Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Movie Review

For about 10 minutes at the start of the latest collaboration between JK Rowling and director David Yates, I thought I would finally be allowed into the world of Harry Potter without having to endure the boy wizard and his cronies. 
I was too old to enjoy the Potter phenomenon, but with an older protagonist in the form of Eddie Redmayne’s Newt, and period New York as the backdrop, it felt more me. 

Sadly, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them soon settled into one of the most tedious films of 2016. 

It’s well cast, the effects are great and it promises much. The problem is Rowling’s screenplay is so boring. She thinks dialogue should be more important than visuals, so we have achingly long scenes of boring exposition where nothing happens. Little wonder I started nodding off after an hour and had trouble staying awake for the rest of it. 

When it felt like the finale had arrived, I breathed a sigh of relief. But then it carried on… for about 45 minutes. 

I fought against leaden eyelids, but a dozen times I closed my eyes hoping for some action scenes to wake me up. 

Finally the explosive finale arrived, and then we endured another endless farewell to secondary characters I cared little about. 

Problem is Rowling needs a script editor to trim the fat, but when you have that much power, who dares say that she should tighten up the flabby second act, trim the assorted endings and just get on with it? Mentally I was yelling: “Just finish the movie!” But like some endless torture it just carried on. 

Redmayne and Katherine Waterston are terrific, but I cared little about anyone else and the villain just seemed to be a tortured soul who turns into a whirling dervish of bad energy. 

As you may have gathered I won’t be counting the days until the sequel. 


Back in Orlando- part three

It takes a lot to impress me. I’m of an age where I’ve seen a lot, especially when it comes to theme parks. But I always live in hope that one day I will be impressed by new attractions.   Universal, Orlando; photo: Roger Crow

The last time I was at Universal Orlando was around three years ago. I’d grown tired of the same old rides and thought the Harry Potter attraction and ride was good, but after a couple of visits my interest had started to wane. 

The same old Universal, Orlando? Video: Roger Crow

So that was Christmas 2012, and what a busy lot the Universal team have been in the interim. 

Aside from an expanded Springfield, the second phase of their Potter expansion is astonishing. A staggering feat of design, engineering and construction on an immense scale. 

Diagon Alley, King’s Cross Station, the Hogwarts Express, Escape from Gringotts ride and countless shops are worthy of a park on their own. 

The attention to detail is remarkable, no rush job this. Unlike some park attractions where fake wood has been painted over construction material like MDF, and you can see the gaps, this was pretty flawless. No mean feat over such a huge physical canvas. 

Diagon Alley, Universal, Orlando; photo: Roger Crow

The Hogwarts Express links you from one Universal park to another, and the onboard entertainment does a great job of keeping you in that universe for the duration. The Gringotts ride is breathtaking without inducing nausea (unlike some rides) and added touches like a fire-breathing dragon on top of Gringotts bank is incredible. Yes, you soon run out of superlatives at an attraction like this. 


Diagon Alley, Universal, Orlando; photo: Roger Crow

Enough gushing. I’ll just say that for years Universal seemed like a poor cousin to the Disney parks, but this added attraction, together with the Transformers ride, has made it a serious player once more.  


Transformers 3D ride Universal, Orlando; photo: Roger Crow

And with the Skull Island King Kong attraction set to open in summer 2016, I’m guessing the team at Mouse HQ are really going to have to pull something out of the bag to compete.   

Skull Island under construction at Universal, Orlando; photo: Roger Crow