Just in time for the holidays, Fathom Events and Paramount Pictures are bringing one of the most outrageous and beloved comedies of all time back to select cinemas to celebrate its 35th anniversary on Sunday, Nov. 6 and Monday, Nov. 7.
“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” tells the story of two very opposite men who band together in a trek to make it home for the holidays –and just about everything that could go wrong, does.
Steve Martin and John Candy star in this hysterical (and often heart-warming) tale of travel gone awry. Neal Page (Martin) is an uptight ad exec trying to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving with his family. When rerouted to Wichita, Neal reluctantly partners with Del Griffith (Candy), an obnoxious yet loveable salesman. Together, they embark on a cross-country adventure that includes multiple modes of transportation, unbelievable mishaps, intimate motel accommodations, and unforgettable rental car shenanigans.
It’s a must-see holiday adventure from writer, director, and producer John Hughes (“Home Alone”, “Sixteen Candles”, “The Breakfast Club”). This special Fathom Event also includes a first look at a never-before-seen extended scene from the filmmaker’s archives.
Locally, the film will be screened at Island 16 Cinema De Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville on Nov. 6 at 3 p.m. and Nov. 7 at 7 p.m.; AMC Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook on Nov. 6 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Nov. 7 at 7 p.m.; and Regal Farmingdale 10, 20 Michael Ave., Farmingdale on Nov. 6 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Nov. 7 at 7 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased online at Fathom Events or at participating theater box offices.
Retitled from the French Sans Filtre (Without Filter), Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund makes his English language feature film debut with Triangle of Sadness. With films such as Force Majeure (2014) and The Square (2017), Östlund adds to his dozen films with this dark comedy that eviscerates wealth and class.
The film follows model Carl (Harris Dickinson) and his strained relationship with runway model Yaya (Charlbi Dean). Though young, Carl’s career is in decline. The title refers to the triangle of lines between the eyebrows, usually caused by frowning and remedied with the liberal administration of Botox. This fact is revealed in the film’s brutally comic interview/audition opening.
Östlund divides Triangle of Sadness into three chapters. The first, “Carly and Yaya,” shows the dysfunctional couple arguing over the check at dinner. The intensely uncomfortable extended scene continues in the taxi back to the hotel and then into her room. Both money and gender roles come into play in their tenuous exchange, the latter issue surfacing surprisingly in the final act.
The second chapter, “The Yacht,” sees the couple on a high-end ocean excursion populated solely by the wealthy. Among the guests are a gregarious Russian fertilizer mogul, Dimitry (Zlatko Burić), and a sweet elderly British couple, Winston (Oliver Ford Davies) and his wife, Clementine (Amanda Walker), who are arms manufacturers.
In addition, a lonely code writer, Jorma (Henrik Dorsin), and a stroke victim, German Therese (Iris Berben), whose sole sentence is “in den Wolken” (“in the clouds”), are on board. Their common denominator is money and privilege, played through a prism of entitlement and narcissism. Even when trying to show kindness—the Russian millionaire’s wife insists the entire staff stop working for a swim—the action is less about the generosity of spirit and more of a grand gesture.
Paula (Vicki Berlin) leads the staff with the call (and repeat) of “Yes, sir, yes, ma’am!” She demands the staff deny no guest’s request. The purpose, of course, is large tips at the voyage’s end. Meanwhile, she tries to get the dissipated captain (Woody Harrelson) to leave his cabin. Below decks, the cramped, nameless cleaners wait to serve.
Part two culminates in a disastrous Captain’s Dinner during a storm. The meal, plagued by seasickness and endless vomiting, conjures the Titanic by way of Parasite. Outrageous and grotesque, it culminates in an appalling septic backup. Throughout the night, as the $250 million luxury ship rocks the stricken passengers, the captain, a vowed American Marxist, debates and drinks with an equally drunk Dimitry, a proud Russian capitalist.
In the morning, the seas are calm. And then, the ship is attacked by pirates.
In the final chapter, “The Island,” a handful of survivors wash up on a tropical beach. Here, the disaster upends the hierarchy. Abigail (Dolly de Leon), the ship’s toilet manager, is the only possessor of survival skills and quickly takes over, demanding, “Here, I am captain.” So telling is the image of the skillless passengers eating potato chips as they watch Abigail catch their dinner. In addition to claiming control, she also takes Carl as a sort of cabin boy. The stranded become an ineffectual group, a ghastly parody of The Lord of the Flies.
There is something natural and heightened about the excellent performances. Carl and Yaya endlessly snap pictures for Instagram. One photo involves Yaya posing with pasta she has no intention of eating—the empty gesture as hollow as her career as an “influencer.” A crew member is fired for going shirtless and attracting the attention of a female passenger, much to the chagrin of her male companion. The weapons manufacturer and his wife have an exit that is both perfect and ironic. A man keens over his dead wife and then removes her ring and necklace.
Dickinson presents the fine line between self-deprecating and petulant, playing opposite vain Dean, whose fragility comes to the surface in the last act. (Dean sadly died this past summer at age thirty-two.) Harrelson somehow manages to be both understated and scenery-chewing as the alcoholic commander. Watching de Leon’s evolution from servant to master is a wonder, and the film’s final moments rest on her ability to show Abigail’s roiling turmoil.
It would be easy to be thematically reductive: Rich People are Selfish, Self-Important, and Useless. But Triangle of Sadness touches far more in its complicated and complex narrative. The commentary on class structure and individual identity runs deep, examining those who have the power and those who serve it.
In turns hilarious and chilling, the film’s nearly two-and-a-half-hour running time is mesmerizing and unflinching, posing difficult questions and never fully answering them. The cliffhanger ending is as frustrating as it is appropriate. Östlund shows remarkable skills as both writer and director, layering Triangle of Sadness in relentless cynicism that, in essence, holds a cracked mirror up to a fractured society.
Rated R, the film is now playing in local theaters.
After nearly forty-five years and thirteen installments, the Halloween franchise comes to a close. Halloween Ends is the third in David Gordon Green’s reboot that began with Halloween (2018) and Halloween Kills (2021). John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween remains one of the finest horror films of the modern era, while the ensuing sequels and revisions produced diminishing returns.
Halloween Ends opens in 2019, three years after Halloween Kills, culminating with Michael Myers slaughtering an entire mob. Twenty-one-year-old Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell) accidentally causes the death of his rambunctious babysitting charge, Jeremy Allen (Jaxon Goldenberg), witnessed by the boy’s parents (Candice Rose and Jack William Marshall) as they return from an office party. It is an effective moment, one that is truly horrifying.
The film jumps forward three years to the present. A seemingly healed Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) works on her memoir while facing the town’s anger; residents of Haddonfield hold Laurie responsible for Michael Meyer’s rampage. Laurie’s orphaned granddaughter Allyson Nelson (Andi Matichak), shares her new house. Considering the occurrences of four years prior, she also seems rather well-adjusted.
In a chance meeting, Laurie encounters Corey, who has just been terrorized by a quartet of high school band students. Corey, like Laurie, is a pariah in the community. While acquitted, he remains an outcast, replacing the seemingly absent Michael Myers. Corey is the new boogeyman. To treat his injured hand, Laurie takes Corey to the medical office where Allyson works, setting up the pair—a choice she quickly regrets. Allyson is immediately attracted to the shy, awkward Corey, and they become involved.
After Jeremy’s mother chases Corey from a Halloween party, the bullies throw him off a bridge. He awakes in a sewer, confronted by Michael Myers (played by Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney). In a new twist, the killer sees Corey’s history in the boy’s eyes and lets him go. Immediately following, while defending himself, Corey accidentally kills a homeless man. With this encounter, the film takes a new path, tracking Corey as he assumes the mantle of Michael Myers.
The disastrous Halloween Kills was a pointless movie, a meandering bloodbath created as a tensionless placeholder between the first and final chapters. Halloween Ends attempts to cover bigger and deeper territory. The film meditates on trauma and healing in individuals and the community. Discussions of evil entwine, questioning whether it is inherent or a result of circumstances—the nature versus nurture argument. Unusually, Michael functions as symbol and slasher.
While Halloween Kills focused on mob mentality and the resulting violence, Halloween Ends offers a subtler perspective. Laurie refers to Haddonfield as “a plague of grief, of blame, of paranoia.” Pervading is the sense that the town must always have scapegoats—in this case, Corey, the “psychopath babysitter,” and Laurie, “the freak show.” Laurie parses the evil without—the threat to the tribe—and the malevolence within—likened to a core sickness. Evil does not die; it changes shape. Strangely—and out of place—thoughts of forgiveness are also introduced late in the action. These heady concepts stir a more interesting mix, but while raising many theories, most remain muddled and inconclusive.
Like the previous film, the dialogue is stiff, declarative, and occasionally cringeworthy. A character states: “If I can’t have her, no one will.” Among the most puzzling pieces: Why would a devastated town continue to celebrate Halloween? Also, drawing the connection between Michael and Corey becomes tenuous. Part of Michael’s gestalt is the random and passionless kills. Corey murders predominantly for revenge, harkening to films such as Carrie or even Willard, where a bullied victim seeks retribution. Corey even has the caricature battle-axe mother (Joanne Baron), both smothering and abusive. However, clever references to the first film pepper the movie, particularly in Laurie and Michael’s final encounter.
Curtis, who was sidelined in the second film, spending much of the action in a hospital bed, takes center. Making her seventh appearance in the franchise, she presents both a grand and intimate farewell performance. Curtis owns her scenes with a strength not seen since the original. Matichak matches her as the self-actualized Allyson. Campbell’s burgeoning monster hits most of the right notes, but the predictability stymies surprise.
Thinly drawn characters driving the action populate the rest of the film. Will Patton’s Deputy Frank Hawkins is a bit too “aw-shucks” in his enamorment of Laurie. Jesse C. Boyd, who plays Allyson’s cop ex-boyfriend, is introduced to be easily dispatched. Keraun Harris, as disc jockey Willy the Kid, wandered in from a different film of a different era.
Halloween Ends delivers the promised finish. The trilogy concludes with a communal action that leaves little doubt, with no cheat teased in the credits suggesting a return. But horror movies have a way of reinventing their mythologies as needed. Is Michael Myers truly gone? That remains to be seen. To cite the misquoted Mark Twain, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
Rated R, the film is now playing in local theaters and streaming on Peacock.
For the most part, romantic comedies are predictable fare. From When Harry Met Sally and Notting Hill to the churned-out Hallmark Channel pablum, they trade surprise for pleasant comfort, rarely deviating from standard boy-meets-girl tropes. Gay characters are relegated to secondary or peripheral positions. Most commonly, they appear as best friends, dispensing sympathy and advice laden with snarky quips.
The hilarious, delightful Bros is a wholly original comedy that honors the traditional but celebrates what makes the culture and community different. It is not a gay version of a straight movie. Instead, it smartly tells a distinctly gay story in its own voice. It is also the first gay rom-com from a major studio (Universal); nearly the entire cast and crew are people who have lived the experience.
At the center of Bros is Bobby Lieber, played with the right balance of angst and insight by Billy Eichner. Eichner, who has co-written the screenplay with Nicholas Stoller, created a more subdued but no less colorful version of his Billy on the Street persona. Eichner’s Bobby is a fully realized character with a host of neuroses and a fierce independence.
Bobby is leaving his podcast/radio show, The Eleventh Brick at Stonewall, to become a curator for Manhattan’s National LGBTQ+ History Museum. While attending the launch of a new gay dating app, Bobby meets the handsome Aaron Shepard (Luke Macfarlane). After a brief flirtation, no sparks seem to be in evidence. But eventually, after spending a day together, the commitment-challenged pair begin a complicated relationship.
The film follows Bobby and Adam’s struggle to find common ground. While both men deny the value of monogamy, their journey is a push-me-pull-you battle. At heart, Bobby questions whether he could even be loved, especially by someone as good-looking as Adam. Mismatched, Bobby observes, “You’re like a gay Boy Scout, and I’m whatever happened to Evan Hansen.” Self-effacing to the point of self-destruction, Bobby eventually accepts that there could be a life with Adam. The road is fraught with potholes and leads to some very surprising places. But under Stoller’s excellent direction, the story is clear.
Running in the background are “Hallheart” holiday movies such as the bisexual Christmas with Either and the polyamorous A Holly, Poly Christmas along with Have Yourself a HeteronormativeChristmas and Miracle on 34th Street But There’s One Gay Guy. These, along with discussions of straight actors co-opting gay stories as Oscar bait, make a strong comment on the cinematic industry. (In a flashback, Bobby suffers through an interview by a studio executive who wants him to shoehorn a gay love story into straight parameters. Jaw dropped, he responds, “Our relationships are different! Our sex is different!”)
Bros is never cloying or indulgent, addressing the characters’ doubts and fears head-on. Often wickedly self-satirizing, at an LGBTQ ceremony, Bobby receives “Best Cis Male Gay Man.” The award is presented by Kristin Chenoweth, adorned in a hat with a revolving replica of the Stonewall Inn. The museum staff meetings cheekily spoof personal agendas, with fractious disagreements over the Hall of Bisexuals and Abraham Lincoln’s sexuality. Even the end of Bobby and Adam’s first date pulls back to one of the funniest and most telling reveals. Harvey Fierstein cameos as a bed-and-breakfast owner, poignantly sharing his losses, but parts with the film’s best throwaway and outrageous exit lines. One of the culminating moments includes the Haunted House of Gay Trauma rollercoaster.
The writing is funny and sharp, ranging from subtly wry to uproarious. Bobby is both in denial and hyper-self-aware. He acknowledges he does not let things go. As for relationships, “No one’s more emotionally unavailable than me.” But his humanity plays throughout the entire film. In a particularly powerful moment, he shares the experience of seeing Love! Valor! Compassion! when he was twelve, while seated between his parents.
The cast is exceptional, with a wide LGBTQ+ representation. Each actor brings a different and unique shade to the overall tapestry. As Bobby states, “We are not a monolithic group.” Macfarlane is charming and dimensional as Luke. When Bobby is to meet Luke’s upstate family, Luke makes a difficult request: “Be less yourself for three hours; I want them to like you.” Somehow, Macfarlane navigates these dangerous waters by showing Luke’s vulnerability. Guy Branum has the perfect deadpan as Bobby’s best friend, Henry. Ts Madison, Dot-Marie Jones, Miss Lawrence, Eve Lindley, and Jim Rash are flawless as the museum staff. Debra Messing is pitch-perfect, playing a desperate version of herself.
Bros never eschews the many rom-com essentials: the montage, dancing on the beach, Christmas in the City. Even the song climactic song “Love Is Not Love” both celebrates and parodies. But Bros is a fresh, bold take on the genre. Unusual? Absolutely. But one of the best romantic comedies in many years.
Rated R, the film is now playing in local theaters.
In 1993, Disney released the comedy-fantasy Hocus Pocus. The film starred Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson Sisters — Winifred, Sarah, and Mary. After their execution in Salem in 1693, the trio of witches are accidentally resurrected three centuries later. Directed by Kenny Ortega from a screenplay by Neil Cuthbert and Mick Garris, the film received negative reviews, and the studio lost over $16 million. However, Hocus Pocus became a cult favorite, with home viewing a Halloween tradition.
Now Disney offers a direct-to-streaming sequel helmed by a completely new production team. Anne Fletcher directs Jen D’Angelo’s script of Hocus Pocus 2.
The prologue, set in Salem in 1653, shows the young Sanderson Sisters (played with great humor by Taylor Paige Henderson as teenage Winifred, Nina Kitchen as young Mary, and Juju Journey Brener as the child Sarah) confronted by the puritanical Reverend Traske. The minister wants to marry off Winifred on this, her sixteenth birthday. The girls flee to the woods, where they encounter Mother Witch (a nice cameo by Ted Lasso’s Hannah Waddingham). The mysterious sorceress provides them with the spell book that brings them into a life of the occult.
The action jumps to the present: Halloween, 29 years after the first film’s events. Becca and her best friend, Izzy, celebrate her sixteenth birthday with a ritual in the woods. Having received the infamous black flame candle from Gilbert, the owner of the Olde Salem Magic Shoppe, Becca and Izzy accidentally conjure the witches. The newly restored enchantresses announce their desire for revenge on all of Salem. The ensuing plot rehashes much of the original film: similar situations, clumsy jokes, and mid-range magical effects.
The sequel’s sole reason is the return of Midler, Parker, and Najimy. The roles have achieved a certain iconography, not-so-subtly parodied. Halloween celebrants and trick-or-treaters traipse through, dressed in identical costumes. The gag builds to a look-a-like contest featuring outrageous drag queens (RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Ginger Minj, Kornbread Jeté, and Kahmora Hall).
The usual time-travelers-out-of-time setups include a requisite but amusing visit to Walgreens. Here, Becca and Izzy convince the Sanderson Sisters the plethora of beauty products contain children’s souls. The visit ends with Midler flying off on a broom, Parker on a Swiffer, and Najimy balancing on a pair of Roombas. They conspire, bicker, and sing snatches of popular songs with alternate lyrics. Nothing new is on offer, but the drive is nostalgia, not reinvention. They truly are the “Gothic Golden Girls.”
However, what works surprisingly well is the young cast. Whitney Peak is wonderful, making Becca real, resourceful, and appealing. She lands her punchlines without precociousness. Her wryness perfectly complements Belisssa Escobedo’s Izzy. Escobedo’s mild handwringing and edge of perpetual panic make her the ideal foil for the cooler-headed Becca. Rounding out the trio is Lilia Buckingham as Cassie Traske, the girls’ estranged friend. While she is less prominent, when she finally reunites with her best friends, her presence provides the wide-eyed incredulity that helps drive the last act.
Tony Hale doubles as the fanatical seventeenth-century pastor and his descendant, Cassie’s goofy father, who happens to be the mayor and the witches’ prime target. Hale is a gifted comedian who makes the on-the-nose quips fun and even occasionally smart. Sam Richardson charmingly mines the slightly bumbling but well-meaning Gilbert. Returning from the original film, Doug Jones gives the same easy performance as the zombie Billy Butcherson. Froy Gutierrez earns honest laughs as Mike, Cassie’s clueless boyfriend.
In the end, Hocus Pocus 2 covers little new territory. The film is often loud and busy, where it could have been clever. Many jokes are forced and do not necessarily play.
Both films possess an After School Special vibe, but the core issue of the candle lit by a virgin makes for some interesting lunchroom conversation with the elementary school set. But the ending takes a different tone from the original, building to lessons about sharing power and the value of personal connection. The message is very traditional Disney and makes for a sweet resolution. For fans of the original, the film will be a welcome Halloween treat. For the rest, Hocus Pocus 2 is a harmless, if predictable, holiday outing.
Join Stony Brook Medicine for a free screening of the Oscar-nominated film “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution” followed by a panel discussion via Zoom or in person at Stony Brook University Hospital, Health Sciences Tower, Level 3, Lecture Hall 6, 101 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook on Thursday, Oct. 6 from 4 to 7:30 p.m.
In October, the U.S. Department of Labor increases awareness of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which celebrates the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities past and present. To recognize NDEAM, Stony Brook Medicine is holding a free film screening and panel discussion of the Sundance Film Festival winning documentary “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution.” The film shows how a summer camp experience in the 1970s shaped the disabilities rights movement. Led by Maria Hensley-Spera, LCSWR, Outpatient Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Stony Brook Medicine, a paraplegic herself, the event promises to be an engaging, informative, and enlightening evening. Following the screening, the esteemed group of panelists will discuss the film and the lives of people with disabilities today. Participants can attend in person or virtually via zoom.
In the early 70s, teenagers with disabilities faced a future shaped by isolation, discrimination and institutionalization. Camp Jened, a ramshackle camp “for the handicapped” (a term no longer used) in the Catskills, NY, exploded those confines. Jened was their freewheeling Utopia, a place where campers experienced liberation and full inclusion as human beings. Their bonds endured as many migrated West to Berkeley, California — a hotbed of activism where friends from Camp Jened realized that disruption, civil disobedience, and political participation could change the future for millions. And did.
Elizabeth Bojsza, MFA, Alda-certified facilitator at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science®, Assistant Professor of Practice & program head for the Advanced Graduate Certificate in Communicating Science at the School of Communication and Journalism, Stony Brook University
Judith E. Heumann, Lifelong advocate and leader of disability rights movement, teacher & author
Michelle Nario-Redmond, PhD, Author & Professor of Psychology & Biomedical Humanities, Hiram College
Jeanie Waters, Paralympian wheelchair sports athlete and civil rights attorney
Brooke Ellison, PhD, MPP, Science, healthcare policy & ethics expert, author & Associate Professor, Stony Brook University
Jacob Greene, BFA, Graphic Designer of socks for autism awareness & recent graduate of New York Institute of Technolog
Actor Olivia Wilde made her directorial debut with Booksmart (2019), a coming-of-age comedy about high school seniors looking to break the rules on their final day of classes. The hugely successful film received critical accolades, landed on multiple top-ten lists, and garnered many nominations.
Unfortunately, Wilde’s sophomore outing, Don’t Worry Darling (New Line Cinemas), is an empty, tedious psychological thriller that borrows liberally but poorly from better and smarter films.
Perfect couple Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) reside in an idyllic 1950s community in a seemingly perpetually honeymoon of romance, domesticity, and sex. The California oasis, all sunlight and happiness, is the town of Victory; the name derives from the mysterious company for which the men work.
Each morning, the wives stand on their perfectly manicured lawns and bid goodbye to their spouses, who join an automotive caravan into the adjunct desert where they labor on an unnamed project. The stay-at-home wives clean, cook, and then visit the club pool where they while away the day gossiping. They vaguely speculate on the corporation’s actual work, discouraged from questioning their husbands on the much-lauded “development of progressive materials.” The Stepford vibe permeates the entire film.
The company/community is the brainchild of Frank (Chris Pine), a cult-like figure who stares and smirks and even watches as the happy couple has sex in his kitchen. He leads the group in question-response mantras: “What is the enemy of progress?” “Chaos.” “What are we doing?” “Changing the world.” References to family and to “the mission” are trotted out. The generic catchphrases somehow overwhelm the attempts at tension, resulting in an underwhelming blandness. As Frank lords over the men, his wife, Shelly (Gemma Chan), dominates the women. In a dance class, she encourages them to chant, “There is beauty in control. There is grace in symmetry. We move as one.”
Eventually, cracks begin to show, beginning with ostracized Margaret (KiKi Layne), who went with her son out into the forbidden desert but returned without him. At an afternoon gathering, Margaret claims that Victory took her son away from her, and her husband quickly subdues her. The community sees Margaret as mentally imbalanced and dismisses her accusation. However, there are other indications that something is not wholly right or real in this utopia: A topless woman strolls poolside. Freedom in language uncommon in the period. Jack’s strange dance when he is promoted to the inner circle. Whole eggs that are empty. In the midst of this, Alice has visions and hallucinations, driving her to question the fabric of her life.
Conceptually, there is little new on offer in Don’t Worry Darling. The ideas have been presented in countless films. And while there is much that is stylish in the design and Matthew Libatique’s rich and often sunbaked cinematography, the action becomes predictable and repetitive, plodding along with few surprises.
Florence Pugh gives the scream queen Alice as many dimensions as possible. She is a riveting and honest performer and creates a dimensional woman questioning both her world and her sanity. Pugh makes every moment count as she battles with an ever smaller grasp of reality and what seems to be communal gaslighting.
Styles’ Jack is stiff in a stiff role and incapable of raising the (possibly intentionally?) stilted dialogue. Chris Pine succeeds to a certain extent in the enigmatic Frank, but there is a certain lack of texture to his villain. Wilde is strong as the gossipy and slightly bullying Bunny, Alice’s confidant. Late in the film, she has the most powerful revelation, one of the few moments that manages to be chilling and cathartic. Gemma Chan finds the right balance in the ice princess Shelley. Timothy Simmons provides a creepy, if obvious, doctor, playing it just to the edge of too much. The supporting cast fills out the town ensemble but is given little else: the men curry favor with Frank, the women with Shelley.
A great deal of publicity has swirled around the film, with backlot drama—initially between the director and the originally cast Jack, Shia LaBeouf, and later between the director and Pugh. But, in the end, the white noise is irrelevant.
And while Don’t Worry Darling attempts to make statements about society and gender roles, the pretentious screenplay by Katie Silberman (from a story by Silberman, Carey Van Dyke, and Shane Van Dyke) fails to answer any of them. Wilde’s showy but hollow direction does nothing to solve the problems or enhance the experience. In the end, Don’t Worry Darling becomes relentless shrill, building to an ambiguously frustrating cheat of an ending.
Rated R, the film is now playing in local theaters.
Line-up spotlights how singular stories impact society
By Tara Mae
What responsibility to people have to each other and the planet? This question is arecurring theme examined when the award-winning Port Jefferson Documentary Series’ film festival returns this fall. The season kicks off Monday, Sept. 19 and runs on select Mondays through Nov. 21.
“There is an underlying thread of social responsibility — stand up and do the right thing or at least recognize when things are going wrong and put a spotlight on it —throughout the whole season. It takes a lot of guts to take such a stance,” said co-Director Lyn Boland.
Screenings will be held in person at 7 p.m. With the exception of Rebellion and Heart and Soul, which will be screened at John F. Kennedy Middle School, 200 Jayne Blvd. in Port Jefferson Station, all documentaries will be shown at Theatre Three, 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson.
“This series offers a valuable service, We are offering an opportunity for an arts organization in our community. Many of these films are noncommercial; people would not necessarily be able to see them in movie theaters,” said Theatre Three’s Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel.
Sponsored by the Suffolk County Film Commission, the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, Maggio Environmental, Maia Salon Spa and Wellness, and Covati and Janhsen, CPAs, the festival, which started in 2005, will present seven thought-provoking documentaries this year.
Evoking questions of personal responsibility, public activism, and corporate accountability, these documentaries explore the private motivations of public figures, community workers, and morally dubious entities who exploit areas of opaque legality for profit.
Kaepernick & America kicks off the series, exploring the thought process of a man whose actions speak loudly; An Act of Worship amplifies the ingenuity, initiatives, and endurance of female Muslim American activists; The Cave of Adullam chronicles the steadfast dedication of a Black martial arts sensei striving to support at-risk Black youths; Heart and Soul will appeal to rock and roll fans; and Rebellion, American Pain, and The YouTube Effect detail the detrimental impact of a trifecta of concurrent crises: climate change, opioid addiction, and misinformation, respectively.
“This festival really has something for everybody. I do think that we have some really remarkable films. Quite a number explore current events — things that are so much on everyone’s mind,” Boland added.
Following every screening, Tom Needham, host of The Sounds of Film on WUSB, will emcee a Q&A session with the director or producer of the documentary. Some guests will appear in person while others will appear via Zoom.
The documentaries are selected by the all-female film board: co-directors Lyn Boland, Wendy Feinberg, and Barbara Sverd as well as Honey Katz, Lorie Rothstein, and Lynn Rein. Collectively known as “the film ladies,” each woman nominates a documentary to be included in the series and if approved, arranges for the speaker(s) to participate in the Q&A.
After its nomination, the board and volunteers review the film to decide whether it makes the cut. The next step can be among the most challenging: securing the rights to show the documentary. This feat is generally negotiated by contacting the film distribution company or reaching out directly to a filmmaker in person at a festival, or through email and phone. Certain documentarians, such as Alex Winter (The Youtube Effect), have previously shown other work at the Port Jefferson Documentary Series, and thus have an existing connection to it.
Films are largely sourced from festivals like the TriBeca Film Festival and the Hamptons International Film Festival. Board members pay their own travel expenses, tickets, and industry passes.
The Port Jefferson Documentary Series is a passion project for everyone involved.
“My favorite parts of this endeavor are attending film festivals, previewing films on the big screen, and meeting the directors and subjects in the films in person. The satisfaction of having previewed dozens of films and finally then narrowing down to seven of the best with guest speakers for each…I love it. To me, it is entertainment,” said co-director Wendy Feinberg.
Individual tickets are $10 each online or at the door. A season pass is $58 and also available online or at the door.
For further details about the documentaries, booking tickets, or the series in general, visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.
■The season begins with a screening of Kaepernick & America at Theatre Three on Sept. 19. The documentary relives the summer of 2016, an election year with unrest rumbling through America, when Colin Kaepernick took a knee and America lost its mind. Kaepernick & America examines the man and his protest, exploring the remarkable conflict stirred by such a symbolic gesture. Guest speaker will be co-director Tommy Walker.
■ Up next is An Act of Worship on Oct. 3 at Theatre Three. The film weaves a glorious tapestry of personal stories, verité, archival footage, and home movies together, to open a window into the world of Muslim Americans. The film follows three women activists who have come of age since 9/11 and who are part of a new generation of Muslims in America. Guest speakers will be director Nausheen Dadabhoy and producer Sofian Khan.
■ The award-winning film Cave of Adullamheads to Theatre Three on Oct. 10. The film focuses on martial arts sensei Jason Wilson and his efforts to help often-troubled black youths from Detroit at the Cave of Adullam Transformational Training Academy that he founded in 2008. Guest speaker will be director Laura Checkoway.
■ After a brief hiatus, the series continues with a screening of Rebellion at John F. Kennedy Middle School on Oct. 24. The film gives us an in-depth look into the global environmental movement, Extinction Rebellion (XR), established in the United Kingdom, from its beginnings in 2018. Guest spaker will be co-director Maia Kenworthy via Zoom.
■ The festival continues with a a preview screening of Heart and Soul at John F. Kennedy Middle School on Nov. 7. The first-ever Rock & Roll Show at the Brooklyn Paramount Theater electrified the teenagers who waited for hours to see their new idols – Chuck Berry; the Chantels; Frankie Lymon; and a roster of some of the greatest talent of the time. Fourteen-year-old Kenny Vance sat in the balcony mesmerized by a unique style of music that still resonates for him -and many of us- half a century later. The film seeks to solve the question that may never be answered, because, like all art, it is about feelings: What was that particular magic that grabs a heart and never lets it go? Guest speaker will be director Kenny Vance with a vocal harmony performance by Vance & the Planotones.
■ Moving into November, American Pain will be screened at Theatre Three on Nov. 14. A jaw-dropping true crime documentary, the film tells the story of twin brothers and bodybuilders Chris and Jeff George, who operated a franchise of pain clinics in Florida where they handed out pain pills like candy. Director Darren Foster offers an incredibly compelling and shocking story that exposes the tower of corruption that made the George’s enterprise so massively successful. Guest speaker will be producer Carolyn Hepburn.
■ The Youtube Effect heads to Theatre Three on Nov. 21. The documentary takes viewers on a timely and gripping journey inside the cloistered world of YouTube and parent Google. It investigates YouTube’s rise from humble beginnings in the attic of a pizzeria to its explosion onto the world stage, becoming the largest media platform in history and sparking a cultural revolution, while creating massive controversy in the age of disinformation. The film is a startling but necessary look at a website that has become so intertwined with our daily lives. Guest speaker via Zoom will be director Alex Winter.
Disney continues to revisit its animated classics as source material for live-action films. These include 101 Dalmatians (along with a sequel and a prequel), Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty (Maleficent, with its shifted point-of-view), Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, Aladdin, The Lion King, Lady and the Tramp, and Mulan. Most have received mixed reactions, but this has not stemmed the flow. Added to this list is the newly released Pinocchio, now streaming on Disney+.
Pinocchio finds its origins in the children’s novel The Adventures of Pinocchio. Italian writer Carlo Collodi wrote of a Tuscan woodcarver named Geppetto who creates a wooden puppet who dreams of becoming a real boy. The name “Pinocchio” is a combination of the Italian words pino (pine) and occhio (eye). The character’s iconography and adventures bridge three centuries: The puppet dreams of being, given spirit guides, and a nose that grows when he lies (occurring only once in the novel).
Disney’s Pinocchio (1940) deservedly earns the accolade “masterpiece.” Pinocchio, the follow-up to the studio’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), is only equaled by its predecessor. Three years in the making, Pinocchio was a critical hit. Writing in The Hollywood Reporter, the unnamed staff writer described the film in glowing terms: “… the picture is a masterpiece which sets another milestone along the road of screen entertainment …. a new source of joy for which [the creators] deserve and will receive the gratitude of millions who will see it.”
Pinocchio has been seen on both the big and small screens nearly two dozen times. Casts have included the Pinocchio’s of Sandy Duncan, Paul Reubens (a.k.a. Pee-Wee Herman), Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and Roberto Benigni. Geppettos include Burl Ives, Danny Kaye, Martin Landau, Carl Reiner, and Drew Carey. In addition, a host of famous actors appeared in supporting roles.
For the newest incarnation, director Robert Zemeckis has co-adapted the screenplay with Chris Weitz, but the entire film feels like a scene-for-scene remake of the original. Where it attempts to find something new, the substitution does nothing to enhance the storytelling. Instead, it is different for its own sake.
A few new elements are introduced into the plot but add little to the overall effect, with even the best moments falling short. “Clever” touches receive acknowledgment—cuckoo-clocks with Disney images (Snow White, Roger Rabbit, Sleeping Beauty, etc.)—but seem slightly out-of-place. The mix of live actors and CGI results in the “real” people appearing as if traveling through a virtual reality app.
The story remains the same. Inventor Geppetto fashions Pinocchio and wishes upon a star. The puppet then finds himself duped into various dangerous scenarios: encountering the fox and the cat who sell him to Stromboli, the wicked puppeteer; the journey to Pleasure Island where the children are turned into donkeys and sold; being swallowed by a sea monster; etc. Pinocchio’s spiritual guides are, of course, Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy.
Tom Hanks makes a heartfelt Geppetto, a widower in mourning for his wife and son. He infuses the character with a deep kindness interwoven with a fragile and broken soul. He puts a smile on the puppet so he will “always be happy.” The image of his setting out to find Pinocchio, packing his beloved cat, Figaro, and cradling his adored fish, Cleo, is touching. One could wish Hanks’ make-up to be a little less extreme, with bushy hair, mustache, and eyebrows worthy of their own zip code.
Cynthia Erivo makes a beautiful, fully present Blue Fairy. The voice work is good, with Benjamin Evan Ainsworth’s sweet and never saccharine Pinocchio. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives Jiminy Cricket a southern flavor but conveys his concern as the puppet’s conscience. Lorraine Bracco (a friendly seagull) and Keegan-Michael Key, as Honest John, the con-fox, are fine if a bit one note.
The story’s heart remains to be “real” is to be brave, honest, and unselfish. While spelled out clearly, the concept sometimes gets lost in the visual noise. The pacing is uneven and often slow. The comic violence (Stromboli locking Pinocchio in a case) feels jarringly vicious. Jokes referencing Chris Pine, agents, taxes, and educational curriculum do not land so much as thud. The original music is oddly utilized and snuck in, almost as spoken verse and Alan Silvestri’s new songs unfortunately fail to enhance the film. In the end, Pinocchio feels like light-beer-and-water: all the same but less.
Upcoming and in development are live-action versions of The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan (as Peter Pan and Wendy), Snow White, Hercules, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Sword in the Stone, Robin Hood, Bambi, The Aristocats, and Lilo and Stitch along with sequels to The Lion King (Mufasa: The Lion King), Aladdin, The Jungle Book, and Cruella. With the track record of previous adaptations, one must wonder—other than money—what Disney hopes to gain.
Who doesn’t like a good vampire movie? Clearly, the creators of The Invitation. “Creators” might be inaccurate. “Responsible parties” is probably more apt. But, in what may be the only horror movie inspired by a DNA kit, the disastrous 104-minute mess manages to be witless, tiresome, and pointless.
The film opens with a severe case of “we’re going to tell you stuff.” Evelyn “Evie” Jackson struggles as a cater-server with past due bills and aspirations of being an artist. (Her medium is ceramics, not pottery, as she later corrects her host.) Now orphaned after the passing of her mother a few months before, she floats and frets and treads water (not unlike the film).
Through a genetic test, Evie connects with the English part of her family. Revealed is a history of a footman’s affair with an aristocrat, an escape, and a few other bits revealed throughout the exposition.
Cousin Oliver just happens to be in New York City on business. He invites Evie to a family wedding in Yorkshire. She bids goodbye to her wisecracking, sassy best friend, packs up, and off she goes, arriving at the estate of the DeVilles. Yes. The DeVilles. Sadly, this is not even the least subtle element of the film. That ignominious award goes to the “sly” Dracula references, including the location being New Carfax, in Whitby, as well as a couple in the village named Harker. And so, it goes.
Quickly, Evie senses that all is not right in this Downton Abbey from Heck. Her idyll adventure becomes sort of an “Eat-Slay-Love” scenario as she becomes involved with Walter, the handsome young lord of the manor. She encounters a range of characterless family members — “patriarch with an eye patch,” “butler who mumbles to himself as he dispatches the hired help,” “worried ladies’ maid,” and other stock figures who are an insult to clichés.
There is no shortage of moving shadows, darting hands, and creepy whispers on the grounds. The house sports barred windows with sharp points, a mysterious library, candles that go out, and gramophones that turn themselves on.
The screenplay, by Blair Butler, seems to be absent of original thought and does nothing to help Jessica M. Thompson’s thrill-less, leaden direction. The Invitation might be the least erotic vampire movie of all time. The scene containing the most tension features a manicure and the obligatory cutting of the finger so that someone can suck the blood.
Lines such as “I feel like I’m going crazy” are only equaled by the equally trite “I want to live life fully. Throw caution to the wind …” When Walter attempts to open up to Evie, the dialogue gives new meaning to cringe-worthy: “I’m tired of the façade. Of keeping up appearances … It’s isolating. I want someone to see me for who I truly am. Someone who accepts me.” Poor, lonely vampire.
There are some explanations of rituals involving the dark lord’s need for three wives (i.e., the Brides of Dracula). The concept of mortals who enable the family is a novel idea. The idea that these surrounding sycophants are collaborators in the evil is intriguing. But, once introduced, the idea drops, and back we go to the tedium. The pedestrian “climax” fails to deliver on a nearly clever twist. The very brief and supposedly amusing epilogue does nothing to solve this dead end.
As far as the presence of gore, The Invitation is a bit bloody … bloody awful, bloody boring, a bloody waste of time.
Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones)offers a strong, resourceful Evie and holds the focus. But the material limits her ability to show a great deal of range. Thomas Doherty offers a charmless Walter, more annoying than alluring. Hugh Skinner’s Cousin Oliver seems like a refugee from an earlier time; one expects him to come bounding in with a “tennis anyone?” Stephanie Corneliussen is the mean girl, and Alana Boden is the nice girl; the less said, the better.
At one point, Evie cries, “I want to go home.” (So did I). Shortly after, she asks, “Why are you doing this to me?” (A question I asked aloud to the empty theatre.) Eternal life may feel long, but not as long as this movie. Regarding this Invitation, I suggest RSVP “will NOT attend.”
Rated PG-13, the film is now playing in local theaters.