I Advanced to the Theater to Go See ‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’

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So much honorableness in one frame! (CREDIT: Paramount Pictures/Screenshot)

Starring: Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Hugh Grant, Chloe Coleman, Regé-Jean Page, Daisy Head, Jason Wong

Directors: Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley

Running Time: 134 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Release Date: March 31, 2023 (Theaters)

I’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, so my previous cultural exposure to this franchise is mostly the Community episodes built around it. To the point that in the leadup to seeing Honor Among Thieves, I kept wanting to call it Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. So… was this movie better than the first Greendale edition of D&D? Of course not! But was it better than the sequel episode, “Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”? Eh, I guess so.

I ate mozzarella sticks and drank Mountain Dew while watching. It turns out that Doing the Dew is about as treacherous as the quest these characters went on.

Grade: A Sufficient Amount of Dragons and Emotional Beats

What’s Our Appetite for ‘Gretel & Hansel’?

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CREDIT: Patrick Redmond/Orion Pictures

Starring: Sophia Lillis, Sam Leakey, Alice Krige, Charles Babalola

Director: Oz Perkins

Running Time: 87 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Stylized Pools of Blood

Release Date: January 31, 2020

Once upon a time there was a critic who was skeptical about the prospect of a randomly arriving adaptation of a classic piece of folklore, but he was open to the possibility of being surprised. So he headed into the woods, or rather, a multiplex in the middle of Times Square where he was greeted by The Hunter – the Orion Pictures logo. There was much rejoicing, for this symbolized a legacy of memorable genre cinema.

“I am an independent woman, but I also love my little brother,” said this version of Gretel over and over, or at least she might as well have.

“I loved The VVitch, and I think it’s a good idea to emulate it,” said cinematographer Galo Olivares.

Then The Witch (not The VVitch) appeared, and she lured the children in, as we all knew she would. As she won over her charges with promises of great feasts, she gradually revealed her true nature. She offered Gretel allyship, but at what cost? Was this to be a woke retelling of an evergreen tale?

Not really, but neither is it anti-woke. Sometimes, purely evil forces lurk about to prey on the desperate, and sometimes, satisfying cinematic visions come from the unlikeliest and humblest of places. With decadent set dressing and lavish production design, those hungry for fulfilling fantasy returned home mostly pleased.

Gretel & Hansel is Recommended If You Like: A fantastical feast for the eyes

Grade: 3 out of 5 Ovens

Movie Review: For Better and Worse, ‘IT: Chapter Two’ Goes Full Stephen King

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CREDIT: Brooke Palmer/Warner Bros.

Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Jay Ryan, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff

Director: Andy Muschietti

Running Time: 169 Minutes

Rating: R for Bloody Clown Chomps, A Few Stabbings, Nervous Vomiting, and Creepy Nudity

Release Date: September 6, 2019

IT: Chapter Two is solidly built upon a foundation of a melancholy truth about human existence. When we’re young, we may vow to keep what’s important to us as children just as important when we became adults. But somehow, some way, we all forget some of the things we once held dear, while also remaining stuck in some of the patterns we thought we would eventually grow out of. The Losers Club of Derry, Maine represent the epitome of this mercurial attachment to the past. And so it is that 27 years after their first series of misadventures, they must return to once again defeat the supernatural evil entity that terrorizes their hometown.

This melancholy setup is an apt formula for psychological agony mixing with real in-your-face terror, but the trouble with Chapter Two is that so many of the scares are so scattered from the overarching purpose. Winged insect-bird hybrids popping out of fortune cookies and an old naked lady who turns into a floppy-breasted gargoyle are plenty creepy in and of themselves, but these moments just keep piling onto one another as a series of random horror set pieces, and the effect is eventually exhausting. Even some of the moments that actually feature Pennywise (like a gay couple being beaten up by a mob only to then fall victim to the clown or a cute little girl bonding with Pennywise over facial deformity) are effective mini-movies unto themselves, but they could have easily been cut without losing the main thread involving the Losers. Their story of coming to grips with what won’t leave them alone is effective when the full-to-bursting script actually focuses on them. Ultimately, IT: Chapter Two is decidedly overambitious and overdramatic, but it is a fascinating mess, embracing Stephen King at his weirdest and most extra.

IT: Chapter Two is Recommended If You Like: The most unfiltered Stephen King adaptations

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Hidden Memories

This Is a Movie Review: IT (2017)


CREDIT: Warner Bros.

I am surprised that I haven’t come across more (or any) takes of IT that talk about how big a deal abuse is. Because as far as I can tell, that is what the whole thing is all about. Like, I’m pretty sure Pennywise is a metaphor for an entire town poisoned by a legacy of abuse. And that is what makes this movie scary. Every member of the Losers Club has a home life that ranges from sad to actively dangerous, and then when they go out into town, they are beset by shockingly violent bullies, who themselves are the victims of brutish parenting. It makes sense that Bill steps up as the leader, as the worst his dad does is refuse to confront his family’s loss head-on. The relative stability in that unit is allowed to be rocked by the death of younger brother Georgie because abuse has a long tail.

IT often presents its abuses and the responses to it with some combination of baroque and grotesque. Bev’s sexual advances from her father are met with their bathroom being filled with buckets of blood. Eddie’s mother, who fuels his hypochondria, is not just obese, she is so abnormally shaped that it looks like she has a bunch of balloons under her dress. The evil in IT is both morally and aesthetically ugly. In the town of Derry, it only makes sense that a force of pure evil would take the form of a smiling, dancing clown.

I give IT (2017) 400 Floats of 500 Too’s.