I don't like the Crimes of Grindelwald

I don't like the Crimes of Grindelwald

Photo of AJ twirling in a black dress with a Gryffindor scarf. Her hair is bright orange and she's standing in a cobbled mews in Central London with plants and coloured doors on either side.

There. I've said it. And I know I'm not alone.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is not what I had waited so eagerly for. And, do you know what, I don't think I'm excited about the next instalment either. After speaking to SO many people in person and furiously texting others, it's definitely a common theme, both within the Potter Community and those 'new' to the Wizarding World Franchise.

Now, don't think this post is just going to be me hating on Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and insulting every part of it. There will be a little bit of it, because it's me, I just mostly want to explain why I'm beyond disappointed and how elements of the film are problematic. My background as a Film and Broadcast production graduate won't come into play either, because we do know the film itself is beautiful, but there really isn't much to go on through analysis except spectacle and unnecessary 'breakthroughs' of randomly thrown in 3D (which I refused to see and made a lot of scenes just look weird in 2D). Although, I do have an idea for a later post on gener and masculinity explored within the entire Harry Potter Universe...

I'm going to desperately try to keep this post as spoiler free as I possibly can, but as I write, that may completely change because #emotions. Who knows. I'm going in with good intentions at least. Anything that may be deemed a spoiler will be labelled with SPOILER so do keep an eye out just in case my intentions go astray.

A pile of brown leather suitcases. The top one is open and contains the House of Mina Lima Crimes of Grindelvald book. The book is brown and gold with a big blue diamond on the front and the text is gold

I'm clearly a massive Harry Potter fan, some would even say that it's bordering on obsessive, and I loved the first instalment of the new franchise. I thought that, even though lacking in all the beasts I imagined, it was a great intro to the wider Wizarding World. We finally got to see more magic from the adults, rather than our favourite 'Wizards in Training'. It was funny in all the right places, dark when it needed to be and showed us beyond the UK witches and wizards. It was new, it was exciting and it worked.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was an entirely different kettle of fish. We already knew that this would be darker than the first movie and the whole Dumbledore/Grindelwald relationship is one that has always been something we, as fans, have been fascinated by as it was only ever alluded to throughout the series.

But it really wasn't what we wanted.

I ended up seeing the film twice to be absolutely sure. I would normally be at the midnight release of anything Harry Potter related, but on release day I was living it up in New Zealand. Didn't stop me seeing it on release day though when Gary and our friend kindly offered to spend a gloriously sunny day in a dark room just to make me happy. Bless them.

After I left that first cinema, I couldn't really talk about it much. There were obviously parts I really enjoyed, but as a whole it would need A LOT of thinking. I really didn't know how I felt about it. I need to digest it more, and that's pretty much what half of my 20 odd hour flight back to the UK consisted of.

My first (to be fair, ridiculous) comment about the movie is how The Crimes of Grindelwald weren't exactly explored. All we really see is his manipulation and sway over the magical community in America and Paris. I know this one is petty but it bothered me. If you're going to introduce the idea of Grindelwald's horrendous ways (which we all know exist), then surely you should explore at least some of the crimes themselves? We know this guy is evil, right? Like a magical version of Hitler in the wizarding community (conveniently running parallel to the the growth of Nazism in Germany post World War 2), but other than the opening scene, we see nothing. I completely understand that it's only the second movie in a series of five so they shouldn't go down The Prisoner of Azkaban route and make it too dark, too quickly, but give us something. It just felt that the title told us one thing and the film another. Maybe that one is just me.

A collection of the flyers and posters from Fantastic beasts and Where to Find Them. One features the slogan 'witches live among us' and another has the portrait of Shaw

The pace of the film was all off. As many other 'middle films' do, they tried to cram so many different story lines into one film but didn't round many of them up or focused too little on what I believe should be major plot points. Many of the newer characters were undeveloped when they should have been given the time to shine, so I felt like I couldn't resonate or care about any of them. When we lost one, I really wasn't bothered and I know that's mean.

I was too busy caring about other relationships that were left in the shadows, like seeing very little about Grindelwald and Dumbledore's relationship. We have always needed answers about this, even now I'm having discussions with the girls over whether Grindelwald was ever truly in love with Dumbledore but, again, we got squat. I'm not going to hate to Rowling for this like so many other people are doing though because I know it is coming... eventually.

The relationship between Newt and Theseus was touched on in the previous film and we all thought that since Theseus was making a key appearance this time, we'd have the opportunity to learn more about this sibling rivalry. In reality, there was only one thing and that story line was hit and miss with several key parts leaving us with more questions than we had before. It was nothing short of infuriating.

Where were the beasts, yo? Now, I know the whole concept of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has evolved beyond the 'text book' we all got for Comic Relief 2001, and has become more of a journey itself, but STILL, where were the beasts. In a book that's supposedly featuring Newt Scamander and his discovery and research into Magical Creatures, they probably took up about 10 minutes of screen time, and a lot of them weren't new. The revelation about Nagini was exciting when we saw it in the trailer but we weren't given much else. Any explanation behind the very concept of what a Maledictus really is was completely pushed to the side and, as a character, that was pretty much all we got. Very little dialogue or action making her feel like she was just slotted in for the hell of it.

It is not canon. This is, possibly, the thing that pissed me off the most. After 21 years, we are all so familiar with the Harry Potter universe, history and lore that big plot changes come as more than just a shock to the system. One thing that is already known so I don't deem it a SPOILER, apologies if it is, is that Professor McGonagall is already teaching at Hogwarts in 1927. Originally she wasn't even born until 1935... how she was already teaching when she was supposedly not even a foetus, I have no idea. Her birthday was changed on the likes of Pottermore to back up her appearance in the film but it's still wrong to me.

Without going into too much detail, the whole lineage of the Elder Wand appears to have been thrown out of the window. Technically this started with the disarming of Graves/ Grindelwald in the first movie but it's still continuing to plague me, especially since we see the Elder Wand in action in Crimes of Grindelwald. It's one of the things I can't stop thinking about and every time I do, I get all wound up into a ball of fury. I mean, this is the very thing that lead to the Downfall of Voldemort, the reason why it would never work for him because he only saw defeat by means of death and not disarming. I'm hoping it's something that will be answered in the future and not another one of those plot holes we see in movies that are graciously brushed aside. In the mean time, I'll still be constantly angry and shout at my TV.

I know this post has been, essentially, one long rant. But I have SUCH #opinions. I just haven't been so disappointed in something I was looking forward to so much in such a long time. I'm still angry 4 months later! We have been left with more questions than we had before, the movie betrayed new characters leaving them with very little emotive attachment from the audience and fractured elements of the Harry Potter Universe. I was going to say 'flat out broke' but am aware that's just me and my penchant for hyperbole.

I'm more than happy to debate so if you think I am completely wrong in any part of this, do let me know in the comments below or on Insatagram.

Why I stayed at the ariport before our Big Trip with Premier Inn

Why I stayed at the ariport before our Big Trip with Premier Inn

Photo of AJ in a checked shirt smiling and holding up a class of Champagne
Not at the hotel, but I hardly took any photos 

If you're going on the Holiday of a Lifetime, I'm a firm believer that your holiday officially starts the second your Out of Office switches on and not just when you get on the plane. It makes everything feel more exciting because it's holiday then and now, rather than holiday tomorrow, or holiday at the weekend.

For our Big Holiday to New Zealand last year, we managed to get an absolute steal on flights from Jack's Flight Club, that were even cheaper if we flew from Manchester instead of London. What with it not exactly being a local airport, Gary and I decided (well, mostly I decided) that we should stay at the airport the night before we fly.

I'm a bit of a panicker before big things and always imagine the worst case scenario.

- What if the trains are cancelled and we don't make it to the airport?
- What if there are delays and there's no time to get from the station to the airport?
- What if we oversleep and miss the train?
- What if we fall asleep on the train and wake up in Glasgow?

Welcome to what it's like in my brain...

 Also, I did feel like continuing my 30th Birthday celebrations a little bit longer and a stay in a hotel seemed like a fabulous idea. Big thumbs up to Gary too for getting us First Class train tickets for a grand total of £60 for both of us. A little bit of extra comfort AND Wi-Fi.

The front of the Premier Inn at Manchester Airport. The building is grey against a cloudy sky

If you didn't know, I'm a mega Premier Inn faingirl (and no, this post isn't sponsored by Premier Inn, just genuine love). After researching hotels at the airport, we realised that the Premier Inn was the best value for quality. I mean, we didn't want to spend hundreds of pounds for just one night, but at the same time we didn't want to end up staying somewhere uncomfortable or grotty. Treat yo' self... but cheap.

After experiencing trying to get to Heathrow on the Tube in the past, I definitely don't want to go through nonsense like that again. It takes way longer than you think it would and no one wants to be weighed down by all the luggage when you're travelling from one end of London to another. It's a pain in the arse and other passengers will tut and hate you.

The journey from the train station was surprisingly easy. Faster than I thought and with the friendliest driver known to man (how you know you're in the North). This made my stupid brain calm down because the whole 'what if we couldn't check in because we were too late?' thing was chucked out of the window. It was all chill and completely hassle free. Amazing after the stressful Must Finish Everything day at work I had!

Staying at the airport, was genuinely one of the best decisions I have made on a long time. There's no better feeling than waking up completely refreshed (thank you, Good Night Guarantee), with my favourite beds known to man. Seriously, I will own one eventually.

A bubble bath before bed, a cup of tea and the typical Family Guy in bed ensured we were totally relaxed and completely stress free because you know the airport is two minutes away. Typically this meant we turned up WAY before check in happened as a result. But something had to go 'wrong' didn't it?

The departure board at Manchester Airport, our 14:10 flight to Doha doesn't have a gate desk number because we arrived too early

I'd 100% recommend making the decision to extend your holiday a wee bit and treat yourself to a stay at the airport. I'm definitely going to do it again for my next big holiday, and maybe even before our trip to Poland in February, because why the hell not, eh?

Tips for seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for the first time

Tips for seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for the first time

Back in 2015, the Harry Potter Community had a mini explode when tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child were announced.

On 28th October 2015, I went into work early to do that thing where you hit refresh constantly and jump between multiple different browsers, and even your phone. At one point, I'm pretty sure I was 10,000th in the queue but that may be an exaggeration.

I got tickets.

Turns out, I'm a god damn idiot and booked the tickets for the following June for when we were supposed to be at Glastonbury. So I gave them to my friends.

It was then announced that Coldplay were headlining Glastonbury so I didn't end up going. Typical, eh?

On 30th October (my birthday), the next run of tickets for the following September were released. Cue me on the sofa with Gary surrounded by wrapping paper, going through the rapid refresh process all over again. I got tickets for 22nd and 23rd September 2016.

But it turns I didn't have to wait that long. My best friend invited me to be her plus one so a showing with Lumos (who I am now an ambassador for) on 18th September 2016.

Thrilled doesn't cover it. I cried. A lot. #NoShame.

As I have seen it twice now, like the lucky madam I am, and even though it was a few years ago now, I thought it would be useful to share my tips / advice for those who may be planning on seeing it for the first time. Aren't I nice?

Sign up to the Friday Forty

I'm sure everyone knows what the Friday Forty is by now, but just in case...

Tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sell out fast. At the moment, you'll be looking at waiting until 2020 (unless you get really lucky).

I completely understand that sometimes people don't want to wait that long. I don't know how I had the patience to wait as long as I did! This is why the Friday Forty is your friend.

Every Friday, 40 tickets for every performance the following week are available for £40. That;s £20 per part (#bargain). Not only does this mean that you might get to see the show sooner, but it can also be more affordable as some seats can cost serious dollar.

However, it is a lottery so not everyone gets them, and you can only enter between 12:01pm - 1pm. It's always worth a try!

See both parts in one day

This one may not be everyone's cup of tea but after seeing it twice, once in one day and once over two days, I 100% prefer the one day event.

Sure, it's likely you'll be tired afterwards but I felt like it was more of an experience when you see it in one. The anticipation for seeing part two dwindled and wore away a tad when I knew I'd have to wait longer.

But if that's not for you, I totally get it.

Book for the Dress Circle if you can

When I first booked tickets, I got them right in the heavens. You know, those vertigo inducing seats you get in every old theatre. I did this intentionally though because I have epilepsy and I know that strobe lights and other lighting effects are used so I wanted to be safe. Turns out they were absolutely fine (for me, maybe not for everyone with the same condition)

When I went with Lumos, we were in the Dress Circle and it was a much better experience.

Sure, I know that when you're in the theatre, it doesn't always matter where you sit bit I feel like it does for this particular show. Like how it's better to sit up the top for 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time'. 

In the Dress Circle, you were close enough where your neck didn't hurt from either looking up at the stage or constantly having to lean around the taller people in front of you (which happens to me everywhere I go) and also, you could see everything, rather than just little blurred shapes across the stage.

Most importantly, these seats made you feel as though magic is real. some of the stage tricks in this show are absolutely out of this world. I felt absorbed in in. When you're up in the heavens, the illusion was shattered because you could see how some things were done and you didn't have to look closely.

Buy your merch before the show starts

I'm sure my fellow experienced gig goers would tell you exactly the same thing.

The queues at merch stands can be insane, as with any other theatre / concert / festival.

During the interval, you don't want to be wasting your precious pee and bar time in yet another queue and at the end of the show, you sometimes leave via a separate door so you won't always pass a merch stand. Better to get it all beforehand and eagerly await your badges as you leave.

Start your day at House of MinaLima

This one is more of an added extra than anything else, but it's the perfect way to make the magic last even longer. It's probably about 2 minutes walk away from the Palace Theatre so it's not like you'd be going out of your way.

My main recommendation here though would be to get there as it opens then grab some lunch nearby before Part One of the show starts.

House of MinaLima can get absolutely rammed and I'm sure you'd want the opportunity to take everything in in peace.

That and get the perfect Instagram shot of the Marauders Map floor.

So there we go. A handful of advice. I hope at least some of it was useful and not all of the same stuff you have heard before. If you have any other questions, feel free to hit me up via DM on Instagram. After all, we still need to Keep the Secrets.

Into 2019

Into 2019

AJ and Gary wearing Christmas Jumpers on Christmas Day

So, there we go. 2018 has flown past before we even noticed.

It's been a year of ups and downs for me, as I'm sure with everyone else. Some pretty major ups, and the downs? A pretty big struggle, especially MH wise. But, whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger so I'm getting there now.

I'm hoping 2019 will be an entirely different kettle of fish and I'm quite determined to make it so. I'm pretty darn happy and settled in my career (who else can say that at 30 these days?), so it's more of an internal focus than anything else.

It's obviously that time of year where every man and his dog have made new Year's Resolutions and we all know the gyms are going to be busier for the next two weeks than they were for the majority of next year. I personally think that if you set solid 'resolutions' and drastic changes to your lifestyle every January 1st, you're setting yourself up for failure and that's not for me.

I did set some 'goals' last year though and I did quite well. This is because they weren't drastic changes to my lifestyle, more like things I was already kinda doing anyway. I just wanted to be better at them.

This year, I want to do a little more than I did in 2018, but something that's still relatively easy to achieve rather than do something stupid like say I'm going to go to the gym every day but only last a week because I'm shit.

AJ holding Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts books while wearing a library print dress from Joanie Clothing

Read More

I have always been a book worm ever since I was a little girl. My 'to be read' pile is currently building up on the floor in my living room because I have run out of space on my bookcase and I carry a book with me everywhere I go. In 2018, I barely read at all and it felt so unnatural. It took me well over a year to finally finish The Belle Sauvage which Gary bought for me back in October 2017. This year, I'm not going to let one of my passions slip away again. 

I'm lucky enough where I don't have to commute to work but this does make me feel like I don't have as much time to read as other people. I mean, even an extra hour sitting on a train really makes a difference. So now I'm just going to make the time, even if that means actually taking a lunch break rather than eating at my desk.

AJ wearing Gryffindor robes

Get more involved with the Harry Potter Community

Last year, I made the effort to show more of my nerdy side and what I am truly obsessed with 

Harry Potter has been a HUGE part of my life for 21 years (God, I'm old) and it really has influenced who I am today. 

Not only did this little step perform well for me and help me reach milestones, it also introduced me to a fabulous bunch of people I'm now lucky enough to call some of my closest friends. 

Most importantly, it inspired me and made me happy.

Over the years, I have had opportunities to work with the Warner Brothers Studio Tour and Lumos, so who wouldn't want to keep that up?

Dedicate more time to self-care

This was actually one of my intentions for last year and I really wasn't very good at it. 

Despite encouraging myself to say 'no' more, I didn't do that at all. I was busy all the time, whether it was helping friends, meeting friends at the pub, or playing (at one point) 5 performances in one month. Little things like constantly having chipped nail polish because I had no time to do them really affected me and I was exhausted all the time, which obviously impacted my mood.

Moving forward, where realistic (obviously), I'm going to have one day a week where I just focus on me. Bubble baths, face mask and nail polish galore. 

Eat less meat

When I was a teenager I was a vegetarian for a good few years. I got ill, really thin and even now, 15 years later, I still have issues with my iron levels.

It's far from possible for me to go veggie again because my health does need to come first, but we cannot deny that this lovely little planet of our is fucked. Hopefully not beyond repair.

For the sake of the environment and my future children's lives here, I want to reduce my damage as much as possible. Last year, I kept to my aim of using less single use plastic so I may as well step it up a notch and do even better this year.

All of these 'goals' are relatively small and definitely achievable. I just hope I'm better at sticking to them than I was last year!