Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
Rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence
Redmayne “Fantastic” As Bashful Wizard With Menagerie Of Mythical Creatures
It’s New York harbor in 1926, which is when we are introduced to Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he disembarks a steamship from England that’s just docked at the pier. The young wizard has to resort to a sleight of hand to slip through customs, since his suitcase is filled to the point of bursting with a unique brand of contraband.
Newt happens to be hiding a menagerie of mythical creatures with unusual names like obscurials, bowtruckles and dougals. Given the unreliable latch on his tattered, leather satchel, it doesn’t take long for a mischievous niffler to escape. We soon observe the odd-looking critter breaking into a bank vault where it proceeds to indulge its insatiable appetite for gold by stuffing its pouch with glittery coins.
Newt, however, must get it right back under wraps ASAP, before it arouses the suspicion of Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton). She’s the leader of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, a group of no-majs, aka muggles (meaning ordinary human beings), dedicated to the extermination of wizards and witches.
Newt whips out his wand to recapture the naughty niffler in front of Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), an affable Everyman applying for a loan with hopes of opening his own bakery. Trouble is, since the unassuming fellow has just observed the use of magic, wizardry protocol calls for his memory to be wiped clean on the spot.
But Jacob not only flees before being “obliviated,” he inadvertently takes Newt’s bag of tricks with him to boot. Next, Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a comely witch with the Magical Congress of the United States of America, comes to Newt’s rescue.
Thus unfolds Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, a visually-captivating adaptation of the J.K. Rowling best seller of the same name. Although the book was alluded to in Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone, one need not be familiar with the Potter series at all to appreciate this delightful debut of a fantasy franchise designed for five episodes.
Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (for The Theory Of Everything) delivers a fresh conveying an endearing vulnerability as the picture’s bashful protagonist. And he is ably assisted in this endeavor by a stellar supporting cast composed of both A-list actors and an array of computer-generated creatures.
Redmayne’s enviable acting range makes Newt Scamander a far more engaging and emotionally-accessible character than Harry Potter ever was. Heavens to Hogwarts!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 132 minutes
The Wake Of Vanport 2
The Skanner Foundation
Second Installment In Captivating Video Project Chronicles More Flood Survivors’ Life Stories
At 4:05 pm on May 30, 1948, a dike failed in the City of Vanport, Oregon, situated on lowlands between the Portland and the Columbia River. The ensuing flood swamped the federal housing project, claiming 15 lives and leaving 40,000 citizens homeless.
Last spring, the Skanner Foundation released The Wake Of Vanport, a very informative documentary about the incident composed of the riveting recollections of survivors of the Memorial Day disaster. Now we have The Wake Of Vanport 2, the second installment in the ongoing historical project designed to preserve exactly what transpired that fateful afternoon from a variety of different perspectives.
Among the welcome additions to the mix is Betty Deulen who was 11 at the time of the tidal wave. She recounts how she rushed home to save her parents and young sisters as soon as the dam failed. Her family didn’t have a car, so they ended up escaping aboard a bus.
Curnel Waldren, who moved to town at the age of six or seven, waxes romantic about the freedom he enjoyed while growing up in Vanport. However, he did dislike the fact that they had no air conditioning so he had to suffer on those hot, hazy, humid summer days.
In terms of the flood, Curnel remembers that the hastily-constructed housing units had been built on poor foundations. Consequently, most folks “lost just about everything they had” in the deluge. Nevertheless, he says the tragedy brought out the best in some people.
Melvin Osbeck was a teenager who drove with friends from Southeast Portland to assist during the calamity. He recollects finding a sort of “organized confusion” about how to stem the overflowing water. He was asked to fill sandbags but was also warned to be careful to avoid sinkholes which could very easily sweep him away to his death.
In his video memoir, John Beverage (Brother Of Betty Deulen) talks about how much he appreciated moving to Vanport in 1943 since until then he’d been raised on his grandfather’s farm without electricity or running water. He soon became a paperboy, saving up to buy himself a bike by selling copies of the Oregon Journal. As far as May 30 of ’48, what sticks in his mind is how numerous residents ignored “the wail of the sirens” as well as how the residences would float away after being engulfed in by four feet of water.
The final chapter of this episode revolves around Dorothy and Hurtis Hadley, a couple that’s been happily married for over 50 years and counting. Dorothy’s father had worked in the nearby Naval shipyard before send bus tickets for his wife and kids to join him. Hurtis arrived at the age of two but was six years old and flying a kite the day the dike overflowed.
The two go on to recount how they started dating, with Dorothy stealing her future hubby from a girlfriend while he was playing sax for a popular local band called The Fabulous Majest. However, Hurtis would eventually switch careers and successfully open up his very own bakery.
In sum, kudos to the producers for another fascinating collection of tributes to a beloved hometown that could have just as easily been forgotten forever after being wiped off the map in a flash.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 37 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening November 25, 2016
Allied (R for sexuality,)nudity, profanity, violence and brief drug use) Real life romance drama, set in North Africa in 1942, about a Canadian spy (Brad Pitt) who falls in love with a French Resistance fighter (Marion Cotillard) while on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines only to learn that she might be a double agent in league with the Nazis. Cast includes Lizzy Caplan, Jared Harris and Vincent Latorre.
Bad Santa 2 (R for sexuality, crude humor, graphic nudity and pervasive profanity) Billy Bob Thornton is back as naughty St. Nick to hatch a plan with his evil elf sidekick (Tony Cox) to fleece a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. With Kathy Bates, Jeff Skowron and Christina Hendricks.
Moana (PG for peril, scary images and mature themes) Seafaring animated adventure revolving around a headstrong, Polynesian teenager (Auli’i Cravalho) who embarks on a dangerous mission across the Pacific Ocean to save her people with the help of a legendary demigod (Dwayne Johnson). Voice cast includes Rachel House, Temuera Morrison and former, NFL great Troy Polamalu.
Rules Don’t Apply (PG-13 for sexuality, mature themes, drug use and brief profanity) Warren Beatty wrote and directed this romantic dramedy, set in Hollywood in 1958, about an aspiring actress (Lily Collins) and a limo driver (Alden Ehrenreich), both employed by Howard Hughes (Beatty) who break their billionaire boss’ workplace edict against fraternizing between employees. With Paul Sorvino, Candice Bergen, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen and Matthew Broderick.
Always Shine (Unrated) Suspense thriller about a couple of actress BFFs (Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald) whose friendship is tested when they travel from L.A. to Big Sur for a weekend getaway in the woods. Cast includes Lawrence Michael Levine, Alexander Koch and Khan Baykal.
Baden Baden (Unrated) Character-driven dramedy about a fledgling, 26-year-old movie director (Salome Richard) who returns home to Strasbourg for the summer after her foreign film shoot falls through. Featuring Claude Gensac, Lazare Gousseau and Swann Arlaud. (In English, German and French with subtitles)
Behind The Cove (Unrated) Cruelty to animals documentary countering the negative publicity disseminated about the Japanese whaling industry by the Oscar-winning exposé The Cove.
Lion (PG-13 for mature themes and some sensuality) Inspirational, real-life saga about a 30-year-old’s (Dev Patel) search for his long-lost birth mother (Priyanka Bose) and big brother (Abhishek Bharate) back in India with the help of Google Earth, a quarter-century after being adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). With Rooney Mara, Divian Ladwa and Eamon Farren. (In English, Hindi and Bengali with subtitles)
Mifune: The Last Samurai (Unrated) Reverential biopic, narrated by Keanu Reeves, chronicling the life and career of Toshiro Mifune, the legendary star of The Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Yojimbo and numerous other Japanese film classics. Featuring commentary by Martin Scorcese and Steven Spielberg. (In English and Japanese with subtitles)
Miss Sloane (R for profanity and sexuality) Jessica Chastain plays the title character in this political thriller about a ruthless, D.C. lobbyist hired to match wits with a couple of former colleagues (Michael Stuhlbarg and Sam Waterston) representing gun manufacturers. With John Lithgow, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mark Strong and Alison Pill.
Seasons (PG for mature themes) Meteorological documentary observing assorted metamorphoses in nature during the changing of the seasons. (In French with subtitles)