Review – Petrificus Sequelitis (“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore”)

Well, this hasn’t been the best of times for J.K. Rowling and her Wizarding World of Harry Potter franchise, has it? Aside from her (*cough*) controversial tweets, 2018’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was an epic mess. Can she and past Harry Potter screenwriter, Steve Kloves, do this threequel justice? 

When last we left escaped prisoner Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp in 2018, now played by Mads Mikkelsen), he’d amassed an army of followers and fled to who-knows-where, while disturbed wizard Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) has been informed by Gellert that’s he’s really Aurelius Dumbledore, the bastard brother of Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law)! Yikes! But Gellert has a few tricks up his evil sleeve and it involves stealing a very rare magical creature called a qilin (pronounced “chillin”). This baby animal (which looks like a horse) can tell the future and that suits Gellert just fine as he plans on killing Albus by using his Credence as his secret weapon.

Why Credence? It seems that Gellert and Albus can’t fight each other due to a blood pact they took as teens. Anyway, Albus recruits his own army to go after Gellert. They are: Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his brother, Theseus (Callum Turner), along with muggle Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Hogwarts Professor Eulalie “Lally” Hicks (Jessica Williams), French wizard Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam), and Newt’s new assistant, shy Bunty Broadacre (Victoria Yeates). Gellert’s plan this time around is to rule through politics, and what better way than to usurp the ultimate power, that is, win the current wizarding election and become the Supreme Head of the International Confederation of Wizards! Bwaha-ha-ha-ha! 

Of course, trying to thwart his plans at every step are Newt and his gang who, unfortunately, aren’t having much luck. Since Gellert can now see into the future, he knows their plans. Yusuf Kama is planted as a spy in Grindelwald’s inner circle, while Theseus is kidnapped during a party and hidden away in a dangerous German underground prison. As Newt is attempting his brother’s rescue, Lally and Jacob barely escape a lavish party for Gellert where Jacob’s former lover, Queenie (Alison Sudol), is now Gellert’s henchwoman. Finally, Albus, his brother Aberforth (Richard Coyle), and the others converge on Bhutan in the Eastern Himalayas where the Supreme Wizarding Head will be voted on.

First the good news: the script by Rowling and Kloves is far and away much better than that jumbled mess from 2018. It’s less confusing, easier to follow, has more engaging scenes, the magical fights and SPFX are dazzling, and the characters are better defined. And for all you Potterheads out there, there’s loads of fan service for you (Hogwarts school! The golden snitch! The portrait of Ariana Dumbledore! Minerva McGonagall!). And let’s not forget David Yates is back as director and does an excellent job.   

Now the bad news: At a lengthy 142 minutes, its weakest link is that over-blown plot which, at many times, makes no logical sense. Given that magic is a reality in this world, so many things happen that could have been avoided or solved by a simple spell. Anyone who’s been a Potter fan for years would know this! It still suffers from some of the hiccups of the 2018 movie; trying to throw a bunch of useless stuff (padding) into this film that isn’t necessary. Still, with all those faults, I’ll take this movie over the other one. Mikkelsen is a great, understated Grindelwald and, as you can see in the opening five minutes, has a terrific rapport with Jude Law.

Although Redmayne and Turner haven’t changed a bit, it’s Jessica Williams who’s the highlight of this sequel, injecting some standout and fresh energy into the franchise. Fogler always gives great comic relief and Ezra Miller is so creepy he looks like a young Severus Snape! Jude Law has a bigger bite in this movie as the iconic Albus Dumbledore and really shows off his acting chops in several key scenes. Is it a perfect movie? No. Is it better than 2018’s blunder? Oh, yeah! 

**Now showing only in theaters 

Wizards of the Lost Kingdom (1985)

In the annuals of so-bad-it’s-good movies, this ranks right up there. Riffed by the good folks at MST3K on Netflix, this Roger Corman stinkeroo was an Argentinian/American joint venture with terrible acting, bad costuming, and laughably bad fight choreography. 

After a confusing exposition dump featuring clips from Corman’s other movies (Deathstalker and Sorceress), we are greeted to the peaceful kingdom of Axeholme, where lives Simon (Vidal Peterson), the son of Wulfrik (Edgardo Moreira), the king’s court wizard. But!! The evil sorcerer, Shurka (Thom Christopher) starts a coup, aided by the King’s evil wife, Udea (Barbara Stock), and then kills the king and imprisons the teen princess (Dolores Michaels). Before he is slain by Shurka, Wulfrik teleports Simon to safety, along with his guardian, an 8-ft tall Yeti-looking thingy called Gulfax (Moreira again). The problem is, Simon lost his dad’s powerful magic ring! Oh no!

While lost in the forest, Simon and the walking carpet (literally) Gulfax meet up with Kor (Bo Svenson), a snarky traveling warrior who decides to help the kid out. These three have a series of wacky adventures in the forest like: escaping from some bizarre insect-women, trying to resurrect dead warriors that doesn’t work, avoiding a cyclops wedding, and helping a forest hobgoblin against some lizardmen. Yeah, I know. Weird. While Simon and his friends are doing their thing, Shurka is going nuts back at the castle trying to find that magic ring while seducing (yuck!!) the teenage princess.

As Simon practices his magic, he and Kor bond and decide to take the castle from Kor by using the imprisoned townspeople as their backup support. As easy as pie, Simon finds his daddy’s ring, the castle is taken over by the warring townspeople, and Shurka is defeated in an anti-climatic fight that’s about as boring as it looks. All the “SPFX” are cartoons drawn over the film, so yeah, they’re none too impressive. Written by Ed Naha, who has an eclectic history of writing truly awful films like Trolls, Dolls, and Spellcaster; he also wrote the kids TV show, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, and The Adventures of Sinbad. It’s bad enough this movie is a pure schlock, paint-by-the-numbers, walking cliché, the director is Argentinian Hector Olivera, whose contributions to American cinema are a handful of laughable B-movies like Barbarian Queen, Cocaine Wars, The Night of the Pencils, and Play Murder For Me.

Really, if you want a laugh, check out this terrible film with its bad sets, cheesy costuming, weird storylines, and truly awful acting. The only ones of any note are movie vet Bo Svenson, who is obviously doing this for a paycheck, and Thom Christopher from TV’s Buck Rogers series. He mugs his way all over the film, having a good time, and nearly gets hurt when a faulty water prop explodes in front of him! He yells but keeps going, and it’s kept in the movie!  

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