2022 TV & Movie Reviews: Avatar: The Way of Water / Industry / Triangle of Sadness / After Yang

Lots of water this week.

Avatar: The Way of Water

I got my ass out of bed at 8:30am Sunday morning to go see the 9:30am IMAX 3D High Frame Rate showing of Avatar 2 at AZ Mills, a three hour and fifteen minute sequel to a movie that was released over a decade ago. The theater was packed full of families and nerds and families comprised of nerds. The seats were terribly uncomfortable but my buddy bought three tickets to use between the two of us as well making sure they were aisle seats in the event we had to pee. We had to pee, how could you not? No matter how fortified your bladder is, you’re going to have to pee in a movie theater over the course of a three hours and fifteen minute movie. What’s the other solution? Not drink water and be dehydrated? While watching a movie literally about water?! I think not. So I drank 20 ounces of Dasani over the course of a three hour and fifteen minute movie, and had to pee exactly one time – two hours and twenty-five minutes in. So I have to be honest, I missed four minutes of Avatar: The Way of Water while I was passing my water. Still, I didn’t miss too much.

Predictably, James Cameron‘s sequel to Avatar is far more focused on the visuals and effect technology rather than a solid plot structure or three dimensional characters. Which is fine as far as action pictures go, though a bit annoying for one that lasts 192 minutes. There’s a far superior 140 minute movie in here that better houses a plot that pretty much only consists of — oh no, they’re back, let’s hide in the water with the water people! I’d be pleased to mention that some of the new cast members include Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Edie Falco and Interview with the Vampire‘s Bailey Bass, but you really can’t tell who anyone is (besides Falco, one of the only human characters) in their blue digital makeup. None of the new characters are that well developed either, Winslet does next to nothing and Curtis’ tribe leader exists only as a plot mechanism. Most of the attention is given to a new character, the worst and most consistently annoying the franchise has ever seen – Spider.

Spider, truly the Jar-Jar Binks of the Pandora universe, is a white boy with dreadlocks that was left behind on Pandora as a baby because the human invaders couldn’t put a baby in cryogenic stasis. He’s basically an unfunny Encino Man by way of an unfunny Bart Simpson, he hates humans because he’s been raised by Na’vi, but his birth dad, the Colonel from the first one (Stephen Lang) comes back in the form of a Na’vi clone to play catch with him and be a dad to him in order to gain information on the Na’vi. Everything this adolescent dip shit does throws a wrench into the story, but not really, because you realize this movie could have easily existed without a white boy with dreadlocks character like Spider. Sam Worthington and especially Zoe Saldana, the MVP of the original, are given significantly less to do and instead the story focuses on their mostly boring kids. The character interactions are mostly inoffensive and mercifully short, when not dealing with Spider, and they appropriately set up the action. Also, side note, Sigourney Weaver plays a 14-year-old Na’vi girl.

How’s the action/effects? Well, they’re the only reason I’m giving Avatar: The Way of Water a positive review. Everything is so richly detailed and with the high frame rate on a gigantic IMAX screen, it truly immerses you in the environment of the movie. Seriously, this is one gorgeous movie even if it’s 98% generated from a computer. However, with the amount of time Cameron spent on the technical shit, I wish he had a better, more complex story with slightly more interesting characters. Also, this dude needs to stop using superfluous voice-over. We get it, Cams. We’re all connected. Can I finally pee now? Grade: B- (In Theaters)

Industry (Season 2)

What do you get when you put Euphoria and Succession in a blender and give everyone more drugs, sex and sadness? Pretty much Industry Season 1, which was a good but not great HBO drama about a bunch of young trading floor Finance people in London railing lines of coke, whippin’ out their wieners and shouting to each other about money. I’m no stock guy or mathematician, so a lot of the numbers they scream on the trading floor, interspersed with f bombs I just didn’t get. However, I did get the drama and the appeal of a fish-out-of-water story – Bodies Bodies BodiesMyha’la Herrold plays Harper, an ambitious young American navigating her way through the finance world of London. She’s overconfident and fucks up a lot, which adds to the drama whether it be getting out yelled by her supervisor Eric (a phenomenal Ken Leung), completely threatened by Gen Z industry folk or her spoiled and sociopathic heiress turned businesswoman roommate, Yasmin (Marisa Abela) who is every bit of a threat as Eric is just more passive aggressive about it. While the first season didn’t totally wow me, Season 2 really kicks the show in gear and manages to deliver some of the most nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat cliff-hanger television I’ve seen all year. The principal characters get more fleshed out this season and the addition of Jay Duplass as a manipulative and egomaniacial American hedge fund manager is a real treat. It never quite reaches the heights of its American cousin Succession, but if you’re looking for a really suspenseful drama about beautiful young people doing awful things that’s only an eight a season commitment, look no further. Grade: B+ (HBOMax)

Triangle of Sadness

Truly Europe’s answer to Adam McKay, Ruben Östlund has been making obnoxiously heavy-handed political “satires” for the past decade or so, and while his latest rich-fuckers-on-a-boat movie, Triangle of Sadness, isn’t as painful to endure as The Square, it’s pretty fucking one-note and never seems to end. At 2 hours and 27 minutes, Triangle of Sadness covers a lot of physical ground while making the same observations over and over and over again. Two insanely vain models whose stunning exterior beauty contrasts with their disgusting personalities decide to take a luxury cruise on a superyacht. On the boat are significantly grosser people including a Russian oligarch and his awful wife, a husband/wife team of weapons manufacturers, a tech millionaire, an over it Filipina maid (Dolly de Leon, getting some well deserved accolades for the movie, she’s easily the best part) and Woody Harrelson as the drunken yacht Captain who rants and raves about the virtues of socialism in a way in which no human being speaks about the subject. This is just 147 minutes of intellectual posturing with bland, underdeveloped characters and commentary so on the nose it is the fucking nose. I will give credit where credit is due, the movie looks beautiful. There are so many “oh damn!” shots throughout this, just like in The Square and Force Majeure, that it further adds to your frustration with the story. Östlund knows how to move and position the camera in an effective and impactful way, you just wish he could create a story and characters worth the effort. Ironically, Triangle of Sadness is as face-value and one-note as the people it’s attempting to serve up. Grade: C ($5.99 rental on Amazon)

After Yang

Based on the short story “Saying Goodbye to Yang” by Alexander Weinstein (no relation to Harvey), South Korean filmmaker Kogonada‘s After Yang centers around a future family dealing with the loss of their beloved A.I. nanny named Yang (Justin H. Min), who after several good years of service finally pooped out. Daddy Jake (Colin Farrell) and Mommy Kyra (Queen & Slim‘s Jodie Turner-Smith) got him for their daughter, Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja), so she’d have a sibling to keep her company, a relatively normal practice in this version of the future. In a desperate attempt not to devastate their child with the loss of a pet x 1000, Jake sets out on a mission to repair Yang himself instead of returning him to the factory for $1000 off his next A.I. nanny purchase. What he finds is a recording device inside the robot cause you know, THE MAN is spying on us for their evil corporate agenda, but really just because the A.I. company wants to understand how an A.I. would decide what’s worth recording as a memory. What starts as a frightening development about invasion of privacy quickly turns into a sweet mediation on what memories mean to us as humans and what they could mean to A.I. designed in our image. To better understand his former A.I. nanny, Jake watches Yang’s memories, most of which are super touching and even point to a mystery relationship with a barista clone (The White LotusHaley Lu Richardson). This is a beautifully crafted and intensely thoughtful slow burn to be sure and those expecting an evil robot movie should fuck off promptly. It’s been a while since I’ve seen an A.I. movie this good that’s more interested in what specifically defines us as human than it is in Will Smith chasing a silicone motherfucker on a rooftop. With this and The Banshees of Inisherin, Farrell is having an amazing 2022 in which he delivered two of his best screen performances to date. Grade: B+ (Showtime)

ALSO STREAMING OR IN THEATERS:

FILM

Violent NightIn Theaters

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On$5.99 rental on Amazon

The Banshees of InisherinHBOMax

Till$19.99 rental on Amazon

Emily the CriminalNetflix

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER..L to R: Director Ryan Coogler on set with Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther/T’Challa) ..Ph: Matt Kennedy..©Marvel Studios 2018

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever In Theaters

The Fabelmans In Theaters & $19.99 rental on Amazon

The MenuIn Theaters

Bones and AllIn Theaters & $19.99 rental on Amazon

Empire of LightIn Theaters

TÀR$19.99 purchase on Amazon

Aftersun$19.99 rental on Amazon

Weird: The Al Yankovic StoryRoku

Everything Everywhere All At OnceShowtime

Mad GodShudder

Pearl $5.99 rental on Amazon

BarbarianHBOMax

ResurrectionShudder

Bodies Bodies Bodies$5.99 rental on Amazon

NopePeacock

Elvis HBOMax

The Black PhonePeacock

American Pie Presents Girls’ RulesNetflix

PigHulu

Cha Cha Real SmoothAppleTV+

TV

The White Lotus (Season 2)HBOMax

This Is Going to HurtAMC+

Interview with the Vampire (Season 1)AMC+

Atlanta (Season 4)Hulu

Chucky (Season 2)Syfy

Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of CuriositiesNetflix

The ResortPeacock

Harley Quinn (Season 3)HBOMax

The Rehearsal (Season 1)HBOMax

Yellowjackets (Season 1)Showtime

Black Bird AppleTV+

Pachinko (Season 1)AppleTV+

Severance (Season 1)AppleTV+

The Kids in the Hall (Season 6)Amazon Prime

Worst Roommate EverNetflix

Euphoria (Season 2)HBOMax

Bad VeganNetflix

The Righteous Gemstones (Season 2)HBOMax

The Flight Attendant (Season 2)HBOMax

Somebody Somewhere (Season 1)HBOMax

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