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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.



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.


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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Expendables 4 Movie Review | Explosive & Funny!



Expendables 4 (Lionsgate Movies)

The following piece was written during the 2023 Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie material being covered here wouldn’t exist.


A new generation of stars join the world’s top action stars for an adrenaline-fueled adventure in Expend4bles. Reuniting as the team of elite mercenaries, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, and Sylvester Stallone are joined for the first time by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Megan Fox, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Jacob Scipio, Levy Tran, and Andy Garcia. Armed with every weapon they can get their hands on and the skills to use them, The Expendables are the world’s last line of defense and the team that gets called when all other options are off the table. But new team members with new styles and tactics are going to give “new blood” a whole new meaning.

Iko Uwais as Suarto Rahmat (Lionsgate Movies)

The Expendables Film Series

I highly recommend catching up on the other movies in the Expendables film series.

Expendables 1 (2010)

The only life they’ve known is war. The only loyalty they have is to each other. They are the Expendables: leader and mastermind Barney Ross (Stallone), former SAS blade expert Lee Christmas (Statham), hand-to-hand combat specialist Yin Yang (Li), long barrel weapons specialist Hale Caesar (Crews), demolitions expert Toll Road (Couture), and precision sniper Gunnar Jensen (Lundgren). Living life in the fringes of the law, these hardened mercenaries take on what appears to be a routine assignment: a covert, CIA-funded operation to infiltrate the South American country of Vilena and overthrow its ruthless dictator General Garza (David Zayas). But when their job is revealed to be a suicide mission, the men are faced with a deadly choice, one that might redeem their souls or destroy their brotherhood forever.

The Expendables Official Trailer (Lionsgate Movies)

Expendables 2

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren),Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) — with newest members Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) and Maggie (Yu Nan) aboard — are reunited when Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) enlists the Expendables to take on a seemingly simple job. The task looks like an easy paycheck for Barney and his band of old-school mercenaries. But when things go wrong and one of their own is viciously killed, the Expendables are compelled to seek revenge in hostile territory where the odds are stacked against them. Hell-bent on payback, the crew cuts a swath of destruction through opposing forces, wreaking havoc and shutting down an unexpected threat in the nick of time — six tons of weapons-grade plutonium; enough to change the balance of power in the world. But that’s nothing compared to the justice they serve against the villainous adversary who savagely murdered their brother. That is done the Expendables way….

The Expendables 2 Official Trailer (Lionsgate Movies)

Expendables 3 (2014)

In The Expendables 3, Barney (Stallone), Christmas (Statham) and the rest of the team comes face-to-face with Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), who years ago co-founded The Expendables with Barney. Stonebanks subsequently became a ruthless arms trader and someone who Barney was forced to kill… or so he thought. In order to defeat Stonebanks, Barney decides that he has to fight old blood with new blood, and brings in a new era of Expendables team members, recruiting individuals who are younger, faster and more tech-savvy. The latest mission becomes a clash of classic old-school style versus high-tech expertise in the Expendables’ most personal battle yet.

The Expendables 3 Official Trailer (Lionsgate Movies)

Movie Review

Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and Sylvester Stallone bring the explosive energy needed to give us an explosive performance on-screen. The new members, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Megan Fox, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Jacob Scipio, Levy Tran, and Andy Garcia bring in a breath of fresh air with new attitude and fighting styles to keep us entertained. This movie is the fourth in the Expendable film series, but there is definitely no clear link between this movie and the prequels. Each movie in essence is a new mission and Expendables 4 can be watched without watching the previous movies. I suggest watching the previous three movies to experience the explosive action that you get when you combine our favorite action heroes.

Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross, leader of the Expendables (Lionsgate Movies)

Expendables 4 was great and delivered yet another action-packed mission filled with awesome fights, humor, cultural references and explosions. However, it wasn’t difficult to spot the main villain and there aren’t much surprises in terms of the new action stars who join this mission.

The movie starts us off with the Expendables in a race against time to retrieve nuclear warheads, but the mission goes south and instead of sticking to orders, one of the soldiers attempt to save his team member instead, which results in a failed mission and a casualty. The story follows the combination of accomplishing the mission while delivering a can of revenge-based whoop-ass. The last fight isn’t as explosive as the cast but still manages to deliver a plot-twist finale.

Megan Fox, Andy Garcia & Jacob Scipio, some of the newest members of the Expendables (Lionsgate Movies)

A future sequel should really consider a completely new group pick up the baton and leave us in suspense as to who the new heroes and villains could be. I love a good surprise with a side of plot twist in any movie.

There is no post-credits scene, so no need to wait till the very end. The trailer doesn’t spoil any of the plot twists you can expect from the movie. Overall, my rating for Expendables 4 is a 3.5 out of 5.

Make sure to watch at a cinema near you!

Expend4bles Official Trailer (Lionsgate Movies)

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Sung Kang’s ‘Shaky Shivers’ is a Campy Horror-Comedy With Superb Performances



Brooke Markham and VyVy Nguyen in 'Shaky Shivers' (Cineverse)

If you thought that Sung Kang can only thrill you with amazing car stunts, then you are wrong. The acclaimed star is set to take you on an entertaining ride with his directorial debut titled ‘Shaky Shivers’.

The latest horror-comedy film marks the feature directorial debut of Sung Kang, renowned for his roles in the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise and several other big projects. The movie stars Brooke Markham and VyVy Nguyen, with an ensemble cast including Jimmy Bellinger, Erin Daniels, and Herschel Sparber.

A still from ‘Shaky Shivers’ (Cineverse)

From the very beginning, ‘Shaky Shivers’ grabs hold of your attention with the comedic chemistry between lead actresses Brooke Markham (Lucy) and VyVy Nguyen (Karen). Their hilarious banter and dynamic friendship draw you into their world of magic, mayhem, and monstrous encounters. While a few other characters make appearances, the heart of the film rests on the shoulders of Karen and Lucy, whose relatable and believable friendship makes the story even more bewitching.

One of the best aspects of the film is how Sung Kang skillfully directs the title despite limited cast and limited settings. It still manages to keep audiences engaged and entertained. Kang also pays homage to classic horror films like ‘American Werewolf in London’ and injects fresh energy into the scenes while showcasing his comedic flair.

A still from ‘Shaky Shivers’ (Cineverse)

If you are one of those who enjoy unapologetically goofy and fun movies, ‘Shaky Shivers’ is undoubtedly a fun watch. Embracing its campiness, the film doesn’t try to be anything other than an enjoyable ride filled with supernatural elements. The characters have a helpful book of spells that they use to solve problems, which adds a clever and funny element to the story that will make you laugh..

While categorized as a horror-comedy, ‘Shaky Shivers’ leans more towards comedy than horror. However, don’t worry, as the supernatural beings like werewolves, zombies, and witches make their presence known throughout. The practical effects and impressive monster makeup, reminiscent of old-school horror flicks from the 70s and 80s, immerse you in a world of creatures and enchantment.

A still from ‘Shaky Shivers’ (Cineverse)

The plot of ‘Shaky Shivers’ escalates in an exciting and compelling manner, filled with unpredictable twists and goofy surprises.  While it may not leave you terrified, the perfect blend of supernatural ambiance and comedic moments guarantees plenty of laughter and enjoyment.

In conclusion, ‘Shaky Shivers’ is a must-watch horror-comedy that delivers on laughs, friendship, and supernatural encounters. With its engaging storyline, talented cast, and Sung Kang’s impressive directorial debut, the film is a delightful addition to the genre. So grab a large tub of popcorn and take your family for this fun-filled ride.

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Sex Education Season 4 is a Spectacular (and Overstuffed) Conclusion to One of Netflix’s Extraordinary Series



Official posted of 'Sex Education' Season 4 (Netflix)

When the first season of Sex Education came out on Netflix in 2019, it felt pretty daring and exciting for everyone. While there were many shows about teenagers and sex, ‘Sex Education’ stood out because it talked about these topics openly and covered them in a pretty detailed manner. Without any guesses, the show became really popular and is now considered a classic on Netflix. For 3 long seasons, viewers have seen students of Moordale, and everyone around them, dealing with a lot of complications, but now, it’s time to say goodbye to some of our character as the Netflix series has returned for its fourth and final edition.

At the end of Season 3, Moordale Secondary School closed down. This means that Otis, Eric, Aimee, Jackson, Vivienne, Cal, and Ruby have to go to a new school, Cavendish Sixth Form College. Some of them fit in well, while others struggle. And while Otis tries to focus on his therapy work, he finds out that there are other young people who are experts on relationships and sex in town.

Gillian Anderson as Jean Milburn in ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 (Netflix)

One of the strengths of Sex Education is its diverse and inclusive representation. The show shines a light on various sexual orientations, gender identities, and cultural backgrounds, providing a platform for underrepresented voices. Season 4 continues to explore these themes, introducing new characters who add depth and complexity to the narrative. On ghe other hand, the only problem with Season 4 is that there are too many things going on at once. There are so many sub-plots that might distract you at times and make you feel that this story might have looked good if there was another season in pipeline.

Even then, the writing remains sharp and witty, creating relatable and genuine teenage characters who grapple with their own insecurities and desires.

Ncuti Gatwa as Eric Effiong in Sex Education Season 4 (Netflix)

The performances in ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 are consistently strong. Asa Butterfield brings vulnerability and charm to his role as Otis, portraying the character’s growth and maturity. Ncuti Gatwa shines as Eric, capturing both his strength and vulnerability as he navigates new relationships and personal challenges. Emma Mackey delivers a nuanced performance as Maeve, showcasing her character’s intelligence and emotional depth. Mimi Keene is stupendous as well and bring another layer to her character which was so nice to see. Meanwhile, Gillian Anderson does what she is best at: deliver another extraordinary performance.

Emma Mackey as Maeve in Sex Education Season 4. (Netflix)

On the other hand, Aimee Lou Wood continues to mesmerise us with her charm and simplicity. Directors should definitely look at her and give her a leading role soon because she deserves it. Another actor that is surely a star in the making is Anthony Lexa, who portrays Abbi in Season 4. Her performance adds an additional charm to the series and gives a hope to Trans actors that they can too achieve their dreams.

A still from ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 (Netflix)

The final edition tackles difficult topics with sensitivity and care, highlighting the importance of consent, communication, and understanding in relationships. The show’s ability to tackle these issues head-on without becoming preachy is a testament to its thoughtful storytelling.

While the final season of ‘Sex Education’ does have some pacing and narrative issues, the strength of the performances, the thoughtful exploration of important issues, and the show’s commitment to inclusivity make it a satisfying and engaging watch. It’s bittersweet to say goodbye to these beloved characters, but the legacy of Sex Education will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on the television landscape.

Sex Education Season 4. (L to R) Mimi Keene as Ruby, Asa Butterfield as Otis in Sex Education Season 4 (Netflix)

In conclusion, ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 continues to deliver a standout and boundary-pushing narrative that explores sexuality, identity, and personal growth with humor and sensitivity. Despite some minor flaws, the show remains a shining example of inclusive storytelling and offers a heartfelt farewell to its beloved characters.

Some goodbyes are hard and this is certainly one of them.

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