Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – DVD and Blu-Ray review

Few book series have had a cultural impact like Harry Potter has; that same love for the wizarding world created by  J.K. Rowling transferred to the inevitable film franchise that followed, a franchise we thought done over five years ago, but Rowling and David Yates have teamed up yet again and conjured up a new spin off series, Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them. But it does recapture the magic (You had to know that was coming) of it’s predecessors?

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is a wizard visiting New York, with a brief case full of weird and wonderful creatures that just so happen to be released into the world of muggles (Or No-Majs, as they’re called in 1920s America). It’s up to Newt, with the help of new companions Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Jacob (Dan Fogler), to return all of his creatures to his case, before the wizarding world is exposed.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a perfectly enjoyable follow up; it doesn’t rely too heavily on Harry Potter, though at the same time, it definitely wouldn’t have been as good without it. You need the context of the Harry Potter world (apparentlymore so in the planned sequels) to truly appreciate the wide world created in this film. We get a very interesting look at the way magic works in this film, in a way that differs from Harry Potter, and while there some great moments, it does at times feel underused. The main example of this would be that the titular ‘Fantastic Beasts’, while prominent, feel kind of superflous to the film. They have their scenes, they provoke some plot points, but they feel like the element, you should be focusing on least. From a certain perspective, it’s a not bad thing; you could argue that this encourages viewers to focus more on the plot and supporting characters, which ultimately end up being more important, but at the same time, it’s rather underwhelming for a film that’s advertised almost entirely around these creatures.

Where this film really shines is it’s characters and performances; Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander to perfection, bringing to life a character whose past is never fully revealed, but pieces are placed through Redmayne’s performance alone. He’s quirky and kind, and full of wonder, but there’s something about him that’s a little broken, and twitchy and scared. It lays excellent ground work for what’s to come in future installments. Waterston is good, Colin Farrell kills as the villanous Percival Graves, but the real star of the film is Dan Fogler. Jacob is easily the best character in the film; he’s hilarious, he’s loveable, the most relatable, and by far the one you care about most. There are many good things about this film, but the whole product would be weaker if Fogler wasn’t in it. He is the heart of the film, and is absolutely essential.

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There’s so much praise about this film, from it’s amazing visuals and costume design, to it’s excellent writing and the way it handles it’s characters (Credence in particular is done in a very interesting way, making for a thrilling third act). However, the film does seem to drag a little, and doesn’t hold up as well on a second viewing. Nevertheless, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a perfectly entertaining follow up that may not stand to any of the Harry Potter films, but definitely deserves a lot of credit.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

Bleed For This – DVD & Blu-Ray Review

“…the biggest lie I was ever told: It is not that simple. And it is a lie they tell you over and over again…All of it. It is how they get you to give up, they say “It’s not that simple”.”

It’s a line that Miles Teller as Vinny Pazienza, says towards the end of this film. It’s a beautiful sentiment, and he should know. Pazienza is a real person, a man whose boxing career was ostensibly ended when his neck was broken during a car accident. Whilst he was told that he would never walk again, Vinny refused to admit this possibility, and not only walked but went on to become a World Champion Boxer.

Boxing movies seem to me to fall into two camps, either the lovable underdogs like Rocky, who have to prove themselves, or the cautionary biographic like Raging Bull, where the real man is shown to the world, in his often ugly glory. Someone who has admirable skill, but aspects of his personal life that we might not like to emulate. It’s an interesting dichotomy, perhaps. The boxer in the ring is much like David and Goliath, a tale that feels as old as time, but always relevant. There will always be boxing films.

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Bleed For This is the story of Vinny Pazienza, the young boxer who is the light in his fathers eye as he trains him for the sport, but who perhaps doesn’t appreciate how fragile life is until an accident almost ends his career. It’s not his family who urge him to keep going, but a trainer called Kevin Rooney, played by Aaron Eckhart in one of those career making physical transformations that render him almost unrecognisable. Rooney sees that Vinny is going to keep going, no matter what he’s told, and so he decides to help, but it’s not easy. They face the opposition of the concerned Pazienza family, and other boxers who are too wary to fight a man that they feel could be killed by a punch, and of course, there’s also the opposing force of reality, of fighting each day to walk, and move, to retrain.

Whilst I love the line at the end about ignoring people who tell you it’s not that easy, this film isn’t a Tony Robbins seminar, it’s a picture of the man. To use my own dichotomy above, it’s Rocky dressed as Raging Bull. At least kinda. Pazienza is at first quite arrogant, and sometimes not entirely likeble. His personal life is not overly romanticised for us, and though often quite funny, such as scenes where he’s trying to get laid while wearing a head brace, it paints what feels like an accurate portrait of a young boxer. But like Rocky, without the determination and the training montages, he’ll never make it back to the big leagues.

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Perhaps knowing that he will make it detracts a little from the suspense, but Miles Teller is an interesting performer in all his films, with his cocky, guy next door style, works well here. You believe that he’s the kind of guy who would be foolish enough to take his career a little bit for granted, drinking the night before bouts, for example, but also the kind of guy who is stubborn enough to not give up on the only thing he’s ever wanted to do with his life, and make that work for him.

So what’s the verdict? Is the film any good? Well, yeah. It’s glossy and raw, it has real emotion, and the performances are all really good. It has, at heart, an inspirational message, but it doesn’t descend into saccharine sweetness. But at the same time, it’s a genre movie, and it follows the rules of it’s genre. Therefore, if you like boxing movies, you’ll like this movie. If you don’t, you won’t. It’s not particularly innovative. But, that said… well, sometimes in life it’s nice to hear about a guy who did what couldn’t be done.

It’s that simple.

Bleed for This is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now.