‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ Review


Director: David Yates

Writer: J.K. Rowling

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Alison Sudol, Carmen Ejogo, Samantha Morton, Ron Perlman and Jon Voight

Synopsis: The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.


*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*


J.K. Rowling, her first feature film credit, and David Yates, who directed the last four Harry Potter films, have returned to bring all of us back to the Wizarding World, and for the most part, it feels pretty great to go back. It also helps that the film is set many years before the events of Harry Potter, so we get to see essentially a brand new world of magic and characters. Of course the action now takes place in American, rather than England, but the new characters and world are fun and enlightening in their way. However, and unfortunately, if you’re not familiar too much with Rowling’s history and lore she’s created, you might be a bit in the dark on some things, which does hinder the experience just a bit.

The film takes place in New York, 1926, as Newt Scamander (Redmayne) arrives by boat with his magical suitcase that happens to hold bevy, well, fantastic beasts. However, as he makes his way through the city his suitcase gets mixed up with a “No-Maj,” what the American Magic Community call their humans with no magic opposed to the word Muggle, in Jacob Kowalski (Fogler). When Jacob accidentally opens the case, many of Newt’s beasts get out and run rampant around New York. This gets the attention of Tina Goldstein (Waterston), who works for the Magical Congress of the United States (MACUSA). During this, head Auror (think security/magic cops) Percival Graves (Farrell) leans on a young troubled man, Credence (Miller) for help to find someone, or something, that is attacking New York City that might cause the magic world and human to go to war. All of this is happening while the looming threat of a dangerous wizard makes his way to America.


So as you can see, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has a lot going on, and because of that, the film does stumble a bit to keep it all together and moving smoothly. There’s Newt’s storyline about tracking his beasts down with the help of Jacob, that eventually bleeds into Newt and Jacob meeting Tina and her sister Queenie (Sudol). There’s Graves and Credence’s story that is a culmination of Credence’s story and there’s the MACUSA, lead by President Seraphina Picquery, who have the looming threat of the dangerous and powerful wizard Grindelwald, who is briefly seen in the beginning, and will be the new big bad for this series of films. Each have their fair share of screen time, but everything still feels underdeveloped. Of course, knowing there are at least four sequels coming, it makes some sense, but doesn’t make it okay – Especially if people aren’t familiar with the history and lore.

Of course that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, stop you from enjoying the film because it is really enjoyable, especially when it relies on the humor, and of course, the titular fantastic beasts. People will definitely get a kick out of the creatures and beasts that have some really cool designs and lead some of the funniest and great moments in the film, including one particular creature that is introduced early in the film. Some of the dark themed material is interesting too, and again, is a bit underdeveloped but I would have loved to see more of that in the film considering the time period and how strict the magic community is in America.


The cast chemistry is pretty solid, and one that we invest in right away. Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander is equal parts awkward but caring toward the creatures in his case, almost as if he rather be around them than people. That is until he meets Jacob, played by Dan Fogler, who I would arguable say is one of the highlights of the film, and even steals the show – at least human wise. Jacob is also pretty much our surrogate for the film, but also one that is a vital character to how No-Maj’s probably view the world they don’t understand.

The magic community is constantly trying to keep their world hidden from the human world, and it’s something that is on the verge of breaking because of the attacks Grindelwald has been doing. This connects to Ezra Miller’s character Credence, because he’s the adopted son of a Mary Lou, the leader of the Second Salemers, who look to expose the wizarding world saying they are all evil, and that being said, she isn’t the nicest person either. However, when we go to Jacob, he doesn’t see the wizards or creatures he encounters as evil. He is scared when he first encounters them – as all of us should and would be – but he’s more in awe and amazed by them, which leads to the great relationship between him and Newt.


Katherine Waterston continues to prove she belongs on the big screen and can handle big characters. Although she is sworn by duty to bring in Newt and his briefcase, she eventually knows that Newt is kind hearted and helps him. Alison Sudol’s Queenie is a rather interesting and wide-eyed character who has never meant a No-Maj before. Ezra Miller, who should have had more screen time makes a worthy and worthwhile impression as his tortured soul character. Colin Farrell is always reliable, and is so here, but again, I wish we had more time with his character. Carmen Ejogo as the “President” of Magic doesn’t do much in the film, Jon Voight is in the film for literally three scenes, and while it feels like he’s character is important – and it is in a sense – the storyline is quickly dealt with, which feels rather odd and like a cheat.

While I had fun watching the film, Fantastic Beasts does have some odd pacing and tonal shifts. One moment we go from a fun and humorous moment and then suddenly go to a dark and ominous scene. While I can see what they were trying to do, it was a bit jarring the first time, and it happens more than once.


All in all, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a good start to a new franchise, however, not without its drawbacks and missteps. If you’re not too familiar with the history and lore that’s not just in the books, you will be a little lost, but thankfully J.K. Rowling probably knew that. This new batch of characters and creatures is a magical – pun intended – bunch, and while I had my reservation about the film, I’m interested in seeing where his new story will take me.


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

4 out of 5


‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Review


Dir: Jonathan Liebesman

Cast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Danny Woodburn, Tohoru Masamune, Jeremy Howard, Alan Ritchson, Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, and Whoopi Goldberg

Synopsis: Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles must work with fearless reporter April O’Neil and her cameraman Vern Fenwick to save the city and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan



*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review*



The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had a lot of iterations since they first appeared. From a comic book, to the 80s cartoon and movies, to the new TV shows since the 2000s. No matter how old you are chances are you know who the “heroes in a half-shell” are and what they love. So when it was announced that are favorite turtles would be getting another live-action movie people, obviously, were excited but also cautious. Then it was announced that Michael Bay would be producing and everyone went from excited and cautious to cautious and worried. Then came the “they are going to be aliens” and everyone went into a frenzy. Bay then made some damage control and it died down. Then the turtle pictures came out and boom, back to frenzy. Anyway, this version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had a lot of things against it and unfortunately it couldn’t get past it.


After an interesting animated beginning, narrated by Splinter (mo-capped by Woodburn and voiced by Tony Shalhoub), giving us the background of The Foot Clan, which in this version are a paramilitary organization that are running rampant in New York City, that are run by The Shredder (Masamune). We are then introduced to younger and hungry Channel 6 News Reporter April O’Neil (Fox) is looking to catch her first break, and she thinks she has found a group of vigilantes attempting to stop the Foot. Of course, she finds out that the vigilantes are four six-foot mutated turtles that happen to be ninjas…and teenagers.


Little does April know, she has a connection to the turtles that she apparently forgot about. The connection also connects with businessman Eric Sachs (Fichtner) and April’s father, which feels more like stretch than a good plot point. Sachs turns out to be evil (gasp) and is actually working with Shredder to take out New York in a plan that sort makes no sense (seeing a trend here).




But who cares about April or Sachs right? You’re watching this movie for Leonardo (mo-capped by Ploszek, voiced by Johnny Knoxville), Donatello (mo-capped Howard), Michelangelo (mo-capped by Fisher) and Raphael (mo-capped by Ritchson). Their personalities are the same; Leo is the leader, Donny is the smart and inventive one, Michelangelo is the goofball, and Raphael is the rebel. The big difference is how the turtles look. They are larger and physically imposing than previous iterations, which honestly makes them kind of lose their ninja aspect, but maybe that’s being nit-picky. They can literally lift ship containers and thrown them across the room, punch someone halfway across the room, and smash into military trucks completely destroying it.


The turtles all have their moments to show off their personalities, with Michelangelo most likely going to be the standout for many. The bond between the brothers is there which is nice to see they at least kept that in there. But when it comes to the other, and equally, important characters in Turtles history in Splinter and Shredder, they seem to fall just a bit short. Splinter is really nothing more than a glorified cameo and Shredder isn’t really the Shredder that we all know and love. Instead of a samurai, we get an upgraded suit that has multiple blades and looks like he’s eight-feet tall.





The main human characters are April and Sachs. Megan Fox being cast as April hit a chord with just about everybody and while I still don’t see her as the character she alright as the character. The always reliable William Fitchner plays Sachs, and Fitchner does the best he can with the role that he can. An added plus for fans, Shredders adopted daughter Karai shows up in a nothing role played by Minae Noji.


As seen from the promotional material, the movie looks like it has a nice blend of humor, action, and some serious moments. Well, the movie does have some serious moments and action but it lacks the humor. The movie just isn’t really that funny, even the human comic relief in Will Arnett’s cameraman character Vern only has one real funny line. The movie just feels like it’s trying to hard to be funny and some of the jokes are more targeted toward the younger generations, which is fine move for the studio since that’s probably their targeted audience at this point. But they really should remember the original audience.


However, one of the huge things that bother me is the imbalance between the tones. It felt like they couldn’t decide on one and just threw three of them in and see what stuck. The original turtles didn’t take themselves too seriously and knew what they were. These turtles though apologize for what they are, Donny even says “when you put it like that, it sounds ridiculous” when April questions what they are and how it sounds. Instead of embracing the concept, they feel a need to apologize? Yeah that, and shouldn’t, fly with anybody. The fight scenes are the worst, and not in terms of being bad fight scenes, but everything about them make it look like so brutal and then they will just go away like nothing brutal happened. Believe me I’m all for a good brutal fight scene but for a movie targeted toward kids, that was probably a bad decision.
The action is descent with standout sequence being the mountain chase that is shown in every commercial promotion, and a fight between Splinter and Shredder which brings more of the emotional weight for the movie.


All in all, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doesn’t have a lot going on. The humor isn’t really there and it does fail to capture some of the what we originally fell in love with. Are the moments that we can see why we feel in love with them? Sure but it doesn’t take away everything else from movie.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

2.5 out of 5