In Review!: “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

Welcome back to the wizarding world of Harry Potter – sort of. As the twinkling tones of John Williams’s original score quickly give way to James Newton Howard’s new creation at the beginning of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, this new franchise exists to play off of your imagination captivated by Harry Potter for spin off thrills. The stakes are never nearly as high, nor the engagement with character or world-building – but Beasts is fun all the same.


Set in New York City well before Voldemort’s reign, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his suitcase full of magical creatures arrive to a very politically different world than his British homeland. The wizard and muggle (or American: no-maj) relationship is far more divided, making for a more fraught and underground magical realm. As darker forces take root, prepare for the allegorical as Scamander plays Rowling Pokemon. The beasts brought to life in playful and colorful CGI may be the most fantastic element.

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In Review!: “The Danish Girl”

Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl, promoted squarely around the hot button conversation of transgender issues, is far more effective as a story of the power of love during a marriage in crisis. Hooper (of The King Speech and Les Miserables) again is gifted with a strong field of actors to inhabit his heightened emotional vision, but with a presentation that never connects beneath the surface of pain on display, these typically interesting actors are stuck repeating the same notes over much of the film’s two hours.

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One of the first documented trans women to undergo genital reassignment surgery, Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) was a successful landscape artist when she presented as male and married to portrait artist Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander). As Lili began her transition, Gerda’s profile began to raise as Lili became her muse – Lili fell out of touch and became disinterested with her craft. Particulars of The Danish Girl differ from history for the women, as Lucinda Coxon’s script is more focused on love’s sustainability through personal crisis. Coxon and Hooper struggle to to find multiple points of entry into the subject, as the whole middle section is structured of scenes repeating the same story beats without elevating the conflict or raising the stakes. Perhaps the hyper-stylized and conceptual Hooper is just a poor fit for a story as nuanced as this – for a movie about such a charged human issue and where characters spend the majority in some tearful state, shouldn’t the audience actually feel something?

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