Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannadawith subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in India, the sci-fi/fantasy film in “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” features a predominantly Indian cast of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: A man finds out his connection to a secret society that channels mystical energy, as he is chased around by villains while he tries to prevent an apocalypse.
Culture Audience: “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” will appeal primarily to fans of stars Amitabh Bachchan and Ranbir Kapoor and will appeal to anyone who doesn’t mind watching sci-fi/fantasy movies that treat audiences like idiots.
The over-indulgent and moronic “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” is an example of what happens when people spend too much money to make a movie and not enough effort to craft a coherent story and offer good performances. This abomination is an absolute chore to watch and will test the patience of viewers who have better things to do with their time, such as stare at a wall. At least when you stare at a wall, you won’t be annoyed by a constant barrage of stupidity with tacky visual effects, soundtrack music that’s too loud, and acting and dialogue so bad, it will all make you question why so many people signed off on making this obvious train wreck.
Written and directed by Ayan Mukerji, “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” is the first part of his so-called “Astraverse trilogy.” It’s as pretentious as it sounds. Here’s how this murky concept is explained in the production notes for “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva”:
“‘Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva’ begins with an image of sages in deep meditation in a mystical time in ancient India. The sages are gifted with the Light of the Universe—a Brahm-Shakti—a manifestation of the purest creative energy there is. From this Light, objects of power known as Astras are born.”
The description continues: “There are Astras that command the energy of Fire, Wind, Water and Earth, as well as Astras with the essence of diﬀerent animals and plants, all derived from the natural world. These include the Jalāstra, which commands the energy of water; the Pawanāstra, wind; the Agnyāstra, fire. The Vānarāstra gives the wielder the abilities of 1,000 monkeys, and the Nandi Astra gives users the strength of 1,000 bulls. (The Bull is the carrier of Lord Shiva in Hindu mythology.) The final Astra is the last to emerge from the Light, and it contains its collective essence, becoming the Lord of all the Others, the Brahmāstra.”
The description also says: “The sages take a solemn vow to protect these Astras, and as the guardians of the Brahmāstra, they name themselves the Brahmānsh, forming a secret society that will exist amongst other men and do good for the world with the power of the Astras. Time moves forward, and the Brahmānsh carries on as well, passing on the Astras generation to generation all the way into our world today, where the Brahmānsh still exist in secret.”
All this means is that viewers will see a bunch of people running around, spouting mystical nonsense, hunting for various religious artifacts, and using weather or laser beams to do battle in the expected “good versus evil” plot. And it will be dragged out into three movies that are as irritating and nonsensical and overly long as each other, under the guise of being “epic” filmmaking. The only thing “epic” about “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” is how it’s a epic failure at clever and original filmmaking.
Sometimes, a sci-fi/fantasy movie that knows it’s silly has fun with the absurdity and makes it entertaining for the audience. “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” is not that kind of movie. It looks like an unintentional parody of all the sloppy things that are in terrible sci-fi/fantasy films. But everything is taken so seriously in “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva,” which throws in some very eye-catching but cliché musical numbers.
“Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” is an overload of sci-fi/fantasy stereotypes: There’s the good-looking lead actor, who plays a “chosen one” hero, who usually grew up without his parents, for one reason or another. And he usually finds out family secrets that are tied to his destiny/legacy. In this case, the hero’s name is Shiva (played by Ranbir Kapoor), who’s apparently a rock-star-like party DJ in his spare time and can draw festival-sized crowds, because that’s how he’s first seen on film.
There’s the older man who acts as a mentor to the hero. That’s the lazily named Guru (played by Amitabh Bachchan), who is supposed to be a sage leader but comes across as wooden and stiff. There’s the “secret society” of warriors/fighters who are allies to the hero. In this movie, this secret society is called Brahmāstra, with Guru as their leader.
There’s the pretty love interest who somehow does fight scenes, chase scenes and other action scenes that would break bones in real life, but she gets maybe a bruise or two, and her hair and makeup stay intact. That’s Isha (played by Alia Bhatt), who is every worst stereotype of the female love interest who lacks substance. She has some of the worst lines in this already horrendous movie.
This is what Isha and Shiva say in their “meet cute” moment, which happens after they lock eyes in a corny slow-motion shot at one of Shiva’s DJ dance parties, where people are worshipping the Hindu goddess Durga: An awestruck Isha says to Shiva: “Who are you?” Shiva replies, “What are you?” Then he says, “I really like you.” And within hours of meeting Isha, Shiva is telling her that he loves her. Try not to retch.
There’s the sought-after mysterious person who might hold the crucial answers to the hero’s quest. That’s someone named Anish Shetty, also known as Artist (played by Nagarjuna Akkineni), who has an important artifact that Shiva needs. He gets caught up in some of the fight scenes. All of the movie’s action scenes are either very far-fetched or just plain formulaic.
There’s the chief villain, who has any number of cronies. In “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva,” that chief villain is a sorceress anmed Junoon (played by Mouni Roy), whose idea of being scary is smirking, glaring, and ultimately being a very generic nemesis. Junoon’s thugs include hulking Raftaar (played by Saurav Gurjar) and manipulative Zor (played by Rouhallah Gazi), who do a lot of snarling, grunting and fighting.
If you’ve seen this type of sci-fi/fantasy movie many times, then you’ll find no real surprises in “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva,” which is an excruciating 167 minutes long. “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” is just more of the same derivative sci-fi/fantasy, but worse than the usual formulaic junk. This horrible, bloated movie is an assault on people’s intelligence. If you can avoid it, do not subject yourself to this aggravation.
Walt Disney Pictures released “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” in U.S. cinemas on September 9, 2022.
Culture Representation: Taking place in South Korea and briefly in Shanghai, China, the sci-fi action film “The Witch 2: The Other One” features a predominantly Asian cast of characters (with one white South African) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: A mysterious teenager is hunted by various people while she is being protected by a woman, her brother and their cohorts with their own agenda.
Culture Audience: “The Witch 2: The Other One” will appeal mainly to people who are fans of the 2018 film “The Witch: Subversion” and sci-fi action movies that place more importance on violent chases than in creating interesting stories.
People don’t have to see 2018’s “The Witch: Subversion” before watching 2022’s “The Witch 2: The Other One,” because this sci-fi action sequel is so incoherent, it won’t make a difference. It’s just an idiotic, violent chase movie with no suspense. “The Witch 2: The Other One” is not a horror movie, as the title suggests, and is not scary at all. The only real horror that viewers might experience is finding out that this bloated movie is too long (137 minutes), considering how little entertainment value it has to offer.
Written and directed by Park Hoon-jung, “The Witch 2: The Other One” (which takes place in unnamed cities in South Korea) is yet another sci-fi movie about an individual who is being hunted by sinister forces that want to use the hunted individual in scientific experiments. In these types of predictable stories, the individual is one-of-a-kind or very rare. And the hunt to find this individual usually involves secretive government operations and/or a gang of criminals.
That’s the basic plot of “The Witch 2: The Other One,” which has a teenager who is just named Girl (played by Shin Si-ah) as the target of this hunt. The movie opens with Girl (who looks like she’s about 15 or 16 years old) on a school bus filled with 36 people, according to a TV news report shown later in the movie. She and the other students are from a school called Sanwol Fashion.
The bus is carjacked by about five men, who fill the bus with tear gas. About five to eight other men wearing hazmat suits then arrive and enter the bus. The next thing viewers see is Girl waking up in a scientific lab, where a TV news report says that the bus rolled off of a cliff, and everyone in the bus died. Everyone, that is, except for Girl.
At the lab, Girl sees a pregnant woman and asks her about the pregnancy. The woman replies, “It’s a girl. She will have a sister and become a twin. And those twins will have even more siblings.” In other words, Girl is being kept in a lab that is producing clones under a secret program called The Witch program. This isn’t spoiler information because the only real spoiler information is revealing where Girl came from, her true identity, and what happens to her at the end of the movie.
People who know about “The Witch: Subversion” know that there’s an evil scientist named Dr. Baek (played by Jo Min-su), who is in charge of this cloning. At the end of “The Witch Subversion” (spoiler alert) Dr. Baek is killed. But she has an identical twin, who’s also named Dr. Baek (also played by Jo Min-su) and who is the chief villain in “The Witch 2: The Other One.”
“The Witch 2: The Other One” so badly edited, the next time that viewers see Girl, it’s during a snowy winter, and she has woken up and sees her body has sustained bloody injuries. Girl doesn’t know or doesn’t remember how these injuries happened. She’s in a science lab in Shanghai, China, where several people have been massacred.
Meanwhile, Dr. Baek, who is in South Korea and now in a wheelchair, is having a conversation a young colleague named Jang (played by Lee Jong-Suk), who tells her that their secret cloning building Ark Main in Shanghai has been totally exposed. Jang adds, “Those fuckers busted the Shanghai lab and evaporated it … The Girl is unaccounted for … She walked out on her own … We’re fucked.” Viewers later find out that Girl has been given the name Ark 1 Datum Point at this Ark Main lab.
And the next thing you know, Girl is kidnapped again. This time, it’s when she’s walking all alone in a wooded area when she’s abducted by five men and one woman in a van. The woman, whose name is Kyung-hee (played by Park Eun-bin), is the fearless and tough leader of this group.
Kyung-hee’s full agenda is later revealed in the movie. But for now, all Girl knows is that Kyung-hee is protecting Girl from the people who want to send Girl back to the Ark Main lab. Some other people become involved during this chase movie that becomes very repetitive and tedious. Kyung-hee’s younger brother Dae-gil (played by Sung Yoo-bin) eventually comes into the picture in a pivotal role. There’s also a crime boss named Yong-doo (played by Jin Goo), who is an enemy of Kyung-hee and Dae-gil.
A female official named Jo-hyeon (played by Seo Eun-soo) has been tasked with finding Girl. Jo-hyeon’s right-hand man is an arrogant and dimwitted white South African (played by Justin John Harvey) who doesn’t have a name in the movie. He often argues with Jo-hyeon about strategy decisions.
Gun shootouts, hand-to-hand-combat, and explosions ensue. “The Witch 2: The Other One” is a just a noisy mess that ultimately has no originality whatsoever. All of the characters are barely two-dimensional, with the cast members giving unremarkable performances. If anyone has the patience to sit through this entire garbage dump of a movie, there’s an end credits scene with a “surprise” that basically announces that “The Witch 2: The Other One” is expected to have a sequel. You’ve been warned.
Well Go USA released “The Witch 2: The Other One” in select U.S. cinemas on June 17, 2022. The movie was released in South Korea on June 15, 2022. “The Witch 2: The Other One” is set for release on Blu-ray and DVD on November 8, 2022.
Culture Representation: Taking place in 1996 and in 2021, in Hinjawadi, Pune, India, the sci-fi drama film “Dobaaraa” (a remake of the 2018 Spanish film “Mirage”) features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: A woman in the medical profession finds out that she can see the past through a television set, and she tries to prevent the death of a boy who was killed in an auto accident 25 years earlier.
Culture Audience: “Dobaaraa” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of stars Taapsee Pannu and Pavail Gulati; the original “Mirage” film; and suspenseful movies about time traveling and alternate realities.
The last 15 minutes of “Dobaaraa” try to rush in a lot of convenient solutions, but this sci-fi thriller (a remake of the 2018 Spanish film “Mirage”) is riveting from beginning to end. Some parts of the movie are predictable, while others are not. Fans of alternate-reality stories should enjoy “Dobaaraa,” but viewers must be willing to pay full attention, in order for the movie to have its intended impact. In other words, the alternate realities in the story might confuse people who aren’t fully engaged or are easily distracted by other things while watching the movie.
Directed by Anurag Kashyap and written by Nihit Bhave, “Dobaaraa” (which translates to “second time” in Hindi) goes back and forth between the years 1996 and 2021, but the story takes place mostly in 2021. “Dobaaraa” opens in 1996, in Hinjawadi, Pune, India. On the night of an electrical storm, a 12-year-old boy named Anay (played by Arrian Sawant) is witnessing a disturbing crime in the house directly across the street from the house where he lives: A woman named Rujuta (played by Medini Kelamane) is being beaten severely by her cruel and abusive husband Raja Ghosh (played by Saswata Chatterjee) during a domestic violence argument.
During this attack, Rujuta is knocked down to the floor. Not quite believing what he just saw, Anay runs over to the Ghosh house to see if Rujuta is okay. When he goes in the house (the front door is unlocked), Anay sees Rujuta’s bloody and lifeless body on the living room floor. Suddenly, Raja appears in the doorway and sees that Anay knows that Rujuta is dead.
“Who are you?” Raja yells at Anay. A frightened Anay runs away as Raja chases after Anay. Anay runs out into the street to go back to his house, but he is tragically hit and killed by a fire truck before he makes it back to his house.
Anay was an only child who lived with his single mother Shikha Vats (played by Vidushi Mehta), who is a loving and devoted parent. At the time of Anay’s death, his parents were separated and headed for divorce. Anay’s father was not been involved in raising Anay since the separation. Anay missed his father immensely, so Anay would often make home video messages that he wanted his father to eventually see.
When Anay made these video messages, he usually set the video camera up on the television in his bedroom. This television becomes an important element of the story, because the TV becomes a time portal where someone from the future can see Anay. It’s also mentioned several times in the movie that Anay was a big fan of the 1984 sci-fi action film “The Terminator,” which had a time-traveling aspect to the story where someone from the future must save someone from the past.
The movie then fast-forwards 25 years after Anay’s death to 2021. The perspective shifts to a nurse in her late 30s named Antara Bhatt (played by Taapsee Pannu), who works at Blue Cross Hospital, where she often assists a surgeon named Dr. Sethupathi (played by Nassar). Antara is somewhat of an unconventional hospital nurse because she wears a nose ring. She is happy in her job but unhappy in her marriage to Vikas Awasthi (played by Rahul Bhat), who works as a hotel manager.
The discontent in their marriage is shown early on, in a scene in the couple’s kitchen, where Antara tells Vikas that his nonsense used to be music to her ears. “But now, you irritate me,” she coldly says to him. The couple apparently had conversations about splitting up before, but these conversations are not in the movie. However, Antara and Vikas have already decided that they are going to separate.
Vikas tells Antara that they should wait one month before they discuss the separation with their daughter Avanti (played by Myra Rajpal), who’s about 6 or 7 years old. Avanti is the couple’s only child. Vikas and Antara both adore Avanti, but Antara is the more attentive parent.
The decision to separate has come at an awkward time because Antara and Vikas have recently moved into a house. Antara has a platonic male friend named Abhishek (played by Sukant Goel), whom she met when they both attended the same university. Abhishek is one of two guests who attend a small housewarming dinner party hosted by Antara and Vikas.
Abishek tells Antara that he’s very familiar with this house because it’s where his childhood friend Anay used to live before Anay was tragically killed when he was hit by a fire truck on a rainy night. Abishek also says that Anay was died after witnessing a domestic violence murder at a neighbor’s house. The guilt-ridden neighbor confessed to his wife’s murder and admitted his role in inadvertently causing Anay’s death.
And guess who is also with Abhishek at this party? Anay’s mother Shikha, who became a mother figure to Abhishek after Anay’s death. Abhishek tells Antara stories about his childhood memories of Anay and how they used to love watching “The Terminator” together. Antara also hears about Anay’s video messages to his father.
The TV set that Anay’s family used to have is still in the house in the room that used to be Anay’s bedroom. Abhishek is amazed to see that this old TV is still there. Shikha is overcome with emotion and she can no longer stay in the house because it brings back painful memories. Her sadness puts a damper on the dinner party, which soon ends.
After the guests leave, a curious Antara turns on the television set. And she sees a boy on the screen who is filming himself and making a video message. To Antara’s shock, the boy on the TV can see and hear her too. She asks the boy what his name is, and he says his name is Anay. Antara notices that it’s raining heavily where Anay is, while Anay notices that Anatara is in a room that looks like his bedroom.
And when Anay tells Antara that he can hear the neighbor spouses fighting in the house across the street, Antara immediately knows that she’s looking into the past on the night that Anay was killed. Antara begs Anay not to go outside, because she says she’s from the future, and she knows that he will be hit by a truck if he goes outside. Anay doesn’t believe she’s from the future until she tells him about Abhishek.
The rest of “Dobaaraa” is somewhat of a mind-bending ride where alternate realities come into the picture, based on decisions that change the lives of people in the movie. It’s enough to say that Antara convinces Anay not to go outside on that fateful night. And the next day, Antara wakes up and finds out that her life is very different.
Antara is now a surgeon, not a nurse, at Blue Cross Hospital. Her nose ring is gone, and she has a shorter hairstyle. Her confusion turns to utter panic, when Antara goes to her daughter Avanti’s school to watch Avanti during swimming practice and finds out that Avanti has disappeared. Even worse: No one but Antara remembers or knew that Avanti existed. Vikas is still a manager at the same hotel, but when Antara goes there to talk to him, Vikas denies knowing Antara and says that he does not have a child.
Antara reports Avanti as a missing child, but since there are no records of Avanti, the police generally treat Antara as if Antara is mentally ill. Only one cop takes her desperate search for Avanti seriously: Deputy Commissioner of Police Anand (played by Pavail Gulati), who is about the same age as Antara. He offers to help Antara solve the mystery of why Avanti has disappeared and why many aspects of Antara’s life are very different from what she remembers before she woke up that day.
As the frantic mother Antara, Pannu gives an admirable performance that will keep viewers curious to see what will happen next. Kashyap’s direction of “Dobaaraa” maintains a suspenseful tone, while the film’s musical score by Shor Police skillfully conveys the right moods for every scene. The last third of the movie stumbles a bit with a plot development resembling a soap opera, but it doesn’t detract too much from the overall story.
Just like a lot of movies involving time traveling and alternate realities, based on people’s life-changing decisions, “Dobaaraa” has themes about fate versus free will. It’s a movie that will also make people think about how regret or gratitude about how one’s life has turned out can influence decisions that have ripple effects on one’s own life and the lives of others. “Dobaaraa” is more of a sci-fi thriller than a story heavily steeped in life philosophies. And therefore, it’s an entertaining but flawed story that thankfully doesn’t want to preach to its audience and lets viewers enjoy the ride as the story’s mystery is solved.
Balaji Motion Pictures released “Dobaaraa” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on August 19, 2022.
The following is a press release from Fantastic Fest:
There’s only one place where you’ll find killer teddy bears, man-eating sharks, elderly zombies, cocktail-serving robots, and Park Chan-wook… all under one roof. That’s right, world-famous genre festival Fantastic Fest is back for its seventeenth edition featuring 21 World Premieres, 14 North American Premieres, and 21 U.S Premieres. The festival will once again take over the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar in Austin, TX from September 22 – 29 and on the web via a virtual [email protected] experience from September 29 – October 4.
“It’s been far too long since we’ve all been able to gather together and celebrate film the Fantastic Fest way,” says Festival Director Lisa Dreyer. “We’ve really put our all into crafting an extraordinary week, from the exceptional programming that spans exciting discoveries to highly-anticipated features, to our signature events that will inject a much-needed dose of fun into 2022.”
The opening night film for Fantastic Fest 2022 is the world premiere of Paramount Pictures’ SMILE, the intensely creepy debut feature from Parker Finn that’ll have even the seasoned FF crowd gripping their armrests in genuine fright.
This year’s edition of Fantastic Fest will also honor a legendary genre filmmaker and show his latest masterpiece. Park Chan-wook, the South Korean director of OLDBOY, SNOWPIERCER, and THE HANDMAIDEN has been defining (and defying) genre films for decades, and his latest work – MUBI’s DECISION TO LEAVE – is a stunning achievement. In conjunction with the U.S. Premiere of his new film, Park Chan-wook will be present at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar to accept a lifetime achievement award from Fantastic Fest in celebration of his mind-bending, artfully-crafted body of work.
The closing night film at Fantastic Fest 2022 will be director Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or-winning pitch black comedy from Neon, TRIANGLE OF SADNESS. The latest Drafthouse Recommends selection, TRIANGLE OF SADNESS is an outrageously funny and audacious social satire, with a second act that could have been engineered in a lab specifically to delight Fantastic Fest audiences. It’s a joyful romp that’ll serve as a fitting capper to the fest, and the perfect segue to closing night festivities.
Other major studio films include two Searchlight films perfectly tuned to the Fantastic Fest palate – the U.S. Premiere of THE MENU, a sharp satire about a destination-dining experience with unexpected surprises, and the U.S. Premiere of director Martin McDonagh’s THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN, chronicling the dissolution of a friendship that escalates with shocking consequences.
A24 brings us the North American premiere of MEDUSA DELUXE, a murder mystery set in the world of competitive hairdressing, MGM and Distributor United Artist Releasing’s BONES AND ALL, from director Luca Guadagnino and starring Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, André Holland, Chloë Sevigny, David Gordon-Green, Jessica Harper, Jake Horowitz and Mark Rylance, and the U.S. premiere of Miramax’s SICK, the latest slasher from John Hyams.
Other World Premieres include:
Noah Segan’s directorial debut, BLOOD RELATIVES, a father-daughter vampire comedy.
Dark Side of the Ring co-creator Jason Eisener’s KIDS VS. ALIENS, which sees a group of friends face off against evil space invaders.
An anthology horror film featuring many Fantastic Fest alumni, SATANIC HISPANICS, from Epic Pictures.
“Fantastic Fest has always been the purest expression of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s founding principle: share the joy of cinema with people you love,” says Fantastic Fest founder Tim League. “I am beyond proud of the team for forging one of, if not the all-time best, Fantastic Fest experiences ever. This is my favorite week of the year, and I cannot wait to share it with all of you.”
For the first time since 2019, Fantastic Fest’s legendary parties and events are back.
A special performance in The Highball from the experiential sonic sorcerers Itchy-O while they’re in Austin for a show at the Far Out Lounge.
Hailing all the way from Vienna, Roboexotica makes its Texas-debut at the Fantastic Fest opening night party, bringing their famous cocktail-concocting robots to astonish and amuse.
Podcast recordings and live events on The Highball stage with Leonard Maltin, Scripts Gone Wild, The Kingcast and Screen Drafts.
Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher of The Found Footage Festival fame will perform a live show after their documentary CHOP & STEELE.
And finally, Fantastic Fest essentials like 100 Best Kills, the Fantastic Feud and the Fantastic Debates will return at this year’s festival.
For the second year in a row, Fantastic Fest will be a hybrid festival that offers in-person and virtual screenings. The Burnt Ends lineup will headline the online festival, with programming that seeks to champion eccentric and obscure indie cinema. Two in-person screenings will introduce audiences at South Lamar to the new series: THE PEOPLE’S JOKER and ALL JACKED UP AND FULL OF WORMS, both with filmmakers in attendance. The rest of this virtual lineup will be announced at a later date, featuring a selection of films from this year’s in person fest and will also include virtual exclusives such as a retrospective of cult DIY filmmakers Matt Farley and Charles Roxburgh’s MOTERN MEDIA movies.
Shark Attack & AGFA Takeover
This year’s sidebar is dedicated to the man-eater from the deep blue sea. Centered around the North American Premiere of FF alumni Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma’s YEAR OF THE SHARK, Fantastic Fest programmers dug deep to bring audiences the most entertaining shark movies from around the world. Many of them have never before screened in the USA and are now available thanks to our friends at AGFA.
The shark sidebar features TINTORERA! (Mexico) — which will be shown on 35mm from a print coming directly from Quentin Tarantino’s vault — as well as AATANK (India), GAMERA VS ZIGRA (Japan), MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH (USA), and 12 DAYS OF TERROR (USA).
Speaking of AGFA, the American Genre Film Archive team has gone all out for this year’s festival, with the debut of the AGFA theater takeover. For two days of the fest, AGFA has free reign over their own theater, and will fill it with mind-melting films from morning to night, featuring premieres of new restorations the first day, and a whiplash-inducing celluloid mystery marathon with five features and ten fingers on the trigger the second day.
Formed in 2009, the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to preserving the legacy of genre movies through collection, conservation, and distribution . From TERMINAL USA (a new restoration of Jon Moritsugu’s underground classic) to THE STAIRWAY TO STARDOM MIXTAPE (the definitive presentation of the most otherworldly public access TV show of all time), the AGFA team has brought out their best for the fest.
Fantastic Fest is proud to join the WomanInFan initiative, launched by the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia. WomanInFan was born with the aim to celebrate and elevate the role of the female filmmakers within the fantasy genre. The initiative aims to provide historical visibility, support for new projects, and foster connections and opportunities for female filmmakers.
Spanish and French Genre cinema are a big part of this year’s Fantastic Fest. With topics ranging from killer sharks, urban exploration gone wrong, space exploration, time travel, witchcraft, alien invasion to real life monsters and space rangers, it is clear that our cross-Atlantic neighbors were pretty busy during the pandemic. Fantastic Fest is thankful for the support of Acción Cultural Española and Unifrance, two cultural entities facilitating the travels of their national filmmakers.
We are thrilled to present 85 feature film titles and episodics, as well as a variety of short film selections to be announced at a later date — all showcasing World, North American, U.S. and Regional Premieres. See below for the full lineup of feature film programming at this year’s festival.
FESTIVAL FILM LINEUP BELOW:
12 DAYS OF TERROR
Retrospective, 95 min
Director – Jack Sholder
In attendance – Director Jack Sholder
During the record-breaking summer heat of 1916, beachgoers on the Jersey shore are threatened by a shark that has developed a taste for human flesh.
North American Premiere, 113 min
Directors – Prem Lalwani & Desh Mukherjee
A gangster’s hunt for black pearls sparks a series of vicious shark attacks. No diver, boat, or helicopter is safe in this B-grade Bollywood oddity.
ALL JACKED UP AND FULL OF WORMS (Burnt Ends Selection)
Texas Premiere, 72 min
Director – Alex Phillips
In attendance – Director Alex Phillips
A psychedelic journey of self-discovery leads to romance when a man shares his addiction to psychotropic worms… and Chicago will never be the same.
World Premiere, 104 min
Director – Sadrac Gonzalez-Perellon
In attendance – Director Sadrac Gonzalez-Perellon
In the aftermath of a horrific accident, Elisa believes that she’s been given super powers and will stop at nothing to avenge her mother’s death.
THE ANTARES PARADOX
World Premiere, 96 min
Director – Luis Tinoco Pineda
In attendance – Director Luis Tinoco Pineda
An astrophysicist working for the SETI project risks her career and family to verify an extraterrestrial radio signal before her access is cut off.
Texas Premiere, 105 min
Director – Gabriel Bier Gislason
In attendance – Director Gabriel Bier Gislason
Maja and Leah’s relationship is off to a great start, but they face two perilous threats: the whims of a Jewish demon and Leah’s overbearing mother.
North American Premiere, 118 min
Director – Kensuke Sonomura
A jailed cop is released to lead a crack unit against a corrupt businessman in this bone-crunching dust-up starring V-cinema legend Hitoshi Ozawa.
THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN
UK/Ireland, USA, 2022
US Premiere, 114 min
Director – Martin McDonagh
In attendance – Director Martin McDonagh
Two lifelong friends find themselves at an impasse when one abruptly ends their relationship, with alarming consequences for both of them.
BIRDEMIC 3: SEA EAGLE
World Premiere, 83 min
Director – James Nguyen
In attendance – Director James Nguyen
The birds are back, and global warming has them roiled! James Nguyen returns with the director’s cut of his thrilling, romantic, and worthy sequel.
World Premiere, 102 min
Director – Dain Said
A psychic teenage boy battles a bloodthirsty, malevolent spirit in this gory Malaysian horror from BUNOHAN’s Dain Said.
World Premiere, 88 min
Director – Noah Segan
In attendance – Director Noah Segan
A nomadic recluse living on the fringes of society reconsiders his bloodthirsty legacy when a teenage girl shows up claiming to be his daughter.
BONES AND ALL
Texas Premiere, 129 min
Director – Luca Guadagnino
In attendance – Director Luca Guadagnino
A story of first love between Maren, a young woman learning how to survive on the margins of society, and Lee, an intense and disenfranchised drifter; a liberating road odyssey of two young people coming into their own, searching for identity and chasing beauty in a perilous world that cannot abide who they are.
CHOP & STEELE
Austin Premiere, 81 min
Directors – Ben Steinbauer & Berndt Mader
In attendance – Directors Ben Steinbauer & Berndt Mader, Actors Joe Pickett & Nick Prueher
After pranking unsuspecting morning show hosts, the brains behind the beloved Found Footage Festival earn the ire of a major media conglomerate.
US Premiere, 84 min
Director – Mickey Reece
In attendance – Director Mickey Reece
Rising star Troyal Brux spends an evening with his idol George Jones, unaware that the country music legend has a rather cold deadline the following morning.
DECISION TO LEAVE
South Korea, 2022
US Premiere, 138 min
Director – Park Chan-wook
In attendance – Director Park Chan-wook
Laced with wicked humor, master filmmaker Park Chan-wook’s dazzlingly cinematic romantic thriller surprises and delights to the very last.
North American Premiere, 80 min
Director – Grégory Beghin
Three friends are caught between a skinhead gang and an otherworldly enemy after discovering a forgotten secret in the depths of the Paris Catacombs.
DEMIGOD: THE LEGEND BEGINS
US Premiere, 103 min
Director – Chris Huang Wen Chang
Martial arts, magic, and marionettes collide in a dazzling kaleidoscope of blood-spattered puppetry in this one-of-a-kind wuxia spectacular.
World Premiere, TBD min
Director – Luis Javier Henaine
After sneaking onto a crime scene to snap pictures of a corpse, an ambitious photographer stumbles into a curse that takes away his senses one by one.
US Premiere, 95 min
Directors – Raul Cerezo & Fernando Gonzalez Gomez
An octogenarian starts behaving weirdly in the wake of his wife’s sudden suicide as he prepares for events leading up to a mysterious apocalypse.
EVERYONE WILL BURN
North American Premiere, 120 min
Director – David Hebrero
In attendance – Director David Hebrero
A mysterious young girl interrupts María José’s suicide attempt, offering the power to take revenge on the villagers responsible for her son’s death.
World Premiere, 100 min
Director – Isaac Ezban
In attendance – Director Isaac Ezban, Actor Paola Miguel
Left in the care of their eccentric grandmother, Nala discovers that the tough old lady has sinister plans for her chronically ill sister, Luna.
Texas Premiere, 96 min
Director – Peter Hengl
In attendance – Director Peter Hengl
An insecure teenager begs her nutritionist aunt for help shedding weight over the Easter holiday, unaware of how extreme the diet plan will become.
US Premiere, 111 min
Director – Michel Hazanavicius
Oscar-winning French director Michel Hazanavicius’ meta-remake of the Japanese cult movie ONE CUT OF THE DEAD manages a little tour de force.
THE FIVE DEVILS
North American Premiere, 103 min
Director – Léa Mysius
A young girl’s ability to smell and reproduce any scent transports her into her family’s troubled past in this gorgeous, magical realist drama.
FLESHEATER (Presented by AGFA)
Texas Premiere of 4K Restoration, 89 min
Director – Bill Hinzman
The “spiritual sequel” to George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, newly restored in 4K from the original 16mm camera negative by Vinegar Syndrome.
Italy, Belgium, 2022
World Premiere, 93 min
Director – Paolo Strippoli
In attendance – Director Paolo Strippoli
A broken family violently confronts their tragic past as the Roman sewers exhale a hallucinatory toxin that revives repressed memories and fears.
GAMERA VS. ZIGRA
North American Premiere, 87 min
Director – Noriaki Yuasa
A classic case of mutated, talking murdershark vs. nuclear turtlebeast when Japanese cinema’s second-most iconic reptile takes on an oceanic threat!
World Premiere of 1st 2 Episodes, 114 min
Director – Eugenio Mira
In attendance – Director Eugenio Mira
On the hunt for a scoop that could secure her a job, a journalist intern inadvertently awakens a superhuman agent created by Franco’s regime.
GIVE ME PITY!
US Premiere, 80 min
Director – Amanda Kramer
Sissy St. Clair’s debut television special, a variety show evening of music and laughter, quickly curdles into a psychedelic nightmare.
North American Premiere, 86 min
Director – Jonas Govaerts
When Noah Hazard volunteers to drive his beloved gold Lexus to help his jailbird cousin pick up a friend from prison, he doesn’t expect to be drawn into a murderous drug war.
Texas Premiere, 115 min
Director – Ali Abassi
A female journalist descends into an Iranian city’s underbelly to investigate a serial killer stalking sex workers to cleanse the streets of sinners.
Mexico, Peru, 2022
Texas Premiere, 97 min
Director – Michelle Garza Cervera
In attendance – Director Michelle Garza Cervera
An expectant young mother confronts her past demons in Michelle Garza Cervera’s creepy mash-up between a folk ghost story and an anxiety attack.
South Korea, 2022
Texas Premiere, 125 min
Director – LEE Jung-jae
Rival KCIA agents hunt for an elusive North Korean spy in this ‘80s espionage thriller, the explosive directorial debut from SQUID GAME’s Lee Jung-jae.
JOINT SECURITY AREA (Presented by AGFA)
South Korea, 2000
US Premiere of Restoration, 110 min
Director – Park Chan-wook
Arrow Film’s new restoration of Park Chan-wook’s explosive exploration of the madness of war set in the DMZ between North and South Korea.
KIDS VS. ALIENS
World Premiere, 75 min
Director – Jason Eisener
In attendance – Director Jason Eisener
Jason Eisener’s long-awaited follow-up to Canuxploitation classic HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN pits a group of moviemaking pals against sinister alien invaders.
KING ON SCREEN
France, USA, 2022
World Premiere, 105 min
Director – Daphné Baiwir
In attendance – Director Daphné Baiwir
A documentary exploration of the many screen adaptations of the work of Stephen King, with commentary from the filmmakers he’s influenced the most.
Spain, Argentina, 2022
US Premiere, 84 min
Director – Eduardo Casanova
In attendance – Director Eduardo Casanova
A terminal cancer diagnosis upends a claustrophobic mother-son relationship in Spain’s auteur of weirdness, Eduardo Casanova’s sophomore film.
THE LEGACY OF THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE
United Kingdom, 2022
World Premiere, 83 min
Director – Phillip Escott
In attendance – Director Phillip Escott
Fest alumnus Phillip Escott presents a journey into THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, exploring the elements that garnered the film its cult status.
LEONOR WILL NEVER DIE
Texas Premiere, 99 min
Director – Martika Ramirez Escobar
In attendance – Director Martika Ramirez Escobar
A falling TV hits Leonor on the head, and she ends up in the action movie she’s writing, but there’s just one problem: she hasn’t finished the script.
A LIFE ON THE FARM
United Kingdom, USA, 2022
Texas Premiere, 75 min
Director – Oscar Harding
In attendance – Director Oscar Harding, Executive Producers Joe Pickett & Nick Prueher
An often-macabre deep-dive into the inspiring legacy of the long-lost home movies of a filmmaking farmer’s life in rural Somerset, England.
LIVING WITH CHUCKY
Texas Premiere, 102 min
Director – Kyra Gardner
In attendance – Director Kyra Gardner
The daughter of one of Chucky’s puppeteers examines the family relationships that contributed to the success of the queer camp classic CHILD’S PLAY.
LYNCH / OZ
Texas Premiere, 108 min
Director – Alexandre O. Philippe
Documentary filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe dissects director David Lynch’s lifelong obsession with THE WIZARD OF OZ.
MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH
Texas Premiere, 86 min
Director – William Grefé
A rabidly anti-human Vietnam vet cranks his telepathic shark-bond to 11 in William Grefe’s lethally entertaining shipwreck of JAWS and CARRIE.
US Premiere, 115 min
Director – Carlos Vermut
In attendance – Director Carlos Vermut
Spanish cult director Carlos Vermut returns to the festival with an unsettling, intimate portrait of a real-life monster tortured by a grim secret.
United Kingdom, 2022
North American Premiere, 100 min
Director – Thomas Hardiman
In attendance – Director Thomas Hardiman
Tensions and hairspray run high when a stylist is murdered at an elite hairdressing competition where a passion for extravagance borders on obsession.
US Premiere, 107 min
Director – Mark Mylod
In attendance – Director Mark Mylod
A couple (Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult) travels to a coastal island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef (Ralph Fiennes) has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises.
US Premiere, 124 min
Director – Shinzô Katayama
A distraught daughter searches for her widower father, after he disappears while trying to collect the reward for capturing an unknown serial killer.
New Zealand, 2022
World Premiere, 96 min
Director – David Farrier
In attendance – Director David Farrier
Following reports of fraudulent car clamping in Auckland, journalist and filmmaker David Farrier opens an investigation that pushes him to the limits of his sanity in this incredible true story of psychological warfare.
World Premiere, 99 min
Director – Kjersti Helen Rasmussen
Mona’s domestic bliss with her devoted boyfriend unravels as her night terrors intensify, but attempts at lucid dreaming reveal something sinister.
Slovakia, Czech Republic, 2022
US Premiere, 109 min
Director – Tereza Nvotová
Šarlota returns home decades after losing her sister in an accident, only to be faced by the brutal village patriarchy and accusations of witchcraft.
Denmark, Germany, 2022
International Premiere, 88 min
Directors – Trine Piil & Seamus McNally
In attendance – Directors Trine Piil & Seamus McNally
A group of teenage classmates face an existential crisis, pushing them into darker and darker territory as they confront the meaninglessness of life.
US Premiere, 93 min
Director – Oliver Park
In attendance – Director Oliver Park
A desperate man defends his unborn child from an ancient demon brought into their family-owned, Hasidic funeral home inside a mysterious corpse.
The Netherlands, 2022
Texas Premiere, 70 min
Director – Mascha Halberstad
A young girl suspects that her estranged butcher grandfather has sinister plans for the adorable piglet he has given her as a birthday gift.
ONE AND FOUR
Texas Premiere, 88 min
Director – Jigme Trinley
A Tibetan forest ranger must deduce who among the three visitors seeking refuge in his cabin from a coming blizzard are poachers and who are cops.
THE PEOPLE’S JOKER (Burnt Ends Selection)
US Premiere, 92 min
Director – Vera Drew
In attendance – Director Vera Drew
The Joker finds new purpose in Gotham City after transitioning and opening an illegal comedy club in Vera Drew’s handcrafted superhero genre parody.
Texas Premiere, 90 min
Director – Carlota Pereda
In attendance – Director Carlota Pereda
When a bullied girl’s tormentors are kidnapped, she faces the ultimate moral test: Does she help or allow them to suffer as payback?
PROJECT WOLF HUNTING
South Korea, 2022
US Premiere, 121 min
Director – KIM Hongsun
On the choppy seas between Manila and Busan, violent convicts run amok on a hellish cargo ship in this blood-soaked slice of maritime carnage.
In attendance – Directors Mike Mendez, Demian Rugna, Eduardo Sanchez, Gigi Saul Guerrero & Alejandro Brugues
Five crazy and original shorts from five entertaining Hispanic directors, together in an anthology that will make you laugh and jump in fright.
Texas Premiere, 113 min
Director – Shinji Higuchi
Ultraman descends from space after Japan suffers a devastating series of kaiju attacks in this homage to the classic, genre-defining TV series.
US Premiere, 82 min
Director – John Hyams
As the pandemic steadily brings the world to a halt, Parker and her best friend Miri decide to quarantine at the family lake house alone – or so they think. Directed by John Hyams (ALONE), written by Kevin Williamson (SCREAM, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER) and Katelyn Crabb (SICK) and starring Gideon Adlon (BLOCKERS, THE CRAFT: LEGACY), Bethlehem Million (AND JUST LIKE THAT), Marc Menchaca (THE OUTSIDER, OZARK), and Jane Adams (TWIN PEAKS, POLTERGEIST, HACKS).
SICK OF MYSELF
Norway, Sweden, 2022
US Premiere, 95 min
Director – Kristoffer Borgli
Fueled by a need for attention, Signe plays a perverse game of one-upmanship with her boyfriend, popping a drug that causes a painful skin condition.
World Premiere, 116 min
Director – Parker Finn
In attendance – Director Parker Finn
After witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient, Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can’t explain. As an overwhelming terror begins taking over her life, Rose must confront her troubling past in order to survive and escape her horrifying new reality.
SMOKING CAUSES COUGHING
Texas Premiere, 80 min
Director – Quentin Dupieux
Five anti-smoking avengers are forced to take a mandatory team-building retreat in Quentin Dupieux’s absurdist take on the superhero genre.
World Premiere of 4K Restoration, 85 min
Directors – Jack Bomay & Sal Watts
Think twice before you mess with Solomon King! Deaf Crocodile’s meticulous restoration of Sal Watts’ ‘70s cult classic will soon be your new favorite.
SOMETHING IN THE DIRT
Texas Premiere, 115 min
Directors – Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead
In attendance – Directors Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead
A pair of Los Angeles misfits’ investigation into the city’s occult history sends them down a rabbit hole that threatens their friendship and sanity.
SPOONFUL OF SUGAR
World Premiere, 94 min
Director – Mercedes Bryce Morgan
Desperate for connection, Millicent enmeshes herself in the lives of a dysfunctional family as her disturbing, LSD-fueled hallucinations grow violent.
THE STAIRWAY TO STARDOM MIXTAPE (Presented by AGFA)
World Premiere, 70 min
Director – AFGA
Culled from more than 15 hours of footage, the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) presents the definitive cut of public access TV’s most otherworldly show.
THE STRANGE CASE OF JACKY CAILLOU
North American Premiere, 92 min
Director – Lucas Delangle
Jacky has his grandmother’s gift of healing, but when a woman turns up on his doorstep with an unusual problem, he must decide how far he’ll go for love.
Texas Premiere, 94 min
Director – Carter Smith
In attendance – Director Carter Smith and Actor Mark Patton
Forced to mule drugs on their crossing of the southern US border, two friends realize that the packages they ingested seem to be alive.
TERMINAL USA (Presented by AGFA)
World Theatrical Premiere of 4K Restoration, 60 min
Director – Jon Moritsugu
Jon Moritsugu’s genre-melting underground classic, newly restored from the original camera negative by the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA).
North American Premiere, 137 min
Director – Damien Leone
Resurrected by occult forces, Art the Clown returns to wreak bloody havoc on the residents of Miles County, targeting a frazzled mother and her kids.
Mexico, United Kingdom, 1977
Repertory 35mm Screening, 85 min
Director – René Cardona Jr.
A tiger shark disrupts two best friends’ blissful plans to enjoy life in the Caribbean in this Mexican sharksploitation classic from 1977.
TRIANGLE OF SADNESS
US Premiere, 149 min
Director – Ruben Östlund
In Ruben Östlund’s wickedly funny Palme d’Or winner, social hierarchy is turned upside down, revealing the tawdry relationship between power and beauty. Celebrity model couple, Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), are invited on a luxury cruise for the uber-rich, helmed by an unhinged boat captain (Woody Harrelson). What first appeared instagrammable ends catastrophically, leaving the survivors stranded on a desert island and fighting for survival.
North American Premiere, 110 min
Director – Edouard Salier
In attendance – Director Edouard Salier
An extraterrestrial substance cripples an aspiring young astronaut, forcing his twin brother out of his shadow to continue his training alone.
Four episodes from the brand new 4k restoration of the original Ultraman television series.
Spain, France, 2022
US Premiere, 92 min
Director – Alberto Vázquez
After a bloody defeat in their apocalyptic war against the Unicorns, the Teddy Bear army launches a desperate attack in the heart of the magic forest.
Texas Premiere, 100 min
Director – Juan Felipe Zuleta
In attendance – Director Juan Felipe Zuleta
An internet sex worker convinces her reclusive neighbor to road-trip across North America for a rendezvous with visitors from a distant galaxy.
US Premiere, 99 min
Directors – Johannes Roberts, Maggie Levin, Flying Lotus, Tyler MacIntyre, Vanessa Winter & Joseph Winter
In attendance – Directors Maggie Levin & Tyler MacIntyre
The found footage anthology’s latest scare package rewinds the tape back to 1999 with bloody tales set against the end of the millennium.
US Premiere, 100 min
Director – Jaume Balagueró
In attendance – Director Jaume Balagueró
Injured in an attempt to steal from her boss, Lucía hides with her sister, unaware that something’s very wrong with the rundown building’s residents.
Belgium, France, Lithuania, 2022
US Premiere, 112 min
Directors – Kristina Buožytė & Bruno Samper
In attendance – Directors Kristina Buožytė & Bruno Samper
In a post-apocalyptic world, a peasant girl’s encounter with an oligarch’s lost daughter leads to a discovery that could reverse ecological collapse.
VIDEO DIARY OF A LOST GIRL (Presented by AGFA)
World Premiere, 96 min
Director – Lindsay Denniberg
The American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) presents a new preservation of DIY filmmaker Lindsay Denniberg’s hypercolored, VHS-inspired horror valentine.
THE VISITOR FROM THE FUTURE
North American Premiere, 102 min
Director – François Descraques
A snarky time traveler from the year 2555 arrives to save the world from ecological disaster by attempting to assassinate a climate activist’s father.
WE MIGHT AS WELL BE DEAD
Germany, Romania, 2022
Texas Premiere, 93 min
Director – Natalia Sinelnikova
When a dog disappears from a secluded high-rise building, fear spreads among the residents, threatening to turn their utopia into Absurdistan.
A WOUNDED FAWN
Texas Premiere, 91 min
Director – Travis Stevens
In attendance – Director Travis Stevens, Actors Sarah Lind & Josh Ruben
Bruce is erudite, handsome, and charming… but he’s also a psychotic serial killer urged to violence by the gigantic red owl that lives in his head.
YEAR OF THE SHARK
North American Premiere, 84 min
Directors – Ludovic Boukherma & Zoran Boukherma
A maritime police sergeant-major spends her last days before retirement in the relentless pursuit of the shark terrorizing her small beach town.
CULT MEMBER, FAN, and 2ND HALF Badges for Fantastic Fest 2022 are available for purchase here. [email protected] Badges are also available and provide access to the fest’s virtual event which takes place from 9/29 – 10/4, geolocked to the US.
Movie lovers in all Alamo Drafthouse theaters can get a taste of Fantastic Fest via a special limited-time menu. Fantastic Fest themed food and drinks will be available across all 37 Alamo Drafthouse theaters nationwide from September 22nd – September 29th.
As the world continues to spin on in this new normal, we want to assure you that your safety is still top of mind. Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar’s enhanced sanitization practices will remain active so that we can continue to provide the safest theater experience possible. Masks are optional, but we do still recommend wearing them when not eating or drinking. Forgot your mask? We’re happy to provide one.
We are now accepting press credential applications for Fantastic Fest 2022. To apply, please fill out this form. The deadline to apply for press credentials is Friday, September 9, 2022. Please note all applications are subject to approval.
For Fantastic Fest & Alamo Drafthouse Media Inquiries:
Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the U.S., specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world. In years past, the festival has been home to the world and US premieres of PARASITE, JOJO RABBIT, THE BLACK PHONE, JOHN WICK, FRANKENWEENIE, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, APOCALYPTO, ZOMBIELAND, RED, SPLIT, HALLOWEEN, BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE, MID 90s, and SUSPIRIA while the guest roster has included such talent as Tim Burton, Nicolas Winding-Refn, Lilly and Lana Wachowski, Bong Joon-Ho, Taika Waititi, Robert Rodriguez, Rian Johnson, Bill Murray, Keanu Reeves, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Edward Norton, Ryan Reynolds, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Karl Urban, Josh Hartnett, The RZA, Dolph Lundgren, Paul Rudd, Bill Pullman, Paul Thomas Anderson, Kevin Smith, Jon Favreau, George Romero, Darren Aronofsky, Mike Judge, Karyn Kusama, M. Night Shyamalan, James McAvoy, Vince Vaughn, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jonah Hill, Barbara Crampton and Jessica Harper. Fantastic Fest also features world, national, and regional premieres of new, up-and-coming genre films. Fantastic Fest has seen the acquisition of many titles, including BULLHEAD, KILL LIST, MONSTERS, KLOWN, THE FP, PENUMBRA, HERE COMES THE DEVIL, NO REST FOR THE WICKED, VANISHING WAVES, COMBAT GIRLS, I DECLARE WAR, THE PERFECTION, and TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID Fantastic Fest is held each year at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas. Alamo Drafthouse has been named the best theater in the country by Entertainment Weekly, Wired, and TIME.
Presenting Sponsors for Fantastic Fest as of now include Austin-born Milton Sleep Co. who will be providing some of their unique bed-in-a-box comfort throughout the week; and Wicked Kitchen, a 100% plant-based global food brand created by chefs and brothers Derek and Chad Sarno, who are on a mission to improve the lives of humans and animals globally by inspiring the world to eat more plants.
This year, Fantastic Fest has teamed with Legion M to release “Film Scout”, an app that puts fest-goers and fans around the world in the role of Hollywood executives to “scout,” rate, and rank their favorite films. Film Scouts compete against one another for honor and prizes, and the reviews provided by these fantastic film fans will be used by Legion M and their partners to evaluate movies for potential distribution deals.
To continue the effort toward creating a more accessible festival, the fest has again partnered with Rev to provide captions for the English language films playing virtually through [email protected]
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, celebrating its 25th anniversary, was founded in 1997 as a single-screen mom and pop repertory theater in Austin, TX. Twenty-five years later, with 36 locations and counting, Alamo Drafthouse has been called “the best theater in America” by Entertainment Weekly and “the best theater in the world” by Wired. Alamo Drafthouse has built a reputation as a movie lover’s oasis not only by combining best-in-class food and drink service with the movie-going experience, but also introducing unique programming and high-profile, star-studded special events. Alamo Drafthouse created Fantastic Fest, a world-renowned genre film festival dubbed “The Geek Telluride” by Variety featuring independents, international filmmakers, and major Hollywood studios. Alamo Drafthouse continues to expand its brand in new and exciting ways, including the American Genre Film Archive, a non-profit film archive dedicated to preserving, restoring and sharing film, and with eight new theaters announced for this year and beyond.
Culture Representation: Taking place in outer space in the year 2056, the sci-fi drama film “Rubikon” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with one black person and one Asian person) portraying astronauts on a space station who have escaped from an apocalypse on Earth.
Culture Clash: Astronauts who are on board the space station (which is called Rubikon) have to decide whether or not to return to Earth when they find out there are certain survivors on Earth.
Culture Audience: “Rubikon” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching dull, poorly acted and nonsensical science-fiction movies.
The sci-fi drama “Rubikon” is about people on a space station who are trying to stay alive after escaping from an apocalypse on Earth. Viewers will try to stay awake while watching this horribly acted and boring snoozefest. Making matters worse, “Rubikon” has some plot developments that are terribly structured or make no sense at all.
The characters in the movie don’t come across as very authentic or relatable. In other words, it will be hard to root for anyone on board this space station. The sloppy and abrupt ending of “Rubikon” is an example of the many things that are wrong with this movie.
Directed by Magdalena “Leni” Lauritsch (who co-wrote the awful “Rubikon” screenplay with Jessica Lind), “Rubikon” takes place entirely in outer space in the year 2056. “Rubikon” is the feature-film debut for Lauritsch and Lind. Everything about this movie looks like a director’s first feature film because the storytelling is so amateurish and filled with plot holes.
There are some exterior scenes in the movie, but the vast majority of scenes take place inside a space station called Rubikon. Unrealistically, it’s implied that the small number of people in Rubikon are the only Earth apocalypse survivors who have the responsibility to float through space to find survival methods for the people left behind on Earth. The survivors who are left on Earth have a greater chance of surviving if they’re wealthy enough to afford special privileges.
Title cards in the beginning of the movie give this background information: “In 2056, the world’s environment has deteriorated beyond a critical state. Only the rich can afford to live in ‘air domes,’ which filter the contaminated outside air. Big corporations have replaced governments and states.”
The statement continues, “Conflicts over resources and territorial borders are resolved by their corporate armies. All attempts to find refuge in space have failed. The Nibra Corporation owns the last extraterrestrial research base still searching for solutions to the environmental crisis.”
All of this sounds like an intriguing plot for a movie. It’s too bad that “Rubikon” does not even come close to depicting the “haves” and “have nots” part of this promised story. At one point in the movie, the people inside Rubikon get a call from a woman who claims to be an Earth survivor in an undisclosed location. That’s it.
All that the “Rubikon” movie has to offer are very dull scenes of a small crew of six people on the space station who have forgettable and generic personalities. They are commander Hannah Wagner (played by Julia Franz Richter), commander Phillip Jenson (played by Nicholas Monu) and crew members Gavin Abbott (played by George Blagden), Tracy Sato (played by Daniela Kong), Danilo Krylow (played by Konstantin Frolov) and Dimitri Krylow (played by Mark Ivanir), who is Danilo’s medical doctor father.
For the most obvious reasons possible, Hannah, Gavin and Dimitri end up being the only ones left on Rubikon. Dimitri barely mentions the circumstances under which his son Danilo is no longer with them. Several monotonous scenes then ensue. And after a while, Hannah, Gavin and Dimitri act like Phillip, Tracy and Danilo didn’t even exist.
There’s a useless subplot of Hannah, whose first language is German, briefly communicating by video with her sister Knopf (played by Hannah Rang), whose real name is Mia. Knopf is also a space traveler who’s on a mission that’s never clearly explained in the movie. Whatever it is that Knopf is doing, she’s in a flea-ridden environment, and now she has fleas on her body. Viewers know this because Knopf shows the fleas to Hannah during a video chat. If you think this character detail about Knopf’s hygiene problem is fascinating, then “Rubikon” is the movie for you.
Hannah, Gavin and Dimitri are contacted by a mysterious woman identifying herself as Esther Kaminsky (voiced by Stephanie Cannon), who communicates with them only by audio. Esther claims that she represents about 300 survivors who are in a secret colony location on Earth. Esther says that this secret colony is living in a bunker and running out of oxygen.
Hannah and Gavin want to return to Earth to rescue these survivors, while Dimitri vehemently disagrees, because he’s worried that the space station is not equipped with enough food, resources and oxygen levels to help 300 people. A major plot hole in the movie is that Hannah, Gavin and Dimitri never ask Esther for enough proof of what she’s claiming (for example, Hannah, Gavin and Dimitri don’t ask to speak to anyone else who’s in Esther’s supposed colony), which makes these space explorers look like they lack common sense.
“Rubikon” has a lot of talk about the algae symbiosis system that’s on the space station. It’s mentioned that because oxygen in the space station needs to be maintained at certain levels, at least three people need to be in the space station at all times, or else the high levels of carbon dioxide and low levels of oxygen will be fatal. As the only medical doctor in this group, Dimitri is adamant that three people be in the space station at all times.
Therefore, when Hannah and Gavin are contemplating leaving Dimitri behind on the space station to go on a spaceship to rescue the secret colony, Gavin and Hannah don’t really consider that it would mean probable death for Dimitri. It’s another plot hole in the movie. “Rubikon” also never properly explains how Gavin and Hannah would be able to bring enough breathable oxygen with them if they returned to Earth for this mission to rescue 300 people. There’s also a very clumsily handled subplot about one of these team members being suicidal.
One of the biggest problems with “Rubikon” is Nibra Corporation’s presence is barely depicted in the movie at all. The people on board the Rubikon have supposedly lost contact with ground control. But they have hard-to-believe reactions to their communication being cut off from their only source of funding. Overall, these space travelers are unrealistically nonchalant about it.
The only real mention of how social class affects people’s attitudes and chances of survival is early on in the movie when Danilo (who’s very jealous of Gavin) questions why Gavin is at this space station, because Gavin is the son of an executive who could afford to provide Gavin with the air dome living that’s exclusive to Earth’s wealthy people. Other than that quick mention, “Rubikon” gives no sense of the wealthy people on Earth who live in air domes and how these elites could affect any missions enacted by the Rubikon space explorers.
“Rubikon” never adequately explains how only one space station with six people (later reduced to three people) could be responsible for saving Earth, considering all the space programs that exist in various countries. Viewers are supposed to believe that all the other space exploration professionals in the world somehow disappeared or died because of the toxic air, which is called “permafrost gas” in the movie. Even though “Rubikon” is a science fiction movie, so much of “Rubikon” comes across as ridiculous nonsense.
Adding to the phoniness of “Rubikon,” the cast members give abysmal performances, with Franz Richter being the worst of all. Her acting is very stiff and almost unwatchable. Viewers will learn almost nothing about these “Rubikon” characters, except for Gavin, who comes from a rich family, and he briefly talks about his past as an idealistic “make the world a better place” activist. As a leader, Hannah isn’t very smart, and she has no charisma.
“Rubikon” isn’t the worst sci-fi flick you can ever see. The cinematography, visual effects, production design and costume design are adequate. But viewers will feel like if this dimwitted Rubikon space team is supposed to be responsible for saving other human beings on Earth, then the people on Earth are better off taking their chances with an apocalypse.
IFC Films/IFC Midnight released “Rubikon” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on July 1, 2022.
Culture Representation: Taking place in Santa Clarita Valley, California, the sci-fi horror film “Nope” has a racially diverse cast of characters (African American, white, Asian and Latino) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: A brother and a sister, who work together on a horse ranch, join forces with a Fry’s Electronics salesman to visually document an unidentified flying object (UFO) in their area.
Culture Audience: “Nope” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of filmmaker Jordan Peele and stars Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, but this frequently monotonous and unimaginative movie is an unfortunate case of hype over substance.
Does the sci-fi horror flick “Nope” live up to the hype? The title of this disappointing bore says it all. It’s a rambling, disjointed, self-indulgent mess that does nothing innovative for movies about UFOs. It’s obvious that writer/director/producer Jordan Peele got this movie made without anyone stepping in to question the very weak and lazy plot of “Nope,” and to ask for a screenplay rewrite to make drastic improvements that were desperately needed.
After the memorable originality of the previous two movies that Peele wrote and directed (2017’s “Get Out” and 2019’s “Us”), “Nope” looks like a movie that was made from a half-baked, unfinished screenplay draft that got greenlighted simply because Peele had enormous commercial and critical success with “Get Out” (which won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay) and “Us.” “Nope” was filmed for IMAX screens, but having a bigger screen doesn’t always make a movie better. Considering all the outstanding and classic movies about UFOs, “Nope” has the substandard story quality of a UFO movie that was thrown together for a fourth-tier cable TV network or a direct-to-video release. Yes, “Nope” is that bad.
One of the reasons why “Nope” fails to live up to the hype is because before the movie’s release, the plot was shrouded in secrecy, as if “Nope” were some kind of masterpiece whose details dare not be leaked out, in order not to reveal a brilliant plot. There is no brilliant plot or even a clever plot twist in “Nope.” It’s just a tedious, badly structured movie about some people who see a UFO in the sky and decide to visually document it because they think it will make them rich and famous.
Too bad it takes so long (not until the last third of the movie) for any real action to take place in “Nope,” which should have been an exciting sci-fi horror film, but it just drags on and on with no real substance. Just because “Nope” has some Oscar winners and the big-budget backing of a major studio, that doesn’t automatically mean that the movie is going to be good. Peele is capable of doing much better movies (as evidenced by “Get Out” and “Us”), but “Nope” just looks like a cynical cash grab from filmmakers coasting on Peele’s previous successes.
Making matters worse, the talented cast members of “Nope” are stuck portraying hollow characters with vague backstories and a lot of cringeworthy or monotonous dialogue. Keke Palmer’s Emerald Haywood character is the only one in “Nope” who comes close to having a fully formed personality, but her character is quickly reduced to being a bunch of one-note soundbites and wisecracks. Everyone else in “Nope” is written as an incomplete sketch.
Characters in “Nope” end up working together in implausible ways. “Nope” also telegraphs way too early which character will have the big “heroic” scene during the inevitable showdown in the movie’s climax. The movie’s visual effects are adequate, but definitely not spectacular for a movie concept of this scope. Intriguing subplots are dangled in front of the audience, only to be left hanging. And many of the action scenes have some horrifically subpar editing.
And why is this movie called “Nope”? It’s because during certain scenes that are supposed to be scary, one of the characters says, “Nope,” as in, “No, I’m not having this right now.” It’s supposed to be an engaging catch phrase, but it’s really very tired and unoriginal. Most of the so-called “comedy” in “Nope” is fleeting and often falls flat.
An early scene in “Nope” (which takes place in California’s Santa Clarita Valley) shows Emerald Haywood and her older brother OJ Haywood (played by Daniel Kaluuya) on the set of a TV commercial, where they have been hired as animal wranglers. OJ and Emerald have inherited a horse ranch called Haywood Ranch (in the desert-like Agua Dulce, California) from their deceased father Otis Haywood Sr. (played by Keith David, who has a flashback cameo), a groundbreaking horse wrangler who worked on a lot of Hollywood productions. The Haywoods rent out their horses in a family business called Haywood Hollywood Horses.
The siblings’ mother is not mentioned. Don’t expect to find out how long Otis has been dead. Don’t expect to find out why OJ and Emerald have a ranch with about 10 horses, but they’re the only workers on the ranch. (It’s very unrealistic.) Don’t expect to find out if OJ and Emerald really love their ranch jobs or if they’re just doing it out of family obligation. These are some of the many reasons why “Nope” is so frustratingly shallow and poorly written.
On this particular TV commercial (what the commercial is for is never stated in “Nope”), OJ and Emerald have a black horse named Lucky that has been hired to be in the commercial. The horse is being filmed indoors, in front of a green screen. It’s OJ and Emerald’s job to handle the horse and tell people on the set how to interact with the horse.
OJ and Emerald have opposite personalities. OJ is quiet and introverted. Emerald is talkative and extroverted. Kaluuya, who gave a compelling Oscar-nominated performance in “Get Out,” plays a dreadfully dull character in “Nope.” It’s not Kaluuya’s fault. The character was written that way. And it’s a waste of Kaluuya’s talent.
Emerald is so talkative that she gives a mini-lecture to all the assembled cast and crew members about how the very earliest moving picture is considered to be Eadweard Muybridge’s 1887 loop of cards titled “Animal Locomotion, Plate 626,” the very first scientific study to use photography. “Animal Locomotion,” an early example of chronophotography, featured an unidentified black man riding on a horse.
Emerald then asks the assembled group if they happen to know the name of the man who rode the horse. No one knows, of course. Emerald than proudly states that the man was actually an ancestor of Emerald and OJ, and his last name was also Haywood. There’s no way to verify if what Emerald is saying is true. And the people on this set don’t really seem to care. They just want to get the job done for this commercial.
There are some racial undertones to the cast and crew’s bored reaction to Emerald’s story, since OJ and Emerald are the only African American people on this set. It might be Peele’s way of showing that people who aren’t African American are less inclined to care about African American history. OJ seems slightly embarrassed and annoyed that Emerald is telling this story to people who obviously aren’t interested. Emerald also uses this moment to announce to everyone that she’s available for work as an actor, filmmaker, stunt person and singer.
The cinematographer for this commercial is a jaded elderly man named Antlers Horst (played by Michael Wincott), who will end up encountering OJ and Emerald again much later in the movie. Also on the set is actress Bonnie Clayton (played by Donna Mills), whose job is to interact with the horse. Although it’s nice that the “Nope” filmmakers hired former “Knot’s Landing” star Mills for this movie, because she doesn’t get enough work that she deserves, her role really is a cameo, with screen time of less than five minutes.
Emerald and OJ advise everyone on the set to remain calm around Lucky. And it’s at that moment you know things are going to go wrong. Lucky gets nervous about something and starts bucking and lunging in a way that’s dangerous. Because the horse is deemed unfit to be on this set, Emerald and OJ are fired. OJ says that they need this job, but the decision has been made to let them go.
OJ and Emerald then go to Jupiter’s Claim, a California Gold Rush theme park owned and operated by Ricky “Jupe” Park (played by Steven Yeun), a former child star who often acts as a show emcee at this theme park. Jupe is married and has three sons, ranging in ages from about 7 to 12 years old. Jupe’s wife Amber Park (played by Wrenn Schmidt) works with him at Jupiter’s Claim. Their sons Colton Park (played by Lincoln Lambert), Phoenix Park (played by Pierce Kang) and Max Park (played by Roman Gross) have brief appearances in the movie.
OJ decides that he’s going to sell Lucky to Jupe. Emerald is upset by this decision, but OJ reassures her that he plans to buy Lucky back when he has the money to do so. It’s a transaction that OJ and Jupe have done before, so Jupe is aware that his ownership of Lucky will probably be temporary.
Jupe knows about OJ’s financial problems and has been offering to buy OJ and Emerald’s ranch, but so far the offer has been declined. Later in the movie, OJ explains he’s not willing to give up Haywood Ranch because he wants to continue his father’s legacy: “He changed the industry. I can’t just let that go.”
It’s during this horse-selling transaction scene that viewers find out a little bit more about OJ and Emerald. OJ is the main caretaker and operator of the ranch. Emerald considers the ranch to be her “side job,” but she doesn’t really have a permanent career, because she jumps around from job to job as her main source of income. Emerald is also the “partier” of these two siblings: She likes to vape and is open about her fondness of smoking marijuana.
The siblings have some unspoken resentment about responsibilities for the ranch, as well as unresolved feelings about the death of their father. Later in the movie, Emerald confesses to OJ that when they were children, she was jealous when their father asked OJ to help train a Haywood family-owned horse named Jean Jacket, a horse that Emerald says she hoped would be the very first horse she would train and own. Get ready to roll your eyes: Later in the movie, the outer space entity in “Nope” is given the name Jean Jacket.
Emerald is openly queer or a lesbian, because she often dates women she works with or meets through her jobs. OJ mildly scolds Emerald about it because he thinks it’s unprofessional for her to mix her love life with her work life. Emerald brushes off his concerns. Meanwhile, as an example of how “Nope” doesn’t have a lot of character development, nothing is ever mentioned about OJ’s love life or anything about his life that isn’t about the ranch.
As for Jupe, he has an interesting background that is sloppily explored in “Nope.” Jupe’s main claim to fame as a child actor in the 1990s was playing a supporting character named Jupiter in a big hit movie called “Kid Sheriff” and then starring in a TV comedy series called “Gordy’s Home,” which was on the air from 1996 to 1998. In the meeting that Jupe has with OJ and Emerald, Jupe shows them a secret room where he keeps “Kid Sheriff” memorabilia. Jupe proudly mentions that a Dutch couple paid him $50,000 just so the couple could spend a night in this room.
Jupe’s experience with “Gordy’s Home” is what led him to quit being an actor. In “Gordy’s Home,” Jupe played an adopted child in a white family of two parents and an older sister. The family had a pet chimp named Gordy, and a lot of the show’s comedy revolved around this monkey’s antics.
Something shocking and traumatic happened one day while filming an episode of “Gordy’s Home.” And as an adult, Jupe still doesn’t want to talk about it, based on how he reacts when it’s quickly mentioned in a conversation between Jupe and OJ. What happened on that fateful day on the set of “Gordy’s Home” was big news. And this incident is shown as a flashback in “Nope.”
However, the way this flashback is dropped into “Nope” is so random and out-of-place, it’s very mishandled. This flashback is then never referred to or explained again in the movie. It’s a suspenseful scene, but it almost has no bearing on the overall story of “Nope” and seems to be in the movie only for some shock value.
It doesn’t take long for “Nope” to show the UFO (a generic-looking saucer-shaped object), which is first seen by OJ when he’s at the ranch. After he tells Emerald about it (his description is vague, because OJ is written as someone who’s barely articulate), Emerald immediately thinks they should try to film the UFO so they can get rich and famous from the footage.
And so, Emerald and OJ go to Fry’s Electronics to stock up on video surveillance equipment. Fry’s Electronics and the company logo get so much screen time in “Nope,” it’s brand placement overload. (All of this promotion of Fry’s Electronics in “Nope” is not going to do Fry’s Electronics much good anyway. In real life, Fry’s Electronics went out of business in 2021, the same year that “Nope” was filmed.)
At the store, OJ and Emerald meet sales clerk Angel Torres (played by Brandon Perea), who is overly talkative and curious about why OJ and Emerald are getting so much video surveillance equipment. Angel correctly guesses that it’s because OJ and Emerald want to film a UFO, but OJ and Emerald deny it. Angel also happens to be the Fry’s employee who delivers the equipment and helps install it. And you know what that means: Angel eventually finds out the truth, and he teams up with OJ and Emerald in their quest.
Angel is prominently featured in “Nope,” but he’s another example of an underwritten character in the movie. Viewers will learn nothing about Angel except that he was recently dumped by an actress ex-girlfriend named Rebecca Diaz, who was in a relationship with him for four years. Angel overshares this information the first time that he meets OJ and Emerald while lamenting that Rebecca broke up with him to star in a TV series on The CW network. OJ and Emerald don’t care, and neither will viewers of “Nope.”
Angel also goes on a mini-rant about how he doesn’t like how UFOs are now expected to be called UAPs (unidentified aerial phenomena), because he likes the term UFO more. And once again: OJ and Emerald don’t care, and neither will viewers of “Nope.” Angel isn’t too annoying, but he will get on some viewers’ nerves because of his condescending, know-it-all attitude.
Without going into too many details, “Nope” makes some weird decisions on what technology is used to visually document the UFO. Even with a lot of modern digital technology at their disposal, the people in this UFO-sighting group use some very outdated and clunky cameras that require film. The explanation provided is very phony and overly contrived.
Apparently, the “Nope” filmmakers thought it would like cool to have the characters using retro cameras that require film, even though film could be ruined a lot easier than digital footage. It makes no sense, except to add unnecessary hassles for the people trying to visually document this UFO. And yes, there’s a scene where a camera’s film needs to be inconveniently changed at a pivotal moment.
It should come as no surprise that the alien life form that’s hovering in the sky abducts living beings. The way this alien life form looks is not very original at all. However, even these abduction scenes are handled in an idiotic way in “Nope.” And none of it is truly terrifying.
There’s a scene where 40 people are abducted at the same time, but the abduction is mostly suggested and shown in brief flashes. This mass abduction makes the news. However, “Nope” has no realistic depictions of the huge investigations and military reactions that would ensue, or how much of a circus the abduction scene would be for the media and curiosity seekers.
When Emerald goes back to the abduction scene later in the movie, the place is deserted, and she has free access to the place, with no law enforcement, military, security personnel or media in sight of this notorious crime scene. It’s all just so stupid. And it’s very easy to predict which characters will survive during this mess, based on how often and how close the alien life form “chases” certain characters out in open fields (making them easy targets), but the alien life form never abducts them.
But the worst plot hole of all is that viewers are supposed to believe that for a certain period of time, only OJ and Emerald have witnessed this giant UFO that appears numerous times in the sky and would actually be seen for miles. It’s as if the “Nope” filmmakers want viewers to think that the only people who can see the UFO in the sky during these times are either at the ranch or looking at the ranch’s closed-circuit live surveillance footage, which Angel does because he’s nosy. It’s pathetic storytelling.
“Nope” also has pretentiously titled chapters, such as “Ghost” (named after the ranch’s white horse that doesn’t do anything but run away and come back a few times), “Clover,” “Gordy” and “Jean Jacket.” There’s not a consistent through line for these chapters, which are as haphazard as a mismatched jigsaw puzzle. The chapter titled “Gordy” is the one that shows the tragic incident that happened on the set of “Gordy’s Home.”
“Nope” has a few moments that effectively build tension for viewers to wonder what’s going to happen next. (There’s also a fake jump scare scene that would have been more interesting if it were real jump scare in the story.) But as a horror movie, “Nope” fails miserably to be frightening. There are parts of this movie that are so boring, some viewers will fall asleep. Don’t expect “Nope” to give a reason or a purpose for any life forms that come from outer space. In fact, don’t expect “Nope” to have a reason to exist other than to make blockbuster money and fool people into thinking that it’s a high-quality, entertaining movie.
Universal Pictures will release “Nope” in U.S. cinemas on July 22, 2022.
Culture Representation: Taking place on Earth and other parts of the universe (including the fictional location of New Asgard), the superhero action film “Thor: Love and Thunder” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans, Latinos and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: Nordic superhero Thor Odinson, also known as the God of Thunder, teams up with allies in a battle against the revengeful villain Gorr the God Butcher, while Thor’s ex-girlfriend Jane Porter has her own personal battle with Stage 4 cancer.
Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of comic book movie fans, “Thor: Love and Thunder” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and action movies that skillfully blend drama and comedy.
“Thor: Love and Thunder” could also be called “Thor: Grief and Comedy,” because how of this superhero movie sequel balances these two themes with some results that are better than others. The movie goes big on showing bittersweet romance and the power of true friendships. Some of the movie’s subplots clutter up the movie, and any sense of terrifying danger is constantly undercut by all the wisecracking, but “Thor: Love and Thunder” gleefully leans into the idea that a superhero leader can be a formidable warrior, as well as a big goofball and a sentimental romantic.
Directed by Taika Waititi, “Thor: Love and Thunder” is also a commercial showcase for Guns N’Roses music. It’s the first Marvel Studios movie to blatantly shill for a rock band to the point where not only are four of the band’s hits prominently used in major scenes in the movie, but there’s also a character in the movie who wants to change his first name to be the same as the first name of the band’s lead singer. The music is well-placed, in terms of conveying the intended emotions, but viewers’ reactions to this movie’s fan worship of Guns N’Roses will vary, depending on how people feel about the band and its music. The Guns N’Roses songs “Welcome the Jungle,” “Paradise City,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “November Rain” are all in pivotal scenes in “Thor: Love and Thunder.”
“Thor: Love and Thunder” picks up where 2019’s blockbuster “Avengers: Endgame” concluded. What’s great about “Thor: Love and Thunder” (which Waititi co-wrote with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson) is that the filmmakers didn’t assume that everyone watching the movie is an aficionado of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), nor did they assume that everyone watching “Thor: Love and Thunder” will know a lot about the Nordic superhero Thor Odinson (played by Chris Hemsworth) before seeing the movie. Near the beginning of the movie, there’s a montage summary (narrated cheerfully by Waititi’s Korg character, a rock-like humanoid who is one of Thor’s loyal allies) that shows the entire MCU history of Thor up until what’s about to happen in “Thor: Love and Thunder.”
The movie’s opening scene isn’t quite so upbeat, because it gets right into showing that grief will be one of the film’s biggest themes. In a very barren desert, a man and his daughter (who’s about 8 or 9 years old, played by India Rose Hemsworth) are deyhdrated, starving, and close to dying. The girl doesn’t survive, and the man is shown grieving at the place where he has buried her. Viewers soon find out that this man is Gorr the God Butcher (played by Christian Bale), who is the story’s chief villain. But he didn’t start out as a villain.
After the death of his daughter, a ravenously hungry Gorr ends up a tropical-looking, plant-filled area, where he devours some fruit. Suddenly, a male god appears before Gorr, who is pious and grateful for being in this god’s presence. Gorr tells the god: “I am Gorr, the last of your disciples. We never lost our faith in you.”
The god scoffs at Gorr’s devotion and says, “There’s no eternal reward for you. There’ll be more followers to replace you.” Feeling betrayed, Gorr replies, “You are no god! I renounce you!” The god points to a slain warrior on the ground and tells Gorr that the warrior was killed for the Necrosword, a magical sword that can kill gods and celestials. The Necrosword levitates off of the ground and gravitates toward Gorr.
The god tells Gorr: “The sword chose you. You are now cursed.” Gorr replies, “It doesn’t feel like a curse. It feels like a promise. So this is my vow: All gods will die!” And you know what that means: Gorr kills the god in front of him, and Thor will be one of Gorr’s targets.
Meanwhile, Thor is seen coming to the rescue of the Guardians of the Galaxy, who need his help in battling some villains on a generic-looking planet in outer space. All of the Guardians are there (except for Gamora, who died at the end of “Avengers: Endgame”), and they see Thor as a powerful ally. However, the Guardians are worried that Thor has lost a lot of his emotional vitality. Thor (who hails from Asgar) is grieving over the loss his entire family to death and destruction.
Thor is also still heartbroken over the end of his romantic relationship with brilliant astrophysicist Jane Foster (played by Natalie Portman), who was in 2011’s “Thor” and 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World.” Viewers will find out in a “Thor: Love and Thunder” flashback montage what really happened that caused the end of this relationship. Jane and Thor are considered soul mates, but their devotion to their respective work resulted in Thor and Jane drifting apart.
Guardians of the Galaxy leader Peter Quill, also known as Star-Lord (played by Chris Pratt), tries to give Thor a pep talk, because Star-Lord can relate to losing the love of his life (Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana), but the main difference is that Thor has a chance to see Jane again because she’s still alive. As shown in the trailer for “Thor: Love and Thunder,” Jane will soon come back into Thor’s life in an unexpected way, when she gains possession of Thor’s magical hammer, Mjolnir, and she reinvents herself as the Mighty Thor. As an example of some of the movie’s offbeat comedy, Korg keeps getting Jane Foster’s name wrong, by sometimes calling her Jane Fonda or Jodie Foster.
The Guardians of the Galaxy section of “Thor: Love and Thunder” almost feels like a completely separate short film that was dropped into the movie. After an intriguing opening scene with Gorr, viewers are left wondering when Gorr is going to show up again. Instead, there’s a fairly long stretch of the movie with Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy
After spending a lot of meditative time lounging around in a robe, Thor literally throws off the robe for the battle scene with Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy, as the Guns N’Roses song “Welcome to the Jungle” blares on the soundtrack. After the battle is over (it’s easy to predict who the victors are), Thor’s confident ego seems to have come roaring back. He exclaims with a huge grin: “What a classic Thor adventure! Hurrah!”
As a gift for this victory, Thor gets two superpowered goats, which have the strength to pull space vessels and whose goat screaming becomes a running gag in the movie. The visual effects in “Thor: Love and Thunder” get the job done well enough for a superhero movie. But are these visual effects groundbreaking or outstanding? No.
The Guardians’ personalities are all the same: Star-Lord is still cocky on the outside but deeply insecure on the inside. Drax (played by Dave Bautista) is still simple-minded. Rocket (voice by Bradley Cooper) is still sarcastic. Mantis (played by Pom Klementieff) is still sweetly earnest. Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) still only has three words in his vocabulary: “I am Groot.”
Nebula (voiced by Karen Gillan), who is Garmora’s hot-tempered adopted sister and a longtime Guardians frenemy, is now an ally of the Guardians. Guardians associate Kraglin Obfonteri (played by Sean Gunn) makes a brief appearance to announce that he’s gotten married to an Indigarrian woman named Glenda (played by Brenda Satchwell), who is one of his growing number of his wives. It’s mentioned in a joking manner that Kraglin has a tendency to marry someone at every planet he visits.
With his confidence renewed as the God of Thunder, Thor decides he’s ready to end his “retirement” and go back into being a superhero. He says goodbye to the Guardians, who fly off in their spaceship and wish him well. Little does Thor know what he’s going to see someone from his past (Jane), whom he hasn’t seen in a long time.
Sif (played by Jaimie Alexander), an Asgardian warrior who was in the first “Thor” movie and in “Thor: The Dark World,” re-appears in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” but she now has a missing left arm and has to learn to re-adjust her fighting skills. Sif’s presence in this movie isn’t entirely unexpected. It’s a welcome return, but some viewers might think that Sif doesn’t get enough screen time.
Meanwhile, as shown in “Avengers: Endgame,” Thor gave up his King of New Asgard title to his longtime associate Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson), who’s finding out that being the leader of New Asgard isn’t quite as enjoyable as she thought it would be. She’d rather do battle alongside her buddy Thor instead of having to do things like attend dull council meetings or cut ribbons at opening ceremonies. New Asgard is a fishing village that has become a tourist destination that plays up its connection to Thor and his history.
The stage play recreation of Thor’s story was used as a comedic gag in 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok” (also directed and written by Waititi), and that gag is used again in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” as this play is staged in New Asgard, but with an update to include what happened in “Thor: Ragnarok.” Making uncredited cameos as these stage play actors in “Thor: Love and Thunder” are Matt Damon as stage play Loki (Thor’s mischievous adopted brother), Luke Hemsworth as stage play Thor, Melissa McCarthy as stage play Hela (Thor’s villainous older sister) and Sam Neill as stage play Odin (Thor’s father). This comedic bit about a “Thor” stage play isn’t as fresh as it was in “Thor: Ragnarok,” but it’s still amusing.
One of the New Asgard citizens is a lively child of about 13 or 14 years old. His name is Astrid, and he announces that he wants to change his first name to Axl, in tribute to Axl Rose, the lead singer of Guns N’Roses. Axl (played by Kieron L. Dyer) is the son of Heimdall (played by Idris Elba), the Asgardian gatekeeper who was killed by supervillain Thanos in 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War.” As fans of superhero movies know, just because a character is killed on screen doesn’t mean that that character will never be seen again. And let’s just say that “Thor: Love and Thunder” makes it clear that people have not seen the last of Heimdall.
Jane has a poignant storyline because she has Stage 4 cancer, which is something that she’s in deep denial about since she wants to act as if she still has the same physical strength as she did before her cancer reached this stage. Jane’s concerned and loyal assistant Darcy Lewis (played by Kat Dennings) makes a brief appearance to essentially advise Jane to slow down Jane’s workload. Jane refuses to take this advice.
The way that Jane gets Thor’s hammer isn’t very innovative, but she finds out that the hammer gives her godlike strength and makes her look healthy. It’s no wonder she wants to explore life as the Mighty Thor. (Her transformation also includes going from being a brunette as Jane to being a blonde as the Mighty Thor.)
And where exactly is Gorr? He now looks like a powder-white Nosferatu-like villain, as he ends up wreaking havoc by going on a killing spree of the universe’s gods. And it’s only a matter of time before Gorr reaches New Asgard. With the help of shadow monsters, Gorr ends up kidnapping the children of New Asgard (including Axl) and imprisoning them in an underground area. Guess who’s teaming up to come to the rescue?
After the mass kidnapping happens, there’s a comedic segment where Thor ends up in the kingdom of Greek god Zeus (played by Russell Crowe), a toga-wearing hedonist who says things like, “Where are we going to have this year’s orgy?” Zeus is Thor’s idol, but Thor gets a rude awakening about Zeus. Thor experiences some humiliation that involves Thor getting completely naked in Zeus’ public court. Crowe’s questionable Greek accent (which often sounds more Italian than Greek) is part of his deliberately campy performance as Zeus.
“Thor: Love and Thunder” packs in a lot of issues and switches tones so many times, it might be a turnoff to some viewers who just want to see a straightforward, uncomplicated and conventional superhero story. However, people who saw and enjoyed “Thor: Ragnarok” will be better-prepared for his mashup of styles that Waititi continues in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which has that same spirit. “Thor: Love and Thunder” tackles much heavier issues though, such as terminal illness and crushing heartbreak.
The movie’s cancer storyline with Jane could have been mishandled, but it’s written in a way that has an emotional authenticity among the fantastical superhero shenanigans. “Thor: Love and Thunder” also goes does fairly deep in exposing the toll that superhero duties can take on these superheroes’ love lives. Thor and Jane have to come to terms with certain decisions they made that affected their relationship.
The movie also provides a glimpse into the personal lives of supporting characters Korg and Valkyrie. In a memorable scene, Valkyrie and Korg are alone together in an area of Thor’s Viking ship, and they have a heart-to-heart talk about not finding their true loves yet. They are lovelorn cynics but still show some glimmers of optimism that maybe they will be lucky in love. It’s in this scene where Korg mentions that he was raised by two fathers, and Valkyrie briefly mentions having an ex-girlfriend. A scene later in the movie shows that Korg is open having a same-sex romance.
All of the cast members do well in their roles, but Hemsworth and Portman have the performances and storyline that people will be talking about the most for “Thor: Love and Thunder.” The ups and downs of Thor and Jane’s on-again/off-again romance are not only about what true love can mean in this relationship but also touch on issues of power, control, trust and gender dynamics. It’s a movie that acknowledges that two people might be right for each other, but the timing also has to be right for the relationship to thrive.
Bale does a very solid job as Gorr, but some viewers might be disappointed that Gorr isn’t in the movie as much as expected. That’s because the first third of “Thor: Love and Thunder” is taken up by a lot of Guardians of the Galaxy interactions with Thor. In other words, Gorr’s villain presence in “Thor: Love and Thunder” is not particularly encompassing, as Hela’s villain presence was in “Thor: Ragnarok.”
The movie’s final battle scene might also be somewhat divisive with viewers because one member of Thor’s team is not part of this battle, due to this character being injured in a previous fight and being stuck at a hospital. Fans of this character will no doubt feel a huge letdown that this character is sidelined in a crucial final battle. Leaving this character out of this battle is one of the flaws of “Thor: Love and Thunder.”
The mid-credits scene and end-credits scene in Thor: Love and Thunder” show characters who are supposed to be dead. The mid-credits scene also introduces the family member of one of the movie’s characters, while the end-credits scene teases the return of other characters who exist in another realm. Neither of these scenes is mind-blowing. However, they’re worth watching for MCU completists and anyone who likes watching all of a movie’s credits at the end.
What “Thor: Love and Thunder” gets right is that it shows more concern than many other MCU movies about how insecurities and isolation outside the glory of superhero battles can have a profound effect on these heroes. Saving the universe can come at a heavy emotional price, especially when loved ones die. Whether the love is for family members, romantic partners or friends, “Thor: Love and Thunder” acknowledges that love can result in grief that isn’t easy to overcome, but the healing process is helped with loyal support and some welcome laughter.
Disney’s Marvel Studios will release “Thor: Love and Thunder” in U.S. cinemas on July 8, 2022.
Culture Representation: Taking place in the United States and briefly in Malta, the sci-fi/action film “Jurassic World Dominion” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some black people, Latinos and Asians) portraying scientists, business people and animal advocates involved in some way with the interaction of the dinosaur population that was first seen in 1993’s “Jurassic Park.”
Culture Clash: As dinosaurs and humans co-exist on Earth, swarms of giant locusts are eating crops and killing off Earth’s population, while a group of scientists and other people race against time to save the world.
Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of “Jurassic” franchise fans, “Jurassic World Dominion” will appeal to fans of the stars of the movie, as well as viewers who will tolerate a mediocre and jumbled story to see some familiar faces.
Bloated and with a scatterbrained plot, “Jurassic World Dominion” is a disappointing, overstuffed mess with too many awkward jokes and not enough dinosaur action. Bringing back original “Jurassic Park” cast members will just remind viewers how superior the first “Jurassic Park” movie is to this “Jurassic World” sequel. Colin Trevorrow directed and co-wrote 2015’s “Jurassic World,” a spinoff to the “Jurassic Park” series that began with 1993’s “Jurassic Park.”
Trevorrow was set to direct 2018’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” but he was replaced by J.A. Bayona, although Trevorrow co-wrote the “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” screenplay. Trevorrow returned as a director of the “Jurassic” franchise by helming “Jurassic World Dominion,” which he co-wrote with Emily Carmichael. Unfortunately, it seems like the “Jurassic World Dominion” filmmakers couldn’t stick to an uncomplicated plot, because the movie (which is too long, at 146 minutes) goes off on some distracting and unwelcome tangents.
“Jurassic World Dominion” picks up four years after the destruction of the Central American island of Isla Nublar, the sanctuary-like domain of dinosaurs. Dinosaurs co-exist with humans all over the world—a prediction come true by Dr. Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum), who was shown at the end of “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” testifying before the U.S. Senate that Earth would have dinosaurs and humans being able co-exist peacefully. But there would be no “Jurassic World Dominion” if things ended that simply.
The main cause of all of Earth’s problems in “Jurassic World Dominion” (as with most of the other “Jurassic” movies) comes down to one thing: human greed. And there’s yet another evil businessman who’s at the root of it. One of the more frustrating things about “Jurassic World Dominion” is that it lazily recycles and copies too many other things from previous “Jurassic” movies.
The beginning of “Jurassic Dominion” features a news report explaining that, once again, a black market has emerged for captured dinosaurs. As a result, the U.S. government has awarded the global rights to collect the world’s dinosaurs to a biotech company called Biosyn, which is located in the Dolomite Mountains valley. Not only is Biosyn now in charge of collecting all the dinosaurs on Earth but this mysterious company is also in the business of trying to eradicate world hunger by creating crops immune to pests and diseases.
Try not to laugh at the idea that one company has been given control over the world’s dinosaurs and possibly the world’s food supply chain. (The movie makes no mention whatsoever of what the United Nations would have to say about it, because apparently, the United States makes decisions for the entire world.) But “Jurassic Park Dominion” viewers are supposed to believe this flimsy premise, because it’s the basis of all of the conflicts in this movie.
With one company having this much power, corruption is inevitable. And the movie reveals early on who the chief villain is, which should surprise no one: Biosyn CEO Lewis Dodgson (played by Campbell Scott), who has several subordinates, but he’s really presented unrealistically as the only villain mastermind. Meanwhile, there’s a whole slew of heroes who zigzag around the world and eventually join forces for the predictable “we have save the world” part of the story.
“Jurassic World Dominion” is so disjointed and so caught up in introducing a new subplot every 20 minutes, it ends up being too jumbled for its own good. The beginning of the movie re-introduces former Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (played by Chris Pratt) and dinosaur rescue advocate Claire Dearing (played Bryce Dallas Howard), who are now officially a couple, after trying to deny that they wanted to be a couple for the previous two “Jurassic World” movies.
Owen and Claire are living in isolation the Sierra Nevada Mountains and raising 15-year-old Maisie Lockwood (played Isabella Sermon), the orphaned daughter of Benjamin Lockwood (played by James Cromwell), the co-founder of Jurassic Park. Benjamin’s fate is show in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” which is why Owen and Claire are now Maisie’s guardians. As shown in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (mild spoiler alert) Benjamin’s daughter Charlotte died an untimely death, so in his grief, he controversially used Charlotte’s DNA to clone another daughter, who is Maisie, whom Benjamin presented to the world as his granddaughter.
This “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” plot reveal is talked about multiple times in “Jurassic World Dominion,” because Maisie knows she was cloned from her dead mother Charlotte’s DNA. Maisie is now in hiding with Owen and Claire, who both don’t want her to be captured by the U.S. government for experiments. This is all information that viewers need to know within the first 15 minutes of watching “Jurassic World Dominion.” It’s an example of how badly the movie is written for people who might not know anything about “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.”
An early scene in “Jurassic World Dominion” shows that Claire (who is part of the Dinosaur Protection Group) has been fanatically rescuing dinosaurs from illegal breeders. The scene depicts one such recue at an illegal breeding farm in Nevada. Two of Claire’s dinosaur rescue colleagues—systems analyst Franklin Webb (played by Justice Smith) and paleo-veterinarian Dr. Zia Rodriguez (played by Daniella Pineda)—are with her on this successful mission, but they start to question Claire’s recklessness in putting them in increasing danger. Franklin’s and Zia’s appearances in the movie are really just filler.
Owen and Claire refuse to let Maisie interact with any other people except Owen and Claire. And now, teenage Maisie is starting to resent this control and is beginning to rebel. Expect to see several scenes of Maisie shouting, pouting and being resentful to Owen and Claire. But before Owen and Claire have much time to deal with Maisie wanting more freedom, this family has another more pressing problem: a dinosaur kidnapping.
One of the stars of the previous two “Jurassic World” movies was a female Velociraptor named Blue, who was rescued and adopted by Owen and Claire. Blue (one of the last-known Velociraptors on Earth) conceived a child on her own and gave birth to this child, which is named Beta. And now, Beta has been stolen by poachers, led by a shaggy-haired lowlife named Rainn Delacourt (played by Scott Haze), who works for the most obvious person possible. And then, Maisie gets kidnapped too. A sassy former U.S. Air Force pilot named Kayla Watts (played by DeWanda Wise) has been hired to transport Maisie by private plane during this kidnapping.
But wait, there’s more: Swarms of giant locusts have been causing terror on Earth, by killing people and eating essential food crops. And these giant locusts, which are rapidly spreading across the world, are only eating food crops that were not engineered by Biosyn. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it’s not a coincidence. But apparently, only a few people on Earth have figured out that it’s not a coincidence. And in this idiotic movie, that small group of people will to have to be the ones to save the world.
Meanwhile, original “Jurassic Park” characters Dr. Alan Grant (played by Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (played by Laura Dern) are shoehorned into a clumsy plot where they reunite with Ian, who now works for Biosyn. Before that happens, paleobotanist Ellie meets up with paleontologist Alan, who is now living in Utah and making money offering paleontological digs for tourists. It’s a reunion scene that should be entertaining to watch, but it just looks so forced and uncomfortably written.
Alan has had a crush on Ellie for years—so much so, that he has a photo of her on his wall. He quickly hides the photo when Ellie suddenly shows up to visit him. Ellie is now divorced with college-age children. Alan is a bachelor who’s happy to hear Ellie is now single and available. And you know what that means later in the movie.
Ian has invited Ellie and Alan to Biosyn, where he is now the company’s in-house philosopher. It’s just an excuse for the movie to have Ian act like a New Age eccentric. Later in the movie, Ian makes this creepy statement: “I had a dog once. It humped my leg so much, I got a callous on my shin bone.” That’s an example of the awful dialogue in “Jurassic World Dominion.”
Biosyn’s head of communications Ramsay Cole (played by Mamoudou Athie) is open about his hero worship of Ian. Ramsay also professes his loyalty to Rasmay’s Biosyn CEO boss Lewis. Ramsay becomes the official Biosyn tour guide for visitors Ellie and Alan, who are both suspicious of Lewis. “Jurassic” movie franchise recurring character Dr. Henry Wu (played by BD Wong), who works for Biosyn as a genetic engineer, is in the movie for less than 15 minutes, where he spends most of his screen time looking stressed-out and worried.
With the reunion of old characters and the introduction of new characters, “Jurassic World Dominion” keeps throwing different subplots into the mix to separate the characters and then eventually bring them back together. There’s an unnecessary detour to Malta, featuring a cameo from Barry Sembène (played by Omar Sy), who was a dinosaur trainer in 2015’s “Jurassic World” movie. Barry’s only purpose in “Jurassic World Dominion” is to tell people that Malta is a gateway for people involved in illegal dinosaur trafficking, and so he can show Claire and Owen what an underground dinosaur fight club looks like.
And what about the dinosaurs in this story? They’re not in the movie as much as some viewers might expect. The dinosaur action scenes are not very terrifying at all. You never feel like the “heroes” are in any real danger. And when you see the lack of serious injuries at the end of the film, considering all the physical attacks that the characters experienced, it all just adds to the movie’s phoniness.
None of the acting in “Jurassic World Dominion” is special, because the cast members are just going through the motions reciting the often-silly dialogue that they have to say. (Expect to see plenty of cringeworthy comments from Goldblum’s Dr. Malcolm character. ) “Jurassic World Dominion” is ultimately a “Jurassic” movie where the dinosaurs have lost a lot of edge, and the human drama is entirely toothless.
Universal Pictures will release “Jurassic World: Dominion” in U.S. cinemas on June 10, 2022. The movie was released in other countries first, beginning June 1 in Mexico and South Korea, and June 2 in Argentina, Brazil and Peru.
Culture Representation: Taking place in Burma, the sci-fi action film “Jiu Jitsu” features a cast of white and Asian characters (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class, mercenaries and U.S. military officials.
Culture Clash: Several human beings battle a death warrior from outer space who comes to Earth every six years from a comet-created space portal.
Culture Audience: “Jiu Jitsu” will appeal primarily to people interested in sci-fi action movies that are inferior imitations of “The Predator” movie franchise.
“Jiu Jitsu” has nothing to do with the martial arts craft of jiu jitsu, just like this movie has nothing to do with high-quality entertainment. It’s just a messy parade of sci-fi action schlock with tacky visual effects. It also blatantly rips off elements of “The Predator” movie franchise.
Dimitri Logothetis, a filmmaker of hack action movies, directed the mind-numbing “Jiu Jitsu,” which really is nothing but corny fight scenes strung together with abysmal dialogue, all lumbering along until the very predictable ending. Logothetis co-wrote the horrific screenplay with James “Jim” McGrath. “Jiu Jitsu” could have easily been a short film, but it’s dragged out to tedious levels because of repetitive battle scenes.
The gist of the flimsy story is that a mysterious, muscle-bound American man named Jake (played by Alain Moussi) finds himself at the center of an intergalactic battle that has been taking place on Earth for centuries. Every six years, a comet opens up a portal on Earth. A death warrior named Brax emerges from the portal to fight a group of humans who call themselves Jiu Jitsus. Their Jiu Jitsu leader is “the chosen one” who must fight Brax, or else everyone and everything on Earth will be killed.
Jake is first seen in “Jiu Jitsu” running frantically in a forest in Burma, as if something is chasing him. (“Jiu Jitsu” was actually filmed in Cyprus.) Jake falls over a cliff and plunges into a large body of water. A middle-aged fisherman (played by Raymond Pinharry) and his wife (played by Mary Makariou), who don’t have names in the movie, rescue Jake and give some medical attention to his wounds.
It’s soon apparent that Jake has amnesia. The fisherman’s wife takes him to a nearby U.S. Army camp. The commanding officer in charge is a stern and impatient leader named Captain Hickman (played by played by John Hickman), who orders a buffoonish subordinate named Tex (played by Eddie Steeples) to act as a translator. Tex isn’t very fluent in Burmese, so he predictably botches some of the translating.
That’s when the fisherman’s wife tells them about the cosmic portal and the outer-space death warrior, whom she calls Dat Daw Taung. These Army guys think it’s just a bunch of rambling gibberish from a superstitious person. Of course, there would be no “Jiu Jitsu” movie if what she was saying didn’t turn out to be true.
Soon, Jake finds himself being interrogated by an Army intelligence officer named Mya (played by Marie Avgeropoulos), a no-nonsense type who doesn’t know what to believe when Rick says that he has no idea who he is and what he’s doing there, but later he has a vague recollection: “I’m here to do a job.” Mya thinks that Jake might be some type of spy. He’s held captive until the Army figures out what to do with him.
While Jake is in captivity, another captive breaks free from the prison compound. His name is Kueng (played by Tony Jaa), and he insists that Jake go with him. They run off into a field together. And lo and behold, emerging from the field, like beanstalks suddenly spurting upward from the grass, are three other “warriors”: tough-talking Harrigan (played by Frank Grillo), quiet Forbes (played by Marrese Crump) and courageous Carmen (played by JuJu Chan), who not surprisingly ends up in a thrown-together romance with Jake.
And so, off these five “warriors” go as they kick, punch and wield weapons (such as swords, guns and knives), with an Army leader named Captain Sand (played by Rick Yune) in hot pursuit. Captain Sand has some forgettable subordinates who help him in this mission. The five renegades inevitably encounter Brax (played by Ryan Tarran), who quickly heals from any wounds, thereby making him hard to kill.
Brax is dressed in scaly armor and has a full-sized helmet that shows light blue space where a face should be. Occasionally, outlines of eyes and other facial features show up in this blue space, using cheap-looking visual effects. Brax’s point of view is shown a few times as X-ray vision that looks like it’s bathed in a heat glow. It’s a direct ripoff of Predator’s vision from the “Predator” movies.
Nicolas Cage shows up 39 minutes into the 102-minute “Jiu Jitsu,” which is just another B-movie where he plays yet another unhinged, eccentric character. In “Jiu Jitsu,” Cage is a wilderness-dwelling loner named Wylie, who ends up joining Jake and his team. Wylie seems to know quite a bit about Brax and gives advice, much of it unsolicited and sometimes unheeded. In his spare time, Wylie likes to make triangular hats out of newspapers. These hats are not the cone-shaped head coverings that used to be called “dunce caps” in the old days, although “dunce caps” would not be out of place in this dimwitted movie.
Cage’s total screen time in “Jiu Jitsu” is only about 15 to 20 minutes, but he does have one battle scene with Drax that seems to be the main reason why Cage was hired for this movie. Cage gives a deliberately hammy performance that’s meant to show he knows he’s in a stinker of a movie. However, his comedic self-awareness just seems out of place in a movie where all the other cast members act like they’re in a serious action film. If Cage is openly smirking, it might be because “Jiu Jitsu” was an easy multimillion-dollar salary for him. The joke is on the “Jiu Jitsu” producers who forked over the money for a rehashed and unoriginal performance that Cage has done in dozens of his forgettable action flicks.
Sometimes, when an action movie doesn’t care about having a good story, intriguing characters or memorable dialogue, the movie makes up for this lack of appeal by having dazzling action scenes. That’s not the case with “Jiu Jitsu,” which is filled with nothing but unimaginative fight sequences. None of the movie’s characters has an interesting story, although “Jiu Jitsu” tries to throw in a “plot twist/reveal” about the background of one of the characters. This “plot twist/reveal,” which is toward the end of the movie, is not surprising at all. The only thing surprising about “Jiu Jitsu” is that filmmakers actually thought that this abominable garbage wouldn’t be such a flop.
The Avenue Entertainment released “Jiu Jitsu” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on November 20, 2020. Paramount Home Entertainment released the movie on DVD on December 22, 2020. “Jiu Jitsu” is also available on Netflix.
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the sci-fi drama film “Ultrasound” features a group of almost all white people (with one African America and one Asian person) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: An unsuspecting man becomes part of a secretive scientific experiment that involves two separate pregnancies by two different women
Culture Audience: “Ultrasound” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the “Generous Bosom” comic book series and people who enjoy mind-bending sci-fi mysteries.
“Ultrasound” falters with some erratic storytelling, but the cast members’ commendable performances and the movie’s willingness to take chances make it worth watching for people interested in unconventional sci-fi movies. Ultimately, “Ultrasound” is best appreciated by people who don’t mind movies that play tricks on what this story is really about, because the movie’s plot is a mystery that takes its time to reveal its true purpose. Viewers also have to suspend some disbelief when some of the movie’s characters make decisions that are outside the norm of what most people are expected to do.
Directed by Rob Schroeder, “Ultrasound” is based on Conor Stechschulte’s “Generous Bosom” comic book series, which Stechschulte adapted into the “Ultrasound” screenplay. “Ultrasound,” which is Schroeder’s feature-film directorial debut, had its world premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. It’s a movie where a lot of strange things happen that aren’t supposed to make much sense until the final third of the movie where secrets are revealed.
“Ultrasound,” which takes place in an unnamed U.S. city, opens with a scene of a bachelor in his early 40s named Glen (played by Vincent Kartheiser), whose car has broken down in a remote area at night. Glen goes to the nearest house, where a married couple named Arthur “Art” Thomas (played by Bob Stephenson) and Cyndi Thomas (played by Chelsea Lopez) live, so that he can find out where is the closest place to get auto repairs. Glen doesn’t use his phone to get that information.
Upon arriving at Art and Cyndi’s house, Glen meets them for the first time and sees that these two spouses have a very awkward, tension-filled dynamic between them. Art is very talkative and extremely friendly, while Cyndi is quiet and withdrawn. Art tells Glen that the nearest auto repair shop is currently closed. Glen tells Art that Glen has AAA insurance, but Art says that AAA will just tow Glen’s car to Pickton, a city that is 30 miles away. Pickton is also where the nearest motel is, according to Art.
Art is so open and inviting to this total stranger, he immediately offers a room in the house as a place for Glen to stay for the night. Art doesn’t just offer. He insists that Glen stay overnight at the house. Cyndi tells Glen that Art is on anti-depressant medication because he’s had depression for years. Art cheerfully admits to it and says that he always feels better after taking his medication.
And then, things get weird. Art tells Glen that the room where Glen will be staying is the same room where Cyndi sleeps, and that Glen will have to share the bed with her. Art says that is Glen’s only option if he wants to sleep over at the house. Glen is extremely uncomfortable about it, but he doesn’t want to be rude, so he doesn’t exactly get up and leave, which is what a lot of people would do. Apparently, Glen would rather not sleep in his car for the night.
Instead, Glen stays in the room with Cyndi, and they both strike up a conversation that starts off awkwardly. Slowly but surely, it becomes apparent why Glen wasn’t completely opposed to this bedroom arrangement: He’s attracted to Cyndi, who’s a little bit flirtatious with him. In continuing her pattern of divulging too much information to a stranger, Cyndi tells Glen that she’s unhappily married to Art.
Cyndi also mentions that the couple’s big age difference (Art is about 15 to 20 years older than Cyndi) is one of the reasons why their marriage has become unbearable to her. Art and Cyndi met when she was 17, and Art used to be one of her high school teachers. Art and Cyndi got married when she was 19. Cyndi tells Glen that she says she now regrets marrying Art.
Cyndi sadly mentions that if she could go back in time, she would tell her younger self before marrying Art: “What the fuck are you doing, throwing your life away, you fucking moron!” Cyndi adds, “But there’s an energy when people throw away things that people think are important … When you’re done, that energy drains out of you.”
Now that Cyndi has essentially announced to Glen that she’s a lonely and needy wife, the stage has been set for Glen to decide if he’s going to act on his attraction to Cyndi and have sex with her. This sexual one-night stand seems to be something that Art and Cyndi are expecting will happen. At first, Glen thinks that Art and Cyndi are a swinger couple, and it’s a setup so that Art can watch Glen have sex with Cyndi. When he asks Cyndi about it, she denies that Art will be watching whatever happens between her and Glen.
Cyndi and Glen end up having sex, but it’s not shown in the movie. The next time that viewers see Glen, he’s at his home (where he lives alone), and his car has long since been repaired. He found out that the car broke down because it had flat tires that were punctured by what objects that appeared to be nails. And then something unexpected happens to Glen: He gets an unannounced visit from Art.
Glen is so caught off-guard by seeing Art, he refuses to let Art in the house. Glen is suspicious because he doesn’t know how Art got his home address. Art is vague and won’t say how he found out where Glen lives, but Art insists on coming into the house because he tells Glen that he has something important to show Glen. Eventually, Glen lets Art into his home because he can see that Art won’t go away until Art gets what he wants from this unwelcome visit.
Inside the house, Art shows Glen a video on Art’s phone of a baby ultrasound. Art tells Glen that Cyndi is pregnant, and that this ultrasound is of the baby growing inside of Cyndi. And then, Art drops a bombshell: He says that Glen is the father of this baby. At first Glen denies it, but Art says that Glen is the only person who could be the father because Glen is the only man who had sex with Cyndi in the time period where the baby was conceived. Art says that he and Cyndi are willing to do DNA tests to prove Glen’s paternity.
After Glen gets the news that he’s going to be a father, he reconnects with Cyndi, who seems very happy about the pregnancy. Glen tells Cyndi that he wants to be involved with raising this child, even though Glen still feels mistrust and resentment (mostly toward Art) because Glen thinks he was “tricked” into getting Cyndi pregnant. He should’ve thought of that before he had unprotected sex with a stranger.
Meanwhile, another pregnancy issue is shown in “Ultrasound.” Katie (played by Rainey Qualley) is the pregnant, younger mistress of a married politician named Alex Harris (played by Chris Gartin), who is currently up for re-election for an unnamed political office. Katie and Alex’s affair and the pregnancy are both secrets.
Alex has paid for Katie to move to the city where he lives, but he’s been mostly ignoring her. Alex insists that Katie not venture out much from the apartment that he’s renting for her. This semi-confinement is starting to make Katie feel restless and disrespected. “Ultrasound” has a series of phone calls and encounters between Katie and Alex to show what happens in their relationship.
The rest of “Ultrasound” has a lot of spoiler information, but it’s enough to say that Glen and Cyndi end up in a mysterious scientific research lab, where they are forced to undergo experiments and interrogations. Glen is also injured and has to use a wheelchair. The leader of this “research study” is a determined scientist named Dr. Conners (played by Tunde Adebimpe), who is adamant that all of his subordinates follow his rules.
In this “research study,” the two female subordinates who work the most with Dr. Conners are named Shannon (played by Breeda Wool) and Julie (played by Porter Duong), who have very different approaches to their job. Julie is very obedient and never questions what Dr. Conners has to say. Shannon, who does a lot of the research interviews of Glen and Chelsea, has her doubts about the ethics of this “research study,” and she sometimes openly defies Dr. Conners’ orders.
“Ultrasound” takes viewers down a proverbial rabbit hole, where the story has some twists and turns—some of which are more unpredictable than others. Schroeder’s direction maintains a tense level of viewer anticipation and curiosity to see what will happen next. However, enough bizarre things happen where confused viewers of “Ultrasound” might not want to stick around until the end of the movie to find out what it all means.
All of the cast members are convincing in their performances, but Kartheiser and Wool stand out because their characters are the ones who say and do the things that are the most interesting. Glen and Shannon have aspects of their personalities that show they’re independent-minded and are willing to ask questions if things around them start to look suspicious. The ending of “Ultrasound” is a bit jumbled and messy, but it least answers a lot of questions about what these characters have experienced and what might happen to them next.
Magnet Releasing released “Ultrasound” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on March 11, 2022.