Fantastic Beasts 3: The Secrets of Dumbledore

The Secrets of Dumbledore

The Fantastic Beasts series has been slow to pick up the pace. After a lackluster debut with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, which was an enjoyable movie but nothing groundbreaking, followed by The Crimes of Grindelwald (review here), which was thoroughly enjoyable but flawed in many ways, we now have an absolute winner in the form of the third installment, The Secrets of Dumbledore. It’s only just been released, and not yet released in some countries, so expect no spoilers in this review.

A couple of years after the events in Paris that took place in The Crimes of Grindelwald, we find an intrepid team of — in many cases slightly traumatized — heroes, trying to put a final stop to the rise and warmongering plans of Gellert Grindelwald. The role has switched from Johnny Depp to Mads Mikkelsen, just one of the many controversies surrounding this release. That said, while I personally felt that Depp made an excellent Grindelwald, Mikkelsen’s much more serious take on the role makes Grindelwald all that more menacing and threatening a villain.

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The House of Lost Horizons

The House of Lost Horizons

The House of Lost Horizons introduces (or reacquaints) Mike Mignola’s Sarah Jewell and Marie-Thérèse LaFleur. In this new story, the intrepid female detectives investigate murders in a house on an island. There is a storm, there is a vault filled with occult items ready to be bargained off. It’s not an original tale, but it has been masterfully presented.

Introduced in Rise of the Black Flame, this is one of the first times the lady detectives star in their own story, and it hits the mark straight out of the gate. You don’t need to have read their debut (which is for the best, considering the prices paper copies seem to go for these days), as there is just a passing allusion to The Black Flame Cult that will hit home with those who have.

No, all you need to do is pick up and enjoy this story, and live though the storm, just like the characters, to discover what the blazes is going on.

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The House with a Clock in Its Walls

The House with a Clock in Its Walls

I know I’m rather late to the part with a review of this most excellent diesel-steam movie, but it has only just appeared on Netflix (in Belgium); a fine time to remind the world that this fine film is indeed out there.

First of all, I have not yet read the book, so I couldn’t say how well it has translated to screen. But I will say that regardless of its written word origins, this film is everything I expect from a genre film. It’s adventurous, fun, there’s magic and mischief and monsters coupled with a setting that is both dieselpunk and steampunk. Set in the 1950s, it has that splendid midcentury feel with fashions of the era, oldtimer cars and diners.

Aside from that, it also has a magical house, a sentient chair, warlocks and witches and bad guys. It is wholesome, the kind of movie that makes you smile — and we could all do with more of that these days.

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The Witch-Crafting Handbook

The Witch-Crafting Handbook

Helena Garcia, known for her extraordinary creations on that fabled British baking show (almost) everybody watches, has published a new book. The Witch-Crafting Handbook is a compilation of beautiful illustrations, crafts and recipes. The latter are rather varied, as they range from skincare to haircare to beverages (most alcoholic) to baking.

Not only is this book varied; it has a distinctive witchy supernatural vintage flair to it, a little like we have come to know from Christine McConnell, for reference.

Although I will admit that I’m not much of a baker, I do feel that, reading through the recipes, most are not for novices in the kitchen. Indeed, many are quite material- or ingredient-heavy. If all goes well, you will get something fabulous out of it, but don’t expect anything quick and easy.

Even if you don’t end up baking anything, it is still a wonderful coffee-table book, or a fine inspirational addition to your personal library, if you’re into this kind of thing.

See for yourself if it’s your proverbial jam. We have a whole flip-through for you, so you can easily figure out if you want to spend money on a copy.

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Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop

Animated classics are usually best left alone. Live-action versions seldom live up to the original.

In rare cases, though, one does manage to reach that same level of brilliance. One of these is the Netflix live-action adaptation of that classic animated multi-genre space Western, Cowboy Bebop.

Cowboy Bebop only loosely follows the anime. Many characters are similar and some plot lines are repeated, but overall it can and does stand on its own. I have watched the anime (several times) and can assure you that you can go into this not having a clue as to what it’s about.

The series does not, as the name might suggest, revolve around a cowboy named Bebop. It refers to the fact that interstellar bounty hunters are nicknamed cowboys and the ship of this particular crew is called the Bebop. The initial two-man crew — Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir) and Spike Spiegel (John Cho) — are as cliché as it sounds: men on the run from their past and making a living apprehending bad guys for the fare. With limited succes. Add in Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda), a con-girl with a spotty past and a corgi, and you get a bunch of misfits that roam human-inhabited planets fighting evil, trying to find love and often literally themselves.

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Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise

What do you get when you mix a classic Disney theme-park ride with Indiana Jones and throw in some elements of The Mummy for good measure?

Right: Jungle Cruise.

If you missed it when it was playing in the cinemas, now you have another chance: Disney+ has lifted the movie’s paywall.

The creators took the best of the aforementioned films (and some of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest), stuck them in a blender, glued on the basic concept of the ride and went with it.

And it works.

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Vintage Halloween Graphics

Halloween Vintage Holiday Graphics

Happy Halloween everyone!

Going by our annual Halloween tradition, here’s a review of Vintage Halloween Graphics! It’s a compact, A5-sized little pictorial full of midcentury Halloween imagery. And contrary to last year’s Bogie Book (review here), absolutely one to add to your collection if you’re looking to add a vintage flair to your Halloween celebrations.

This book is especially fun because it has a bit of everything: costumes, decorations, advertisements, postcard designs… it’s all there.

If you’re searching for a profound history of Halloween, this is not what you need. But if you just want to look at pictures of the Halloween revelry of days past, I can definitely recommend this.

Don’t take my word for it, though! See for yourself, for I have put together a full flip-through of the book.

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The Dandy Medium

The Dandy Medium

The Dandy Medium is a gaslight-era adventure novel mixing good old-fashioned detective work with the supernatural and paranormal. And does a great job of it too!

Author Dez Schwartz takes the best elements from the genres he mixes, including a detective duo that can easily measure up to Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, but also more contemporary teams, such as Castle and Beckett, with excellent chemistry. Super powered characters that easily could have messed with the story, but don’t, because it’s so masterfully told.

I could go on for quite a while, but this is simple a great book. The story is well written, the pace is excellent, it twists and surprises, it has just the right volume of character and setting background to give you all the information you need and the characters just… work.

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The Sightless City

The Sightless City

Politics, science, intrigue, the supernatural and a murder mystery that seems to be at the heart of it. It sounds like an excellent combo and, yes, at first glance The Sightless City seems to have it all. But while the concept is good, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

It’s the same old story: warring states, races that don’t get along and an evil mega corporation with an evil mastermind who has been the big bad all along. A Moriarty this guy is not, because that would have made him a better villain. The lead character, Marcel Talwar, a former soldier, could be more like Sherlock Holmes, for he is a detective, but the comparison ends there.

The story does have a few very interesting characters, Talwar being one, feral want-to-be-engineer Sylvaine being another. A bunch of side-characters contribute to the story, but their background, like the setting’s, is sparse, jumbled and chaotic. There is enough to keep the story going, but the lack of depth and detail is disappointing. The Sightless City feels like a grand saga that is missing many of the pieces that would make it grand. In the end, it falls flat.

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