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Review: Does Brendan Fraser give a great performance in ‘The Whale’? It’s complicated.

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Review: Does Brendan Fraser give a great performance in ‘The Whale’? It’s complicated.

When the digital camera seems to be at Brendan Fraser in “The Whale,” what does it see? It sees a person named Charlie who weighs 600 kilos and is slowly expiring from congestive coronary heart failure in a colorless Idaho residence. It additionally sees a well-recognized Hollywood face hooked up to a most unfamiliar physique, enacting the type of dramatic, prosthetically enabled transformation the film trade likes to slobber over.

You may discover these two photographs to be of a bit — an intuitive fusion of performer and position that reaches for, and typically achieves, a state of transcendent emotion. Or chances are you’ll discover them grotesquely at odds: the character whose each groan, wheeze and choking match means to encourage each empathy and revulsion, and the actor whose sweaty dramatic exertions are calculated to elicit reward and applause.

Let’s render that reward the place it’s due. There’s extra to Fraser’s efficiency than his exertions, simply as there may be extra to Charlie than the corporeal shock worth that the film frontloads him with: The opening scenes discover him frenziedly masturbating to homosexual pornography on his sofa, then doubling over with searing chest pains. It’s rather a lot for an actor to come back down from, however in a grueling chamber piece that tends to wield a dramaturgical cudgel, Fraser makes an attempt, and largely achieves, a symphony of unusual grace notes. He reveals us Charlie’s struggling, but in addition his sweetness; his grief, but in addition his good humor.

He laughs simply, although additionally with nice problem. He can mope and rant, however caught on the proper second, he’s an out-and-out charmer, a affected person listener, a superb storyteller. He teaches a web-based faculty writing class, hiding his overweight body from his college students (his webcam’s damaged, he tells them), however giving full voice to his love for phrases, his eager understanding of the pleasures and potential manipulations of language. His favourite piece of writing is an essay on Moby-Dick — the precise whale of the title — that he usually reads or calls for that somebody learn to him, a tool whose ludicrous backstory Fraser nearly makes convincing. And after some time, as doorways slam, stress mounts and Rob Simonsen’s rating broods and surges, you may really feel a curious tingle of recognition. Charlie, in any case, is a personality in a Darren Aronofsky film, which suggests he’s destined for a crucible of struggling that, nonetheless emotional and non secular in nature, exacts its most grievous torments within the flesh.

That’s to not counsel that he’s kin to the tortured performers of “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan,” who pushed their athleticism to brutish extremes, or the strung-out children from “Requiem for a Dream,” even when Charlie is aware of the ache of a special type of dependancy. The variations lengthen past the truth that Charlie is generally immobilized, solely often rising from his sofa to stumble, with a walker, towards the fridge or the toilet. (At occasions the digital camera, wielded by Aronofsky’s common collaborator Matthew Libatique, virtually appears to mock Charlie, transferring round him with an ease and agility that he can’t muster.) There’s additionally the truth that, in distinction with most Aronofsky characters, Charlie is born of one other author’s creativeness: Like quite a lot of research in confinement, “The Whale” relies on a play, this one written and tailored for the display by Samuel D. Hunter.

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However whereas we could also be confined with Charlie, we aren’t alone with him. “The Whale,” straining to each honor and break freed from its supply materials, unfolds over a number of consecutive days, throughout which Charlie receives a collection of tourists. Their common appearances directly modulate the drama and expose its artificiality, none extra clearly than Thomas (Ty Simpkins), an earnest younger Christian missionary who turns up at Charlie’s door at a seemingly opportune second. He’s there to save lots of this man’s soul, and in addition to facilitate a load of exposition regarding Charlie’s late accomplice, Alan, whose premature dying hastened his personal downward spiral. Thomas can also be there to harass Charlie’s tough-loving greatest pal, Liz (an exquisite Hong Chau), a nurse who stops by each day to deliver him meals, examine his vitals and nag him to take higher care of himself. She is aware of that Charlie doesn’t want faith; he must go to the hospital.

Hong Chau within the film “The Whale.”

(A24)

However Charlie refuses, citing a scarcity of medical insurance and the final hopelessness of his trigger. Which doesn’t imply he has nothing to dwell for, judging by his concerted latest renewal of ties together with his 17-year-old daughter, Ellie (Sadie Sink). Nearly 9 years in the past, Charlie deserted Ellie and her mom, Mary (a briefly seen Samantha Morton), to be with Alan. {The teenager} who now sits earlier than him is greater than a resentful youngster; she’s the personification of spite, vindictive and verbally abusive. Sink’s emotional ferocity is spectacular, however Ellie, as written, quantities to at least one indignant word struck with relentless, finally misapplied pressure. As a personality, she’s about as delicate because the ultra-dim lighting — not simply realistically dim however fastidiously, oppressively dim — that suffuses Charlie’s residence, an all-too-literal embodiment of his internal darkness.

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“You’d be disgusting even should you weren’t this fats,” Ellie snarls on the man she refuses to acknowledge as her father. And her ugly phrases discover a painful echo within the query that Charlie at one level asks Thomas: “Do you discover me disgusting?” It’s a query the digital camera appears to foist in flip upon the viewer, most emphatically when it reveals us Charlie, in a depressing fury, devouring and vomiting up a complete pizza. It’s unsurprisingly disagreeable to observe, not least as a result of Aronofsky appears to be shoving the digital camera in Charlie’s face with one hand whereas wagging his finger at us with the opposite. His query may immediate your personal: Is that this uncooked, unvarnished scrutiny of a tough topic tilting into exaggeration, even exploitation? If we’re disgusted by what Aronofsky reveals us, is that our fault or his?

Or is it Fraser’s? I’m reluctant to counsel it, and never simply because I’m as fond as anybody of an interesting, long-underappreciated actor returning to prominence, after a number of years’ absence, within the trade that made, broke and allegedly abused him. However I’m additionally reluctant to fall into the default crucial sample of lauding an actor for what works a few film or a efficiency and blaming a filmmaker for the whole lot that doesn’t, particularly because it simply feels just a little too straightforward. Film performances are sometimes extra collaborative achievements than we (or actors themselves) care to confess, and a efficiency as reliant on exterior wizardry as Fraser’s — on the unusual, seamless alchemy that welds an actor’s expressive instruments to an array of digital and prosthetic tips — doesn’t come into being with out a director’s agency hand on the wheel. What’s good and dangerous concerning the efficiency is unquestionably the accountability of actor and director each.

Sadie Sink in a scene from "The Whale."

Sadie Sink in a scene from “The Whale.”

(Niko Tavernise/A24)

The film’s crudest moments, those during which Charlie’s physique is handled as not only a matter-of-fact bodily actuality however a dare-you-to-look-away spectacle, have already raised respectable questions and accusations of fatphobia — a debate that tends to come up each time a Hollywood actor packs on some synthetic kilos. Typically this sort of transformation is finished for comically villainous impact, whether or not it’s Colin Farrell’s Penguin in “The Batman” or Emma Thompson’s imposingly evil Miss Trunchbull in “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical.” However do these prosthetic encumbrances really feel kind of low cost when utilized to somebody like Charlie, who isn’t a violent caricature however a sympathetically drawn human being? Is the grindingly self-conscious realism of a film like “The Whale” a extra empathetic gesture or a crueler, uglier one?

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To return to the query on the outset: When the digital camera seems to be at Brendan Fraser in “The Whale,” what does it see? I believe it sees a superb actor giving a well-meaning, erratically directed and infrequently touching efficiency in a film that strives to wrest one thing uncooked and truthful from a narrative that’s all bald contrivances, technological in addition to melodramatic. But when “The Whale” is a bizarre conflation of the unflinchingly sincere and the unbearably phony, Charlie’s personal sincerity is simple: “Inform me the reality,” he says and reiterates on a number of events, whether or not he’s urging his college students to write down from the intestine or partaking Thomas in a genial theological debate. As he demonstrated in his latest “Noah” and “mom!,” Aronofsky is a skeptic who’s extra keen than most to satisfy God midway.

And God, on this film, absolutely has rather a lot to reply for: hypocrisy, homophobia, despair and suicidal ideation, for starters. But when we will consider God as synonymous with goodness, and I believe we will, then he additionally appears to show up extra usually than anticipated — not simply when Thomas comes thumping on the door with a Bible in hand, but in addition each time Liz returns. Hong, not for the primary time proving herself a film’s secret weapon, provides maybe “The Whale’s” most interesting, least compelled efficiency. Whether or not she’s scolding Charlie, passing him a meatball sub or snuggling subsequent to him on the sofa, Liz lays naked her uncertainty: Ought to she be attempting to save lots of her pal or making his final days as joyous as she will be able to? It’s OK that she doesn’t know. It’s sufficient that she sees him and loves him — and extra absolutely, finally, than the film round him can handle.

‘The Whale’

Rated: R, for language, some drug use and sexual content material

Operating time: 1 hour, 57 minutes

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Enjoying: Begins Dec. 9 at AMC Burbank 16; AMC Burbank City Middle 6; AMC the Grove 14, Los Angeles; AMC Century Metropolis 15

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Movie Reviews

Short Film Review: Do Not Go Gentle in Taipei (2021) by Wang Yi-Ling

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Short Film Review: Do Not Go Gentle in Taipei (2021) by Wang Yi-Ling

“Want to mix it up a bit?”

Winner of a Golden Bell Award for Best Television film in 2022, “Do Not Go Gentle in Taipei” is an LGBT films in its base, which moves, however, in a number of different genre paths.

The story begins in a club filled with strobing lights, loud music, and people dancing. Xiao Ann and Mimi, who seem to be a couple are talking about guys flirting with them. Mimi seems to want to also include a guy in their company, something that Xiao Ann reluctantly agrees to. They pick a guy, A-kai, who is just sitting and watching and the three soon start hanging out in nighttime Taipei, even if the ‘newcomer’s’ profession sounds a bit shady. It seems that Mimi never had sex with a guy, and that is why they were searching for someone. The three eventually end up in a hotel room, but things do not go exactly as planned, on a number of levels.

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Wang Yi-Ling directs a film that starts as a lesbian youth drama, then switches to a road movie, then to an erotic one, before it becomes a crime one, with the transition between the genres being quite smooth, in a testament to both her direction and the excellent editing by her and Chang Ya Ting. The pace is also quite well implemented, with the speed picking up according to the narrative, and the two running scenes setting the tempo nicely. Chen Ko-chin’s cinematography is one of the best assets of the short, with him presenting the various settings (club, the street, the hotel room, the convenience store) in the most impressive fashion, benefitting the most by the coloring and the lighting in order to show a series of truly appealing images.

In terms of context, the night life of Taipei is depicted in a fashion that leans more towards entertainment, while the difficulties relationships present in a setting where sex is quite easy to happen emerges as the central comment here. Lastly, how the underworld operates, which also includes a subtle jab towards China is also highlighted, again with a focus on entertainment.

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Wing Yu-Xuan as Mimi highlights both her playful eagerness for a new experience and her reluctance quite convincingly, with the same applying to Angel Lee as Xiao-an, who highlights her disgruntlement in subtle but eloquent fashion. Devin Pan as A-kai has an easier role, but is also good, with the chemistry of the three being among the movie’s best traits.

“Do Not Go Gentle in Taipei” is fun, entertaining and rather well shot, and a testament that genre filmmaking can also be quite successful in the short format.

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Stopmotion movie review: bleed for your art – FlickFilosopher.com

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Stopmotion movie review: bleed for your art – FlickFilosopher.com

There is an inherent mystery behind all creative acts: Where does it come from? Sometimes this is a mystery even to creative people who may be so inundated by the ideas flooding their brain that they barely know where to begin. *raises hand* Sometimes that mystery comes with an inherent dread: if the art that springs forth is strange or disturbing, what does that say about the artist?

Stopmotion, the feature debut from British animator Robert Morgan, gets at the enigmas and anxieties of artistic creation like no film I’ve ever seen before. This is a movie in which style is substance like no film I’ve never seen before. Perhaps more unsettling: This is a uniquely disturbing movie for anyone who grapples with, you know, their own fertile yet unknowable mind.

Will Stopmotion speak to people who aren’t creative? I’d like to think so, but I don’t know… except its protagonist, 30ish Ella (Aisling Franciosi, terrifyingly brilliant), an animator living and working somewhere in an undefined place in the UK (London, maybe?), doesn’t think she is very creative. Ella is working with her overbearing, condescending animator mom (Stella Gonet), who is suffering from crippling arthritis in her hands to the point where she is unable to do the delicate, precise stop-motion work on her own, so she directs Ella: “Half a millimeter to the left,” Mom barks in Ella’s ear in their little home studio, directing the minuscule manipulation of the little puppet-star of what will probably be Mom’s last film, about a sad Cyclops lady.

No artist can escape a story that has rooted itself in your brain…

Ella despairs of her intellectually and creatively impoverished situation. When her boyfriend, Tom (Tom York), asks her, “Don’t you wanna make your own films, find your own voice?” she replies, despondent, “I don’t have my own voice.”

Now, I firmly believe that all of us upright monkeys are naturally, instinctually creative, except that it often gets crushed out of us at some crucial early point in our lives. The regimentation of schooling can do it; clearly Ella’s mother did that for her. And then something happens to change Ella’s situation, and her imagination is unleashed. But it’s been so long, maybe forever, since she’s been able to acknowledge her own creative wisdom that she is not able to trust or even accept what her brain is telling her…

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Spoiler: Ella has her own voice. Oh my, does she ever.

Stopmotion Aisling Franciosi
…as Ella discovers.

Stopmotion is not primarily an animated movie, but it harnesses the inescapable creepiness of stop-motion animation — the uncanny valley of jittery movement that highlights the fact that we’re watching an inanimate object come alive — in ways that challenge the very concept of an “animated movie.” For as Ella begins work on a stop-motion animated short of her own invention, about a little girl being stalked by a malicious creature called the Ashman (“the man no one wants to meet”), the physical and emotional isolation she’s been living with becomes outright desolation, and her story takes on a life of its own to the point that reality and invention get mixed up and her characters come to life in her real world.

At least in her own mind. This is also not a fantastical movie: it’s about a descent into madness, and only Ella — not anyone else around her — is haunted, even stalked by her own work: creative demons, indeed. Stopmotion is not for the squeamish; it is bloody, meaty, visceral, an unforgettable expression of the old axiom about writing (and by extension all art): it’s easy, you just sit down and open a vein. But the gore is only in service of the real horror, which is unusually psychologically astute and utterly unnerving to anyone of a creative bent and perhaps struggling with their own imagination: that some stories demand to be told, and will, must out, no matter how much you resist them.


more films like this:
• Censor [Prime US | Prime UK | Apple TV | Hulu US | Kanopy US | BFI Player UK | Curzon Home Cinema UK]
• Raw [Apple TV US | Apple TV UK | YouTube]

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Movie Review: Migration – Fun for All Ages –

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Movie Review: Migration – Fun for All Ages –

A staff report

Migration, directed by Benjamin Renner and Guylo Homsy, is a delightful, animated film that promises fun for the whole family. Released in 2023 with a PG rating, this charming adventure clocks in at a runtime of 1 hour and 23 minutes, offering a perfect blend of humor, heart, and colorful animation.

The plot revolves around a family of ducks led by an overprotective father, voiced by the talented Kumail Nanjiani. When the opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation arises, the ducks must convince their cautious patriarch to embark on an adventurous journey to southern climes for the winter. With a script penned by Mike White and Benjamin Renner, Migration strikes a perfect balance between silly antics and heartfelt moments, making it an enjoyable watch for viewers of all ages.

One of the film’s standout features is its stellar voice cast, which includes the likes of Tresi Gazal and Elizabeth Banks alongside Nanjiani. Their performances bring the characters to life with humor and depth, adding layers to the already engaging story.

Director Benjamin Renner’s creative vision shines through in the film’s design work, which is bursting with colorful and vibrant imagery. From the quaint New England pond to the exotic landscapes of the ducks’ migration route, each scene is beautifully crafted and visually captivating.

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But what truly sets Migration apart is its ability to entertain audiences of all ages. While it may be marketed as a family-friendly film, its witty humor, and cleverly written script ensure that viewers of any age will find something to enjoy. Whether it’s the slapstick comedy of the ducks’ misadventures or the touching moments of familial bonding, Migration delivers laughs and warmth in equal measure.

In conclusion, Migration is a winning choice for families looking for an entertaining movie night. With its sparkling script, top-notch voice cast, and visually stunning animation, it’s sure to leave audiences quacking with laughter and longing for their own migratory adventure. Migration is still in theaters; make time to watch it.

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