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Blu Tuesday: Fantastic Beasts and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on social media with your friends.

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

As a fan of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” novels and the movies they inspired, it’s hard not to feel disappointed by her highly anticipated return to the Wizarding World. Though “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” serves as an interesting deviation from the typical Potter tale, it lacks the magic that made the previous films so great. None of the new characters are very memorable (save for Alison Sudol’s delightful Queenie), while the dueling narratives cause some minor identity problems, especially because Rowling seems more interested in the “B” story than her main protagonist’s journey. “Fantastic Beasts” isn’t exactly a bad movie – it retains a lot of the series’ charm and shows great promise for future installments – but it’s a rare misfire from a franchise that seemed incapable of doing wrong.

Extras include a making-of featurette, a behind-the-scenes look at the film’s characters, creatures and locations, some deleted scenes and more. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Movie Review: “A Monster Calls”

Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson
J.A. Bayona

“A Monster Calls” is unflinchingly honest, a harrowing tale of a boy who yearns for escapism but instead receives an unwanted but much-needed dose of reality. There isn’t a wasted word in its script, the cinematography ranges from gorgeous to bleak to terrifying, and at its core is an outstanding performance by 14-year-old Lewis MacDougall, starring in only his second film. In fact, he upstages a sci-fi legend without even trying.

The life of English boy Conor O’Malley (MacDougall) is, well, shit. His mother (Felicity Jones) is suffering from terminal cancer (his father left the two of them long ago), he is bullied at school, and as his mother gets sicker, he is forced to spend more time with his stuffy grandmother (aforementioned sci-fi legend Sigourney Weaver). He stays up late drawing as a means of avoiding his recurring nightmare. One night shortly after midnight, he is visited by a monster (voiced by Liam Neeson), which comes to life from the yew tree that is visible from his bedroom window. The monster tells Conor that he is going to tell him three stories, and then Conor is going to tell the monster a fourth one, and the story must be true. The stories the monster tells Conor do not offer him any comfort, and as his mother’s condition worsens, the line between fantasy and reality becomes blurred to the point where Conor has difficulty separating the two, acting out in one world when he thinks he’s in the other.

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