Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

2016, Heyday Films

J.K. Rowling spins off a new series cut from the same Harry Potter cloth. This slightly overwrought yet very competently produced fantasy introduces new characters decidedly and refreshingly different from Harry et al, and feels much more adult than any that came before. It also imports the characters—along with their magical friends—into 1920s New York City. Eddie Redmayne was practically born for the part of Newt Scamander, while much was made of Johnny Depp's appearance, although it was brief. James Newton Howard contributed an absolutely wonderful score.

       

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

2018, Heyday Films

What a sad turn of events. Cramming ten pounds of story into a five pound movie made for a cluttered mess with no room for our emotional investment. This one has an endless parade of characters to keep track of, and enough exposition to fill a supertanker. If you watch the DVD in a language you don't understand, it has about the same emotional impact (I'm not kidding—I watched it in Portuguese just to see, and it worked). Plenty of splashy effects for the easily-amused, but not much to engage the rest of us. Johnny Depp's much-debated presence didn't keep it from earning more than three times its $200 million budget, which should be enough to assure a third installment, although J.K. Rowling has hinted she may pen five. [sarcasm] I can't wait. [/sarcasm]

   

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