Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) – Film Review

Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Cast:Eddie RedmayneKatherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo 

Director: David Yates

Genres: Fantasy, Harry Potter, Magic

Rating: 5/5


If there’s something that you should know about me is that I’m a massive Harry Potter fan. Like, huge. So big that I’ve met JK Rowling, been an active member of Pottermore and the Harry Potter fansites for year, own a wand and a set of Hufflepuff House Robes, along with casual wear.

fantastic_beasts_and_where_to_find_them_ver4_xxlgYes, I know.

So when it was announced that we were going to get a new Potter movie, albeit a ‘prequel’ to the Wizarding World as such, I was so excited. I remember receiving my copy of the original Comic Relief textbook and devouring it. I loved the idea of Magical Beasts, and always thought that if I was in the Harry Potter Universe, I’d become something of a magizoologist under Hagrid’s schoolings.

I went to see Fantastic Beasts in my Hufflepuff t-shirt (as the lead character was also housed in Hufflepuff), and was thrilled from start to finish.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set in Pre-Depression New York. English magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has travelled to the Big Apple in search of a rare birthday present, and is equipped with his battered suitcase, in which he’s placed an Undetectable Extension Charm to house his vast collection of magical beasts. However, this is not a fail-safe holding for some of his creatures, and thanks to a switch-up between the suitcases by oblivious No-Maj (Muggle) Jacob Kowaski (Dan Fogler), some of the animals escaped. It is then up to Scamander and Kowaski to re-capture the beasts. However, there is something more sinister and deadly prowling the streets of New York, and along with Scamander and Kowalski, they rope in down-to-earth disgraced Auror, Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston)  and her carefree sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol) to discover what this terrorising the population of New York, without revealing the highly secretive magical community.

The first thing I discovered about Fantastic Beasts is that it has the right tone for a Potter movie. It had all the majesty, magic and realism of the original 8 films, and despite being released over 5 years since the last Deathly Hallows one, it didn’t feel as though any time had past.

Eddie Redmayne played the bumbling, oh-so-sweet and nervous Scamander amazingly. He really showed a man who was far more comfortable being with his creatures, rather than society, along with being an unsung hero for the entire film. His passion for the protection of animals was almost visceral. The rest of the cast slid into their roles as though they are built for them. The airy yet touching romance between Queenie and Jacob was also a bittersweet undertone for the entire film, and I hope we get to see more of them in the sequels.

Once again, Rowling and director David Yates did some fantastic world-building. This was the first time that we saw the Wizarding World outside England, and the slight differences were obvious but enough to make it all feel fresh and unique. Having a female Minister for Magic (over the pond they call it the Magical Congress of the United States of America) was a fabulous addition, and this film had enough of the original Potter-ness to make us feel safe, but was vastly different.

The film was fluid in its progression, and although it wasn’t particularly action-filled constantly, it was brilliant watching. There was enough jump-scares to keep the audience on it’s tone, but not off-putting for younger watchers.

It also set up for a sequel well. I’m so excited to see the world of Newt Scamander get revealed to us, as Harry’s was to readers, and I hope they keep up with this high standard for the proposed 5-film series.

All in all, a brilliant movie. Scamander is vastly different to Potter, but that is what we, as the audience needed. I personally hope they keep Redmayne as the title role, as he has now firmly cemented my love for this bumbling magizoologist.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is out NOW!

The Danish Girl (2016) – Film Review

Title: The Danish Girl

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Ben Whishaw, Matthias Schoenaerts, Amber Heard, and Sebastian Kochs

Director: Tom Hooper

Genre: Biography, Drama, Costume Drama, LGBTQIA Film, Historical Drama

Rating: 4/5


In the last couple of years, the LGBTQIA community have had some of their most positive media representation yet. With hit television shows, the-danish-girl-eddie-redmaynemovies, television presenters, media stars and political triumphs under their belt, it seems that the world has finally seemed to turn a corner in acceptance and love of a group of people that was so badly treated and downtrodden for decades.

And through all this, the transgender community has gone from strength to strength with people such as  Laverne Cox, Ian Harvie and Caitlyn Jenner highlighting the issues that so many have pushed under the carpet, and giving all the silent masses a voice in which to be heard by.

But before all this, there was a single woman. A figure of great significance, and a figure that, until now, has only been known by few. And that was Lili Elbe. Artist’s muse, haunting beauty, and born under the name Einar Wegener, Elbe was one of the pioneers of gender reassignment surgery, and remains a cultural icon to the transgender community today. And now, in 2016, Lili’s tale has come to life in a decadent film, directed by the acclaimed Tom Hooper and starring Academy Award -winning Eddie Redmayne and Golden Globe nominee Alicia Vikander.

At the beginning of the film, we are introduced to Einar and Gerda Wegener. Depicted as a bohemian and happily married couple living in Copenhagen in the early 1900s, the couple both worked as artists, but originally at different levels of success. Whilst Einar was highly successful in his paintings of bleak landscapes, Gerda was struggling to get people to notice her portraits. And it is one of these portrait sittings where Einar’s life seems to have a revolutionary and remarkable turning point. When the Wegener’s mutual friend, a beautiful ballet dancer a711955211nd socialite Ulla (portrayed by Amber Heard) fails to turn up for her sitting, Gerda persuades Einar to step in and wear stockings and ballet shoes to give Gerda a point of reference. It is then the audience notices that Einar changes. It’s both a visible and emotional realisation for Einar, and maybe one he had never experienced before.

And following this turning point, the audience witnesses the blossoming of Lili through Einar, and how, despite initially Lili becomes a welcome muse for Gerda, the transition of Einar-to-Lili fully becomes a source of tension and ultimately a breakdown of marriage between the Wegener’s.The rest of the film then shows Lili deciding to go ahead with the pioneering surgery. And it is then we witness one of the most perfectly spoken lines of script in the film. Whilst speaking to her doctor, Lili says in a nervous manner, ‘I believe I am a woman’, and Gerda follows up, in a calm and assured voice ‘I believe it too’. To me, this acknowledgement of Gerda’s is one of the most positive reactions. In agreeing with Lili, Gerda shuts the door on Einar, and lets Lili become the woman she always wanted to be. And it was really one of those catch-in-the-throat moments that makes you fall further in love with Gerda.

The acting in this film is superb in my opinion. I realise there has been strife over the fact that Hooper did cast a cisgender man to play a transgender role, as well as blatant historical inaccuracies, but to me, I felt Redmayne played the part of Lili and Einar equally well.

In Einar, we saw a sensitive, caring husband whose struggles with his true self are shown to be both heart-wrenching and completely painful at time, and with Lili we see a shy and initially retiring woman who does rise from the ashes, and just wants to live her life as the woman she can has danishgirl1-xlargefinally become. What I did love about Redmayne’s performance was the obvious soul searching he does as Einar to become Lili. He spends a lot of time perfecting how he thinks a woman should move, how she sits and gestures with her hands, and also just how to be, subconsciously. There is pain when there needs to be, and there is also glee and realisation. And, as Golden Globe and Oscar season approaches, I would not be surprised if we see nominations and awards left right and centre.

But for me, it was Vikander who brought the house down. Before this, I hadn’t seen Vikander in much. But in this film she blew me away. She plays the feisty Gerda in such a dazzling manner. She’s flirty, outrageous, daring and loving at the beginning of the film, and as she watches her husband disappear and Lili to come to prominance, we see her lose some of her old self and seem to grow up in a way. She shows grief, dismay and anger for ‘the loss’ of Einar, but then support and resilience in living and supporting Lili. Without realising it, she even helps Einar make Lili the woman she wants to be, as in a touching montage, she is shown how a woman should walk, what clothes to wear and how to move. Vikander’s Gerda was always there as a pillar of support, and we do feel sympathy for her marriage breakdown, but also admiration for her strength.

The movie was also decadent in its filming and taste. With beautiful costuming, backdrop, visual effects and filming, the film is typical of Hooper’s lush and almost costume drama-y touch. But sometimes it felt as though the backdrops did distract from the actual action.

But all in all, I was thoroughly impressed with this film. Yes, sometimes it did feel slightly costume drama, and unlike Hopper’s brilliant The King’s Speech, there was moments when the drama did fall slightly short. But Redmayne’s acting, along with the force-to-be-reckoned-with Vikander more than made up for it. All in all, a movie to see.

But what do you think? What were your thoughts on a cisgender man playing such an iconic transgender role? Does Vikander deserve an Academy Award? Let me know in the comments.

The Danish Girl is out now.