Welcome to the House of Crouse. It’s a magical day around here. Not only do the cast of the Harry Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them drop by–including Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne–then we have a Warren Beatty sighting. As fans know Beatty sightings are as rare(and precious)as Bismuth Crystals. He and Rules Don’t Apply star Lily Collins swing by to talk about the movie and the film’s unusual production. Abracadabra! C’mon in and sit a spell… we’re pulling rabbits out of hats today!
Richard and CP24 anchor George Lagogianes have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the Harry Potter prequel “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the coming-of-age story “Edge of Seventeen” and Miles Teller as real life boxer Vinny Paz in “Bleed for This.”
Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the Harry Potter prequel “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the coming-of-age story “Edge of Seventeen,” Miles Teller as real life boxer Vinny Paz in “Bleed for This” and “Nocturnal Animals” with Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Five years since Harry Potter last displayed his wizarding ways on the big screen his creator, J.K. Rowling, is back with another adventure. The new film is a Potter prequel following the adventures of Newt Scamander, author of the textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (which also happens to be the name of this movie).
Starring Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne, it takes place seventy years before Harry studied the text at Hogwarts, it focuses on Scamander’s adventures in 1920s New York City.
I spoke with the cast of Fantastic Beasts recently, asking them how Rowling and the Potter phenomenon touched them personally.
Alison Sudol plays free-spirited witch Queenie Goldstein: “I loved the wizarding world so much, from the get go, from the first page of the first book. I already loved The Chronicles of Narnia and Lewis Carroll and here was this world where there was an entirely parallel universe going on along side ours where all these insanely imaginative things were happening. It felt tangible and possible and real. It was such a beautiful place to inhabit in my imagination.”
Dan Fogler plays non-magical (or No-Maj) factory worker Jacob Kowalski: “I was a fan of Star Wars, the hero cycle, Joseph Campbell, fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons and all that. When I saw the [Potter] movies I thought, these really contain all of that and they also have that amazing coming of age feeling like you’re watching a John Hughes movie. All the incredibly personal stuff like when they did stuff like the Sorting Hats struck a chord for me. It reminded me of sleep-a-way camp when everyone found their own cliques.”
Ezra Miller is plays Credence Barebone, a mysterious member of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, a No-Maj anti-witchcraft group: “It’s hard for me to extricate JK Rowling and her work from any aspect of my life from the time I was seven. I think she gave to those of us who partook of her work as young people; those who have these natural gifts, a sense of justice and morality, of wonder and of imagination. A lot of us lose these gifts as we grow old and you look around and adults are boring, tired, jaded and disillusioned but I personally feel JK Rowling gave us a means by which to portage those inherent gifts of childhood over the wilderness and into our adult lives.”
Katherine Waterston plays Porpentina Goldstein, witch and former Auror for the Magical Congress of the United States of America: “I really identified with [Rowling’s] passion and commitment when I was in my twenties and was a struggling actor. You think of those people and have them in your mind as a mantra to keep you going. Not that one day you may have their success but that it is valid to pursue your creative impulses regardless of the outcome.”
Eddie Redmayne plays Newt” Scamander, Magizoologist and author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: “I started watching the films when they came out and for me it was this incredibly warm, wondrous place to go back to every year or two and it felt familiar and new and I got to see some of my favourite actors doing extraordinary work. It became a consistent comfort.”
Five years since Harry Potter last displayed his wizarding ways on the big screen his creator, J.K. Rowling, is back with another adventure. The new film is a Potter prequel following the adventures of Newt Scamander, author of the textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (which also happens to be the name of this movie).
Taking place seventy years before Harry studied the text at Hogwarts, it hits on many of the things that made the Potter movies special—loyalty, courage, Good v. Evil—there are wands aplenty and yet it feels new and fresh.
Rowling fans will recognize the name Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). An employee at the British Ministry of Magic, at the start of the film he’s just arrived in New York City with a briefcase full of wild, wonderful and fantastic beasts. The year is 1926 and NYC is under attack by a mysterious, destructive paranormal force, dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald has gone missing and the zealous New Salem Philanthropic Society run by anti-magic fanatic Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton) is threatening to expose the seedy underbelly of wizardry in the city.
Not exactly the best time for a wizard to land in America with a case of magic beasts.
A simple mix-up with Newt’s suitcase—he inadvertently switches his with non-magical (or No-Maj) factory worker Jacob Kowalski’s (Dan Fogler) case—unleashes the beasts, finds Newt “arrested” by Magical Congress of the United States of America worker Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and uncovers a far reaching conspiracy that endangers wizards and No-Majs alike.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” feels like a Harry Potter film in spirit but looks nothing like the movies that came before it. Director David Yates, working from a script by Rowling, have reimagined the familiar wizarding world, adding period details ripe with richness. Rowling’s eye for story, quirky minutiae and veiled social comment—“I understand you have rather backward views about relations with non-magic people,” says Newt.—are all on display and should please her fanbase.
Also pleasing are the performances. Redmayne and Company, and this is very much an ensemble piece, find the humanity in the characters, even if they aren’t completely human. The performances feel somehow old fashioned, as if the actors stripped away any sense of method acting or other tricks, instead embracing the theatrical nature of the material. The actors occasionally get lost in the film’s reliance on CGI spectacle but always re-emerge to bring the story’s basic themes of loyalty, courage, Good v. Evil back to the fore.
When Newt says, “I was hoping to wait until we got to Arizona…” during one climatic moment he hints at adventures yet to come which feels like a set-up to a sequel. Those are the kind of words that usually fill me with dread—Just what we need, another franchise!—but “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” with its message that magic is all around us if we know where to look, is a handsome, entertaining and ultimately sequel worthy piece of work.
August Strindberg’s play 1888 “Miss Julie” comes with a preface stressing several key points in the staging of the work. Liv Ullmann, director of the newest film adaptation of the show—the first appeared in 1912—changes the location of the story from the tradition Swedish setting to Ireland, but other than that, for better and for worse, has adhered to Strindberg’s instructions to keep the text natural, the conflict significant and the staging simple.
The action takes place on Midsummer Night 1890 in a mansion owned by Miss Julie’s (Jessica Chastain) aristocratic father. The rambling place is empty save for maid Cathleen (Samantha Morton), John the valet (Colin Farrell) and the count’s daughter.
The films follows a fiery and complex cat-and-mouse as Miss Julie attempts to seduce the handsome and intelligent John despite the presence of his fiancée Cathleen. It’s a power struggle between the well-born Julie and servant John—who reveals he’s been infatuated with her since childhood—that examines, challenges and upends the traditional notions of 19th century class and gender.
Ullmann’s take on “Miss Julie” is conventional. With the exception of a handful of scenes she remains “stage-bound,” presenting most of the action in kitchen of the manse. It is here the fireworks fly, but they come from the feisty performances and not the filmmaking. For the most part the camera stays out of the way, capturing the action as discreetly as possible. It’s a voyeuristic approach that captures the naturalism and simplicity Strindberg hoped for, even though much of the dialogue and situations (a “kiss the boot” scene feels like it might not have been out of place in “50 Shades of Grey”) are hopelessly theatrical.
By the end you’re left with the feeling that watching the latest “Miss Julie” is less a cinematic experience than it is a heightened theatrical one. I’m not sure it is exactly what Strindberg had in mind.