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REVIEW: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"

By Eric Hillis, TheMovieWaffler.com

originally published: 11/27/2018

REVIEW: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"

For better or worse (worse in this writer’s eyes), the success of the Harry Potter franchise is largely responsible for the current Hollywood landscape of endless sequels, prequels and that awful phrase “universe building.” The Potter films showed Hollywood that it was a far safer financial model to hook audiences into returning for instalments of an ongoing series rather than taking a punt on the unknown quantity of original properties.

It was always inevitable that Hollywood would return to the world (or “universe”) of Harry Potter in some fashion, and so we now find ourselves two episodes into a planned five movie franchise set in the playground of JK Rowling’s creation. The first installment of the Fantastic Beasts series, 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them didn’t fully work - in its final act it descended into the sort of headache inducing CG battle the superhero genre is so often criticized for - but it boasted an endearing lead in Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander, and an equally charming cast of supporting characters. Scripting the film herself, Rowling did an admirable job of fleshing out the world that this new spinoff series would play out in, so there was certainly potential for a thrilling and engaging sequel.

Sadly, The Crimes of Grindelwald is such a lazy, uninspired piece of franchise filmmaking, you could bury its DVD in a time capsule to represent the sorry state of blockbuster cinema in the early 21st century. Following the precedent set by The Empire Strikes Back, this second installment of the Fantastic Beasts saga is “the dark one,” but it’s “dark” in the manner of Zack Snyder’s DC superhero movies, drained of the humor and color that made the first movie a pleasant enough watch and filled with ‘edgy’ moments that are cheaply designed to shock, and which have no place in a franchise aimed at a family audience.

REVIEW: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"

At the end of the first movie, audiences sighed when Colin Farrell’s villain was revealed to be Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald, gifting Depp yet another opportunity to prance around in makeup and irritate those of us who grew tired of his attempts to escape his pretty boy image long ago. In this sequel, Grindlewald breaks free during the wizarding world’s equivalent of a routine prison transfer (have they never seen a Halloween movie?) and sets up shop in Paris with a gang of brooding followers in tow

The plot that follows is needlessly convoluted but it basically involves Scamander heading to Paris to track down Grindelwald, in the process hoping to reunite with Katherine Waterston’s Tina Goldstein, whom he has fallen madly in love with.



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If every movie in this series comes in at around the 135 minute mark, as the first two have, that’s a grand total of over 11 hours running time. You would think then that, having used so much of the first installment to set up the characters and their world, Rowling might use these middle chapters to let us get to know these people a bit - think of how much time we spend hanging out with Clark and Lois in Richard Donner’s second Superman movie for example - but her script is so focused on moving the plot forward that Scamander and his buddies are largely devoid of personality here. Aside from one fun scene involving the unlikely romance between Dan Fogler’s Jakob Kowalski (who gave the first movie much of its charm) and Alison Sudol’s Queenie Goldstein, and an awkward romantic moment between Newt and Tina (Newt’s childlike demeanour makes this budding romance feel misjudged), FB:TCOG never takes a timeout from its focus on franchise building and filling in backstory that doesn’t add a whole lot to the current narrative. There’s one character - William Nadylam’s Yusuf Kama - who exists solely to tell other characters, and the audience, some important plot details that Rowling couldn’t find a more organic way of doling out, and the amount of exposition dished out in monologues makes a strong case for why novelists should keep away from screenwriting.

REVIEW: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"

As with the first film, the main strength of this sequel is its production design, rendering 1920s Paris in the same sumptuous fashion as the first one did with the New York of the era, and Colleen Atwood guarantees her obligatory annual Oscar nod with some striking costumes (if you appreciate a well cut waistcoat, this is pornographic). Yet while the first movie made you feel you were in 1920s New York (despite the bizarre absence of black faces), TCOG never quite does the same for Paris - French actors are largely absent and composer James Newton Howard fails to incorporate a Gallic element into his score in the manner in which he previously captured the rhythm of New York’s Jazz Age.

There are so many revelations about how characters are related to one another here that it can feel like you’re watching a two hour supercut of six seasons of Dynasty, and only the most committed of Potterphiles will be impacted by such reveals. As with the first movie, the climax descends into the usual CG mess of blue flames and heroes screaming “Noooooo” as something bad happens to someone we stopped caring about an hour ago. Even the beasts aren’t so fantastic here, and the generic digital creatures on display forced me to wonder what Jim Henson might have done with this concept back in the day. Two movies in and Rowling’s new series has already lost its magic.

Fantastic Beasts:The Crimes of Grindelwald - 2 stars out of 5

Directed by:  David Yates; Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Johnny Depp, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Carmen Ejogo







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State Theatre Presents Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back In Concert with NJSO
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey and New Jersey Symphony Orchestra present Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in concert with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra featuring Conductor Constantine Kitsopolous on Saturday January 6, 2019 at 3:00pm. Tickets range from $35-$125. 
The Morris Museum Brings Back Exhibition On Screen series
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- The Morris Museum brings back a film series from Exhibition on Screen beginning on Wednesday, December 12, 2018 with the feature film Degas: A Passion for Perfection.  Two additional films will also be shown: Young Picasso, on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 and Rembrandt on Wednesday, April 10, 2019.  All films will be screened at 7:30pm in the Bickford Theatre.  
A Look At New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies, presents the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 which marks the festival's 37th Anniversary.  The Festival will take place between January 25 and March 1, 2019. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, experimental and short subjects, classic revivals, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 will feature over 35 film screenings. 
NJPAC Presents Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert With The NJSO
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The Harry Potter Film Concert Series returns to New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert, on Saturday, June 1, 2019 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm. See the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra perform the magical score live while the entire film plays in high-definition on a 40-foot screen.
Kean Stage Hosts "White Christmas" Sing-Along
(UNION, NJ) -- Kean Stage hosts a White Christmas Sing-Along on Sunday, December 16 at 3:00pm.  Gather your family and friends for this beloved 1954 holiday film starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. You’ll enjoy singing along to Count Your Blessings, Snow, Sisters and, of course, the iconic White Christmas. And don’t worry if you don’t know the words – the lyrics will be shown on the screen.


REVIEW: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"
For better or worse (worse in this writer’s eyes), the success of the Harry Potter franchise is largely responsible for the current Hollywood landscape of endless sequels, prequels and that awful phrase “universe building.” The Potter films showed Hollywood that it was a far safer financial model to hook audiences into returning for instalments of an ongoing series rather than taking a punt on the unknown quantity of original properties.
REVIEW: "Shoplifters"
Earlier this year, writer/director extraordinaire Hirokazu Kore-eda surprised us with The Third Murder, a legal thriller that made for a stark departure from the sentimental family dramas he’s become known for. With his Palme d’Or winning Shoplifters, Kore-eda is back on familiar ground, but this particular family drama shares much in common with The Third Murder. With his thriller, Kore-eda deconstructed the genre, forcing us to question how willingly we place our trust in a storyteller. Similarly, Shoplifters sees Kore-eda lull his audience into a false sense of security, making us develop a warmth and affection towards people who may not warrant such empathy.
REVIEW: "First Man"
The image that most defines the 20th century is that of a man standing on the surface of the moon. The man is astronaut Neil Armstrong, but we can’t see his face as he’s wearing a helmet, the glass of which reflects our collective achievement back at us. When he took a small step, we all took a giant leap with him, and Armstrong instantly became more than a mere man, a symbol. With First Man, director Damien Chazelle takes us inside the famous helmet, stripping away the symbol to tell the story of Armstrong the man.
REVIEW: "Halloween"
In 2013, John Carpenter’s Halloween received a 35th anniversary blu-ray release. The accompanying booklet credited the following line of dialogue to Jamie Lee Curtis’s babysitting heroine Laurie Strode: “Was it the boogeyman?” Of course, that’s a misquote. In the scene in question, Laurie admits to herself that “It WAS the boogeyman,” to which Donald Pleasence’s Doctor Loomis solemnly replies, “As a matter of fact, it was.”
REVIEW: "Cold War"
Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help viewing the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.

Upcoming Events

State Theatre Presents Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back In Concert with NJSO

State Theatre Presents Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back In Concert with NJSO

(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey and New Jersey Symphony Orchestra present Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in concert with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra featuring Conductor Constantine Kitsopolous on Saturday January 6, 2019 at 3:00pm. Tickets range from $35-$125. 


The Morris Museum Brings Back Exhibition On Screen series

The Morris Museum Brings Back Exhibition On Screen series

(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- The Morris Museum brings back a film series from Exhibition on Screen beginning on Wednesday, December 12, 2018 with the feature film Degas: A Passion for Perfection.  Two additional films will also be shown: Young Picasso, on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 and Rembrandt on Wednesday, April 10, 2019.  All films will be screened at 7:30pm in the Bickford Theatre.  


A Look At New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019

A Look At New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019

(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies, presents the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 which marks the festival's 37th Anniversary.  The Festival will take place between January 25 and March 1, 2019. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, experimental and short subjects, classic revivals, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 will feature over 35 film screenings. 


NJPAC Presents Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert With The NJSO

NJPAC Presents Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert With The NJSO

(NEWARK, NJ) -- The Harry Potter Film Concert Series returns to New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert, on Saturday, June 1, 2019 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm. See the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra perform the magical score live while the entire film plays in high-definition on a 40-foot screen.








Event calendar
Thursday, Dec 13, 2018


MUSIC

PROJECT/OBJECT @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

JERRY BLAVAT @ Lobby Bar at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 12:00pm

VIENNA BOYS CHOIR @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:30pm

BRIAN FALLON @ Crossroads (Garwood), Garwood - 8:00pm

The Irish Tenors Holiday Celebration @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 7:30pm

BREAKING BENJAMIN @ Starland Ballroom, Sayreville - 7:00pm







THEATRE

Elf, The Musical @ Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven - 2:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn @ Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn - 1:30pm and 7:00pm

Hudson Theatre Works presents "And My True Love Gave To Me" @ Hudson Theatre Works, Weehawken - 8:00pm


FILM

On the Map @ Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 7:30pm


MISC

Holiday Open Mic Night! @ Black Box Performing Arts Center, Teaneck - 7:30pm

View all events










 






















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