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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them


Original release date November 10, 2016

Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo, and Colin Farrell.

Written by J. K. Rowling. Directed by David Yates

British wizard, Newt Scamander arrives in New York in 1926 with a suitcase full of magical creatures. Of course, a few escape and cause havoc. That might have gone unnoticed except for the Obscurus terrorizing the city.

Newt unknowingly switches suitcases with the non-magical baker, Jacob Kowalski, gets arrested by Tina Goldstein, and is taken before MACUSA, the Magical Congress of the United States of America. They escape, and with the help of Jacob and Tina's sister Queenie, they capture the escaped creatures.

An Obscurus, a parasite that infects the brains of magical children who suppress their magical abilities, is terrorizing the city. The dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald mucks everything up by trying to destroy Newt's suitcase, with all the creatures inside, and searching for the Obscurus.

This is an adult story set in the Harry Potter universe. The special effects are superb and the plot both complex and reasonably intelligent. The action moves right along without a dull moment.

Dan Fogler makes wannabe baker Jacob Kowalski the most interesting and well-developed character in the movie. Alison Sudol as the somewhat ditzy, but usually correct Queenie, also delivers a sensitive and charming performance. The two of them together are a joy to watch.

The magical suitcase is a cross between a Tardis and Rufio's little black box (from Heinlein's Glory Road), but with no graceful way of getting in.

This is a great fun movie. Anyone who enjoys Harry Potter or fantasy in general will thoroughly enjoy Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Reviewed by Roman Drew March 5, 2019.

Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children


Original release date September 30, 2016

Starring Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O'Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Judi Dench, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Written by Jane Goldman. Directed by Tim Burton

Based on a novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs.

Teenager, Jake Portman watches a monster kill his grandfather and is haunted by the memory. All his life, his grandfather told him stories of monsters and the strange school he attended as a child. Psychiatrist, Dr. Golan, suggests a trip to the School for Peculiar Children, where the grandfather grew up, might help Jake move forward with his life. His father agrees because he can study birds on the island for a book he is writing.

On the island, Jake stumbles through a time portal to Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children, September 3, 1943, only hours before a German bomb obliterates the school. However, just before the bomb hits her, Mrs. Peregrine reverses time for exactly one day, and the bomb never falls. She does that every day.

Jake gets to know the peculiar children. One can temporally raise the dead, one is invisible, one has bees inside him, and one, Emma Bloom, is very pretty and floats unless tied down. Up until now, the movie follows the book for the most part. Then in a pure Tim Burton way, Emma takes Jake to a submerged ocean liner and fills it with air. Following that, the movie gets back to the main story. Abe is peculiar, not because he has any weird traits, but because, like his grandfather, he can see the monsters.

Then the school is attacked by monsters wanting to eat the eyes of peculiar children. The kids flee to 2016, and a bomb destroys the school. They have to get back to 1943, or time will catch up, and they will die. Insead of the returning to 1943 (as they did in the book), they stay in 2016, resurrect the ocean liner, and sail to Blackpool, where bad guys and monsters await.

The first half of the story is very like the book, strange and fascinating. It lacks the kind of sensitivity that would make it delightful, but it works. However, the second half feels like a different movie. In many ways, it has a feeling similar to the Nightmare Before Christmas.

The special effects are astounding, and the pacing is fast and fun. It goes in for cheap (or rather expensive) effects at the cost of more emotionally engaging character development. If you like Tim Burton's other movies, you will probably like this one, especially the last half.

The book has a quality of realism as if it could happen. The movie is pure fantasy with little to tether it to reality. Not bad at all, but not great either.

Reviewed by Roman Drew February 14, 2019.

Tomb Raider

Adventure Fantasy

Original release date March 16 2018

Starring Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Derek Jacobi.

Directed by Roar Uthaug

Screen play by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons .

Based a story by Evan Daugherty and Geneva Robertson-Dworet

Since her father's disappearance seven years ago, Lara Croft has made a living as a bike courier, refusing to live in the Croft mansion. When she learns that the estate is about to be sold off, she agrees to claim her inheritance. While signing the papers, she is given a puzzle box containing a clue to her father's whereabouts. Following a trail of clues, she ends up on an island off the coast of Japan where the tomb of the Japanese empress Himiko is said to be.

Of course, in true Tomb Raider (and Indiana Jones) fashion, a rival archeologist is bent on using Himiko's power to rule the world. Lara must find the tomb, stop the evil grave robbers, and maybe even save her father.

The backstory and set up in the first part of the film is a bit long, but once the action starts, things pick up, and the film lives up to its action-packed hype. In bike chases, raging rivers, boat crashes, and collapsing caves, Lara must run, swim, swing, leap, fight, and outwit the bad guys. Nobody is that strong, that lucky, or that indestructible, but hey, it's Tomb Raider, so it's all good.

Lara should be a strong, independent, and self sufficient woman, but she isn't. She escapes the river and collasping airplane on her own and shoots her share of baddies. But too many times, she is saved at the last minute by a man. Even in the end, after surviving fights, explosions, collapsing floors, and imploding caves, she has to be dug out by a man. When a man attacks, she is picked up and tossed about. Just before he kills her, Lara manages a choke hold or something that does him in, but she never lands a serious punch and never controls the action.

The movie ends with a set up for a sequel. Hopefully, in the next Tomb Raider, Lara will be the full-fledged superwoman we all love from the previous movies and computer games.

This movie didn't quite live up to my expectations, but it is worth watching.

Reviewed by Roman Drew January 7, 2019.

Love Potion No. 9

Fantasy Romantic Comedy

1992 Threatical Movie

Starring Tate Donovan, Sandra Bullock, Anne Bancroft, Dale Midkiff, and Mary Mara.

Written and directed by Dale Launer

Starting with original Clovers' version of the iconic Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller song, Love Potion No. 9, this movie puts a little magic into the mundane lives of research scientists, Diane and Paul.

Madame Ruth tells Paul that he will never know love, so she gives him a sample of Love Potion No. 8. It makes any woman who hears his voice fall in love with him and any man hate him for four hours. He shares the potion a coworker, Diane. He secretly loves Diane but is too shy to tell her. They experiment and discover that the potion does work exactly as Madame Ruth said, as long as it is diluted.

Marisa, a hooker, finds the potion and uses it on Paul. He gives her everything he owns, and then it wears off.

Diane uses the potion and gets a marriage proposal from an English prince. Then Gary, who only wants to bed Diane, discovers the potion and uses it on her. Paul tries to intercede believing that Diane truly loves him. But she is under the spell, and Gary plans to keep it that way.

Only Love Potion No. 9 can save the day.

From The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly to Mack the Knife, the song selections are perfect. Even though they are cliches, they make you smile. There is plenty of predictable running around, miscommunication, and botched plans, not belly laugh funny but quite enjoyable. Anne Bancroft steals every scene as Madame Ruth, even when she just sits still. Paul's houseful of amorous cats is fun. And Marisa empties the church, leading hundreds of men on a merry chase after she takes a swig of undiluted No. 8.

The portrayal of laboratory chimps is unrealistic. They aren't mistreated, but the scene must have been conceived by someone who has no experience with primates. However, it is funny.

This is good solid light entertainment. It does the iconic old song proud.

Reviewed by Roman Drew December 20, 2018.


1996 Threatical movie

Written by Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin. Directed by Jan de Bont.

Starring Helen, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes, and Jami Gert.

In 1996 storm chaser Jo, played by Helen Hunt, meets up with her ex, Bill, played by Bill Paxton, to sign divorce papers. But a tornado is on the rise and Jo has DOROTHY, a tornado recording device dreamed up by Bill before he went off to work as a weatherman. Jo, Bill, and Bill's fiance Melissa, played by Jami Gertz, hop into his truck and off they go chasing twisters. They have to beat rival Jonas, played by Cary Elwes before he deploys his version of DOROTHY. So, the chase is on.

Tornado after tornado defeat our would be researchers almost killing them several times. Miles of farmland gets eaten up, cows fly, and the remains of shattered buildings whiz through the air impaling things and crashing to earth, often right in front of speeding vehicles.

Twister is full of exciting special effects and great editing. The tornados feel real. Cars driving down the road never get boring. No scene lingers over long or gets cut too short.

The plot and characters are pretty predictable. If you are looking for sensitive, emotional development, this isn't the film to watch. But if you want a fun, exciting romp through death-defying weather, check out Twister.

Reviewed by Romana Drew November 15, 2018.

Nim's Island

2008 Theatical Movie

Kid's Adventure

Directed by Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin. Starring Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, and Gerard Butler

Based on Nim's Island by Wendy Orr

Twelve-year-old Nim Ruso, played by Abigail Breslin, lives on a tropical island with her marine biologist father, Jack, played by Gerard Butler, and a menagerie of animals. When her father is lost at sea and tourists invade the island, she emails Alex Rover, also played by Gerard Butler, for help. But Alex Rover is a fictional character created by agoraphobic writer Alexandra Rover, played by Jodie Foster.

Nim's Island is reminiscent of Swiss Family Robinson with a bit of Doctor Doolittle and Home Alone thrown in. But for the most part, it works.

The credits are reminiscent of a puppet show with cutout waves and boats on sticks. Although having a whale swallow a boat is a bit silly.

There are some rough areas. No one who loves animals would slingshot lizards at people. Alexandra Rover overcomes her agoraphobia too easily, and she gets from San Francisco to the island in an unbelievably short period of time. Sea Lions stink. Sleeping with one would be really smelly.

Nim is a self-sufficient girl who loves her father and her life. She climbs rocks and trees, eats strange plants and mealworms, rides zip lines, and meets every challenge with spunk.

Gerard does a great job as both the hapless father and the imaginary, tongue in cheek, Alex Rover.

Nim's Island is a fun movie to watch with the kids, or by yourself when you want some lighthearted adventure.

Reviewed by Roman Drew November 8, 2018.

Flight of the Navigator

1986 Theatrical Movie

Kids Science Fiction Adventure

Directed by Randal Kleiser. Staring Joey Cramer, Cliff De Young, Veronica Cartwright, Howard Hesseman, and Paul Reubens as the voice of Max.

In 1978, twelve-year-old David Freeman, played by Joey Cramer, falls into a ravine. When he climbs out, eight years have passed, but he is still twelve-years-old. His little brother is now a teenager, and although his parents are overjoyed to see him, he doesn't quite fit in.

Dr. Louis Faraday, played by Howard Hesseman, discovers that David's brainwaves can program computers to show pictures of spaceships and other highly technical information. At the same time, At the same time, NASA captures a crashed spaceship. The spaceship's pilot needs the navigational information in David's mind to get home. David needs to get back to 1978.

Although there is a spaceship, advanced technology, time dilation, time travel, and other things typically found in space adventures, The Flight of the Navigator never leaves Earth. David must thread his way though officials who want to study him and a family he no longer understands. Once aboard the ship, he must contend with Max, the eccentric robotic pilot.

Even though Max is only a light on the end of an arm, he has a great personality and rates as one of the stars of the movie.

This light-hearted move doesn't take itself too seriously. It is fast paced and full of fun, a great movie for kids.

Reviewed by Romana Drew October 28, 2018

Bednobs and Broomsticks

1971, 1976, 1996 Theatrical Movie

Kids Fantasy Adventure

Based on books by Mary Norton

Directed by Robert Stevenson. Starring Angela Lansbury, David Tomlinson, Ian Weighill, Cindy O'Callaghan, Roy Snart

Songs: Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman

During the blitz, Miss Eglantine Price reluctantly agrees to care for three kids from London, Charlie, Carrie, and Paul even though she is learning witchcraft through a correspondence school. When the school closes before sending her the last and most important spell, she and the children go in search of the school's director and the last spell, via a magic bed.

The 1971 theater version ran 117 minutes. That was shortened to 96 minutes for the 1979 release, and remade into a 139 minute version for the 1996 rerelease.

I am pretty sure I first saw the 1979, 96 minute version. This time I watched the 117 minute original release. It makes a difference. The added scenes, are long, repetitive, and do nothing to further the plot. For example, in the 96 minute version, the Portobello Road scene lasts a little over three minutes. The singing and searching for the spell move along at a good clip.

In the 117 minute version, Portobello road has ten minutes of dancing. At first, it is interesting but quickly gets repetitive as does some of the underwater dancing. Although, there is brief scene with a dancer who could teach Michael Jackson a thing or two about moon walking.

The live action/animation is a little primitive by today's standards, but it fits the movie. The animated soccer game was fun. But the battle at the end drags on for too long before anything happens.

This is a fine movie to watch with younger children, but I highly recommend the shorter version.

Reviewed by Romana Drew October 26, 2018.

1993 TV movie

Sci-Fi Comedy Thriller

Adapted from "12:01 PM," a short story by Richard Lupoff.

Directed by Jack Sholder. Starring Jonathan Silverman, Helen Slater, Jeremy Piven, Martin Landau

Barry Thomas, played by Jonathan Silverman, pines after coworker Lisa Fredericks, played by Helen Slater. He works in personnel shifting papers around. She is one of the top scientists working on a new but faulty particle accelerator. Barry finally gets up the courage to talk to Lisa at lunch. After work, he follows her out of the building, determined to talk to her again, but before he can get close, she is shot to death.

He gets drunk and falls into bed around midnight. At one minute after midnight, he reaches for the light next to his bed and gets zapped. He wakes up the next day, but it is yesterday morning, again.

Particle accelerators use electromagnets to send sub atomic particles, like electrons and protons whizzing along a tube so they can collide with other subatomic particles and get measured or photographed. If you can get past the ridiculous premise that a faulty particle accelerator can send the entire universe into twenty-four hour time loop, the rest of the movie works great.

With each loop, Barry gets closer to discovering who activated the faulty accelerator and better at wooing Lisa. The requisite plot twists and dead ends are clever and well executed. This is a fast paced, witty movie, with a somewhat predictable but charming ending.


1984 - Theatrical Version

science fiction - action adventure

Based on the 1965 Frank Herbert novel Dune

Directed by David Lynch. With Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides, Francesca Annis as Lady Jessica, Jose Ferrer as Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck, and Alicia Roanne Witt as Alia Atreides.

Dune begins with Princess Irulan, played by Virginia Madsen, explaining the relationships between the ruling houses and the importance of spice. These scenes are beautifully photographed, and Ms. Madsen gives a riveting performance. After that, it loses focus, turning into a jumbled mess.

The acting is great and special effects are lavish and spectacular, although a few scenes are not quite up to present day standards. On a big screen, the worms would be truly frightening.

Although, this movie is faithful to the book, it is way to short to do the story justice. The large cast and complex story just won't fit into 2 hours 17 minutes. Dune jumps from event to event without taking the time to flesh out characters or explain what they are doing or why.

I first watched Dune in a theater in 1984. I had recently read the novel, so my mind filled in the missing material. As I remember, I enjoyed the move. But that was years ago and the details of the story have faded. If my memory is correct, the 2000 TV mini series had a much better grasp of the characters and properly fleshed out the story.

I can't really recommend this movie unless you have just finished the novel. If you have never read the novel, give this one a pass.

Reviewed by Romana Drew September 18, 2018


2007 PG 13

romantic comedy - fantasy adventure

Based on the 1999 Neil Gaiman novel Stardust

Directed by Matthew Vaughn with Claire Danes as Yvaine, the Fallen Star, Charlie Cox as Tristan Thorn, the clueless hero, and Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia, the evil witch.

Tristen lives in Wall, named for the wall that divides England from the magical kingdom of Stormhold. When he sees a star fall into Stormhold, he promises to find it for the pretty, but flaky Victoria.

In Stormhold, he finds the fallen star is a beautiful woman named Yvaine. Unbeknownst to either of them, the necklace she wears has the gem the dying king tossed into the sky for his sons to find. Tristen wants to take Yvaine home as a gift for Victoria, as illogical as that might be. The king's sons want the gem so they can be king. And the evil witch, Lamia, wants to eat Yvaine's heart to gain everlasting life and beautify. So the adventure begins.

The king had six sons. As Stormhold tradition demands, only the remaining son may wear the gemstone and inherit the throne. So one by one, the sons kill each other. The ghosts of the dead sons follow the living ones around the movie making for some good tongue in cheek humor.

This is a lighthearted movie that doesn't take itself seriously. There are good performances by Peter O'Toole as the dying king and Robert De Niro as the cross-dressing Captain Shakespeare.

Even though the violence and risque humor are quite mild, it does deserve a PG13 rating. This is a gentle fun movie, definitely worth a watch.

Reviewed by Romana Drew September 10, 2018