The middle week in April brought us the latest from the Wizarding World and not a lot else. After a busy week for me, I only caught a couple of new films. Nevertheless, here’s a look at the new films I saw this week. If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.
Choose or Die (Netflix)
Starring: Lola Evans, Asa Butterfield, and Eddie Marsan
Synopsis: This new horror film finds a group of people sucked into a game that has deadly consequences. This feels like a familiar set up for a horror film, and it is. There’s little originality here and little compelling about the story or production. In fact, this film is pretty marginal in every way. The violence isn’t extreme, but the whole story is icky, particularly the climatic moments. Robert Englund makes a cameo for seemingly no reasons, while Butterfield’s character feels like a waste. Evans is fine in the lead but not overly compelling in the role. The film also ends in a way that makes it seem like the makers had a goal of perhaps creating a franchise. Let’s hope this ends up being a dreadful one-off.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (Theaters)
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Mads Mikkelsen, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Callum Turner, Jessica Williams, and Alison Sudol
Synopsis: It feels like an eternity since the first Fantastic Beasts film debuted. It was a kick of a ride, giving hope that the highs of the Wizarding World would be back. It was the first of what was supposed to be five films. In the six years since, scandal, delays and middling storytelling have dampened the franchise. It’s fair to wonder if this will be the final film. And if it is, the film is an improvement over what came before. Johnny Depp is gone, replaced due to his own scandal. The presence of Miller, and even J.K. Rowling’s involvement have seemed to polarize viewers. Setting that aside, the biggest question was if the storytelling could get back on track. In the first hour of this film, that remains a question. It drags, and the absence of Katherine Waterston doesn’t help. But around the mid-point, the film picks up. I actually quite enjoyed the back half of the second act and the third act of the film. I thought there was some powerful emotional moments, especially in the climactic sequences. I enjoyed Law and the greater focus on Dumbledore, while Mikkelsen feels like a strong choice to take over as Grindelwald. Redmayne remains enjoyable in the lead role, and I love Fogler as Jacob Kowalski. In some ways he’s the heart of the franchise and his arc in this film was a lot of fun to me. This isn’t a great film, and it certainly doesn’t reach the highs of the first film in the franchise but it is a vast improvement over the last installment. For fans of the Wizarding World, this is a nice outing that adds to the mythology that’s been built.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for some fantasy action/violence.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.