This Week's Review: "Green Book" and "Fantastic Beasts II"

I spent part of the Thanksgiving holiday wisely; i.e., I saw two films in one very long afternoon: “Green Book” and “Fantastic Beasts II: The Crimes of Grindelwald.” I enjoyed both of them, but for different reasons.

I started with “Green Book”; I had not originally planned to see it, but I heard so many good statements about it, I felt obliged to give it a chance. It was a revelation. I had vaguely heard of Don Shirley, but I have no memory of ever hearing a recording of his music; I certainly had no idea of his odyssey through the segregated South in 1962.

Shirley hires a bouncer from the Copacabana night club to drive him through some very dangerous territory. Vigo Mortenson and Mahershala Ali do well as a very odd couple; the two men can barely tolerate each other’s presence, but they do slowly bond and reveal their true natures. There is a great deal of humor as the two men learn to tolerate each other; when the crises come, there is nothing funny. The story is supposedly factual; the two men remained friends until their deaths.

The film is excellent, but you can wait for it to appear in your favorite DVD emporium or on your favorite streaming service. The other film, though, deserves to be seen on the biggest screen with the loudest sound system available.

I do not know how many films there will be in the “Fantastic Beasts” series; the studio says three, but J.K. Rowling says five. For some vague reason, I trust Rowling far more than any studio executive.

“Fantastic Beasts II: the Crimes of Grindelwald” is one of the most visually spectacular films I have ever seen, particularly the last half. It is darker than the first film and the transition between the two seems rather rough. At one point, I thought I might have gone to sleep for a few minutes and missed some vital information. (That’s a good reason to go back for a second look , but I may wait for the DVD.)

Eddie Redmayne leads the cast, but the true stars are Jude Law as a fairly young Dumbledore and Johnny Depp as the loathsome Grindelwald. Several scenes take place at Hogwarts; we don’t see much of the class of 1928, but there is one very bright red head of hair that must belong to the grandfather of Ron Weasley. We also have a brief glimpse of a young Professor McGonagall, but I don’t know who dared to replace Maggie Smith.

I have a copy of the script for the film on order; as soon as it arrives, I will try to find out if I actually missed anything. In the meantime, I do have a few stacks of papers to grade.