Take Two: A Critical Look At ‘Empire Of Light’, ‘Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio’ & ‘The Whale’


Editor’s note: Deadline presents the 43rd episode of its video series Take Two, in which Pete Hammond and Todd McCarthy tackle the artistry of films just opening in theaters every weekend. Each has reviewed and written about the craft for decades and built a remarkable breadth of knowledge of films past and present. What we hoped for when we asked them to do this was a concise, mature and thoughtful conversation comparable to what we saw from Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.

This week Take Two gives another look at three new movies making their debut for consumers in this pre-Christmas holiday window where wide new releases have slowed to a crawl as exhibitors get ready for the Avatar: The Way Of Water tidal wave that is going to hit theatres next week (and we will review it here at that time). We revisit a new Sam Mendes film, Empire Of Light that we both saw first at Telluride over the Labor Day weekend and is a movie that represents perhaps the most personal work of the Oscar winning director’s career. It also is yet another film that shows the love for movies from a filmmaker’s pov, and features irresistible performances from Olivia Colman (of course) and relative newcomer Micheal Ward (the spelling of his first name is NOT a typo).

Brendan Fraser The Whale

Also this week we take on Darren Aronofsky’s riveting adaptation of The Whale, originally a stage play and now an independently-made cinematic experience starring Brendan Fraser in the role of his career as a 600 pound online teacher desperately trying to reconnect with his daughter (played by Sadie Sink of Stranger Things).

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio

Both of those movies will be opening limited theatrical engagements as they begin their rollout exclusively in theatres. The other film we look at is Guillermo del Toro’s masterful Stop Motion version of Pinocchio which is actually appropriately titled Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, and there is good reason for that as it is unlike any version ever filmed. It has been playing limited engagements in theatres over the past few weeks, but on Friday debuts in its streaming run on Netflix. However you manage to see it, it is one we think should be near the top of any list this holiday season, and don’t be fooled thinking this is just some kids film. As we say, it much, much more than what you might imagine.

Click above to watch our conversation.

Hammond has been Deadline’s Awards Columnist for the past decade, covering what now seemingly is the year-round Oscar and Emmy seasons. He is also Deadline’s Chief Film Critic, having previously reviewed films for MovieLine, Boxoffice magazine, Backstage, Hollywood.com and Maxim, as well as Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide, for which he was a contributing editor. In addition to writing, Hammond also hosts KCET Cinema Series and the station’s weekly series Must See Movies.

McCarthy is a veteran trade publication film critic, columnist and reporter who has also written several acclaimed books and documentary films. He served two stints on the staffs of Variety and The Hollywood Reporter and extensively covered film festivals internationally for both publications. His film Visions of

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