My View: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022) PG-13 Professor Dumbledore (Jude Law) has entrusted Newt (Eddie Redmayne) to lead a team of wizards, witches, and one brave Muggle baker to go on a dangerous mission to stop the powerful Dark wizard Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) from seizing control of the wizarding world. Newt and his team will encounter old and new beasts and clash with Grindelwald’s legion of followers to save the world. The question is, just how long can Dumbledore remain on the sidelines? So this is the third (and possibly final) film in the Fantastic Beasts series. I enjoyed the first film but didn’t like the 2nd one, finding it confusing and lacking the wonder and fun of the first film. I am also not a fan of Johnny Depp, who, after a stellar career early on, has become someone who mails in his performances and brings a campiness to films that don’t need it. I’m happy to say that for this third installment, Depp has been replaced by Mads Mikkelsen in the role of Grindelwald, the villain of the story. Mikkelsen gives a much more restrained version of Grindelwald and makes the villain more menacing than Depp’s cartoonish interpretation. That being said, while I enjoyed this film much more than the 2nd installment, it is very evident that J.K. Rowling, who wrote the script of the first two films and the Harry Potter books, is making this film about the politics of the last ten years and the film suffers for it. I also had trouble with the fact that Porpentina ‘Tina’ (Katherine Waterston), the love interest of Newt and his main supporter in the previous two films, is barely in this film, with almost no explanation. Now, all that being said, I still enjoyed the movie, primarily because of Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Newt, who has this wonderful screen presence, making Newt someone who sees the wonder in the world and wants to protect these fantastic, magical creatures. Also, the film is helped by Dan Fogler, as the love-lorn Jacob Kowalski, the Muggle baker who, with his good nature and humor, helps the team in sticky situations, all the while morning that his beloved Queenie has gone to the bad side. It is rumored that there will only be more Fantastic Beasts films if this one does well at the box office. I’m ok, either way, as this is a fine ending to the Fantastic Beasts saga. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Fantastic Beasts Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
: Father Stu (2022) R Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) has been a boxer and a wannabe actor, constantly failing and getting into trouble. After a near-fatal accident, Stu decides to become a priest. Along the way, Stu will be given many more obstacles to overcome along his journey from self-destruction to redemption. Father Stu is one of those films whose heart is in the right place but can’t deliver the power or emotional impact that this film sorely needs. It is very evident that Wahlberg put a lot into the role of Stuart, and it has come out that Mark also put a lot of his own money into the film. I wish that passion made it to the screen. The film moves along at a barreling pace, packing Stuart's life into a series of ups and downs (mostly downs), including getting drunk a lot and getting arrested even more. The film wants us to love Stuart, but it’s hard even to like the guy, as we wonder what Carmen (played by the fantastic Teresa Ruiz) sees in him, as Stuart clumsily romances a woman who will only consider dating Stuart if he becomes Catholic. The film is helped by an outstanding supporting cast, including Jacki Weaver as Stuart's long-suffering mother and Mel Gibson as Stu’s not-so-loving deadbeat father. The film is based on a true story, and I wish that Stuart’s remarkable transformation from a troubled young man into an inspirational priest was made into a better, more nuanced movie. But instead, we get a predictable film that never captures the magic of what the real Stuart must have been like. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Father Stu Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
My View: Choose or Die (2022) Down on her luck, coder Kayla (Iola Evans) finds a mysterious 1980s video game that has the possibility of having unclaimed prize money. Straightaway, Kayla, with the help of a fellow coder, Isaac (Asa Butterfield), fire up the game, and they step into a surreal world of next-level terror where the game brings pain and death to reality. I think that people who will enjoy this film are the older viewers who remember the early years of computer gaming, where you used a cassette tape and a monochrome monitor to play games that mostly asked you questions like ‘Do you want to go left or right?’. Otherwise, this film is a pretty ordinary horror film where the characters are forced to choose one bad choice versus another bad choice. Like a lot of horror films of the past ten years or so, this is another in a long line of horror films where the hero of the film must make hard choices, often where the hero must decide who dies while trying to figure out how to get the game to stop. While not a horrible film, Choose or Die doesn’t bring much to the horror table other than an initial nostalgic look at a gaming past that kind of sucked. My Rating: Cable Choose or Die Website Now playing on the Netflix platform.
Indiefest: Dual (2022) R Sarah (Karen Gillan) has been given a terminal diagnosis and has opted for a cloning procedure. After the procedure is done, Sarah finds out that she isn’t dying. Consequently, Sarah tries to have her clone decommissioned, only to be told by a court that she will be dueling her clone to the death in one year. This is a strange little film about a woman who doesn’t seem to care that she is dying until she realizes her replacement double is a better version of herself and that even her mother likes her more than the real Sarah. This is a dark comedy that doesn’t always work, a film that skims the line too much between being deadpan and outlandish. I am a fan of Karen Gillan, especially her work on Doctor Who, but the film seems to have lost that Gillan can play with her roles, making them seem fun and energetic. Gillan’s Sarah is lost in restraint, and that makes this film feels slow and dull, even in a quite funny sequence where Sarah’s ‘duel’ trainer, played by Aaron Paul, tries out ‘killing dancing’ with Sarah as another way Sarah can attack her double in the upcoming duel. I never could get into this film where the main character was so dull, even when she wasn’t supposed to be. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Dual Website Now playing in select theatres.
Forgotten Film: House of Sand And Fog (2003) R Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) is a woman whose life is slowly crumbling around her. She is a woman who has had a drinking problem in the past, her husband has left her, and now, her family home has been taken away from her. Behrani (Ben Kingsley) is a man who once was successful in his home country of Iran but now works two jobs to support his family here in America. He buys Kathy’s house in an auction hoping that his fortunes have turned around. Instead, the two people are on a collision course that could destroy both their lives. House of Sand and Fog is a film where the two main characters are both right, and that’s the problem. One or both most lose in this game. Jennifer Connelly gives a brilliant performance as the troubled woman who sees Behrani as the enemy, someone who has taken her life from her. As only he can, Kingsley gives us a man who is full of grace until he is pushed to the edge and his family is threatened. House of Sand and Fog is a film that will stay with you and make you wonder who was right and who was wrong. My Rating: Full Price House of Sand and Fog Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore: Animal Coordinator
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Top Gun: Maverick (2022) PG-13 Maverick (Tom Cruise) has for 30 years served his country but has done it his way, as one of the Navy’s top aviators, pushing the envelope as a test pilot. Maverick has been able to dodge the advancement in rank that would ground him until now. Maverick is back where he started, and he is still flying by the air tower, rank be damned. Finally, we get a film that has been pushed back due to COVID for what seems like forever. Can Tom capture the magic again? We all will be there to see it. Top Gun Website