Tuesday Review – Fantastic Beasts

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I’ve been a Harry Potter fan since I read the first book, long before they started talking about making films. After all, I love Fantasy, and Harry Potter is one of the greats. The funny thing is that by the time the film franchise was nearing the end I was getting fed up with it. I can’t even say why, it was just getting a bit too much. So when I heard about this film I was a bit dubious, still my kids wanted to see it so see it we did.

And I have to say that I absolutely loved it! Here are some of the reasons:

1) It recaptures the wonder.

Watching this I had some of the feeling that I had when I first read the books. This was partly because of:

2) It is set in a new world.

or rather, the new world, I.e, the USA, New York in 1926 to be precise. This gives a new opening into the magical world and adds in the whole roaring twenties culture. It works really well, especially for someone like me who lives all those old black and white gangster films.

3) It is a film of contrasts.

From moments of genuine wonder and touches of humour to the dark edges of human nature there is a good range of light and dark.

Finally:

4) It has Eddie Redmayne in it, who is quite brilliant!

My only regret was having to return  to the real world. Lincolnshire in December can be a dreary place with not much in the way of fantastic beasts.

Fantastic Beets though, that’s more like it. We’ve got sugar beet, beetroot, turnips, mangleworzles…

D is for Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?


Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel is better known as Blade Runner, the Ridley Scott film that is widely regarded as a SF masterpiece. I saw the film in the late 80s and loved it, and I watched it a few times once it came out on TV and I was able to video it. That’s right, video, no DVDs in those days!

The film plays like a Raymond Chandler detective story, with Harrison Ford’s voice-over adding to the Noir atmosphere. It’s a great film. The portrayal of a post nuclear dystopian future has been extremely influential.

I’m glad there was some distance between watching the film and reading the book a few years later. They are very different even though the basics of the story are the same, i.e. jaded cop hunts down a band of renegade androids. The book presents a question: What is it to be human?, and those familiar with the author’s work will rcognise this as a recurrent theme. It makes for a more interesting and thoughtful read and there is a much greater sense of completeness than in the film. In fact there are many bits of the film that only really make sense when you’ve read the book. Remember the owl?

Star Wars The force awakens – the verdict (it’s review time again!)


Warning – may contain spoilers (although according to news reports the entire population of the planet has seen the film, so this warning only applies to aliens)

Warning – spoiler alerts may contain sarcasm.

A few weeks ago I posted that I was worried about the new film in case it wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be. It’s now been two weeks since I saw it and I still haven’t made up my mind. As I walked away from the cinema I said that it was way better than the Phantom Menace etc, more exciting and the characters seemed warmer. My kids loved it.

But on reflection, I’m a bit disappointed that the last 45-60 minutes played like a rehash of the end of The Return of the Jedi, which in itself was a rehash of the end of the original film. I mean, I appreciate the need to blow something up, but does it have to be a Death Star every time?

I seem to remember the same criticisms being levelled at Return of the Jedi, along with a general irritation with Ewoks.

But maybe I’m missing the point. You see, I’m 47. Star Wars is (whisper it) a kid’s film. I was a kid when the first one came out, that’s why I loved it.

And my kids were very young when they saw the Phantom Menace, and they loved that.

And I sat in the cinema watching The Force Awakens surrounded by people of all ages but primarily small children, who loved it. In fact these kids probably haven’t seen any of the other films. They have nothing to compare it to, so does it really matter if it plays like a greatest hits album (which are very popular by the way).

It’s a great kids’ film, and that goes for kids of all ages. The little boy sitting in front of me got really excited when he saw this:


The hairs on the back of my neck stood up when I saw this:


Maybe that’s all that matters.

Are you worried about the new Star Wars film?

  
I am, and I bet I’m not the only one. If your experience is anything like mine then your feelings about the Star Wars films could be summarised as follows:

First 3 (i.e. Episodes IV,V, and VI) – LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT!

Second 3 (i.e. Episodes I, II and III) – BORED, BORED BORED!

Ok, so that’s a bit of a simplification. There are some good bits in the newer films, but they are nothing compared to the experience of seeing the first film at the cinema when it came out. I’d never seen anything like it.

So now I’m worried about the new one. Because I want it to be great. And I’m worried it won’t be.

(Oh my days! I’ve just realised the parallels between Star Wars and my book! And my main character is called Lucas, eek!)

Birdman (yes it’s review time again!)


This review has been a long time coming. I actually watched the film on a plane on the way to Florida, this was back in March. So why am I  talking about it now?

The thing is, it absolutely blew me away. When it ended I thought “That is just the best film ever!”. I raved about it to my wife so much that 2 weeks later she watched it on the way back. She didn’t like it though, so why did I think it was so great?

Well, there’s the obvious stuff. All the main characters are weirdly compulsive and pull you into the story, and they are brilliantly acted. It’s beautifully filmed, with that famously long continuous introductory shot. The unrelenting, hypnotic jazz percussion sound track. I think watching it on a plane helped as well. It’s an intense movie and sitting just inches from the screen and wearing headphones really helps you to get sucked right in.

Then there’s Raymond Carver.

The film revolves around the main character’s attempt to stage a Broadway play. He’s a Hollywood actor, the star of a superhero franchise (the Birdman of the title), and this is his attempt to be a ‘real’ actor. The play is his own adaptation of “What we talk about when we talk about love”, a collection of short stories by Raymond Carver, who, I’m ashamed to say, I’d never heard of. The play is central to the film, the characters and their dialogue, resonating off the stage and into the actors lives.

The words of Raymond Carver hit me like a smack in the face with the complete works of William Shakespeare. The first thing I did when we got to our apartment in Orlando was to download the book and start reading. I read two of the short stories until the fact that I’d been up for nineteen hours straight finally forced me to bed. I had two thoughts before I slept: “Wow!” and “I should write a short story”.

So in a way the ultimate result of me watching the film was the short story that I just blogged about. Which is why I’m writing about it now.