10   +   7   =  

For the better part of a decade, Harry Potter films packed out cinemas. If you thought that ended back in 2011, think again as the franchise sparks once more, alongside yet another attempt to adapt Philip Roth, some Paul Schrader madness, and a lot of aliens.

If it felt quiet of late, that’s because everyone is running in fear of the juggernaut that is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. A return to the world of Harry Potter, even one without Daniel Radcliffe and pals, is bound to dominate the box office. Scripted by J.K. Rowling herself and directed by Potter regular David Yates, it follows the adventures of Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander in New York’s magical community 70 years before Potter first reads his book. It cost a lot of money and is set to spawn numerous sequels but is it any good? Critics certainly seem to think so, not that it would make much difference to the financial success of the film either way.

Another week, another attempt to bring Philip Roth to the big screen. After last week saw American Pastoral wash out, we now have Indignation, the directorial debut from acclaimed screenwriter and producer James Schamus. Logan Lerman stars as a working-class Newark kid trying to make it at a small college in the ‘50s where he battles the dean on religion and steps into a sexual relationship with Sarah Gadon’s fellow student. Too dry and stilted, this is still a decent crack at Roth, lit up by excellent performances from Lerman, Gadon, and Tracy Letts’ dean.

Paul Schrader has never been one to pander to delicate tastes. His new film Dog Eat Dog is about as far from the all-ages fun of Fantastic Beasts and careful formalism of Indignation as can be imagined. An off-the-wall outburst of frenetic violence, camera tricks and unhinged performances, it follows a nominal kidnapping plot that matters very little. Instead, the fun comes from Willem Dafoe, Nicholas Cage, and all the extra madness Schrader layers on. It’s not good as such, but it’s certainly something.

It’s been a rollercoaster of new releases this week. If you need something steadier, you can always turn to Independence Day: Resurgence. Twenty years after the excellent original, the aliens are coming back and humanity, led by a hodge-podge of old characters and their children, must fight again. Almost an absolute re-tread of the first film, only with fancy new gizmos and a Godzilla style alien, it received a kicking on release this summer and hardly drew in the crowds either. For all that, it’s still a lot of fun. Anyone expecting a masterpiece should steer clear. Otherwise, what more do you want when settling in at home?

That’s all we have time for now. See you next week as love once again conquers all.

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