Review by Sean Boelman
It doesn’t take much for a teen comedy to work — a charming lead, some witty dialogue, and characters that feel genuinely relatable. Unfortunately for Darby of the Dead, the film lacks two out of three of those qualities, letting down its potentially great lead in an almost embarrassing way.
The movie follows a high school outcast who has the ability to communicate with the spirits of the deceased, as she meets her match when the school’s most popular girl dies in a tragic accident. It’s an intriguing premise that, at minimum, should have made for something cute, but the script is so full of cliches that it’s difficult to enjoy.
The film’s painfully obvious metaphor becomes clear in the second act, as the protagonist gives up her invisible life and her foil has to learn to cope with not being seen by anyone else. The movie clearly thinks that it's a refreshing, innovative take on the teen comedy, but it’s simply derivative of much better films that have come before.
As one would expect, much of the humor in the movie is the typical fish-out-of-water material that we see in the genre time and time again. We are supposed to laugh at the fact that this “dorky” girl is doing things typically reserved for the popular girls, like cheerleading and dating, and showing them up. And honestly — it’s more frequently cringe-worthy than it is funny.
It’s hard not to feel bad for Riele Downs, who is clearly a talented actress, but the role gives her absolutely nothing to do. This could have been a star-making turn for her, yet the movie and character are so insufferable that her career could be over before it even really begins. It’s a shame because she shows true potential.
In terms of the more established names in the cast, only Auli’i Carvalho (Moana) isn’t wasted. Although she’s playing a generic mean girl, she’s at least moderately fun to watch in the role. On the other hand, screen legends Wayne Knight and Tony Danza show up for small bit parts and are completely insignificant in the film.
One would hope that the movie would have leaned into the horror-esque aspects of the premise, but it’s shot like a generic comedy. There’s nothing particularly ghostly about the spirits the protagonist interacts with, and even as little as a bit of makeup and costuming work could have given the film more of a personality.
Darby and the Dead is, unfortunately, one of the worst teen comedies in recent memory. So insultingly cliche-ridden that it feels like it was made by an algorithm rather than actual people, the movie seems unlikely to appease even the teenage audience it was designed to appease.
Darby and the Dead streams on Hulu beginning December 2.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Willow was a fantasy-adventure movie made by Lucasfilm and directed by Ron Howard, not George Lucas or Stephen Spielberg, which in this era of Lucasfilm was a surprise. The Star Wars and Indiana Jones films were a part of the bedrock of this studio. Willow, on the other hand, was a fun movie with breakout performances from Val Kilmer and its title actor Warwick Davis. It brought me and others my age to a place and time like no other. When Disney bought Lucasfilm, I had no idea we would return to the magical world of Willow. I'm very glad we are in the form of a Disney+ Series.
Willow follows a group of unlikely heroes on a journey across many lands to find a young prince kidnapped by the evil Croan, the leader of a band of malformed men. She wants to bring darkness to the land. Kit (Ruby Cruz) is a princess with a fighting spirit, Jade (Erin Kellyman) is her trusted friend and companion, Dove (Ellie Bamber) is a kitchen hand with a secret, and a few others are led by Willow Ufgood (Warrick Davis). Together, this band of misfits goes on a paralysis mission.
I never knew I would ever get another trip to the wonderful world George Lucas and Ron Howard created all those years ago, but I have. The episodes I have seen so far were enough for me to be fully invested in this show. It has gotten off to a good start. A series like this needs to hook those watching it, and this one did that in two different ways. The first is by giving some backstory between the film and the new series, and the other is by creating a new adventure I can get behind involving some new and exciting characters.
With a series like Willow or any fantasy adventure film or television series, you have to have a beautiful world to create if you are the showrunner or filmmaker. The writer must expand on the mythos of the world in which the show or film exists. In this case, the writer and creator of the series, Jonathan Kasden, has added new threats to these characters and tried to expand on this wonderful world created by Lucas and Howard. The show was filmed in Wales, adding an element of beauty to a series that already has enough going for it.
The character development in the series so far is excellent. Focusing on the woman in the show, the creator Kasdan wants to convey female empowerment. That sort of thing is going around a lot in Hollywood these days. These three female leads have shown a lot of panache and spunk, making them all very interesting to follow in the series. Each of their arcs will be different, but it will be fascinating to see where they lead. They all have different journey's that they are on while all still being part of a fellowship together.
In an era of reboots and sequels, Lucasfilm under Disney hasn't had the best track record. A few Star Wars films and streaming series have been good, but not all of them. From what I've seen, Willow is headed in a positive direction. With Kasdan, the son of legendary filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan, at the helm, this show is in the right hands. With Warrick Davis returning, it seems like he has gotten invested in this series from the start. That's a good sign.
Willow is now streaming on Disney+. New episodes air subsequent Wednesdays. Three out of eight episodes reviewed.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, it’s time to focus on the holiday season, and that means an abundance of Christmas movies for audiences to see. One such movie is Violent Night. From director Tommy Wirkola, this promises to be a different type of Christmas movie that may surprise you in more ways than one. While on the surface, it can be a fairly basic and cheesy homage to movies like Die Hard and Home Alone, this movie doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to its gory violence or foul humor.
This movie follows the one and only Santa Claus. However, this isn’t the jolly old man we loved as kids. In this movie, Santa, despite being dedicated to what he does, is a heavy drinker and a cynical and snarky person. One Christmas eve, he finds himself trying to fight off a group of mercenaries as they try and steal a fortune from a wealthy family. As mentioned before, this movie utilizes tropes and ideas from other holiday movies, but it still has a lot of fun with it.
The script is hit or miss for the most part. It has the standard forced Christmas dialogue you can expect, but what was unexpected was the plethora of swears and crude jokes made between the family, the mercenaries, and Santa. It’s quite predictable with its plot, but it does have a lot of fun with its premise and inspirations and is an enjoyable basis for the movie.
The performances this from this movie may not be impressive, but it’s clear how much fun literally every person is having. The movie is led by David Harbour who finally gives us his first really solid leading performance as Santa. He is quite funny throughout and excels with all of the action and violence. The supporting cast is also surprisingly strong consisting of but not limited to John Leguizamo, Alex Hassell, and Edi Patterson. Everyone has great chemistry and is going insane on screen with the movie’s R rating.
What stands out most about this movie is how far it’s willing to push its over the top and bloody violence. There are several great action scenes and fight scenes that are hilariously and captivatingly graphic. There is no shortage of blood or creative manners of killing from Santa and everyone else. This aspect is what really made the movie enjoyable and made it stand out in the genre. There are a handful of violent moments that catch you off guard and are entirely delightful to see with a crowd of people.
Take away the swearing and blood, and you’re left with an average Christmas movie, but Violent Night knows what the movie needs to be a truly fun time at the theater. It can get a bit slow towards the middle, but its exhilarating and violent final act makes up for that easily. This is definitely a movie to watch without young children, and if you go in expecting a fun and violent holiday flick, you’ll be satisfied.
Violent Night is in theaters December 2.
Review by Cole Groth
The opening shot of Four Samosas immediately reveals what we can expect from the goofy, slightly forgettable comedy/heist film from second-time director Ravi Kapoor. His cinematic choice to opt for a 4:3 aspect ratio and his somewhat uniquely entertaining direction looks distinctly like a Wes Anderson film. The heavy Bollywood influences and a good sense of specificity to South Asian culture aren’t often found in American indie films. These elements make for an entirely original yet far-from-perfect release.
The premise of this film is immediately promising. An aspiring rapper Vinny, played by a hilarious Venk Potula, gathers a ragtag crew of social rejects to steal diamonds from his ex-girlfriend’s (Sonal Shah) family. He hopes that if he can bankrupt her family, he can get them to cancel a wedding between her ex and her new, very douchey fiancée (Karan Soni). The goofy cast makes for a few laughs, but the script isn’t nearly ambitious enough to keep the comedy flowing. While the first half is a series of relatively unconnected scenes, the second half comes together in a strangely entertaining heist sequence.
The sheer ridiculousness of the heist is one of the most exciting parts of the movie. Each character cross-dresses as a senior citizen and dons a horrible accent while attempting to rob the grocery store her dad owns of an ample supply of diamonds. Since the crew’s quirkiness and stupidity are the most entertaining part of the film, it might be easy for audiences to overlook the weak motivations of any of the characters involved. Vinny has almost no chemistry with his ex, so his goal of breaking up her wedding seems pointless.
Ravi Kapoor’s direction is highly stylized. The shot composition and camera movement are a lot of fun and show that he has much promise as a director, but he’d be better off not writing his scripts in the future. While the dialogue is pretty funny, the characters are all one-dimensional, and their world feels empty. Setting the film in Little India is a good choice, but it feels like it doesn’t take place in America. It would’ve been much better to juxtapose the Indian culture with characters from other cultures. Since only one group of people is focused on, the story is compromised in scale.
Although the film’s scale isn’t that great, what Kapoor gives us is still fun enough to be a commendable job. It leans too much into Wes Anderson-ian quirkiness but manages to be very charming by the end. Four Samosas is clearly a passion project from the crew behind it. It’s rough around the edges, but that’s a good comparison to the rest of the film. Each ridiculous character is unrefined yet very entertaining. If you’re a Bollywood fan or want to support solid indie filmmaking, you should check this out. Otherwise, it might be a bit unmemorable to most audiences.
Four Samosas releases in theaters and on-demand on December 2nd.
SLOW HORSES (Season 2) -- A Bigger and Better Return for the Addictive Spy Thriller
Review by Sean Boelman
The British spy thriller Slow Horses debuted on Apple TV+ earlier this year to great acclaim and the announcement that season two was already done, with two more seasons in the works. Returning in the fall with a bigger and better second season, the show yet again proves to be one of the most addictive watches on streaming.
Compared to the first season, this season’s story is much more intricate and layered. The show follows the MI-5 reject agents at Slough House as they uncover a conspiracy that may involve Russian sleeper agents in the British ranks. Based on the second book in Mick Herron’s series, this is a fresh spin on familiar tropes.
The pacing here is razor-sharp, with a much more serious tone than the first season. Now that the Slow Horses have proven that they can do some excellent spy work, we get to see them on a “real” adventure, and the results are just as exhilarating and action-packed as one would hope.
There are only six episodes this season, each clocking in at around forty-five minutes, and it is probably the quickest four and a half hours of television you will see this year. It can be a bit complicated at times, but even at the points that are a bit harder to follow, it is easy to get swept up in the film’s unraveling secrets.
Something that this season does that improves upon the first is that it expands the role of Gary Oldman’s leader of Slough House, Jackson Lamb. Oldman is delivering some of the finest work of his already excellent career here, with a performance that is somehow equally hilarious and menacing, making it the perfect combination of his talents.
The hard thing about this show is that it prides itself on being so unpredictable — you have no clue who will live and who will die — so it can be difficult to form any attachments outside of Oldman’s Lamb and Jack Lowden’s River Cartwright. There are a band of new characters introduced this season, but their subplots are held back by their uncertain fates.
There are some really awesome action sequences in this season, culminating in a season finale that kicks total ass. The first two seasons of this show were greenlit and filmed together, and it’s clear that the first season was largely establishing the world and introducing us to the characters so that we could see this unfold.
The second season of Slow Horses manages to be even better than the already impressive first — one of the most intelligent and entertaining espionage thrillers in the history of the genre. Subscribers will certainly be left clamoring to see more of Jackson Lamb and his band of misfits.
Slow Horses hits Apple TV+ beginning December 2 with new episodes streaming subsequent Fridays. All six episodes reviewed.
CRIME SCENE: THE TEXAS KILLING FIELDS -- A Raw and Visceral Retelling of a Series of Murders in Texas
Review by Dan Skip Allen
The Texas Killing Fields was a 2011 film based on a series of murders over several years in the '70s, '80s, and '90s. It had a great cast, including Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Jeffery Dean Morgan, and was directed by Ami Canaan Mann. The documentary series, Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields, 11 years later from Netflix, is based on the same story as the film.
In the 1980s and '90s, a series of murders started happening in Texas around Calder Road Field, which is adjacent to the I45 corridors, which has become known as the Texas Killing Fields. When a fourth body is found, people become concerned that this is a deprived serial killer. Police in League City, Texas are baffled by this series of murders. This was preceded by a series of killings in the 1970s in the same area. How could all this be just a coincidence?
It features various people involved in the murders. One of them is a parent of one of the dead girls, Tim Miller, and there are multiple other talking heads. It also features reenactments, archival footage, and narration over the film. It's the type of extensive docu-series for which Netflix has become known lately. Reporters and writers are also interviewed to give some substance to this story.
Various suspects are brought up by people who live in the area and have studied the series of murders. The FBI profiled the case, and they came up with their own killer. Everybody started to get worried because their suspicions were wrong. Forensics at this time weren't at today's level, so things didn't go as well as they had hoped once the profile was sent down.
These shows are always interesting because if you live in a different part of the country or were born years after a certain event or series of events, you might not know about them. These docu-series are very informative to people who aren't involved or don't know about the events in the story beforehand. I am always fascinated by these investigative series. It's just tragic that this type of thing keeps happening in this country.
The director of the series, Jessica Dimmock, an Emmy award winner for her work on the New York Times Presents series The Weekly, directs and executive produces The Texas Killing Fields. Joe Berlinger, the director of The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel and The Times Square Killer, also executive produces the new season alongside Brian Grazer and Ron Howard's Imagine Production Company.
Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields is the third in a series of documentaries that have dealt with the disappearance, death, and or sexual assault of women. All the various talking heads from victims, parents, reporters, and police officers add to the horror of this story. The directors and producers do a great job using everything at their disposal to tell this story in an impactful, harrowing way.
Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields streams on Netflix beginning November 29. All three episodes reviewed.
THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY HOLIDAY SPECIAL -- Appreciate Greatness Before It’s Gone
Review by Adam Donato
The MCU has certainly faced a good deal of adversity in a post-Endgame world. Disney+ launched and utilized the Marvel franchise to curate a never ending content train based on brand recognition to keep audiences subscribed. While shows like Moon Knight have been met with approval, movies like Thor: Love and Thunder have been met with mixed responses. Two filmmakers have stood out over the last decade in the MCU: Ryan Coogler and James Gunn. While Coogler is releasing his hotly anticipated Black Panther sequel, Gunn is warming up for his third installment. In the meantime, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is sure to keep Marvel stans in good spirits.
There’s been a lot of exposure for The Guardians of the Galaxy in 2022 as they appeared in Thor: Love and Thunder and I Am Groot. Why so much in such little time? Gunn made it public that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 would be his last hoorah and with the announcement that he will be running the DCEU going forward, the hope of him continuing with the MCU are down the drain. It’s not the greatest loss as fans were blessed with a whole trilogy on top of several appearances in other movies and shows. He’s gotten his fair shake in the MCU, so let’s have some fun on our way out. A holiday special is perfectly on brand for the Guardians, a family of heroes who thrive under a comedic tone and jammin' tunes.
This holiday special is absolutely perfect. One thing the Disney+ content machine has done well is their short-form content. Not elongated television shows or unnecessary franchise sequels, but taking side characters and giving them a spotlight on a small-scale, low-risk environment like shorts or specials. While it’s clear the CGI characters are limited in their screen time for cost, the special takes advantage of the opportunity to flesh out characters who haven’t gotten much spotlight in the past. While the plot is centered around Star Lord, it’s Mantis and Drax’s story. They’re compartmentalizing, but maintaining the zany humor and the toe-tappin' bops that make the movies stand out.
Mantis truly is the MVP of the special. She was a featured addition to the second volume and had a small role in Infinity War, but here she gets to play the lead. Clutch timing too as audiences are sure to go into the third volume with more connection with Mantis. Especially with the team going through so many changes as Kraglin joins the squad and Gamora is MIA. Kraglin continues to be part of the emotional heart of the franchise due to his connection with Quill and Yondu and that relationship is flexed here as well. Drax is as funny as ever as well.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is full of fun and heart as any Guardians project is. It’s just a bite size piece running at just over forty minutes, but it’s important to appreciate greatness, while it still lasts. May could be the last time we’re graced with Gunn’s creative input on the MCU, so a holiday special is more than worth it. Gather the family and prepare to experience what is sure to be a holiday season regular for all fans of the MCU. It’s crazy what happens when studios give talented creators freedom to make what they want to make.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special streams on Disney+ beginning November 25.
GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY -- A Worthy Successor to the Fan-Favorite Murder Mystery
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Glass Onion is the newest entry in the Knives Out universe that Rian Johnson has set up. There will be at least one more film after this one in the universe. This time, the film is a Netflix production and once again written/directed by Rian Johnson. Instead of a New England house, it's set on an island off the coast of Greece, but again, we follow Daniel Craig as the Kentucky fried detective Benoit Blanc.
Even though the setting of the film is on an island off the coast of Greece, it starts with a handful of characters who get an invitation to go to this island in the form of a mystery box, which takes some figuring out by this handful of characters including Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), and Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.). Once they get to the island, they realize they have been invited to solve the murder of their friend, tech inventor Miles Bron (Edward Norton). The problem is Blanc is there as well, and Norton's character doesn't know how he got an invitation to the murder mystery party.
Glass Onion is the title of the film, but it has a more significant meaning in the context of the movie. It is a building that is created by Norton's character. It plays a big part in the story in a very rewarding way. Like an onion, this story has many layers, and as it unfolds, more and more of the story is uncovered. This is a perfect metaphor for this film. And murder mysteries as a whole. It was a very thought-out title and a way to explain the depth and layers of this story. Johnson deserves a lot of credit for that.
He also deserves credit for the performances he got out of his actors. Even though the dialogue was very dense and layered, it was delivered equally with a great sense of humor and a serious tone. There is a lot of inside baseball information regarding the friendship between these people. That all needed a lot of explaining, so it took the brunt of the first act. The rest of the movie deals with the mystery of how this is acted out and explained by Blanc. It's pretty funny how he gets to his conclusion.
A character familiar to the group from their past is Andi Brand (Jenelle Monae). She was intimately connected to Norton's character. It was just a surprise she showed up for their annual summer gathering. They wonder what her motivations for being there are, and they are a little suspicious of her arrival on this beautiful island. Her connection to Norton's character isn't in question, though. Craig's Blanc is a little more involved than anyone knows. His being on the island isn't a coincidence. Monae is fantastic as this woman with a secret, and her secret is the key to the whole story and film. It's brilliantly executed by everybody, including her and Craig.
There is an aspect of this movie that is like winking at the audience watching it, Where the viewer knows it's a wild scenario, but we still want to know what is actually going on and what happened in the end. In a way, it's making fun of murder mysteries, whereas Knives Out seemed more of a genuine murder mystery. There is a tongue-in-cheek concept going on. And the actors play along very well but also seem to be in on the joke.
The craft of this movie is top-notch. The camera work looks phenomenal, having seen the film on the big screen. That's a plus. Though a little comical, the performances are pretty good, except for Jenelle Monae and Daniel Craig, who are great. The writing and direction are very good, with the camera work as a strength overall. This is a worthy successor to Knives Out, and this world of Benoit Blanc is growing little by little.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery hits theaters on November 22 and streams on Netflix beginning December 21.
LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER -- A Disappointing Adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's Groundbreaking Novel
Review by Tatiana Miranda
Most well-known for its controversial sexual content, D.H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover has received the Netflix treatment; its 1928 private publication has been updated for the 21st century via a feature-length film. Starring Emma Corrin as the titular Lady Chatterley, the film is clearly marketed toward fans of steamy period pieces, most notably Bridgerton. The plot centers around Lady Chatterley's husband's injury from the first World War, which causes his inability to fulfill her sexually. Due to her sexual frustration and his want for an heir, Lady Chatterley begins to have an affair with someone that everyone around her seems to disapprove of — her husband's gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors.
With its plot of secret romance and sexual liberation, Lady Chatterley's Lover appears to be a prime contender for a 21st-century adaption. Still, through a modern lens, the film's key subjects lose the nuance they had over a hundred years ago. Instead, its subtly shot sex scenes appear lackluster in comparison to other sex-positive period pieces being released today. Although Corrin and Jack O'Connell, who portrays Mellors, give it their all in terms of chemistry, the sex scenes end up feeling awkward and unfeeling. Between the lack of communication between Chatterley and Mellors and their hasty sexual encounters, the "love" between them that other characters allude to feels out of place.
Beyond the romantic and sexual nature of the plot of the book, Lawrence also takes note of Mellors and Chatterley's class differences. The film adaptation hints at this, with the occasional commentary on local mining conditions and Mellors's profession. Still, this aspect takes a backseat to the more romantic tone of the source material. There are times when this feels like a solid choice, as the film already surpasses two hours, and other times where it feels that, by losing this commentary, Lady Chatterley's Lover becomes just another sex-filled period piece.
In the end, the sex scenes of Lady Chatterley's Lover outweigh the social commentary, yet they don't feel warranted enough to give the film romantic merit. The film ends up feeling like a jumbled yet aesthetically pleasing mess. The extremely talented cast doesn't help with the confusion, as their captivating character portrayals tend to distract from the disjointed nature of the film's intent. Does Lady Chatterley's Lover want to be a romance movie or erotica? Whichever it is, the film hardly achieves it and instead leaves the audience feeling disappointed in how they spent the last two hours.
Lady Chatterley's Lover premiers in select theaters on November 23 and on Netflix on December 2.
Review by Cole Groth
“Directed by Steven Spielberg” automatically elevates any film’s prestige. It’s a statement that anyone who enjoys movies will recognize and hold to a high standard. How does one of the greatest directors create a film about his life? The Fabelmans is the answer. Spielberg’s latest is the (literal) story of a lifetime. It’s a film that celebrates the art of movie-making and will move audiences of all kinds when it releases.
The opening introduces us to the Fabelmans, a beautifully dysfunctional family loosely based on Spielberg’s childhood. A young Samuel “Sammy” Fabelman (Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord) is taken to see his first-ever movie, which ignites a spark in his life that, unbeknownst to him, he will follow forever. Burt (Paul Dano) is his strict yet endearing father, and Mitzi (Michelle Williams) is his artistic and emotional mother. After receiving a train model for Hanukkah and subsequently crashing it, he gets a camera and records the crash with it. An older Sammy (Gabriel LaBelle) finds happiness in making short films with his family, including sisters Reggie (Julia Butters), Natalie (Keeley Karsten), and Lisa (Sophia Kopera).
The Fabelmans are perfectly written by Spielberg and Tony Kushner as a family unit to replicate many people’s experiences with their families. Each argument and emotional moment shared between the family feels realistic, which makes the audience feel more involved in the story that follows. Standing at an extraordinary 151 minutes long, we’re given ample time to learn how every character works. This long runtime allows for great scenes, such as when Boris (Judd Hirsch), Sammy’s great uncle, arrives for a night and explains how Sammy will have to balance his life as an artist and a family member. The script’s most potent moments lie in the relationship between Sammy and Mitzi. This mother-son duo has to continually reconcile their differences as they grow through life, just like typical families do. It’s hard not to get emotional at least once throughout this because of how relatable it can be. Whether you’re somebody who’s yearned to be a filmmaker, a person with a strained familial relationship, or if you’ve always dreamed of something bigger than yourself, you’ll find something that resonates with you.
Spielberg’s story is not quite as grand of a scale as the trailers would have you believe, with the family drama being one of the most dominating elements of the movie. Fortunately, the drama is incredible. Once Sammy moves to a new high school, he has to confront the effect of his Jewishness on how the world views him. Many of his classmates are grossly antisemitic, a theme that proves to be remarkably prescient. In contrast to the religious drama, as far as Spielberg’s movies go, this is one of his funniest films yet. After getting beat up one day, Sammy meets Monica (Chloe East), his love interest with whom he has his first kiss in an unbelievably funny scene. Since the film occasionally gets depressing, Spielberg and Kushner smartly work in little quips to keep the tone feeling fresh.
The performances from many of the cast members are standouts and will undoubtedly fall onto the radar of voters for this year’s Oscars. Michelle Williams is a clear frontrunner for Best Actress, which makes sense after her breathless performance as Mitzi. Her tenderness shines through each scene, and she is one of the most complex characters in Spielberg’s filmography. Gabriel LaBelle is perfect as Sammy. He’s a caring presence who effortlessly portrays the complexities of growing up and what it’s like to have a passion. Paul Dano is incredible as a stern, tough-loving father who represents the core values of an older America. Seth Rogen gives his most outstanding performance yet as Bennie, a family friend who’s more complicated than he appears. Julia Butters is excellent as Sammy’s little sister, and I hope to see her in more stuff soon. The rest of the cast is directed to deliver their best performances thanks to the excellent script and director.
Technically, The Fabelmans is excellent. Janusz Kamiński’s cinematography emphasizes the magic of movie-making and moves us through multiple modes of film to achieve the emotional goals of Spielberg’s story. While the runtime is just over two and a half hours, it’s hard to notice that it’s that long. However, there are moments where the pacing is slightly off as if there was just one more cut that needed to be made to make this perfect. John Williams’s score is impressive, but it’s simply not in enough of the film to be thoroughly impactful. These minor issues don’t distract from the experience as a whole but keep the movie from being perfect.
2022 has been a great year for film, and while The Fabelmans might not be the definitive best of the year, it’s hard to argue that this is anything less than a masterpiece. It’s a primarily personal movie that works on every level. It’s an emotionally moving and technically stellar work of art that could have been director than none other than one of the greatest directors ever. Make no doubt about Steven Spielberg: he’s still able to make an enormously entertaining epic about anything. You can look forward to this receiving many nominations at this year’s Oscars, and it undeniably deserves most of them.
The Fabelmans releases exclusively in theaters on November 23rd.