The good, the bad and the mediocre

click to enlarge My Octopus Teacher
My Octopus Teacher

Octopus an astonishing tale of an unexpected friendship

With all the movies that are released and sent to me during awards season, it's easy for one or two of them to slip through the cracks. Such was the case with Netflix's My Octopus Teacher, one that got by in the flurry of films that cluttered my mailbox over the last two months. What with my getting promotional material containing a quote from Jane Goodall calling it "one of the best movies ever," and it winning the Oscar for Best Documentary, I had to give it a look.

I'm glad that I did, as it truly is an astounding piece of work. A gorgeous documentary taking place at the tip of South Africa, it chronicles the relationship – yes, relationship- that develops between filmmaker Craig Foster and an octopus he encounters during his daily dives into a kelp forest in a bay near his home. A surprising bond forms quickly between them, the sea creature actually seeking him out when he's near, Foster gaining insight into his own world by observing all his new friend is enduring.

This connection needs to be explored more deeply and far too little of Foster's background is explored, but there's no question this is a visually astonishing work, while the connection that develops between the two is truly a wonder to behold. Streaming on Netflix.

Familiar Days still effective

While it fails to reach the urgency of the Julia Roberts' feature Ben is Back or plumb the depths of despair like Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream, Rodrigo Garcia's Four Good Days still manages to make a few salient points where the issue of drug addiction is concerned. Starring Glenn Close as Deb, the beleaguered mother of her drug-addicted daughter Molly (convincingly played by Mila Kunis), the film plays out in a far-too-familiar manner, yet gets by on the conviction of the performances of the two leads.

Having gone through rehab 15 times, Molly is at the end of the end of her rope. And while Deb is fully aware that her daughter is a master manipulator, she still falls for her pleas and agrees to help her stay clean for four days so that she can receive a radical treatment that may permanently curb her addiction. While there is a bit of manipulation during the third act and the ending seems a bit pat, the movie still effectively shows the tragedy of opioid addiction and its ripple effects on those in the addict's life. In theaters.

Dull Remorse without thrills

For the millions that must have been spent on props, machine guns, pyrotechnics and everything else that's needed to blow things up real good, Stefano Sollima's Tom Clancy's Without Remorse is a surprisingly boring affair. Bloated and dull, there's not an original idea to be found in this tribute to purposeless filmmaking. An obvious exercise in franchise building, this failure spins its wheels over the course of 120 minutes by retreading one hackneyed plot point after another.

Michael B. Jordan stars as John Kelly, a Navy SEAL whose family has been wiped out by Russian agents. This sends him down the vengeance trail as he sets out to hunt down the perpetrators with the help of a duplicitous CIA agent (Jamie Bell) and a ragtag group of colleagues who, no surprise, generate a great deal of mayhem in their pursuit. Double-crosses occur, scores are settled and boredom ensues as Sollima tries to distract us from Taylor Sheridan’s cliché-filled script with meaningless action sequences. Streaming on Amazon Prime.

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