Review: ‘Avatar: The Way of Water,’ starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis and Britain Dalton

December 13, 2022

by Carla Hay

Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldaña, Jamie Flatters, Britain Dalton, Trinity Jo-Li Bliss and Sam Worthington in “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

“Avatar: The Way of Water”

Directed by James Cameron

Culture Representation: Taking place on Earth and on the fictional planet of Pandora, the sci-fi action film “Avatar: The Way of Water” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans, Latinos and Asians) portraying humans and non-humans.

Culture Clash: Jake Sully and Neytiri, the heroes of 2009’s “Avatar,” are now the leaders of the Omatikaya clan on Pandora, but Jake becomes the target of revenge for being a traitor to Earth, so he and his family escape to live with another clan on Pandora, with an old enemy in pursuit. 

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of “Avatar” fans, “Avatar: The Way of Water” will appeal primarily to people interested in watching a top-notch sci-fi film.

Sam Worthington, Kate Winslet and Cliff Curtis in “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

“Avatar: The Way of Water” has set the bar even higher for sci-fi epics. The movie’s technical achievements and story surpass the first “Avatar” film. Expect to be immersed in a visually stunning world that has a lot to say about protection of families and the environment. At 192 minutes, “Avatar: The Way of Water” is a more than worth the time of anyone who wants to be entertained for a little more than three hours by a magnificent achievement in sci-fi cinema.

Directed by James Cameron, “Avatar: The Way of Water” is a movie that is fully appreciated if viewers have seen or know about what happened in 2009’s Oscar-winning blockbuster “Avatar,” which was also directed by Cameron. Mild spoiler alert for those who haven’t the first “Avatar” movie, which took place in the year 2154: The movie’s main hero, Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington), a wheelchair-using U.S. Marine, was assigned to be a bodyguard for Dr. Grace Augustine (played by Sigourney Weaver), the leader of the Avatar Program that gives the ability for humans to appear in the form of something else.

Jake defied the government’s plan for military people to disguise themselves as Pandora natives call the Na’vi, in order to deplete the moon planet of Pandora (located in the Alpha Centauri system) for the precious resource unobtanium. Na’vi people are a humanoid species with blue skin, and the average Na’vi adults are about 10 feet tall. At the end of the first “Avatar” movie, Jake left behind his human life on Earth to become a Na’vi.

At the beginning of “Avatar: The Way of Water” (whose screenplay was written by Cameron, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver), it is about 15 years after the first movie took place. Jake (who has fully inhabited his Na’vi body) has been happily married to Neytiri (played by Zoe Saldaña), the female Na’vi who saved his life in the first “Avatar” movie. Jake and Neytiri fell in love in the first “Avatar” movie. They now live on Pandora, where Jake is the leader of the Omatikaya clan, which lives and thrives in the forest.

Jake and Neytiri are now parents to four children: teenage son Neteyam (played by Jamie Flatters) is the “role model” eldest child; teenage son Lo’ak (played by Britain Dalton) is slightly rebellious and living in the shadow of Neteyam; adopted teenage daughter Kiri (played by Weaver) is haunted by the memories of her biological mother; and pre-teen daughter Tuk (played by Trinity Jo-Li Bliss) is friendly and playful. The four Sully kids are very close to a human named Spider (played by Jack Champion), who was orphaned by the war between the Na’vi and humans.

The movie later reveals Spider’s family background and who one of his biological parents is. Spider spends so much time with the Sully kids that he’s almost like part of the family. However, Neytiri is nervous and wary about Spider becoming so close to the kids because she doesn’t completely trust humans, who are called Sky People by the Na’vi. The humans were responsible for nearly destroying Neytiri’s family in the first “Avatar” movie. One of the survivors was Neytiri’s mother Mo’at (played by CCH Pounder), who makes a brief appearance in “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

Kiri’s origins are revealed near the beginning of the movie: She was created from the DNA of Dr. Augustine. Mild spoiler alert for those who don’t know what happened in the first “Avatar” movie: Dr. Augustine died in the first “Avatar” movie, but she makes an appearance in flashbacks in “Avatar: The Way of Water.” Throughout the movie, Kiri feels a psychic connection to that is both confusing and comforting to Kiri.

In the first “Avatar” movie, the U.S. government’s Resources Development Administration (RDA) was in charge of raiding Pandora for unobtanium because resources on Earth have diminished. The RDA still exists in “Avatar: The Way of Water,” and they consider Jake to be a traitorous enemy because of what happened in the first “Avatar” movie. As described in the “Avatar: The Way of Water” production notes: “In addition to having an armada of weaponized land, air and sea vehicles at their disposal, the RDA has brought with them a secret weapon: an elite team of soldiers resurrected as recombinants (recoms). Recoms are autonomous avatars embedded with the memories of the humans whose DNA was used to create them.”

This group of recom soldiers has been tasked with one primary mission: find and kill Jake. The leader of this mission is Recom Colonel Miles Quaritch (played by Stephen Lang), the avatar of the human Colonel Miles Quaritch (also played by Lang), who was head of RDA’s security force and Jake’s biggest adversary in the first “Avatar” movie. During this mission, the recom soldiers appear in the form of Na’vi when they go to Pandora to hunt down Jake.

Through a series of circumstances, the Sully family is are forced to leave their home. They flee to another part of Pandora, where they are taken in as refugees by the green-skinned Metkayina clan. Whereas the forest is the primary domain of the Omatikaya clan, the ocean is the primary domain of the Metkayina clan, which reluctantly lets the Sully family live with them because it’s a Na’vi tradition to help refugees of Pandora.

The leaders of the Metkayina clan are upstanding and fair-minded Tonowari (Cliff Curtis). and his compassionate wife Ronal (played by Kate Winslet), who is pregnant when this story takes place. Ronal and Tonowari tell their teenage children—daughter Tsireya (played by Bailey Bass) and older son Aonung (played by Filip Geljo)—to attempt to teach the Sully kids how to adapt to the clan’s water activities, customs and traditions. Aonung is somewhat hostile to these newcomers, while Tsireya is welcoming.

Tsireya and Lo’ak have an immediate “attraction at first sight” the first time that they meet each other. It leads to some romantic moments but also some tensions, particularly from Aonung, who clashes with and bullies Lo’ak during much of the story. The residents of Pandora have much bigger problems though, when Recom Colonel Miles Quaritch and his marauding team of soldiers invade Pandora in their hunt for Jake.

“Avatar: The Way of Water” has some of the most eye-popping and gorgeous visuals (especially the underwater scenes) that movie audiences will ever see in a sci-fi movie. In addition to the movie’s visual effects, “Avatar: The Way of Water’s” enchanting cinematography and production design are particularly noteworthy. “Avatar: The Way of Water” also has emotionally impactful stories about the connections that humans and humanoids can develop with other animals. And just like in the first “Avatar” movie, “Avatar: The Way of Water” has a very pro-environment message that isn’t preachy but is presented in a way that serves as a warning of what could happen when a planet’s inhabitants don’t take care of their planet.

The majority of the cast members in “Avatar: The Way of Water” do not appear in human form, due to visual effects, so their acting is on par with similar big-budget movies that use visual effects to alter the appearance of the cast members. However, Weaver (as Kiri) and Dalton have some standout moments as children who feel like misfits in their family and who feel like they have something to prove about their worth in their family. Champion’s portrayal of Spider is also admirable, because Spider goes through his own issues dealing with self-esteem, identity and family loyalty.

Other characters in “Avatar: The Way of Water” include General Ardmore (played by Edie Falco), a ruthless official from RDA; Captain Mick Scoresby (played by Brendan Cowell) and Dr. Ian Garvin (played by Jemaine Clement), who are recruited by RDA to help track down Jake and find more unobtanium; and scientists Dr. Norm Spellman (played by Joel David Moore) and Dr. Max Patel (played by Dileep Rao), who were allies to Jake in the first “Avatar” movie.

The “Avatar” universe is best experienced from the beginning to fully understand the nuances and developments of “Avatar: The Way of Water” and other “Avatar” sequels. “Avatar: The Way of Water” is a movie that has Oscar-worthy technical prowess, but the dialogue is a little on the simplistic and generic side. What the movie lacks in dazzling dialogue it more than makes up for in delivering a poignant, thrilling and entertaining story with a big heart that viewers will want to revisit.

20th Century Studios will release “Avatar: The Way of Water” in U.S. cinemas on December 16, 2022.

Review: ‘Alienoid,’ starring Ryu Jun-yeol, Kim Woo-bin, Kim Tae-ri, So Ji-sub, YuYum Jung-ah, Jo Woo-jin, Kim Eui-sung and Lee Hanee

November 21, 2022

by Carla Hay

Kim Woo-bin in “Alienoid” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

“Alienoid”

Directed by Choi Dong-hoon

Korean with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in the 1380s, 1390s, the 2010s and the 2020s, the South Korean sci-fi action film “Alienoid” features an all-Asian cast of characters portraying humans, aliens, supernatural beings, robots and mutants.

Culture Clash: A robot and a supernatural creature travel through time to manage and guard Alien prisoners trapped in human bodies, when they encounter a teenage girl who gets involved in the possession of the Crystal Knife that is the source of the prisoner guards’ superpowers.

Culture Audience: “Alienoid” will appeal mainly to people who are interested in watching ambitiously told science-fiction movies that require an active imagination to process everything that happens in the story.

Kim Tae-ri in “Alienoid” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

“Alienoid” can be a little too convoluted with plot developments that are jumbled into different timelines. However, this sci-fi adventure has plenty of orginal storytelling and interesting characters to keep viewers intrigued. People who don’t have the patience to sift through all the layers in the story might be turned off by this movie. That’s why “Alienoid” is best appreciated if watched without any distractions.

Written and directed by Choi Dong-hoon, “Alienoid” is about the ongoing conflicts in a universe where Alien prisoners are kept in human bodies, without the humans knowing about it. Certain beings who are the guards of the prisoners are tasked with ensuring that the prisoners don’t escape from these bodies. The movie compares these escapes to a “jailbreak.” The prisoners trapped in the bodies are supposed to die when the humans die.

Alien prisoners have varying powers. Therefore, some Alien prisoners are more successful than others in escaping. However, on Earth, the Aliens only have about five minutes to live outside of a human body because of the Earth’s atmosphere, which is why some Aliens try to escape to other planets in the short time that they have to live outside of a host human body on Earth. When an Alien escapes from a host human body, that human can die as a result, if the Alien chooses to kill the human.

“Alienoid” has a large ensemble cast that might make the movie look overstuffed with characters. However, viewers should know in advance that the movie’s multi-layered storyline is essentially rooted in these four characters:

  • Guard (played by Kim Woo-bin) is a supernatural being who can transform into looking human and has been tasked to manage and guard Alien prisoners and place them in human hosts. Guard gets his powers from a special weapon called the Crystal Knife.
  • Thunder (voiced by Kim Dae-myung) is a robot that is Guard’s work partner/sidekick that can shapeshift into things (such as transportation vehicles and ships), as well as transform into looking human. Thunder also gets his powers from the Crystal Knife.
  • Lee Ahn (played by Kim Tae-ri) is a mysterious woman who can shoot thunder and plays a key role in the possession of the Crystal Knife.
  • Mureuk (played by Ryu Jun-yeol) is a Taoist swordsman who calls himself Marvelous Mureuk is sometimes physically awkward and emotionally insecure.

The movie goes back and forth between the 1380s, the 1390s, the 2010s and the 2020s. “Alienoid” begins in 1380, when an Alien prisoner has escaped from the body of a woman named Hong Eon-nyeon (played by Jeon Yeo-been), so Guard and Thunder have arrived to try to capture this escaped prisoner. Eon-nyeon knows she’s going to die, so she begs Thunder to take care of her baby daughter, whose name is Yian.

Guard and Thunder bring the baby to the future, in the year 2012. Guard, who is the one who’s more likely to be in human form, raises Yian as her single father. He does not tell her the truth about who he is until Yian (played by Choi Yu-ri) is 10 years old, in 2022. Yian was already suspicious that her father was a robot, because she was telling people that her father is a robot who experimented on her brain. Guard also mysteriously disappears every night at 9 p.m.

It should come as no surprise that the Crystal Knife ends up getting lost, and there’s a battle of good versus evil to get possession of the Crystal Knife. Along the way, many more characters get involved. Some are more eccentric than others. These characters include:

  • Moon Do-seok (played by So Ji-sub) is a detective who is being pursued by Aliens.
  • Heug-seol, (played by Yum Jung-ah), also known as Madam Black, is a sorcerer from Samgaksan.
  • Cheong-woon (played by Jo Woo-jin), also known as Mr. Blue, is a sorcerer from Samgaksan
  • Dog Turd (played by Kim Ki-cheon) is an enemy of Mureuk.
  • Hyun-gam (played by Yoo Jae-myung), also known as Master Hyun, is a Yellow Mountain resident who bought the Crystal Knife.

The hyperactive tone of “Alienoid” just might be too dizzying for some viewers. The action scenes in “Alienoid” are thrilling but can lose their thrill if viewers are confused by what’s going on in the story. All of the cast members are perfectly adequate in their acting skills, but no one is going to win any major awards for “Alienoid.”

“Alienoid” has touches of occasional comedy that work well, since the movie doesn’t take itself entirely too seriously. The visual effects, production design and costume design are among the best assets of “Alienoid,” which leaves a strong visual impression, even when things movie gets a little too cluttered with its time-jumping antics. Some of the twists in the story are very easy to predict, but the biggest surprise is left for the end of the movie. Ultimately, “Alienoid” is a movie made for sci-fi enthusiasts, and it dares viewers to keep up with its high-speed array of ideas.

Well Go USA released “Alienoid” in select U.S. cinemas on August 26, 2022. The movie will be released on digital, VOD, Blu-ray and DVD on December 6, 2022.

Review: ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,’ starring Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Angela Bassett, Tenoch Huerta Mejía, Winston Duke and Martin Freeman

November 8, 2022

by Carla Hay

Letitia Wright in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios)

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

Directed by Ryan Coogler

Some language in French and Yucatec with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in various parts of Earth, the superhero action film “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” features a racially diverse cast of characters (black, Latino and white) representing the working-class, middle-class and royalty.

Culture Clash: After the death of King T’Challa, the fictional African nation of Wakanda becomes under siege from various factions, including the secret underwater kingdom of Talokan, that want Wakanda’s help in obtaining the precious metal vibranium. 

Culture Audience: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the “Black Panther” franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and superhero movies that include multiculturalism issues.

Tenoch Huerta Mejía in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios)

In more ways than one, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” shows how healing from a tragedy can turn into a triumph. This top-notch sequel to 2018’s “Black Panther” is an epic story of grief, loyalty, greed and the resilience of the human spirit. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” should more than satisfy fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and will inspire repeat viewings. Do people need to see “Black Panther” before seeing “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”? No, but it certainly helps, especially in understanding the backgrounds of the characters who have the most poignant moments in this sequel.

Directed by Ryan Coogler (who co-wrote the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” screenplay with Joe Robert Cole), “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” puts the women of the fictional African nation of Wakanda in the front and center of a story that also pays respectful tribute to Wakanda’s deceased King T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman in 2018’s “Black Panther.” Coogler directed and co-wrote (with Cole) the first “Black Panther” movie, which helps in keeping a consistent tone for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

The beginning of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” shows King T’Challa’s younger sister Princess Shuri (played by Letitia Wright) frantically trying to find a medical solution to save T’Challa, who is dying from an unnamed illness. (Boseman tragically died of colon cancer in 2020. He was 43.) All of Shuri’s efforts don’t work, and T’Challa passes away.

The people of Wakanda have an elaborate funeral for T’Challa that includes mourning his death and celebrating his life. Everyone is dressed in white for this event. At the end of the funeral, T’Challa’s casket floats up into the sky. As explained in the first “Black Panther” movie and in Marvel’s “Black Panther” comic books, Wakanda is a self-sufficient nation that is somewhat of a utopia and where supernatural things can occur. Wakanda is protected by an all-female army called the Dora Milaje.

One year after T’Challa’s death, Shuri and her mother Queen Ramonda (played by Angela Bassett) are grieving, but Shuri has had a more diffcult time trying to move on with her life. Shuri is a genius scientist who blames herself for not being able to find a medical cure that could have saved T’Challa. Much of Shuri’s storyline in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” has to do with Shuri’s grief and other traumatic things she experiences in the movie.

Meanwhile, Queen Ramonda has to contend with pressure from different entities that want Wakanda’s help in finding vibranium, a rare metal that has the power to harness kinetic energy. An early scene in the movie shows a regal and confident Ramonda at a United Nations meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, one year after T’Challa’s death. During this meeting with world leaders, Ramonda is told that the United States is disappointed that Wakanda has not shared resources in the quest to find vibranium.

However, Wakanda (a self-sufficient nation that is somewhat of a utopia) has a policy not to get involved in other nations’ politics, and Ramonda reiterates that fact. She also has members of Dora Milaje bring in some captives: several men who tried to invade one of Wakanda’s member facilities that handles vibranium. A flashback shows how members of the Dora Milaje captured these invaders. Ramonda’s sternly tells the assembled officials that she knows that a member state of the United Nations was probably behind this attack, and this capture serves as an “olive branch” warning for this attack not to happen on Wakanda again.

Meanwhile, a U.S. ship in the Atlantic Ocean has been looking for vibranium underwater. The ship then experiences something unexpected and bizarre. Crew members of the ship seem to go into a daze and start jumping off of the ship to their death. And then, a group of blue-skinned people rise out of the ocean and attack the ship. The attackers’ leader is dressed like a Mayan king and has wings on his feet that allow him to fly. Viewers later find out that his name is Namor (played Tenoch Huerta Mejía), and he’s the ruler of Talokan, a hidden nation under the sea.

One evening, back in Wakanda, Ramonda and Shuri have a heart-to-heart talk on a beach. Ramonda is concerned about Shuri’s emotional well-being because Shuri seems to be deeply depressed. Shuri tries to brush off her mother’s concerns. Ramonda says she has a secret about T’Challa that she wants to tell Shuri. But just as she’s about to tell Shuri, Namor appears out of the water.

Namor is not there to pay a friendly visit. He essentially tells Ramonda and Shuri that Talokan needs Wakanda’s help to defend themselves from extinction and to get vibranium. If Wakanda refuses to help, Talokan will declare war on the world, and Wakanda will be Talokan’s first target. A stunned Ramonda tells Namor that Wakanda does not get involved in other people’s wars and refuses to give in to his demand. Namor leaves and ominously says that he will return in one week.

Meanwhile, CIA operative Everett K. Ross (played by Martin Freeman) reprises his role from 2018’s “Black Panther.” Everett is an ally to Wakanda but he gets into conflicts about it with higher-ranking agent Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who is pressuring Wakanda to cooperate with the U.S. government to find vibranium. Valentina (who communicates with a brittle, sarcastic tone) has another, more personal connection to Everett that is revealed in the movie.

Also reprising their roles from “Blank Panther” are Okoye (played by Danai Gurira), the courageous leader of the Dora Milaje; Ayo (played by Florence Kasumba), a powerful enforcer of the Dora Milaje; M’Baku (played by Winston Duke), the leader of Jabariland, Wakanda’s isolated region known for its snow and mountains; and Nakia (played by Lupita Nyong’o), who is the best spy in Wakanda’s history and T’Challa’s former love partner. New to the Dora Milaje team is Aneka (played by Michaela Coel), a high-ranking member.

During the course of the story, Shuri and Okoye travel to Haiti, where viewers find out that Nakia has been living for the past six years. In Haiti, Nakia has been working as a teacher of children in elementary school. Shuri and Okoye have to plead with Nakia to come back to Wakanda to help them, but Nakia is very reluctant to go back. Why did Nakia leave Wakanda? And why is Nakia reluctant to go back? Those questions are answered in the movie.

Wakanda also has another ally, who finds herself involved in this brewing war through no choice of her own. Her name is Riri Williams (played by Dominique Thorne), a brilliant 19-year-old MIT student and aspiring scientist. Riri and Shuri are thrown together in circumstances where they have to learn to work together. Riri is sometimes overwhelmed by the danger that comes her way, but she can be counted on to come up with helpful ideas. She has a sassy personality that is the comic relief in the movie.

Meanwhile, Namor has been assembling his own troops to prepare for war. His two main sidekicks are Talokan’s strongest warrior Attuma (played by Alex Livinalli) and Talokan’s most fearless warrior Namora (played by Mabel Cadena), who have unwavering loyalty to Talokan and their leader, Namor. At one point in the movie, viewers find out more about Talokan and Namor’s backstory to explain why he is on such a brutal revenge mission.

“Black Panther” won Academy Awards for its production design (led by Hannah Beachler) and its costume design (led by Ruth E. Carter), with Beachler and Carter both leading the same teams for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” The production design for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is even more elaborate and awe-inspiring, particularly in how Talokan was designed. (It looks like an underwater Mayan paradise inspired by Atlantis.) The costume design for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is also Oscar-worthy, although many of the Dora Milaje costumes are understandably the same or similar to as they were in “Black Panther.”

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” has better visual effects than “Black Panther.” The cinematography is also an improvement over the first “Black Panther” movie, particularly when it comes to the scenes in Talokan and some of the camera angles during the fight scenes. Every action sequence looks believable, given the characters’ superpowers. But all of these dazzling components to the film would be wasted if the story wasn’t compelling and the acting performances weren’t up to par.

Shuri becomes the heart and soul of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” as she comes to terms with T’Challa’s death; faces doubts and moral dilemmas about where he should put her loyalties; and sometimes clashes with her strong-willed mother Ramonda on decision to make about Wakanda’s future. Wright gives a standout performance in having to convey a wide myriad of emotions of someone who is the heir to the throne but has inner and exterior conflicts about her leadership, while living in the shadow of T’Challa and his legacy.

Bassett is also noteworthy in her performance as Romanda, who has to find a way to reconcile her pain with a possible new direction for Wakanda. Huerta Mejía a gives solid performance as the movie’s villain, who is alternately stoic and filled with rage. Namor isn’t the most fearsome villain of the MCU, but his backstory will make viewers see that underneath his anger is a lot of personal pain and pride for his people.

Because of the real-life death of Boseman, there are expected tearjerking moments when the movie shows flashbacks of T’Challa. There’s also the brief return of another major character from the first “Black Panther” movie, with the character appearing to Shuri in a vision. A mid-credits scene (there is no end-credits scene) in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” shines a bright light of hope for the future of Wakanda, but it’s with a bittersweet tone that T’Challa is immensely beloved and will always be missed.

Marvel Studios will release “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” in U.S. cinemas on November 11, 2022.

Review: ‘Black Adam,’ starring Dwayne Johnson, Pierce Brosnan, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell, Mohammed Amer and Bodhi Sabongui

October 19, 2022

by Carla Hay

Dwayne Johnson in “Black Adam” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Black Adam”

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional nation of Kahndaq and briefly in Louisiana, the superhero action film “Eternals” features a racially diverse cast of characters (white, Asian and African American) portraying superheroes and regular human beings.

Culture Clash: Reluctant superhero Teth Adam, later known as Black Adam, finds it difficult to change his vengeful and troublemaking ways, and he does battle against the Justice Society and a group of land pillagers called Intergang. 

Culture Audience: “Black Adam” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Dwayne Johnson and movies based on DC Comics, but the movie is a disappointing and unimaginative cinematic origin story for Black Adam.

Sarah Shahi and Pierce Brosnan in “Black Adam” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Black Adam” is nothing more than a mishmash of big-budget superhero clichés with empty dialogue, atrocious editing, a forgettable villain and a lackluster story. You know it’s bad when the mid-credits scene is what people will talk about the most. “Black Adam” (which is based on DC Comics characters and stories) is the type of misguided mess that tries to do too much and ends up not making much of impact at all. It’s one of the weakest movies in the DC Extended Universe.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, “Black Adam” could have been a thoroughly entertaining, epic superhero movie, based on the fact that charismatic Dwayne Johnson has the title role, and the movie has several talented cast members. (Johnson is also one of the movie’s producers.) But the “Black Adam” screenplay (written by Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani) is a complete dud, with mindless conversations and stale jokes that look too forced.

It’s fair to say that people don’t watch superhero movies for super-intelligent dialogue, but even the action sequences in “Black Adam” are substandard. The visual effects are hit-and-miss and aren’t particularly impressive. And the choppy editing looks like something you might see in a beginner, low-budget film, not a movie that with experienced filmmakers and a bloated nine-figure production budget.

“Black Adam” begins in the year 2600 B.C. in the fictional kingdom of Kahndaq, which is supposed to be somewhere in the Middle East. The most valuable resource in Kahndaq is Eternium, which gives special magical powers to anyone in possession of Eternium. Needless to say, wars and crimes have been committed in the competition to get Eternium.

A mystical warrior named Teth Adam (played by Johnson), who has superpowers in strength and speed, is someone who experienced a tragedy as a result of this greed for Eternium. As a result, he went on vengeful crime sprees but was eventually imprisoned in the Rock of Eternity (which is a resource hub for magic), where he was entombed for 5,000 years. The legend of Teth Adam was passed on for generations.

In the present day, Kahndaq is now an economically struggling country that has been invaded by white Europeans looking to mine the land for Eternium. A villainous group called Intergang wreaks the most havoc in this quest for Eternium. Meanwhile, a group of rebel freedom fighters aiming to defeat Intergang will be hunted by members of Intergang.

What does this have to do with Black Adam? One of the leaders of the freedom fighters is named Adrianna Tomaz (played by Sarah Shahi), who ends up being captured with her brother Karim (played by Mo Amer), who is also a freedom fighter, while they are trying to get a magical crown. Their friend and colleague Ishmael (played by Marwan Kenzari) is also involved in tryng to get this crown.

While being held captive in a cave that ends up being where the Rock of Eternity is, Adrianna yells, “Shazam!” It’s the magical word that awakens Teth Adam, who breaks out of captivity from the tomb. Adrianna and Karim escape, but for a good deal of the movie, they are being chased by Intergang thugs. Will formerly imprisoned Adam help them?

Adrianna is a widowed mother of an adolsecent son named Amon Tomaz (played by Bodhi Sabongui), who’s about 13 or 14 years old. Without going into too many details, it’s enough to say that Teth Adam eventually meets Amon, Adrianna and Karim. Amon immediately is in awe of Adam, but Adam is less impressed with this family and doesn’t really want to get involved with the family’s Intergang problems, until certain circumstances lead Adam to be on the family’s side.

That entire storyline would be enough for one movie, but “Black Adam” crams in another storyline where Adam is at odds with a group of superheroes called Justice Society, which has reunited when it becomes known that Teth Adam is on the loose and causing damage again. Viola Davis has a cameo near the beginning of “Black Adam” to reprise her “Suicide Squad” character Amanda Waller, who makes a command that sets the Justice Society back in motion. There’s nothing special about any of the cast members’ acting, a lot of which looks “phoned in,” with no uniquely memorable flair.

The members of the Justice Society in the “Black Adam” movie are:

  • Carter Hall/Hawkman (played by by Aldis Hodge), a loyal and earnest warrior who has lived for thousands of years and has the flying skills of a hawk.
  • Kent Nelson/Doctor Fate (played by Pierce Brosnan), a kind-hearted and grandfatherly archeologist who has the powers of a sorcerer.
  • Al Rothstein/Atom Smasher (played by Noah Centineo), a clumsy and goofy 20-year-old who can grow to the size of a skyscraper.
  • Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone (played by Quintessa Swindell), a playful and courageous 19-year-old who has the power to use her mind to create cyclone-like gusts of wind.

Unfortunately, all of these Justice Society characters are written to have very generic personalities and extremely bland chemistry with each other. Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone in particular is very under-used and is more like a placeholder than an impactful, developed character. And some of the lines of dialogue they have to say are downright cringeworthy. More than once, Hawkman says to Doctor Fate: “A bad plan is better than no plan at all.” That sounds like the same attitude that the “Black Adam” filmmakers had in making this shoddy superhero movie.

Expect to see a lot of formulaic chase scenes, shootouts, explosions and all the usual stereotypes of superhero action flicks. “Black Adam” has some half-hearted preachiness about white colonialism in countries where most of the residents aren’t white, but this attempt to bring a “social consciousness” to “Black Adam” looks as phony as some of the movie’s often-unconvincing visual effects. Everything in the story is jumbled up and scatterbrained, as if the filmmakers couldn’t decide how to juggle the storylines of Adam being at odds with the Justice Society and Intergang. (The 2021 action flick “Jungle Cruise,” also directed by Collet-Serra and starring Johnson, had the same overstuffed story problem.)

Meanwhile, Teth Adam/Black Adam scowls and smashes his way throughout the movie like a bulldozer on autopilot. The teenage character of Amon is hyper and talkative to the point of annoyance. Amon’s uncle Karim is supposed to be the comic relief of the movie, but just ends up looking mostly like a buffoon. Adrianna is the voice of reason for the group of freedom fighters, but nothing stands out about this character’s personality. And when one of the movie’s heroes has an underage child, you know what that means when the villains want revenge.

And about those villains. One of the biggest failings of “Black Adam” is that none of these villains is particularly memorable. The “chief villain” battle at the end looks more like a video game than a cinematic experience. The best superhero movies have villains who make the type of scene-stealing impact that audiences talk about for years. “Black Adam” comes up very short on every level when it comes to unforgettable villainous characters.

What happens in the mid-credits scene of “Black Adam” has already been widely reported, but it won’t be detailed in this review. It’s enough to say that it involves another DC Comics superhero and how that superhero might interact with Black Adam. It’s never a good sign when a movie’s main character and story are so underwhelming, it’s upstaged by the sudden appearance of another character in a mid-credits scene that foreshadows the anticipated plot of an obvious sequel.

Warner Bros. Pictures will release “Black Adam” in U.S. cinemas on October 21, 2022.

Review: ‘Significant Other’ (2022), starring Maika Monroe and Jake Lacy

October 17, 2022

by Carla Hay

Maika Monroe and Jack Lacy in “Significant Other” (Photo courtesy of Paramount+)

“Significant Other” (2022)

Directed by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed part of the Pacific Northwest, the horror film “Significant Other” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with one Asian person) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A dating couple travel to an isolated wooded area for backpack hiking and camping, but they encounter something sinister that changes their lives forever.

Culture Audience: “Significant Other” will appeal mainly to people who don’t mind watching unimaginative and slow-paced horror movies.

Matt Yang King and Dana Green in “Significant Other” (Photo by Allyson Riggs/Paramount+)

“Significant Other” blandly rips off plot developments from other movies about terror in a remote wooded area and sci-fi body horror. The acting is unremarkable. Everything in the movie looks like a lazy imitation of other films with the same ideas. The ending of the movie is so sloppily edited and underwhelming, it looks like the filmmakers ran out of ideas.

Written and directed by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, “Significant Other” was shown as a sneak preview at the 2022 edition of New York Comic Con in New York City. One of the movie’s biggest flaws is that it takes too long to get to any real horror. And even then, that horror is mind-numbingly predictable. It’s yet another horror flick about people stranded in a wooded area where something dangerous is about to happen.

“Significant Other” has a very small number of people in its cast. The two characters with most of the screen time in “Significant Other” are a couple who’ve been dating each other for the past six years. Unfortunately, because so much of the movie revolves around just this dreadfully dull couple, the movie gets bogged down in a lot of wishy-wishy drama about how these two people handle their relationship.

Ruth Miller (played by Maika Monroe) and her boyfriend Harry (played by Jake Lacy) have driven to this wooded area somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, for what Harry hopes will be a romantic getaway of backpack hiking and camping. (“Significant Other” was actually filmed in Oregon.) Ruth is reluctant to go on this trip because she says these activities make her nervous. Therefore, Ruth is already in a bad mood when they begin their trp.

Harry assures Ruth about the trail they’ll be taking on their hike: “This is the fourth time I’ve done this trail. There’s nothing scary about it.” He also comments to Ruth, who loves to surf, how he thinks it’s interesting that hiking makes her more frightened than surfing. Ruth says she’s comfortable with surfing because she grew up around the ocean. It’s at this point in the movie that you know there’s going to be a scene in the movie where Ruth’s swimming skills will come in handy.

Some more low-key bickering happens between Harry and Ruth. Unbeknownst to Ruth, he plans to propose marriage and give her an engagement ring on this trip. The problem is that Ruth is very cynical about marriage. As she says later in the movie, after Harry proposes, “All that marriage does is lock you in, and you lose control of your life.” Stung by this rejection, Harry tells Ruth that she’s probably afraid of marriage because of she’s still bitter about her parents’ divorce.

The couple’s bickering turns into a full-blown argument. Ruth’s mental health issues (she has panic attacks) and her therapy treatment are discussed at length. Harry often has a condescending tone with Ruth about her psychological fragility, which makes him look like not quite the nice guy he first appeared to be in the beginning of the movie. Ruth (who does a lot of pouting and vacant staring) isn’t exactly easy to deal with though, because she’s very neurotic and moody.

Meanwhile, during all these time-wasting scenes, viewers will be wondering if “Significant Other” is a horror movie or a very boring relationship drama. Will Harry and Ruth resolve their differences? Will Ruth change her mind about marrying Harry? Will anyone watching this movie really care? “Significant Other” makes this couple’s relationship so lackluster, the answer is a resounding “no” to the last question.

There’s a little bit of a foreshadowing of the horror that might happen later, when a deer is shown in the woods getting attacked from behind by something that has a tentacle. And then, there are repetitive scenes of Ruth becoming afraid because she thinks she saw a deer in the woods. Harry reassures her every time that there’s no reason for her to be frightened.

In the last third of the movie, Harry and Ruth meet another couple hiking in the woods: spouses Ray (played by Matthew Yang King) and Vivian (played by Dana Green), who encounter Harry and Ruth under some very stressful circumstances. The horror in the movie comes too little, too late. And by the time the big “reveal” happens, it’s all very unimaginative and looks like an inferior patchwork of sci-fi horror clichés that have been done much better in many other movies.

Paramount+ premiered “Significant Other” on October 7, 2022.

Review: ‘Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva,’ starring Amitabh Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Mouni Roy and Nagarjuna Akkineni

September 9, 2022

by Carla Hay

Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Amitabh Bachchan in “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” (Photo courtesy of Star India Pvt. Ltd./Walt Disney Pictures)

“Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva”

Directed by Ayan Mukerji

Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada with 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.

Ranbir Kapoor and Akkineni Nagarjuna in “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” (Photo courtesy of Star India Pvt. Ltd./Walt Disney Pictures)

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.

Review: ‘The Witch 2: The Other One,’ starring Shin Si-ah, Park Eun-bin, Jin Goo, Seo Eun-soo and Sung Yoo-bin

September 4, 2022

by Carla Hay

Shin Si-ah in “The Witch 2: The Other One” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

“The Witch 2: The Other One”

Directed by Park Hoon-jung

Korean with subtitles

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.

Seo Eun-soo and Justin John Harvey in “The Witch 2: The Other One” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

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.

Review: ‘Dobaaraa,’ starring Taapsee Pannu and Pavail Gulati

August 27, 2022

by Carla Hay

Taapsee Pannu in “Dobaaraa” (Photo courtesy of Bulaji Motion Pictures)

“Dobaaraa”

Directed by Anurag Kashyap

Hindi with subtitles

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.

Pavail Gulati in “Dobaaraa” (Photo courtesy of Bulaji Motion Pictures)

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.

2022 Fantastic Fest: programming slate announced

August 16, 2022

 

 

Sosie Bacon in “Smile” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

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.”

Badges are available now at FantasticFest.com.

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.  

Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet in “Bones and All” (Photo courtesy of United Artists Releasing)

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.”

The Parties

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.

[email protected]

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. 

Partnerships

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. 

Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy in “The Menu” (Photo by Eric Zachanowich/Searchlight Pictures)

 FESTIVAL FILM LINEUP BELOW:

12 DAYS OF TERROR

USA, 2004

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.

AATANK

India, 1996

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)

USA, 2022

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.

AMAZING ELISA

Spain, 2022

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

Spain, 2022

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.

ATTACHMENT

Denmark, 2022

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.

BAD CITY

Japan, 2022

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

USA, 2022

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.

BLOOD FLOWER

Malaysia, 2022

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.

BLOOD RELATIVES

USA, 2022

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

USA, 2022

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

USA, 2022

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. 

COUNTRY GOLD

USA, 2022

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.

DEEP FEAR

France, 2022

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

Taiwan, 2022

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.

DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY

Mexico, 2022 

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.

THE ELDERLY

Spain, 2022 

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

Spain, 2021

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.

EVIL EYE

Mexico, 2022

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.

FAMILY DINNER

Austria, 2022

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.

FINAL CUT

France, 2022

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

France, 2022

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)

USA, 1988

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.

FLOWING

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

Japan, 1971

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!

GARCIA!

Spain, 2022

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!

USA, 2022

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.

H4Z4RD

Belgium, 2022

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.

HOLY SPIDER

Denmark, 2022

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.

HUESERA

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.

HUNT

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

USA, 2022

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.

LA PIETÀ

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

Philippines, 2022

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

USA, 2022

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

USA, 2022

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

USA, 1976

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.

MANTICORE

Spain, 2022

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.

MEDUSA DELUXE

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.

THE MENU

USA, 2022

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.

MISSING

Japan, 2021

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.

MISTER ORGAN

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.

THE NIGHTMARE

Norway, 2022

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.

NIGHTSIREN

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.

NOTHING

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.

THE OFFERING

USA, 2022

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.

OINK

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

China, 2021

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)

USA, 2022

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.

PIGGY

Spain, 2022

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.

SATANIC HISPANICS

USA, Mexico, Argentina, 2022

World Premiere, 105 min

Directors – Mike Mendez, Demian Rugna, Eduardo Sanchez, Gigi Saul Guerrero & Alejandro Brugues

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.

SHIN ULTRAMAN

Japan, 2022

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.

SICK

USA, 2022

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.

SMILE

USA, 2022

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

France, 2022

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.

SOLOMON KING

USA, 1974

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

USA, 2022

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

USA, 2022

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)

USA, 2022

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

France, 2022

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.

SWALLOWED

USA, 2022

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)

USA, 1993

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).

TERRIFIER 2

USA, 2022

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.

TINTORERA!

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

Sweden, 2022

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.

TROPIC

France, 2022

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.

ULTRAMAN (4K EDITION)

Japan, 1966

Texas Premiere of 2022 4K EDITION, 101 min

Directors – Samaji Nonagase, Hajime Tsuburaya & Akio Jissoji

Four episodes from the brand new 4k restoration of the original Ultraman television series. 

UNICORN WARS

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.

UNIDENTIFIED OBJECTS

USA, 2022

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.

V/H/S/99

USA, 2022

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.

VENUS

Spain, 2022

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.

VESPER

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)

USA, 2012

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

France, 2022

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

USA, 2022

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

France, 2022

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.

ATTEND:

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.

For the latest developments, visit the Fantastic Fest official site www.fantasticfest.com and follow us on  Facebook & Twitter.

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:

CONTACT:  Brandy Fons / Brad Johnson

PHONE:    (310) 809-8882 / (972) 898-7528

E-MAIL:     [email protected] / [email protected] 

About Fantastic Fest

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 WeeklyWired, and TIME.

Our Partners

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]

About Alamo Drafthouse

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.

Review: ‘Rubikon’ (2022), starring Julia Franz Richter, George Blagden and Mark Ivanir

July 27, 2022

by Carla Hay

George Blagden, Julia Franz Richter and Mark Ivanir in “Rubikon” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films/IFC Midnight)

“Rubikon” (2022)

Directed by Magdalena “Leni” Lauritsch

Some language in German with subtitles

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.

Julia Franz Richter in “Rubikon” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films/IFC Midnight)

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.

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