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The Whale Review | Fraser and Sink Shine in Aronofsky’s Latest

PFF: Brendan Fraser gives a career-defining performance in one of 2022’s trickiest films.

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Name a film that is more equally emotionally compelling and draining from this year than The Whale — I’ll wait. Brendan Fraser will be the story of The Whale given that he offers a career-defining performance, but the film is filled with excellent performances and especially so from Sadie Sink. Tight production design, lively cinematography, a heart-wrenching score and some very good sound design all serving the fantastic performances make for one of 2022’s most complicated films.

For those unfamiliar with the story of The Whale, Darren Aronofsky is adapting a stage play of the same name that was written by Samuel D. Hunter — who was also onboarded to write the feature film adaptation of his play. The film follows a 600-lb English professor named Charlie (Fraser) who is attempting to rekindle his relationship with his estranged daughter Ellie (Sink). Despite a plot that could be dismissed as your average “distant father facing mortality attempts to connect with their offspring one last time” film — Don’t Make Me Go just came out earlier this summer —yet there are far more layers to this onion than it may appear.

A still from The Whale. Photo courtesy of A24.

Without delving into spoilers, there is more to Charlie’s binge-eating than an insatiable appetite. Trauma that’s inherited after a family tragedy is only compounded further when an evangelist (Ty Simpkins) attempts to do his thing and convert Charlie to faith. That same trauma can be traced back to the disconnection between Charlie and his family, and more and more is slowly revealed as the film progresses. 

Fraser gives a performance that exemplifies Keanu Reeves’ iconic line from John Wick, “Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back.” I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been a Fraser fan, per se (I didn’t grow up on The Mummy films or anything of the sort), but this would have to be the best performance of his career and the first time that he’ll seriously be in the awards discussions to my knowledge. Some shaky CGI and prosthetics aside, Fraser compensates for that by finding a way to convey a lot despite the circumstances he inherits from the character he’s playing. Whether it’s the desperation that he displays in scenes with his daughter, the chronic apologies, or the embarrassment whenever he attempts to hide his identity from the pizza delivery driver, Fraser delivers in every frame.

There’s also something to be said of the metaphor that Moby Dick serves as. This is not meant to shade Charlie’s appearance, but early on in the film he continuously repeats the “best essay” he’s ever read that is praising the classic literary work. Some part of the essay gets Charlie to realize that the lines between fiction and reality are blurred, making for a (seemingly) obvious metaphor for the character itself. There is more to the essay as the audience will soon find out, and that saved it from being an unnecessarily overdrawn metaphor that anyone can see. 

Sink is absolutely phenomenal as Ellie to the surprise of no Stranger Things fan. My cousin made me watch an episode of the latest season — I hadn’t even seen a frame of the show prior — and in between my naps while “watching” the episode, the one actor that actually did leave a lasting impression was Sink. I believe she got her arm snapped at one point or another, but I also could be misremembering the show. Regardless, Sink makes a bid to steal the show from Fraser when she’s on-screen.

Ellie’s a troubled teenager that definitely listens to Phoebe Bridgers and is rebellious, yet, dangerous. We quickly learn that Charlie left her and her mom (played by Samantha Morton) when she was only eight, so the resentment is understandable if not a bit fair. As Charlie’s nurse Liz (Hong Chau) asks him, “You haven’t seen her since she was eight years old and are going to reconnect with her by doing her homework?” 

A behind-the-scenes image from The Whale. Photo courtesy of A24.

Yes, yes he is. In fact, Charlie is so desperate to make things right that he offers to pay Ellie for spending time with him. Being the angsty teenager she is, Ellie agrees under the condition that her father — an English professor — does her English homework. I guess sitting in a leather chair for a few hours a day is an easy $120k, so who could blame her? 

On top of all of this, Charlie is constantly visited by Thomas (Ty Simpkins), a missionary. It’s crazy that Simpkins is no longer just the kid from Iron Man 3 — he’s four months younger than me so yes, I can call him “kid” — and while a tad contrived, the struggle between Charlie and Thomas is far more interesting than it has any right being. Does oftentimes simplify Christianity? Yes, but there is something to be said about the things they discuss. Additionally, it was a nice touch to show some corruption in the kid, even if he is trying his best. But Thomas is one of those evangelists that’ll tell you “God sent me here for a reason,” and you’d likely slam the door on him in response. 

There is an inherent intensity in The Whale that lies beneath the surface. The Whale seems like a mundane film, telling a relatively self-contained story about a father and daughter that largely takes place in one setting, but the production design of the film really shines as a result. I think a fair estimate is that roughly 95% of the film takes place in Charlie’s apartment. When you walk in, you’re greeted with a large, open-concept living room that floods into the kitchen. There’s a little hallway with a couple of bedrooms — one more significant than the other — and a bathroom. It’s not high-class living, but it paints the appropriate picture. And Matthew Libatique, who served as the cinematographer on The Whale, captures everything needed in each frame. This film is a vastly different project from Libatique’s last, Don’t Worry Darling, but Libatique shows the ability to frame films of both small and large scales. 

The Whale is one of 2022’s finest but is not for the faint of heart. Fraser gives a great performance but the film is a grind to watch because of its hard-hitting subject matter. At its core, it’s a story about a father and daughter who are attempting to reconnect for the first time in years, but it goes far deeper than many other films with similar subject matter. 


The Whale had its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival and will be released in theaters on December 9.

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Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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Adventure

Arthur the King is an Epic Masterpiece

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Arthur the King movie poster (Lionsgate Films)

Here follows the review of Arthur the King, a story of deep connection between people and dogs. Not all heroes wear capes, some have wagging tails and would cross a river (and jungle) for you.

Plot

Desperate for one last chance to win, Michael Light convinces a sponsor to back him and a team of athletes for the Adventure Racing World Championship in the Dominican Republic. As the team gets pushed to the outer limits of endurance, a dog named Arthur comes along for the ride, redefining what victory, loyalty and friendship truly means.

Arthur Foundation

Mikael Lindnord raced through a jungle in Ecuador and after feeding a few meatballs to a stray dog made a friend for life. The dog followed Mikael and his team through the rough terrain. Mikael named the dog Arthur and took him back home with him.

Arthur and Mikael Lindnord (Photo taken by Krister Goransson)

The Arthur Foundation collaborates with various organizations in different countries that work towards animal welfare.

Click on the following links to reach out to Mikael Lindnord.

Movie Review (no spoilers)

The movie is based on the memoir, Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home by Mikael Lindnord, who was the athlete who participated in the Adventure Racing World Championship in Ecuador. It is important to note in the movie they refer to him as Michael Light. Even though the original race took place in Ecuador, the movie changed the location to the Dominican Republic. The original race took place in 2014, while in the movie the race takes place in 2018.

Mark Wahlberg portrays the part of the Mikael and delivers an excellent performance alongside Simu Liu, Nathalie Emmanuel and Ali Suliman. Ukai, a stray dog, was a real champion portraying the role of Arthur. The film takes us through picturesque locations in the Dominican Republic. The suspense was felt at every turn and corner and you are kept glued to the screen with a gripping storyline. The story balances the journey of Mikael and Arthur and eventually joins their path like a jigsaw puzzle.

Mark Wahlberg as Mikael Light (Lionsgate Films)

A fictional backstory is provided of Mikael’s competitive journey as well as the journey that Arthur took to get to Mikael. The movie successfully tells a deep story of connection between dogs and people. If you want to know more about the real story, you can check your local bookstore or Amazon for a copy of Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home

This movie is a 5 out of 5 for me. The connection between Mikael and Arthur is brought to life in this epic masterpiece. Arthur found a home in the heart of Mikael and thanks to Mark Wahlberg and Ukai, this film adaptation of ‘Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home’ became a memorable movie.

The trailer doesn’t spoil any of the important scenes of the movie. Arthur the King has a runtime of 1 hour and 30 minutes. There is no post-credits scene so no need to wait till the end.

Arthur the King Official Trailer (Lionsgate Films)

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Entertainment

A Must-See Satanic Panic Horror – Late Night With the Devil

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Written and directed by Cameron Cairnes & Colin Cairnes, Late Night With the Devil follows a late night TV host Jack Delroy, fighting the plummeting viewership of his show by welcoming in people from the occult in order to change that, but of course, everything doesn’t go as smooth as planned.

David Dastmalchian as Jack Delroy Late Night With the Devil (2023)

David Dastmalchian has appeared in a lot of films however always in smaller roles including The Dark Knight, Prisoners and more recently The Suicide Squad. This film allows Dastmalchian to take on the lead role of Jack Delroy, the host of the late night show at the centre of this film, and he genuinely does a great job. There’s a real range of emotions which his character goes through during the course of this film and he depicts them so well.

If you’re a fan of the horror genre, you’re going to really appreciate the use of practical effects in this. There’s plenty of stretchy and gooey gore for all of the horror fanatics that will have you shouting at the screen. 

From left to right: Laura Gordon, Ingrid Torelli, David Dastmalchian, Ian Bliss

If you want to hear my full thoughts, check out my review over on YouTube and let me know your opinions in the comments.

Late Night With the Devil will be released in cinemas from 22nd March and on Shudder on 19th April.

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Reviews

‘I Love You, Guys’ Review | A Poignant Exploration of Celebrity Vulnerability and Human Resilience

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We are living in an era where celebrities are worshipped like deities and sometimes, people forget that he or she is also a normal human being. If we feel happy or sad at certain moments, they do as well and even though a lot of people always surround them, they get vulnerable too. Although a lot of filmmakers forget to show that aspect of their lives, Billie Melissa Rogan takes the bold approach of showing the truth. Her directorial debut, ‘I Love You, Guys,’ is a poignant story about a celebrity fighting her inner self to maintain her celebrity image. The result is a stunning piece of art that resonates long after the end credits roll in.

The short film opens with a profound close-up of the young singing sensation named Sky (Becky Bush). She has made a name for herself by making and singing really exceptional songs. As a result, she is adored by her fans. Even though it feels like Sky has everything she wants, viewers see her submerged in a bathtub as she tries to battle her anxiety. Just then, Sky gets a phone that she’d be performing state-side. Now, that’s where we get to know about her vulnerable state for the first time. Although she says that she is really happy with the above-mentioned news, her face tells a different story. Despite her impending stardom, Sky has not started to feel the massive weight of mounting pressure, a sentiment audiences get to see in her conversations with bandmate Ryan (Pedro Leandro) and girlfriend Taylor (Celi Crossland).

Becky Bush in a still from ‘I Love You, Guys’ (Jumpcut Studios)

As the story moves forward, we get to know that ‘I Love You, Guys’ is about the fragile nature of the human spirit as much as it is about celebrity culture. It not only navigates themes of depression, it also highlights the turbulent emotional journey of Sky. One of the best aspects of the film is how Rogan masterfully brings Cory Varney’s screenplay to life. She managed to capture every minor detail of Sky’s emotions with utmost precision. Despite the fact that it is her first-ever film as a director, we get a sense that we are watching a flick helmed by a seasoned filmmaker.

Another aspect that makes this film such a compelling watch is its cinematography. Jenni Suitiala has done a phenomenal in showing expressions through vibrant colors and Rogan has made full use of the settings to give viewers a visually striking film. Whether it is heated arguments or silent moments of despair, each frame feels authentic and draws audiences into Sky’s personal life.

Apart from Rogan’s direction, Varney’s script is this film’s biggest strength. The writer has undoubtedly done a stunning job of showing the humanity of these characters. There’s a reason why Sky’s struggles feel very personal and it is because we have endured such moments in life. Moments where we doubt ourselves even when we know we are more than capable of doing a particular thing. Not every smiling person is happy. Sometimes he or she is smiling just so that no one finds out about the tough times they are going through.

A still from ‘I Love You, Guys’ (Jumpcut Studios)

Acting-wise, Becky Bush has given a performance that is surely going to open several doors for her. She delivers a magnificent performance by infusing Sky with a beautiful balance of vulnerability and strength. The way she manages to convey an innumerable amount of emotions is spectacular. I believe this is one of the most apt depictions of mental turmoil. Meanwhile, Pedro Leandro and Celi Crossland are just as spectacular. Every interaction between the characters feels genuine and nuanced.

All in all, ‘I Love You, Guys’ is a testament to how resilient a human spirit can be. In just 15 minutes, Rogan, Varney, and Bush take viewers on a journey that’s thought-provoking and talks about a subject that no one talks about. The writing, direction, and performances achieve a lot more than just viewers’ attention. The film offers a compelling examination of the human cost of pursuing fame and success. A poignant story that touches on themes of ambition, relationships, and self-discovery.

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