Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them


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So, have you watched ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’? As part of the whole, ‘family at home for Christmas so we ought to do something’ time, we went to the cinema. Afterwards we had dinner at Pizza Hut (even though I promised myself about ten years ago, that I would never have to eat in a Pizza Hut again.) It was actually a really fun evening. I’ll tell you about it (with a warning if you haven’t seen the film, this does contain spoilers.)

For those of you who don’t know (mainly you, Mum) ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is another film in the Harry Potter series – you know, the ones about the boy who is a wizard, who makes friends with the ginger-haired boy, and the girl who all the teenagers now fancy? Well, this film is supposed to be before all that took place, in the 1920’s, and is set in New York. I came away with very mixed feelings about it.

Firstly, it is excellent entertainment. I usually get bored in films aimed at a younger audience (the Harry Potter books and films didn’t quite do it for me if I’m honest.) This film however, I watched throughout without ever wondering how much longer before it ended. The plot was good enough, but the acting was excellent (perhaps J.K. Rowling decided experienced adult actors would make a better film and so wrote a book with only grown-ups in it. Or perhaps I am too cynical.) The special effects and scenery were all convincing, making for something of a visual treat. If you like a bit of make-believe, I expect you will love this film.

However, and this is quite a big however, there was something that left me feeling uneasy. It didn’t feel the same as the Harry Potter films, which I felt never really strayed from storybook witches and wizards. Now, I was not one of those Christians who refused to read her children ‘Hansel and Gretel’ or ‘Sleeping Beauty’ because they contained witches. I do believe there are spiritual forces that are evil, I do believe we shouldn’t mess with that stuff, and occult practices and ‘real’ witchcraft is dangerous. I just do not happen to put the witch in Sleeping Beauty into this category. It is a story, unrelated to real life, and the witches in it are not representations of people involved in the occult. I wasn’t so comfortable with this story. With Harry Potter, I felt the message of ‘good defeating evil’ was very clear. There were witches and magic, but it was all storybook stuff, and the baddies were easy to spot, and it was all far removed from reality.

In Fantastic Beasts we were presented with the New Salem Philanthropic Society. These were humans who were against witchcraft. It all felt a bit too much like things that happened in real life. Even the name is not exactly made up. And yes, I realise that people claiming to be Christian have done some pretty terrible things (in the past and present) and I know the ‘witch hunts’ in Salem were very bad. But why bring reality, even a touch of it, into a fantasy film? What is the point being made?

There was also an execution scene. It was, I felt, not really in keeping with a children’s film. Although what actually happened wasn’t gory or gruesome, the thought of someone walking towards a death sentence is not one I would want my 12 year old thinking about.

Not that I was with 12 year olds of course. I was with my family, who enjoyed the film. Their only comment was that when the characters gave instructions to their wands, it always worked, and when they do the same with their phone: “Hello Google, what is the time?” the phone always gets it wrong: “Certainly. Phoning Grandma.”

After the film, we went next door to Pizza Hut. We used to go to Pizza Hut a lot as students. We had no money, and it was a cheap place for a ‘special meal’ when we wanted to go out. I have moved on from those times. Husband hasn’t. He went excitedly to the salad bar, to show his sons how to extend the perimeter of the salad bowl with slices of cucumber, thus enabling extra salad to be heaped into the bowl. Sons were unimpressed and pointed out that unlike in the ‘olden days’, you could visit the salad bar as many times as you wanted. I actually, was unkeen on eating any salad at all, as on our way in we had passed a small child who appeared to be massaging the lettuce.

Actually, it wasn’t too bad. If you ignored the sticky menu (a variation on a ‘taster menu’) and the sticky seat and the sticky table, everything was fine. The waitress was friendly, the pizzas were nice, and the wine went down very well. The males in the family then made a comparison table of stats showing how the price per size of pizza compared to pizza express – but I don’t think this is an obligatory activity if you choose to go with different people.

Take care,
Anne x

Counting Stars is available from Amazon to read on a tablet or Kindle. A great read, at £1.99, with 5*reviews! Go on, why not treat yourself?…..

 

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Thank you for reading.

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anneethompson.com

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Star Wars Review by An Uninitiated…


I’ve never watched a Star Wars film. Ever. Until yesterday, when I went to see Episode 7, The Force Awakens. As none of my family have been particularly besotted by it, I actually knew nothing of the story either. So, would I understand the plot? Would I be captivated by the story? Wowed by the special effects? Here’s how my Star Wars initiation went:

I watched the film at the cinema with friends who had all seen at least some other Episodes. I instructed them to not explain the story to me, I wanted to see how much I understood on my own. (Risky strategy as asking for explanations during films is pretty standard for me at the best of times.) Being at the cinema was an important element – I guessed from sighs and general audience reaction when a character was well known.

The film began with a written explanation. We were introduced to a character, Luke Skywalker. Not, I felt, the most original of names. If I was writing a film and suggested the space man was to be called Ben Moonhopper or Peter Starjumper, I think it would be rejected. Husband was not receptive to this pearl of wisdom.

We then saw what appeared to be giant Playmobil men in a spaceship. I always enjoyed my children playing with Playmobil, so could relate to the decision to include them in a film. They were all white and all identical, which was somewhat confusing until one helpfully put a bloody handprint on his head, thus differentiating himself from the others.

Another character was a giant marble with a sliding head who made squeaky farting noises. The audience seemed to warm to him.

There were lots of people in tatty clothes. I did feel there was a mismatch between the technology needed to produce spaceships and intelligent robots and the technology used in clothing manufacturing. Perhaps it was a fashion statement.

We then met an actor who I didn’t recognise, who had Rufus Sewell eyes (good for acting tension, fear and discomfort during torture scenes. Not someone you would leave to care for small children.)

One of the Playmobil white men removed his helmet, which was a surprise. There was a man inside. He was rather sweaty so I’m thinking the design of Playmobil suits was perhaps not a good one for general use. Also not sure how one would launder them. Husband told me this was irrelevant and would I please be quiet and just watch film. In fact, all the Playmobil men had real people inside them. I am not sure why they wanted to look identical. It would be good to wear on the school run when you had just rolled out of bed.

The next character we met was a girl (dressed in bandages – I really did not get the costume ideas.) She bought a powder that she could add to water and heat and it bubbled up into something that looked like bread. This was intensely interesting. I would LOVE cooking dinners to be that easy.

Although the clothes were rubbish, all the hairstyles were very complicated. Maybe costume budget got used up on hairspray. And sand – there was a lot of sand.

The girl who was the clever cook could also speak lots of languages, including ‘machine’. As well as American and Scottish (particularly tricky one I find.)

The film had lots of machines. Lots of loud wind instrument music (actually, the music throughout was excellent. Well done Mr Williams.) There was lots of sand. Lots of explosions. Lots of props that I recognised from toyshops and fast-food giveaways over the last forty years. There was some good dry humour, some impressive chase scenes and a lot of hair spray.

I was then completely confused when Indiana Jones turned up. Very unexpected. He still has very good hair (which is essential for a Star Wars actor.) No hat or whip but still wore a leather jacket. Another actor also pointed out the jacket. He is a very good actor, I warmed to his character immediately (perhaps because he was the only one I recognised.) Actually, connecting with the characters was something I found difficult. I never felt like I knew them, so didn’t really care if they got blown up. He arrived with a giant teddy/extremely hairy man who had a speech disorder. I never really understood if he came from a planet of hairy beings, was a pet or they were just being inventive with costume ideas.

For most of the film the scenery was fairly stark. There were plants in one bit, when they turned up at a futuristic Hogwarts but mostly it was machines and sand. It didn’t look a very comfortable place to live.

There was enough explanation for me to mostly follow what was happening, though some of the story only made sense if you have seen previous episodes. I knew when a character from a previous film had popped up by the audience reaction and I could tell when something important was happening because the music changed from wind instruments to strings, but there weren’t many clues for the uninitiated in the script. I also got confused by what was spaceship and what was planet. I would see a character enter what was clearly a spacecraft, then when they left it they were in a snow covered forest on a planet.

The plot followed the same basic theme of most other films : Good fighting Evil. There was an added element of The Force, which I never quite got to grips with. For most of the film I thought this was some kind of power that the evil chaps had but then later the good characters said, “May the force be with you.” I have heard this phrase quoted on television so I knew it was famous – I still have absolutely no idea what it means.

The film was well made, had some good special effects, lots of action, some clearly sad bits and happy bits. However, if you have not seen other episodes, there was no real connection and the emotion passed you by. I would say, if you are the other person in the world who has never seen a Star Wars film, watch some of the others first. This one did not really stand alone. You kind of HAVE to watch it because everyone else will but I don’t think it was ever intended to be watched in isolation. Either that or take a book to read……

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Another article by Anne E Thompson:
https://anneethompson.com/christian-tearfund-materials-and-poems/the-world-was-dark/
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