Skip to main content


If you liked 1979’s The Great Santini this film might be one you enjoy. It seems that Sterling K. Brown is in danger of being typecast as intense father figures, and for this role he is perfect. But unlike his character in This Is Us, the loving father of the second generation Pearson clan whose type A angst turns mostly inward, the Waves character Ronald (no last name) is laser-focused on improving teen son Tyler. His pep talks are abusive, manipulative guilt trips steeped in racial insecurity and the need to “do ten times more” to gain equal footing with privileged whites.
Set somewhere in southeast Florida, near the mega-wealthy South Beach excesses of glitz, drugs and Art Deco Hip Hop, colors and music form an immersive backdrop for what is essentially a teen coming of age movie. Once again, Smartphones are a key plot device, if not a character, that are an end-run around the need to convey much information that would traditionally need to be spoken or acted out. As writers know, show-don’t tell. Performances are convincing, the script is gutsy, real and the in-your-face cinematography plays well on a home TV display. In a time of streaming and confinement, this is important though accidental. Writer/Director Trey Edward Shults did not see Covid coming.
So, as the Black Santini, Brown trains with his son, challenges him to an arm wrestling contest over breakfast in a diner and trash-talks constantly, belittling and apparently thinking he’s motivating his wrestler son into being the man Dad has become. A small but effective wrestling sub-plot has appeal to sports enthusiasts, but the motivation leads to a career-ending shoulder injury, drug abuse, loss of scholarship and a pregnant girlfriend Alexis, played by Alexa Demie. Demie is a multi-talented singer and actress currently involved in HBO’s Euphoria. All of this comes down very quickly, as does the subsequent series of scenes in which Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) unravels minute-by-minute and text-by-text. The results are disastrous and tragic, leaving more than one family shattered.
Taylor Russell plays Tyler’s younger sister Emily. She’s filling in her spare time while staring as Judy Robinson in the reboot of Lost In Space, which is surprisingly good. During the second half of the film, which could benefit from an emotional intermission, she becomes the focal point of the crumbling family. She is the shoulder upon which Dad, her boyfriend and Tyler have learned to lean, the Caretaker who appears poised for her own journey of potential self-destruction. She holds herself responsible at a pivotal moment in the film’s plot for something she was unable to prevent. Like most survivor guilt, she rewinds a mental tape and simply asks, “Why didn’t I act?” And in a far too simple cathartic outpouring side-by-side with her suddenly sensitive and emotive father, the director takes the easy off-ramp to an act three that, if not happily ever after, at least heads the family in a better direction.
Watching Waves sits you, if not on the edge of your seat, at least holding onto your arm rests waiting for something bad to happen. At one point our little group of viewers wondered, “What kind of teen party is that?” when the location shifted to an unsupervised multi-level mansion up-lit with glowing, colored lights, fountains and filled to overflowing with drugs and alcohol. But it served as a stage for flowing blood on tile and the arrival of red and blue stroboscopic emergency vehicle lights, of course set to music.
This movie is somewhat depressing from beginning to end. As a cautionary tale, it dismantles a wealthy family striving to extend their hard-won privilege into the next generation. And there, but for an unforeseen cascade of events beyond our control, like a pandemic, go we all.

Waves (2019) runs 2 hours 15 minutes and is rated R.

Popular posts from this blog


Honestly, are you at all reluctant to see movies with subtitles? I have to be in the right mood. They require a certain amount of mental work and you can’t look down at your popcorn for even a few seconds for fear of missing something. Our viewing of  Parasite  was at noon on a Saturday, since our very un-art-house Regal 16 apparently felt that two hours of precious screen time early in the day was all that could be spared for a film that doesn’t have star power, explosions or talking animals. And if  Parasite  had not been nominated for Best Picture it’s unlikely we would have been given any chance to see it at all. Metaphors abound, or are at least proclaimed to be in abundance by numerous characters in the opening scenes of  Parasite . One particular “Scholar’s Rock” continues to make appearances like the monolith in  2001: A Space Odyssey . It is a gift to the Kim family from Min, a friend of son “Kevin” who asks for a favor that sets the entire plot of the movie in motion.


We have now seen the best movie of the year. It is April 6, 1917. The “War to end all wars” will rage on until the Treaty of Versailles is signed on November 11, 1918. Armistice Day commemorated that event until it was renamed Veterans Day in 1954. This is a uniquely effective, immersive film, due to being filmed in a continuous single camera shot (technically, listed as edited to appear as one shot). Only at one point at about the mid point did the screen go black, allowing for a reset, but then continued on in single camera fashion to the end. The difficulty of doing this, both from a cinematography perspective, performance by the actors, staging, lighting and set construction are hard to conceive, but Sam Mendes pulled it all together in the best war movie since  Saving Private Ryan .  And perhaps this could have been called  Saving Lieutenant Blake . 1917  was filmed in the UK on April 1, 2019. Imagine rehearsing the entire two hour journey of two young British soldiers

Fantasy Island

Ultimately, this is the “Tattoo” origin story. It just takes far too long to find that out. This is a low budget reimagining of the 1978 TV show by the same name that ran for an unbelievable six years. Launching off of the even more unbelievable success of  The Love Boat’s  eventual ten years at sea, this represents a dry period in the history of television, despite the vast waters that surrounded each show. Both ran concurrently with the long-running comedy game show  Hollywood Squares . These were simpler times, and the shows all provided a home for minor celebrities of the day.   Mister Roarke is back, but instead of the suave and sophisticated Ricardo Montalban, we now have the rather sleepy and thuggish looking Michael Peña who has played Ponch in the movie version of CHIPS and Enrique 'Kiki' Camarena in the Netflix series Narcos. He does an adequate job with the script but is unconvincing as the docent of a living island with magical powers. He is clearly bored and