My View: Wonka (2023) PG Wonka tells how the world’s greatest inventor, magician, and chocolate maker became the beloved Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet). A young and poor Willy comes to the big city to fulfill his dream of opening a chocolate shop but soon discovers that the industry is run by a cartel of greedy chocolatiers who hate new competitors. I was worried when this film was announced, thinking it might be another disaster like the very creepy 2005 Johnny Depp film that we all would like to forget. I have some great news! Wonka is a brilliant, funny film perfectly captures the characters created by Roald Dahl. With songs that help tell the story (unlike a much-touted movie that comes out next week) and some set designs that are out-of-this-world creative, the film is a wonder to watch. I loved the performance of Chalamet, who is perfect in the role of the very young and naïve Willy, who is set on making it in the town where chocolate is king. What I have always liked about Dahl’s writings is that the villains in his works are very evil, and the three chocolate kings in the city are dastardly so. Keegan-Michael Key is hilarious as the easily bribed Chief of Police with a sweet tooth. Olivia Colman chews up the scenery in a good way, as the evil Mrs. Scrubbit, who tricks Willy into owing her a ton of money just by staying one night in her boarding house. The songs are fun and if the studio had played it right, there is a beautiful number that Chalamet sings when he opens his new shop that should have been an Oscar contender for Best Song. The surprise of the film is Hugh Grant as a very sneaky and grumpy Oompa Loompa who wants Wonka to pay him for stealing cocoa beans from Oompa Loompa’s land. Take the kids and have a great time watching Willy and his friends figure out how to foil the chocolate kings and the evil Mrs. Scrubbit. You just might run out to the lobby and get a chocolate bar or two for the ride home. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Wonka Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
Familyfaire: Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget (2023) PG Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget takes place after the daring escape from Tweedy’s farm, Ginger (voiced by Thandiwe Newton) has found a peaceful island sanctuary for the flock to grow and prosper, including a family of her own with Rocky (voiced by Zachary Levi) and their young daughter Molly (voiced by Bella Ramsey). However, Molly takes off to explore the world beyond the island and gets caught by a new farm. Now, Ginger and her gang must break into the high-security farm to rescue her daughter. This is a sequel to the multi-award-winning 2000 film Chicken Run. I am a big fan of stop-motion animation, and I love the Aardman studios that put out movies like Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit. While not as funny as the original Chicken Run, this is still a delightful family film about not a breakout but a break-in as the chickens must break into a maximum security chicken farm to save one of their own. The animation is a wonder to watch, and the action will keep youngsters engaged. The story lags a bit in the middle, but once the break-in starts, the film moves along. So go watch Ginger and the gang defeat the evil company farm and bask in the magic of stop-motion. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget Website Now playing on Netflix.
My View: Albert Brooks: Defending My Life (2023) Documentary about the life of Albert Brooks, who started as a standup comic, moved on to making short films for Saturday Night Live, and then became a filmmaker of classic award-winning movies. The film is directed by Rob Reiner, who has known Brooks since their days in high school. Brooks is an incredible filmmaker, but few know the routines that he did in clubs and on talk shows. He was a favorite of Johnny Carson’s and would do comedy routines that no one else could even imagine doing. The film is a conversation between Brooks and Reiner as they go over his life and career. I loved all the routines from his early days, and the number of people who show up in the film to praise this comic genius shows how loved and respected he is. This is a film that I didn’t want to stop watching; I had so much fun watching it. And if you have never seen Defending Your Life, Brooks’s comic masterpiece that stars Brooks, Meryl Streep, Buck Henry, Lee Grant, and the amazing Rip Torn, it’s your loss. If you need a laugh or two or three, watch this doc! My Rating: Full Price Albert Brooks: Defending My Life Website Now playing on HBO and Max.
Forgotten Film: The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017) PG The journey that led Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) to create his magical ‘A Christmas Carol’, which re-defined what Christmas means to us. I enjoyed this new and imaginative spin on Dickens’s tale. We see Dickens’ writing process as he struggles to pen a new book under the pressure of needing to provide for his family. As he struggles to write, we see how Dickens uses his imagination to help him overcome writer’s block and a very annoying father. What makes this film is the performance of Christopher Plummer as Scrooge. Plummer is perfect in the crabby and despicable Ebenezer role, giving what should have been an Oscar nomination performance. My Rating: Full Price The Man Who Invented Christmas Info The film is available to rent or buy on Apple TV or Amazon.
Weird Credits: From the credits of Wonka: Priest Body Double
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Book of Clarence (2023) PG-13 Clarence (LaKeith Stanfield) is a hustler whose days may be numbered because he owes money to a local mobster, whom Clarence happens to be in love with the mobster’s sister. Clarence notices his brother is doing well following a local Messiah named Jesus. Clarence claims he is also a Messiah, but soon discovers that life becomes very complicated when dealing with things like God. From filmmaker Jeymes Samuel (The Harder They Fall), this film is getting a lot of buzz. The Book of Clarence Info The film will be released to theatres on January 12, 2024.