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 Trial of the Chicago 7

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Drama;
Rated ‘R’ for language throughout, some violence, bloody images and drug use.
Stars Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeremy Strong, John Carroll Lynch, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Alex Sharp, Danny Flaherty, Noah Robbins, Ben Shenkman, John Doman, J.C. MacKenzie, Frank Langella, Michael Keaton.

Writer-director Aaron Sorkin demonstrates his continued mastery of the craft of filmmaking with this docudrama about the court trial of the leaders of the violent anti-war protests that took place during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

While Sorkin’s screenplay does play a bit fast and loose with the chronology of actual events, the subject matter plays to his strengths as a writer with its political overtones and eclectic cast of characters. This is most emphatically not a documentary, but like Sorkin’s other historical re-creations, such as The Social Network, Steve Jobs and Molly’s Game, it provides a framework for him to tell a compelling story while highlighting the foibles, actions and heroic deeds of the people involved he considers relevant to his examination of the human condition.

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Sorkin treats the trial conducted in federal court from 1969 to 1970 as a farce, as the newly installed Nixon administration wanted to make an example of the leaders of various movements opposed to the Vietnam War. The end result is an actors’ showcase — a well-balanced array of humor and drama mixed with a bit of between-the-lines ruminations on modern America.

Standouts include Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden, who delivers his lines as if they were written for Bradley Whitford 20 years ago, and Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, whose irreverence provides the film with one of its key sources of comedy. Mark Rylance gives an appropriately steady performance as William Kunstler, their lawyer, while Frank Langella shines as the judge who seems intent on doing everything he can to aid the prosecution.

Sorkin manages to keep a brisk pace thanks to some crisp editing by Alan Baumgarten, jumping between the trial and flashbacks to the Chicago riots at the center of it, as numerous undercover cops testify as to what happened.

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The attempts to demonstrate the alleged overzealousness of the police certainly draws parallels to modern times, but Sorkin seems to undercut the fervor of some of his points with depictions of evidence that contradicts them.

Still, even viewers who disagree with Sorkin’s sentiments can appreciate the sharpness of his dialogue and the skill with which his assembled cast delivers it.

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.

Lionsgate Bringing ‘Early Man’ to Disc

Lionsgate will release the stop-motion animated film Early Man on digital May 15, followed by Blu-ray, DVD and on demand May 22.

From the Aardman animation studio, the prehistoric romp tells the story of Dug the caveman and his goofy friends who challenge invaders to a game of soccer in order to win back their home.

The film, which earned $8.3 million at the domestic box office, features the voice talents of Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams and Timothy Spall.

Blu-ray and DVD extras include the featurettes “Before the Beginning of Time: Creating Early Man,” “Nick Park: Massaging the Funny,” “The Valley Meets the Bronze” and “Hanging at Aardman Studios: A Workshop Exploration.”