Tag Archives: Eddie Redmayne

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

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Cosmic Canned Ham

Loopy ‘Jupiter Ascending’ is a way-out, sci-fi mind scramble

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Jupiter Ascending

Starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis & Eddie Redmayne

Directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski

PG-13

There’s a dinosaur wearing a motorcycle jacket in the dining room, a shirtless interplanetary hunk (Channing Tatum) zipping around the sky on rocket skates, and a maid (Mila Kunis) scrubbing the toilet who’s actually queen of the universe.

Better buckle up: This is one way-out, sci-fi space-opera mind scramble. But the filmmaking-siblings team of writers, producers and directors Lana and Andy Wachowski typically don’t do anything small. Previously, they’ve given us the time-and-space-shifting The Matrix (1999) and its two sequels; a futuristic political thriller (V For Vendetta); a live-action adaptation of the Japanese anime classic Speed Racer; and the sprawling, brain-warping Cloud Atlas.

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Mila Kunis

The Wachowskis’ movies are often lauded for visual sumptuousness but criticized for lack of lucid storytelling, and that could certainly be said for Jupiter Ascending, a lavish, fantastically over-the-top spectacle of outrageous special effects, Baroque set design, outlandish characters and fantastical ideas that never stop zapping and zinging. But so many of those ideas fail to find their way into a coherent package, and the whole movie rings loudly, if not proudly, in the major key of gobbledygook.

The “Jupiter” of the title is Jupiter Jones (Kunis), a lowly Russian immigrant who grows up in Chicago cleaning bathrooms, completely unaware that her lofty astral pedigree has made her the subject of an intergalactic bounty hunt. As how Jupiter came by her out-of-this-world DNA is explained (sort of), we meet the various characters that have all come looking for her.

JUPITER ASCENDING

Eddie Redmayne

Channing Tatum is the genetically engineered, half-wolf, half-human mutant who zips to Earth to warn Jupiter about who she really is—and what kind of danger she’s in. Eddie Redmayne is an alien business tycoon dealing in a deluxe brand of “youth serum.” Sean Bean, from TV’s Game of Thrones and the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, is a scruffy, Han Solo-ish, galaxy-hopping good guy.

It’s all wild, weird, and a high-heavens, hot-mess hoot, especially when you realize you’re seeing two guys just coming off tony, Oscar-nominated movies (Tatum’s Foxcatcher and Redmayne, for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything) now chewing such enormous, supernova-size slices of cosmic canned ham. The whole thing is so earnestly, self-seriously over-the-top, so ridiculously rich in excess, it’s like a gonzo, gazillion-dollar mash-up of Plan Nine From Outer Space and Guardians of the Galaxy steered by a committee of 13-year-old boys hyped on an all-weekend Star Wars/Star Trek marathon and fueled by an endless supply of Mountain Dew and Pixy Sticks.

But hey: In what other flick are you going to find Channing Tatum grunting like a (half) wolf, zipping around shirtless in zero-gravity shoes a la Buck Rogers at an Olympic speed-skating event, and slugging it out with a dinosaur? You’d have to traverse many a multiplex—if not the entire galaxy—to find anything that shoots for the stars quite like the loopy Jupiter Ascending. And if you’re going to ride this rocket, into an orbit that that swings w-a-a-a-y out there, well, don’t hope to understand it, just try to hang on.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Mind Over Matter

Eddie Redmayne is superb as physicist Stephen Hawking

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The Theory of Everything

Starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones

Directed by James Marsh

PG-13

 

You may have seen Eddie Redmayne as the young lovestruck movie production assistant who squires the famous Ms. Monroe around London in My Week With Marilyn, or as Marius, the noble rebel fighter who sings the lovely “Empty Tables at Empty Chairs” in Les Misèrables. Those were fine, standout roles, and they got him noticed.

But this role, as physicist Stephen Hawking, will likely get him an Oscar nomination.

Based on a 2007 memoir by Hawking’s ex-wife, Jane, The Theory of Everything stars Redmayne in an amazing, bravura performance as Hawking, who was diagnosed with motor neuron disease—similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known as Lou Gehrig’s disease—at the age of 21, while working on his doctorate studies at England’s University of Cambridge in the early 1960s.

His physician delivers the news without much hope; he gloomily gives Hawking only a couple of years to live, during which time his body functions—movement, speech, breath—will slowly, inexorably shut down. Hawking wants to know about his mind.

“The brain isn’t affected,” the doctor tells him. “Your thoughts won’t change. It’s just that, eventually, no one will know what they are.”

How wrong that doctor turned out to be. Hawking, now 72, went on to become a superstar in the world of theoretical physics, writing a bestselling book (A Brief History of Time) that sold 10 million copies, communicating through a speech-generating device and advancing his groundbreaking theories wrapping around time, space, black holes and the mind-bending mechanisms of quantum physics.

As Hawking, Redmayne is phenomenal, starting out as a gangly, chipper young university student, looking for “one single unifying equation that explains everything in the universe,” eventually morphing into the crumpled genius in the wheelchair who can only move one finger…and then nothing but an eyelash.

TTOE_D04_01565-01568_R_CROP1409353846British actress Felicity Jones does a fine, forthright job as Jane, the charming coed who becomes Hawking’s first wife. And although Stephen’s hard “science” doesn’t mesh with Jane’s hopeful “faith,” the movie paints a sweet, sweeping picture of their courtship, marriage and young parenthood, and of the intense devotion that Jane brought to the increasing needs of Stephen’s debilitating physical condition.

It would have been nice for the movie to dig in even a bit deeper to Jane’s side of the story, especially when she’s tugged away to stray from her years of love and sacrifice with the young church organist who becomes the family’s friend and Stephen’s caretaker (Charlie Cox). Likewise, it feels a bit glossed-over and rushed when Stephen falls for the doting nurse, Elaine, who becomes his second wife, in the mid 1990s.

But one thing that’s never less than rock-solid is Redmayne, who makes you believe every minute he’s onscreen that he is Stephen Hawking, with all his genius, wit and determination intact even as his body withers around them. He never quite nails down that one, single unifying equation that explains everything—but this one role may be everything Redmayne needs to take home the first major awards of his acting career.

—Neil Pond, Parade and American Profile Magazines

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