Great White

Written by Alexander Reams

20/100

When Steven Spielberg’s iconic Jaws hit theatres in the summer of 1975 people quickly became afraid of their own bathtubs, let alone the entire ocean. Over 30 years after it was released I saw the film for the first time and it was still frightening to me. So much so that I abandoned my childhood rubber duckie. Since then (Jaws releasing, not me losing my rubber duckie) countless films have tried to imitate the fear created by Jaws and none have even come close to achieving that level of success. Martin Wilson’s Great White comes out of the gate swinging, with an opening that is suspenseful, borderline terrifying, and gave me hope that we finally have another good, possibly great shark film on our hands. 

After that truly eerie opening, those hopes were dashed. The (bare minimum) character development that we are given here is at that perfect “idiotic movie you see with your friends in middle school just to do something” level, simply put, lazy. We are introduced to Kaz Fellows, our lead, whose character development is “pregnant lady we should only care about because she is carrying a life inside of her” (am I the only one smelling something funny here? Just me? Okay, moving on). Along with Kaz, we are introduced to her partner, Charlie Brody, who is reduced to “handsome man #5674027 in a horror film that is there to look pretty and spout exposition when needed”. There are also two passengers Joe and Michelle Minase. Joe is afraid of the water and Michelle who is on the trip to spread her grandfather’s ashes, a truly noble quest, but never given time to develop, instead, it’s stuck on the sidelines like almost all the rest of the character development. 

But who comes to this genre of film for character development? Not you, or me, we came for the shark, the scares, and the kills. Who needs to care about a character when you have a great white shark eating people. The shark is not the main character of the film, the people are and Wilson just assumes we as an audience will forgive this sleight in return for some great kills. Unfortunately for him, he overestimated his abilities to craft a good kill. The closest he comes is in his standout opening scene of the film. A giant miscalculation in skill and in execution left me not only frustrated but maddened that a film of this poor quality could even be made today.

Great White Trailer

Great White will be available to stream on Shudder on November 18th, 2021 and is available to stream on Hoopla.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Episode 119: William Wyler: How to Steal a Million / The Children’s Hour

“Stills belong in the lobby, not on the screen.”

William Wyler, Director of How to Steal a Million and The Children’s Hour

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Deezer | Gaana | Google Podcasts | iHeartRadio | JioSaavn | LibSyn | Player FM | RadioPublic | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

On Episode 119 of Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of: Mortal Kombat & Voyagers. Then dig into two of William Wyler’s Feature Films: How to Steal a Million and The Children’s Hour.

Streaming links for titles this episode

The Children’s Hour is currently available to stream on Hoopla, Kanopy, and Tubi.

How to Steal a Million is currently available to rent and purchase on most major VOD platforms.

Visit us on your preferred Social Media Platform Letterboxd, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Michael Clawson on Letterboxd | Taylor Baker on Letterboxd

On Golden Pond

Written by Michael Clawson

50/100

Several days into their first trip of the Spring to their cozy, lakeside cabin, elderly husband and wife Norman and Ethel are joined by their grown daughter Chelsea, from whom Norman is estranged, her new dentist boyfriend Bill, and his mildly angsty teenage son, Billy. The Letterboxd plot description would have you think that what follows is a period of reconciliation between Norman and Chelsea, particularly since those characters are played by Henry and Jane Fonda, who famously had a father-daughter rift of their own. 

But that’s not really what this is at all. In fact, Chelsea and her boyfriend bolt for Europe about as quickly as they arrive, leaving Norman and Ethel to take care of Billy for the month. Norman and Billy bond as they spend their days together fishing, while Norman also experiences the onset of Alzheimer’s. 

It’s sappy and prettier than it is artful; footage of ducks on the sun-dappled surface of the lake isn’t much more than greeting card imagery, and the corny score that rarely lets up isn’t much better. Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn bring personality to their roles, but it isn’t enough to overcome the cliches by which their characters are each defined: he’s a cranky ‘ol geezer, she’s an outgoing free-spirit with the energy of a woman half her age. There isn’t much to their relationship as a couple, nor is there much of interest in Norman and Billy’s friendship. I did get some laughs from it, mainly from Norman’s sarcastic and self-deprecating wit. But it doesn’t have enough to say about entering your twilight years, and steps around the father-daughter dynamic that should have been its centerpiece.

On Golden Pond Trailer

On Golden Pond is currently streaming on Hoopla and Kanopy. You can also rent or purchase it on major VOD platforms.

Lorelei

Written by Alexander Reams

72/100

Fog, it distorts the view, while also signaling weather that has and will come. Whether it is while you are driving one morning, or your welcome back to the world after spending 15 years in prison. Such is the case for Wayland, played to perfection by Pablo Schreiber. He spent that much time because he did not snitch on the rest of his biker gang, and was rewarded with a warm welcome home. In the opening shot, composed of said concrete and fog, where Pablo Schreiber’s Wayland gets out of prison after 15 years for not ratting on his biker gang brothers and sisters, then reunites with his old high school sweetheart, Jena Malone’s Lola. From this point it is clear there is something to behold within Sabrina Doyle’s Lorelei. The overall simple look to the film allows the performances to command the screen throughout

The standout of the film is Pablo Schreiber. I have seen him before in roles, but he has never given such a committed, heartbreaking performance. Fully embodying the role of a man who has been torn down to a shred, and then thrust back into society. Bringing a fish out of water aspect to the film since he has been out of society for over 15 years. However, trying to immediately jump back into the life he had before with his biker gang is proven to be fruitless but did make me remember times where I wanted to go back to a certain time, but could not. Jena Malone does a good job, but does not give nearly as good a performance as Schreiber. Which might be unfair to compare given that Schreiber is on a whole other level, but nonetheless it is the nature of criticism to compare performances. 

Sabrina Doyle’s film is one that is full of emotion and life, but does stumble towards the middle. I felt like the middle 30 minutes could have been cut, and made the film quicker in pace. However in that time there are some serious character building moments, but is still frustrating when the unimportant moments are not taking place. I still really enjoyed this film, and hope and pray that Pablo Schrieber will garner some awards buzz come that time. His performance is one of the best of the year and will one that I will soon not forget.

Lorelei Trailer

Lorelei is currently available to rent and purchase on major VOD platforms and is streaming on Hoopla.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

The Souvenir

Written by Michael Clawson

100/100

Sometimes the smallest painting in a gallery or museum is the one that moves you most, the one you find yourself thinking about more than any large piece you might also have come across. Similarly, size doesn’t necessarily correlate with impact at the movies. The Souvenir, director Joanna Hogg’s follow-up to her 2013 feature Exhibition, may be one of the smallest movies exhibited in Seattle theatres by certain measures, but it’s a masterpiece whose scale belies its immense, wrenching beauty. 

Set in 1980s Britain, it portrays the toxic relationship between Julie, an earnest but timid film student from an upper middle class family, played with magnificent, deeply moving nuance by relative newcomer Honor Swinton Byrne (the daughter of Tilda Swinton, who plays Julie’s mother), and Anthony (Tom Burke, also very good), pretentious, manipulative, and unbeknownst to Julie when they get together, a heroin addict. 

Hogg elides the sensationalism that premise might ordinarily entail. She approaches her main two characters and their relationship elliptically, attuned with supreme sensitivity to how moments of no great size – afternoon tea, dinners with their parents – reveal the contours of Julie’s and Anthony’s relationship, and, in particular, Julie’s naïveté and ignorance of Anthony’s selfishness and deceit.

Hogg demonstrated a keen eye for striking compositions in Exhibition (that movie also took art and a dysfunctional relationship as its subject matter, albeit with a very different, absurdly comic tone) but her work in The Souvenir with cinematographer David Raedeker is exceptional, and consistently so. The images are grainy, the color palette muted. Hogg shoots from various angles and distances (her camera’s typically fixed) to best allow the emotion implied by Byrne’s gestures and mannerisms – her clutching a stuffed animal, her struggling to articulate the idea behind her film – to reverberate within the frame. A tiled mirror in Julie’s flat is often used quite effectively, as are other reflective surfaces – puddles, windows – but the occasional landscape shots are equally breathtaking.

A work of supremely intelligent restraint, The Souvenir may be deemed a small movie, but it’s an essential one.

The Souvenir Trailer

The Souvenir is currently streaming on Hoopla, Kanopy, and Prime Video.

Episode 96: Doc Talk Part 5 / Man with a Movie Camera / Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound / Ex Libris: The New York Public Library

“I don’t like to read novels where the novelist tells me what to think about the situation and the characters. I prefer to discover for myself.”

Frederick Wiseman

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Google Podcasts | LibSyn | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of Vivos & State Funeral and the Documentary Titles: Man with a Movie Camera, Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound, and Ex Libris: The New York Public Library.

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Streaming links for titles this episode

The Man with a Movie Camera on Kanopy

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound on Hoopla, Tubi TV, and Prime Video

Ex Libris: The New York Public Library on Kanopy