The Whale gives an unforgettable performance from Brendan Fraser.

An obese and reclusive English teacher tries to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter for one last chance at redemption.

It is absolutely no secret that Darren Aronofsky is one of favorite filmmakers of all time, from Requiem For A Dream, to Black Sawn to Mother and a few others. Aronofsky masters at taking a handful of actors and actresses and giving them an unforgettable transformative performance. That is most certainly the case with Brendan Fraser who gives one of the most touching, heartbreaking and powerful performances of the year. Words can’t even begin to describe how much goes into his performance, Fraser’s character Charlie has so many layers to him there’s the side of him that is shown quite a lot throughout the film someone who has this very positive attitude even when he is being completely judged he tries to laugh it off or ignore it. Then there’s the side where he’s in pain he’s tired of people judging him for who he is, which leads to the film’s theme of people completely judging you without even trying to understand you as well the film itself challenging the viewer on stereotypes. This is something I’m sure everyone has went through at some point in their life and it’s shown wonderfully here, Charlie is a character that someone can easily connect with, I’ve said before that I’m autistic and in the past I’ve been judged for it yet I try to be as positive as I can be. But deep down inside I’m trying not to cry being judged for who you are is a very real pain and as I said earlier the way the film portrays that is just masterful. Hong Chu and Sadie Sink are both incredible here, they both deliver strong performances that each contribute to the film. Hong Chu delivers such an honest performance her character Liz has some of the most casual dialogue with Charlie from a film in 2022. Elle played by Sadie Sink is Charlie’s daughter who Charlie constantly says is a beautiful person and wants to help out no matter what, it doesn’t matter whether Elle is horrible to him. He still wants to help which leads to some very beautiful moments from Fraser, this all leads up to the final moments of the film. The last few scenes are truly heartbreaking and very real, Charlie thinking about the moments he enjoyed most with his family and really celebrates those moments is truly crushing and absolutely powerful with every meaning of the word, the writing combined with the direction is truly incredible and completely makes the film into something special.

The Whale is playing in theaters.

10/10 A+

Aftersun is a beautiful heartbreaking film with several themes.

Twenty years after their last holiday at a fading vacation resort, Sophie reflects on the rare time spent with her loving and idealistic father Calum. At 11-years-old, as the world of adolescence creeps into Sophie’s view, Calum struggles under the weight of life outside of fatherhood. Sophie’s recollections become a powerful and heartrending portrait of their relationship, as she tries to reconcile the father she knew with the man she didn’t.

Aftersun may seem simple on the surface but as you explore the film and notice the several hints or themes and where the film is going, it hits so much harder in all the right ways. For starters the performances are truly fantastic here Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio give some of the best performances of the year hands down, they also portray one of the most real father and daughter bones ever put on film. Every single emotion, action and behavior is there and truly pushes this film into something much bigger. The film takes place during Callum and Sophie’s holiday vacation, a vacation that’s remembered as sweet yet filled with tons of emotions that you wouldn’t expect. There’s themes of mental health, nostalgia, connection to time and much more, the film drops hints as it goes on to let the viewer know where it’s headed. The thing is that even with the little hints the viewer isn’t completely sure where the film ends up going, it’s a masterfully done way to get the viewer ready for the final moments of the film while also keeping it a mystery. The two different perspectives the film switches back forth to are both handled wonderfully, there’s Sophie’s perspective which is childlike yet notices that there is something bothering with Callum. When Callum says “I’m okay” Sophie would naturally believe him since she’s a child, this is where the nostalgia and mental health come in, Sophie now an adult noticing the signs that Callum was not okay is a very dark moment to face. It’s implied here that Callum ended his life the film doesn’t end up saying whether he did or not it leaves that up to the viewer. Callum’s perspective captures what it feels like to have a lot of depression, you are trying to have a good time at an event, with family and much more. But something is bothering even though there really isn’t anything to worry about, these subtle moments are dropped carefully throughout the film some even using some clever camerawork. The use of certain songs is truly fantastic especially Under Pressure which is a very touching scene as it’s towards the end and shows the final moments of Callum and Sophie being together, the ending is truly hard hitting and unleashes everything that has led up to. All of this is wonderfully done due to director and writer Charlotte Wells, Wells really makes Aftersun her directional debut film into something absolutely special that is very unique. Aftersun is truly one of the absolute best films of the year.

Aftersun is available on all VOD platforms.

10/10 A+

Avatar: The Way Of Water a masterfully crafted and written film that surpasses the first film.

Jake Sully and Ney’tiri have formed a family and are doing everything to stay together. However, they must leave their home and explore the regions of Pandora. When an ancient threat resurfaces, Jake must fight a difficult war against the humans.

I’m not someone who was a huge fan of the first Avatar, it was a gorgeous film that I absolutely respect what went into making it, having that said I absolutely loved Avatar: The Way Of Water. I guess this is James Cameron’s whole thing of making sequels that a lot of people could consider better than the first film (depending on who you ask of course), The Way Of Water fixes all of the problems that were present from the first film. First off the characters are a lot more fleshed out to the point where the viewer can grow a connection to them, there’s so many character moments here that really give these characters so much development and personalities. The overall theme and connection of the characters is family, which yes is done quite a lot in film, but James Cameron gives it this very human like feel, as well as it feeling very natural rather than making it seem like a plot device. The story is the other major part that this movie really improved, all three acts are exciting, beautiful and masterfully done in there own ways turning this film into a huge powerhouse. The story much like the characters goes into the family element and really nails it down well, this isn’t much of a surprise but the film is absolutely gorgeous. If you thought the first film was breathtaking Way Of Water ups it by really being such a good word building film that captures the beauty of Pandora, the underwater technology is just incredible it’s by far some of if not THE most beautiful underwater shots in film. The action scenes are truly fantastic and have so much detail to each of them, there’s this huge adrenaline rush feel to the action scenes that are truly exciting. The cast does such a fantastic job of bringing these characters to life each of them brings so much beauty into the film that completely captures why this film completely works. It’s the human connection between the characters that really makes the film shine, a huge amount of detail to each scene and just the overall fairy tale like atmosphere that gives the film a whimsical feel.

Avatar: The Way Of Water is available in theaters.

10/10 A+

Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths is beautifully made but lacking in direction.

A renowned Mexican journalist and documentary filmmaker returns home and works through an existential crisis as he grapples with his identity, familial relationships and the folly of his memories.

I can absolutely respect the craft that went into Bardo as it has some of the most exciting cinematography and camera movement of the year, Darius Khonji did a really fantastic job with the cinematography and really deserves a huge round of applause. Everything else is a huge mixed bag unfortunately, Alejandro González Iñárritu clearly has a lot of talent but the writing just did not come together all that well here. Daniel Giménez Cacho gave a great performance and there were parts of Silverio Gala’s story that were pretty investing, there’s some chaotic energy to the movie that is pretty neat and very welcoming. But for the most part the movie is way too self-indulgent for it’s own good and never settles on what it’s trying to say themes of Mexican culture identity, filmmaking, journalistic ethics In documentary filmmaking and more were explore but not nearly enough to give the idea of what Iñárritu is trying to really say here. The 160 minute running time doesn’t exactly help either, there’s times where the viewer becomes very tired and checks the nearest watch. It’s unfortunate because I’m sure there is a good movie here it’s just not showing up unfortunately.

Bardo is available on Netflix.

5/10 C

Pinocchio is a dark and beautiful film with the theme of life.

A father’s wish magically brings a wooden boy to life in Italy, giving him a chance to care for the child.

Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio was a project that I have been following for a very long time now, Del Toro is one of my favorite filmmakers ever and hearing him take on Pinocchio is just a match made in heaven. Let’s start out with the obvious…the stop motion animation, it’s absolutely gorgeous in every single way possible. There’s so much detail to the backgrounds, the characters facial expressions that really tell the story even with the more quite moments they don’t need to say any words to tell the viewer how they feel at all. There’s truly this magical aspect to the stop motion animation that’s both gorgeously dark yet filled to the brim with heart. That’s a huge running theme about Pinocchio it’s a beautifully dark film with a lot of heart that’s main theme is life itself. The film takes place during fascist Italy during the interwar period and World War II which it makes that clear in the beginning with a very sad but truly powerful scene that David Bradley absolutely masters, speaking of which the voice cast is truly brilliant here Gregory Mann, David Bradley and Ewan McGregor give some of the best performances of the year, they each bring so much heart into the film that just moves you to tears. There’s so many scenes here that truly have a human feel to them Tilda Swinton who plays The Wood Spirit has some of the best scenes of the film, her interactions with Pinocchio are truly thought provoking and really make the whole film’s theme about life that much more interesting. There’s so many moments that truly move the viewer to tears, there’s this element of wanting to be belonged that I’m sure many people have felt at some point in their life. Guillermo Del Toro and Mark Gustafson truly reflects this with their direction, they create a very spiritual fairytale yet at the same time create something very human like with a lot of very real themes that a lot of people tend to think about.

Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio is available on Netflix.

10/10 A+

Emancipation has strong performances but weak writing.

Peter, a slave, flees a plantation in Louisiana after he was whipped within an inch of his life. He has to outwit cold-blooded hunters and the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana on a torturous journey north.

I watched Emancipation a few days ago and to be quite honest I still have no idea how exactly I feel about it. This is definitely one of those cases where you can easily tell there is something here and the movie wants to say something, it’s just not doing it all that well. Will Smith and Ben Foster do a really great job and give some quite effective moments, Ben Foster is even downright horrifying at times and Will Smith gives this strong performance of wanting to see his family again. While the movie is well intentioned there are some serious flaws here that are a bit baffling, the movie is about slavery yet sort of plays out as a survival thriller movie. It attempts to try and combine the two but given the brutal violence that comes off more as shock value rather than trying to educate on how horrible slavery is, the problem is this movie is the very bare basics about slavery. Yes there are some very powerful moments from Will Smith about wanting to reunite with his family and really puts up a fight against his captors, however those moments are surrounded by stuff that has been done far better in other films.

Emancipation is available on Apple TV+

5/10 C

Bones and all is a beautifully haunting love story.

Maren, a young woman, learns how to survive on the margins of society.

Luca Guadagnino is one of the best and most interesting directors working today, A Bigger Splash and I Am Love were really great, Call Me By Your Name was incredibly raw and Suspiria (2018) was an example of how incredible a modern remake can really be plus it was my favorite film of the 2010s. Bones And All is a very different film that Guadagnino’s previous films, it’s a cannibal love story that takes a lot of horror, romance and drama elements, blends them all together and creates something completely unique. First off right from the beginning the film has this very old low budget atmosphere to it that makes the film much more haunting but beautiful at the same time. There’s a huge sense of beauty within the filmmaking, it’s sort of similar to the atmosphere Suspiria had only that Bones And All goes for a more realistic approach. Taylor Russell gives one of the best performances of the year hands down, there’s so much passion, emotion and realism to her performance that truly gives the viewer goosebumps. There’s so much to her performance that adds to her character Maren, her interactions with the other characters is really striking, how she slowly finds out about her family is really investing and her mannerisms are just absolutely perfect. Timothée Chalamet gives his most interesting performance yet, it’s far different than anything he’s done before and I’ll even go far as to say this is one of his best. He’s fantastic here and his chemistry with Taylor Russell is incredibly natural and quite beautiful as well. Lastly there’s Mark Rylance as Sully and he’s quite possibly one of the most creepiest characters I’ve seen In a film this year, every single time the guy appears on screen he makes the viewer’s skin crawl. He’s very intimidating but also quite fantastic as well there’s truly a “low budget horror film villain” type feel to his character but that honestly matches the film quite well. The music is incredibly well done and really compliments the film’s themes and settings flawlessly, despite the film taking place in many different areas there’s this sense of abandonment. Sure there might be a lot of people around but the atmosphere still captures the feeling that you are alone with the film and Maren, the many shots in the film that show a lot of natural dirt roads, hills, forests, lakes ect are truly beautiful and only add to the film’s beauty. Overall Bones And All is one of the best films of the year, it’s a beautifully haunting film that will definitely stick with you especially with Taylor Russell’s unforgettable performance.

Bones and All is currently in theaters.

10/10 A+

The Fabelmans tells Steven Spielberg’s inspiring story.

Young Sammy Fabelman falls in love with movies after his parents take him to see “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Armed with a camera, Sammy starts to make his own films at home, much to the delight of his supportive mother.

Inspiring and genuine are just some of the best words to describe Steven Spielberg’s newest film The Fabelmans, the film is a semi-autobiographical story loosely based on Spielberg’s adolescence and first years as a filmmaker. When somebody says film or movie one of the first directors you are more than likely to think of is Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans really does a fantastic job of telling and showing why that is the case. The cast is truly fantastic here and blends so incredibly well together from Michelle Williams to Paul Dano to Gabriel LaBelle and even Seth Rogen there’s such a huge level of genuine human feel to the performances and each one offers something very different to the film. There’s tons of quiet moments with the score silently playing in the background that completely make so many memorable scenes, the direction from Spielberg is inspiring and very genuine, we have all had that one film we saw as a kid that completely blew our minds so much that we got into film. Whether that is wanting to be an actor, actress, director, writer, film critic, cinematographer ect it all feels connected and how we are all connected, that’s a huge part to The Fabelmans it shows how Sammy (LaBelle) was inspired to want to work with film and shows how he progresses with his films while showing his interactions with his family. It’s a beautifully put together film that has many of those signature Spielberg moments where there’s just so much inspiration and a huge wave of goosebumps, the filming is absolutely wonderful it’s personal but at the same time it’s inviting the viewer to come closer as it tells you the story of Spielberg, which leaves you with so much excitement. What’s the strongest part about The Fabelmans is it’s done in a way where anybody can connect to it, while yes it is based on Spielberg’s adolescence that doesn’t mean nobody can connect to it as the film itself is very inspiring and as I said before the filming really invites the viewer to come along for the ride. Overall The Fabelmans is yet another masterpiece from Steven Spielberg, this is truly one of his most beautiful films and by the end of the film the viewer feels quite honored that Spielberg shared his inspiring story.

The Fabelmans is currently in theaters.

10/10 A+

The Eternal Daughter is a beautifully haunting atmospheric film.

Returning to a hotel now haunted by its mysterious past, an artist and her elderly mother confront long-buried secrets in their former family home.

The Eternal Daughter is definitely a haunting little movie that is quite effective, Tilda Swinton plays a double role she plays Julie Hart and Rosalind Hart a mother and daughter who are staying at a hotel which is haunted. Patience is key with this film, it’s a very slow movie that admittedly is a bit too slow and could take you out of the movie. However for most of the movie that’s really not an issue, the film develops both Julie and Rosalind incredibly well and often times feels like a personal story that Joanna Hogg is trying to tell the audience. The film is visually stunning with a very gothic ghost theme and feel to it that really pops out in every single way possible, the atmosphere is truly haunting especially with the limited cast members it often feels like you are alone in the hotel that Julie and Rosalind are staying in, the film rewards the viewer with tons of emotional moments with an ending that puts a nice bow on the movie. The Eternal Daughter won’t be for everyone but I do recommend checking it out.

The Eternal Daughter is available on all VOD platforms.

8/10 B+

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is well crafted but lacking in strength.

After falling out of love with her husband following a war injury, Lady Chatterley pursues a torrid affair with the gamekeeper on their estate and begins to uncover her own internal biases.

I think I respect Lady Chatterley’s Lover when it comes to the craftsmanship more than I do when it comes to parts like the writing, the film has some strong performances from Emma Corrin and Jack O’Connell who actually have very strong chemistry between one another. The costumes are very well detailed, the filming is quite beautiful and the direction from Laura de Clermont-Tonnerre (director of The Mustang) is very well done with really strong craftsmanship and a lot of attention to detail in a lot of scenes as well. Unfortunately what bogs this down is the script being on the weaker side, there’s just not enough strength in certain scenes that really could have used the extra push.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is available on Netflix.

6/10 C+