M3GAN (2023)

January 5, 2023

Greetings again from the darkness. Dolls are the new Clowns in horror. Okay, that’s not actually true since there is a long history of creepy dolls coming alive. Do you remember “The Twilight Zone” 1963 episode “Living Doll” featuring Talking Tina (voiced by the late, great June Foray, known for Rocket J “Rocky” Squirrel, Cindy Lou Who, Granny in the Warner Bros cartoons)? More recently we have experienced Chucky in CHILD’S PLAY (1988) and ANNABELLE (2014), and in a much less frightening style, the many dolls and playthings in TOY STORY (1995). This new generation is brought to us by director Gerard Johnstone (HOUSEBOUND, 2014) and the writing team behind MALIGNANT (2021), Akela Cooper and James Wan. Of course, new generation means high-tech, so this one injects the Artificial Intelligence from Alex Garland’s EX MACHINA (2014).

The tone is set from the beginning as we open on a “Saturday Night Live” type parody of TV advertising for a product PurRpetual Pet, furry critters that talk and poop while being controlled from an app (like everything else these days), and are guaranteed to outlive their owner, thereby eliminating grief. The manufacturer is Funki Toy Company, where Gemma (Allison Williams, GET OUT, 2017, and the daughter of national news anchor Brian Williams) is the head of the robotics department. Gemma’s workaholic lifestyle and commitment to career is rocked when she must take guardianship of her eight-year-old orphaned niece, Cady (Violet McGraw, “The Haunting of Hill House”). Having no clue how to parent or even relate to a child, Gemma fires up her advanced prototype, M3GAN (Model 3 Generation Android), a lifelike synthetic, learn-on-the go robot meant to bond with one person … and in this case, parent Cady in a way that allows Gemma to stay focused on work. And yes, things don’t go according to plan.

As a caution, the first half hour (after the fake TV ad) is a bit dull; however, the pacing and entertainment value jump significantly once M3GAN comes home with Gemma and Cady. Sure, it’s kinda campy, and even funny at times, but M3GAN’s look and mannerisms are sufficiently creepy, even if her subtle eye movements and facial gestures are much more fun than her over-the-top protection of Cady. Amie Donald and Jenna Davis combine to deliver M3GAN’s physical movements and vocals, respectively. Even with it’s too-obvious jabs at corporate greed and parenting via tech, the film is likely to be a hit with teenagers, especially once it hits streaming platforms. Grown-ups aren’t likely to find it as appealing, although most every movie lover will admit this one trumps the annual tradition of lousy horror releases in January.

Opens in theaters on January 6, 2023

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TURN EVERY PAGE – THE ADVENTURES OF ROBERT CARO AND ROBERT GOTTLIEB (2022, doc)

December 29, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Writing well is difficult. Very few are really good at, even though many of us try. Editing well is difficult. Very few of us put much effort into it and it shows. Documentarian Lizzy Gottlieb uses her inside track to provide a fascinating look at the relationship between writing and editing at the highest level. Her father, Robert Gottlieb, is one of the most renowned literary editors of the past 50 years, and his relationship with Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist-turned-biographer/author, Robert Caro, goes under the microscope. The result is an insightful peek behind the curtain of their process.

Ms. Gottlieb spent five years on the film, and the two subjects set the ground rules … they refused to be interviewed together in the same room. Because of this, the film begins with each man providing their own personal profile, dating back to their childhood and how they began honing their particular set of skills. Mr. Caro speaks to his newspaper background and how he transitioned into the years long process writing his 1974 classic, “The Power Broker”, a massive biography of Robert Moses and the development of New York City. Ms. Gottlieb provides a contemporary point by noting the book’s COVID resurgence, as it’s frequently seen on the bookshelves of folks during Zoom interviews.

Mr. Gottlieb recalls his first interview and job at Simon and Schuster, and how he worked his way up to Editor-in-Chief at the publishing house, prior to holding the same position at Knopf Publishing, and The New Yorker. Estimating that he has edited between 600 and 700 books, it’s fascinating to hear his recollections on coming up with the ‘22’ for Joseph Heller’s classic, “Catch-22”. Gottlieb also edited such fine writers as Michael Crichton and Toni Morrison, while also fine-tuning a most unusual personal collection unrelated to books.

Most importantly, we get the sense of Mr. Caro’s incredible dedication to deep research in the segment about his multi-volume biographical series, “The Years of Lyndon Johnson.” It’s a bit stunning to witness Caro show his process of utilizing actual carbon paper for copies of all the work he types out on his Smith-Corona. He makes no apologies for being old school in his approach to work.

Ms. Gottlieb’s goal was to document the two men finishing up Caro’s final volume of the LBJ series. Both men are in the 80’s and have worked together on 5 books spanning 50 years … and though the film does end, the final book remains a work in progress. Caro’s literary agent Lynn Nesbit admits the two men’s relationship has been contentious at times, and they’ve been known to have some colorful battles over punctuation … especially semicolons.

This is not a true bio of either man, but rather an expose’ of their working relationship and the painstaking process of completing a book. Their shared commitment to the highest level of work speaks to the pride, ego, and intelligence of each. One of my favorite lines comes from Mr. Gottlieb when he states, “He does the work. I do the cleanup.” The director does finally succeed in getting the two men on camera in the same room for editing … with one big catch. And that comes, of course, after a frantic hunt for a number 2 pencil.

The film opens on December 30, 2022

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BABYLON (2022)

December 23, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. It’s 1926 and a movie mogul is planning yet another massive debauchery-filled industry party at his palace of a home in still-developing Bel-Air, California. Lest we have any doubt that this party is over-the-top, we are forced to witness the handlers of the main attraction – a circus elephant – get sprayed from the wrong end as they push the colossal beast up the hill. Once the party starts, things get even crazier. Orgies, drugs, nudity, wild dancing, and a golden shower and drug overdose in the room of a Fatty Arbuckle type … yes, this opening party sequence lasts 20-30 minutes, and occurs before the opening credits. The only touch of class is the old school Paramount logo.

Writer-director Damien Chazelle (Oscar winner, LA LA LAND, 2016) sets the stage for his wild and frenzied epic meant (I think) as a tribute to early Hollywood and the uneasy transition from silent films to talkies. Of course, that topic has been handled in other prestige films – recently with THE ARTIST (2011), as well as the classic SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952). It’s the latter which serves as a template or guidepost for Chazelle, to such an extent that he shows clips from it, quotes it, and even has a couple of his characters share similarities with Lina Lamont and Don Lockwood.

From the moment she crashes onto the party scene, this becomes Margot Robbie’s movie. Fully engaged doesn’t begin to describe how she embodies the Nellie LaRoy character. Nellie is a displaced Jersey girl desperate to break into showbiz, and she pursues stardom with everything she has to offer. Nellie is a risk-taker and literal gambler, and the character is supposedly inspired by the infamous Clara Bow. It’s at that first wild party where she meets both Jack Conrad (Oscar winner Brad Pitt) and Manny Torres (Diego Calva). Conrad is a huge silent movie star, and also a boozing womanizer with the accompanying swagger (supposedly based on actor John Gilbert). Manny, though a much quieter soul, is much like Nellie in that his ambition is to work in the movie business. The two discuss their dreams while tearing into mounds of cocaine.

Nellie’s fearlessness in front of the camera (much like Ms. Robbie’s) pays off as the offers roll in and she makes her name. She and Manny periodically cross paths as he climbs the ladder towards studio executive. We also keep up with Jack Conrad and his stream of wives, and how things begin to change with THE JAZZ SINGER and the advent of talking motion pictures. While all this is happening, the film also (sorta) follows the career of jazz trumpeter Sidney Powell (Jovan Adepo) as he builds a career as a black performer on screen. One of the more interesting characters who we wish had more screen time is Lady Fay (played by Li Jun Li). We are rarely treated to a Chinese lesbian chanteuse, and she makes each of her scenes quite fascinating.

Others in the cast include Olivia Wilde as one of Jack Conrad’s many wives, Lukas Haas as an industry guy, Eric Roberts as Nellie’s hustler dad, Pat Skipper as William Randolph Hearst, and Max Minghella as the legendary Irving Thalberg. They are each fine, but none as memorable as Tobey Maguire (also a producer on the film), who has a funny/creepy cameo as a fictional giggling gangster named James McKay. However, it’s Jean Smart as Elinor St John, a gossip columnist in the mold of Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, who has the film’s best scene when she deals the hard truth to Jack Conrad. Ms. Smart seems to excel in every role she takes these days, and this may be one of her best, albeit with limited screen time.

The issues with the film have nothing to do with its entertainment value and outrageous moments or with the performances. Each of those things keep us watching. It’s only when we stop and think about it when the problems come into focus. Most blatant is the love story between Manny and Nellie. They actually spend very little time together after their cocaine feast. Certainly not enough to fall in love. There is a ‘blackface’ scene unlike anything you’ve seen before, and in 3 hours and 8 minutes director Chazelle follows up the projectile elephant poop with vomit from a drug overdose, vomit from something other than a drug overdose, a urine stream, and rattlesnake venom. At times it seems like he wanted to see just how much he could get away with.

Chazelle collaborators from LA LA LAND include cinematographer Linus Sandgren composer Justin Hurwitz, and Film Editor Tom Cross, all three are Oscar winners from that film, and all provide superb work here. The technical aspects of the film are terrific, it’s as a story (or stories) where things unravel. It’s simply bloated and overly ambitious, while having some of the frenetic pacing of Baz Luhrman’s MOULIN ROUGE! or THE GREAT GATSBY. It appears filmmaker Chazelle is attempting to reinforce cinema is art as a spectacle, when most of us don’t require more proof. The movie montage at the end is fun to watch, but strikes this viewer as a bit indulgent after a long movie. Buckle up for a wild ride and enjoy the good stuff.

Opens in theaters on December 23, 2022

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CORSAGE (2022)

December 23, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Royals are having a moment. Well, actually, the Royals have had a few hundred years of moments … but now, they are having their moment in the entertainment world. It seems almost everyone watched “Downton Abbey” and now “The Crown”, and last year we saw Kristen Stewart’s Oscar nominated performance as Lady Di in SPENCER. Of course, there have been countless other films focused on Kings and Queens and other royal types, and now writer-director Marie Krutzer (THE GROUND BENEATH MY FEET, 2019) serves up a (mostly) fictional account of Empress Elisabeth of Austria from the 19th century.

Vicky Krieps (PHANTOM THREAD, 2017) delivers a wonderful performance as Empress Elisabeth, also known as Sissi. It’s late 1877 and we follow her through one year of life … the year she turns 40. Now that’s an age that generates consternation amongst many, but for an Empress obsessed with age and beauty, and one considered a fashion icon of the era, it’s nearly traumatizing for her. She struggles with her weight and though she’s not often seen in public, she constantly worries about the people’s perception of her physical appearance. This leads to the torturous tightening of her corset (referenced in the film’s title).

Filmmaker Krutzer presents Sissi as the epitome of a life of entitlement, and one who has little purpose or happiness. Her young daughter and older son are mere afterthoughts to her, and instead she pursues hobbies such as horseback riding and fencing. Her marriage to Emperor Franz Joseph (Florian Teichtmeister) seems mostly absent of love (although history tells us otherwise), and his affairs feed her insecurities surrounding her age.

On screen captions walk us through the timeline and numerous locations so that we always know where the Empress is and how long she stays. There is a particular sequence that historians should appreciate, as the Empress meets Louis Le Prince (Finnegan Oldfield), the inventor of an early motion picture camera. He chooses the Empress as a subject for his camera, and we witness the results. The historical relevance is with Le Prince and not the action shots of the Empress, as those (and their meeting) are quite fictional.

An unusual mix of music includes a version of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make it Through the Night” and an especially enjoyable version of “As Tears Go By” (written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards), as well as terrific music from Camille Dalmais. In many ways, this is Marie Krutzer’s love letter to a long ago royal, however it’s clearly a fictional depiction since the manner of death is so dramatically changed in type and timing. Ms. Krieps allows us to feel the frustrations of time felt by the Empress, and we understand the body double approach (replete with matching anchor tattoos). Subtle humor is injected periodically, and maybe the best is the doctor explaining how “harmless” the new drug heroin is. There is plenty here for those attracted to “royal” stories.

Opens in theaters on December 23, 2022

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THE PALE BLUE EYE (2022)

December 23, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. This is Scott Cooper’s sixth film to write and direct, and I have found each of them interesting. He has a style that leans towards atmospheric with meticulous pacing, and this latest fits the mold. Cooper’s films include CRAZY HEART (2009) and this will make his third collaboration with Oscar winner Christian Bale (HOSTILES, 2017, and OUT OF THE FURNACE, 2013).

Cooper adapted this screenplay from Louis Bayard’s 2003 novel, and it’s set in 1830 in the early stages of the West Point Academy in Hudson Valley, New York. It’s a fictional murder mystery with a couple of intriguing characters. When a cadet is found hanging from a tree with his heart removed, Colonel Thayer (Timothy Spall sporting full Spall scowl) and Captain Hitchcock (Simon McBurney) summon retired constable/detective Augustus Landor (Bale) to quietly and discreetly solve the case to prevent unwanted attention on the Academy. Landor is renowned for solving tough cases, but as a widower, he’s also weary and has an affinity for the bottle.

It may seem odd for a West Point film to open with the Edgar Allan Poe quote, “The boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague.” However, it doesn’t take long for this to make sense, as shortly after Landor arrives, he asks the inquisitive Cadet E.A. Poe (Harry Melling, Dudley in the Harry Potter movies) to assist with the investigation. That’s right, the infamous dark poet who wrote such classics as “The Raven”, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, “The Pit and the Pendulum”, and most fittingly, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, actually spent some time at West Point prior to focusing on his short stories and poetry. Cadet jumps at the chance to work with super sleuth Landor, and as you would expect, things get messy and complicated rather quickly.

Soon, Landor is consulting with occult specialist Jean Pepe (Oscar winner Robert Duvall), who fills him in on Henri LeClerc and the instruction guide to gaining immortality. By this time, Landor has interviewed Dr. Daniel Marquis (Toby Jones) who performed the autopsy, and Cadet Poe has romantic leanings towards the doctor’s daughter Lea (Lucy Boynton, SING STREET, 2016), despite her cadet brother Artemis (Harry Lawtey) bullying him. Also in the picture is Julia Marquis (Gillian Anderson), the doctor’s quite bizarre wife who relishes her interaction with Poe and Landor.

Charlotte Gainsbourg has a small role as a barkeep at the local pub, but the first two acts of the film belong to Bale and Melling. That first hour and a half hooked me with the murder mystery and the strange characters, but I wasn’t prepared (or happy) for the sharp turn and the twist in the final act. Many of Cooper’s patented vista wide shots are included and cinematographer (and frequent Cooper collaborator) Masanobu Takayanagi excels with the eerie atmosphere aided by dark interiors lit by flickering candles. Though there are numerous references to Poe’s writings – the most obvious being a screeching crow and Landor’s name (Poe’s short story, “Landor’s Cottage”), but it’s the eerie atmosphere that is the film’s best asset. I did find it unusual for a film based on a U.S. military academy to feature so many Europeans in the cast, even if they are fine performers.

 Opens in theaters on December 23, 2022 and on Netflix beginning January 6, 2023

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DFW FILM CRITICS ASSN – Top 10 Films 2022

December 20, 2022

Below is a link to the 2022 Film awards as voted by the members of the DFW Film Critics Association. Since I am a voting member of the group, I thought you might like to see the final tally. I will soon be posting my personal favorites of the year so stay tuned!


BONES AND ALL (2022)

December 15, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Given the onslaught of Zombie movies over this past decade, the release of a film about first love between two fine young cannibals barely raises an eyebrow in regards to subject matter. However, when the film is directed by Luca Guadagnino, the man behind such films as CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (2017) and I AM LOVE (2007), well the interest level is quickly piqued, as we know the approach will be one that’s unique. David Kajganich, who collaborated with Guadagnino on SUSPIRIA (2018) and A BiGGER SPLASH (2015), adapted this screenplay from the 2016 novel by Camille DeAngelis.

Maren (a terrific Taylor Russell, WAVES, 2019) lives in a Virginia trailer park with her father (Andre Holland). He’s extremely protective of her and even locks her in the bedroom at night. The one time she sneaks out to meet some friends at a sleepover, her gruesome actions clue us in to the reason dad worries so much. Soon after, dad deserts Maren, leaving only some cash, her birth certificate, and a cassette tape he recorded detailing all he knows about her past and her rare disorder (a need to feed on human flesh). We get to listen to the cassette right along with Maren, which gives us the background we need to follow along.

This quickly turns into an ‘on the road’ movie as she begins the search for her birth mother. Traveling by bus, and shooting through her funds pretty quickly, Maren heads through Maryland and on to Ohio. Along the way, she crosses paths with two who prove crucial to the story. Sully (played by Oscar winner Mark Rylance, BRIDGE OF SPIES, 2015) is an eccentric oddity of a man with a soft-spoken manner who excels at twisting a phrase. Sully explains what it means to be an “eater” … how their heightened sense of smell allows them to identify others, and his own rule of “never eat an eater”, a rule Maren later discovers isn’t a true industry standard. The first Sully sequence is difficult to watch, yet Guadagnino finds a way to film this that minimizes the visible gore without losing any impact on viewers … or Maren. Sully also shares that he carries trophies of his victims, yet another creepy aspect of this full-scale creepy dude.

Maren’s next key ‘meet’ is Lee (Timothee Chalamet, a Guadagnino returnee from CALL ME BY YOUR NAME). Chalamet plays right into his strength as a low-key performer. This character just happens to kill people and eat them. It should be noted that this is a biological need for these characters … in fact, they have a conversation about being “nice.” Lee and Maren fall for each other much the same as any other young lovers fall for each other. It’s just that their dates often involve ingesting human flesh and blood. Lee’s only real personality seems to be his obsession with 1980’s rock, and he gets to cut loose on KISS’s “Lick it Up”.

The impressive supporting cast includes Chloe Sevigny, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Gordon Green, Sean Bridgers, and Jessica Harper. The road trip continues through Kentucky (where we see a Chia Pet at Lee’s sister’s house), Iowa, Minnesota (Maren’s roots), and Nebraska. A trip to the sanitarium brings unfortunate closer for one of the characters, and it should be stressed that these are teen cannibals, not zombies. These two lovebirds do not possess the giant egos of Mickey and Mallory in NATURAL BORN KILLERS (1994). Director Guadagnino has remarkably produced a love story that springs from these most disgusting traits and urges, and he has done so with the unorthodox screen presence of his three lead actors.

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DECISION TO LEAVE (2022, South Korea)

December 14, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. For the first half hour, we can’t help but think, “we’ve seen this all before.” A straight-as-an-arrow police detective falls hard for a suspect in a murder case. Sure, the familiar story line is often fun to watch, but we are initially a bit disappointed since this is the work of writer-director Park Chan-wook, the filmmaker behind OLD BOY (2003) and THE HANDMAIDEN (2016). Of course, we worried needlessly. The masterful director then begins twisting and turning characters and events in this homage to Hitchcock’s VERTIGO.

A crime thriller built upon fatalistic romanticism is the foundation of the best film noirs in history, and that is exactly how Park and co-writer Jeong Seo-Kyeong construct this story. Park Hae-il stars as Hae Jun, a married Busan police detective who suffers from insomnia and withdrawals from the cigarettes his wife (Jung Yi-seo) prohibits him to smoke. As with many detectives, Hae Jun obsesses over his unsolved cases, but things change quickly when the mangled body of a married man is found at the foot of a mountain. Did he fall? Did he jump? Was he pushed? The victim’s wife Seo-rae (a phenomenal Tang Wei) is suspected, but Hae Jun defends her as not capable.

The best love stories involve obsession, and Hae Jun becomes obsessed with Seo-rae, or is it she who becomes obsessed with him? The number of twists and turns director Park throws at us are nearly impossible to track … and we aren’t sure which are pertinent and which are distractions. The tiresome cell phone trope comes into play, only this time it plays a vital role and is not just used as a tech cop out. At times we are led to believe Seo-rae, despite being a beloved caregiver for the elderly, is the devil in disguise. Other times we aren’t sure if she is the clever one, or whether that’s Hae Jun. His “daydreams” of being in the same room and spending time with her are well played.

The script is well-written and the score works perfectly. Some of the dialogue is sharp and serious, while some carries subtle humor. My three favorites were the best ever use of “shattered”, a man introducing himself as “the next husband”, and this line: “Killing is like smoking. Only the first time is hard.” For those who enjoy noir crime thrillers with a dark romantic undertone, you’re very likely to appreciate this film from director Park Chan-wook and the mesmerizing performance by Tang Wei.

***NOTE: this is South Korea’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Oscar.

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AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER (2022)

December 13, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. I’ll admit that I’m not easily dazzled, and I’m very happy to admit that the thirteen years since James Cameron’s AVATAR was not just worth the wait – this latest one truly dazzled me. While the 2009 film was impressive from a technical standpoint, the new one is awe-inspiring, especially in the underwater sequences. I should disclose that I saw this on a huge screen in a theater with a spectacular sound system, and even the 3D glasses didn’t bother me at all (a first). The usually annoying muted color tones of 3D were minimal here, and the colors still popped as the 3D effects became a part of the presentation rather than the typical gimmickry.

Heading back to Pandora is either something you look forward to or could care less about. For those who have been anxiously awaiting the release, prepare to be amazed and stunned at just how far the CGI has come since Cameron set the standard years ago. On the other hand, one should be prepared for a middling, cliché-driven story with a script by Cameron, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver, with story credits to Josh Friedman and Shane Salerno. And since there will be at least one more film in the franchise (filmed simultaneously with this one), and possibly as many as three more, be prepared for unresolved and dangling story lines (that you may or may not care about). The reality is that the magic of the Avatar movies is in the visuals – escapism and fantasy creatures – not in the plot.

A lot has happened since the previous film. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), the human-turned-Na’vi (via genetic engineering) is now a tribal leader on Pandora. He and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) now have two teenage sons and a young daughter, as well as an adopted teenage girl Kiri (played via stop-motion by Sigourney Weaver, one of the scientists in the original), and a quasi-adopted human son named Spider (Jack Champion). Family bliss in paradise is a pretty darn good life … at least until the evil humans return, scorching the land with their machinery. Since humans have pretty much ruined Earth, the mission is to find a new homeland, and what better place than Pandora. A miscast Edie Falco is the General leading the mission, and her advanced exoskeleton is a nod to Ripley in Cameron’s ALIENS. Her elite squadron of Na’vi Avatars is led Quaritch (Stephen Lang), a human character who died in the first film, but his memories are now implanted in a physically superior Na’vi body and he has revenge on the mind … specifically hunting Sully and Neytiri.

As beautiful as Pandora is (and it is), the island that Sully and family escape to takes beauty to another level. This tribe of Na’vi has evolved to live at one with the ocean. The water people aren’t overly excited about taking in the forest people, especially since bad guys are chasing the newcomers, and what follows is a stream of predictable interactions – though the predictability is quickly forgiven once Cameron takes us beneath the surface. It’s truly breathtaking to see this underwater world filled with wildlife, plants, and coral. The creatures are unique, colorful and exciting, none more so than the mega-whales considered spirit animals by the water people.

The stop-motion technology means we see only a few actual humans, though the cast is often recognizable, and in addition to Worthington, Saldana, Weaver, Lang, and Champion, it includes Oscar winner Kate Winslet, Jemaine Clement, Cliff Curtis, and CCH Pounder. But this isn’t a showcase for actors. Instead, it’s a showcase for Cameron to blend his love of technology with his love of the ocean and commitment to environmental protection. He succeeds in wowing us and reminding us what a true cinematic spectacle can be. Another warning I’ll offer is that at least one-third (maybe closer to half) of the film is either the hour-long battle in the final act, or some other action sequence sprinkled in. Just don’t think this is a relaxing getaway to Pandora! Lastly, for those interested in seeing this, I encourage you to seek out a local theater that is decked out with the latest technology, and don’t shy away from 3D showings unless you are one of those who get nauseous or experience motion-sickness.

Opens nationwide in theaters on December 16, 2022

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ALL THAT BREATHES (2022, doc)

December 12, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. The expert photography and artistic approach taken by Shaunak Sen in his documentary is quite something to behold, even as the message may be a bit heavy-handed. His opening shot perfectly captures all of this, as a sea of rats scrounges for food through the trash while the headlights of an approaching car drive home the point that it’s the humans who have thrown things out of balance.

Most of the film is focused on two brothers, Nadeem and Saud, who have dedicated much of their lives to wildlife rescue … especially as it relates to Kite Birds. Now you may consider yourself a nature lover and even an environmentalist, but these two have reportedly treated over 20,000 birds. That’s what I mean by dedication!

Documentarian Sen has crafted a film that is simultaneously neither and both a nature and climate change film. New Delhi is one of the world’s most overpopulated and polluted cities. The film is meant to remind us that all creatures must breathe the same air, and when that air is so bad that birds drop from the sky, it can be assumed that the other beings of the area – people, rats, dogs, cows, pigs, mosquitoes – are also being negatively impacted.

These brothers believe that their efforts may have a spiritual or religious payoff, but mostly they believe one should make the difference they are able to make, even if that difference is to the Kite birds flying above. We also understand that it’s humans who have corrupted the air and land, and are the force behind wars being fought. Despite all, it’s nature that persists, even if society may not. Sen’s film may be a bit long, but he ensures all viewers understand.

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