Diana Vacc Sees “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

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by Diana Vaccarelli

*Be warned – this review may contain spoilers*

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is J.K. Rowling’s prequel to the Harry Potter books and takes place seventy years before them. It’s no secret that I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, one of the results of which is that going into this film I had high expectations. Would this film hold up?

THE GOOD:

  • The creatures are made with careful thought and imagination. They’re the most realistic CGI critters yet. Watching this film, I definitely felt not just as though they could exist but that the ones I was seeing did exist.
  • The performance of Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne as Newt is stellar. Is there anything this guy can’t do? Everything I’ve seen him in has made me feel that he was  perfectly cast in the role.
  • The story went in a direction I was not expecting. I don’t want to give too much away, but let me say this: I was shocked by the character of Graves (portrayed  brilliantly by Colin Farrell).
  • The writing is everything I wanted from J.K Rowling. She gives us a story that stands comfortably on its own while also illuminating the “future” world of Harry Potter with perfection.

THE BAD:

  • Believe it or not there is something about this film that I didn’t like. That was the transition of Colin Farrell to Johnny Depp as the character Grindlewald. Colin Farrell was perfect in his portrayal throughout the film, and to end it with Johnny Depp taking over the character was a huge jolt. Especially since Depp certainly didn’t perform as well as Farrell.

THE REST:

  • If you’re a fan of Harry Potter’s world of Witchcraft and Wizardry, then this film definitely is for you. It’s the perfect way to bring everything we love about Harry to this holiday season. (Except I still miss the boy, you know?)

Diana Vacc sees “Arrival”

by Diana Vaccarelli

 *Be warned – this review may contain spoilers*

mv5bmtexmzu0odcxndheqtjeqwpwz15bbwu4mde1oti4mzay-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_When I heard Arrival scored high on rotten tomatoes, I had to see the film for myself.  This film follows a linguist as she is recruited by the United States Military to assist in translating an alien language.

THE GOOD:

  • The writing of this film is top notch.  Written by Eric Heisserer and adapted from Ted Chiang’s short story, Story of Your life, Arrival starts out in what I perceived to be the past but it is in fact the future. I love how Heisserer tells the story of not war and bloodshed but one of struggle to communicate and learn from the alien visitors and how the world worked together.  The direction the story takes is, in a word, genius.
  • The actors have done an incredible job in this film. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner as Dr. Louise Banks and Ian Donnelly have incredible chemistry as the linguist and mathematician forced to work together to decipher the alien language. Adams gives a heartfelt, deeply emotional performance that definitely worked on me and my own feelings.
  • Bradley Young’s cinematography is brilliant and brings back the old days of science fiction in film, most notably 2001: A Space Odyssey. Each scene is breathtaking to watch and contributes to the tone of each scene.
  • Ultimately, the true brilliance in this story is how the alien race teaches us human beings to truly communicate with one another.

THE BAD:

  • This has to be one of my favorite films of the year. Hence, there is nothing bad in this film.

THE REST:

  • If you have been longing to see a truly classic science fiction film, then this is for you.  Go and see Arrival and you will be entertained – and moved – from start to finish.Diana Vaccarelli is the TVWriter™ Critic-at-Large and, in case you haven’t noticed, a HUGE Outlander fan. Learn more about her HERE

Diana Vacc sees “Inferno”

A perfect sample of the thrills, chills and excitement you'll see in Inferno

A perfect sample of the thrills, chills and excitement you’ll see in Inferno

by Diana Vaccarelli

*Be warned – this review may contain spoilers*

Tom Hanks reprises his role as our favorite religious conspiracy Professor Robert Langdon in Inferno. This time around he wakes up in an Italian hospital with no memory and has to team up with a Doctor to stop an evil plot that will threaten the world.

THE GOOD:

  • The production did a great job with locations. It was truly beautiful scenery. The way it was shot made you feel like you where in Italy with Tom Hanks.

THE BAD:

  • Let’s start with the acting. To be blunt it’s was extremely cheesey.  Now, I love Tom Hanks – who doesn’t? But in this film there is only one word for the performance, and that is – oh, you guessed it (must’ve seen the film): CHEESEY!
  • Oh Boy! Talk about dull writing. The script can only be described as laborious and slooowww. There isn’t an exciting moment to be had.  Nothing about the story kept me from being fully engaged with only my popcorn.

THE REST:

  • I can’t in good conscience recommend this film to anybody for any reason. You are, of course, free to go to any theater that still is showing this dog and judge for yourself, but if I were the guaranteeing sort I would absolutely guarantee that you will wish you hadn’t.

Diana Vaccarelli is the TVWriter™ Critic-at-Large and, in case you haven’t noticed, a HUGE Outlander fan. Learn more about her HERE

Diana Vacc sees “Designated Survivor”

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by Diana Vaccarelli

                   *Be warned – this review may contain spoilers!*

This TV season has a familiar face back on the screen in Designated Survivor – Kiefer Sutherland, also, perhaps better. known as  24′s Jack Bauer

This time around Sutherland is the protagonist of the tale of a low-ranking cabinet member becoming President of the United States after a horrific terrorist attack wipes out most of our government. After which – of course! President Sutherland has to save the day.

The only questions I had as I tuned in were, “Will he be saving our butts Jack Bauer style?” And, “OMG! What if he doesn’t? What will this show do?”

THE GOOD:

  • The premise is deliciously terrifying.  What would happen if the U.S. government’s most experienced leaders were in fact wiped out? Who would take the reins? And considering this election season, when so many variations of this scenario have seemed close to hand, the concept brings reality to the show, at least for me.
  • Showrunner Amy Harris and her writers bring in topics that are being discussed in our news outlets right now. For example, a scene regarding innocent Muslims being attacked by overzealous police.
  • The cast of supporting characters is brilliant. Natascha McElhone as Sutherland’s wife brings a calm to a drastic situation.  Adan Canto and Italia Ricci as feuding Chiefs of Staff have incredible chemistry. You can see the groundwork for a future romantic relationship building, and I’m looking forward to watching it play out.

THE BAD:

  • Welp, here’s the thing. In some ways Sutherland does play his President like Jack Bauer. And in some ways he doesn’t. In Designated Survivor he is more timid and less intense. Which is a real shame because it just doesn’t work. It’s like watching the same old character after he’s been gelded. The performance is, in a word, lackluster. Please excuse the expression but this show would be much more interesting if our hero went either one way – quiet, smart – or the other – buttkicking – balls out.

THE REST:

I love so much of what Designated Survivor is giving us yet feel simultaneously so disappointed that I don’t think I can make a recommendation. Watch it and then tell me in the comments: Is this show a yes or a no?

Diana Vacc sees “This is Us”

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By: Diana Vaccarelli

*Be warned – this review may contain spoilers!*

The 2016 fall television season is in full swing.  I got microwaved my popcorn the other night and watched the highly touted new NBC show This Is Us.

This Is Us at this point has seems to have a simple premise: The show gives us a glimpse in the lives of a group of people who share the same birthday. Twins Kevin and Kate. Lawyer Randall. Married couple Jack and Rebecca. But the glimpses themselves are all about surprising twists.

THE GOOD:

  • Finally! Network television has come out with a show that is so original I couldn’t help but grin.  And the twists! Let me put it this way: The ending of the pilot episode is guaranteed to shock and surprise you. My mouth was wide open at the end in very pleasant astonishment.
  • The performances of all the actors are stellar. I hope the Emmy committee is still watching broadcast TV because in this one episode alone every performance needs to be acknowledged.
  • The writing of the show is more than twisty. It is original and brilliant.  Dan Fogelman, writer and producer (known best for Crazy, Stupid, Love) gives us a series everyone can relate to. No matter who you are in life there is a character here that, quite simply will remind you of…you. Even if you aren’t an obese woman working on losing weight and getting healthy, a famous actor struggling with moral issues regarding his career path, or a black man abandoned by his birth parents the day he was born, you’ll find yourself relating.

THE BAD:

  • I tried my utmost to find a flaw in the first episode of This Is Us, but, honestly, I couldn’t. I related, I enjoyed, I can’t wait to see more.  the first time!

CUTTING TO THE CHASE:

Do you want to watch a show that is honest, talks about issues that affect families today, and makes you think? If so, then This Is Us is for you.  I’m so excited that mainstream television finally came out with a show that feels new and original, instead of giving us yet another retread.

Put this one on your DVR list, find yourself a snack, and watch. I’ll betcha dollars to the proverbial donuts (not that I would eat such an unhealthy snake, of course) that you’ll have a smile so big you’ll feel it spreading across your whole face!

Diana Vacc sees “Snowden”

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by Diana Vaccarelli

              *If you haven’t viewed this film yet be warned this review may contain spoilers!*

As another step in our march through the Awards Season, I went and saw Snowden.  This film follows a story some of us are quite familiar with: NSA analyst Edward Snowden and how he leaked the NSA’s illegal surveillance techniques.

THE GOOD:

  • The performance of Joseph Gordon Levitt as Edward Snowden is Oscar worthy as he not only got the voice and speaking rhythm right but physically changed into this man. 3rd Rock from the Sun is long gone from him now. Way to go, JGL!
  • The writing of this film by Oliver Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald is a thing of beauty.  Stone and Fitzgerald bring this controversial news story to life. Watching this film made me think long and hard about the reach our government’s eyes and ears have and how all of us need to fight for our privacy.

THE BAD:

  • This film does present a few key questions, but the most important one is this:  How authentic is it? Especially regarding Snowdon’s attitude and motivation. Was he a patriotic hero or a traitor? A little bit of both? In terms of humanity, that’s possible; none of us, after all, is all good or all bad. But legally? Morally? Ethically? How can we know? Where can we find facts to support or explode the film’s POV on the matter?

CUTTING TO THE CHASE:

Do you want to see a film that centers around our right to privacy and how we need to protect it? Snowden offers that.  But is this entertainment or propaganda? It’s an Oliver Stone film, after all, and this aspect of his track record is mixed.

This time around, the entertainment factor definitely is present. But be careful. If you do not want to be provoked into re-examining some very thorny issues, tread with caution. If you do – this film is a must-see.


Diana Vaccarelli is the TVWriter™ Critic-at-Large and, in case you haven’t noticed, a HUGE Outlander fan. Learn more about her HERE

Diana Vacc sees “Sully”

by Diana Vaccarelli

*Warning: this review may contain spoilers!*

sullyFrom Blockbuster/Tentpole Season to Award Season. The earth keeps turning, and Hollywood’s studios are putting out their best work as each tries to garner the top awards.

Sully tells the true story of the “Miracle on the Hudson” when  pilot Chesley Sullenberger became a hero after he made an emergency landing of his limping jetliner on the river and saved everyone on board.

THE GOOD:

  • The acting by Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart as Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and his Co-Pilot Jeff Skiles kept me engaged and rooting for the characters. Their chemistry as friends and co-workers completely worked. I definitely felt that they’d been working together for years.
  • The story was particularly interesting because of one of the most controversial things about it: The addition of fictional material regarding the FAA investigation of the landing. The film has gotten some static for supposedly “over-emphasizing” the idea that the investigators were “targeting” Sully, but for me this definitely amped up the tension. Literary license in action!
  • The Direction by Clint Eastwood made me feel as though I was a part of the flight and its aftermath. This fellow knows his stuff. I foresee a big future for Mr. E.

THE BAD: 

  • The pace of the film was slow and the focus drifted all over the place. The film kept backtracking from the investigation to the flight and then back again, over and over, and at times it was way too confusing.

Overall, I give this film 3 out of 5 stars.  Interesting but unfocused. (Maybe that reminded me too much of my own life?!)

HAPPY AWARDS SEASON! Enjoy the Movies!