I CAN APPRECIATE AND RESPECT ALL animals, but the one I like the least is an octopus. Seriously, I do not know why I have had this attitude since I was a little boy. Whether an octopus or squid and I immediately get a feeling of disgust and dread. Whenever I had a school field trip to the aquarium, I would always quickly walk past the exhibit that had live octopi. Back then I would tell people the creatures were gross. I do not know, but there is something alien about them; as if they were dropped down from outer space to lurk down at the bottom of the seas, being sneaky and sinister. Even when they were depicted in movies in a friendly way, I did not care. There were enough films already where they were mean man eaters, like 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Though I loved the movie The Little Mermaid, I did not care for the character Ursula with her long tentacle legs. And do not get me started about calamari, UGH! I cannot sit with anyone who would order that dish; it just sounds and looks nauseating to me. My apologies to you foodies who love the “delicacy.” BY NOW YOU MUST BE WONDERING why, with my strong dislike of squids and octopi, would I ever sit and watch a film that has the word octopus right there in the title. It is a very good question; one I myself do not have a good answer for. I was between chores over the weekend and wanted to take a break. My time was limited, so I did not want to sit through a long movie. Going through the search function, the streaming service had a list of recommendations for me based on the things I had already seen with them. There was a sci-fi picture that looked okay, but it was over two hours long. When I moved the cursor off that selection, the next one was for this film. Before I realized what the title was, my eye was attracted to the blues in the trailer. The narrator was calm as he spoke with the slightest of accents. I saw that this picture was just shy of an hour and a half which was a plus; maybe, most of the story was done on land, I hoped. Another plus was the fact it was a documentary, set in a different part of the world. I hit play on the remote and settled into what would become a revelation for me. WHILE SWIMMING IN THE WATERS OFF the coast of South Africa, cinematographer and director Craig Foster (My Hunter’s Heart, Into the Dragon’s Lair), discovered the oddest thing sitting at the bottom of a kelp forest. It looked like a ball of seashells until it moved. Written and directed by James Reed (Rise of the Warrior Apes, Jago: A Life Underwater) and newcomer Pippa Ehrlich, this film festival winning documentary provided me with the biggest surprise this past year. Here I was ambivalent towards this picture and after several early scenes I was pulled into another world beneath the ocean. Because Craig came across as vulnerable and looked like just an average guy, he was perfect to spearhead this production. The cinematography was gorgeous, both in vast wide angle shots as well as the intimate ones. There was very little dialogue that could be considered cutesy or pandering to the viewer; the entire time I felt I was privileged for being allowed to watch Craig’s life as he encountered this amazing creature. Yes, I said amazing because I now have such a new appreciation for an octopus. I can go on and on praising this unbelievable, wonderful movie; however, all that needs to be said is the number of stars I am giving it. When was the last time you saw me give this rating to a film; it has been such a long time, but with this documentary it has been worth the wait, in my opinion.
IT ONLY TOOK ME 4 MUSICAL NOTES and I knew what song was playing. I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel and above the din of people coming and going around me, I heard those notes that were barely audible. Getting up from my rather comfortable chair, I followed the sound of music to see where it was coming from. As I made my way through the massive passageway, I found a lounge/bar off to the side. There were small tables for 2 to 4 people everywhere I looked; it was a large space. Up on the stage, I could not believe what I was seeing, it appeared as if it was one of my favorite Motown acts performing. The singers were all dressed in matching blue suits as they took turns singing parts of the song, when they were not harmonizing. As I went to an empty table, I got closer to the stage. It was obvious to me none of the performers were original members of the group. Heck, I knew that as soon as I came up to the entrance because they were all way too young looking. How many decades had passed already? Their voices were good and did sound like the original guys from the group. As for their dance moves, let me say it would have been better if they just stood behind their mic stands and step side to side. AS I SAT AND LISTENED TO THEM, memories came back that were attached to some of the songs they sang. I remember with one song I was dancing at a relative’s wedding; another song, the first time I played it in class I saw the members start to bop their heads to the rhythm of the music. It was an amusing site as we were all working out. My memories were playing the original music, but what the men on stage were singing sounded more like an imitation. Not that it was bad, it just wasn’t the same. If any of the men were displaying some serious musical capabilities, matching or being better than the originals artists, the show would have been amazing. However, their vocal range was limited; some of the high notes were a strain for them or they simply lowered the octave. I gave them credit for being able to get the gig and perform at one of the hotel’s lounge areas. Though they were not the original group it was still enjoyable for me to sit and listen to them. That is more than what I can say about this action, dramatic horror wannabe. AFTER WHAT APPEARED TO BE AN EARTHQUAKE damaged their drilling station, the crew would have to find a way to make it up to the surface of the ocean they were under. However, something did not want them to leave. With Kristen Stewart (Charlie’s Angels, Personal Shopper) as Norah, Jessica Henwick (Dragonfly, Game of Thrones-TV) as Emily, Vincent Cassel (Black Swan, Eastern Promises) as Captain, TJ Miller (Deadpool franchise, Cloverfield) as Paul Abel and John Gallagher Jr (Short Term 12, Jonah Hex) as Liam; this movie felt like it was trying to be the film Alien, except instead of space it was taking place underwater. I give Kristen credit for trying her best at being an action figure, but the script was incapable of providing any thrills or excitement. The dialog was written in a generic way, using typical exclamations. I thought the filming was dull for the most part, which being underwater I understood. However, the constant dark murkiness did nothing for me. If you have not seen Alien or its sequels, you might find this picture of interest. For the rest of us, I suggest you do not take the bait and find yourself sinking into an abyss.
1 ¾ stars