Richard joins CP24 anchor Nathan Downer to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the return of Newt Scamander in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald,” the political doings of “The Front Runner” and the arthouse heist of “Widows.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, the continuing saga of magizoologist Newt Scamander in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald,” the political intrigue of “The Front Runner” and the arthouse heist of “Widows.”
If you already know what a ‘magizoologist’ is you’re likely a fan of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world. If not, you’ve got some catching up to do before buying ticket to the second instalment of the Harry Potter spin-off “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald.”
When we last saw magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) he temporarily put aside his study of magical creatures to travel to New York City and help MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America) bring the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) to justice.
The story picks up as Grindelwald escapes. Like all good villains he craves world dominance, but only on his own terms. He believes in wizarding superiority and sets in motion a plan to lead a new Wizarding Order of pure-blood wizards who will rule over all non-magical beings.
Enter Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), professor of Transfiguration at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and an influential member of the British Ministry of Magic. To stop Grindelwald’s diabolical plot Dumbledore contacts Scamander, a confidante and former student.
The film based on the second original screenplay from J.K. Rowling is more fantastical than magical. There are all manner of creatures and wizard’s tricks that could only have sprung from her fertile imagination but there is very little actual cinema magic. Sure Potter fans will love seeing Hogwarts and a glimpse of Quidditch again but that is nostalgia, and Alison Sudol’s Judy Holliday impression is as winning as it was the first time out but overall “The Crimes Of Grindelwald” feels like a placeholder for the films yet to come.
Non-Potter-heads will likely be confused by the barrage of names, the myriad of subplots and a deadly scene about the family tree of Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) that gives the word convoluted a whole new meaning. Part of the joy of the Rowling’s story weaving in the Potter series was its depth and complexity. Here it feels as though she’s being paid not by the word but by the character.
When director David Yates isn’t bathing the screen with blue digital flames and the like there are things to admire. The set and costume design are spectacular, appropriate for both the 1920s setting and the otherworldly characters. Also interesting are the messages, both timeless—the search for identity—and timely—unity, fear mongering and freedom through force—provide subtext that is more interesting than the actual story.
Ultimately “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald,” despite its grand face, feels thin, over written and under dramatic.
Based on the 1932 novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, “Sunset Song” is a story of a young Scottish heroine’s search for happiness and independence. Set in the years leading up to the World War I, Terence Davies brings this sombre adaptation of the classic book to grim, gritty life.
Aberdeenshire lass Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn) lives in grinding poverty on a farm on the on Scotland’s north-east coast. She feels an obligation to the land and her siblings but dreams of moving away from her tyrannical father (Peter Mullan) to become a teacher in the city. Her father’s cruelty takes a toll on all around her, particularly her brother Will (Jack Greenlees) who is subjected to brutal belt-buckle beatings to keep his rebellious spirit in line. A marriage to the sweet-natured Ewan (Kevin Guthrie) turns sour when he briefly returns from war, hardened by Western Front trench warfare.
Suicide, rape and misery are the order of the day in “Sunset Song.” “Sunset Song” is almost relentlessly grim, save for a fleeting moment of happiness in the middle. It’s the kind of movie that builds drama by wallowing in the wretchedness and dysfunction of its characters.
There are some memorable moments, many courtesy of cinematographer Michael McDonough who grounds the story with beautifully composed shots of the serene countryside that surrounds Chris and her family. Davies directs the camera in some truly spectacular ways but cannot get around the fact that the movie’s first and second act sturm and drang peter out in the third, leaving the film feeling lopsided.
Former model Deyn occasionally battles with the Scottish accent but otherwise hands in an effective performance that cold be her breakthrough. As the patriarchal oppressor Mullan revisits familiar territory—it’s a riff on his characters from “NEDS” and “Top of the Lake”—but is a fierce presence nonetheless. Greenlees’s big scene involves a minutes-long shot that focuses on his face as his father viciously beats him. Guthrie has good chemistry with Deyn until his personality changes and he returns from war, hardened and heartless.
“Sunset Song” is a beautifully made but severe movie about an indomitable spirit clashing with harsh reality. On the downside it features an occasionally difficult-to-understand Scottish dialect and sometime errs on the dull side, but, on the upside, it just as often creates moments of pure lyrical beauty.