Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Fantasy;
Box Office $ 95.85 million;
$34.98; $39.98 Blu-ray; $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some fantasy action/violence.
Stars Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, William Nadylam, Callum Turner, Jessica Williams, Victoria Yeates, Mads Mikkelsen.

The third “Fantastic Beasts” movie will be of most interest to hardcore “Harry Potter” fans but won’t warrant much more than a casual glance to the majority of viewers.

Continuing the storylines from the first two “Fantastic Beasts” films, Secrets of Dumbledore finds the villainous Grindelwald scheming with corrupt forces within the hierarchy of the wizarding world in the early 1930s to clear his name of any crimes so he declare himself a candidate to lead the International Confederation of Wizards.

That Grindelwald is now played by Mads Mikkelsen highlights a couple of controversial casting choices that loom over the film. Mikkelsen is fine in the role, having replaced Johnny Depp, who was forced to step away due to legal troubles relating to his marriage to Amber Heard. Yet one of the central characters remains being played by Ezra Miller, whose own bizarre PR nightmares have been lighting up entertainment news channels as of late.

Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), knowing Grindelwald’s plan to declare war against the Muggles, the non-magical side of humanity, recruits a team led by franchise regulars such as Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), his brother Theseus (Callum Turner), and their Muggle pal Jacob (Dan Fogler) to prevent his election. Dumbledore himself cannot move against Grindelwald directly since the two were once lovers who made a blood pact to prevent one from attacking the other.

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Given the worldwide stakes and wizarding politics involved just raises more questions about why these “Potter” prequels are still focused on Newt and his circle of friends instead of, say, Dumbledore himself. But since they continue to carry the “Fantastic Beasts” title, Newt’s adventures they shall remain, and the screenplay (from “Potter” creator J.K. Rowling herself), endeavors to populate the screen with as many “fantastic beasts” as it can. Central to the storyline this time is a mythical Chinese deer-like creature called a qilin (pronounced like “chillin’) that can peer into a person’s soul and detect their goodness. Grindelwald wants to capture one that he can manipulate into convincing the world’s magic users that he is most worthy to rule them.

This then makes Newt, as the world’s leading magizoologist, an ideal choice for uncovering Grindelwald’s plan. Naturally, he spends most of his time trying to free his brother from a German magic-prison, while Dumbledore confronts Credence (Ezra Miller) about his true heritage as a member of the Dumbledore family.

The new creatures for the film are inventive and realized with some dazzling visual effects, but at this point it seems like these films just conjure up random creatures to give them whatever abilities are needed to either move the plot along or create a funny scene.

While Rowling allegedly had five of these prequel movies planned, this third one wraps up enough of the ongoing storylines just in case diminishing box office returns don’t convince the studio to move ahead with the final two.

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The Blu-ray includes five deleted scenes totaling just over seven minutes, mostly offering more world-building but not necessary for the plot.

The bulk of the extras are nearly an hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes, consisting of 10 different videos that might do a better job of explaining what is happening in the movie than the movie does on its own.

The seven-minute “Dumbledore Through the Ages” looks at the character’s history throughout the “Wizarding World” films, while the eight-and-a-half-minute “The Dumbledore Family Tree” examines Dumbledore lineage, and the four-minute “A Dumbledore Duel” looks at the making of a battle between Albus and Credence.

The five-minute “Newt in the Wild” looks at the film finding ways to return the character to his roots of studying and helping magical creatures, while the six-and-a-half-minute “Even More Fantastic Beasts” looks at how the creatures in the film were brought to life.

“The German Ministry of Magic” is a five-minute featurette about the production design for a key location in the film, while the five-minute “The Candidates’ Dinner” looks at the filming of a sequence there, while the five-minute “Erkstag Jailbreak” focuses on the prison set.

The six-minute “The Magic of Hogwarts” offers the cast and filmmakers a chance to opine on the chance to revisit the iconic Hogwarts school for wizards as seen in the other films.

Finally, the six-minute “Battle in Bhutan” focuses on crafting the climactic confrontation between all the characters.

On the fun side, “Magical or Muggle” is a four-and-a-half-minute game in which the cast members get to guess if a nonsensical term refers to something magical or not.

Rounding out the extras is “The Secrets of ‘Cursed Child,’” a five-minute promotional featurette about the “Harry Potter” stage production that serves as a sequel to the books and is the movie adaptation most “Potter” fans want at this point, rather than more “Fantastic Beasts” installments.

In the 4K combo pack, all the extras are on the regular Blu-ray, not the UHD disc.

The Offer

STREAMING REVIEW:

Paramount+;
Drama;
Not rated;
Stars Miles Teller, Matthew Goode, Dan Fogler, Burn Gorman, Colin Hanks, Giovanni Ribisi, Juno Temple, Patrick Gallo.

There are a few ways to interpret “The Offer.” On the surface, it’s the story of the quest to achieve a creative vision no matter what it takes. From another perspective, it’s a studio, Paramount, celebrating the 50th anniversary of one of its greatest achievements, The Godfather, by sensationalizing a unique period of Hollywood history.

The details as presented in the 10-part limited series series now streaming in its entirety on Paramount+ likely lean more on the side of embellishment than fact, punching up the outlandishness beyond the point of believability in some cases. But that hardly matters when the end result is as entertaining a guilty pleasure as it turned out to be.

The particulars of the making of the “Godfather” films are easy enough to come by, given the plethora of bonus materials on DVD and Blu-ray releases of the trilogy over the years, not to mention countless books on the subject. The primary inspiration for “The Offer” is credited to the experiences of producer Albert S. Ruddy, thus making him the central figure for the series.

Ruddy (Miles Teller) is introduced as a bored programmer at the Rand Corporation who, thanks to a chance encounter, ends up creating “Hogan’s Heroes” for CBS (in truth, Ruddy’s Hollywood experience stretches back before his time at Rand).

Wanting to break into film, Ruddy convinces Paramount boss Robert Evans (Matthew Goode) to give him a shot with a low-budget film starring Robert Redford.

Meanwhile, Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo) writes The Godfather, which turns out to be one of the best-selling novels of all time. Paramount owns the rights to make a movie version, but parent company Gulf + Western doesn’t want to risk too much money on yet another “gangster picture,” so they stick Ruddy on it.

Ruddy immediately breaks convention by hiring Puzo to write the screenplay (Hollywood for the longest time had taboos about creatives crossing mediums — TV to movies, novels to screenplays, etc.). When Puzo’s efforts stall, Ruddy brings in Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler) to direct — another controversial move given Coppola’s disastrous track record as a director despite an Oscar win for writing Patton. Coppola is reluctant at first, but agrees to the project on the basis of bringing authenticity to an epic story about an Italian family.

Sticking Puzo and Coppola in a house together to hash out the screenplay (even though in real life they supposedly worked on it separately), Ruddy must then deal with a bigger obstacle to the film — opposition from the mafia itself, who see the book as a slur. Frank Sinatra is particularly offended by a crooner character in the novel, and vows to shut down the production.

Now supposedly thrust into the middle of a mob war against Hollywood, Ruddy makes pals with mob boss Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi), which gets some heat off the film but doesn’t please the corporate brass at Gulf + Western or Paramount. Meanwhile, Colombo’s support of the film draws out some of his enemies within the mob who seek to replace him.

And so the series continues as a tug-of-war between artistic integrity, mafia greed and the corporate bottom line. The mob influence on the production was probably played up to draw parallels to the movie’s storyline, while the show contains no shortage of references to nostalgia touchpoints from the era audiences will recognize, from other movies to some of the actors up for roles in the film.

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As with most docudramas, certain events and characters are condensed and conflated for the sake of the narrative. For instance, Colombo rival Joe Gallo is shown being taken out because his attempts to extort the production threaten the budget to film in Sicily, when in reality he wasn’t killed until after the movie was released.

The cast is mostly solid, and Teller does a great job carrying the load as Ruddy, though his portrayal as a miracle worker and solver of all problems seems to be a bit overblown. Ribisi, on the other hand, is so over-the-top as Colombo he seems like he’s on a different show. But the standout is Goode as Robert Evans, so completely transforming into the iconic Hollywood executive that it might as well be Evans playing himself. If Paramount+ doesn’t greenlight a docudrama of Evans’ autobiography The Kid Stays in the Picture starring Goode, it will be missing out.

Through Evans, “The Offer” gets to indulge a bit in telling the story of Paramount in general in the early 1970s, when he was brought in by Gulf + Western boss Charles Bluhdorn (Burn Gorman) to turn the studio’s fortunes around. As such, the show delves a bit into the success of Love Story, starring Evans’ wife Ali MacGraw, and how their marriage disintegrated when he started to focus on The Godfather, and she ended up in the arms of Steven McQueen on the set of The Getaway. Evans also keeps an eye on his next project, Chinatown, despite his corporate overlords wanting to dump it as something they “don’t understand.” (Corporate stooges being idiots when it comes to art is a big theme of the show.)

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Those familiar with The Kid Stays in the Picture (the book or the 2002 documentary adaptation of it narrated by Evans) might note a number of discrepancies between Evans’ own accounts of these events and how “The Offer” portrays them. For instance, in the show, Coppola and Ruddy are fighting with Gulf + Western over how long The Godfather is, preferring the nearly three-hour version we all know and love today, while the bean-counters want to maximize screenings with a two-hour version (a classic debate in Hollywood — the best-known recent example involving the 2017 Justice League movie). Evans has to swoop in from a drunken stupor over his failed marriage to save the longer cut, thus sending the film on a path toward Oscar glory.

In Evans’ own account, Coppola turned in a two-hour version, and Evans ordered him to recut it to make it longer, thus delaying the film from a Christmas 1971 release to March 1972 (a delay mentioned in the show that doesn’t make much sense if the longer cut already existed). Conjecture over the editing of The Godfather has occupied much discussion over the years, and Coppola’s own accounts would likely fill further volumes.

For however inaccurate it may be, “The Offer” is still first and foremost a love letter to The Godfather, and should only serve to build on fans’ appreciation of that classic film, and a love of cinema in general.

Warner Releasing ‘Crimes of Grindelwald’ Digitally Feb. 15, on Disc March 12

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald digitally Feb. 15, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray March 12.

The film is the 10th entry in the “Wizarding World” franchise, a sequel to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and a prequel to the “Harry Potter” films.

The Blu-ray and the 4K UHD Blu-ray combo pack will include a digital download of an extended cut of the film with more than seven minutes of additional footage.

The film was written by “Harry Potter” creator J.K. Rowling and directed by David Yates. The story involves Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) recruiting Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to stop the threat of the recently escaped magical criminal Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) from raising an army of pure-blood wizards to rule over non-magical beings.

The cast also includes Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, William Nadylam, Kevin Guthrie, Carmen Ejogo and Poppy Corby-Tuech.

Crimes of Grindelwald earned $158.5 million at the domestic box office.

Home video extras include an audio introduction by Yates, deleted scenes; the featurettes “J.K. Rowling: A World Revealed,” “Wizards on Screen, Fans in Real Life” and “Distinctly Dumbledore”; and “Unlocking Scene Secrets” featurettes including “The Return to Hogwarts,” “Newt’s Menagerie,” “Credence, Nagini and the Circus Arcanus,” “Paris and Place Cachée,” “Ministere des Affaires Magiques” and “Grindelwald’s Escape and the Ring of Fire.”

The 4K edition will feature Dolby Vision HDR and a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.