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Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Release Date:

May 6, 2022


Sam Raimi


Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Rachel McAdams

Plot Summary:

Dr Stephen Strange casts a forbidden spell that opens a portal to the multiverse. However, a threat emerges that may be too big for his team to handle.


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Disney’s Latest Star “Wish”



Ariana DeBose as Asha in Wish (Disney)


Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Wish” is an all-new musical-comedy welcoming audiences to the magical kingdom of Rosas, where Asha, a sharp-witted idealist, makes a wish so powerful that it is answered by a cosmic force—a little ball of boundless energy called Star. Together, Asha and Star confront a most formidable foe—the ruler of Rosas, King Magnifico—to save her community and prove that when the will of one courageous human connects with the magic of the stars, wondrous things can happen.

Ariana Debose as Asha in Wish (Disney)

Movie Review (no spoilers)

The film is inspired by Disney’s centennial, which ties together a central theme across most of the Disney-related stories — of wishes and dreams coming true. One can view it as the origin story for the wishing star, albeit a funny star. Disney delivers a feel good story filled with humor and the occasional teases and links to other Disney-related works. Ariana DeBose braces the big screen as the hero, Asha who discovers a sinister secret about King Magnifico and his use of the wishes.

Ariana’s performance performance is amazing and I enjoyed listening to the songs she performed. I foresee “This Wish” topping the charts at Spotify soon.

This Wish by Ariana DeBose (Spotify)

Chris Pine plays the part of King Magnifico and delivers a good performance as the villain. We hear him sing a song alongside Ariana, At All Costs.

At All Costs by Chris Pine & Ariana DeBose (Spotify)

The story delivers the usual fun characters that Disney brings along in all stories, amazing graphics of a magical world, and an amazing song library for everyone to listen to. This movie is excellent for young and old, delivering a feel-good movie for all. Wish is yet another treasure in the world of Disney.

I’m really excited for the next 100 years of Disney magic. The movie Wish has the potential to become a sequel, or even provide potential spin-offs exploring the wishes and dreams of others in the magical Disney Universe.

My wish is for more many more years of movie magic from Disney. What is yours?

My rating is a 4 out of 5 for Disney’s Wish. Watch at a cinema near you and join in the Disney centennial celebrations!

Wish Official Trailer (Disney)

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‘Haunted Mansion’ (2023) A Frightfully Fun Ghoulish Delight



This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, The Haunted Mansion movie being covered here wouldn’t exist. 

“Haunted Mansion” is Frightful Fun and an instant Halloween classic that’ll spook Foolish Mortals! With its eclectic ensemble, Grim Grinning Ghosts, and nostalgic references from the beloved attraction. Director Justin Simien & screenwriter Katie Dippold conjure a heartfelt story on loss and grief.

Inspired by the classic theme park attraction, “Haunted Mansion” is about a woman and her son who enlist a motley crew of so-called spiritual experts to help rid their home of supernatural squatters. Single mother Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) has moved into the antique house of her dreams with her nine-year-old son Travis (Chase Dillon). But not long after stepping into the home, they become blatantly aware of the spirited tenants occupying the creepy abode. Enlisting the help of grieving astrophysicist Ben (LaKeith Stanfield), Priest Father Kent (Owen Wilson), Medium Harriet (Tiffany Haddish), and haunted house expert Professor Bruce Davis (Danny DeVito), the gang hopes to put their heads together to rid the house of its supernatural tormentors. 


Welcome Foolish Mortals, are you prepared to step into the realm of the supernatural and macabre,  Disney’s “Haunted Mansion” Intriguingly, reinvigorates the timeless and traditional haunted house narrative, breathing new life into a genre steeped in history. Based on the iconic and beloved Disney attraction, this is the franchise’s latest instalment. The first was The Haunted Mansion released in 2003, starring Eddie Murphy and Marsha Thomason, back in the early 2000s, Disney attempted to bring their popular rides to the movies, and Pirates would go on to become Disney’s biggest live-action franchise ever whilst the Eddie Murphy-starring Haunted Mansion did respectfully at the box office despite disappointing results over the years, the film has gained a new appreciation from audiences and critics alike, transforming it into a cult classic. 

The film’s original audience has grown up, they are now introducing it to their children, cementing its place as a popular Halloween movie. The film regularly appears on tv programming during the Halloween season, is featured in Freeform’s 31 Nights of Halloween and is often included in lists of Best Halloween Movies in various publications to watch over the spooktacular holiday season.

Now twenty years later, home is where the haunt is as Disney opens the doors to the “Haunted Mansion” once again bringing the movie even closer to the ride through Director and previous Disneyland Cast member Justin Simien and The Heat/Ghostbusters: Answer The Call writer Katie Dippold and as I mentioned above both have conjured up a charming but spooky classic with mild horror elements and a contemporary twist, that ultimately becomes an exceptional cinematic experience that pays homage to its roots capturing the spirit (all 999 of them) 


The Mansion

When hinges creak in doorless chambers, strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls. Whenever candlelights flicker where the air is deathly still — that is the time when ghosts are present, practising their terror with ghoulish delight!

At the story’s heart, the mansion emerges as a pivotal important character, its presence looming large and ominous. Every creak of its floors, every flicker of its lights, and every concealed secret combine to form an eerie atmosphere shrouded in mystery. The first Haunted Mansion attraction has a long history from its conception as a walkthrough tour in the early 1950s. It First opened as a Disneyland ride in Anaheim, California, in 1969, the home was inspired by the now-demolished Shipley-Lydecker House in Baltimore City, Maryland. Built-in 1803, the white brick mansion featured Italianate columns and double wraparound porches with cast iron detailing. The ride would eventually inspire other variations across the world, including the one at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, in 1971, Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland in 2013, and my overall favourite and superior version Phanom Manor at Disneyland Paris in 1992.


Simien’s meticulous attention to detail brings this mansion to life as the set designs breathe life and death drawing audiences into a reverse seance. It weaves an intricate web of tension and anticipation. With each shadowy corner and echoing footstep, the film maintains an unwavering grip on its audience, igniting curiosity and evoking a constant sense of unease. production designer Darren Gilford brings Gracey Manor to life by studying the Bible of Imagineering which is the Disney department that designs and builds all of the theme parks and attractions. A trip to see the attraction was a must. Following a private experience on the ride after hours, the team walked through the attraction with all of the lights on for a true behind-the-scenes look during which they captured photos and took measurements.

They truly and authentically replicated the ride experience. The structure’s proportions were amplified to make it feel grander than the park attraction for cinematic effect. One aspect the film maintains is the feeling of entering the attraction. When guests are visiting the park and they go through the gates at the Haunted Mansion, there’s a very specific angle and the camera is spot on following the Doom Buggies track and what we see when we ride the attraction.

Throughout the movie fans of the ride will notice familiar design details in Gracey Manor, such as the golden snake door handle, striped wallpaper pattern, and eerie portraits. Another spectacular touch is the bat-shaped stanchion that’s modelled after the posts connected by chains which were designed for kids to hold onto as they navigate the Haunted Mansion ride in the dark. In the séance room, an antique balloon chair pays homage to the ride’s Doom Buggies.

Kooky Cast of Characters

“Haunted Mansion” performances are nothing short of captivating, breathing life and authenticity into the characters. It’s this ensemble, who is mostly stuck with each other, that makes the film so enjoyable. No matter what happens, it’s always appealing to watch how this group plays off each other. LaKeith Stanfield brings a real heart to “Haunted Mansion”, as Ben is still dealing with the loss of his partner Alyssa (Charity Jordan), has a great friendship with the young Travis, and has great comedic timing with the entire cast. It’s especially a treat to watch Wilson, Stanfield, and DeVito together in a scene. Haddish’s over-the-top approach to being a Psychic Medium fits well within the context of the film and provides some of the comedic moments. Rosario Dawson does battle with malign spirits and Chase Dillon’s performance is among the most emotional.


Grim Grinning Ghosts

“Haunted Mansion” has ghosts, ghoulies and all sorts of frights on offer and is packed to the brim with ghosts lifted directly from the iconic attraction. The notorious Hatbox Ghost, played by Jared Leto in the film, has a huge role, as does psychic-in-a-crystal-ball Madame Leota (Jamie Lee Curtis). other, subtler ride appearances include the portraits on the walls and the ghosts dangling from the dining room’s chandelier. The film also gives the Bride — aka Constance Hatchaway, a serial killer who murdered all of her husbands with an axe, and who now haunts the mansion’s attic — her time to shine alongside the Hitchhiking Ghosts Phineas, Ezra, and Gus.

The production worked with visual effects companies, specifically DNEG. Director Justin Simien very much wanted the film and its ghosts to be grounded. He appreciated the Poltergeist [movies], or The Shining, those kinds of eerie films where he very much stayed away from complete CGI with actual actors in place. The process truly made them look otherworldly and more ethereal. 

These ghosts are in detailed costumes and when you see them on screen, DNEG created an effect where when we see a ghost, the lit side of the ghost is opaque and feels like it’s there, and then as it goes into shadow you start to see through them to the skeletal structure underneath and see the room behind it. ectoplasmic effervescence. it’s like a phosphorescent algae and as you move, it starts to light up. It is interesting to see them as they move through their space and that’s when they start to have this little effervescence that comes off of them.

Symphony of Suspense

The role of sound design in “Haunted Mansion” truly captures the auditory weaving a haunting symphony, that’ll echo in viewers’ minds long after the final credits roll. From subtle whispers that raise goosebumps to crescendos of spine-tingling intensity, the soundscapes of the Haunted Mansion, Crump Manor, and New Orleans form a visceral, immersive experience that truly elevated the film to new heights.  

Kris Bowers hauntingly composes the chilling score/soundtrack for the film. Bowers pays homage to the Disney attraction and its famous “Grim Grinning Ghosts” tune whilst also making his mark on the feature. The score tinkers through ghostly organ sounds that are mixed with New Orleans Jazz. “Grim Grinning Ghosts” has been reinvented and has been used in a fresh new way that didn’t feel over the top, and It eerily honours the song and ride. that themes and motifs of the beloved attraction are either fleshed out or reworked into variations. Other times, the first four notes are used in a leitmotif, especially when the ghosts are doing creepy things. The organ becomes useful to call us back to the sound of the ride. The sound rebels also provide a variation of the iconic tune through jazz elements as sax-section moments are playing along with the orchestra.


Final Thoughts

Even if you’ve ridden the ride hundreds of times, Dippold finds fun ways to play off what we know and truly defy the expectations of what we have for this Mansion. It builds on the lore of the ride in such amusing ways, fleshing out characters that only get a passing mention, making them essential to the narrative at hand. The narrative of “Haunted Mansion” is labyrinthinely woven with layers of suspense and mystery waiting to be explored and uncovered. As the plot unfolds, each layer is carefully peeled away, revealing fragments and revelations making this haunted story thrillingly grip us. Dippold writes about these wonderful human moments that focus on pain but also on love. It is honestly so touching how much “Haunted Mansion” handles loss, death, and ultimately how to say goodbye to our loved ones who’ve passed.

Hurry back! Hurry back! Be sure to bring your death certificate… if you decide to join us. Make final arrangements now! We’ve been dying to have you… Overall as the curtains fall on “Haunted Mansion” Director Justin Simien’s creative mind has birthed an experience that extends far beyond the boundaries of the screen and truly made me want to ride the beloved attraction straight away albeit my favourite version of the Haunted Mansion which is at Disneyland Paris called Phantom Manor which I hope is on Simien’s list to continue this spooktacular franchise with, as this gothic version of the iconic attraction is steeped with lost love and family betrayal wrapped around Thunder Mesa.  

Simien’s history working at Disneyland was perfect for bringing this world to life. his love for the attraction can be felt through his directing, making things like the Hitchhiking Ghosts, the Stretching Room, and the floating candelabra leap off-screen. 

Enter brave mortals into this famous manor together

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Indiana Jones and the Dial Of Destiny – Review



James Mangold takes directing duties for the fifth and final adventure for Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones. Steven Spielberg stays on as executive producer, helping bring to life a new adventure in a very new era. It’s taken a while to get here, but now it’s ready for the world to see.

We join Indy in 1969 as he retires from teaching, but is immediately thrust into a race against time to retrieve the fabled Antikythera, a dial that can predict fissures time and invented by Greek mathematician Archimedes. Former Nazi astrophysicist Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) is also hunting down the dial, as is Indy’s god-daughter Helena (Waller-Bridge). Indy works with Helena in a shaky alliance to seek out the dial before Voller does, who intends to change the course of history and ensure a German victory in World War 2.

In a nutshell, a solid and enjoyable entry into the franchise that gives Indy a fitting and fond farewell. It sits comfortably beneath the golden trilogy and high above ‘Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull’ in terms of how it delivers. There is far less goofy humour, silly CGI action and cluttered cast.

The main man Harrison Ford delivers, as ever. 80 years old he may be, and yes, he is slower, more fragile and not able to do as much as he did in the past, but why should he? This is the final stage of his journey as Indy, and we’ve seen him grow through the decades. Mangold and the team don’t make light of Indy’s age but play it seriously and don’t have him do too much impossible action, letting Ford remind us how Indy is faring after a rather turbulent few years certainly feeling his age. But this does not mean Ford plays it gruff and grumbly; with his trademark twinkle and scowl, he injects warmth, humour and heart and quite possibly gives the most emotional performance for Indy across all five films.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge will ruffle feathers as she has a mouth, has hard fists and lots of spunk and isn’t afraid to bite back. She dominates her scenes and really pushes back against what Indy stands for, as she has her own personal motives and desires. But she takes a journey with Indy too, a simple arc that has her go from likeable, to not likable, and then a bit more likeable than before. Waller-Bridge attracts all the wrong kind of attention in the industry from many fans (often male) who can’t sit comfortably with her “strong, independent woman” schtick through her work than often has he pull apart established characters and films. She has that here a little bit, but certainly doesn’t de-rail the film and works well with Ford – two strong minded characters together make for a good bout of chemistry.

Sadly, we don’t have enough Mads Mikkelsen. It’s a crime when villains are underused in films and are just there to remind us that there are “bad guys” on the loose to push along the good. Mikkelsen is a fantastic actor, and plays the cunning, ruthless villain very well with menace oozing out of every pour, and has done through many blockbuster films. Here, however, his Nazi, Voller, needed more screentime to truly let us get under his skin, to allow him to become the threat that he eventually reveals himself to be. It’s just too little, too late when he really gets stuck into the meat of his motivation. That, if anything, is the biggest disappointment. He is a good mix of ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark’ Belloq and ‘The Last Crusade’ Donovan, but we just don’t get enough of him.

The wider support cast is not too bloated all do well – Ethann Isidore as Teddy, Helena’s Moroccan “Short Round”, is harmless and adds a little to proceedings without being irritating. Boyd Holbrook plays the rather violent trigger-happy henchman Klaber, and we have a warm return for John Rhys-Davies as Sallah who will generate the biggest smile from fans in his limited screentime. Antonio Banderas and Karen Allen are present, but in more blink and you’ll miss them sort of roles.

For Indiana Jones, the action has always been a benchmark for the genre. Innovative ideas, practical stunts and a big main sequence. In ‘Dial Of Destiny’, the action is good, but not great. It’s safe. The opening 20mins set in 1944 and in / around an exploding castle and loot train harkens that classic Indy thrill. The main story has lots of chases from the New York ticker-tape parade, the Morocco tuk-tuks to the minimalist Mediterranean boat and airplane sequences. There is nothing very memorable about them; they deliver, but not to the extent of feeling real danger, seeing real stunt performers, or matching the scale of the ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark’ truck chase or the ‘Temple Of Doom’ rope bridge.

This goes hand-in-hand with the CGI. In 2008, ‘The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull’ abused what CGI can offer and sent the world of Indiana Jones into cosmic realms and near physics defying absurdity. It’s good to see ‘Dial Of Destiny’ tone that down and use CGI to enhance certain locations and add a safety net around Ford and the others in the action. Granted, he’s 80 and can’t do as much as he did 42 years ago, so this blanket of CGI to protect him makes sense. It’s noticeable in parts, mostly during the shaky de-aging sequence, but never feels done to excess.

We have a decent score by the maestro John Williams who brings back riffs from past films, but never brings anything too memorable to this entry. Again, all very safe.

As you can see, the theme of this review is “safe”.

DOD doesn’t take big risks or make bold choices in where the story goes. It perhaps should have done in the third act. You think it will go one way, a sweep of emotion and “will they, won’t they”… and then it swerves somewhere else. And regarding the third act, it’s a shame that it feels rushed. As a send-off, it’s more fitting than those crystal skulls, but it came about rather abruptly, and it did not have that same swell of goodbye that TLC did so perfectly. Shaving time from the heavy second act would have been better, reducing the time of generic investigative exploring to focus on the sequences that deserved more time to hit hard.

Yet, it’s hard not to find enjoyment in this adventure romp. Big, bad Nazis are out to scupper the free world and our beloved grizzled leather jacket clad hero needs to punch lots of them in the face (and have lots of people shot?) to stop them, to a score of orchestral pomp and heroic risks. It’s good fun – safe, comfortable Indy fun and it doesn’t disappoint on the whole to deliver one last adventure.

Indiana Jones and the Dial Of Destiny is on general release from today

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