Film Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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Unless you’ve been in an underground bunker for the last few months you’ll know that the release of J.K Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is imminent. This Friday in fact. Along with Star Wars Rogue One, it’s tipped to be one of the top films of the year, so expectations were high as we fastened our seatbelts to drive around the M25 to the O2 for an advanced screening last night.

It turns out that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the perfect tonic for a two and a half hour car ride at an average speed of 20 miles an hour, followed by 40 minutes of queuing outside a cinema screen in a corridor bereft of air-conditioning but with no shortage of other people.

Yes, I wasn’t in the best frame of mind when I finally sat down in the cinema with Fifi, the boy and one of their Harry Potter mad friends yesterday but fortunately once the opening credits rolled, everything was put right. I’ll get it out of the way up front, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is, erm, fantastic.

Since Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is based around the concept of a textbook of magical creatures, it is able to create it’s own characters and story in an entirely different manner to a straightforward book adaptation, thereby neatly sidestepping any pacing issues that adapting a 500+ page novel into a two hour film might suffer from. To this end there is a fairly strong argument that it’s a better movie than the majority of the Harry Potter films because it doesn’t have to remain true to a narrative book whilst cutting massive sections of it out.

The story follows wizard and magizoologist Newt Scamander as he arrives in America to release a beast he’s freed from captivity. Through a series of amusing incidents, his magic briefcase that’s full of beasties gets swapped and a load of the creatures get released by mistake. Newt and his new made friends Jacob (a Muggle), Tina and her sister Queenie go through various scrapes to try and recover them, whilst the New York wizarding community also fight against unexplained manifestations of magic that threaten outright war.

Although there are a group of four lead characters, who you’ll see in the majority of posters, this film is really about Newt, played by Eddie Redmayne who seems to be doing his darnedest to channel Matt Smith’s Doctor Who, (costume, check, TARDIS/briefcase that’s bigger on the inside, check, wand/sonic screwdriver that gets him out of a tight corner, check) but then that’s not a bad thing and Redmayne is great.

I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan, I’ve watched the films and am currently (tortuously) reading The Prison of Azkaban to the kids at a rate of two pages a night, but that didn’t matter as the story is self contained-there are continuity nods all the way through: Dumbledore is mentioned, apparently the wand maker from the HP films is name checked etc, but if you miss these, you’ve not missed out and they’re not shoehorned in too obviously.

The film looks wonderful, the 1920’s New York setting is done perfectly, there are plenty of great performances too and the characters interact well with the CGI, which helps make for a believable world. Since the film deals with adults, there is no need to explain everything to the protagonists, which at times hampered the Harry Potter films, everybody just gets on with stuff. The majority of the magic used is of the teleportation, things moving on their own, broken stuff repairing itself or wand waving followed by an explosion, so it doesn’t require exposition of what the spell is or means. This lets the plot flow without any unnatural pauses.

The film gets a thumbs up from me but to put it properly to the test, I asked the kids. Despite the film finishing at around quarter past nine on a school night, they loved it. The kids friend was literally bouncing up and down with excitement in her Harry Potter t-shirt afterwards (a continuation of the bouncing beforehand that had to stop once we sat down). The kids had a long discussion over the best of the beasts and the funniest way they were recaptured. Fifi said there were one of two scary bits that were quite intense but overall she loved it- she’s the one out of the three kids with the least Harry Potter exposure, so that bodes well the films mass appeal.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is out on Friday 18 November, with a 12A rating.

Film Review: DreamWorks Trolls

TrollsDreamWorks make some of the best children’s films. Their movies are the ones which frame childhoods and create memories and Trolls is no exception. If you’re looking for a frenetic, joy filled musical extravaganza then this is the movie for you.

I should say that Fifi was a little bit worried about the Trolls being scary (she admitted this when we were halfway to the screening) but she soon realised how silly she was being and is now a massive fan. They really are the cutest little movie characters, possibly ever and the scenes which involve what can only be described as fuzzy felt to explain what might happen are a stroke of genius.

I was excited to see Trolls as I remember having the little dolls when I was little and they really were a feature of my childhood. I still have them and I even have a little jewel box which sat on a wrist band and held a Troll- something which is referenced in the film for uber fans of a certain age like me.

Despite being 41 instead of 7, there was no stopping us getting a photo with the Trolls at the gala screening. In all honesty I don’t think I could have been more excited!

trolls

This film is a musical and the soundtrack is awesome, we were all jigging about it our seats and singing the songs all the way home. These Trolls are cast as little Party People with pink haired Poppy Troll (voiced by Anna Kendrick) in charge. She’s a sassy little girly troll with an attitude not unlike my daughter and there were some brilliant almost teenager like one-liners from her.

The film is a roller coaster ride of emotions, particularly for younger kids. The bad guys (Bergens) are a little bit scary. Branch  the boy Troll (voiced by Justin Timberlake) reminded me of my eldest son in attitude and latent musical talent.

If you like Shrek, then you will like this movie as it has a very similar sort of feel about it. However, we thought it was better than Shrek, its much more visually stimulating, the comedy is more contemporary and the music really takes it to the next level.

It is without doubt the perfect movie for a rainy autumn half term and will serve to raise the spirits of even the battle hardened parent. I defy you not to feel happy once you’ve seen it. We all love it and the soundtrack is now a fave on our Spotify playlist.

Have a look at the trailer:

The Blurb:

DreamWorks’ TROLLS is a hair-raising comedy filled with unbelievable adventure and incredible music.  Known for their crazy, colourful, and magical hair, Trolls are the happiest, most joyous creatures ever to burst into song. But their world of rainbows and cupcakes is changed forever, when their leader Poppy (Anna Kendrick,) must embark on a rescue mission that takes her far beyond the only world she’s ever known.

TROLLS stars Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Corden, Kunal Nayyar, Gwen Stefani, Russell Brand, Ron Funches

DreamWorks TROLLS is released in cinemas from October 15 in 3D and 2D.

I’d love to hear about your childhood memories of Trolls and if you see the film yourself don’t forget to leave a review here.

Film News: Dreamworks TROLLS

TrollsBeing born in the mid 1970’s it will come as no surprise to you if I say that one of my favourite toys when I was little were Trolls. These hard little plastic dolls with sticky up hair you could backcomb were brilliant. I still have a couple of them and every so often I put them by my computer to spur me on with work.

It was very exciting to hear that Dreamworks have turned their adventures into a film staring Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Corden, Kunal Nayyar, Gwen Stefani, Russell Brand, Ron Founts.

The film looks great, its bright and colourful and hopefully will bring a smile to everyones face. Have a look at the trailer:

The official blurb:

DreamWorks’ TROLLS is a hair-raising comedy filled with unbelievable adventure and incredible music.  Known for their crazy, colourful, and magical hair, Trolls are the happiest, most joyous creatures ever to burst into song. But their world of rainbows and cupcakes is changed forever, when their leader Poppy (Anna Kendrick,) must embark on a rescue mission that takes her far beyond the only world she’s ever known.

DreamWorks TROLLS is released in cinemas October 21 in 3D and 2D.

Film Review: Nine Lives

Nine LivesJunior film reviewer Fifi (7) went along to the Nine Lives screening with Being Mrs C and her daughter. She came out buzzing about the film and reckons its one of the funniest films she’s seen at the cinema.

Nine Lives is the story of a businessman (Kevin Spacey) who works really hard, when it comes to his daughters 11th birthday he decides to get her a cat (something she’s always wanted) from the pet shop. There is an accident and the businessman (Tom) and the cat swop bodies. Tom is now trapped inside a cat and only the cat whisperer can hear him. The film harks back to classic 1990’s rom-com with a few tiny nods to the present day. Jennifer Garner, Malina Weissman and Christopher Walkern star alongside Kevin Spacey.

Have a look at the trailer:

 

This film has an enormous amount of appeal for any child who owns a cat (such as Fifi). Indeed, I’d have to say that she thought it was fantastic before she’d even seen the film. She has been talking about it ever since and we’ve been told we all just have to go and see it and get the DVD when it comes out!

In terms of adult appeal i’ve been reliably informed that there is more than enough to make this a good choice as a family film. I’m all for this sort of film as a school summer holiday activity because I must admit I do get a little bit bored by children’s animations; if theres some ‘adult’ jokes and a sub plot which goes above the children’s heads (like this does) then that keeps me happy.

This summer has seen a crop of great movie choices and I have to say that over the past 9 years of reviewing family films this year sees some really stiff competition amongst what to watch this summer. From Fifi’s reaction this is another film you cant really go wrong with.

Nine Lives goes on general release in the UK on 5 August 2016. Runtime of 87 minutes. Universal Certificate.

Film Review: Pete’s Dragon

petes dragonWe were lucky enough to go along to the gala screening of Disney’s latest live action movie Pete’s Dragon. This is a  film that had slipped a bit under my radar, i’m not entirely sure why, it just had. However, as soon as the film started and I began to get flashbacks to my childhood. The original film was exactly within the genre of films I used to watch over and over again; Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, that kind of thing where there was a mixture of songs, animation and ‘jokey’ acting. However, I think I had blocked it out of my mind because from what I recall (although I haven’t seen it for 30 odd years) there was an element of sadness and the underlying story was a little bit traumatic for me compared to the other movies.

 

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Awesome balloon dragon!

This years update of Pete’s Dragon sees a slightly different scenario where Pete loses his parents in a car crash and ends up living in the woods with Elliot the dragon. Until that is, they get discovered. The film features Bryce Dallas Howard who plays a superb surrogate mum figure and Robert Redford as her dad alongside Oakes Fegley who does a brilliant job playing Pete. The dragon is clearly animated but in a wonderful way which somehow manages to sit unobtrusively in the film and there were moments where the dragon reminded me of the one in my all time favourite kids movie, The Neverending Story.

There were many things which I loved about this film, not least that it reminded me of some of the best movies of my 1980’s childhood. They have captured the essence of what I imagined life to be like in America at that time, elements of what I remembered about the original film and weaved in a magical feeling of folklore and the preciousness of the wild. This isn’t a big hitting, all action movie, rather a gentle but epic roller coaster ride of emotions which I think is an antidote to many of today’s children’s movies which can feel over produced for thrills and laughs.

Have a look here:

I thought this was a lovely film which I’d very happily snuggle up with the husband and some popcorn and watch again. However, I have to say that the four year old found it a bit scary and the ‘sophisticated’ nine year old was a little bored by it. I think this is because he feeds himself an endless diet of ‘high reward’ action packed films. I must rectify this because this is the sort of movie which can make summer holiday memories. It is an engaging, thoughtful children’s film and I loved it. So I guess what i’m saying is, if you want to take the kids to a film and you’re a child of the 1980’s then pick this one as you’ll love it. I hope your children enjoy it too.

Bryce Dallas Howard

Bryce Dallas Howard introduces the film

Info and Synopsis

“PETE’S DRAGON”

UK Release date: 12 August, 2016

Genre:  Live Action

Rating: TBD

Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence and Robert Redford

Director: David Lowery

Based on a story by: Seton I. Miller and S.S. Field

Producer: Jim Whitaker

A reimagining of Disney’s cherished family film, “Pete’s Dragon” is the adventure of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliott, who just so happens to be a dragon. “Pete’s Dragon” stars Bryce Dallas Howard (“Jurassic World”), Oakes Fegley (“This is Where I Leave You”), Wes Bentley (“The Hunger Games”), Karl Urban (“Star Trek”), Oona Laurence (“Southpaw”) and Oscar® winner Robert Redford (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”). The film, which is directed by David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”), is written by Lowery & Toby Halbrooks based on a story by Seton I. Miller and S.S. Field and produced by Jim Whitaker, p.g.a. (“The Finest Hours,” “Friday Night Lights”), with Barrie M. Osborne (“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Great Gatsby”) serving as executive producer.

For years, old wood carver Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) has delighted local children with his tales of the fierce dragon that resides deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. To his daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), who works as a forest ranger, these stories are little more than tall tales…until she meets Pete (Oakes Fegley). Pete is a mysterious 10-year-old with no family and no home who claims to live in the woods with a giant, green dragon named Elliott. And from Pete’s descriptions, Elliott seems remarkably similar to the dragon from Mr. Meacham’s stories. With the help of Natalie (Oona Laurence), an 11-year-old girl whose father Jack (Wes Bentley) owns the local lumber mill, Grace sets out to determine where Pete came from, where he belongs, and the truth about this dragon. Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon” opens in UK cinemas on 12th August 2016.