Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)

We are in desperate need of a fantasy movie renaissance, and I truly hope “Honor Among Thieves” is the one to lead the charge. It takes a true D&D fan to really know how to bring this universe to life and director John Francis Daly rises to the challenge brilliantly. “Honor Among Thieves” is one of the more refreshing genre pictures of 2023; it’s a movie that is filled with so much appeal for any audience. I dare say that it might even open the door to a new generation of players.

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The End (2023) [CINEJOY 2023]

Well if “The End” doesn’t look like material for a hilarious animated feature, I don’t know what does. “The End” is a hilarious and fun short animated film in the vein of “Looney Tunes” and “Shrek” in which the classic fairy tale is re-invented and de-constructed in to a short that’s teeming with potential for something much bigger. “The End” feels like a proof of concept for a feature length version, but if it isn’t, it works wonderfully as a clever and unique re-imagining of the classic fairy tale.

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Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings (2021)

Director Destin Daniel Cretton’s adaptation of the 1973 action comic book is Marvel Studios in its wisest. Their inability to grab top tier superheroes from their stable has enabled them to lend a spotlight to some of the more obscure and less featured superheroes from their universe. Thankfully the focus slides over to “Shang-Chi” one of their most dynamic and down to Earth superheroes who has proven a mainstay since his inception in the seventies and is brought to life in a truly exciting cinematic debut.

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The Pagemaster (1994)

When I was a kid whenever councils or committees tried to encourage kids to read, they always invented some kind of mascot, and for me it was Cap’n O. G. Readmore. Every Saturday morning after the cartoons, he’d show up to remind kids to read, and explain how much fun reading was. “The Pagemaster” has good intentions but deep down it feels disingenuous and an awful lot like a glorified Saturday Morning special turned in to a big feature. At barely eighty minutes in length, it’s a mediocre, dreary, occasionally boring film that you can’t help but feel like it could have been shown as a TV movie.

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Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016) [Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital]

alicethroughFor the five people that loved Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” Disney decides to give us yet another take on Lewis Carroll’s tale, as Alice ventures in to Wonderland to travel through time. And literally tries out run it as she experiences the oncoming specter of adulthood and hard decisions rearing its ugly head at her. Stepping in for Burton this time is James Bobin, who manages to assemble virtually the entire cast from the first film to tell what is essentially a very convoluted and incredibly tedious movie. Truthfully, director Bobin’s film isn’t as bad as Burton’s first film, but Bobin spends so much time trying to Burtonize his sequel, he forgets to inject any kind of entertainment in to the nearly two hour drama adventure.

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Dragon Wars: D-War (2007)

d-warShim Hyung-rae’s action film is a great concept with many possibilities that is never realized in to a watchable movie. While it’s not the worst movie of 2007, it’s an ill conceived film better suited for more forgiving Kaiju buffs. Shim Hyung-rae’s “D-War” is a confusing, poorly written, convoluted mess that only exists to host average CGI monsters, all of which are the actual stars here. Shim Hyung-rae’s film seems much better suited for cable, as its jumbled storyline tends to snuff out any momentum of action or suspense; it does sport one of the most droning prologues in cinema history, after all. “D-War” tends to fall in to repetition as a sloppy bit of fantasy filmmaking that it can never really decide what story it wants to tell. This meandering narrative does nothing but foreshadow future events, and the almost endless flashbacks hoping to bind the story into coherence fail and collapse in on themselves.

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Dragonheart (1996)

dragonheartRob Cohen’s “Dragonheart” is a film that was admittedly a favorite of mine when I was growing up. When it first premiered on cable, I recorded it on VHS and would watch the movie at least five times a week. Years later, “Dragonheart” is still a fun and rollicking bit of family fantasy fare. It’s by no means a masterpiece, but if you’re in the mood for a nice and breezy fantasy adventure with a hint of menace to it, you might enjoy what Cohen brings to the table. This is also one of the very few buddy action movies involving a human and a dragon, both of whom make up a bickering pair of friends that find common ground and a common enemy.

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The Neverending Story (1984)

neverendingstoryIN LIMITED RE-RELEASE September 4th and September 7th – Wolfgang Peterson’s fantasy epic is a tribute to the thrill of reading and a pretty excellent meta trip in to the human psyche that can often help build the worlds we read on the page. “The Neverending Story” takes great strides in delivering a unique fantasy experience, and it’s nice to see Peterson aiming for something different in a decade where every studio wanted their own “Star Wars.” Despite being adapted from the novel and embracing its format, “The Neverending Story” feels a lot like an experience you can find with “The Princess Bride” in which we get to experience such a vast world that is brought to life with the thrill of storytelling.

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