Maybe, with so much World Cup soccer to watch you don't have time for the movies right now. Notice though some very good films have just arrived and are reviewed below. Two more, Strange World from Disney and Devotion about the Korean war aren't there because the studio previews conflicted with Steven Spielberg's latest, which is there.
And if time is an issue check out a new and fine example of Canadian Indigenous filmmaking. Meneath: The Hidden Island of Ethics is only 19 minutes long and very moving. It's by Terril Calder, a Metis living in Ontario, is animated and a potent statement about how natives were forced to accept an entirely alien (to them) religious protocol. “Am I going to hell?” the young girl asks. It's streaming for free at nfb.ca.
And as for soccer, one film below shows some players but not in a good light at all. EO the donkey behaves far better. He's in this list:
The Fabelmans: 3 stars
Glass Onion: 3 ½
Good Night Oppy: 3 ½
And Still I Sing: 4
Bones And All: 2
THE FABELMANS: We've had a run of directors making movies based on their younger years. This is the third of recent times and another is coming in a couple of weeks. Here we watch Steven Spielberg's early years through Sammy Fabelman, a boy so smitten by the movies that he wants to make them himself. He films a railway crash with a Lionel Train set (just like in The Greatest Show on Earth but in 8 millimeter). Later he'll get a 16 mm camera and films family gatherings, boy scouts playing soldiers and a high school day at the beach.
Two things come out of those. An anti-Semitic student, who already calls him Bagelman, isn't happy that he filmed him like a blonde god at the beach. Why he's upset isn't clear. He just is. A girlfriend, on the other hand, tries to get him to accept Jesus into his heart. And film of a Fabelman family gathering catches some dubious sights of his mother (Michelle Williams) and his dad's best friend (Seth Rogen). Sammy cuts those scenes out for a family viewing. In a way that's typical of how we often see Spielberg. His films tend to be nice. They entertain and rarely provoke. Same with this film and his memories of growing up in Arizona and then California. His dad is an early computer engineer, played as quite a nerd by Paul Dano, and the rest of his family looks like a typical TV creation. The highlight though is a late scene when he meets "the world's greatest director" John Ford, played with crusty vigour by David Lynch. Until then the film had been a little too comfortable. It was the audience favorite at the Toronto Film Festival. (In theaters) 3 out of 5
GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY: Like so many sequels, it's not as much fun or as engrossing as the original. But it's pretty entertaining anyway if you like murder mysteries where the detective brings everybody together in one room at the end and points to the killer. There are many deviations from that formula and many twists on the way to the conclusion, but you're pretty sure to like this. That is so even though the solution as Rian Johnson, wrote, produced and directed it isn't a surprise or a shock.
Edward Norton plays an Elon Musk-like billionaire who invites some guests to his palatial house – the one with a glass dome shaped like an onion-- on a private Greek island. He wants them to figure who murdered him (if that killing does happen). Yes, it starts like a game. The guests all know each other, they're old drinking buddies, and they each have a motive. Then a real murder does take place and its up to the “world's greatest detective (Daniel Craig) to figure out what's going on. He wasn't even invited, nor was the host's former business partner (Janelle Monáe). They're key though and red herrings are flung with glee as Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline Kate Hudson and Dave Bautista all come under suspicion. Craig finds the solution “hiding in plain sight” and pretty well steals the show with his cool confidence. (In theaters now, on Netflix in a month) 3 ½ out of 5
EO: I've seen it again and still highly recommend this film from Poland and veteran director Jerzy Skolimowski. Here's what I wrote after I saw it at Vancouver's Film Festival.
I loved this movie though it is only about a donkey, named EO, and his picaresque travels. There's only one actor who's name I recognize, Isabelle Huppert, in a brief role. The rest are all Polish, as is director Skolimowski, who made it at age 84. What's great is that you become very attached to the donkey as he travels from one incident to another, many completely unexpected. The sheer novelty is thrilling.
At the start he's in a circus and caressed by a woman performer ((Sandra Drzymalska), memories he'll recall over and over. Animal rights activists free him, he ends up on a farm with an abusive owner but is moved again in a foreclosure and travels from one scene to another, sometimes by escaping. He meets a countess (Huppert), watches an amateur soccer match and bar fight that follows it. Some of the drunken players beat him and he ends up in an animal hospital. Everywhere he goes he sees both the worst and occasionally the best in people. With very little human dialogue but great animal sounds we get a tour of all humanity through the eyes of an innocent. (In theaters in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Waterloo, Hamilton, Sudbury, and more In Montreal starting Monday) 4 out of 5
GOOD NIGHT OPPY: She's not a person, although some of the NASA people in this documentary talk about her as if she was. To some of these engineers and scientists she's like a child and they use words like “baby” and “little miss perfect.” Actually she's a robot, full name: Opportunity, that along with a twin “sister” Spirit, was sent to Mars 20 years ago as a rover to look around, study the geology and most importantly look for signs of water (now or in the past). That could be a sign of life.
It was a momentous step forward in the study of space, and for the engineers “a mission of redemption” to make up for some previous failures. Maybe that's why they recall being so emotionally attached to these robots. They fret when they don't get a signal from them (didn't call home) and go “jumping for relief” when it does come. They have to improvise when one rover's wheels get stuck in a sand dune or both become overwhelmed by a sand storm. Also when Oppy develops “arthritis” in a shoulder. This is anthropomorphizing at a high level and the two robots respond. They were expected to last only 90 days up there but stretched that to 15 years. The film directed by Ryan White explains the science clearly, adding in NASA footage and computer-generated scenes by Industrial Light and Magic. Best of all, it communicates the excitement of making scientific advances. (Streaming on Prime Video) 3½ out of 5
AND STILL I SING: There's a sharp protest about recent events in Afghanistan in this lively film. You know, the Taliban surging back to power, after Trump encouraged them with “peace talks” and Biden paid the price by pulling his army out of the country. All that's in tandem with a story about a talent contest. Afghan Star, is said to be the country's most popular TV program and we watch two young women prepare to compete. They're being mentored by a pop star named Aryana Sayeed who is controversial for violating dress codes and speaking up for the rights of women.
“Imagine if the Taliban came back,” somebody says. Well they do eventually. Their controlling ideas about the rights of women loom over the whole film. It is written and directed by Fazila Amiri, who was born in Kabul and now works out of Toronto. “The Taliban want us to accept an abnormal and inhumane way of life,” she has one of her chgaracters saying. And another cite a list of social injustices like facial mutilations, child marriages and death by stoning. The script says most of the repression is against one segment of the population, Shia Muslims, the Hazara people. When one of the two singers is the first woman ever to win the contest, she says it is “for all Afghan women.” So is this film. It's powered by indignation and, as the title suggests, willpower. (Available VOD and digitally Nov 29) 4 out of 5
BONES AND ALL: Director Luca Guadagnino wants you to see this film as “a meditation on who I am and how I can overcome what I feel.” That sounds fitting for a young adult novel which is where it is from. But self-doubt about being a cannibal is a bit beyond the usual adolescent worries. And for all the talent involved here, you'll have trouble accepting this. It's creepy and profoudly so. These people are on the margins of society but you'll have trouble identifying with them.
A fine performance by Taylor Russell is a rare positive in this one. She kicks things off by biting off and eating a girl's finger at a slumber party and then evokes a certain amount of our empathy as she travels through the American west hoping to find her mother. She meets another people eater (Timothée Chalamet) and the film turns somewhat into a romance. She also meets an obnoxious older one of their type (Mark Rylance) who re-appears repeatedly and tries to hit on her. He also teaches her the rules of cannibalism (“Never—never—eat an eater”) and indulges in a gross demonstration what you can do. It doesn't let up, not even when the mother is found—in an insane asylum. It's a prairie Gothic and maybe it's metaphorical. I didn't care. It's too ugly. (In theaters) 2 out of 5