a story about his own hardscrapple youth, and about his own daddy issues—one that helps seal his deal.

And by golly, if you don’t get a bit of a lump in your throat during the “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” scene, well, you’ve got more ice that needs melting than even Ms. Travers.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,