My View: Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023) PG-13 Billy Batson (Zachary Levi / Asher Angel) and his foster siblings, who transform into superheroes by saying “Shazam,” are still learning to control their powers. The gang will have to grow up quickly as they take on the Daughters of Atlas, who want to use a weapon that could destroy the world. I liked the first Shazam! movie, primarily because of the humor (something that DC films at the time sorely lacked). And there is plenty of humor in this one also, but it sometimes feels forced (there is a Skittles tie-in that feels wrong and out of place). This film focuses more on the rest of the kids and how they are handling being superheroes. Billy, as the leader, is not doing a great job, and the rest of the Shazam crew is starting to resist him. In walks some bad guys in the form of the Daughters of Atlas (Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu), who want revenge or to take over the world or to destroy Shazam. Frankly, I was confused about exactly what the evil duo wanted and why they did what they did with their evil bad guy ways. And that’s the problem with this film. The filmmakers keep throwing things into the plot to fill some screen time. Even the ending with a weird but predictable cameo seems almost thrown in. Rachel Zegler is a welcome addition to the cast as a love interest for Billy’s best friend Freddy, but it’s not enough to save what may be the last of the Shazam! films (due to a new regime at DC). And yes, there are two bonus scenes, one at the very end of the credits, but I doubt we will ever see what happens after those teases. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Shazam! Fury of the Gods Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
My View: Moving On (2022) R Claire (Jane Fonda) and Evelyn (Lily Tomlin) reconnect at a funeral and decide to get revenge on the widower (Malcolm McDowell) who messed with them decades before. Now, how should they kill him? This is one of those films where the actors are fun to watch even though the movie itself isn’t much. The film deals with some serious problems, some of which have been buried in the past, but the film never can find its footing or tone. The film lets Fonda and Tomlin enjoy their chemistry on the screen, but the script is so weak that it seems the director thought just pointing the camera at the two pros would be enough to carry the film along. It’s not, even when you throw in Richard Roundtree and Malcolm McDowell into the cast. I was thankful that the film was a short 85 minutes because any longer would have worn out its welcome. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Moving On Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
Indiefest: Inside (2023) R Inside takes place when a high-end art thief (Willem Dafoe) breaks into an ultra-high security New York Penthouse to steal some paintings, but the heist doesn’t go off as planned, and now the thief is locked inside with no way out. Inside is a movie that, much like its main character, will test the limits of how much we can endure. The film is an hour and forty-five minutes of Willem Dafoe locked in an apartment…for months. It’s a film about survival and possibly madness (some of what we experience is either real or in the thief's mind), but it felt to me more like a challenge to the audience on how much you can stand of seeing one man suffer for what seems like an eternity. I got bored by the film at about the 30-minute point, and several of my fellow film critics had to take a few minutes outside the theatre to gear up for the rest of the film. By the way, they missed nothing. Look, I love Willem Dafoe, but I didn’t love this film. In fact, I hated it. My Rating: Cable Inside Website Now playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: Return to Seoul (2022) R Freddie (Park Ji-min) is a twenty-five-year-old French woman who returns to Korea, the country she was born in before being adopted by a French couple. It’s Freddie’s first time in Korea, and she decides to track down her biological parents. It’s a decision that will change Freddie’s life forever. For better or worse. This film is about trying to find answers, some of which may never be found. We follow Freddie as she starts out as a happy-go-lucky woman who, on a whim, decides to find her birth parents. We follow her on her journey and see how this quest affects her, changing her life and what her goals once were. This beautiful performance by Park Ji-min gives us a character that is hard to get to know, only letting us in a few peeks at a time. Return to Seoul is a compelling movie that asks a lot of questions and doesn’t always give you an answer. My Rating: Full Price Return to Seoul Website Now playing in select theatres.
Familyfaire: The Magician’s Elephant (2023) PG Peter (Noah Jupe) has been searching for his long-lost sister when he encounters a fortune teller who tells him to find a mysterious elephant and the magician who will conjure it. The prophecy sets Peter off on a journey where he will have to complete three seemingly impossible tasks. However, Peter is determined to complete the tasks and find his sister. I liked this animated tale about never giving up hope and following your dreams, even when success seems unlikely. It’s a magical tale that families will enjoy that is told with charm, laughter, and a bit of whimsy. I especially loved the elephant aspect of the film, as Peter isn’t the only character in the story that dreams of being reunited with a loved one. The Magician’s Elephant is a story about the importance of family and how to never give up on a dream, no matter the odds. My Rating: Full Price The Magician's Elephant Website Now available on the Netflix platform.
My View: Boston Strangler (2023) R The film tells the story of Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley), a reporter in a time when women only wrote about fashion and high society, who first connected the murders of women in the city of Boston with a serial killer known as The Boston Strangler. I enjoyed this old-fashioned caper film where two reporters smell a story brewing and won’t let go. Carrie Coon plays the hard-nosed reporter, Jean Cole, who takes Loretta under her wing and guides her when she needs it. Loretta has the drive, persistence, and talent to flesh out a story when no one else notices that women are being murdered in Boston at an alarming rate. This was before CSI and DNA, when luck solved crimes more than hard work or science. Keira Knightley gives us a character willing to go the extra mile, even if it means sacrificing her personal life to get the story. Boston Strangler is a story from the 1960s that is still full of mystery and continues to captivate an audience. My Rating: Full Price Boston Strangler Website Now playing on the Hulu platform.
Forgotten Film: 3 A.M. (2001) The story of three cab drivers working on the overnight shift trying to deal with their lives while a serial killer is on the loose. Danny Glover plays a cabbie who can’t commit to his girlfriend (Pam Grier). Sergej Trifunovic is a Bosnian immigrant driver who can’t relinquish his infatuation with a call girl. And Michelle Rodriguez is a cab driver haunted by her past. The film is a little shaky in some of its plot points, but it’s worth seeing for Michelle Rodriguez in her 2nd film role after her brilliant debut in Girlfight (2000). Rodriquez shines on the screen as a woman who thinks a demon is following her because of her killing a man who sexually abused her. It’s a mesmerizing performance that shows that she wasn’t a flash in the pan. My Rating: Bargain Matinee 3 A.M. Info Available to rent/buy on Amazon.com.
Weird Credits: From the credits of Shazam! Fury of the Gods: Suit Tech
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) PG-13 A charming thief (Chris Pine), and a band of unlikely adventurers are hired to retrieve a lost relic. However, things go dangerously wrong when they run afoul of some bad people, all of who want the relic and its power. The trailer looks like this film will be fun to watch, and it’s always a blast to watch Michelle Rodriguez fight a few bad guys. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Website Film will be in theatres nationwide on Friday, March 31st.