In preparation for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them!!!

Movie previews

Hello!

Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them is coming out in less than a month, so in order to get myself ready for its release, I decided to read the extra Harry Potter material that I missed or didn’t get a chance to read before now and I would like to share my thoughts on it.

I have always been a huge fan of the main HP series, I have re-read all the main books more times than I can count – they were literally my bible growing up and kinda still are now. Harry Potter fandom was also the first fandom that I’ve ever joined. The last movie of the main series – The Deathly Hallows Part 2 – marked the first time when I genuinely cried in the cinema because I didn’t want to leave that world behind. As a kid, I would also imagine myself in that world – I used to play pretend that I was a student at Hogwarts, even made a wand out of two pencils and some tape. My mom’s bathrobe worked well as the uniform robe too. Nowadays, I express my inner fan of HP more subtly – I have a Hogwarts Alumni t-shirt, a Fantastic Beasts t-shirt, a Ravenclaw pin on my bag and a Time-Turner necklace because a)I would love to turn back time (although, The Cursed Child kinda made me doubt that) and b)I’m basically a muggle reincarnation of Hermione Granger. Plus, I recently order a Golden Snitch bracelet. Last year, I have also visited a few outdoor filming locations – the bridge that was used as the Hogwarts Express viaduct (Glenfinnan Viaduct) and the lake that doubled as the Black Lake (Loch Shiel). I made a blog post about that trip, you can find it here. Next spring, I plan on going to the actual tour of the studios in London as well as the King’s Cross.

Okay, that’s enough of my personal story, let’s now discuss the textbook that the upcoming movie was inspired by as well as other extra books from the HP world.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, written by Newt Scamander a.k.a. J.K.Rowling is an amusing little book. It was first published as a novella for the UK charity Comic Relief in 2001, so the number of the printed books was quite limited. I managed to get one copy from a local library because I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it – the books from the first few printings are super expensive on eBay and their prices have been increasing steadily because of the upcoming movie. The book will be rereleased next year as a hardback but who wants to wait that long?

Recently, Warner Bross and J.K. Rowling announced that Fantastic Beasts franchise will have 5 movies in it. The original book consists of less than 100 tiny pages but I can see a lot of potential in it. You can basically just pick one beast that is described in it and come up with an adventure story revolving around it. I also imagine that the filmmakers and J.K. Rowling, who will be writing or at least overseeing the scripts, will pull some extra stuff from the Harry Potter lore on Pottermore or from the other 2 short novellas (which I will discuss bellow). Moreover, since J.K.Rowling is so involved in the creation process I don’t have any problems with her coming up with new stuff – all the fans were super happy when the HP 8th book was published.

Fantastic Beasts not only has a lot of cinematic potential but it is an extremely easy and enjoyable read by itself. The novella is funny, witty and has quite a few easter eggs in the form of Harry’s or Ron’s handwritten notes.

Quidditch Through The Ages

Another Comic Relief book from 2001, Quidditch Through The Ages also has a lot of cinematic possibilities just like Fantastic Beasts. I can definitely see this novella being adapted into a magical sports drama. I think a lot of people would be interested in this type of property, as the Quidditch scenes from the HP films have always been well-accepted. In addition, I think a lot of fans (I included) were quite disappointed when the filmmakers cut the majority of the Quidditch World Championship from the 4th film.

On a side note, Quidditch Throughs The Ages also did a very good job in adding a global aspect to the magical world, as it spotlighted the traditions of Quidditch around the world. I even found out that my native country of Lithuania has a Quidditch team in J.K.Rowling’s mind, called Gorodog Gargoyles. I was so excited after I read that paragraph that I’ll almost let it slide that Rowling used words with Russian language roots (‘gorodo‘ means ‘city‘) to name a Lithuanian team (my country’s and Russia’s common relations are not great due to history).

The Tales of Beedle The Bard

The newest of the charity books, The Tales of Beedle The Bard has been published in association with Children’s High-Level Group in 2008. This short story collection is J.K.Rowling’s magical take on the old-school fairytale genre. Among other stories, the book includes The Tale of the Three Brothers – a myth that played an important role in the final HP book. The short novella also contains Dumbledore’s notes on various tales: these writings not only give us more context and background regarding the magical world but also provide an insight into Dumbledore’s personality. These notes might be useful in kickstarting a Dumbledore-centric film plotline, as it has been speculated that the young version of the character will show up in the future Fantastic Beasts movies.

Finally, one last note on the charity books – I think that they are an amazing idea and that more authors should use their talents for writing to help others. J.K.Rowling not only created more stories for the fans of Harry Potter but actually did something good that will benefit people around the world. Basically, I hope more writers will try to cleverly utilize their fandom for philanthropy.

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

The last of the books that I’m gonna talk about today is, of course, the new HP book. Written in a play format for the West End and released in a script form, The Cursed Child tells a story of Harry, his family, and friends 19 years after the demise of Voldemort.

I was super excited when I heard that the script of the play will be published as I knew that I wasn’t going to make it to London to see the theatrical production. I absolutely loved coming back to this world and catching up with the character that I grew up with. It was also really nice to see them as proper adults: while their characters as children acted as my personal examples on how to be a child, The Cursed Child can basically act as my guide into adulthood.

I also found it interesting how we got to see a few alternative futures of our beloved characters. In addition, I liked the fact that Rowling picked the Time-Turner from the 3rd book to be the focus of the 8th story – she has taken a supposed plot hole of a previous book and made it into a plot-point. Now, nobody can complain that they should have used the Time-Turner to kill Voldemort in the first place, as the consequences of that could have been even worse. Basically, the main message is DON’T MESS WITH TIME. Also, I liked how she took other familiar bits and pieces from the previous books and presented them in a new way, like the Triwizard Tournament from the 4th book.

The format of the play took some getting used to, as the narrative would jump around in time very quickly. However, that added a quickness and a non-stop pace to the plot, which was quite nice and different. Nevertheless, I did miss the extensive descriptions that would take up a lot of space in the previous novels. The main topics and values like family, friendship, the fight between good and evil, the sacrifice, and the prophecy – the staples of HP – were present and welcomed in The Cursed Child as well.

A few last notes of the book: I really liked how J.K. Rowling managed to resurrect popular characters for the 8th book, by that, I, of course, mean Snape. Reading his lines and imagining Alan Rickman in my mind made his passing even sadder and more heartbreaking. To end this short review on a happier note – I liked how in this book, Draco and Ginny were kinda included into the main trio. This reminded me a lot of the 5th book, which was my favorite because it had more of the main characters. Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved Harry, Hermione, and Ron together, but I also liked seeing them interact with other characters as well and The Cursed Child gave me more of that.


After reading a new HP story and 3 supplementary novellas, I feel quite prepared and in the mood for the new film. I loved the casting choices, especially Eddie Redmayne in the lead, I’m excited about the new U.S. setting and the trailers have also been promising. My review of the film will be coming out the same weekend as the movie hits theaters.

Bye, and Thank You for reading!

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Movie review: Eye in the Sky

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’ve just come back from the cinema, after watching one of the best movies I have seen this year or possibly ever and I can’t wait to talk about it. Without further ado, let’s discuss the war drama/thriller – Eye in the Sky.

IMDb summary: Col. Katherine Powell, a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, sees her mission escalate when a girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare.

SPOILER ALERT

Writing: story and themes

Eye in the Sky’s script was written by Guy Hibbert, who has mainly created screenplays for TV movies. The story that he crafted for this film as well as the dialogue, which was used to tell this story, was truly spectacular. The film doesn’t have any action (almost) in the literal sense of the word, but it is still extremely engaging and suspenseful.

The movie is set during a wartime – in the midst of the contemporary war, where armies are replaced by drones and computers. Nonetheless, the aforementioned modern technologies are still operated by military individuals. I do not think that we have seen many films about the practices of modern warfare, and since this issue is very important to all present and future generations, it’s about time that mainstream movies began contributing to the conversation or at least helped to kickstart the discussion.

Eye in the Sky opened with a quote by the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus: In war, truth is the first casualty. To my mind, this quote was a tiny bit misleading, because the movie dealt more with the questions of ethics rather than truth. On the other hand, truth and morality are too closely related or even intertwined value and the loss of one of them, results in the loss of the other as well.

Eye in the Sky succeeded in portraying the story of a single mission not only in an entertaining but in also realistic way: it showed how many parties (located in different countries and time zones all around the globe) are actually involved in making a decision – it was an example of true democracy – a good kind of democracy. However, it also showed the inefficiency of liberal democracy at times like these and people’s inability to make the important decisions. But can we really blame the officials who tried to avoid the responsibility when the stakes were this high – human lives were at risk. Nonetheless, maybe the officials who were avoiding the important decisions were doing this for personal reasons (so as to avoid possible culpability) rather than ethical ones?

Not only did the movies explored the process of decision making but it also touched upon the question of modern war propaganda (possibility of the footage being leaked). It also asked the viewers to considered the worthiness of human life. Lastly, Eye in the Sky showed the psychological effects on people who actually have to make the decision and, more importantly, execute it. In the end, military and army officials are still people, who are only doing their job.

Eye in the Sky was also a very emotional movie, and the end credits of the motion picture only increased the overall emotional impact of the film. I do not remember the last time I cried in a movie and this film definitely made me tear up.

The only thing that took me out of the picture’s story a tiny bit were the bird and bug drones. They seemed too futuristic to me and were a little unbelievable. However, I do not know whether this type of technology really exists. If it does, then I am really scared about the level of surveillance that we, as a species, have already reached.

Directing: visuals and sound

Eye in the Sky was directed by Gavin Hood, who has previously won an Oscar for the film Tsotsi (Best Foreign Language Film in 2006). However, Hood’s last two films (before Eye in the Sky) were X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Ender’s Game. I did not enjoy these two films and I do not believe that a lot of people did. However, I feel that Hood has at least partially redeemed himself with Eye in the Sky. Although the film’s plot was mostly very spatially confined, the shots were never too dense or too repetitive. The visuals of the drone, as well as the footage of the various computers, were also extremely believable. The cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos (Mamma Mia! (ultimate guilty pleasure film), ThorLockeJack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and Cinderella) was really nice as well. Lastly, the music by Paul Hepker and Mark Kilian was also very haunting and a perfect fit for the film.

Moreover, one of the film’s producers was actor Colin Firth (Kingman(!))- I actually did not know that, in addition to acting, he produced movies. Did you?

Acting

The film had a huge ensemble cast and I would even go as far as to say that this probably is one of my favorite ensemble movies in recent memory. Everest was probably the last ensemble movie that I really enjoyed.

So, the film’s cast consisted of Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi, Jeremy Northam, Iain Glen, Phoebe Fox, Armaan Haggio, Aisha Takow, Richard McCabe, Carl Beukes, Kim Engelbrecht and the director Gavin Hood himself. I won’t be able to talk about all the actors in this list, but I will try my best to discuss at least a few of them.

To begin with, I loved the fact that Helen Mirren’s character was the one calling the shots. Film’s don’t tend to focus on female military officers, so that was a nice change. I also loved how determined and relentless her character was. Mirren is an extremely accomplished actress and I am embarrassed to say that I have only seen her most recent films, like Trumbo, The Hundred-Foot Journey and Woman in Gold. I also would like to watch The Queen in which Miller plays… well… the Queen (for the 4th time).

Breaking Bad’s alumni Aaron Paul is probably fairing a bit better that his past co-star Bryan Cranston (I see Paul in more movies than Cranston). I really liked Paul in the role in Eye in the Sky – he didn’t do much bodily acting but his facial expressions were magnificent. Earlier this year, I saw Aaron in Triple 9 and I have also reviewed a few of his films from 2014 – Need for Speed and A Long Way Down.

Alan Rickman also started in Eye in the Sky. It was quite a bitter-sweet feeling, seeing him in the film, since I will dearly miss him as an actor. I grew up with him as Snape in Harry Potter films and only yesterday watched him in 1995’s Sense and Sensibility. Eye in the Sky was Rickman’s last physical role and, once again, he proved what an amazing actor he was (and will remain in our minds). I wonder whether the scenes, where his character was buying that doll, were meant to show his human side or whether it symbolized his indifference to all children. His character did seem kinda ruthless, especially with the shiver-inducing deliverance of his last line Never tell a soldier that he doesn’t know the cost of war. Later this year, we will hear Rickman in his last role (overall) in the Alice sequel.

Barkhad Abdi, who burst onto the scene a few years ago with Captain Phillips, was also really good in the role. Game of Thrones’s Iain Glen also had a few scenes that were intended to be funny and I don’t really know if that comic relief was necessary – it felt out of place. Lastly, Aisha Takow played the little girl, whose presence in the film made the biggest emotional impact, and I think that she did a nice job.

All in all, Eye in the Sky was an extremely engaging film, which showed the complexities of war and raised questions of morality and ethics. The answers to these moral and ethical dilemmas were not fully given by the film or its characters, but it encouraged the members of the audience to make up their own minds. The directing, the cinematography and the music of the film all worked together to created a highly compelling feature, which was brought to life by an amazing and extensive cast.

Rate: 4.9/5

Trailer: Eye in the Sky trailer

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