Enola 2 a showcase for Millie Bobby Brown, Armageddon Time is muddled, Estate a waste

Brown charms in convoluted Enola 2

If you're a serious Sherlock Holmes fan, avoid Enola Holmes 2 at all costs. This sequel, based on the YA book series by Nancy Springer, plays fast and loose with the canon established by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. No, these features are, by and large, used as a showcase for Millie Bobby Brown, the breakout star from Stranger Things who has taken her career by the horns, formed her own production company and produced the two Enola films. You have to tip your hat to the young lady as she's found the perfect vehicle to showcase her considerable talent.

Enola is trying to find a missing match factory girl, a mystery that ends up being much more than a simple disappearance. As with the first film, the story is far too complicated for its own good. Still, the production values are top-notch, the movie-making on display inventive, and seeing Henry Cavill as Sherlock Holmes is a hoot. However, Brown is the straw that stirs this drink, her charm and energy trumping the script's faults. Whenever she breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the viewer, we're in the palm of the hand of a performer with a very bright future. Streaming on Netflix.

Lack of focus muddles Time

There's no question that James Gray's Armageddon Time is a deeply personal project for the filmmaker. Based on his own life, it focuses on Paul Graff (Banks Repeta), a teenager struggling to find his place in a family he can't connect with and a school that doesn't meet his needs. His parents don't understand him, letting him get away with murder, his grandfather (Anthony Hopkins) the only one able to connect with him. When he befriends fellow troublemaker Johnny (Jaylin Webb), a Black student with a fractured home life, Paul finds himself dealing with issues he's not prepared for and unable to resist temptation that leads to further trouble.

As Paul's parents, Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong give strong performances. However, their characters aren't as fleshed out as they should be, leading to a sense of frustration. More scenes between them are needed to give us an honest representation of the Graff household. Hopkins, of course, does splendid work and the film comes alive when the three veterans appear. Repeta isn't up to the task to carry the movie, while the crisis of conscience he feels regarding the racism his friend contends with comes off as more of an afterthought than a significant life lesson. In theaters.

Estate not worth inheriting

After sitting through certain movies, I'd love to be able to sit down with the cast and ask them, "What the hell were you thinking?" Dean Craig's The Estate is one such debacle, a would-be comedy with a talented, veteran cast that should know better than to sign up for this sort of dreck. Did Toni Collette, Anna Faris, Kathleen Turner and David Duchovny think that perhaps this story of moral lowlifes who try to get into their rich, dying aunt's good graces would play better than it read? Or did they realize too late that Craig wasn't the sort of director that had the je nes sais quoi necessary to finesse his own script into something resembling passable entertainment?

None of the jokes land as the various nieces and nephews come up with one underhanded scheme after another to get the riches that are just out of their reach. This is the sort of film you look at in disbelief and a bit of embarrassment, the veteran cast floundering about in search of a single pithy line of dialogue or surprising plot point to cling to. Alas, nothing of the sort is to be found, The Estate a model of mediocrity. In theaters.

About The Author

Chuck Koplinski

Writing for Illinois Times since 1998, Chuck Koplinski is a member of the Critic's Choice Association, the Chicago Film Critics Association and a contributor to Rotten Tomatoes. He appears on WCIA-TV twice a week to review current releases and, no matter what anyone says, thinks Tom Cruise's version of The Mummy...

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