‘The Witches’ (2020) Film Review

Grade: D

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Anyone who remembers watching Nicolas Roeg’s 1990 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book The Witches at a young age could tell you how truly horrifying of an experience that is. I was never one of those kids that grew up with it, but it exceeded in gruesome practical effects and an eerie nature that could give any child nightmares. What Robert Zemeckis does with his version, however, is far from horrifying. Instead, it relies heavily on the CG that he is so used to using. I am not saying that his version is not prone to terrifying the youngest of kids, but that it is hard to beat a hideous looking witch when you have Anne Hathaway’s cartoonish wide sharp-toothed smile rendered in the silliest of effects.

The story is the same: A young boy whose parents have suffered a demise goes to live with his loving grandmother who is aware that witches exist in the world with only one purpose: To rid the world of children by turning them into the most helpless of animals, mostly mice, then crushing them. What follows is nearly a recreation of the 90’s film with only a few changes (including one that Dahl’s readers might find taken from the source). At most, The Witches is lighthearted fare, from its choice of music to the grating narration of Chris Rock recalling the time he, as a young boy (Played by Jahzir Bruno), and his grandma (Octavia Spencer) encountered their share of witches, led by the Grand High Witch (an over-the-top Hathaway relishing in the glamour of it all).

As the story goes, the witches have come to the hotel the boy and his grandmother are staying at under the guise of the RSPCC, in order to enact their evil plot. While playing with his pet mouse, the boy hears of the plan, only for the witches to discover him by sniffing him out with the Grand High Witch turning him into a mouse. Yet, he and his mouse Daisy (Voice of Kristin Chenoweth) escape with the help of a boy named Bruno (Codie-Lei Eastick), who has suffered the same fate.

There is no doubt that Zemeckis’ take on The Witches is inferior to Roeg’s film, yet what keeps me from writing it off as an abashedly awful remake is the charm it brings once the talking mice come into play and the family dynamic, which I found the least bit heartwarming. However, this is just me being generous. Kids will love watching it with their parents, yet I cannot seem to recommend it for anyone who really loved the original film. As someone who found the original average, what Zemeckis has accomplished is the ability to make me appreciate Roeg’s efforts a bit more.

The Princess and the Pilot – Mini Review

A Pleasant Enough Film

For the eighth season of #AniTwitWatches, I decided to host a movie night and the winner of the public vote to decide what to watch happened to be The Princess and the Pilot. Didn’t know much about this film going in, so wasn’t sure what to expect from this film. As you might imagine, the 2011 feature follows a princess as she is transported by a lone pilot in hostile territory during a time of war. It’s a quiet film peppered with moments of action. While not bad, it’s a bit plain.

Really, that’s the long short of things here. The Princess and the Pilot isn’t a film I regret watching, nor is it something I’d recommend you give a pass to, but I find it hard to just outright recommend. It does just enough to be spared feeling totally average, while simultaneously being so obviously constructed that it doesn’t bring much of its own flavor to the table.

The one exception to this is the dogfight sequences, or really any time the plane is utilized in the film. These kind of anime are more rare, so it’s nice to see them. However, the action sequences, though brief as they are, do deliver. The tension is there and the right amount of emphasis is placed on each moment.

As a result, the slower, more intimate parts of the film where our pilot and princess talk to each other feels appropriate. The two characters don’t really part from the “two different worlds” story, which is further contrived with the shared history between the pair, but their interactions are earned with growth felt between both of them. Still, I can’t help but feel there was more opportunity here that went ignored.

There isn’t much else to say about this one. I know I haven’t exactly painted The Princess and the Pilot as the most exciting film, but if you have a free afternoon and are looking for something fairly straightforward to watch, this’ll fit the bill just fine. Likely, you’ll enjoy yourself but find that the film is underwhelming despite the premise. Final verdict, worth the one-time watch on a rainy day.


That’ll do it for this review of The Princess and the Pilot. What did you think of the film? Share your thoughts in the comments below and consider joining me on Twitter @JS_Reviews for the next watch. If you enjoy my writing please check out my Patreon or make a one-time donation via Ko-fi utilizing the buttons below. Until next time, thanks for stopping by!

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‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ Film Review

Grade: A

Jessie Buckley in I'm Thinking of Ending Things (2020)

If there is one thing that makes Charlie Kaufman such an interesting writer, it is his exploration of the human psyche and what makes the mind tick. Whether it be the fulfillment of desire/longing to live another life (Being John Malkovich), what we decide to do with our memories both good and bad (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), the dedication of achieving an ambition (Synechdoche, New York, Kaufman’s directorial feature), or finding meaning in a life filled with monotony (Anomalisa, which Kaufman also directed). The films which Kaufman has written for may be quirky, existentialist fantasies, yet somehow, they feel as real as can be. The characters Kaufman creates are just ordinary people, though it takes a certain fantastical situation to help dig in to the recesses of their minds as to make them relatable, whether they achieve their goals or not.

The same could be said for Kaufman’s newest feature I’m Thinking of Ending Things, based on Iain Reid’s debut novel, which hit Netflix on September 4th. Like Kaufman’s earlier works, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is yet another mind-bender about the human psyche that deals with existentialism, identity, and how we perceive relationships told through the inner monologues of a young woman (Jessie Buckley) as she goes off to meet her boyfriend Jake’s (Jesse Plemons) parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) during a snowstorm. As expected from a Charlie Kaufman film, things take a turn for the psychologically bizarre.

How else can I describe I’m Thinking of Ending Things without spoiling anything? It is a film that requires you to accept the eerie bizarre reality of its protagonist’s mental state, where one event twists into a completely different outcome in the strangest of ways, until we find ourselves pulled into its deteriorating state of psychosis. I cannot guarantee that I’m Thinking of Ending Things will go down easy with the average viewer, especially with scenes that feel as if they could halt the movie in its tracks, but it will give fans of Charlie Kaufman the satisfaction of questioning everything they have seen.

Alien: Covenant: A Tale of Two Tales (An Average Conclusion)

Long is the way and hard, that out of hell leads up to light

John Milton, Paradise Lost

As the level of anticipation for this last Alien entry has risen to be nearly palpable, so too rises the level of disappointment of the movies overall. Looking back over the series, you can track the quality of the movies and almost create a roller coaster ride with the line connecting them. The thunderous beginning of the series, followed by twists and turns and corkscrews in the movies that come after. All of these aspects inevitably ending with this movie: a slow and sad end of the ride. Ending a series with a movie like this reminds us all of lessons taught repeatedly throughout many franchises in the last decade: a simple premise  CANNOT uphold 40 years of movies and still remain as fresh as the start. I’m pretty bad at analogies involving roller coasters, but I’m pretty good at being bitter and jaded about movies, so let’s end this project with Alien: Covenant.

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Prometheus: The New Testament, But At What Cost? (An Avg. Part 7)

[it] wasn’t what we thought [it] was; I was wrong, we were so wrong…

Audiences in the first viewing that wanted to see an Alien prequel, 2012

The final phase is here: a long-awaited end is in sight to this series and my damned Alien project. It’s been quite a ride to bring opinions to you about movies your parents liked and then pretended to only like one or two of. Weathering two very different versions of dead franchises is no small feat, and we can all be thankful that the task is almost over. But before we go back to exclusively watching Disney movies and participating in the end of the world pandemic, there are two more movies in this franchise to discuss. All of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men had gathered together to allow Damien Lindelof and Ridley Scott to answer the question people never truly wanted answered: just what was that spaceship? And who was that jockey from the original Alien? With the last movies before us, let’s begin the conversation about Prometheus.

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Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem, The Bad Slasher Movie (Average Pt. 6)

What the ****? Where did this come from? Where the hell did this movie come from?

Liam O’Donnell, creative consultant for AVP R, on the AVP franchise, 2017

Posting has been rather infrequent the past two weeks, and I think I would owe a lot of that to whatever the hell movie it was that I watched for this review.

Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem is no one’s first choice. I can only hope that it was not yours, and it definitely wasn’t mine. There is always at least one movie in a franchise where one has to ask why it was made, and that is where you have a great possibility of losing your audience: Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem is one such movie. It is simultaneously a cheap and expensive burning of money on the screen and most probably felt that when leaving the theater (as of writing, AVP R stands at a 12% critic score and 30% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes). Scenes are incredibly poorly lit, CGI was passable but still bad for the time, and the acting seemed like it came straight out of a Friday the 13th movie. Let’s break it down:

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Alien Vs. Predator: the Filler Crossover Event (An Average Pt. 5)

[The movie would] kill the validity of the franchise; To me, that was Frankenstein Meets Werewolf.

James Cameron on Alien vs. Predator, 2006

The first half of the series is wrapped up, and that mean the good movies are behind us. If there is one thing to count on going forward, it is a downward spiral of wacky nonsense. Long gone are the truly memorable moments when Ripley is running through corridors and we are unsure of her safety. Long gone are the great comedic lines from Bill Paxton, and the funny screams from milk-blood Lance Henrickson. From the mid-point onward, we are awarded with attempts at a high action/low attention span arc in the franchise that will have you laughing more than crying over the corpse that is Alien. Now, onto Alien vs. Predator:

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‘Da 5 Bloods’ Film Review

Grade: B-

Da 5 Bloods (2020)  When it comes to political and social issues, no one is less afraid to speak his mind than Spike Lee. As controversial as his viewpoints may be for some, it is clear that the messages he is trying to send resonate with most people, making him one of the most influential living directors. ‘Da 5 Bloods’ is his newest effort in making a statement about race in the form of four elderly war veterans who return to the jungles of Vietnam to work on some unfinished business left behind by one of their own as their journey threatens to tear them apart.

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Alien Resurrection: The Mid-Series Finale (An Average Review)

In all seriousness, Alien: Resurrection was, I thought, the lowest I could ever feel. And then they cancelled Firefly.


Joss Whedon on SYFY Wire, 2013

It’s finally here: Spring is making its way into Summer, school is out for me and all of the other kiddos, and we have finally hit a major point in the Alien franchise. After the long wait for my trembling, tired fingers to finish with finals for yet another year of college, we can fumble our way through the mid-season finale that is Alien Resurrection. The movie isn’t quite as interesting as the first, isn’t quite as fun as the second, and is not nearly as interesting of a behind-the-scenes as the third; this fourth installment finally sets the original Ripley epic to rest. From Jean-Pierre Jeunet of The City of Lost Children and Joss Whedon of Avengers fame, comes the french proof of concept for Firefly that no one asked for. Let’s dig in.

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‘Artemis Fowl’ Film Review

Grade: F

 I have never seen a book-to-film adaptation so flimsy, chaotic, and silly in its execution such as Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Artemis Fowl’. Keep in mind! This is coming from someone who has never read the books by Eoin Colfer, let alone even aware of its mythology. All I knew about it was that it was centered on a child thief named Artemis Fowl and the secrets he has to unlock. I am sure that it was one of the books I have wanted to read in my childhood, but never had a chance to. A feature film was inevitable and was in development since 2001, but never saw the light of day until its first teaser hit in 2018. Though, it had been pushed back from August 2019 to August of this year, only to be released just yesterday on Disney+ due to the Coronavirus.

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