The magic of J.K. Rowling is back with “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the first of five planned spinoff films rooted in the author’s “Harry Potter” universe. Forgoing the traditional sequel or prequel route to satiate the legions of fans wanting more from Rowling’s blockbuster book-turned-film series, “Fantastic Beasts” ingeniously taps into Rowling’s witchcraft and wizardry mythology as it examines the adventures documented in one of Harry’s textbooks featured in “Harry Potter and Sorcerer’s Stone.”
The end result is “Fantastic Beasts” feels like a Potter film with no mention of Potter (“Fantastic Beasts” takes place 70 years before the story of “The Boy Who Lived”), and instead concentrates on former Hogwart’s student Newt Scamander (the always great Eddie Redmayne) and his adventures to capture fantastical beasts all over the world.
Listen to Tim’s reviews of “Fantastic Beasts” and “Bleed for This” on “The KQ Mornings Show” with Tom Barnard.
But in an odd twist of fate, a bumbling factory worker (Dan Fogler) accidentally unleashes some of Newt’s creatures during a stopover in New York City – and the exposure creates a panic among a secret society of witches and wizards that fears the persecution of their human counterparts.
While the cast — including Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller and Colin Farrell — is terrific, “Fantastic Beasts” comes off a bit too heavy on the special effects. They’re great effects, no doubt, but unless you’re familiar with the source material (Rowling published the 128-page “Fantastic Beasts” in 2001), you may struggle to keep up with all the wizard-speak amid all of the crash-boom-bang. As for everybody else, they’re in for, well, a magical good time.
Lammometer: 7.5 (out of 10)
“Bleed for This” (R)
Fans of hard-hitting, true-life drama will want to climb into the ring with “Bleed for This,” the incredible true story of champion boxer Vinnie Pazienza and his struggles to get back into the ring after a head-on car collision nearly left him completely paralyzed.
Led by Miles Teller as Vinnie, the cast is stellar all around, including brilliant supporting turns by Aaron Eckhart and Ted Levine, who are barely recognizable as Vinnie’s trainer Kevin Rooney and promoter Lou Duva, respectively.
Even though the film falls into the trappings of the boxing genre (there are only so many ways you can replicate a boxer training for a comeback), “Bleed for This” is an amazing study of character and determination in the face of adversity. For the lack of better words, it delivers a solid knock-out punch.
Whether you’re a film critic or fan of his films, one thing you never can accuse actor Daniel Radcliffe of is an inability to be original.
Since his days as the boy wizard in the “Harry Potter” film saga, Radcliffe, 26, has alternated his time between theater and feature films. Most of the projects in the latter medium have been in independent productions where he’s allowed to take risks with his characters.
Needless to say, Radcliffe’s role as an usually gifted corpse in a Sundance indie sensation, the comedy drama “Swiss Army Man,” may be the actor’s riskiest — and most rewarding — project to date.
“I’ve been in the very fortunate position where I can make my choices based solely on doing stuff that I love and that excites me,” Radcliffe said in a phone conversation from New York City Monday. “Very few people get to be in that position. There’s something I love about challenging myself or doing something I’ve never done before. That’s part of the reason why I have fun at my job.”
There’s no arguing “Swiss Arm
y Man” is strikingly original, and in fact, it may be the most original film to come out this year, if not years. Yes, at its heart it’s about the strange bond formed between a the corpse of Manny (Radcliffe) and Hank (Paul Dano), a lost soul who discovers his lifeless new friend on a beach on a deserted island in the Pacific. However, when you experience the film throughout its kaleidoscopic 95-minute run time, you’ll be searching for answers because of its expansive narrative.
“I generally describe the film as ‘a buddy comedy where one of the buddies is dead,’ but if there was a theme to the movie, it’s really about how shame keeps us from love and being able to be loved by someone else,” Radcliffe explained. “It’s really a film about finding acceptance with yourself and finding happiness. It’s also been described as ‘an olive branch from weirdos to latent weirdos.’ But that’s what I love about the film. It’s anarchic and crazy and goes in a million different directions, yet ultimately asks for people to just be kinder to each other and to have more compassion.”
“Swiss Army Man” gives Radcliffe the unique opportunity to play dead throughout the film, even though Manny becomes partially reanimated while speaking to Hank. And no matter what anyone surmises, playing dead is not an easy thing to do, especially since his body is at best jostled about as he’s carried around by Dano; and at worse, tossed and turned with several hard landings as the two traverse their wilderness surroundings.
“I got a huge amount of support on what to do from Paul, but also our directors (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert). They really knew what they wanted out of this character and how they wanted him to come across,” Radcliffe said. “I relied on them to finding out if I was doing it right, because how do you know how to play a dead body? I didn’t want to make him a zombie because he’s not a zombie. It was about finding a way to communicate deadness at all times, but also be lively and interesting.”
“Swiss Army Man” has attracted a lot attention in the media over Manny’s special powers — principal among them the use of his explosive body gas to do extraordinary things. It’s the sort of unexpected character ability that reportedly had Sundance audience members fleeing from screenings in disgust. Radcliffe said he’s still baffled by the criticism and the backlash, given that passing gas is a function, so to speak, to which everybody can relate.
“I don’t get how people are so offended by something that’s so basically human. It’s something that we literally all do,” Radcliffe said. “Do they get offended every time that themselves fart? How do you sustain that level of offense at that bodily function? It’s weird.”
Oh, and for those who really dwell on the production’s details, Radcliffe didn’t do his own gas passing, nor was a stunt farter employed.
“It was all done in post-production and with the help of Daniel Scheinert doing the noises off-camera,” Radcliffe said with a laugh.
Tim reviews the crime thriller “Nightcrawler” and the horror thriller “Horns” on KARE-TVin Minneapolis with Diana Pierce below. Also, you can read Tim’s review on BringMeTheNews.com and hear Tim review the films on WCCO-AM and KSCR-FM. Also read Tim’s interview with “Horns” star Daniel Radcliffe HERE.
There’s a laugh-out-loud funny scene in Daniel Radcliffe’s new movie, “Horns,” where his horn-headed, murder suspect character — who develops the strong power of persuasion over nearly everybody he comes into contact with — tells a group reporters trailing him to beat the living daylights out of each other.
The reason? The last one standing gets an exclusive interview in the “big get” everyone is vying for.
Thankfully, this reporter didn’t have to fulfill the same requirements to talk with Radcliffe the actor about the film.
“I felt kind of bad talking to journalists about that scene beating where they beat each other up. They’ve been asking me, ‘Is that how you really feel about us?’ And the answer is ‘No, not all of you,'” Radcliffe told me, laughing, Thursday. “There’s a select few, if I could arrange some sort of royal rumble, I would, but you are not amongst them, I assure you.”
Opening in limited release Friday and already playing on Video On Demand, “Horns” follows the strange happenings of Ig Perrish (Radcliffe), a seemingly harmless Washington man who’s the target of a vindictive community and sensationalistic reporters after his longtime girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple) is found brutally murdered.
Feeling that everyone is staring at him like he’s a devil, Ig ironically begins to sprout horns, which instead of evoking fear, brings out strange behavior in virtually everyone he encounters.
As if they’re under the devil’s spell, the town’s residents begin to confess their true and often times perverse thoughts to Ig, leading him on a puzzling path to search for the person responsible for the murder – including himself, perhaps in an altered state of mind and subsequent blackout.
Much in the way he’s approached all of his post-“Harry Potter” roles, Radcliffe says the choice to do the edgier material came from his desire to play an interesting character, and in no way was an attempt to distance himself from the famed, boy wizard character that he played in eight films.
“I think people are in the habit of thinking that anything I do is a statement on what I used to do, and it’s really not,” Radcliffe said. “I’ve always tried to make it clear when I can, that me doing other things isn’t a way for me to distance myself from ‘Potter.’ I’m very proud to be associated with those films.”
Radcliffe, 25, said he was reminded of how important it is to be proud of your past when he met a man who used to be in a punk band before he switched over to acting.
“I was a big punk fan and the time and I asked him about his career, but he wouldn’t talk about it,” Radcliffe recalled. “I found that very odd and sort of a shame. How sad would that be to not be associated with the thing that made you or brought you to prominence? In my case, ‘Potter’ was incredibly formative to me and a wonderful experience. I don’t want to forget that.”
“Horns” is no question another great entry in Radcliffe’s quest to spread his creative wings. Directed by Alexandre Aja (“The Hills Have Eyes,” “Piranha 3D”), the film blends several genres, including horror, black comedy, drama, mystery and heartbreaking romance.
“That’s why I was wanted to do this film. Apart from it being a very cool story told in a really inventive, original, exciting way,” Radcliffe explained. “Plus, there was Alex, and I don’t use this word lightly, but he’s a genius. I think he’s the best all-around director I’ve ever worked with in terms of how he is visually and how he is with the actors.
“Also, he harnesses the creativity of the crew better than I’ve ever seen any other director do it,” Radcliffe added. “It became apparent early on, that he listens to the crew, and if they have a good idea, it’ll be in the movie. Alex is secure enough in creativity that he doesn’t view any suggestion as a slight on his talent, which I feel some directors do. So as soon as the crew realized that, it made everyone want to work twice as hard, including the actors.”
One crew that it got its workout with “Horns” was the make-up effects crew, that, apart from sealing the prosthetic horns on Radcliffe’s head, were tasked with creating a ghastly look for the actor in the movie’s climactic, final act.
Radcliffe said it’s the biggest prosthetic work he’s had done on a film after the final chapter in the “Harry Potter” series, where he donned “hex” makeup to give the appearance that his face was swelled up like he’d been stung.
That make-up job took three hours at a time, Radcliffe says, and thanks to advances in the craft, getting the makeup done for “Horns” went much faster than “The Deathly Hallows, Part 2.”
“It’s been about four or five years since the last time I had prosthetics done, so it was a lot easier. Plus, I definitely knew what to expect this time,” Radcliffe said. “Everything was practically done that you see at the end, the face, the eyes, everything.”
Undoubtedly, though, it’s the horns that are the coolest looking practical make-up effect Radcliffe sports, which begs the question: Who would win if he and Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent locked horns?
“We were just talking about that other day because Juno’s in both films,” Radcliffe said, laughing. “So, we came to the conclusion that she only does movies with people who wear horns now. I haven’t seen ‘Maleficent’ but I have seen Angelina Jolie with her horns and I wouldn’t want to trifle with her.”