Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016): A Magical Potter Prequel

When I was dragged to the theater last weekend, my expectations for “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” were extremely low. While I enjoyed the proper “Potter” films, my obsession over the books had waned by the time the money-grubbing finale was split into two films in 2010 and 2011. Unexpectedly, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” obliterates the money-factory mold that came before it and serves as one of the best “Potter” films of all.

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The Walking Dead: After THOSE Deaths

Finally, the premiere of Season 7 of “The Walking Dead” aired and Negan’s victims were revealed; Glenn and Abraham died gruesomely as Negan smashed their heads to a pulp with Lucille, his barbwire-wrapped bat. Initially, Abraham seemed to be the only victim, but Daryl attacks Negan and earns Glenn’s unexpected, horrible death—similar to the comic, Glenn’s eye pops out of his skull and he calls to Maggie despite the internal hemorrhaging. Harrowing stuff, truly; I thought only “Game of Thrones” was capable of such torture!

Battlefield 1: War is Hell

“Battlefield 1” is my favorite shooter since “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.” Going in the opposite historical direction than its Activision rival, “Battlefield 1” is a breath of fresh air. The archaic, old-school weaponry bring a new level of intrigue because, unlike the lasers and alien weaponry of new CoDs, these weapons existed and they are stranger than fiction. If you are the slightest bit interested in history or World War I, just the sight of these technical marvels will kickstart your imagination. On top of that, strong graphics and sound design build the immersion to unbelievable heights; never have the horrors of war been so gorgeous and unsettling to experience.

The Infiltrator: Another Escobar Joint

“The Infiltrator” is a 2016 crime drama starring Bryan Cranston as undercover U.S. Customs agent, Robert Mazur, who vies to take down Pablo Escobar’s drug empire. An accountant in a previous life, Mazur targets the kingpin by following and pretending to launder his dirty money. The film works on multiple levels; Cranston is a master when it comes to acting and visually there are some really strong moments, especially in the drug-fueled 1980s nightclubs. Also, I was truly surprised by how funny and humanizing John Leguizamo is as Emir Abreu, Cranston’s partner. However, there are some major flaws with “The Infiltrator” that keep it from being greater than the sum of its parts.

Westworld: A Robotic, Violent Odyssey

The buzz around “Westworld” has reached critical mass and I’m another of its autonomous followers. The show is phenomenal on multiple levels; the effects and costuming are absolutely stunning and prove that a show can transition between Western and Sci-Fi genres with ease. The acting is also strong for the most part. However, I have serious concerns about the show’s pacing and characters. To be clear, the show is a magnificent spectacle, but its content does not seem to reach the same heights as its visuals.

Nintendo Switch-ing Directions

On October 20, 2016, Nintendo made one of it’s most sound business decisions in nearly a decade. Just one month before the ten-year anniversary of the original Wii’s launch, Nintendo unveiled it’s most gimmicky yet amazing product yet. The Nintendo Switch is the first console which can be plugged into a big screen television for play at home then removed from the “dock” to be used as a portable handheld. While this concept was often hinted at through rumors surrounding the mystery console, it was incredible to actually see it in action during the three-minute reveal video this morning.

The Night Of: A Realistic, Lenient Story of American Racism

If you haven’t seen “The Night Of,” HBO’s remake of the BBC series “Criminal Justice,” go watch it now—it’s incredibly written, casted, acted, and directed. The realism of the show is so intense and believable that it brings about some level of physical anxiety and discomfort. As an empathetic writer, I truly felt for Nasir “Naz”, played by Riz Ahmed, as he is wrongly accused of murder and slowly evolves into an actual criminal while waiting in Riker’s Island without bail for his rigged, bureaucratic trial. However, in the end, its critique of American racism is undercut by the use of another character who receives the fate that seemed reserved for Naz throughout all eight hours of the story.The beginning of the series is stronger than the ending, but racism towards Muslim-Americans is ever-present.

Back to the Future: For the First Time

The media frenzy around Back to the Future Day was so rabid that even a TV-recluse such as myself could not escape it. Initially, I didn’t want to admit that I’d never seen these famous popcorn flicks and being known as a film admirer made this admission even more difficult. Sadly, I had never seen these classics in their entirety—only bits and pieces when they were on cable movie channels. Two weeks ago, I finally saw seen Robert Zemeckis’ magnum opus of timeless Americana and it’s safe to say that I regret not seeing it sooner.