Film now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital

By Lynn Venhaus

A charming origin story with a winsome Timothee Chalamet as a joyful chocolatier with grand ambitions, “Wonka” is a super-sized old-fashioned musical. It’s a sweet treat for families, but also anyone who is captivated by pure imagination.

While the British-based film might not soar to exciting uncharted horizons, it has a comfortable, whimsical feel amid its eye-popping magical world.

After traveling the seven seas gathering exotic ingredients, a young and poor Willy Wonka (Timothee Chalamet) dreams of setting up a candy shop in London, but discovers that the industry is run by a cartel of greedy chocolatiers.

As a prequel, there is no foreshadowing of a darker candy emperor, but a hint of the eccentricity and mischief Gene Wilder displayed in 1971’s now beloved “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory,” or Tim Burton’s weirdness in the 2005 Johnny Depp take “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” — just a sincere motherless son who will need pluck and luck to overcome the many hurdles in his path.

Inventive writer-director Paul King gave us a most enchanting double-shot of “Paddington” and “Paddington 2” that we didn’t know we needed in 2014 and 2017 — but were so grateful to receive (don’t miss the sequel and thank me later).

Inspired with the best of intentions, he approached Roald Dahl’s 1964 novel, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” with a big-sized heart.

Leaning into the anticipation of a fanciful adventure, he gives us a storybook tableau that’s part Dickensian London and part funhouse.

He’s also enlisted a splendid supporting cast to boost the entertainment value, with Keegan-Michael Key as the shady police chief who has a chocolate addiction and Rowan Atkinson, aka “Mr. Bean,” as a chocoholic priest.

Featuring exaggerated performances by a cadre of villains, the meanies are just obnoxious, not terrifying, starting with Oscar winner Olivia Colman as a cruel captor, Mrs. Scrubbit, who foils lodgers into signing rigged long term labor contracts. Character actor Tom Davis plays her boyfriend, “Bleacher,” a hulking enforcer.

The main trio of bad guys are a chocolate cartel straight out of old-timey melodramas – Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Prodnose (Matt Lucas), and Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton). They can’t have competition in the form of a wide-eyed world traveler, eager to elevate candy-making to high art.

They do everything they can to block him. But Chalamet’s Wonka is such a charming dreamer that he quickly forms friendships with the other downtrodden captives, and their newfound family bond will help him through many pickles he gets into while trying to succeed.

Calah Lane plays his orphaned wingman, Noodle, and they are a beguiling duo. Jim Carter, familiar to “Downtown Abbey” fans, is a kind leader in the sweat shop, Abacus Crunch.

Stealing the show, however, is Hugh Grant as an annoyed Oompa Loompa, sporting a green wig – yet dances with glee.

The script was co-written by King’s frequent collaborator Simon Farnaby, who is also an actor known for the British version of “Ghosts.” He plays a goofy zoo security guard here. There are many good-natured dollops of humor, especially sight gags.

Six original songs are featured in the movie, composed by Joby Talbot, who worked on “Sing” and its sequel, and his former Divine Comedy bandmate, lyricist Neil Hannon. “A World of Your Own,” “A Hatful of Dreams,” and “For a Moment” are solid tunes that add flavor to the story.

While no one is going to mistake Chalamet for Josh Groban, he does an adequate job, eliciting a few tears from me with his heartfelt rendition of “Pure Imagination.” Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse’s classic is evergreen.

The big number establishing the chocolate rivalry is “You’ve Never Had Chocolate Like This (Hoverchocs)” and it’s a dandy in execution.

This new release is somewhere in the middle between the 1971 and 2005 films but offers an amusing and fresh perspective on a delightful story. And was a pleasant diversion amid more bombastic and edgy fare.

And if you didn’t get any candy at the concession stand beforehand, you’ll be craving a confection soon enough. An Everlasting Gobstopper won’t suffice – must involve a cacao bean,

If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it, Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it…

A sentimental, nostalgic and earnest “Wonka” has all the ingredients to be a big crowd-pleaser, especially with its adorable reveal in the finale.

“Wonka” is a 2023 musical fantasy adventure film directed by Paul King and starring Timothee Chalamet, Hugh Grant, Olivia Colman, Keegan Michael Key, Rowan Atkinson, Sally Hawkins and.Calah Lane. It is rated PG for some violence, mild language and thematic elements and the runtime is 1 hour, 55 minutes. It was released in theaters Dec. 15 and as of Feb. 27, is now available on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Code, 4K Ultra HD + Digital Doe, VOD and Digital. Lynn’s Grade: B

Blu-ray extras: “Unwrapping Wonka: Paul King’s Vision”; “The Whimsical Music of Wonka”; “Welcome to Wonka Land”; “Hats Off to Wonka”; “Wonka’s Chocolatier”: Chocolatier Gabriella Cugno provides an in-depth look at the creation of the beautiful chocolates seen in “Wonka.”

By Lynn Venhaus
Zippy and clever, “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is a cross between a fun family adventure with the Griswolds and a fast-paced sci-fi thriller in the mold of “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.”

With Phil Lord and Christopher Miller the producers, Oscar winners for the innovative “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and creators of “The LEGO Movie,” you expect good humor, creative animation and funny people voicing the characters, and they raise the bar once again. Writer-director Mike Rianda delivers a work that is not only entertaining but surprisingly warm-hearted.

An ordinary family finds themselves challenged to save the world from a robot apocalypse. Creative daughter Katie (Abbi Jacobson) has been accepted into the film school of her dreams, so her nature-loving dad (Danny McBride) insists on a family road trip to get her there. Upbeat Mom (Maya Rudolph) and quirky younger brother Aaron (Mike Rianda) are along for the ride when the machine uprising begins – oh, and their squishy pug Monchi too. They connect with two simple-minded robots to save humanity, combating smart phones, roombas, evil Furbys and renegade appliances.

Families can recognize themselves in the characters, which Rianda and co-writer Jeff Rowe have lovingly crafted, while its cautionary tale about unchecked technology, over-reliance on social media and losing connections with those you love the most is a valid one.

The contrast between the Mitchells – throwbacks to ‘60s and ‘70s sitcoms, complete with beat-up station wagon and roly-poly dog – with the high-tech modern world is well-drawn and thought-provoking.

The colorful animation is, of course, next level, in its action sequences and visual effects. Its vibrancy and sight gags are worth a second viewing. An Easter egg for St. Louisans, the Arch is one of the landmark attractions seen across the U.S.

The voice actors ideally suit their characters, with the well-meaning but dorky dad voiced by Danny McBride an excellent foil for exasperated Katie, ready to try her wings at college, played by comic actress-writer Abbi Jacobson of “Broad City” fame and a veteran of Upright Citizens Brigade. SNL’s Beck Bennett, Fred Armisen and Conan O’Brien are funny as tech voices, with the biggest surprise Oscar winner Olivia Colman as the mad mastermind PAL. The actress, best known as Queen Elizabeth in “The Crown,” is a terrific villain.

The charming and delightful “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is a welcome vehicle to gather the whole family to watch – and all too rare these days for such a broad shared experience.

THE MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES – Mike Rianda as “Aaron Mitchell”. Cr: ©2021 SPAI. All Rights Reserved.

“The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is an action comedy animated feature, directed by Mike Rianda. Voice actors are Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Mike Rianda, Eric Andre, Olivia Colman, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Conan O’Brien and Charlie Yi.
The film is 1 hour, 53 minutes and is rated PG for action and some language. Streaming on Netflix beginning April 30.

Lynn’s Take: A

By Lynn Venhaus
Without sentimentality, “The Father” depicts a man’s growing dementia and the sheer terror of the disorientation he feels as he doesn’t realize what is happening as he loses his grip on reality. In a bravura performance, Anthony Hopkins draws us into his world as we are caught as off-guard as he is.

Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) is a learned, successful man who refuses his daughter Anne’s (Olivia Colman) assistance as he ages. He begins to doubt her and other loved ones as he tries to make sense of what’s going on around him. The story is adapted from the play by Florian Zeller, who has directed this film

Many families endure these same situations as matriarchs and patriarchs age, so this is a relatable journey that hits close to home as we watch a proud, intelligent, successful man decline and his family feels helpless in response.

Because of the film’s honesty, it is a hard watch, but its shared humanity is what gets us through the experience.

Florian Zeller, who wrote the 2012 play, “La Pere” in his native tongue, won the 2014 Moliere Award for Best Play in France. The play went on to open in London and on Broadway, with Frank Langella winning his fourth Tony Award for his performance as the title character.  The English translation by playwright Christopher Hampton, Oscar winner for “Dangerous Liaisons,” is what is used for the film adaptation.

With sly editing and deft production design, we are kept guessing about the time and place, and what’s going on in Hopkins’ residence and in his head.

Because it is adapted from a play, “The Father” can’t really outgrow its stage constraints.

The ensemble is first-rate, particularly Olivia Colman as his adult daughter. We feel her pain acutely.

Both Hopkins and Colman have received much acclaim for their performances, and with Oscar nominations March 15, one can predict their names will be on the short lists.

While Hopkins, one of our finest actors, has an incredible range as a performer, it is in this film’s final 10 minutes where he gives everything he is capable of and leaves us shattered.

As “The Father,” it is perhaps his best work in a storied career, including an Academy Award for the creepiest villain of all-time in “The Silence of the Lambs” and last year’s Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in an astute portrait of former Pope Benedict in “The Two Popes.”

This is a film that will linger for a long time.

“The Father” is a 2020 drama directed by playwright Florian Zeller. It stars Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams, Rufus Sewell, Mark Gatiss and Imogene Poots. Rated: PG-13 for some strong language, and thematic material, its runtime is 1 hour, 37 minutes. It is in theaters on March 12.