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Movies at a Glance & New DVDs

 

 MOVIES AT A GLANCE
     New Reviews every
WEEKEND!


Titles highlighted in BLUE indicate Movies Coming Up in NEW DVDs.

WATCH ANY FILM TRAILER BY SIMPLY GOOGLE SEARCH THE "FILM'S TITLE" FOLLOWED BY THE WORD "TRAILER."


For NEW DVDs below, click HERE


NEW REVIEWS THIS WEEK:
BROKER;  DOG GONE; INFINITY POOL; LIVING: THE PALE BLUE EYE

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (2 hrs 27min) ** ½  Based on the 1929 bestseller by Erich Maria Remarque, the original  U.S. anti-war film was seen first in 1930 and starred Lew Ayres (Dr. Kildare series). It won Academy Awards for Outstanding Film and Best Director Lewis Milestone, and the latest version is Germany's official film submission to this year’s Academy Awards. In 1916, young Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer) proudly enlisted in the German army with his patriotic friends and they are sent to the western front in World War 1 where they witness a soldier killed by French machine guns and his uniform and boots sent home for recycling. In the trenches Paul meets Katczinsky (Albrecht Schuch), older and more experienced than his two friends, Ludwig (Adrian Grunewald) and Albert Kropp (Aaron Hilmer). There are numerous battles with death and destruction everywhere, all well shot. A bloody, intense French attack results in numerous German casualties and Paul’s job is to collect the dog tags of the deceased. 18 months on, the Germans are losing the war as America is sending troops into France. Political figure Erzberger (Daniel Brühl) tries convincing his superiors to sign a ceasefire with the French generals who demand complete surrender. Erzberger and General Friedrich (Devid Striesow) are given 72 hours to sign. With the treaty signed for the war to stop at 11am on November 11th, Erzberger orders his troop to attack in the final 15 minutes and that sees even more unnecessary deaths. Though visually excellent, the rest is excessively long and repetitive.  (Netflix)
THE AMBUSH (1hr 42min) *** ½  Recommended. In Arabic with subtitles. French film director and cinematographer Pierre Morel’s film is based on an actual event about three Emirati soldiers at the United Arab Emirates’ Mocha military base in Southern Yemen in 2018, looking forward to their returning home in a week, when they were sent on a final routine mission to patrol and they were ambushed by heavily armed militants. Following years of civil unrest, in 2015 the foreign backed Al Houthi Militia overthrew the government of Yemen and seized control of the country, war breaking out between rebels and loyalists. Yemini President Hadi reached out to his international allies for help. At the base, Ali (Marwan Abdulla Saleh), Bilal (Khalifa Al Saadi) and Hindasi (Mohammed Ahmed), due to return home, hear about possible insurgent activity in hostile territory foothills. While driving through a remote narrow canyon, two Humvees, wrapped in cages designed to absorb rocket propelled grenade impacts and with remote-controlled machine guns, are hit by RPG rockets, and the two armored personnel carriers get separated. They radio for back up and their commander realizes that the assault was premeditated and he must react. Meanwhile they are attacked by swarms of insurgents, firing with AK-47s, mortars and RPGs, also laying mines in the road, and they surround the disabled armed vehicle  It will take an hour before Mocha Base’s commandant Colonel Mazrouie (Abdulla Saeed Bin Haider) arrives with a rescue team of drones, Falcons (F-16s) and Apache-attack helicopters. The outstanding direction by Morel, with solid support from his photographer Thierry Arbogast, is absolutely superb. The final act is a blast with the arrival of devastating air power, and the mountain range is blown to smithereens, and those alive are forced to run from the raging fire storm. The story’s pacing and wall-to-wall action is incredibly strong, and the film has become the country’s highest grossing Emirati film ever made.
ARMAGEDDON TIME (1hr 42 min) ** What a massive disappointment this semi-autobiographical bland coming-of-age drama is. The focus is on 12 year old aspiring Jewish artist Paul Graff (Michael Banks Repeta), with appearances by Anthony Hopkins as his beloved middle class English grandfather Aaron Rabinowitz, Anne Hathaway as his frazzled mother Esther Graff, president of the parent-teacher public school association, and Jeremy Strong as his plumber father Irving Graff. Sixth-grader artistic Paul in his new public school year manages to get into trouble with his teacher, along with the only-Black-student Johnny (Jaylin Webb), ostracised for the colour of his skin. Their friendship led to continuous trouble which is headed for disastrous consequences for one of them. Irving decides Paul should go to the elitist private institution like bullying elder brother Ted (Ryan Sell). Aaron, aware of Paul’s potential artistic talents, agrees to pay for him attending the wealthy Kew Forest Private School. Paul’s grandmother Mickey’s (Tovah Feldshuh) Ukrainian parents were murdered by Cossacks, and she escaped through Poland to England where she met Aaron. Incidentally, Donald Trump’s property tycoon father Fred (John Diehl) was chairman of the Private school and Donald’s sister Maryanne (Jessica Chastain) was a US judge. The film will have limited appeal mainly to Art House audiences and critics.
NEW: BROKER (1hr 9min) *** In Korean with subtitles. In Busan, South Korea, on a late rainy night a very young attractive desperate sex worker Moon So-young (Lee Ji-eun) carries her bundled newborn baby to a church up the outside stairs to what is called “a baby box,” a place where desperate mothers can anonymously leave their unwanted newborn, the first of which was introduced in 2009, to be picked up by people who would sell them for 10 million won (about $8000) or more. As she leaves the child she whispers “Woo Jung, I’m sorry but I will come back for you.”  But then only one in 40 parents ever return, searching for their discarded babies, but she does. Actually what happens is that two men who are volunteers at the church pick up the rejected children in a broker scam and take them to a centre where other very young children are gathered, waiting for adoption. Good-natured Ha Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho) is the owner of a hand laundry and his partner in crime is young Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won), a former orphanage inhabitant, who works in the church and deletes the church's surveillance footage. He helps Ha Sang-hyeon sell the abandoned babies on the illegal lucrative adoption black market.  Only complicating matters, So-young confronts them and, instead of informing the police, she insists on going on the road with them and her infant to interview potential desperate-to-adopt parents and to share in audition processes and eventually the profits. Actually having the biological mother there is a plus as the prospective parents can ask personal questions. The rag-tag group is joined along the way by a cute stowaway boy from another orphanage, seven-year-old Hae-jin (Im Seung-soo), a soccer-crazy kid who wants one day to be just like the UK's Tottenham Hotspurs’ Son Heung-min.  Investigating the two men’s illegal business are two young female detectives, Soo-jin (Bae Doona) and Detective Lee (Lee Joo-young). But later we find out that So-young was a prostitute who actually murdered the gangster rapist father with other forgivable details. We see numerous children, mostly under 8 years, and the male and female adults at their adoption centre and they all seem to enjoy it as one big patched-together happy family, supporting each other in times of need!  The over-long Broker is written and directed by Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda, who won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2018 for Shoplifters. (Intl Village)
NEW:  DOG GONE (1hr 35min) ** Although it’s only 90 minutes long, it feels like 3 tedious hours!  Nick Santora’s script is supposedly based on Pauls Toutonghi’s non-fiction book Dog Gone: A Lost Pet’s Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home about a Virginia family’s beloved Labrador dog that goes missing thirty minutes into the banal film and the rest of the time is spent on father and son searching along the Appalachian Trail. The star is very obviously the lovable playful dog, initially a large puppy found at the local pound and adopted by the son who names it Gonker and of course the dog becomes his best friend, and so his disappearance causes panic in the family. Let’s face it: everybody loves dogs because, after all, dogs are man’s best friend. The film starts off with aimless Fielding Marshall (Johnny Berchtold) and his buddy Nate (Nick Peine) at college, the former socially awkward without much direction, and when his girlfriend drops him, he replaces her affection with a dog. When College is over he returns home with Gonker to a concerned father, John (Rob Lowe), who is worried about Fielding’s total lack of ambition for the future. When the two boys are out on a hiking trail, Gonker runs off, chasing a fox, and he doesn’t answer calls. John and frantic Fielding head out by car, meeting a variety of odd characters along the way, and in the process of days together on the road, disconnected dad and irresponsible son predictably bond. Mom Ginny (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) sets up a control room at home, calling local newspapers, animal shelters, hospitals, sending out flyers and making calls to those who’ve seen the flyer and who might have caught a glimpse of the lost pooch. Meanwhile on the road, Fielding's health deteriorates. He is barely eating, not sleeping, and is getting weaker daily, and when John drives them home, Fielding is rushed to the hospital, diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and he has an emergency operation which is successful. Simultaneously, as expected, Gonker is found and you can guess the rest. My question is what is talented actor Rob Lowe doing in a mediocre movie like this?  (Netflix)
DRINKWATER (1hr 57min) **  This micro-budgeted Canadian film won in Calgary the Audience Choice Award for Best Canadian Narrative Film, the Audience Award at the Whistler Film Festival in 2021, while star Daniel Doheny won Best Actor in a Canadian Film at the Vancouver Film Critics Circle Awards 2021. Mike Drinkwater (Doheny) is an avid Fung Fu / Bruce Lee fan, an aimless, awkward, friendless teenager living in Penticton with his eccentric father Hank (Eric McCormack), fraudulently living off disability insurance, paranoid of investigating officials discovering his scheme. Shot in Penticton in the Okanagan, it has tons of Canadiana items and references and a pop soundtrack of Canadian performers. Mike is curious when a Filipina-Canadian teenager Wallace (Louriza Tronco), after losing her mom, moves in next door to stay with her grandparents (Vincent Cheng, Linda Darlow). In his final semester, Mike is anxious to win the annual cross-country 5 kms race for a NHL scholarship. He is bullied by antagonist Luke (Jordan Burchett), son of Hank’s past rival, overbearing, wealthy Wesley Ryan (Bob Frazer). While Mike is attracted to Luke’s girlfriend Danny (Chloe Babcock), neglected Wallace helps Mike on his long training runs by pacing him on her bike. Those are the characters and they will all have happy endings.  There’s a clever, unique way of introducing the opening credits. (VOD/Digital)
FORSAKEN  (1hr 30min)  *** If you like old fashioned Westerns you will  enjoy Netflix’ latest addition to its acquired old films, this from 2015 starring father Donald and son Kiefer Sutherland with director Jon Cassar doing a masterful job. Long after the Civil War ended, John Henry Clayton (Kiefer) in 1872 returned after 10 years to the family homestead, hoping to reconcile with his disapproving widowed father, the Rev Samuel Clayton (Donald). John Henry had drifted aimlessly after the war, gaining a reputation as a feared gunslinger. In lawless Valour, Wyoming picking up provisions, Samuel warned his son about saloon owner James McCurdy (Brian Cox), buying up the townsfolk’s properties when he heard the railroad was coming, and whose gang leader Dave Turner (Michael Wincott) will commit murder to own the land. When John Henry met former flame Mary Alice (Demi Moore), her jealous husband Tom Watson (Greg Ellis) decided to sell their property to McCurdy, while McCurdy’s ultra-violent thug Frank Tillman (Aaron Poole) killed another owner reluctant to sell. The Claytons have a heart to heart about their problematic past relationship and why pious Samuel rejected his son. To regain his father’s approval, he worked tirelessly on the land and even subjected himself, now without a gun, to a severe beating by Tillman without defending himself, watched by Samuel. When Samuel became the target of a vicious beating, landing in hospital, John Henry armed himself to take revenge for his dad and the locals. Even with western stereotypes and clichés, it’s interesting, well acted, involving and actually thrilling. Verdict?  You won’t be disappointed with Forsaken.  (Netflix)
GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY (2hrs 19min) ** A large glass onion chamber on top of a billion dollar mansion situated on a private Greek Island belongs to a billionaire tech Miles Bron (Ed Norton). In a glass themed room filled with delicate glass sculptures, in the centre is the Mona Lisa painting, on loan from the Louvre. The Onion is powered by a controversial and dangerous new energy source, Klear. Miles’ invitation to come for a “mystery of my murder” weekend in May 2020 has been sent to five wealthy friends in large wooden boxes delivered to their homes in which are a series of intricate puzzles for them to solve. As they unlock one, it opens up to another and so on. Named the Disrupters, each guest has been bankrolled by Miles and, because of his generosity, has attained a position in the world. They are Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), governor of Connecticut running for Senate, husband Devon (Dallas Roberts); Duke Cody (David Bautista), a men’s rights activist and Twitch streamer, his mom (Jackie Hoffman) and his girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline); Andi Brand (Janelle Monae as twin sisters), Miles’ former business partner, and later twin Helen; Lionel Touissant (Leslie Odom jr), head scientist of Miles’ company Alpha; Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), former model now fashion designer; and Peg (Jessica Henwick), Birdie’s assistant. Also invited is detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). When Andi failed to prove in a lawsuit that Alpha’s founding ideas like Klear, a potentially dangerous hydrogen-based alternative fuel, were hers, she lost, due to perjured testimonies of Miles' friends, but hid a cocktail napkin on which she had written the original idea for Alpha. When Andi is murdered, twin Helen shocks all as she steps in as Andi!  Bland people making boring conversation with unfunny jokes is my idea of a pretentious excessively long, over-stuffed bore.  (Netflix)   
THE GOOD NURSE (2hrs 1min) ***  Based on the 2013 true crime book “The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder” by Charles Graeber is about serial killer Charles Cullen who used intravenous tubes to poison up to 40 patients. Compassionate nurse Amy (Jessica Chastain) has a cardiac condition which requites a heart transplant sooner than later. A year’s work will get her health insurance to cover the surgery. The single mother of two works tirelessly on the high stress night shifts at New Jersey’s Somerset Medical Centre’s ICU, pushing her emotional and physical limits. To help her, a kindly ICU nurse Charlie Cullen (Eddie Redmayne) is hired and the two become good friends instantly, Charlie also offering his services looking after the children. When their patients unexpectedly start dying, an abnormal amount of insulin was found in their systems and two investigating police (Noah Emmerich and Nnamdi Asomugha) are assigned. They discover Charlie was dismissed from 9 hospitals due to sudden deaths which stopped, following his departure. He wasn’t accused as there was never any proof but Amy reluctantly agrees to assist them, knowing she is risking her life and her children’s. Unfortunately the screenplay is remarkably thin and languid and devoid of highs or lows till the explosive heartbreaking end, and therefore two hours feels excessively long. On the credit side, the superb performances by Chastain and Redmayne make this worth seeing. (Netflix)
THE GRAY MAN (2hrs 9min) ** ½  One of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year and Netflix’ most expensive movie at $200 million turns out to be a massive mindless globe-trotting disappointment, in spite of the presence of reliable Ryan Gosling, not seen since 2018. Imprisoned in a Florida prison for murder, Court Gentry (Gosling) is offered by CIA recruiter and handler Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) to commute his sentence in exchange for working for the CIA as an undercover hitman in their Sierra program. He agrees and takes on the code name of Sierra Six. Years later in Bangkok, his target is ”suspected of selling off national security secrets." Six mortally wounds him and learns he had been recruited by the Sierra program and he gives Six an encrypted flash drive with incriminating evidence. Operation head Danny Carmichael (Rege-Jean Page) knows about the contents but is vague. Six sends the flash drive to former Sierra handler Margaret Cahill (Alfrie Woodard) and approaches Fitzroy for extraction from the Sierra program. Cahill decrypts the drive, revealing Carmichael to be corrupt and abusing the CIA for his own shadowy purposes. Carmichael hires sadistic former CIA agent Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) to retrieve the drive from Six by any means, and the chase is on. Six teams up with CIA field agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas) so she too is Hansen's target. Visually glossy with stunning photography in exotic locations, the generic plot with frenetic pacing is predictable and bland. We’ve seen most of this before in dozens of similar better action pictures. (Netflix)
NEW: INFINITY POOL (1hr 57 min) *** What does the name David Cronenberg conjure up for you on the assumption you have seen any of his films?  Would it be because of the controversy for the Canadian director/screenwriter’s depictions of gore and violence as many of his originality and daring sci-fi horror films regularly explore visceral bodily transformation, infectious diseases, and the intertwining of the psychological, the physical and the technological, such as Shivers, Scanners, Videodrome and The Fly,  On the other hand he has also directed dramas and psychological thrillers like Crash, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises and Crimes of the Future, which competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.  Looks like his son Brandon is now following in father’s footsteps as he has gained a reputation as writer/director for his science fiction horror films Anti-viral, Possessor and now Infinity Pool.  Both men have earned worldwide critical acclaim and Brandon’s current thriller is doing just that, but what of the public's verdict?  In fictional island Li Tolqa (exclusive resort for the super rich, surrounded by armed guards and barbed wire fences. author James Foster (Alexander Skarsgard) has brought his wealthy wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) but he is seeking inspiration, hoping to cure his writer’s block which has lasted six years. At the pool they be-friend another couple, sultry blonde Gabi (Mia Goth), a supposed fan of the author, and her architect husband Alban (Jalil Lespert), and they decide to do the forbidden, namely to leave the resort grounds for an illicit drive down to a private beach. Late at night, drunk and on their way back to the resort, James is driving when they have an accident, killing a local, and they decide to leave him there and not mention it. But the police, led by Thresh (Thomas Kretschmann), arrive the next day, having discovered the body, and explain they have a very explicit policy: murder must be avenged by a member of the deceased family, and James is taken prisoner. Would he prefer execution or, there is a way out for the extreme wealthy, a cloning of the culprit, in this case James, who will be murdered while the original James watches!  Relieved, he witnesses his own horrific death!  Em wants out but James lies that he has lost his passport so she should go on instead. She is horrified to see Gabi enticing and pulling a curious James into a fantastical chaotic world of vicarious hedonistic sexual pleasures and gore-galore repulsive violence. James’ life spirals out of control. Deranged Gabi has morphed from James’ fan to seductive sexpot to sadistic prankster and bully, dominating and humiliating him with her siren screech. Be prepared: private parts are in full view. I expect at this point there will be audience turn-offs of the excessive violence from Cronenberg, having fun while pushing boundaries.  Admittedly it’s visually engrossing, ambitious and thought provoking, but the extreme brutality is definitely not for the squeamish.  (Scotiabank Theatre, Riverport, Brentweood)
LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER.  (2hrs 6min) *** ½ Recommended is this electric version of D.H. Lawrence’s controversial erotic novel by director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre and the intense passionate chemistry between Lady Constance Chatterley (Emma Corrin) and rugged gamekeeper Oliver Mellors (Jack O’Connell), both stunningly brilliant in their numerous torrid sex scenes. Sir Clifford Chatterley (Matthew Duckett) and his new bride Connie Reid have moved to his estate in the Midlands when WW1 broke out and he served in the Army. Just six months later, he was discharged and returned home in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down and unable to ‘function’ normally. Both wanted to have a child and he suggested she should find a suitable man to impregnate her and no one need know it was not their child. He hired a new gamekeeper, Oliver, who was given his own stone cottage on the grounds. Oliver had an unfaithful wife and they didn’t live together. Lonely on her walks in the grounds, Connie and Oliver met and it was lust at first sight. Starved of love, she kept seeking him out and they had sex regularly in different locations and in every conceivable position, even outdoors in the pouring rain, and their carnal passion make engrossing viewing of their passionate, unclothed, very sexy scenes in erotic poses. Although never caught in the act, word got out and Connie asked for a divorce but was refused. Here we have a couple both unhappily married to other people and determined to live together, but what of their future acceptance as such? It’s an impressively mounted production, skilfully adapted, fast paced and impeccably performed by two interesting performers.  (Netflix)
NEW: LIVING (1hr 42 min) *** ½  At long last a film worthy of consistently reliable Bill Nighy’s talents, remember him in Love Actually? Here he plays lonely widower Mr. Williams, an aging dignified bureaucrat in a post-war 1953 London Public Works town-planning department, facing a stomach-cancer fatal illness. It’s an English-language adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 Japanese drama Ikiru (To Live) from an elegant screenplay by British-Japanese Nobel prize-winning novelist Sir Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go), with the setting shifted from Tokyo to London. It's now directed by 39 year old South African film director / writer Oliver Hermanus, the first of his non-South African films, his previous being Moffie, winning the Jury Prize at the 2020 Dublin International Film Festival, about two gay recruits in the South African military fearing severe retribution upon discovery. Living opens in the bustling heart of London. With six to nine months left to live, immaculate civil servant Williams, a man of routines with bowler hat and brolly, having lived 30 years of an empty life, becomes acutely aware of his fleeting time and initially goes on a boozy pub crawl in sea-side Brighton in the company of free-spirited writer Mr. Sutherland (Tom Burke) …"I withdrew this cash and came down here to enjoy myself or live a little ... but I realize I don't know how!". . . before he ends in a pub singing The Rowan Tree ballad. He makes a decision he really wants to leave behind his passionate dream goal of getting the authorities to build a playground on a former bomb-site in London’s East End with a modest roundabout and swing set for young children which their mothers have been petitioning for ages but have been constantly rejected by smug ineffective county council departments. After work daily, widower Williams goes home to his ineffectual son Michael (Barney Fishwick) and uncaring daughter-in-law Fiona (Patsy Ferran) who tolerates him but both are eager to takeover the family home. Meanwhile he has befriended a junior colleague formerly in his department, enchanting, vivacious, optimistic Margaret (Aimee Lou Wood) who left the dull department for new challenges. There are two superb sequences with Williams unexpectedly enjoying the exuberance of Maggie’s company … she admits to nicknaming him The Zombie! … before he breaks his news to her. A recently employed office junior in the department, Peter Wakeling (Alex Sharp), realizes that in time he too could wind up like Williams, shuffling endless papers in order to look busy and impress bosses, diverting planning requests to other sections of County Hall’s civil bureaucracy. Just when you think with his death it’s all over, it isn’t, so sit tight. Living is a  faithful adaptation of Kurosawa's Ikiru in terms of story. Absolutely brilliant directing, writing and performances, especially by Nighy and Wood, results in a heartbreaking dramatic triumph. Just be prepared to shed a few tears!  (Fifth Avenue) 
LOU (1hr 47min) *** Allison Janey’s career spans 3 decades on screen and stage during which  time she has won numerous accolades, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globes award, a BAFTA award, all for Best Supporting Actress, in addition to 7 primetime Emmy Awards.. Till now, the 62 year has never played in an action-thriller like Liam Neeson’s Taken.  On a 1980s Pacific Northwest island, Lou (Janey) lives alone in a remote rustic cabin in the woods with her faithful dog Jax. She is making out her will and planning suicide. Her rental-paying neighbour Hannah (Jurnee Smollett) and young daughter Vee (Ridley Asha Bateman) reside close by. An impending catastrophic storm is brewing just as Hannah’s estranged abusive ex-husband Phillip (Logan Marshall-Greene), a former special forces explosive expert thought to be dead, shows up, having just killed a  truck driver friend of Hannah’s. With the power out, Hannah heads to Lou’s to use her phone, after telling Vee to hide.  But Phillip finds Vee and persuades the child to join him in a journey, promising mummy will join them later. From then on it’s a chase movie through difficult terrain and torrential rain with Lou and Hannah determined to find Vee. Needless to say, it’s Janey’s unusual tough performance that makes this worth while watching.  (Netflix)
NEW: THE PALE BLUE EYE (2hrs 8min) ** ½  Based on the 2003 novel by American writer Louis Bayard, the stodgy story directed and written by Scott Cooper is a murder mystery set at the United States Military Academy of West Point in 1830, where dour retired veteran detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) investigates a series of murders with the aid of keen intellect military cadet Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling). Incidentally, Poe really was for seven months an officer cadet at West Point. Landor was having a relationship with sad-eyed town barmaid Patsy (Charlotte Gainsbourg) when Cadet Leroy Fry (Steven Maier) was found hanged from a tree but, while in the morgue, his heart had been removed. Poe discovers, clutched in Fry's hand, a small fragment of a note, while marks on Fry's neck and fingers suggest that he did not hang himself but was murdered. Landor and Poe deduce from the writing on the note fragment that it was summoning Fry to a secret meeting. The Academy’s Colonel Thayer (Timothy Spall), the school’s first superintendent, and his assistant Captain Hitchcock (Simon McBurney), demand a quick and discrete investigation by Landor. The Pittsburg area stands in for upstate New York and the unrelenting gloomy wintry scenes are constant throughout the glacial paced, plodding mystery, with dark indoor scenes lit strictly by candles and with minimal daylight from the windows.  Unfortunately most of the dialogue is in hushed whispered tones, making the two hours seem like a humourless eternity. Landor is still lamenting the loss of his daughter who disappeared years ago. At the hospital morgue where the heart was surgically removed, Landor and Poe are introduced to suspicious surgeon Dr. Daniel Marquis (Toby Jones) and cynical clues lead them to occult specialist Jean-Pepe (Robert Duvall) who offers possible insight into the bizarre killings. Poe has fallen for Marquis’ daughter Lea (Lucy Boynton) who is prone to epileptic seizures, and she introduces him to her ambitious arrogant cadet brother Artemus (Harry Lawtey) and their haughty erratic mother Julia (Gillian Anderson), seemingly a suspicious family. Although the title is associated with a line from one of Poe’s macabre works, he would not have been proud to be associated with this meandering mess. And especially what a waste of terrific actors! (Netflix)
THE SEA BEAST (1hr 55min) **** Recommended.  Animation.  This brilliant fantasy epic should be in consideration for next year’s Best Animation Awards for writer/producer/director Chris Williams and his imaginative swashbuckling production with its stunning animation. Veteran Captain Crow (V/O Jared Harris) will be handing over command of his monster-hunting ship to his protégé and fearless second in command Jacob Holland (Karl Urban) who he rescued as an orphan clinging to debris in the raging ocean. They now hunt sea beasts across the ocean including the Red Bluster, a massive creature resembling a whale and a dragon. Stowing away to join them is feisty 11 year old Maisie (Zaris-Angel Hator) whose parents were killed supposedly by a sea monster. Crow is informed that this is his last chance to kill the Red Blunder and, if he fails, the task of hunting sea beasts will be handed over to slimy Admiral Hornagold (Dan Stevens). Attacked by the Red Bluster, Jacob allows Maisie to cut a line which attaches the Bluster to a ship, allowing her to slip away. Crow is furious and threatens them when the Bluster reappears, swallowing Jacob and Maisie whole. They realize that the Red Bluster is actually befriending them and so starts the trio’s many amazing adventures together. This is perfect entertainment for the family. (Netflix)
SNIPER: THE WHITE RAVEN (1hr 51min) *** Subtitles. Based largely on a true story, in 2014 Donetsk, Ukraine, ecologists settlers Mykola Voronin (Aldoshyn Pavlo) and Nastya (Maryna Koshkina) live and love happily in their semi-hidden rustic home-made dugout on their 2 hectare plot of land with electricity provided by a windmill he built, and they are expecting their first child.  They are brutally attacked by armed pro-Russian separatist rebels and, while Mykola is unconscious, they shoot and kill Nastya. He joins the Volunteers Battalion as a recruit and later, on proving his capabilities, he is enlisted in the Training Company for snipers. With his math skills, Mykola excels and is a natural for Sniper, and he chooses for himself the code-name “Raven,” a reference to a creation myth told previously by his wife, and wherever he goes, he carries her precious small wooden carved raven totem. Really interesting and exciting are the numerous sequences of heavily camouflaged snipers tracking down enemy snipers. With sub-titles, details of the characters’ personalities are limited, and a bit too much of the film, especially the basic training sequences, plays almost as a documentary. The photography is excellent and it is still well worth viewing. (Amazon Prime Video)
SPOILER ALERT (1hr 52min) *** Based on the best selling autobiography “Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies” by Michael Ausiello, the romantic heartbreaking real-life film follows the 14 year gay relationship between TV Guide journalist Ausiello and amateur photographer Kit Cowan, ending their partnership with marriage when Kit was diagnosed with a rare and very aggressive form of neuroendocrine cancer which led after 11 agonizing months to his passing in February 2015.  The film stars Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) as Michael and Brit actor Ben Aldridge (Fleabag) as Kit, both gay, with script by David Marshall Grant and gay relationship advice guru Dan Savage. In 2001 nerdy Michael notices cool Kit in a crowded queer bar and their looks signal simultaneous attraction. As they say, opposites attract. When Kit insists on seeing embarrassed Michael’s New Jersey apartment, there’s a room totally dedicated to Smurf memorabilia! He hasn’t yet settled into adulthood. When they undress for bed, uptight Michael has body issues, a self described “FFK” (Former Fat Kid). Kit admits to never having had a long term relationship and has never come out to his doting parents Marilyn (Sally Field) and Bob (Bill Irwin) but stability with Michael gives him the courage to admit it and they admonish Kit for not sharing his very personal information earlier. We go through 13 years of bliss via annual Christmas portraits (Michael’s obsession).  Both actors have a touching believable chemistry together and they have us hooked. Like most relationships, there are ups and downs and suddenly their relationship is on the rocks with Michael hitting the bottle and stoned Kit having a fling with a co-worker. They, not wanting to split, live apart and see a therapist. But then Kit finds out he has a form of cancer and now the two are forced to reckon with the prospect of losing each other. If you’re looking for a good tear jerker, you’ve come to the right place.
TAR (2hrs 38min) *** Strange title but that’s the surname of Lydia Tar (Cate Blanchett), the brilliant, imperious, chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and this film was written specifically by writer-director Todd Field for Blanchett by writer-director Todd Field and her tour-de-force performance is sensational and mesmerizing. Tar is one of the greatest living composer/conductors in the world of classical music and the first-ever female chief conductor of a major German orchestra, celebrated widely the world over. She lives in Berlin with her wife, the Orchestra’s first violin Sharon (Nina Hoss) and their grade-school-age daughter, Petra (Mila Bogojevic). She travels with her ambitious loyal assistant Francesca (Noémie Merlant) and develops an interest in a new young Russian cellist Olga (Sophie Kaufer). But Lydia has a history of withdrawing affections ruthlessly, believing she can control everything around her. When her former student Kristine starts sending disturbing emails, questions of culpability spill over which the Orchestra’s press department can’t contain, and Lydia’s life begins to unravel, leading to tragedy. The psychological film will be appreciated especially by Art House theatres and Film Festival critics and audiences, but it is repetitious and lengthy. A must-see for all Blanchett fans! (Intl Village)
THEY CRAWL BENEATH (1hr 28min) *** Officer Danny Morris (Joseph Almani) and his uncle Bill (Michael Pare) are working on an antique Mustang in the latter’s remote desert garage when Bill yells out that something has bitten his leg  Danny bottles what looks like a slug and when estranged wife Gwen (Karlee Eldridge) stops by, she takes it to the lab where an assistant diagnoses it as a new aggressive underground species and if bitten the victim has 3 hours before death. In the garage, Bill shows off his 1870 Colt to Danny when he discovers another caterpillar on his neck and the two go to work under the car. An aftershock occurs, causing Danny’s leg unable to free itself. Bill is dead and meanwhile fissures in the earth reveal hundreds of small carnivorous white caterpillers swarming out and growing rapidly. Danny’s phone battery is dead and as he is lying unable to move he starts shouting “Somebody help me please.” That doesn’t bring anything except, well, you know what … and it’s the size of a python! Interested? (On digital, Blu-ray and DVD)
TRIANGLE OF SADNESS (2hrs 29min) *** This Ruben Ostlund black comedy epic won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.  Set in 3 Parts, Part 2 titled The Yacht is one of the funniest yet grossest segments I’ve ever seen.  Part 1 is titled Carl and Yaya, starting with an endless boring audition where muscular shirtless young male models are put through their paces posing and emoting before a committee. Model Carl’s (Harris Dickinson) career is on the skids. In Part 2 his social-media influencer/model girlfriend Yaya (Charlbi Dean) gets them a cabin on board a luxury super yacht, full of aging uber-rich passengers, including a Russian capitalist oligarch Dimitry (Zlatko Burić) who sells fertilizer, a British arms dealer Winston (Oliver Ford Davies) and wife Clementine (Amanda Walker), a software creator (Henrik Dorsin), and a fastidious woman (Mia Benson) insisting the sails are dirty and need washing, although this ship doesn’t have sails. The alcoholic Marxist-quoting reclusive American captain Thomas Smith (Woody Harrelson) is lured out of his cabin for the formal Captain’s Dinner when he is introduced to his wealthy passengers. They are enjoying the richly extravagant multi-course dinner when suddenly a major storm hits the ship and there is bedlam. Everyone spews up their dinners, toilets overflow and people are sliding over the vomit and excrement covered floors! In Part 3: The Island, deserted and on which the 9 hungry survivors watch an explosion from a grenade blowing up the yacht. The ship’s toilet manager, Abigail (Dolly de Leon), is the only below-deck Asian cleaning crew member to survive and she now gets the balance of power to shift. Way too long and vastly disappointing!
THE WHALE (1hr 57min) *** ½  Now 54, Canadian/American actor Brendan Fraser’s return to film is writer-director wunderkind Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale which won him Best Actor at TIFF as Charlie, the grossly obese 600 lbs. gay English professor who now teaches persuasive writing for an online university by zoom (with the camera turned off as he lied about it malfunctioning). It’s the adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter’s 2012 play of a sweet, optimistic gay man who decides to eat himself to death. He lives stranded on a couch in his gloomy apartment in Idaho, assisted by his caring, health care worker Liz (Hong Chau) providing him with food and medical equipment. His blood pressure is at drop-dead levels and his congestive heart failure will become fatal. With no health insurance, hospital is out, which angers Liz.  His estranged daughter, Ellie (Sadie Sink), is bitter about him not seeing her since she was eight and he left unfaithful wife Mary (Samantha Morton) who obtained full custody and prevented Charlie from seeing Ellie. He desperately wants to reconnect with her, offering to pay if she would talk to him again. She relents when he promises to leave her a six-figure inheritance and to help her with her school work. Charlie’s quiet life is interrupted by Thomas (Ty Simpkins), a young missionary of a Mormon-like cult who wants Charlie to embrace Jesus Christ. Student lover Alan was a cult member, and his sexuality caused him to jump off a bridge. Fraser wears a mix of latex suit plus digital prosthetics, allowing him to give a funny and absolutely devastating performance. Be forewarned: prepare to shed a few tears. (Fifth Avenue, Intl Village, Riverport)
WINDFALL (1hr 32min) ** A nameless man (Jason Segal) breaks into a tech billionaire's empty vacation hacienda, steals $5000 and a rolex, when egotistical, obnoxious tech billionaire CEO (Jesse Plemens) and his trophy wife (Lily Collins) unexpectedly arrive for a romantic weekend. The inept burglar surprises them with his appearance and orders them around. The couple is taken to the sauna across from the house and barricaded in, but the intruder notices a security camera in the trees pointed at him. The couple escapes from the sauna but he returns them to the house while retrieving the revolver. When asked what he wants, he says $150,000 and they insist he should ask for $500,000!  When the payment can’t be dropped off till late the next day, the three wait it out by watching movies and making small talk, The couple shows no interest in each other, in fact quite the opposite!  When the gardener (Omar Leyva) shows up, he is forced to join them waiting for the delivery. While attempting to escape, his head breaks the door’s glass and he bleeds to death. Enough said. The film is dull and tedious with long lapses of silence, atrocious dialogue and an annoying soundtrack. (Netflix)
THE WONDER (1hr 48min) ** The thin, sterile film opens with a voiceover revealing the film’s scenic design on a modern day soundstage before stepping into the past. We are informed that what we’re about to see is dramatized, but the people and actors are real. In 1862 Ireland Midlands, following the devastating Great Potato Famine, English widow nurse ‘Lib’ (Florence Pugh), whose infant child died recently, is sent to a devout remote Irish village to “watch” 11 year old Anna (Kila Lord Cassidy) who has not eaten for four months yet shows no ill effects from her fast. Is this God’s miracle or is the girl faking it?  The village council led by Dr. McBrearty (Toby Jones) and including the local priest (Ciaran Hinds), think they might have a miracle on their hands, and hired Lib and a local nun (Josie Walker) to take shifts to check, not cure, the girl 24 hours a day for two weeks, although convinced someone is feeding her. The dreary looking film with candle lit interiors has the most aggravating, ominous, jarring soundtrack with distorted voices. Lib doesn’t believe in miracles and has her own convictions. When a London reporter (Tom Burke) arrives, wanting to talk to Anna, Lib refuses him but, soon after, they have sex! The revelation about Anna’s condition is anticlimactic and the resolution is nonsensical while the ending feels totally artificial. Strictly for Art House audiences!

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