The Screen Critic: An underwater survival thriller, a soccer superstar profile and a funny anti-woke comedy

Nov 03, 2023
Join our entertainment bloggers as he explores the latest offerings from the silver screen. Source: Supplied.

You’ll be crushing your popcorn box as the tension tightens in The Dive, an excellent, sweat-inducing survival thriller about two adventure-loving sisters May and Drew (Louisa Krause & Sophie Lowe) who suffer a life-threatening mishap deep underwater.

An avalanche sends a shower of rocks upon them, trapping May under an immovable boulder. With her oxygen running low, Drew is locked in a nail-biting race against time as she returns to the surface several times to try and save her.

Things become increasingly desperate as options dwindle and the oxygen gauge runs down in this terrific, taut adventure tale that will have you holding your breath as you watch these women fight for theirs. Top stuff.

Hungry for a slice of quality horror? Then check out Five Nights at Freddy’s, a chilling supernatural tale that, like Saw X, shows just how big a difference a strong story can make when it comes to spooking people.

Damaged by childhood trauma, a troubled man (Josh Hutcherson) lands a job as a night security guard at a disused 1980s family eatery and entertainment centre, host to pinball machines and a musical band of oversized animatronic puppets.

His psychological distress slowly turns the place into a personal hell as his recurring nightmares fuse with the venue’s evil past, bringing the robots to life in a somewhat unfriendly manner.

A very well-directed genre piece that stresses story over bloodshed – though there is some of that, of course – FNAF has been a huge hit with horror fans despite being widely drubbed by reviewers, proving yet again how large the gap can be between critical taste and popular appeal.

There’s little argument that Martin Scorsese is a genius of modern cinema yet even his most loyal fans might find his latest epic Killers of the Flower Moon a challenge to sit through. At three hours and 26 minutes, only those with sturdy bladders will be able to endure the rather long-winded period drama without the pressing need to embark on at least one restroom run.

The film itself is actually quite good, with the ever-reliable Leonardo DiCaprio and veteran Robert DeNiro playing morally grey characters involved in crimes against the oil-rich Native American Osage people.

Performances throughout are strong, but the slow pace and meandering story mark it as a film best enjoyed in the comforts of home when it inevitably streams on AppleTV, the studio that produced it.

So why is it in cinemas? Chiefly so it can qualify for some Oscar love, which the fine performances will no doubt attract. Go, Marty.

The brilliant sporting career and bumpy personal life of soccer superstar David Beckham is explored in the surprisingly compelling four-part Netflix docu-series Beckham.

In the lavish home he shares with his adoring wife Victoria – aka Posh Spice – the pair are interviewed separately and in-depth about the major and minor landmarks in Beckham’s journey, from his beginnings as a child wonder through to his time at Manchester United and defection to Real Madrid.

Posh…sorry…Victoria is there mostly to unpack the personal side of the Beckham saga, in particular, the effect of merciless media scrutiny on their relationship and family.

Featuring reels of archival and home video footage, the show offers a pretty comprehensive portrait, with almost everybody who ever had anything to do with Beckham – teammates, parents, managers, club owners, even a receptionist – putting in their two cents.

Things do go soft here and there. Allegations of Beckham’s infidelity are glossed over and too much is made of his grand failure to succeed in America. Given that he was on a deal worth a quarter of a billion dollars it is hard to feel too sorry for him, as lovely a guy as he obviously is.

Hot on the heels of the mini-series PainKiller comes Pain Hustlers, a Netflix film that also looks at the notoriously unethical way people made big money by pushing pain medication onto doctors and unsuspecting patients, many of whom died as a result.

Emily Blunt (also a producer) plays Liza Drake, a cash-strapped pole dancer who takes up an offer from regular customer Pete Brenner (Chris Evans) to work in the pharmaceutical sales business. Her ability to make lots of money with little effort soon consumes her better judgment, even leading her to recruit her mother (Catherine O’Hara) to work for her eccentric boss (Andy Garcia).

Based on a true story, the tone wavers a bit too hectically between drama and comedy, but the whole thing is nicely anchored by Blunt’s performance and her very convincing heartland American accent.

Laughs aplenty are on offer in Old Dads, a very funny, very uncouth comedy about a grumpy middle-aged man trying to cope with mid-life blues in an annoyingly woke world.

Set in suburbia, hugely popular lowbrow US comedian Bill Burr (also director, co-writer and producer) plays Jack Kelly, an unsophisticated working-class guy who has to temper his anger at political correctness while trying to hold his marriage together.

Along for the ride are his best friends and business partners Connor and Mike (Bobby Cannavale & Bokeem Woodbine), who each have their own troubles in a world where everything is recorded and everyone is ready to take offense at any utterance.

The film’s coarse comedy reflects Bill Burr’s straight-talking stand-up style, but while the gags might be raw and rough around the edges, he does a good job by wrapping everything with a warm feel.

For more visit and @jimschembri on X for updates.

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