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Tag Archive: J.K. Rowling


Review by C.J. Bunce

Lists, and by extension, books with lists, are the stuff that sprout conversation.  Sometimes good conversation, sometimes knock-down-drag-outs, but always something to talk about.  We saw that last month in our look at Must-See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies that Are Out of This World, and it applies to Scott Christianson and Colin Salter’s new audacious work, 100 Books that Changed the World This book is not merely a list of books, but an argument supporting why the authors think each book merits recognition.  After all, with more than 2 million new books published each year (300,000 per year in the U.S. alone) and documented writings going back thousands of years, whittling them all down to 100 is a bit daunting at a minimum.  Grade schoolers, college liberal arts and sciences majors, and everyone else has probably encountered a list like this before, usually styled the “greatest,” “most influential,” or “most significant” books ever written.  Ultimately, readers may find the compilation of 100 books that “changed the world” results in a very similar set of books.

What would make your list?  You can probably list 20 included without much work.  The authors state in their preface that there are 50 books everyone would agree should be included.  Think religion and myths (the Torah, the Bible, the Quran), math and science (Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Newton’s Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica), philosophy and politics (Plato’s The Republic, Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man), works of fiction (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings), classic children’s books (Aesop’s Fables, Grimm’s Fairy Tales), works of the often-disputed literary greats (I’m looking at you, James Joyce), and works of long undisputed literary masters like Homer and Shakespeare.  Yes, these are all “givens” for a list like this.  But noteworthy great additions I don’t recall seeing on a list like this before include Louis Braille’s Procedure for Writing Words, Music and Plainsong in Dots, Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat, and Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of TimeAnd no author made the list more than once, except the writers of the Bible, which appears on the list twice: for the Gutenberg Bible and the King James version.

The authors hope their book “makes you question your own choices or ours, or introduces you to a book.”  Criticisms of 100 Books that Changed the World aren’t going to be all that dire as much as simply topics for discussion.  They’re the same critiques of any list or book like this.  Thirty-seven books on the list were written by authors from England, removing the inclusion of any books from some countries.  The list is heavily back loaded, with 26 books from the 19th century and 35 books from the 20th century–explainable in part since the authors didn’t have a lot to select from the first 3,000 years covered.  The oldest book included is the I Ching, roughly 4,800 years old, and the most recent, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein, only four years old.  The late history scholar Robert E. Schofield postulated that historians cannot accurately assess the influence of a historical period unless at least 50 years has transpired, and consistent with that theory, nine books shouldn’t have made the cut, removing books like Salmon Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, Art Spiegleman’s graphic novel Maus, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  

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Harry Potter fandom shows no signs of slowing down, thanks in part to J.K. Rowling herself.  Just when we thought the Harry Potter universe had come to an end with Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, she took her layered fantasy world across the ocean and introduced fans to Newt Scamander and a legion of new creature creations in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Now she’s giving her fans even more with the next chapter in the world of wizards and muggles, and giving us an early look at one of her most beloved characters.

That’s right, the 2018 sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald stars Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore, who is teaming up with Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander against a new foe we only got a sneak peek at in the finale of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them–Johnny Depp’s Gellert Grindlewald.  Warner Bros. has just released the first trailer for the new film and it looks like it might just rival the last chapter in the saga.

Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol will return as the adorable couple Jacob and Queenie, and Katherine Waterston is back as the magical auror Tina Goldstein.  Newcomers to the series include Zoë Kravitz as Leta Lestrange (who seems to be a likely relative of Bellatrix later on) and Ezra Miller (Justice League) as Credence Barebone.

Check out this first trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald:

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In the realm of fantasy, magical talismans are often the key to a character’s actions or journey, part of the goal, such as destroying the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings, and they typically bestow power on their owners, such as Dorothy’s shoes that can transport her home in The Wizard of Oz or even King Arthur’s sword Excalibur, which bestowed him rule of all of Great Britain.  J.K. Rowling’s world of Harry Potter includes many magical objects, including the horcruxes.  Even more integral to Harry Potter’s journey and all the wizards is the wand.  A major scene in all of the books and films is Harry obtaining his wand from Ollivanders–“T’aint no place better,” says Hagrid.  And the wand chooses the wizard, according to Mr. Ollivander.

Sometimes fans must wait for all the information they want about their favorite films and characters.  It’s been six years since the last Harry Potter movie premiered, but fans of the franchise at last have a photographic guide to the key wands designed for the principal named characters.  This week Insight Editions releases From the Films of Harry Potter: The Wand Collection, including new photographs of 66 actual movie prop wands.  Seventeen thousand wand boxes were created by the prop makers for the shelves of Ollivanders wand shop in Diagon Alley, according to the book, quoting late set decorator Stephenie McMillan.  After the wands were each designed by art director Hattie Storey and concept artists including Adam Brockbank, Alex Walker, and Ben Dennett, then supervising modeler and prop maker Pierre Bohanna would create a single “original” of each wand, which would be later be duplicated in resin or rubber for stunt work in multiples depending on the need of the production.

From the Films of Harry Potter: The Wand Collection begins with a brief discussion of the in-universe use of wands as written in J.K. Rowling’s books, along with an overview of the behind the scenes production creation of the props with interviews of cast members and prop makers.  The bulk of the oversized book, an elegantly designed hardcover in a long 12 x 6 inch format to allow for close-up photography of each wand, includes a brief description of the wand, the character wielding the wand in the film, and discussions with actors, designers, and excerpts from the source books.  Hagrid’s lengthy wand is featured in a double-sized pull-out image, the wand sporting his trademark umbrella component.  Another pull-out includes multiple handles of the Death Eaters, and another includes detail of the unique handle of the wand of Jason Isaacs’ character, Lucius Malfoy.

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fantastic-beasts

Review by C.J. Bunce

There’s no such thing as a “sure thing.”  If there was, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them–the big screen adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s spin-off novel from the Harry Potter series–would have been an easy success.  Released in the same month, a trailer  for Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson set YouTube viewer records.  Why?  Fans of Potter can’t get enough, they’ll never get enough, and that means anything related to Hogwarts is prime territory to exploit, including its actors.

So why should Fantastic Beasts work?  It’s a story written by Rowling.  It’s in the same universe as her past successes (or is it?).  It’s about fantasy beasts (or is it?).  Fantastic Beasts follows a Dr. Doolittle-inspired wizard named Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne), who is in 1920s New York City hunting a new beast to protect for his unique version of a magical zoo.  He keeps these beasts in a suitcase, which is either bigger on the inside (sounds familiar?) or it somehow serves as a portal to a wider world where Scamander can protect the beasts from those that don’t fancy beastie types.  If the  beasts remained the focus of the story, a journey where we met several of these creatures and explored the awe and majesty of these brilliant creations from the visual effects artists, liked the klepto duck-billed platypus or the Groot-like Bowtruckle–or maybe actually explore where in the world to find them as the title says–Fantastic Beasts could have been what fans are looking for.  Unfortunately the story doesn’t know what it wants to be and instead gets bogged down in a dark and gloomy drama about a troubled, victimized orphan of the Anakin Skywalker variety.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-queenie-and-kowalski

A glimmer of heart can be found in a hapless wannabe baker named Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler, and a woman from the magical world named Queenie, played by Alison Sudol.  You could edit out every scene these two characters are not in and be left with a compelling story.  Their acting, the characterization, and chemistry is the stuff of a good romance movie.  Their performances are also the only strong ties in the film to a believable 1920s setting–both, with their accents and mannerisms, seem to fall out of a film from the Golden Age of Hollywood, despite art direction that never quite gives the feel we’re in the Roaring ’20s.

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fantastic Beasts SDCC 2016

At San Diego Comic-Con this weekend, Warner Bros. has released a new look at J.K. Rowling’s return to the wizarding world, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, derived from the Hogwarts textbook of the same name by magizzoologist Newt Scamander.   Fantastic Beasts is a prequel with a screenplay written by J.K. Rowling–her first–and it’s set in 1926 New York City.  It follows Eddie Redmayne as Scamander, a Charles Darwin of sorts cataloguing magical creatures.  It is a prequel, but don’t expect to see young Hogwarts professors or other familiar names.  However, the trailer and possibly the film is borrowing at least some musical cues from John Williams’ Harry Potter theme.

Fantastic Beasts is directed by David Yates, who served as director of the final four Harry Potter films. Harry Potter fans will learn some new lingo, like “No-Maj”–American for Muggle.  A No-Maj named Jacob, played by Dan Fogler, has a run-in with Scamander, Scamander loses his magical case, and some beasties escape, which may reveal the wizarding world to the rest of us.  Fantastic Beasts co-stars Katherine Waterston (Steve Jobs) as Porpentina, Alison Sudol (Transparent) as Queenie, Ezra Miller (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) as Credence, Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Star Trek Nemesis) as Gnarlack, Samantha Morton (Minority Report, John Connor, Jane Eyre) as Mary Lou, Jon Voight (Mission Impossible, National Treasure) as Henry Shaw, Sr., Carmen Ejogo (Selma) as Seraphina, Jenn Murray (Brooklyn) as Chastity, and Colin Farrell (Total Recall, Phone Booth, Minority Report, Daredevil) as Percival Graves.

Fantastic Beasts comic con trailer

Take a look at this new behind-the-scenes feature for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (and raise your hand if you wish Colin Farrell were playing a young Professor Snape):

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fantastic-beasts-cast-xlarge

This weekend Warner Bros. has released a behind the scenes look at J.K. Rowling’s return to the wizarding world, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, derived from the Hogwarts textbook of the same name by magizzoologist Newt Scamander.  Fantastic Beasts is a prequel with a screenplay written by J.K. Rowling–her first–and it’s set in 1926 New York City.  It follows Eddie Redmayne as Scamander, a Charles Darwin of sorts cataloguing magical creatures.  It is a prequel, but don’t expect to see young Hogwarts professors or other familiar names.

Fantastic Beasts is directed by David Yates, who served as director of the final four Harry Potter films.  Harry Potter fans will learn some new lingo, like “No-Maj”–American for Muggle.  A No-Maj named Jacob, played by Dan Fogler, has a run-in with Scamander, Scamander loses his magical case, and some beasties escape, which may reveal the wizarding world to the rest of us.  Fantastic Beasts co-stars Katherine Waterston (Steve Jobs) as Porpentina, Alison Sudol (Transparent) as Queenie, Ezra Miller (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) as Credence, Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Star Trek Nemesis) as Gnarlack, Samantha Morton (Minority Report, John Connor, Jane Eyre) as Mary Lou, Jon Voight (Mission Impossible, National Treasure) as Henry Shaw, Sr., Carmen Ejogo (Selma) as Seraphina, Jenn Murray (Brooklyn) as Chastity, and Colin Farrell (Total Recall, Phone Booth, Minority Report, Daredevil) as Percival Graves.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them poster

Take a look at this new behind-the-scenes feature for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (and raise your hand if you wish Colin Farrell were playing a young Professor Snape):

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Simpsons characters

It’s time to take your vacation, to call in sick, or do whatever you have to do.  It’s Matt Groening’s The Simpsons.  And it’s all 26 seasons, including the movie, in order.  Oh my.  It all begins today.

Take a trip back in time to 1989.  And re-live every pop culture reference, every celebrity satire, and every angst-ridden moment since.  Donut-eating Homer, big blue haired Marge, skateboard wielding Bart, unappreciated Lisa, and never-aging baby Maggie.

Re-live the first time you met Mr. Burns, Sideshow Bob, and Ralph Wiggum.

Simpsons couch

Experience again the Simpsons world voices of those now passed, like Phil Hartman, George Carlin, Paul Winfield, Johnny Cash, Gary Coleman, Dick Clark, Marcia Wallace, Rodney Dangerfield, Joey Ramone, Ernest Borgnine, Johnny Carson, Werner Klemperer, Larry Hagman, Audrey Meadows, Michael Jackson, Harry Morgan, and George Harrison.

Where else could you find all these celebrities in one place?  Liam Neeson, Mark Hamill, Andy Serkis, Mr. T, Paul Newman, Ben Stiller, Drew Barrymore, Michael Keaton, Bette Midler, Brian Setzer, Richard Gere, Tim Conway, Martin Mull, Helen Hunt, Robert Wagner, Lenny Kravitz, Isabella Rossellini, Paul McCartney, Darryl Strawberry, Bob Newhart, Meg Ryan, Dustin Hoffman, Steve Martin, John Ratzenberger, Tom Petty, Kirk Douglas, Steven Wright, Rachel Weisz, Hugh Laurie, Eddie Izzard, Mel Gibson, Willem Dafoe, Robert Forster, Martha Stewart, the Dixie Chicks, Linda Ronstadt, Max Von Sydow, Donald Sutherland, Mandy Patinkin, Tony Blair, Little Richard, Gary Busey, Henry Winkler, Emily Blunt, Colm Meaney, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lady Gaga, Brent Spiner, Marisa Tomei, Kurt Loder, Gillian Anderson, Treat Williams, J.K. Rowling, Cloris Leachman, Sir Mix a Lot, Tom Arnold, Topher Grace, and Sting.  Ruin anyone’s chance to compete with you at “Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon” with this series, people.

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