The newest installment in the Wizarding World franchise, Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindewald follows magical creatures expert Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he tries to get around a ban on international travel, win the heart of Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterstone), and help Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) track down his love, Queenie (Alison Sudol). Meanwhile, powerful and evil wizard, Grindewald (Johnny Depp), has escaped and is trying to manipulate the masses and use mysterious orphan Credence (Ezra Miller) to incite an uprising of wizards to take over the world.
As I watched Crimes of Grindewald, I consistently felt like I was missing pieces of vital information, as though the screenplay left out important parts of exposition. The film starts in the midst of the action, so I thought eventually this feeling would go away, but it never really did. The narrative draws on backstories from the Harry Potter novels, so some of those details were available to me, but if I had not remembered them, I would have been even more confused.
I very much enjoyed Jude Law’s appearance as a middle-aged Albus Dumbledore, but I was let down by the way the story treated two of its big female characters. Without spoilers, I will say that Queenie, who has some pretty awesome magical gifts, is manipulated in a way that seems to contradict her abilities. Then, the way Leta Lestrange’s (Zoë Kravitz) backstory and fate develop leans on really tired tropes about biracial women and takes a strong and mysterious character and more or less dumps her in favor of a couple dramatic moments.
Despite how disappointing the film was in the details, a Harry Potter movie is a Harry Potter movie, and when I took my sister to see Crimes of Grindewald, we both enjoyed it. If you haven’t already, I’m not sure I would rush out to see it in the theater, but it is worth watching nonetheless. 2.5/5 stars
Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindewald was written by J.K. Rowling and directed by David Yates. It runs 2 hrs 14 minutes and is rated PG-13.
In Creed II, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has recently fought his way to Heavyweight Champion of the World with his coach, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), and girlfriend, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), by his side. No sooner has he won the belt, than his father and Rocky’s old rival, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), comes out of the shadows, challenging Adonis to a fight with his son, Victor (Florian Munteanu). The press his hungry for a Creed-Drago rematch, after the fateful fight that took Adonis’s father, Apollo Creed’s life, but Rocky worries that the effect on his young protégé could be devastating.
What I like most about Creed II is how the writers allow Bianca to be a full person with a dream and struggles, and who is in Adonis’s corner without her whole character revolving around him. I like the way their relationship develops and how they work as a team. At heart, however, this is a movie about fathers and father figures. This dynamic plays out most obviously in the drama around the Creed-Drago fight, but the theme runs through Adonis’s relationship with Rocky and each men’s individual growth throughout the story. The emphasis on fathers is pretty obvious without being heavy-handed. It is sappy in the wonderful way Stallone projects can be.
On top of the character development in the screenplay, the performances are strong and the boxing matches are pretty intense. I took my husband to see this movie because we both liked Creed and the Rocky series, and neither of us were disappointed. He noted that, unlike in the original Rocky films, in Creed II, he could tell that the actors had actually trained in boxing. We laughed, we cried, it was better than Cats. 4/5 stars.
Creed II was written by Sylvester Stallone and Joel Taylor and directed by Steven Caple Jr. It runs 2 hrs 10 minutes and is rated PG-13.