Reel Reviews: holiday blockbusters begin

By on November 20, 2018

Jude Law (front) portrays a young Albus Dumbledore in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.”

‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’

It’s that time of year again. Welcome to the holiday blockbuster season!

Don’t tell my family, but I had to go see “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” without them. But, I wish I would have brought my oldest son, so he could tell me what the heck was going on! (He wrote, sounding like an old man.)

The “Fantastic Beasts” series is a spinoff of the “Harry Potter” franchise, and takes place well before the time when Harry and his crew went to Hogwarts. The first “Fantastic Beasts” was released in 2016 and this new movie takes up where the first left off. Hero Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) joins the semi-secret ranks led by a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to thwart the plans of the evil Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) who is bent on making magicians the superior race of the world.

The first “Fantastic Beasts” stands on its own and is a magical story of a young man and his connection with all the creatures in the wizarding world. This “Fantastic Beasts” is for hardcore Potter-heads. There are so many characters who I felt I should have been more aware of that it was dizzying, distracting, and at least for my movie-going experience diminishing to the picture as a whole. I wish I knew more about the Lestrange family tree, but I don’t. I recognized the name Nicolas Flamel (Brontis Jodorowsky) from the “Harry Potter” movies, but I could not remember why. He seems rather important. (I’m also at a disadvantage because I never read any of the books.) I was lost but well entertained by the moments of action not clouded in backstory development.

So, I guess if you aren’t a die-hard Potter fan bring someone along who can provide a who’s who of “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.”

Michael Upton calls Fred, the oversized reindeer in “The Grinch” (voiced by Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson), a standout character.

‘The Grinch’

I’m one of those people who will not decorate for Christmas until after Thanksgiving, but that did not stop me from heading to the theatres to catch “The Grinch” on its opening weekend (when it opened at number one). The theaters were a mix of patrons, kids with families and Dr. Seuss fans waiting to see if this retelling of the classic Christmas tale from the wonderful mind of Theodor Geisel would be a modern classic, much like the 2000 version “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” in which Jim Carrey portrayed the green humbug of Whoville in live action.

The story is the same — for the most part. The Grinch does not like Christmas and conspires to ruin it for all the Whos of Whoville. Our heroine, Cindy-Lou Who (Cameron Seely, “The Greatest Showman”), is not meek and mild; she is headstrong and wondrous. The contraptions in Whoville, while sticking to the spirit of those created by the imagination of Geisel, are modernized and just a tad bit fancier than in previous tellings of this Christmas tale, which emphasizes forgiveness, embraces differences, and provides enough love to make any heart grow three times larger — especially a Grinch’s.

Even though he is one of my favorite actors, I can’t say Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game,” “Sherlock,” “Doctor Strange,” et. al.) really added anything to the character of the Grinch. The standout characters are a new Whoville resident (voiced by SNL’s Kenan Thompson), a lovable and oversized reindeer named Fred, and a pack of interrupting goats. Overall, this is a fun and fine movie for the whole family, though it might not be the classic we are all going to watch over and over every year this time.

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