Movie Review: “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

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Image: Collider

Rating: 3 out of 5

Last weekend I finally got around to watching the latest Harry Potter film, and now I’m finally getting around to writing my review. It’s easy to explain why I’ve been dragging my feet: I’m still perplexed why this movie was made, even though I know the only reason is the metric ton of cold, hard cash that it generated (over $600M to be exact).

The original Fantastic Beasts book, along with its companion Quidditch Through the Ages, was published in 2001 to support Comic Relief, the British charity of “Red Nose Day” fame created to alleviate global poverty.

I remember reading Fantastic Beasts fondly when I was a kid, because I was obsessed with anything HP-related, but now I’m just mind-boggled that Hollywood can take a tiny encyclopedia of magical creatures and develop a multi-movie series out of it.

Fantastic Beasts is the Hogwarts magizoology textbook written by Newt Scamander. The film follows Newt’s visit to New York City in the 1920s, where he must re-capture a few of his furry friends after they escape his magical suitcase.

Nothing about this backstory is included in the book. Instead, Rowling develops her screenplay using information provided by her online lexicon Pottermore. She weaves Newt’s travels with the more menacing tale of Gellert Grindewald, the love interest of Dumbledore who ultimately betrays him and becomes the most dangerous dark wizard prior to Voldemort’s rising.

Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for that story to develop in the sequels as Grindewald is only discussed briefly in the film until the particularly famous actor who plays him makes a cameo at the end.

Instead, you learn about Newt’s struggle to advocate for animal rights in America, a country which frankly is a lot less exciting when it comes to magic. Wizardry is mysterious and intriguing when it’s associated with the castles and robes and other medieval elements of the Old World. Surrounded instead by high rises and noisy cars, the “otherness” of this universe is lost.

Don’t get me wrong: the script is great, the plot is fine, and actors do a wonderful job giving dimension to their characters. I especially look forward to Ezra Miller’s career taking off, because he is an absolute gem (you’ll know him from “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and his new role as The Flash in the DC franchise).

I certainly enjoyed this movie, but I was hyper-aware that this series is meant for the next generation of Harry Potter fans. Much like “Sorcerer’s Stone, it’s a kids’ movie with the potential to grow into something grittier and darker but has pretty low stakes right now. Even the fantastic beasts, though cute and fun, weren’t that innovative but rather weird combos of animals already walking this earth (bird + snake = Occamy, mole + platypus = Niffler, etc.).

All in all, this movie gets a resounding “okay” from me. It was good enough that I’ll continue watching the sequels, which is exactly what Warner Bros. expects. I think that I speak for all fans that we’d rather see a Marauders prequel, but we’ll take what we can get.

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Literary News: In Case You (Really) Missed It

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The past 14 hours have been a whirlwind of fun: last night my book club met to drink a few bottles of wine while discussing the horrendous novel All the Birds in the Sky (review coming next week!). This morning was even invigorating, because I was finally able to login to Pokemon Go, the mobile game that’s taken over the globe. I’ve been gallivanting around San Francisco hoping to catch them all!

But now it’s time to get serious…I have a confession to make.

In full disclosure, I have a terrible habit of filing away articles for my blog, then forgetting that they exist. Every time my cursor hovers over the bookmarks folder on my browser, I cringe and try to ignore the growing list as best I can.

But 2016 is half over, and I just can’t take it anymore! Time for some summer cleaning!

Here are the first six months of literary news in review, in case you really, really missed the boat, or just want to relive the excitement!

Literary Feminism

  • “Damn, you’re not reading any books by white men this year? That’s so freakin brave and cool” (Jezebel)
  • “In literature and in life, men and women still want different things in a mate” (Jezebel)
  • “One weird trick that makes a novel addictive” (Jezebel)

Harry Potter News

  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to be eighth book” (BBC)
  • “J.K. Rowling’s History of Magic in North America was a travesty from start to finish” (io9)

Hollywood Adaptations

  • “Ava DuVernay confirmed to direct A Wrinkle in Time” (IndieWire)
  • “Inside the peculiar new home of Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine” (Entertainment Weekly)
  • “6 adaptations that fixed the book (according to the author)” (Cracked)
  • “First Look as Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf on A Series of Unfortunate Events set” (Spinoff Online)
  • Will drama about young William Shakespeare picked up to series by TNT” (Deadline)

Et Cetera

  • Placing Literature maps out real places you’ve read about in books” (Lifehacker)
  • “The mass-market edition of To Kill a Mockingbird is dead” (New Republic)

Can you tell I’m a fan of Gawker Media publications? After reading this list, what literary news made you most excited? And if I missed any headlines, please send them my way!

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I Love, But Other People Don’t

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

In this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, it’s all about the haters. Which literary characters do you love, but other readers don’t–or vice versa?

I think that this is a great topic, because I’ve always gravitated toward characters with an edge, whether they’re bad boys in romance novels or super villains in comic books. Nobody likes a goody-two-shoes, after all!

My top ten list features men, women, and the occasional dragon or anti-christ who have betrayed–even murdered–those closest to them. However, all in my mind have redeemable qualities and justifications for their actions. Call them awful, selfish, ruthless, or evil, but you certainly can’t call them one-dimensional!

Carey Mulligan as Daisy (Image via Wikipedia)

So-Called “Selfish” Women

1. Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. Edna Pontellier from The Awakening by Kate Chopin
3. Medea from Medea by Euripides

Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff (Image via Wikipedia)

Debatable “Leading” Men

4. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
5. Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
6. Meursault from The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Malfoys with Bellatrix (Image via Harry Potter Wiki)

Villains Better Than Heroes

7. The Malfoys from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
8. Smaug from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
9. Lady Macbeth from Macbeth by William Shakespeare
10. Satan from Paradise Lost by John Milton

Throwback Thursday: My Childhood Drawings of Harry Potter Characters

I’m not sure whether it’s the abnormally warm weather or my incessant need to minimize my stuff while living in my tiny Bay Area apartment (probably both!), but I’ve been on a major spring cleaning kick–donating old clothes that I’ll never wear again and old books that I’ll never read again, and tossing all the junk that’s leftover.

In the flurry of consolidating my closet, I came across some things that filled me with nostalgia: my high school and college English lit essays, souvenirs from my 2012 trip to Tokyo, and the remnants of friendship bracelets and lanyards from my jewelry-making hobby.

By far, however, my favorite stops down memory lane were the pieces of artwork that my brother and I created when we were kids. Three of these happened to be Harry Potter-related, so of course I had to take some photos and share them with you all!

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James Potter (aka Prongs) drawn as an anime character

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Various characters surrounding Hogwarts (L-R: Dumbledore, Fawkes, Hagrid, Sirius, Lupin, Tonks, Mad Eye Moody, Hermione, Ron, and Harry)

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My brother’s drawing of the Marauders as anime characters in the Gryffindor house (L-R: James, Lupin, Sirius)

As embarrassed as I am to reveal my lack of artistic ability, I’m also impressed by the impact that Harry Potter made in my life. I especially loved the Marauders and have been dying to read a prequel about them for over a decade now. I’m not quite sure why I drew James Potter particularly, since I despised his arrogance and cruelty toward Snape, but perhaps I felt that Harry Potter was too cliché of a choice?

I’d like to say that these drawings were created when I was very, very young, but considering that picture #2 features Nymphadora Tonks, who is introduced in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which was published in the summer of 2003, I have to admit that I was at least 12 years old, approaching my 13th birthday and my entrance into high school. That might sound plenty young now that I’m 26, but that only means that my brother was probably 10 or 11, and already a much better artist than I ever was (or ever will be!).

So alas, it looks like I’ll stick to writing instead of pursuing the visual arts. I’m sure the world would thank me!

Did you ever create art inspired by your favorite books when you were a child? Did you hold onto it or would you be too mortified to see it again? Share your own literary throwbacks in the comments!

Jonathan Franzen’s Still a Jerk…and Other Literary News

Image via Gawker Media

Before I post my review of this month’s book club selection, I wanted to pass along some tidbits of news that I’ve bookmarked over the past weeks. There are a lot of interesting stories, so let’s hop right to it!

Movie Adaptations

  • After watching this trailer for “Victor Frankenstein,” I’m much less enthusiastic about the film. Looks like loads of special effects but very little substance. How unfortunate! Do yourself a favor and read Mary Shelley’s classic novel instead! (Source: ComingSoon.net)
  • Warner Bros. has purchased the rights to Dante’s Inferno, which will be written by Dwain Worrell as an epic love story through the nine circles of hell. I believe that there’s a tenth circle for horrible film adaptations (looking at you, “The Golden Compass!”), so fingers crossed this turns out well! (Source: Deadline)

Humorous Headlines

  • Was Shakespeare a gigantic stoner? Perhaps, says the South African researchers who found cannabis residue in 400-year-old tobacco pipes found in his Stratford-upon-Avon garden. (Source: The Conversation)
  • The hashtag #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter trended on Twitter, with many famous authors contributing to the dialogue. My favorite tweet? S.E. Hinton of The Outsiders‘ response: “I thought you were dead.” #LOL (Source: Huffington Post)
  • A German artist with the hardest Tumblr domain to pronounce is getting her 15 minutes with her amusing Harry Potter comics in which Dumbledore has the perfect IDGAF attitude. (Source: BuzzFeed)

Et Cetera

  • A new fantasy tale will be published by the Tolkien estate in October: The Story of Kullervo. Based on Finnish poetry, it was one of the oldest stories written by the author in his college years starting in 1914. Hopefully, I’ll finish Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf before this is released! (Source: io9)
  • Speaking of Tolkien, George R. R. Martin has revealed that he wants his Game of Thrones series to end much like The Lord of the Rings did, as a “bittersweet victory.” The only victory here is whether this ending ever gets completed. What’s the holdup, Martin? Less interviews, more writing! (Source: Observer)
  • Finally, I still hate Jonathan Franzen. The latest reason was his flippant desire to adopt an Iraqi war orphan so he can better empathize with children. This was my favorite response from Rembert Browne:

Hey, Franzen? How about you take your “get off my lawn” attitude and just evacuate the planet? Kthxbai! (Source: Jezebel)

Any other literary news I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Literary Characters I’d Like to Check in With

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

Have you ever wondered what certain literary characters are up to nowadays? How did their lives turn out after they conquered that villain or got married? Even when we get to “The End,” we know that it’s only the beginning for the stories we don’t get the privilege to read.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, discusses which literary characters we’d most like to check in with. It’s like when you run into someone from school you haven’t talked to in forever, and you both agree to grab coffee sometime, but you never do, because let’s face it, neither of you is really that interested. Instead, in this case, you genuinely care what these characters have been doing all this time!

To get right to it, here are the top ten literary characters I’d like to check in with:

Ladies Bouncing Back from Bad Situations

 

 

1. Daisy from The Great Gatsby
2. Jane from Jane Eyre
3. Medea from Euripides’ Medea
4. Violet from A Series of Unfortunate Events

Happily Ever After?

 

5. The All-American Girls
6. Mia from The Princess Diaries
7. Lyra and Will from His Dark Materials

Growing Up in Their Golden Ages

8. The Ringbearers from The Lord of the Rings

9. Artemis from Artemis Fowl

10. The students of Hogwarts from Harry Potter

Top Ten Favorite Film Adaptations of Books

When it comes to blogging memes, I don’t follow any consistently, but I like jumping in when I like the topic (not to mention, when I’ve got the time!). It’s rare that I post on a Tuesday, but Alison Doherty at Hardcovers and Heroines inspired me to discuss my favorite movie adaptations of books.

Without further ado! In order from good to greatest:

  • Fight Club, based on the book by Chuck Palahnuik

I was surprised to find out that Daniel Day-Lewis starred in two of these films…but then again, I shouldn’t be because he’s an amazing actor! So which movies would you add to your list?

If you’d like to follow this Top Ten meme, check out The Broke and The Bookish!