Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (2016)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Book Review……………………………………………………………………

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Book Review

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a 2016 book adaptation of the stage play that functions as the eighth official story in the Wizarding World franchise. It is mostly a great experience.

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You, the three of you, you shone you know?

You liked each other. You had fun.

I envied you those friendships more than anything else.

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Now because this is a script and not an actual book, I of course had to forgive it for its lower quality in writing as the play itself must be much better, but I don’t know if I ever will get the chance to see it. And that uncertainty is the reason why I found this script all the more welcome and I appreciate its existence alone.

There is a lot to talk about here, but first let’s talk about the storyline. It is set nineteen years after the events of ‘Deathly Hallows’ and it mainly focuses on Harry’s troublesome relationship with his son Albus. Albus along with his friend Scorpius Malfoy uses the time turner to change the past and save Cedric Diggory, but the twist here is that they are used by Delphi Diggory who turns out to be Voldemort’s daughter who wishes to fulfill the prophecy and arrange the return of the Dark Lord herself.

As is the case with most time travel stories, this one also has a couple of inconsistencies in it plus it does seem a bit too convoluted for its own sake at times. And of course nothing beats the time travel we witnessed in ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’. But this is still a surprisingly good story, honestly better than I expected it would be mainly because it is so layered in its different subplots and character relationships.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Book Review……………………………………………………………………

I loved seeing what each character does in the future and it seemed natural that Hermione was a Minister and Harry an auror. It was a natural progression for these characters which was great. I also liked the Hogwarts scenes and I wished that it had more of them as we actually do not get a lot. Those passages where the boys meddled in time and ruined everything did seem a bit too far-fetched and typical for these time travel stories and they weren’t my favorites, but the final task to save Voldemort in order for him to be killed later on was terrific and a great build up as well as the conclusion.

Let’s talk about the characters. I really liked Harry here and he is very nuanced which I admired. The character development is admittedly very strong in this work. Albus is one of the highlights. He ended up in Slytherin, he is bad at Quidditch, he isn’t that great of a wizard and all of those put him at odds with his father and the two are very different from each other. He has a hard time copying with the unwanted legacy of the great Harry Potter and Harry has a hard time being a father as he himself didn’t have one as a role model. This familial conflict is powerful and it produced many heartwarming moments. It truly is the core and heart of this story.

There isn’t nearly enough of Ron in The Cursed Child which is unfortunate, but whenever he as there, he made me laugh with his signature humor. And his relationship with Hermione continues to be one of the highlights of the entire series. Speaking of Hermione, she is the same as she ever was – extremely capable and smart, but she did make a couple of mistakes this time around with the Time Turner and I liked that as it was a nice change in pace for the usually flawless Granger.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Book Review……………………………………………………………………

Their daughter Rose didn’t get much to do, but was memorable. And I like that Scorpius might actually end up with her someday. Scorpius himself is excellent and possibly the most likable person here. He is so endearing, so realistic and so good-hearted that it seems odd that he is Malfoy’s son. But I absolutely loved the friendship/bromance between Albus and Scorpius as it was fun and vibrant. And I liked how Albus only has one friend and Harry had two and a lot of admirers. It was great how opposite they are.

Severus Snape was well used, albeit he seemed to behave overly emotional in my opinion and he is the only character who didn’t quite seem like his old self, but maybe that was the point as we now see him in a very different light and we know everything that we didn’t know previously. McGonagall continues to be reckoned with and she is such a charming, wonderful character and is as great here as she ever was before.

I loved that moment we got with Hagrid as we’ve seen the death of Harry’s parents before, but never the outcome and we see Hagrid’s arrival here in detail and it was just beautiful to witness. Umbridge is another character who seemed too different and I don’t know if she would ever really be on Voldemort’s side, whether in alternate reality or not. That was a bit odd to be honest.

Dumbledore was well utilized and his scene with Harry in which the two confessed love to each other and he apologized for everything was really heartfelt. The twist that the Trolly Witch turns into a monster in order to forbid everyone from leaving the train was a great one as we never really knew anything about her and now we do.

Now, Delphi. The one problem I’ve had with her is that she was too powerful and the fact that she was more skilled than her father himself did seem too far-fetched and fairly silly in my opinion. But otherwise she was great. I didn’t see the twist coming, it was great learning her true identity and very intense and the final battle was quite good. The ending was excellent and I found the way that they overpowered her and tricked her smart and everything that came before that final part did seem like a natural build-up.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Book Review……………………………………………………………………

The writing here is not great as this is only a script. The dialogue is admittedly excellent, if a bit childish at times, but mostly true to the characters and satisfying. The same goes for the humor which was wonderful in a typical HP fashion. The pacing is excellent as the book is entertaining from beginning to end, but the structure was one of its strong points – very well crafted and finely constructed. I found this work to be very elaborate and although it did explain us a lot, it didn’t quite spell to us everything about its new developments which I loved as it retained its mystery in that manner. The emotion is palpable and it is quite sweet at times. My highlights include the beginning which was great and the ending is very satisfying with all of the scenes with the two boys being the standouts.

The lack of descriptions is troublesome, but again this is only a script of a stage play and plays are much different than novels. And I have to say that I once again strongly admired Rowling’s sense of storytelling and how brilliant she is because a theatrical play is just a perfect way to tell this story and she couldn’t have chosen a better medium. Why? Well, the reasons are obvious in even its first couple of paragraphs. The story jumps forward in time a lot and we only go from one important sequence to the next, and most concern the dialogues and conversations with the characters. This talkative and time-elapsing format is perfect for a play as it would otherwise be boring as a book and somewhat difficult to adapt as a film. All of those reasons led me to believe that the original play is great and it is all the more frustrating that I for now can’t see it.

In the end, despite a couple of tiny problems, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is mostly a terrific new story that features excellent usage of all of its characters with the old ones being authentic and true to themselves and the new ones being memorable and well realized. The story is a satisfying, emotional and consistently entertaining time travel adventure with high stakes, some very good action and always excellent dialogue and humor. It is a new and different Harry Potter storyline that still feels wonderfully old-fashioned in some parts with an excellent structure as well. I enjoyed it immensely and it serves surprisingly well as the official eighth story in the canon.

My Rating – 4.8

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a 2016 fantasy film which is the ninth installment in J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World and the first in this new franchise. It is directed by David Yates, it stars Eddie Redmayne and Colin Farrell and it is such a satisfying movie experience.

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We’re going to recapture my creatures before they get hurt.

They’re currently in alien terrain surrounded by millions of the most vicious creatures

on the planet – humans.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

After five years from the previous Harry Potter movie, we finally get a new one. I’ve waited for Fantastic Beats for years and the wait paid off and I’ve had a blast watching it in the theatre as it is mostly such a tremendous film. It follows Newt Scamander who comes to New York in 1926 with a case full of magical creatures and some unfortunately escape. The film then follows that subplot, but it mostly focuses on the Ministry and the Obscurus (which is the new term I will touch upon later) while setting up its sequels with Grindelwald.

Needless to say, it is a very rich film in terms of storytelling. It touches upon many things with many different storylines and populating the world with many new characters. Now because I love the 1920s, I was fascinated watching a Harry Potter movie set in that time period as it was beautifully conveyed. I also liked the setting of New York and that we now learn the American side of witchcraft and wizardry. This film sets the template for the others to follow beautifully and it is the film that definitely enriches the Wizarding World both in terms of world building and in terms of characters. And even though I loved that about it and it is an ambitious film, I still felt longing for Hogwarts as I really identify this series with that castle which is why the sequence in which they mentioned it was the one which made me smile the most.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

Let’s talk about each and every character. Newt Scamander is actually my least favorite as he isn’t as fleshed out as the other characters are. He is solid and sometimes quite likable, but he should have been better developed. Tina Goldstein is at first a bit irritating as this overly serious MACUSA worker, but she eventually softens up a bit and becomes much more sympathetic in the process. I liked the relationship between these two as it was quite moving.

But the film, surprisingly enough, is much more memorable in its supporting characters as Queenie and Jacob are truly something special. She is so charming and so lovable and such a wonderful soul and every time she smiled, I smiled too. The casting was also brilliant as Alison Sudol embodies that 1920s Hollywood actress look just beautifully. But Jacob Kowalski is easily the finest character in the movie, at least he is in my opinion. And who would have thought that a day would come where we’ll get a Harry Potter movie in which a Muggle (or No-Maj in American) is the best character. But it happened and he is fabulous. He is the kind of a man who is just such a kind, great soul and you just have to love him. He is also very funny and such a wonderful comic relief. And their romance is so strong that it is actually one of my favorite things in the whole movie.

Of course Grindelwald is excellent and it is such a shame that we won’t see Colin Farrell in this role as he was just so good in it and actually gave the best performance of all of them. And even though the twist that Graves was Grindelwald was fairly easy to predict, it was still done right in a pretty well executed final sequence. I loved how they set up his character as they perfectly explained why he would find necessary to start a war. He isn’t your typical, boring bad guy who wants to destroy the world. He is frustrated that the magical community has to hide from the No-Maj and wants to change that. Thus far, he isn’t as terrible as he is going to become and I just loved his motivation and this whole conflict was excellent.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

Seraphina Picquery is an interesting character. She made some quite terrible choices and is actually a pretty bad president of MACUSA, but I liked that as it was a realistic development as, if you would recall, Britain isn’t all that better either and both Fudge and Scrimgeour were very problematic leaders. But more on the two countries later on.

I wasn’t all that thrilled about the No-Maj characters such as Henry Shaw, but they will obviously play a big role in the later installments. But for now, they were underutilized. But it wasn’t a flaw as not everything can fit in within the two and a half hour time limit. I also loved the mention of Leta Lestrange and I found that part of Newt’s past quite fascinating.

As for the Obscurus, I found their inclusion to be a two-edged sword honestly. An Obscurus is the repressed energy of a child, known as an Obscurial, who is forced to repress their magical talent through physical or psychological abuse. Now obviously this ties well with the American history of witch persecutions etc. But the visual presentation of it I found to be quite uninspired and typical in its dark, black matter. And that also led to less actual duels with the wands which I found quite frustrating to be honest as I love those and though some of the action was pretty entertaining and intense, most of it wasn’t as memorable as I hoped it would be.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

But I still found the emotional side to this phenomenon pretty compelling and Credence is a very well utilized, troubled character and the audience can truly sympathize with him. Everything with him being tortured by his mother was emotionally powerful and devastating and this whole conflict is so well utilized and we finally saw how the non-magical community feels about the wizards and how cruel they can be.

As for the titular beasts, they are mostly great owing to some pretty good special effects and charming personalities and looks. Of course the highlight is Niffler and his obsession with glittery objects produced many hilarious sequences. He is not only the best, but also the cutest, funniest and most certainly the best visualized creature in the movie. Occamy is so memorable as well and such a great Asian influenced dragon with cool looks to it and the way to capture it is really intriguing and that scene was wonderful. Bowtruckle is so endearing and one of them is pretty dependent on Newt and I just loved those pretty heartwarming moments between the two. As for the other creatures, they are all pretty magical and the entire scene in the suitcase is the most enchanting in the movie as we get to know different creatures from different habitats and all are truly magical and charming.

The creature that is not magical is Erumpent. Wow, did I not like this one and most especially the sequence surrounding him. Not only is that entire scene oh so stupid, ridiculous and totally pointless, but it is also filled with some sort of silly animal sexual humor which was just awful in my opinion. And that scene pinpoints to the biggest issue of Fantastic Beasts – its tone. To me this movie is probably the most childish of all the Harry Potter movies as it just has way too many silly scenes and some are filled with quite juvenile humor. Some of those scenes were not great, but some were pleasant and childlike more than childish. But the problem is that it is a tonally uneven work as it jumps from one very kiddy scene to the next pretty dark scene with death and torture in just a moment basically.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

Another smaller problem is the pacing which is sometimes quite problematic. It is mostly solid, but you can’t deny that it takes its time to get there owing to a slower beginning and it most certainly has an overly prolonged conclusion with multiple endings in it. But I liked that as it shows us that the stories of these characters are finished and that there won’t be more of them in the sequels. The payoff was emotional and the goodbye scene between Newt and Tina was moving. But of course everything about that last scene with Queenie and Jacob was a winner. Touching and just beautiful in every way, it was a perfect way to end this magical journey and to finish the stories of these highly endearing people.

The film definitely is emotional and I just admired how they gave us a Muggle character who was awesome in every way and never as bad or as insufferable as the Dursleys were. His childlike wonder coupled with goofy persona added a lot to him being as great of a character as he ended up being. But him losing memory in the end was heartbreaking and finally we see a movie that revolves around Muggles and the relationship between these two people. So well done.

Let’s talk about the Americans and their wizarding community. It was a great touch to show that they need Wand Permit and how they govern themselves by a bunch of rules and regulations in contrast to the British. But what I found very interesting is how the Americans were portrayed as a backwards society in comparison to the British wizards and witches. Not only do they have ridiculous sorts of punishment, but they also have very weak governing and control over magical children and they basically let the No-Maj people seriously damage those children which is the case with Credence. That was odd, but again an interesting approach which I honestly found fascinating.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

I liked Fantastic Beasts’ cast and crew. No matter what some say, I found its cast of characters very memorable and this foursome is truly such an endearing group. And to me the acting is excellent. Eddie Redmayne is quite weak actually, but all of the others are very good with Farrell giving the finest performance. But Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol are excellent and very charming in their great roles and Dan Fogler is memorable in every scene he’s in. The score is superb and not only magical, but also perfectly fitting in with its time period which is beautifully brought to life with a gorgeous attention to detail and amazing world building. I also liked the direction in this movie which is something I didn’t expect from Yates and is actually his best work yet in the franchise. Fantastic Beasts isn’t as good as the first three HP movies, but it most certainly is better than all of the succeeding five entries.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is tonally uneven and quite childish in some scenes in the first half, but everything else here is terrific. The casting is spot-on with most of the performances being excellent, the new characters are all so memorable with Queenie and Jacob being such endearing people, the action is solid if not as great as it should have been, the world building and attention to detail are top-notch and they brought this time period and setting beautifully to life. The film is also rich in terms of storytelling with multiple storylines all well crafted, it is sometimes quite magical and heartwarming, the score is wonderful and it is overall such a satisfying first chapter in this new franchise which perfectly sets up its sequels, but can also stand on its own just fine.

My Rating – 4.5

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Disney Postcards from USA

Postcrossing

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Disney Postcards from USA

Today I received my first ever poscrossing postcard that had travelled from West Coast of the US, 10 000km away from me. Elizabeth sent me a beautifully decorated envelope containing 6 postcards with the Disney theme and also containing a birthday card as my birthday is coming soon. It’s a very promising beginning.

This is Elizabeth’s message:

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Stamps

Romance postage stamps feature Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, a Harry Potter stamp ( totally hit me up for one) and a postage stamp with an illustration of actor Gary Cooper (1901-1961). Cooper was perhaps best known for his roles in Westerns, though he also appeared in many non-Western dramas, as well as romantic comedies.

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Postcrossing7 Disney Stamps: “Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket exemplify a mentoring relationship”“Mufasa and Simba show the powerful bond between parent and child.” ; ” Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck as the perfect fun-loving group.”; “Ariel, a little mermaid, longs to enjoy life on land, but that doesn’t stop her from enjoying music with Flounder and her other undersea friends.”; “A very merry tea party hosted by the Mad Hatter gives Alice a chance to catch up on all the news in Wonderland”; Minnie kissing Mickey Stamp; “Mickey Mouse and his faithful dog Pluto are experts when it comes to sharing cake and having good times.”

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This postcard was done by an illustrator and designer Shag, aka Josh Agle who lives in Southern California. His illustrations are very recognizable and memorable, filled with humor and vivid colors. The illustration on this postcard was made for the 40th celebration of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland Park in 2009.  It’s called “The Eerie Ensemble”. 

The Eerie Ensemble SHAG

“The Eerie Ensemble” original artwork by SHAG

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The next postcard is the picture of Woody, the main character in Pixar’s ‘Toy Story’ series. It was done by an American painter, singer and composer Bud Luckey who is most famous for his work of ‘Toy Story’.

Toy Story by Bud Luckey

Toy Story concept art by Bud Luckey

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I am especially fond of this postcard with a famous photograph of Walt Disney himself, then young and taken in 1932 with him surrounded by Mickey Mouse plush toys.

Walt Disney with a collection of Charlotte Clark Mickey Mouse dolls

Walt Disney with a collection of Charlotte Clark Mickey Mouse dolls.

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Then we have Mickey Mouse from ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ segment in the landmark 1940 film ‘Fantasia’.

As Mickey gleefully wields his newfound powers, we share his exuberance.

What could be better than commanding the galaxies?

Things soon get out of control, but the spunky little fellow still shows us the magic in reaching for your dreams

 Mickey Mouse as ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’

Mickey Mouse as ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’

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And the last picture is of joyous Minnie ….

Minnie Mouse

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….and a photograph from Disneyland.

A trio of unlucky Pirates of the Caribbean try to tempt this shaggy dog

to let them out of their cell so they can join their marauding mates

Disneyland: Contrary Canine

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