On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 12, 2019

At this point in our cultural landscape the reaction one has to the latest film set in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world is largely dependent upon your history and affiliation with said wizarding world. It’s difficult to even comprehend the amount of lives Rowling’s work has impacted and become a major component of since the Harry Potter franchise became a worldwide phenomenon nearly two decades ago. The plan for the Fantastic Beasts franchise, outside of continuing to make money off the brand, was to hopefully introduce a new, younger generation to this world through new stories while naturally entrancing those who came to the world of muggles and magical folk in real time. Harry Potter has now been a part of my life longer than it hasn’t-twice as long nearly-and so, it is always with great anticipation and interest that I approach anything Rowling does even if the cultural temperature is a bit cooler than it used to be. Though initially pessimistic towards the idea of expanding the Potterverse via New York City in the twenties and based around the guy who wrote one of Harry and his friend’s textbooks, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them turned out to be a rather charming introduction to a new facet of this world we only thought we knew; casting a strong enough spell to leave audiences wanting more adventures in the life of Mr. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). With Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Rowling and franchise director David Yates (the last four HP films as well as the first Fantastic Beasts movie) pick up the story they started two years ago some three months later in a sequel that ultimately serves as a series of revelations for the series’ main players while potentially changing everything we know about one of the Potterverse’s most important characters. The fact the franchise has moved and is moving in the direction of utilizing more primary Potter characters is a double-edged sword given it's hard not to want to see familiar aspects of this familiar world, but there is something of a greater desire to see an aspect completely independent of the events and characters in the Harry Potter stories so as to not potentially spoil what we already love. In other words, while I’m all in for further exploration of the magical world mythology and continuous world-building Rowling is so good at the fact of the matter is The Crimes of Grindelwald might have been more consistently engaging if it’d found a more entertaining story through which to convey these new developments. Full review here. C+

There isn't a person you wouldn't love if you could read their story. I tend to try and not speak in absolutes and there may or may not be some exceptions to this rule, but the point is an obvious one: all the races and people with different sexual orientations or different religious beliefs can get along once we really get to know one another; that we're not really all that different after all. That's all well and good, but it's also a tried and true formula that at least one Hollywood production trots out every awards season to try and make us all feel better about ourselves. One might think, given the current cultural climate, that any movie attempting to bring people together might immediately be dismissed as one party's agenda to corrupt another into actually having a conversation with a person of opposing views, but maybe that's ultimately why Green Book feels so good right now and ironically, so needed. There isn't a damn thing here you haven't heard or seen before and director Peter Farrelly (one half of the brother directing duo who brought us comedy classics like Dumb & Dumber and There's Something About Mary, but also brought us Dumb & Dumber To and The Heartbreak Kid) directs with the eye of about as mainstream a filmmaker as it gets meaning there is nothing glaringly unique or interesting about the way in which he captures these events, but this does mean it will undoubtedly speak to a very large audience. There was some slight hope that Farrelly might utilize his experience in his years of making broad studio comedies to infuse the many predictable formulas this movie utilizes with a more striking tone or presence, but while taking on a project like this might have been a bold thing for the filmmaker to do given his past credits he alas decides to do nothing bold in the execution of this change in pace, but instead plays it right down the middle. Fortunately for Farrelly, the story has such a great inherent hook and given he's hired two more than capable talents to lead his film it hardly matters how he's saying what he wants to say as long as it's competent enough to capture how Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen are saying what they want to say. It's largely through these two performers that Green Book transcends the calculations of a movie such as itself, eclipsing every predictable note it plays that could have so easily rung false to become something genuinely endearing; a true crowd-pleaser in the least cynical and most delightful of ways. Full review here. B

Mortal Engines is based on Philip Reeve's 2001 novel and comes to audiences via producer Peter Jackson as directed by his protégé Christian Rivers who served as a visual effects supervisor and storyboard artist on both of Jackson's Tolkien trilogies as well as King Kong and other projects. This is all to say that despite all of this Mortal Engines is somehow an ugly film-one that matches the grandeur of its story with its visuals only in fleeting moments, but is otherwise a bevy of good ideas executed without style and in a muddled fashion where the special effects render a picture as clear as a found footage film. This thing is fuzzy as f*&$.

I especially like the idea that after modern society-or the "ancient world" as it is referred to-was decimated in less than a minute by some kind of super weapon that society essentially revived itself and started over and a thousand years later we are back in this very Victorian-like setting except for the fact London is on wheels and barreling through the wastelands that remain of earth's land masses looking for energy sources to sustain itself. It's bonkers, for sure, but not a particularly fun kind of bonkers.

Side note: Robert Sheehan looks like the lovechild of Justin Long and Jimmy Fallon. D

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