Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald (2018)

Fantastic Beasts The Curse of Grindlewald

Newt (Eddie Redmayne) is back, and in for more than he bargained for.

One of the best things about the original Harry Potter films was that all were such good entertainments on their own merits that I still have a problem of picking my favorite (though the 5th and 8th are strong contenders). One thing is for certain: none of the prequels are in the conversation.

Which brings us to Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald, and while I am a fan of J.K. Rowling’s magical universe, I feel the movie is more for the hardcore fans than the casual ones. Basically, this not a movie for those who may want to start off in the Potter universe. One thing the movie does keep in tradition with is the good casting choices. We see the return of magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) after the events of the first Fantastic Beasts film where he helped with the capture of the evil wizard Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). The film starts with Grindelwald’s escape and Scamander having a meeting with a young Dumbledore (Jude Law), who asks Newt if he could help catch Grindelwald again, who is now in Paris.

We get returning characters such as Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), along with Queenie’s boyfriend Jacob (Dan Folger). Tina is in a race with Grindelwald to find Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), who is on a search for his own past before he was adopted.

While this sounds simple enough, the main problem with the film is that there are far too many story lines to follow, leaving one scratching his or her head. Only in the last third or fourth of the film does the drama pick up, and we begin to finally see some things we have not seen much of before in this universe.

Parents, the movie is fine for anyone who has ever seen any of the other films that were also rated PG-13. There is nothing completely sexual, and there is some swearing. It is the thematic elements and mild violence that make this for middle schoolers and up.

I admit there are some parts that hint at the original stories (my favorite was the inclusion of Nicholas Flamel), and a twist at the end that I am still debating on whether I liked or not. What has me most upset though is that this is only the second of five planned films. That is right, five, which makes me feel like it will tread down the path of the underwhelming Hobbit prequels. That, in the long run, would be a crime.

 

Overall: Two and a Half Stars **1/2

Mid90s (2018)

mid90s

13 year old Stevie (Sunny Suljic) has set his mind on skateboarding.

 

It would come as no surprise to me if there were many parts of Mid90s that are based off of events from Jonah Hill growing up. He was born in 1983, making him near the same age as the films protagonist, but it goes deeper than just that. The movie is not about a set of performances (all great), but on mood and setting. From super soakers to Walkman CD players (which I doubt I am the only one who does not miss) to Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose”, Mid90s is indeed its own form of period piece.

The protagonist is 13-year-old Stevie (newcomer Sunny Suljic). He lives at home with his mom (Katherine Waterston) and older brother Ian (Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges). We see Stevie in that stage of life where what is “cool” isn’t anymore, and new interests must be found. He decides on skateboarding, and discovers a group of (mostly) older kids to hang out with.

The leader is Ray (Na-kel Smith), also easily the best skater of the bunch (and one of the best in town). His best friend is F***S*** (Olan Prenatt), called so due to his tendency to say that phrase followed by “That is Crazy!”. The youngest in the group (closest to Stevie in age) is Ruben (Gio Galicia), who is no longer the runt of the litter. The final member is Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin), so-called because it represents his IQ (or lack there of).

There are many things that work so well in Mid90s. Take for example the time it takes for Stevie to be excepted. There is clearly a care for the characters that Hill (who also wrote the film, his first ever directed) shows us in how he takes his time for them to develop. Stevie is clearly a nice kid, even trying to give his older brother a thoughtful birthday gift despite the fact that Ian lets out all his frustrations on his kid brother. Yet the movie is smart enough to know that Ian (who clearly has a thing for orange juice) does love his brother deep down, but has no one else to turn his anger on.

Parents, this far from a kids movie. There is clearly a lot of swearing, some violence and many thematic elements. There is also one of the most uncomfortable sexual content scenes I have witnessed in a long time, which involves Stevie at a party with an older girl. Nothing is really shown, but the atmosphere is very unsettling (and he describes what happens afterwards.) The R rating is more than justified.

Mid90s packs a lot into the short runtime of 85 minutes, but that does not at all take away from it. There are many clichés that could have occurred in the film, but are (for the most part) avoided. I urge my fellow millennials to search this film out like one may search out an old yearbook.

Overall: Four Stars ****