‘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 Shape of Water’ Film Review

Grade: A

Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water (2017)

As we get closer to Oscar night (March 4 this year), the time for seeing the nine ‘Best Picture’ nominees is slowly, yet surely, reaching to a close. Whether certain films are still being screened a week or two after that fateful event is up to the studios distributing these films, and how comfortable they are booking more screenings after the winners are announced; which is why I am glad to have finally got a chance to see Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘The Shape of Water’. Nominated for thirteen Oscars including Best Picture, ‘The Shape of Water’ is a romantic fairy tale for adults that only the man who directed both ‘Hellboy’ and ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ could come up with. I especially have heard that this has been a passion project of his for quite some time. It may just be another ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tale, only this time, it is an homage to creature features from the fifties (‘Creature From the Black Lagoon’), and a love letter to the golden age of cinema while somehow being drenched in fifties nostalgia.

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‘Gifted’ Film Review

Grade: B-

Gifted Movie Poster

‘Gifted’ stars Chris Evans and Mckenna Grace as uncle and niece who give us, the audience, sweet moments of chemistry as Evans’ boat mechanic, Frank Adler, does everything to keep Grace’s stubborn, yet extremely intelligent Mary, happy. Whenever we see those moments (that only Fox Searchlight Pictures could show), we feel the heart and emotion shine through. Especially when we have to sit through scenes of courtroom drama that feel real.

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‘Hidden Figures’ Film Review

Grade: A-

Hidden Figures Movie Poster

Oscar season may officially be over, but there are still a few more films to see. ‘Hidden Figures’- Directed by Theodore Melfi, and based on the non-fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly about the three female mathematicians and engineers who helped the late John Glenn become the first astronaut to orbit around Earth – was the choice of film to catch in theaters with my best friend on our usual movie night, and surprisingly, it ended up being a great watch. Watching these three women (Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, and Oscar-nominee Octavia Spencer) overcome racial segregation in the early 60’s while becoming the hard-working and tough-willed women that helped them get the job done and make history is satisfying. (As Kevin Costner’s director of the Space Task Group, Al Harrison says after destroying the sign for the ‘Colored Ladies’ restroom “In NASA, we all piss the same color.” – Ridiculous as it sounds, it is true!)

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