Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Firestarter – Doing Stephen King adaptation is really dicey at any time because, in this avid reader and huge fan’s mind, they haven’t had the best transition time from page to screen and some of them have gone beyond being disappointing and gone to the depths of being downright awful. This adaptation has the benefit of being one I’ve read but haven’t had the deepest connection with at the time, although the father and daughter bond at the center of it have sentimental value to me now, decades after I initially read it. For those who didn’t get to read this or see the eighties Drew Barrymore film, the story follows parents Andy and Vicky who have been on the run for more than a decade, desperate to hide their daughter Charlie from a shadowy federal agency that wants to harness her unprecedented gift for creating fire into a weapon of mass destruction. Andy has taught Charlie how to defuse her power, which is triggered by anger or pain but, as Charlie turns 11, the fire becomes harder and harder to control. After an incident reveals the family’s location, a mysterious operative is deployed to hunt down the family and seize Charlie once and for all but, of course, she has other plans. The casting looks solid with Zac Efron playing Andy and Indigenous actor Michael Greyeyes as the formidable assassin bearing down on them. Director Keith Thomas gets his shot at this big budget Blumhouse feature, which gives me a lot of excitement because his last film, The Vigil, absolutely blew me away with its stylish chills. Working in more of a sci-fi action sort of story, this could be really interesting.

Senior Year – It looks like Netflix is buying into the vapid and dumb Rebel Wilson market as they have optioned this new high school set romantic comedy, a part of the actresses new push in her career and definitely trying to separate herself a bit from the Fat Amy character of the Pitch Perfect franchise, a role of hers I actually enjoyed. Her performance in Cats however is one of pure nightmares and I really don’t want to talk about it beyond that. Not to be confused with National Lampoon’s Senior Trip, this film follows Ruby, the most popular girl in her high school in 2002. She’s the captain of the cheerleading squad, dating the quarterback, is well on her way to becoming the prom queen and girls want to be her and guys want to be with her. She has it all until she falls off the top of the cheerleading pyramid and goes into a coma. Fast forward twenty years later and Ruby finally wakes up from her coma as a thirty-seven-year-old woman. She goes back to her high school and tries to assume her role as the star of her school and, of course, she is still set on winning the crown as prom queen. Co-starring This Is Us star Justin Hartley and 90s darling Alicia Silverstone, expect nothing out of this movie except cheap laughs and Rebel quips in the styling that got her popular. This movie isn’t one that would have garnered any interest in theaters so it’s probably best that it landed here.

Operation Mincemeat – Usually the British strategic side of World War II isso painfully dull that it takes outside forces to make them enjoyable such as a great cast and a solid director. It’s a good thing that this is exactly what this Netflix released drama has going for it because it has two Mr. Darcys in Colin Firth and Matthew MacFayden, who occupy the lead roles, Kelly Macdonald, Prunella Scales and Jason Isaacs and is directed by Oscar nominated director John Madden. An oddity from World War II, the story follows two intelligence officers who devise a plan to use a corpse and false papers to outwit German troops to protect a massive invasion force from a potential massacre. The story is fascinating in its scope as I really didn’t know anything about this mission and Madden is able to string it all together in a compelling and intriguing way. The acting is top notch and how can it not be with Firth leading the way.

Sneakerella – Leave it to Disney to take a classic fairy tale and revitalize it for a modern generation but not release it in theaters and throw it directly onto ther streaming platform. This really isn’t that surprising of a decision as the film really doesn’t have poster worthy stars to showcase in theater lobbies with Stephen King’s It star Chosen Jacobs in the lead role. The film fully wraps the New York City sneaker scene into this modern fable about an aspirant Queens sneaker designer who gains the confidence to pursue his dream of becoming a professional sneaker designer with the help of his best friend, Sami, and his Fairy Godfather after falling in love with Kira King, the daughter of basketball star. This movie plays out exactly how you think it should, no better, no worse, but is also stuck in the soulless part of the Disney+ vacuum which only plays to absolute audiences and leaves other viewers in the cold. My kid digs this movie to a small degree but I don’t think it has any value to an adult crowd other than its small homages here and there.

This Much I Know To Be True – Nick Cave is an artist that I have had a fascination with ever since I feel like my tastes matured and definitely since I heavily got into film as he has scored some of my absolute favourite films. Cave is the mind behind the hypnotic compositions that accompany films like the Australian western The Proposition and The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford but his documentaries are more intimate, about the man behind the music and, in this case, just the bare bones of his melody. This new documentary explores the creative relationship and songs from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ last two studio albums, “Ghosteen” and “Carnage” as the two with the rest of the Bad Seeds, perform each song in a closed-off studio warehouse complete with intricate lighting at the height of the global pandemic. To see these gifted artists work to a sweating fever and include other artists like Marianne Faithful, who both have collaborated with before, is so fascinating. Cave is an absolutely tragic figure but definitely one of the most musically gifted creative minds and a film like this is a testament to that.

Blu-Ray:

Uncharted – I feel like the rights for this video game property from developer Naughty Dog were optioned by Sony so long ago with multiple stars attached at some point or another but I guess it just took their golden boy Tom Holland’s influence to get the film going finally. Mark Wahlberg had been attached to the lead role for a long time and had director David O. Russell behind the camera but now steps into the supporting role to Holland’s Nathan Drake and Venom director Ruben Fleisher at the helm. The story follows a young version of the street smart character as he is recruited by seasoned treasure hunter Victor “Sully” Sullivan to recover a fortune amassed by Ferdinand Magellan and lost 500 years ago by the House of Moncada. The film has the formidable Antonio Banderas in the lead villain role and is totally an action-packed and fun ride with some really cool-looking sequences and Indiana Jones-style puzzle scenes that had me totally nostalgic for these types of films. The chemistry between Holland and Wahlberg is really great and though there may come a time when we tire of Tom and his leading roles, it’s not here yet.

Marry Me – I’m still sort of baffled by it but apparently, Jennifer Lopez-led romantic comedies are still box office bankable although I think there is about a twenty million dollar step down from her last movie Second Act and this movie, one that was delayed for pandemic reasons. The charm is there as Owen Wilson does a questionable career movie by starring as her romantic lead in this, a reunion between the two Anaconda stars from twenty-five years ago. The film has JLo as music superstar Kat Valdez who is about to get married in a high profile wedding in from of all her fans to fellow star Bastian. when Kat learns, seconds before her vows, that Bastian has been unfaithful, she instead decides to marry Charlie, a school teacher in the crowd holding a “Marry Me” sign while attending the concert with his daughter. The trope here is mismatched worlds colliding and love winning out over everything and it plays out exactly how you would think it would, complete with all the eye-roll-inducing cliches. It all leads me to wonder if these films are on a conveyor belt for from com stars to pick out and even more baffling for me is this movie is based on a graphic novel, a medium always applauded for pulling from. I have been hoisted on my own petard for this terrible film.

Dog – Channing Tatum knows who he is and knows that the women and men will flock to his movies because he oozes sexuality and charm. As gross as it was for me to say ooze there, I know this is the case and I really also enjoy him as an actor but to bring a dog along for your new film in the co-star seat seems a bit like stacking the deck I think. Co-directing this film as well with the Magic Mike franchise writer Reid Carolin, he plays one of two former Army Rangers who are paired against their will on the road trip of a lifetime, the other one just happens to be a Belgian Malinois named Lulu. Together they buckle into a 1984 Ford Bronco and race down the Pacific Coast in hopes of making it to a fellow soldier’s funeral on time while pushing each other’s buttons, breaking a small handful of laws and narrowly avoiding death along the way. It seems crazy to say this but this may easily be one of my favourite movies this year, a film with charm and heart while telling a good character story with real issues at its center. The script is so fresh and funny and Tatum is the perfect guy to lead it. I wanted this film to do way better in theatres but now that it is on Blu-ray and streaming it may get that word of mouth it deserves.

The Cursed – When I was working at a video store I came across an indie film from a young Irish filmmaker named Sean Ellis called Cashback and I’ve been hooked ever since. His movies come across as creepy and fantastical but always play in a different pool of the mystery-thriller genre but for his new film he goes full-on gothic monster horror and it’s pretty awesome. Originally called Eight For Silver, the story is set in rural 19th-century France as a mysterious and possibly supernatural menace threatens a small village causing John McBride, a pathologist, to come to town to investigate the danger and exorcise some of his own demons in the process. The gore is immediately present and the darkness of this almost Lovecraftian levels of despair, this was quickly my type of movie about fifteen minutes in. Not to give any spoilers but there is a scene in this film that was so bold in its heightened horror that it caught me off guard and it reminded me of the great body scares John Carpenter brought to his The Thing remake. This movie will only appeal to a certain part of the horror community but those who are into it will love it immensely.

Clean – Adrien Brody is really wanting to do the antihero tough guy thing it seems as he co-wrote, produced and even did all the original music for this noir urban loner story from Paul Solet, a filmmaker I know mostly from horror. They’ve assembled a nice little ensemble around them too with the stalwart performances of Mykelti Williamson and The RZA to help out. The story follows a garbage man named Clean who is suffering from the relentless memories of a dark past but tries to follow a quiet life of redemption, helping a young girl and her grandmother out, his only connections in the world. He soon finds himself forced to reconcile with the violence of his past when the ties that he had in his past land at his doorstep threatening to burn everything he has left to the ground. This movie really wanted to be cooler than it actually is and it feels like it’s going well until halfway into it. Just before the third act, Brody gets all John Wick in the most ridiculous of ways, the heavy symbolism starts to wane and the botched execution of the script and story starts to shred around the viewer. The vision was there but everything else really fails to fill in.

The Beta Test – Jim Cummings is an indie filmmaker who is consistently on the rise and has given us multiple films already in his short career that have surprised and resonated to equal degrees. I’m still on the high of his last movie, The Wolf Of Snow Hollow, a small-town murder mystery that may or may not have a werewolf in it, so I was totally excited to get this new feature in my eyeballs. Simply put, this is a story of an engaged Hollywood agent who receives a mysterious letter for an anonymous sexual encounter and becomes ensnared in a sinister world of lying, infidelity, and digital data which go to further lengths of self-sabotaging everything in his life, both personal and professional. This is only the surface value of what this film contains, kicking off with one of the most explosively disturbing opening moments of a movie in recent memory. I also have to say that Cummings’ vibrant and manic energy in this film, as he is the star of his films as well, gave me some serious uncomfortable anxiety. I really dug the hell out of this movie.

The Carey Treatment – One of those classic Warner Archive films slipped into the mix this week and it’s always a good time to slip into some golden age Hollywood and this one is just that as it features the formidable James Coburn in a mystery thriller from the early seventies. The film also has him paired with Jennifer O’Neill, a leading actress who starred in some of the best films within a decade of this one and was directed by the usually hysterically funny Blake Edwards. The story follows Coburn as a doctor at a Boston hospital who must investigate the botching of an illegal abortion that kills a 15-year-old girl to clear the name of his colleague. This was such a dicey topic at the time but a hugely relevant thing to talk about now with the dealings in the Roe v Wade case recently. Edwards actually disowned the final film due to constant studio interference. He originally planned to leave the project during production, but after MGM threatened to destroy his career, he finished filming and quit the day production ended.

Kin: Season 1 – As a big fan of Daredevil but the film Stardust first and foremost, I love the work of actor Charlie Cox and really want him to succeed. Secondarily to that, I also really love a great gangster series and that is exactly what his new project is and it co-stars Game Of Thrones and The Wire’s Aidan Gillan, which is so much more fantastic British gangster swagger for me. The show tells the story of a fictional Dublin family embroiled in gangland war and speaks to the enduring unbreakable bonds of blood and family, something that will immediately interest the fans of the British series Peaky Blinders, especially as the run of that show is coming to an end. I’m really loving the slow boil of this show as it opens with the family tragedy that sets the fire of the series in motion and I really can’t wait to see where it goes. Seeing as the Blu-ray is labelled Season 1, I can only assume that more is coming as well.

Steve’s Blu-Ray & DVD Geek Outs:

Where Are You, Jay Bennett? – As an outside fan of Wilco, only really knowing a few tracks, it took me a while to figure out that this was a new documentary about a prominent founding member of the Chicago formed alternative rock band but once I was in the know, I was immediately interested because I love a good music film. The film is the story of Jay Bennett, a legendary musician and recording studio savant, who as a member of Wilco, was a large part of the genius behind their three seminal albums as well as the Mermaid Avenue/Woody Guthrie sessions with Billy Bragg. The film was written and directed by seasoned documentarian Gorman Bechard whose film Pizza: A Love Story had me hooked with an undeniably human story and that approach is how this movie won me over as well. With the utmost commitment from Jay’s family and friends, there is a solid portrait of talent I am just starting to really get and the human being that was being these great creations.

In The Army Now – The trifecta of my Pauly Shore buying spree concludes with this, his third feature film and one I totally think is underrated and doesn’t get brought up as much as the obvious choices in his library. I think this movie excels in the fact that he has Andy Dick, Lori Petty and David Alan Greer to play off of, making him that much more fortified in his comedy. The story follows him and Dick as two misguided youths who join the reserves to make some money for their entrepreneurial dreams. No sooner than they finish basic training, they are called up to do their part to save the free world and sent to a desert in the middle of nowhere, most likely to keep them out of trouble, labelled as the misfits they are. I remember this being such a milestone at the time because they made a big deal of shaving Pauly’s curly locks for the standard military hairdo, cutting the power of the Weasel off at its core. As I said, I still enjoy this movie but everything ages differently from everyone else.

The Good Fight: Season 5 – As a big fan of the series that this show spun off of, The Good Wife starring Julianna Margulies, I have been a fan of this show since it started on the less constrained CBS All Access for two reasons, the carryover star from that show, Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhardt and the always incredible Delroy Lindo. For those out of the loop, this series picks up one year after the events of the final broadcast episode of The Good Wife, where an enormous financial scam has destroyed the reputation of a young lawyer, played by Game Of Thrones’ Rose Leslie, while simultaneously wiping out her mentor and godmother Diane Lockhart’s savings. Forced out of Lockhart and Lee, they join Lucca Quinn at one of Chicago’s preeminent law firms to hopefully rebuild an empire. The show plays heavily on real politics and it may have become exhausting with the consistent anti-Trump message but I think they have now moved a bit past that with the current administration leaving a little bit less vitriol in the writer’s room. That said, Baranski still rules and I’ll watch her in pretty much anything.

Television:

Hacks: Season 2 (Crave) – I have been a fan of Iris Behr’s work ever since I discovered her show Svetlana almost by accident and ended up binging every episode of it I could find. For this series, now entering a widely anticipated second season, she teams with Broad City creator Lucia Aniello to tell the story of Deborah Vance, played by the great Jean Smart, a legendary Las Vegas comedian who enters into a very dark and sometimes totally inappropriate mentorship with Josefina, an entitled but totally socially outcast twenty-five-year-old. Josefina is played by actress Rose Abdoo, who was a small supporting player in the long-running Gilmore Girls, but really gets to shine here with some great chemistry with Smart who is truly hitting legendary status along with her what character is really supposed to be. I feel like this was a dark horse for HBO Max when it originally came out but with the awards that Smart earned and the feverish acclaim that critics and audiences alike gave it, the show has risen to be a flagship one for the streaming service I think.

The Kids In The Hall (Prime Video) – The kid that grew up on great Canadian comedy is over the moon right now as the legendary greatest comedy group of all time has resurrected their brand for a brand new series of sketch comedy and I want everyone to tune into it because we need to make sure that they get many more seasons to come. For those who don’t know and AREN’T CANADIAN TO THE FIBRE OF THEIR BEING this sketch series has Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, Scott Thompson and Kevin McDonald rebooting their CBC landmark series and hopefully bringing back some old favourites as well as new perspectives. I don’t want to put expectations on the show but I’ve seen everything they’ve done, gone and seen them live and have been waiting oh so long to see this show realized. I am damn excited about it.

Shoresy (Crave) – Letterkenny is getting a spinoff for the first time and I will stop naysayers right now that are saying they already got one in the animated Little Letterkenny because I don’t think that one counts. What’s really fun about this show is the fact that lead actor Jared Keeso is playing the lead in this too, a character who is actually a long-running in-joke for the full run of Letterkenny. This full realization of something that was a long time coming sees the foul-mouthed, chirp-serving, mother-loving, fan favourite character, Shoresy, join a senior AAA hockey team in Sudbury on a quest to never lose again. With all the explorations that they have already done with this character, especially in the Indigenous league, I’m so excited to see what Keeso and company do with this one and how many of the characters will cross over.

New Releases:

Doctor Strange And The Multiverse Of Madness – The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first film of 2022 rolls out this week and it definitely will play in more of the story that will affect the future of this world because it once again, after Spider-Man: No Way Home, plays with the ever-expanding multiverse and the consequences of that film. I was initially bummed that the director of the first film, Scott Derrickson, stepped away from this project but I think we are in great hands with the incredible Sam Raimi. To put this in a spoiler-free nutshell, the synopsis is that Doctor Stephen Strange has cast a forbidden spell that opened the doorway to the multiverse, including alternate versions of himself, whose threat to humanity is too great for the combined forces of Strange, Wong, and Wanda Maximoff leading them to gather a few more helpful combatants like the debuting America Chavez, a comic character I’m excited to see in live-action form. The trailer for this movie absolutely rocks and gets me excited every time I see it, especially because we get Raimi back in a comic book world after the much-maligned Spider-Man 3. I hope that he loves doing it so much that he and Tobey do Spider-Man 4.

Nitram – Without knowing anything about the story, I was drawn to this film solely for character actor Caleb Landry Jones who excels in every project I’ve seen him in, sometimes elevating the subject matter more than it already is. This is another deep character drama for him to sink his teeth into and I learned fully about the real-life story after watching it and it shook me even more than the film already did. The film follows him as Nitram, a dude definitely on the spectrum of autism who lives with his mother and father in suburban Australia in the Mid 1990s. He lives a life of isolation and frustration at never being able to fit in but unexpectedly finds a close friend in a reclusive heiress, Helen. However when that relationship meets a tragic end, and Nitram’s loneliness and anger grow, he begins a slow descent that leads to disaster and ultimately unspeakable violence. This film is based on the lead-up to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania in which 35 people were killed and 23 others were wounded by the hand of Martin Bryant and his semi-automatic rifle. Director Justin Kurtzel frames this film in an unflinching and rough way that drags us along in a slow descent into the dark paths of a broken mind. There are many trigger warnings in this but I felt so compelled by it, a fantastic film.

The Takedown – The release of this new Netflix-produced French action-comedy is really kind of funny as it is all connected to the turmoil of Justin Lin leaving the director’s chair of the new Fast And Furious installment. The director of this movie, Louis Leterrier, is now the man tapped to direct a doughy Vin Diesel for the next two movies so this, I guess, is the last thing of his we will see before he has Dominic Toretto on his mind. Starring Lupin’s Omar Sy and Laurent Lafitte, the film follows Ousmane Diakité and François Monge, two cops with very different styles, backgrounds and careers that worked together for many years ago but life took them into very different facets of the department. Now, the unlikely pair are reunited once again for a new investigation that takes them all the way up to the French Alps to investigate a murder with some possible white nationalist ties. Aside from the action scenes which seem to break up the monotony, this movie largely doesn’t work. The humour feels completely dated, especially the racial jokes with Sy being the sole black man for almost the entire duration, and the storyline feels so predictable and telegraphed. If this is what we have in store for Fast X and beyond the cliff, this series with a leap off will be so high that even more begging to The Rock will not revive it.

Sheryl – I am a real sucker for a good music documentary and sometimes I don’t even have to be a big fan of the artist to really enjoy the biography on how they got their success. This is definitely true with the subject of this movie, Sheryl Crow, as I was a big fan of her first album, Tuesday Night Music Club, but that was the extent of it. This film is more than just a run-of-the-mill artist’s story though and is a portrait of the singular storyteller who’s lived it all, seen it all but never told it all until now. From humble beginnings to sold-out world tours Sheryl Crow’s life has been extraordinary, creating a legacy that continues to inspire, including beating cancer at one of the lowest personal times of her life. With all of the Lance Armstrong drama being a large part of her life, I’m really fascinated by how they will cover that section of her experience, especially the marks that it made on her career that really had nothing to do with him.

The Twin – It’s not usual that Shudder makes its movie premiere’s release dates on a Friday, as it is usually done on the Thursdays before the weekend but I think it is because this movie has the higher profile of starring Teresa Palmer, who is the lead star in a Prime Video and Shudder co-produced show, A Discovery Of Witches. Well, Tez is heading back to a supernatural-infused story again but this one plays into family lineage in a decidedly creepier way. This film opens during the aftermath of a tragic accident that claimed the life of one of their twins, with parents Rachel and Anthony relocating to the other side of the world with their surviving son. What begins as a time of healing in the quiet Scandinavian countryside soon takes an ominous turn when Rachel begins to unravel the torturous truth about her son and confronts the malicious forces that are trying to take hold of him. The initial reviews on this film are really strong with a great sense of mystery and atmosphere enveloping it to make it an edge-of-your-seat nailbiter. There’s something about emotional fol horror that always lands with me and this film seems to have it written all over.

Blu-Ray:

Turning Red – Another Pixar release that had been given the direct route to Disney+  gets the upgrade to Blu-ray, a better format, but, again after Luca, I feel for the people behind this beautiful production because it would have played so wonderfully on the big screen. Even more a bummer, this film is distinctly Canadian as it is a fully Asian story that feels so fresh and original. The story follows a thirteen-year-old girl named Mei Lee who turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets too excited which, as it turns out, is a family tradition she was not informed of. The movie is put together by writer and director Domee Shi who did the Pixar short Bao, a little story that literally brought me to tears in theatres. There are many beautiful moments that will make you well up in this and that third act is gargantuan in stature and in heart as well. The kids will love this one but so will the adults.

Without Remorse – Prime Video relied on some of its pre-existing subscribers with this new action thriller as it will automatically nab the fans of their Tom Clancy series Jack Ryan which has people thirsty for more after the second season and it will rope in those who love Michael B. Jordan from his villain performance in Black Panther, his starring role in the Creed movies or all of those women and men who are just plain thirsty for him and his body. Written by Sicario and Yellowstone’s Taylor Sheridan, this film is about an elite Navy SEAL who uncovers an international conspiracy when a squad of Russian soldiers kills his family in retaliation for his role in a top-secret operation. Pursuing the assassins at all costs and joining forces with a fellow SEAL and a shadowy CIA agent (Jamie Bell), his actions unwittingly expose a covert plot that threatens to engulf the U.S. and Russia in an all-out war and torn between personal honour and loyalty to his country, he must fight his enemies ‘without remorse’ if he hopes to avert disaster and reveal the powerful figures behind the conspiracy. The action is awesome, the performances are solid and I really hope this is just the beginning of the adaptations of this Clancy character.

Constantine: The House Of Mystery – It’s a very comics-heavy week for this installment and I have to say that I’m not even a little apologetic about it but, to be fair, I usually bring an overabundance of horror and there is only one this week. Usually, these DC films are a full-length feature that runs about an hour and twenty minutes but this release is what’s called a DC Showcase and features four self-contained episodes, with three of them being pretty dark and dour. The main piece is the Constantine story that takes place after the events of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, which was essentially the end of the DC animated universe, and then it moves on to a couple more classic characters stories, including The Losers taking on dinosaurs before finishing off with a campy and fun in an Adam West sort of way with Blue Beetle. I have to say that more would have been better but I really did enjoy what we got here in a totally nerdy sense. This may be for the deepest of fans but I dug the whole thing.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Outs:

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 – It’s all Marvel this week in the Geek Outs as it is a pretty sizeable time in the anniversaries department starting out with this sequel that had such an insurmountable challenge of being at least as good as its predecessor. Well, I will say that it did what it set out to do but I had absolute faith it would because it was written and directed by the great James Gunn. The story picks up with the Guardians now recognized as heroes after saving Xandar from Ronan’s wrath. Now the team must help their leader Star Lord uncover the truth behind his true heritage. Along the way, old foes turn into allies, betrayal is on the horizon in many ways and the Guardians find that they are up against a devastating new menace who is out to rule the galaxy. The humour of these films is its strong point which is fueled by great casting, a snappy script and a banging soundtrack of great songs curated by a filmmaker who is so stellar at creating mood and atmosphere. This movie never pales anytime I watch it and I still quote things from it all the time.

The Avengers – Celebrating a decade since its release, this unfortunately Joss Whedon written and directed film pushed the boundaries in what we thought comic book movies could be and was the landing point of multiple solo movies to bring us an iconic supergroup. There were moments in this film that I experienced in theatres that I will never forget as a lifelong comic fan and I am eternally grateful to Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and everyone involved for getting us there. For those who have been under a rock for the past ten years in film, it follows a group of the Earth’s mightiest heroes who must come together and learn to fight as a team if they are going to stop the mischievous Loki and his alien army from enslaving humanity. This film has so many comic easter eggs hidden throughout but also is just a great series of moments for all of these stars to become completely comfortable in their character’s shoes and impart that onto each other. This was also the ground zero for so much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to come and still gets mentioned a lot even in the current fourth phase we are in the story. This still hits with so much excitement although I am happy that The Hulk’s look has been upgraded quite a bit.

Spider-Man – This is the comic book movie that really started it all in my world as I was too young to fully understand the ramifications of 1989’s Batman and, as good as that movie is, it ignores so much of what makes Batman the Caped Crusader. That said, Sam Raimi was the outside choice I’m sure no one saw coming, with films like Evil Dead and Army Of Darkness but as a fan of Darkman, I knew it was perfect. Tobey Maguire was the star, playing Peter Parker, a nerdy, shy, and awkward high school student who gains spider-like abilities when bitten by a genetically modified spider that he eventually must use to fight evil as a superhero after tragedy befalls his family. This movie acted as the template for a whole new cinematic genre to come and served as the jumping point for a Marvel Universe that we are lucky to have now. I always say that Tobey ran on the rooftops of New York so that we could see Iron Man fly for the first time and I still stand by that. This movie is still a total gem of an action-adventure and will always be in the hall of fame of theatrical experiences for me.

Television:

The Pentaverate (Netflix) – It’s been a while since we’ve gotten some Mike Myers live-action comedy, fourteen years to be exact since The Love Guru and comedy is a relative term on that one. Now we get the legendary Canadian funny man in a brand new series and he is also stretching his wings again in multiple characters, retrieving that Austin Powers like freedom of comedy once again. The show has him as an unlikely Canadian journalist who finds himself embroiled in a mission to uncover the truth and just possibly save the world himself at the same time. What if a secret society of five men has been working to influence world events for the greater good since the Black Plague of 1347? This is the question at the heart of this story, but is timely and dated but it still all seems to work. The show also features comedy legends Jennifer Saunders, Keegan Michael Key and Ken, the stoicism of Jeremy Irons and the Wayne’s World reunion of Myers and Rob Lowe and I can’t say I’m not more than a little curious about how it will all pan out.

The Wilds: Season 2 (Prime Video) – I love a good stranded on an island mystery, something I was trained for even before Lost hit the airwaves because The Prisoner had already instilled the weirdness in us via the conduit of Patrick McGoohan. I have to admit I was really late to the game with this one, a blindspot being earlier Prime Video productions, but I’m cruising through the first season currently and loving it. The series plunks you into the middle of everything without explanation and follows a group of teens who must survive after a plane crash leaves them stranded on a deserted island. In the present tense, the girls tell their stories to investigators who slowly piece together what happened to them as they were all connected by being sent to a retreat for wayward teen girls. This show is constantly pulling the rug from under you and I love every moment of it for being purely original and wildly unpredictable, no pun intended. The cast is fresh and new except for Six Feet Under alum Rachel Griffiths who plays a character I can even begin to give away. This may still be a sleeper so people really need to get on board with it now.

The Staircase (Crave) – If your series is led by Colin Firth and one of the greatest actresses to grace the screen, Toni Collette, well you’ve got yourself a hit with this guy immediately. Not only that but it is also a mystery that is the adaptation of a famous suburban murder that Nancy Grace obsessed over for years which is kind of cool but may turn others off due to the oversaturation of the story. This is once again the telling of the story of Michael Peterson, but this time by HBO and not Lifetime, a crime novelist accused of killing his wife Kathleen after she is found dead at the bottom of a staircase in their home. Beyond that, which is told in flashbacks, this follows the sixteen-year judicial battle that followed and features a great cast around Firth and Collette with Game Of Thrones’ Sophie Turner, Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Stuhlbarg, Dane Dehaan, Juliette Binoche and Parker Posey. I love these mystery melodramas that HBO puts out like The Undoing so I’m looking forward to this one.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Crave) – Well, I have made it a habit to check out everything Star Trek the streaming service of Paramount+ has done, ever since it started as CBS All Access, launching with what would set the flagship assail, Star Trek: Discovery. It was the second season that brought in Anson Mount as Captain Kirk’s processor, Captain Christopher Pike, along with his number two, played by Rebeccas Romijn and this universe’s version of Spock, which served to set up this brand new spin-off that looks really awesome. Effectively, this is exactly a prequel to that original series and how close we snug up to the William Shatner and Leanard Nimoy landmark series is really unknown but I do know that it has been getting really stellar reviews, which is honestly better than any of the other shows have gotten in their entire runs. I love what Mount has done with this character so I’m really looking forward to it.

New Releases:

Memory – The set up for this week’s releases feels like a harbinger of doom because we have not one but two Liam Neeson movies this week in varying degrees with Blacklight landing on blu-ray and this new geriatric action flick and don’t worry, Liam calls them that too. The only good thing heading into this is that it was directed by Martin Campbell who is usually very reliable given that he’s also done some kick ass Bond movies as well. Co-starring the beautiful Monica Bellucci in a villain role, the story follows Neeson as Alex Lewis, an expert assassin with a reputation for discreet precision who is caught in a moral quagmire, refusing to complete a job that violates his code. Quickly, he must hunt down and kill the people who hired him before they and FBI agent Vincent Serra, played by Memento’s Guy Pearce, find him first. Alex is also suffering from a rapidly deteriorating memory as he tries to piece together what is real and what isn’t. Again, because Neeson seems to bring the exact same energy to everything, this movie starts out on a high note and gets dulled down as it progresses. He has really carved out his own niche with these movies but are they really drawing the box office numbers to sustain them?

Firebird – I know it feels really taboo to talk about anything Russian these days, and with very good reason, and for that reason, I think this new 1970s set drama might get buried a bit. I feel it should get celebrated as it is an LGBT story at its heart and something that Putin is largely against so it almost feels like something to stick it to the man. The story follows a handsome, soulful young soldier who embarks on a clandestine sexual affair with a charismatic fighter pilot on a Soviet Air Force Base at the height of the Soviet Union’s Communist rule. The film is led by actor Tom Prior, who I know mostly from Kingsmen: The Secret Service, and written and directed by Peeter Rebane in his debut feature film and the gritty seventies look he gave it is so great. This film is some of that deep romantic melodrama but works against a backdrop of total stoicism and war classism. I don’t think this movie will make any sort of impression this weekend but may garner interest when it hits a streaming platform.

The Sadness – It takes a lot for me to be affected seriously by a horror film so I think that just adds a lot more weight to this new Taiwanese horror thriller which knocked me through a loop, to say the least. I’m good with excessive amounts of blood and guts, zombies, slasher films, monster movies and all of the others but this one fell unrelenting and I don’t mean it in a bad way either. The story follows a young couple trying to reunite amid a city ravaged by a plague that turns its victims into deranged, bloodthirsty sadists. Passed through blood and spit amidst a very relateable pandemic, the lengths to which some of these newly created psychos go in their kills absolutely floored me. Writer and director Rob Jabbaz seems to have carved out an insanely intrusive feeling nightmare of horror that reminded me a lot of the graphic novel Crossed from one of the greatest comic creators ever, Garth Ennis of Preacher and The Boys fame. While I don’t think I can recommend this to a casual horror fan, I do implore the hardcore to check it out and then reach out to me with what they thought of it. I feel like it was hideously groundbreaking.

Blu-Ray:

Blacklight – Liam Neeson has a death grip on these geriatric action films and while I really feel bad for calling it one and now feel that Neeson has put me on his mental shitlist to fight at a later date, he did say he was retiring from them unless I made that up in my brain. It would be acceptable if the action movies he was making beyond this fake retirement were any good but most of them don’t resonate beyond the end credits and feel like constant retreads. This one has him playing Travis Block, a government operative coming to terms with his shadowy past when he discovers a plot targeting U.S. citizens and now finds himself in the crosshairs of the FBI director he once helped protect. The film comes from writer and director Mark Williams who has apparently found his action-thriller comfort zone and is constantly working with the Taken action hero as he has had a hand in three of Neeson’s films since 2020 with this one included. I enjoy that former nineties heartthrob Aidan Quinn is the formidable foe for Liam to fight but nothing about the trailer or story seems like any new territory for audiences to discover.

Moonfall – Oh boy, the stupidity runs rampant and you just knew it had to when the name of writer and director Roland Emmerich is brought up, a filmmaker who loves to destroy the Earth in bigger and more ridiculous ways. Following his career making films like Stargate and Independence Day, which are both unique classics in their own ways, he chased his own madness down the rabbit hole for films like 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, an ill-advised Godzilla and a sequel to Independence Day without Will Smith and now we are here with the moon attacking the Earth. Seriously. The story starts with a mysterious force that knocks the Moon from its orbit around Earth and sends it hurtling on a collision course with the planet. With mere weeks before impact and the world on the brink of annihilation, NASA executive and former astronaut Jo Fowler (Halle Berry) is convinced she has the key to saving us all but only one astronaut from her past, Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and a conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman (Game Of Thrones’ John Bradley) believes her. These unlikely heroes will mount an impossible last-ditch mission into space, leaving behind everyone they love, only to find that they just might have prepared for the wrong mission in a movie that gets more and more insane and still utterly dull as it goes on. I didn’t care about any of the characters and even the big bombastic special effects get tiresome in a movie that overstays its welcome at over two hours long. This has been on Prime Video for a bit and I can’t see anyone wanting the blu-ray, personally.

Expired – After the dusty Australian mystery thrillers Mystery Road and Goldstone, the latter which I checked out at one of the Vancouver International Film Festivals, I was really set on the works of writer and director Ivan Sen. His films had a slow boil to them that brimmed off the screen and an attention to character that drew you in as well and for that reason I was very excited to receive his new film, a sci-fi love story. The film stars True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten as an assassin named Jack who crosses paths with a nightclub singer and becomes increasingly drawn to her depite his body mysteriously deteriorating when he near her. Jack tracks down reclusive life extension scientist named Doctor Bergman, played by the great Hugo Weaving, in a search for answers and he unearths the assassin’s long buried secret, forcing him to confront his own murky past. This film looks gorgeous, almost like Sen wanted to make an homage to the world of Blade Runner but with more of a meditation on Wim Wenders’ Until The End Of The World. The result is an ambitious story that is too dull to be effective. The performances are great but the story crawls into an unsatisfying third act and I was pretty let down by it all.

Orange County – This is one of those guilty pleasure movies that served as almost a coming of age time that you go through pretty much at the same time as the character. That sounds really vague but it all makes sense in the end. The film had Colin Hanks and Jack Black and it served as the launching point for director Jake Kasdan who would go on to make the masterpiece known as Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Hanks plays Shaun Brumder, a local surfer kid from Orange County who dreams of going to Stanford to become a writer and to get away from his dysfunctional family household except he runs into one complication after another starting when his application is rejected after his dim-witted guidance counsellor sends the wrong application. So, Shaun goes to great lengths with a little help from his girlfriend Ashley and his drugged-out loser brother Lance to get into Stanford any way they see fit leading to more problems which also include arson. This film still makes me laugh and is something I quote a lot because all of Jack Black’s lines are total comedy gold. It was written by Mike White, who is enjoying a lot of success right now with The White Lotus, and he was Black’s neighbour at the time, writing this role specifically for him. The gift kept on giving too because School Of Rock came from the two neighbourhood pals afterwards.

Win A Date With Tad Hamilton – Romantic comedies had their little booms in every decade, a genre that will never go away and will never not have a place in cinema life or on a date night. This new reissue hitting blu-ray this week definitely had its time in the sun and was a bit of a favourite when I worked at the video store and I have to credit a great cast for doing so. The film is about a small-town girl who wins a date with a male celebrity through a contest. When the date goes better than expected, a love triangle forms between the girl, the male celebrity, and the girl’s best friend who has always been pining for her attention. Very standard stuff that almost feels lifted from a sixties romantic film but it all works with the great performances from Kate Bosworth, Topher Grace and Josh Duhamel playing the titular Tad Hamilton. This was also an early film from director Robert Luketic who made these types of comedies as well as thrilling films like 21. Oh yeah, he was also responsible for a little film called Legally Blonde but I don’t think that one went anywhere. 

Steve’s Blu-Ray & DVD Geek Outs:

Son In Law – I’m bringing the post 420 gifts this week and I feel totally unashamed about it! Well, maybe there is a little bit of embarrassment with this one as it is fully led by Pauly Shore and a young Carla Gugino couldn’t help it from aging terribly. Essentially, she is kind of the lead of the story, playing a naive farm girl who returns home from her first semester of college as a drastically different party girl with her best friend, a flamboyant party animal who is clearly a fish out of water in a small farm town. I absolutely adored this movie when I was a kid as I was a huge Pauly fan and maybe quoted his lines a little too much. Now I see this movie as a springboard for some of the worst nineties comedy cliches and it also felt like it was aggressively horny the whole time which made me laugh in a whole new way.

Encino Man – This is a movie that was a total turnaround on me and my family’s Pauly Shore night and, yes, I sat around with my wife and mother-in-law for a viewing of both these films, if you can call them that. The difference-maker is the simple fact that Pauly needs other talented folks around him to elevate the movies and he has the charm of Sean Astin and Brendan Fraser to do that lifting. For those who haven’t seen it, the story follows two high school friends who find a frozen caveman buried in the backyard. They thaw him out and mad antics ensue as Dave, Astin’s character, tries to use the situation as leverage to get popular and to win the heart of his dream girl. This movie still comes across as funny and some of those scenes are still burned into my memory like an unerasable Etch-A-Sketch. I also really love the soundtrack to the film which also includes an unforgettable performance from funk-rock group Infectious Grooves and their song Feed The Monkey which I can’t seem to find anywhere.

44 Inch Chest – Aging British tough guy angles got a refresher course in this film which was a rekindling of the producers around the phenomenal but criminally under-talked about Sexy Beast and it even got most of the cast back for it but most importantly it features Ray Winstone and Ian McShane. This is gritty and angry crime drama to its core so if you aren’t into hearing the f word and the c-word over a hundred times each then steer clear of this one. The story follows Winstone as a jealous husband who plots with his friends the kidnapping of his wife’s lover with the intention of restoring his wounded ego. A kangaroo court takes place, and as the situation escalates, loverboy’s life hangs in the balance as Winstone’s desperate character wrestles with revenge, remorse, grief, and self-pity, all the while egged on by his motley crew of friends who just want him to get on with it so they can get down to the pub. With this film and the thriller Jawbone which hit theatres in a limited release about five years ago, it carved a niche in the aging British gangster narrative that I wish was explored more. The movie didn’t make any sort of dent in the popular film market but I found myself gripped by it and equally so on a rewatch.

Television:

We Own This City (Crave) – David Simon, the creator of one of the greatest shows of all time, HBO’s The Wire, has returned with some more Baltimore streets set crime stories but this time it’s based on a true story. From the book by Justin Fenton, This is the perfect time for a series like this and I guarantee that Simon and his band of usual suspect writers penned this during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests as well. I probably know this more because I follow him on Twitter and he’s very outspoken. Directed by King Richard’s Reinaldo Marcus Green and starring Jon Bernthal in the main roles, this series tells the story of the rise and fall of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force and the corruption surrounding it. Gripping from the first moments, this show deals with systemic racism, abuses of power by those who hold the badge and so much more. With only one episode under my belt, I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg and I can’t wait for the next five episodes.

The Offer (Paramount+) – This is a troubled television production about a source matter I was really intrigued and I’m so happy it’s here and even more elated that it is good. Sadly, it will all get overshadowed by the fact that Armie Hammer was replaced on it due to allegations that he is a cannibal and he was shuffled out for Miles Teller who is problematic in his own way but let’s not let that bog down the classic Hollywood story they are telling here. The film follows the experience of tech salesman turned Hollywood producer Albert Ruddy’s experience in getting the Mario Puzo novel The Godfather from the written page to the big screen. Great casting, fun writing and a known Hollywood as its backdrop kept me ravenously taking in each episode until I was all spent on the seventies era. As a cinema fan, this one is almost made exclusively for people of a like mind but I think it could have legs for other viewers as well. The saddest part of it all is that I’m done now and this is a one-season thing.

Ozark: Season 4 Part 2 (Netflix) – We are seeing the end of the Byrde’s story as well know it with the final run of episodes hitting Netflix this week and I definitely think it did it in a prolonging the magic but decidedly frustrating way by releasing two batches of episodes. In case you haven’t dug into the show yet, Jason Bateman plays Marty Byrde, a financial advisor in Chicago who is unknowingly been fudging numbers for the cartel, something his business partner hasn’t clued him in on until the finality of being murdered in from of him by the leader of this deadly group. A quick thinker under pressure Marty is able to convince him to spare his life by moving to the remote Ozarks to clean millions for his new boss, presenting an all-new set of problems for him, his wife who is played by the great Laura Linney and his two kids. The show is so phenomenally well done and Bateman himself directs a handful of episodes. Highly recommended if you have immersed yourself in it yet.

Barry: Season 3 (Crave) – One of the top new shows of the last few years has returned to an eagerly waiting fan base and, just judging by what I see on social media, it came back with a very satisfying episode. I love that it comes directly from the mind of one of my favourite former Saturday Night Live cast members, Bill Hader, who stars in the title role and it also features Henry Winkler who got so much awards recognition for it. Hader stars as depressed, low-level hit man Barry Berkman, a guy seeking a way out of his industry. When the Midwesterner reluctantly travels to Los Angeles to execute a hit on an actor who is bedding a mobster’s wife, Barry gets an epiphany that the City of Angels may be his sanctuary. He follows his target into acting class and ends up instantly drawn to the community of eager hopefuls, especially dedicated student Sally, who becomes the object of his affection. While Barry wants to start a new life as an actor, his handler, Fuches, has other ideas, and the hit man’s criminal past won’t let him walk away so easily. This show is so darkly funny and acerbic which is its driving force along with fantastic performances. This is the epitome of must-see television and you really got to reach out and hug HBO for it because they always seem to have the best of the best.

Grace And Frankie: Season 7 (Netflix) – Speaking of a Netflix series that is drawing to a close, this massive Netflix hit is finally here to finish its massively successful run and as a guy still playing catch up with the show I definitely have my opinion about the show and it’s direction. For those who don’t know, the story follows two women who find out that their husbands are not just work partners but have also been romantically involved for the last twenty years. The two ladies already have a strained relationship but try to cope with the circumstances together and even go into business with each other over the five seasons. I watch the series definitely for lead stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin but mostly for June Diane Raphael who plays Grace’s daughter Brianna, the highlight of the show to me. The downside to the show is the ex-husbands, played by Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen who consistently nauseate me and borderline make me want to fast forward through their scenes. This is so odd to me because in anything else I really love them. Either way, salute to a long-lasting comedy that got to go out on its own steam.

New Releases:

The Northman – Following his incredible films the VVitch and The Lighthouse, this new feature film from writer and director Robert Eggers is easily one of my most anticipated films of 2022. The atmosphere and the approach to the subject matter are always one of a kind. The simple fact that he is tackling the Viking era with this film and a cast that is familiar to him and some outstanding new additions make me even more excited. The story follows Prince Amleth, played by Alexander Skarsgaard, who is on the verge of becoming a man when his father is brutally murdered by his uncle, who kidnaps the boy’s mother. Two decades later, Amleth is now a Viking who’s on a mission to save his mother, kill his uncle and avenge his father in a viscerally violent art film that will most likely be on my best-of list at the end of the year even though I haven’t seen it yet. With a cast around Skarsgard featuring Anya Taylor Joy, Willem Dafoe, Ethan Hawke, Claes Bang and even Bjork, this is going to be one hell of an experience.

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent – Being a huge Nicolas Cage fan, which is no secret to any regular readers of my work, this seems like the ultimate goal for this legend to hit at least once in his career, playing an ultra version of himself. Add to that the added charm of starring The Mandalorian himself, Pedro Pascal, which gives this comedy even more of a draw and my anticipation for it is huge. In the film, he plays a cash-strapped Nick Cage who agrees to make a paid appearance at a billionaire super fan’s birthday party but is really an informant for the CIA since the billionaire fan is a drug kingpin and he is forced to live up to his own legend, channelling his most iconic and beloved on-screen characters in order to save himself and his loved ones. The onscreen chemistry between Cage and Pascal has me laughing so hard whenever I see the trailer and the addition of Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz as the CIA agents in question adds so much more to the hilarity as well. So excited for this movie too. What a movie week this is!

The Bad Guys – Based on a series of best-selling kids’ books, I knew nothing about this new Dreamworks animated movie but my daughter seems to know everything so when it comes to the subject of this new film I will just defer to being a fan of the voice casting in this. Led by an always charming Sam Rockwell, this film also has Marc Maron, Awkwafina, Richard Ayoade, Craig Robinson, Anthony Ramos, Zazie Beetz and many more, which would make a great adult comedy so I’m looking forward to what they do for the children and the parents who have to watch it along with them. The story follows notorious criminals Mr. Wolf, Mr. Snake, Mr. Piranha, Mr. Shark and Ms. Tarantula who are finally caught after a lifetime of legendary heists. To avoid a prison sentence, the animal outlaws must pull off their most challenging con yet, becoming model citizens. Under the tutelage of their mentor, Professor Marmalade, the dubious gang sets out to fool the world that they’re turning good. The animation style looks very cool and original, playing on a noir style almost with a dynamic shading to it which now looks confusing as I’m writing this but it really gives it a unique style. I’m sure that Dreamworks is hoping that this strikes with the reader fan base but as I haven’t heard of it before it might be smaller than they think.

Charlotte – As a big fan of foreign and European films, I really have a deep love for all French cinema and I have to say that their animation offerings are always so deep and have so much more to say than the mainstream pushed North American ones do. Instead of focusing on Shrek or whatever new Pixar commodity is up next, these films generally delve into something more real and totally grounded and this new film just happens to come from the creators of The Triplets Of Belleville, an incredible film from close to twenty years ago now. This film is based on a true story and is an account of German-Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon living in the south of France between 1941 and 1943. Fiercely imaginative and deeply gifted, she dreams of becoming a celebrated creator and her first love applauds her talent, which emboldens her resolve. Sadly, the world around her is changing quickly and dangerously, limiting her options and derailing her dream. When anti-Semitic policies inspire violent mobs, she leaves Berlin for the safety of the South of France. There she begins to paint again and finds new love but her work is interrupted, this time by a family tragedy that reveals an even darker secret. Believing that only the extraordinary will save her, she embarks on the monumental adventure of painting her life story in a film that hits hard in its end credits with the reality of Charlotte’s situation and untimely end. For the English version, Keira Knightly gives voice to the title character but in France, it was Marion Cotillard, a personal favourite of mine. This movie is heavy but bold and quite beautiful at the same time.

Blu-Ray:

Cyrano – The story of Cyrano De Bergerac has been told many times with many different actors taking the role like Gerard Depardieu and Jose Ferrer being the notables but when I saw Game Of Thrones star Peter Dinklage and Atonement filmmaker Joe Wright attached to this, I got immediately interested. What turns me off of it a little bit is that it is a musical but I’m willing to push that aside for a well-made movie. The story follows the title character, a man ahead of his time who impresses everyone with ferocious wordplay at a verbal joust or with brilliant swordplay in a duel but, convinced that his appearance renders him unworthy of the love of a devoted friend, the luminous Roxanne, Cyrano has yet to declare his feelings for her and Roxanne has fallen in love, at first sight, with Christian. The film is getting fantastic reviews and most of them praise Dinklage’s performance which this rests solely on in a lot of places but the help of supporting roles from Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Ben Mendelsohn definitely elevate it as well. It was also shot by Seamus McGarvey who makes absolute gold with Wright time after time.

Jackass Forever – This may seem weird for a guy who loves to review Oscar-nominated and arthouse films but this is one of the most anticipated sequels and one I’ve been waiting a long time for. Yes, this is a justification coming from a forty-year-old dude but, to be honest, I grew up into my adulthood with Jackass the series, the movies and the CKY or Camp Kill Yourself videos that came before it and have been a longtime fan that even wore a wristband from the second film until it all but deteriorated off my body. Now having proven my fandom, we welcome this new and final film that brings back all but Ryan Dunn, who sadly passed away and Bam Margera who has been going through some notable drug and alcohol issues as well as severe mental health ones. What to expect from this one? Well, what do you usually go into these gross-out and low-bar series of stunts and practical jokes? Just go in with the brainpan closed off to any smarts and laugh your jackass off. That’s what I did and it paid off well.

The King’s Daughter – Looking at the cover of this blu-ray, it feels like it would have fit in well during the early to mid-2000s in the time of Ella Enchanted and films like that but this one plays it a bit more earnest which I believe is one of its many faults. The casting is solid though, featuring Pierce Brosnan, Kaya Scodelerio, Pablo Schreiber and William Hurt in one of his final performances and the writing was promising with Ang Lee’s guy James Schamus penning the screenplay. The film follows Brosnan as King Louis XI and his quest for immortality which leads him to capture a mermaid to harvest her life force, a move that is further complicated by his illegitimate daughter’s discovery and immediate bond to the creature. This movie is beyond corny and, while still looking like a multi-million dollar production, is a misstep in every way. Predictable and groan-inducing, the film consistently feels like a film that was shelved for twenty years and forgotten about which is almost half true as it was made eight years ago and just got released now. The delay came from a series of events starting with the studio’s lack of enthusiasm with the cut they were originally presented with followed by Fan Bingbing getting into trouble with the Chinese authorities for non-payment of taxes. As the film featured a then major star in Chinese cinema and Chinese investors stumped up 50% of the budget, her income tax issues and the negative publicity in China effectively killed her career there and with it any chance of a lucrative Chinese release. With Pierce Brosnan as the only international star in the cast and without a major studio to back the release campaign, the film sat and collected dust which was probably for the best.

The Humans – With the buzz from film festivals and critics who got an early look at the film starting at the Toronto International Film Festival, I knew that this movie would be one of note but I didn’t want to know anything beyond that it was a Tony Award-winning play. This cast had me immediately on board, with Richard Jenkins, Beanie Feldstein, June Squibb, Steven Yuen and Amy Schumer, but the substance behind it is where it excels and I won’t tip the hat at all to what it contains. The film is set inside a pre-war duplex in downtown Manhattan and follows the course of an evening in which the Blake family gathers to celebrate Thanksgiving but, as darkness falls outside the crumbling building, mysterious things start to go bump in the night and buried family tensions begin to reach a boiling point. This movie goes from conventional drama to veiled horror in unpredictable moments and it is so crazily unexpected that I slowly felt myself falling in love with it. The acting hits a crescendo that solidifies it as one of the strongest of the year but it’s the puppeteering of writer and director Stephen Karam that brings it there. This may not be for everyone but I’m saying this is one of last year’s best films.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

6:45 – Just one sole geek out this week and it just happens to be in a favourite genre for The Shift, the horror story! This one combines that lovely styling of films with the vacation subgenre making everyone’s thoughts and dreams cloudy with screams, terror and, of course, blood! The film is distributed by Well Go USA, a company usually behind Asian cinema from every eastern country but this is a strictly American production that features a totally unestablished cast. In a “Groundhog Day” style story, the film follows Bobby Patterson, a man who is taking one last romantic shot at saving his rocky relationship with his girlfriend, Jules Rables, by taking her on a weekend getaway to the picturesque island resort of Bog Grove. To their bewilderment, the sleepy beach town is curiously deserted but they soon learn about its notorious and bloody history, one that’s about to repeat itself again and again. This movie was a pleasant surprise for me as I’m used to seeing some of the bottom of the barrel, eye-roll-inducing crap. Maybe it’s due to me really liking the time loop device in horror and this film using it well, even if it peters out a bit in the finale. Even still, it was one of the more enjoyable horror stories this year that I hadn’t heard of previously.

Television:

The Flight Attendant: Season 2 (Crave) – I have to admit that for a long time whenever I saw anything with Kaley Cuoco in it for over a decade I automatically think of her character Penny from the long-running series The Big Bang Theory because that’s just the stigma that these sitcom stars are saddled with. Now she has been Harley Quinn in animated form for three going on four seasons and the first season of this dark comedy mystery really earned her a lot of acclaim. In the show, she plays flight attendant Cassandra Bowden who wakes in her hotel room in Dubai, hungover from the night before and with a dead body lying next to her. Afraid to call the police, she continues her morning as if nothing happened, joining the other flight attendants and pilots travelling to the airport but in New York, she is met by FBI agents who question her about her recent layover in Dubai. Still unable to piece the night together, she begins to wonder if she could be the killer. I love the mystery drive of this series and it was created by writer Steve Yockey, who wrote for years on the recently ended Supernatural and more so I have some high hopes for where this continuation of the show is going, especially because I had assumed that it would be just a limited series.

Russian Doll: Season 2 (Netflix) – I might be putting a lot of hopes into the sophomore season of this great time loop series but I believe it has all the elements to have some continued success and may even bring more viewers in through word of mouth this time around. Natasha Lyonne stars as a woman who is desperately trying to escape a party thrown for her for one reason or another. The compounding issue is that every time she makes a break for it she dies in varying ways and then is reset to the beginning of the party again in sort of a Groundhog Day scenario. I really hope I threw you for a swerve in that description because that is exactly what the trailer for the first season did for me and I fell deeply in love with it. Created by Lyonne, Amy Poehler and the very funny Leslye Headland, this is probably your next binge and it would be a more than worthy one.

Mayans M.C.: Season 4 (FX) – Sons Of Anarchy fans, myself included, still have something to cling to as this series has broken through its uncertain period and now Kurt Sutter has exited as showrunner and it’s been fully on co-creator Elgin James’ plate for the past season or so. The show is thriving with its new sort of Jax, EZ, played by JD Pardo, a character that starts his journey from the bottom as a prospect which adds to a different dynamic in the show. I love the supporting cast like Edward James Almos and Tudors star Sarah Bolger and the returning actors Ray McKinnon and Emilio Rivera in their Sons of Anarchy roles, this all taking place in a post-Jax Teller world. As a merchandise-owning fan of the original series, I will ride with this show until the wheels fall off. Blood feuds have come and gone, new feuds have started and the show is more engaging than ever. Just hook it to my veins!

A Very British Scandal (Prime Video) – If it’s a British true story and Claire Foy is a lead role then you definitely have my attention but when you add one of my favourite character actors of all time, Paul Bettany, into the mix then you make it one of my most anticipated things of the week. Foy is also getting a second kick at the Royal family as well with this being very Winsor-centric, returning her to the wheelhouse of The Crown once again. This limited series is the story of events surrounding the notorious divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll during the 1960s, a story that I really had no information going into but the advanced word says that Foy and Bettany are really great at playing two completely loathsome characters and that totally has me fired up. Funny enough that no one involved in The Crown had anything to do with this show as it comes from showrunner Sarah Phelps who cut her teeth in writing for over fourteen years on Eastenders. Scandal is definitely her wheelhouse but this is definitely on a bigger scale, historically speaking.

New Releases:

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore – I head into this second sequel in the spinoff prequel of the Harry Potter franchise with a few mixed emotions. The first Fantastic Beasts film I found to be really fun with some great characters and storytelling but the second film, The Crimes Of Grindelwald, felt way too much at once being shoved into a single movie which grew tedious as the story moved on. Now we return to the world of wizarding with Dumbledore, played by Jude Law, at its head. With the knowledge that Grindelwald, now played by the great Mads Mikkelsen, is intent on seizing control of both sides of the world, both magic and ordinary, Albus must enlist Magizoologist Newt Scamander to lead an intrepid team of wizards, witches and one brave Muggle baker on a dangerous mission, where they encounter old and new beasts and clash with Grindelwald’s growing legion of followers. The good thing is, from all early reviews of it, we get more of a return to what made the first movie so entertaining and they don’t feel like they cram in and rush little storylines that come to fruition later. I wonder how now they will deal with the problematic casting of Ezra Miller who now seems like more of a PR problem than Johnny Depp ever was.

Father Stu – With the news that Mark Wahlberg may soon be retiring from mainstream Hollywood filmmaking and focusing only on faith-based stories like this one, it adds all that much more disappointment to covering this one which was already at a low with the casting of Mel Gibson. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, n good storytelling has come out of the faith-based market ever and I have suffered through too many of them. This one follows the life of Father Stuart Long, played by Wahlberg, a boxer-turned-priest who inspired countless people during his journey from self-destruction to redemption. Everything about the trailer for this movie feels like a pandering message-driven story that once again focuses on delivering the ideals over being an actually entertaining movie. I don’t need to be preached at about faith and belief but that is all these films seem to do. Seriously, how many people are being converted to Christianity or catholicism during an outing to the movies? Just give it up already.

Choose Or Die – I can’t lie, I had some hopes for this new technology-driven horror movie that played with the trope of being based around an 80s style video game but having lived through 2006’s Stay Alive in theatres, a video game horror slasher film that was terrible, I should have known better. My draw to this, besides what I previously mentioned, is it has Sex Education’s Asa Butterfield and Freddy Krueger himself, Robert England, but the latter was in voice form only and he kind of plays himself. The story follows a broke student who, in pursuit of an unclaimed $100,000 prize, plays an obscure 1980s survival computer game and after a series of unexpectedly terrifying moments, she soon realizes she’s no longer playing for the money, but for her own life. The premise is neat but that’s all there is to this bare-bones horror film that relies on cheap sound drive jump scares and some janky special effects to get its thrills across. Butterfield plays a small supporting role to drive the main character’s narrative and I feel like nothing comes together in any logical sense in the third act. Disappointing all around.

All My Puny Sorrows – I really have a place in my heart for festival darlings and not only does this one hold that title but it won a handful of awards at last year’s Vancouver International Film Festival which gives the love that local flavour. Beyond that, the film features leading performances from two favourite Canadian actresses, Alison Pill who I’m currently watching on Picard and Sarah Gadon who I have loved in absolutely everything she has done. The film is based on the international best-selling novel by Miriam Toews and is the poignant story of two sisters, one a concert pianist obsessed with ending her life and the other, a writer, who is wrestling with this decision, makes profound discoveries about her herself. With mental health finally being something discussed more openly, this film is an important narrative to get out to the masses and writer and director Michael McGowan does an incredible job in conveying it. It also adds to a killer list for the filmmaker as his Joshua Jackson drama One Week is a Canadian favourite of mine.

Kicking Blood – Vampire horror is a dicey thing to get into these days, especially with the absolute classics that reside in that side of the genre, so if you’re going to do it, you better expect many people to compare it to things they have already seen before. That is the minefield that Canadian writer and director Blaine Thurier is navigating with his new feature film but he isn’t a stranger to the overarching genre as he is following u his last film, a high school-set dark comedy horror called Teen Lust. This story follows Anna, a centuries-old vampire who spends her nights watching Robbie, a charming but reckless young man that is recovering from his alcoholism. Finding that her possible obsession might be something more deep and human in nature, she decides to quit blood and restore her humanity. The film doesn’t feature any widely recognizable cast but lead actress Alanna Bale is so compelling in her performance that it is hard not to be drawn into the drama of it all. This film played at the Vancouver International Film Festival last year and I heard a bit of buzz about it then but finally seeing it, I was really impressed with how well the story is told against a pretty low budget.

Blu-Ray:

Spider-Man: No Way Home – It was pretty damn cool to head into the end of the year with the biggest Marvel movie of 2021 and a film that changed the landscape of that cinematic universe for the next phase. There was so much speculation heading into this film, one that brings the multiverse into the equation and we knew from the trailers that Alred Molina’s Doc Ock, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and Jamie Foxx’s Electro appear but the big question was do Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Spideys drop in as well? I think a large number of us know the answer to that now but I’ll still play vaguely on it. The film takes up just after Spider-Man’s identity was revealed, forcing Peter to ask Doctor Strange for help. When a spell goes wrong, dangerous foes from other worlds start to appear, forcing Peter to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man. Again, I’ll play non-spoiler games here ad not delve in on the secrets revealed in this awesome thrill ride but I will say that it is possibly one of the most entertaining films in the whole Marvel universe and proves not just how great of a Spider-Man Tom Holland is but just how damn good that Willem Dafoe is as well. There’s a reason that he is consistently my favourite actor in everything he does.

Gold – Zac Efron’s most recent adventures were documented in his Netflix docuseries Down To Earth which had him travelling around the world with wellness expert Darin Olien in search of healthy, sustainable ways to live but it must have also been to help prepare him for this new survival thriller because it really seemed to pay off. Interestingly enough, he almost died making the reality show so it’s even more fitting that this film takes place in one of the most deadly places on the planet as well. The film is set in the not-too-distant future and follows Efron as a drifter travelling through the desert who discovers the largest gold nugget ever found with his driver who is reluctantly escorting him through the harsh terrain. While his new business partner treks off to find an excavator to dig up their find, the drifter is left to his own devices to guard it against thieves amid harsh conditions and wild dogs while waiting for his meal ticket to return. Beautifully shot but dour and depressing, this movie is as harsh as they come and shows, without any flinching, a man whose body is torn apart by the elements he faces. Efron is put through the absolute wringer in this film and I felt captivated the whole time. The viewer takes a beat, albeit far less than the character on screen, but it is quite the journey.

Last Looks – Just like anyone else that sees the cover of this new blu-ray, I feel all kinds of weirdness seeing Mel Gibson in any sort of prominent role, a guy that has had no remorse for any of the bad things he has done but still gets rewarded anyways. That said, the film is lead by Charlie Hunnam and I am a huge Sons Of Anarchy fan so I had no choice but to pop it in and press play. The film is based on a novel of the same name by author Howard Michael Gould, who also wrote the screenplay, and follows a disgraced ex-cop named Charlie Waldo who seeks solace by moving to the woods, but finds his quiet life shattered when a studio executive recruits him to investigate the high profile murder of a famous actor’s wife. As against this film as I felt initially, I found myself falling deeper and deeper into the storyline as it progressed, filled with intriguing characters and some well-written dialogue. The film isn’t really anything largely special but I do appreciate the private investigator Hollywood noir of it all and I wouldn’t be against seeing more of the Waldo character as Gould already has another novel in this progressing series out.

Spiritwalker – South Korean cinema is still and forever will be my total jam and this new action thriller with a little bit of a sci-fi element filled that bucket for me so well. It doesn’t come from a filmmaker that I’m at all familiar with, Jae-geun Yoon in just his second feature film, but he has quickly been put on my list of people to keep an eye on, especially his last movie Heartbeat which features Lost actress Yunjin Kim. This stylish film kept me on the edge of my seat though, a fantasy action that revolves around a man who loses his memory and subsequently wakes up in a new body every twelve hours. As the reasoning around his predicament becomes increasingly clear, his peril becomes more heightened and Yoon and his cinematography hold his perspective so well. These films are still very niche, no matter what the acclaim that Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite should have done for Korean films after the Oscars, so they all seem like hard sells still but they arguably make better action thrillers than most of the North American productions. If you aren’t going to see the Bay-hem of Ambulance in theatres now, this would be a solid runner-up.

American Flyers -Warner Archive hooked me up with a Kevin Costner double feature this week and it’s pretty cool because the two films occupy certain niches in his career starting with this one, the sports movie. It is the beginning piece to a trend that would encompass a golf movie, a relay racing film, a football draft story and multiple baseball films and I definitely think it was a really solid start. He plays Marcus in this, a sports physician who persuades his unstable brother David to come with him and train for a bicycle race across the Rocky Mountains. Marcus doesn’t tell David that he has a brain aneurysm that could render him paralyzed or dead at any given moment and while his brother powerfully heads for the victory, he has to realize that the contest is now beyond his capabilities and his progressing disabilities. This was just at the beginning of Costner’s leading man career and he hadn’t hit his stride yet as an A-lister but this movie excels on the work of director John Badham, fresh off of WarGames, and writer Steve Tesich who had just earned acclaim for The World According To Garp. The drama is so well told and the chemistry between Costner and his co-stars David Marshall Grant, Rae Dawn Chong and Alexandra Paul is solid and keeps you into it.

Fandango – This is a special film in the career of the great Kevin Costner as it is the first collaboration between him and writer and director Kevin Reynolds with the duo pairing to do two more films afterwards with Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves and the unfairly maligned Waterworld, as well as the Hatfields & McCoys series. This film also pushes the great ensemble tendency for Costner again as Judd Nelson and Sam Robards feature alongside him with Suzy Amis and Gleanne Headly in supporting roles. The film is an emotional story of a “last hurrah” and the changing of innocence following five college buddies from the University of Texas circa 1971 who embark on a final road trip odyssey across the Mexican border before facing up to uncertain futures, in Vietnam and otherwise. A cool story about this film, it was the feature-length version of Reynolds’ short student film from when he was in USC film school which was seen by Steven Spielberg who coaxed him into making it a feature film that was definitely underappreciated critically in its time and has found a positive reaction since.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

The Cabin In The Woods – I am fully in the know of how unacceptable it is to praise Joss Whedon as a creator now that the grossness of his past actions has been brought to light but I instead use this film to give accolades to Drew Goddard, the director and co-writer of this brilliant horror-comedy that was shelved by the studio for so long because they didn’t understand where to release it in the year and had no idea how beloved it would become to the fan base. It really took Chris Hemsworth’s success in Thor to give it a new theatrical life. This movie is fantastic in every way but I’ll keep spoiler-free for those who haven’t seen it and just say that it is about five friends who go for a break at a remote cabin, where they get more than they bargained for and discover the sinister and crazy truth behind the cabin in the woods. Featuring Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Fran Kranz and Jesse Williams, this might be one of my favourite horror films of all time and no one at all is prepared for the game-changing twists or that insane third act. True movie magic.

Frailty – This is a great week for the geek-outs as I wasn’t sent anything late so I get to delve into the anniversaries of the week, as that previous entry with its ten-year birthday. This thriller here is turning twenty this week and is one of my all-time favourites as well and was also the directorial debut of the late, not forgotten and sorely missed Bill Paxton. Paxton stars in a major supporting role but the heavy lifting is done by Matthew McCougnahy and Powers Boothe in a story about a mysterious man who arrives at the offices of an FBI agent to recount his childhood and how his religious fanatic father received visions telling him to destroy people who were in fact “demons.” This movie brilliantly plays with your perceptions of what the final truth is and is crafted so masterfully until its sinister final act. There are many fans of this film that wanted a sequel but I’m so happy it was left to breathe on its own because I believe it is a perfect southern gothic tale in every way.

Grosse Pointe Blank – I’m a huge John Cusack fan and have been for a long time and this is a film in his filmography that I will always hold close to my heart, along with High Fidelity, but I assure you the love does come from before this. This one is really special as well because he co-wrote the screenplay for it and it shows off that great dark humour that he wears on his sleeve in so many roles. For those who have never seen this absolute gem that is celebrating twenty-five years, it follows Martin Blank, a professional assassin sent on a mission to a small Detroit suburb, Grosse Pointe, which is also, by coincidence, his hometown and his ten-year high school reunion party is taking place there at the exact same time. All the awkwardness of those reunions is at play at the exact same time that a rival killer is looking to snuff out the competition, played so well by the great Canadian, Dan Aykroyd. With a soundtrack that you can’t help but tap your toe along to and a script that is hilarious and infinitely quotable, there is no wrong time to see this movie for the first time. Trust me, it is a total classic.

Television:

Roar (AppleTV+) – I’ve said it many times before but I think AppleTV+ is one of the only streaming services that are taking bold chances with their programming, sometimes picking up other network and studio cast-offs, and this new series fits the niche of original and offbeat shows. What took me in right away about this show was how non-linear it came across in its approach and, aside from the mega-stardom of Nicole Kidman and the always fantastic Betty Gilpin from GLOW, it relies on its writing and focused subject matter to do it. The description feels very vague on the outside but to put it in nutshell it is an insightful, poignant, and sometimes hilarious portrait of what it means to be a woman today featuring a unique blend of magical realism, familiar domestic and professional scenarios, and futuristic worlds. The show actually comes from a novel by author Cecelia Ahern, an Irish writer who gifted the from com audiences with favourites like P.S., I Love You but this one is a totally different sort of beast and offers some gender empowerment that sometimes isn’t present in the mainstream television ideals. It feels very much like a cut and dry single season so I think it’s easy to call this one a limited series.

Anatomy Of A Scandal (Netflix) – Nothing ropes viewers in better than a controversial and maybe seedy storyline and, honestly, no one does it better than the Brits when it comes to depicting it because the BBC has been doing knockout work in this type of show for years. Netflix seems to want their cut of that action as they’ve produced this new series and enlisted a handful of recognizable actors but only if you’re an avid watcher of British television and to be honest most of them are faces that I can’t put immediate names to. The story infiltrates Britain’s elite through personal and political scandal, where the truth lies between justice and privilege following James and Sophie Whitehouse who live in a blissful and rarified world. A Minister in Parliament with a loving family at home, James’ trajectory appears without limits until a scandalous secret suddenly comes to light. Barrister Kate Woodcroft has a trajectory of her own, and her prosecution threatens to tear into Westminster, the Whitehouse marriage, and her own personal esteem. The subject matter and how it is taken on may feel a bit dry to North American viewers who are used to a glossier sort of courtroom procedural but for me, a fan of Broadchurch, Law & Order UK and Vera, all of this plays so well into my wheelhouse. That said, I don’t at all expect this series to be a runaway hit at all, just a pleasant discovery for Netflix subscribers.

Hard Cell (Netflix) – Speaking of British programming, this new comedy series caught my eye because of the lead star Catherine Tate who, for me, is always memorable as one of Doctor Who’s Companions, Donna Noble, but for many she is remembered as one of the many replacements for Michael Scott on The Office when Steve Carrell departed the show. Now she gets to stretch her comedy wings again, something she is incredibly good at, even on Doctor Who, and play around with portraying multiple characters. Taking a bit from The Office’s styling, developed by the great Ricky Gervais of course, the series is a documentary-style show that follows a filmmaking crew filming the inmates and staff of HMP Woldsley while Tate portrays multiple characters to capture the penal system at its brutal humorous best. There is a lot of obviously British-focused lampooning in this but for a guy like me that was raised on this country’s comedy, through the Canadian PBS broadcasting, all of it plays so well with me. Like the previous entry on this list, the series may not appeal to a broader North American audience but I’m sure it will land with a United Kingdom comedy-seeking crowd.

Outer Range (Prime Video) – Josh Brolin is an easy sell for almost everyone as he is guaranteed to have been in a film you love, dating all the way back to The Goonies because, damn, wasn’t Brand the epitome of cool? Well, he heads to the open country but this one isn’t No Country For Old Men or anything Cormac McCarthy but something more mysterious and I’m still trying to figure out what. Co-starring the equally phenomenal Imogen Poots and Lili Taylor, this series centers on Royal Abbott, a rancher fighting for his land and family, who discovers an unfathomable mystery at the edge of Wyoming’s wilderness, delving into some seemingly supernatural mystery. The series was created by Brian Watkins who has no other credits under his name but sometimes that works out in a sort of wunderkind fashion as it did for the Duffer Brothers with Stranger Things. Now, I’m not trying to set up the expectations that that series have levelled with its fans but I am really excited to see an original idea fleshed out with the power of Prime Videos wallet which is immense just based on the budget that The Marvelous Ms. Maisel has.

New Releases:

Sonic The Hedgehog 2 – If you ask my daughter what the biggest movie of the year is she will without hesitation point to this film, the sequel to the best movie of 2020 just before we headed into the shutdown of the pandemic. Video game adaptations are more often than not completely awful but the first film was well constructed, brilliantly cast and made with the same love that the fans have for this beloved SEGA character. This film picks up right after the first film with Sonic embracing his newfound hero role when the manic Dr. Robotnik returns to Earth with a new ally, Knuckles the Echidna. Together with his new ally Tails, the blue and speedy hedgehog had to take down not just his old enemy but an unpredictable foe that is very similar to himself. The initial reviews are really great for this movie promising that if you loved the first movie you will indeed adore this one just as much. The trailer is all sorts of fun and I’m excited to get more characters from Sonic’s world and can’t wait to see how the third movie will be set up which has already been greenlit.

Ambulance – Looking to blow things up in the biggest ways possible with the story usually being a secondary motion, Michael Bay is back on the scene with this new action thriller that only has my attention because of the lead stars of Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul Mateen III who are always incredible on screen. I used to be into the “Bay-hem” of this action pioneer but have been dulled down by too many Transformers films and the cacophonous noise of his style but maybe the low bar will work out in my favour. The film follows two desperate men who pair for the biggest bank heist in Los Angeles history with a take of $32 million. Of course, things go wrong and they hijack an ambulance with a wounded cop clinging to life and an ace EMT on board, played by Baby Driver’s Eiza Gonzalez. With it being a Michael Bay film, besides explosions, it will be full of insane camera twirling, sunkissed shots of the Los Angeles cityscape and more of his trademarks but I’m hoping that the acting elevates this one because he has some heavyweights. The movie is also a remake of a 2005 thriller out of Denmark as was Gyllenhaal’s previous film, The Guilty, which is fantastic and on Netflix right now.

All The Old Knives – I feel like it’s been a long while since we’ve seen Chris Pine in a leading capacity, the last time being the complete downgrade of a Wonder Woman sequel. He has great company for this new Prime Video released espionage thriller with Thandiwe Newton who has always been a favourite but rides even higher now with the phenomenal Westworld character Maeve in recent memory. They play two CIA operatives, and former lovers, who reunite at idyllic Carmel-by-the-Sea to re-examine a mission six years ago in Vienna where a fellow agent might have been compromised. The film comes from Danish filmmaker Janus Metz who compelled with his sports biopic Borg McEnroe which I had the pleasure of seeing at the Vancouver International Film Festival, and he also did some episodes of the second season of True Detective so he has experience in a darker form of storytelling. It’s interesting to note that it was supposed to be Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, who starred together in The Mountains Between Us, and at one time Michelle Williams was attached as the lead.

Metal Lords – Someone at Netflix must have my best interest in mind because they have gifted me and everyone else, I guess, with a film so embedded with the love of heavy metal that you feel it in every moment. This, paired with the warm and funny heart of Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist director Peter Sollett, makes this immediately one of my most enjoyed films of the year. The story follows two kids who want to start a heavy metal band in a high school where exactly two kids care about heavy metal. Hunter is a diehard metal fan who knows his history and shreds with an undying dream to win the upcoming Battle of the Bands. He enlists his best friend Kevin to man the drums but with schoolmates more interested in Bieber than Black Sabbath, finding a bassist is a struggle until Kevin overhears Emily playing her cello. The motley crew must contend with school, parents, hormones and teen angst while trying to get along long enough for Skullfucker to win the Battle of the Bands. With a killer soundtrack, a staple in Sollett’s films, great performances from a stellar young cast and thoroughly funny script I don’t think it’s hyperbole to call this a crowd pleaser but I think it would be better to call it a mosh pit pleaser. Damn, this movie was so great.

Mothering Sunday – If you’re in the mood for some post World War I British romance then this is a damn good week for you because this film ticks all the boxes plus it features Colin Firth and Olivia Coman in supporting roles which is the set up to an actor’s dream showcase. The film also features actress Odessa Young in the lead role, looking for some redemption after The Stand, opposite Josh O’Connor who swept television award shows recently for his portrayal of Prince Charles in the Netflix series The Crown. The story follows a maid living in England after the war who secretly plans to meet with the man she loves before he leaves to marry another woman in a clash of familial relationships and societal politics. This film is driven by fantastic performances that are subdued and seemingly bubble just under the surface. Aside from the few episodes I saw of the Prime Video series Hanna that director Eva Husson had directed, I wasn’t familiar with her work until this movie and was totally blown away by how studious her craft was alongside Moffie cinematographer Jamie Ramsey. This film won’t have a lot of mainstream buzz around it but it is definitely worth the watch.

As They Made Us – Bonafide movie stars still very much have their allure to me and one of those people is Dustin Hoffman, a classic presence who never seems to disappoint even if the movie around him does. He takes a supporting role to Glee actress Diana Agron in this film but he also has Candice Bergen and Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg with him which is fitting because his co-star Mayim Balik makes her feature directorial debut here as well. The story follows Agron as Abigail, a divorced mother of two who is struggling to balance the dynamics within her dysfunctional family as she attempts to cultivate new love. Her father Eugene has a degenerative condition that he and his wife Barbara refuse to accept, and her brother Nathan has been estranged from the family for decades. A self-appointed fixer, Abigail tries to mend her complicated family before it’s too late but it may be enough dysfunction to sabotage her own life. This movie was a delightful surprise that doesn’t just sate by on the power of it’s cast but has a great heart at the center of it’s script, also written by Balik. You can really feel Mayim draw from her own life experiences and Agron paints it so well onscreen with her dramatic prowess that has never been properly shown as it is here.

Blu-Ray:

Scream – Usually January is a dead-in-the-water month for big releases but in 2022 we got the horror year rolling in style early because a slasher franchise heavyweight made its way back to theatres and fans, such as myself, was really excited about it. It should be noted right away that this is the first Scream film to not be directed by horror master Wes Craven who sadly passed away almost seven years ago but it is in safe hands with Ready Or Not filmmaking duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. The film picks up twenty-five years after the streak of brutal murders that shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, California in the original film and now a new killer dons the Ghostface mask and begins targeting a group of teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town’s deadly past and to force Sydney Prescott to come back and deal with the terror for good. The film has Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox returning to the franchise with The Boys’ Jack Quaid, 13 Reasons Why’s Dylan Minnette, Yellowjackets’ Jasmin Savoy Brown and more joining the cast. I have to say that I was totally satisfied with the outcome, a film that breathes a fresh new life into a franchise that does have a pulse in continuing and does it with reverence to Craven and Kevin Williamson’s original landmark film. Without giving too much away, Scream fans will really dig into this film as a feast created just for them.

Death On The Nile – Agatha Christie is something of a forgotten era of filmmaking but Kenneth Branagh seemed to pull it off well with his remake of Murder On The Orient Express and why shouldn’t he be successful? This is the guy who did a multitude of Shakespeare adaptations. Now he is returning with another Christie mystery and slipping back into the role of master detective Hercule Poirot. This film follows the Belgian sleuth vacationing aboard a glamorous river steamer when it turns into a terrifying search for a murderer after a picture-perfect couple’s idyllic honeymoon is tragically cut short. Set against an epic landscape of sweeping Egyptian desert vistas and the majestic Giza pyramids, this mystery has a killer cast in it including Gal Gadot, Annette Bening, Russell Brand and more and I have a good feeling for it to be a fun flick, especially for a totally classic whodunit being retold.

Parallel Mothers – Pedro Almodovar makes cinema with every flourish of his being. It may not be relatable or something in your particular wheelhouse but it is evident that he comes from the school of the greatest international auteurs and he also has that classic loyalty to his stars like Penelope Cruz who leads this film as well. Co-starring the incredibly stunning Rossy de Palma, the story sets out with two women, Janis and Ana, connecting in a hospital room where they are going to give birth. Both are single and became pregnant by accident with Janis, a middle-aged man who doesn’t regret it and is excited for the journey and the other, Ana, an adolescent who is scared, repentant and traumatized by the whole experience. Janis tries to encourage her while they move like sleepwalkers along the hospital corridors and with only a few words exchanged between them in these hours, it will create a very close link between the two, which by chance develops and complicates, and changes their lives in a decisive way. The film is always vibrant and colourful but it is the eyes of both women that get a focus that pulls you into the drama of the situation as well as the dread felt when secrets and revelations come to light but aren’t immediately spoken. The film fills an international niche that might be widely sought but the fans of this style will eat it up like a well-prepared meal.

Jockey – Clifton Collins Jr. is a name you might not know by just hearing it but you know his face and he’s been making your favourite films better with his supporting work for decades now. He gets his chance to absolutely shine in this new horse racing-driven character drama and shares the screen with an equally game Moises Arias from The Kings Of Summer. Collins plays an aging jockey who is still hoping to bring home another championship for his longtime trainer but injuries have thrown the whole arrangement into question. Throw in a new young rider who claims to be his son, and whom he takes under his wing, to further complicate the path to fulfilling his dream of going out at the top. Beautifully written and directed by Clint Bentley in his feature film debut and shot by Adolpho Veloso, whose work is new to me but I look forward to what he does next. The final shot of this movie is such a lingering triumph that it made me smile. I love character films like this one.

The Long Night – Some occult horror hits the screens this week with the scream queen of Scout Taylor Compton, an actress that was given her start with Rob Zombie in his remake of Halloween. Beautifully shot and with some insanely insidious imagery, the film would be a perfect fit for a company like SpectreVision, nestled against other movies like Mandy and Color Out Of Space. The story follows Compton as New York transplant Grace who returns to her childhood southern stomping grounds with her boyfriend, searching for the parents she’s never known and following a promising lead on her family’s whereabouts. Upon arrival, the couple’s weekend takes a bizarre, terrifying turn as a nightmarish cult and their maniacal leader terrorize the pair en route to fulfilling a twisted ancient apocalyptic prophecy. So many creepy animal skull masks but surprisingly low on the gore angle. It still does have its fair share of blood but the scares come from the atmosphere of it all and the creepy drone to the musical score. I also have to hand it to the director by doing a full-on intro that mirrors the opening of Kubrick’s The Shining and I think it even uses the same music which is probably public domain now.

Let It Ride – Paramount is coming through with three new editions of their library this week, two of them being a couple of forgotten classics. This first one here was a complete surprise as I had never seen it before and it features the fantastic Richard Dreyfuss who is one record for saying that he’s forgotten doing some of the films in his career. I wonder if this is one of them. In this fast-paced comedy he plays an average kind of guy who drives a cab for a living and tries to stifle his problem with gambling. So, of course, he goes to the track, and mystically, it seems as though he can’t lose, no matter how he bets and he has an incredible day. Is this the turning point in his life or a pathway to his untimely demise? The film is interesting because it was made by filmmaker Joe Pytka, a guy largely known as a music video director aside from this then Space Jam about six years later which I find totally odd. The secondary interesting fact is that this was the second of three adaptations of the novels of author Jay Conely which started with the Chevy Chase movie Funny Farm and finished with Bill Murray’s Quick Change, an all-time favorite of mine.

Jack Reacher 4K – With Lee Child’s character Jack Reacher being back in the zeitgeist with the hotness of the new Prime Video series Reacher being a top show in 2022, it’s cool to get this brand new 4K version of the first Tom Cruise film as well as being in a gorgeous steelbook which you should hop online and check out. This is the be-all and end-all of Reacher films as well as the sequel proved that Tom Cruise should never double dip in franchises that aren’t Mission Impossible. Nothing is decided on Top Gun: Maverick yet. This film follows Cruise as Reacher, an enigmatic ex-Army investigator who is brought in to look into the murder of five seemingly unconnected victims who were taken down by a former Army sniper who has a history of shooting people in the streets when he was in the service. The action is fantastic in this movie and I have to give it to the chemistry between Tom and writer and director Christopher McQuarrie who have a near perfect penchant for making explosively entertaining films together. Now you can experience it or relive it in glorious 4K, the way it’s supposed to be.

Soapdish – This is a weird one, the second of the classic Paramount releases, and I only think so because I saw it at a young age for the first time and definitely didn’t fully understand the subject matter but also did not appreciate the caliber of the cast. Interestingly, this movie also touched on a film from my generation’s childhood too as Kevin Kline was unable to accept the lead role in Steven Spielberg’s Hook due to the extensive reshoots and Robin Williams replaced him. This dastardly comedy romance follows an ambitious television soap actress who conspires with her producer to scuttle the career of the show’s long-time star but nothing works as they plan and the blowback comes back to affect the fate of the entire show. The cast is crazy in this with Sally Field, Whoopi Goldberg, Robert Downey Jr., Elisabeth Shue, Teri Hatcher and Cathy Moriarty to back up Kline and my young little mind at the time had no idea the mixed generational talent that was in this. The film was also very well reviewed at the time but seems to have vanished from conversations of great rom coms, especially during the kick off to the nineties which was a great time for the genre.

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 4 – To be honest, knowing the Margaret Atwood source material, I always thought that this series had a finite amount of story to it but I really think that this adaptation has almost evolved into something all on its own now. The series is also massively popular and has given lead star Elisabeth Moss so much well-earned acclaim in her role as June Osborne. Now after three seasons, this one has June in a desperate situation as she is wounded from the events of the third season finale and a fugitive of Gilead along with some of her fellow handmaids. This is the season where she rises up to become a formidable rebel leader though and takes the fight to her oppressors in a season that I felt was a bit better than the last but I still feel like an abrupt end should still be on the horizon. Moss is so good, as well as Joseph Fiennes who is a usual favourite of mine for anything he’s in.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Bryan Loves You – I love it when obscure horror lands on my doorstep and it’s even better when it is a fresh new voice in the genre that gathers some classic names in their cast. This is a reason why I love my little gig here because I get to megaphone out to the masses with this weirdo stuff and it just happens to have some Rob Zombie alumns in it like Daniel Roebuck, Cheers regular and House star George Wendt and Candyman himself, Tony Todd. This movie is a straight-up creeper that follows a small-town therapist played by Seth Landau, who also writes and directs this, that falls under the seductive spell of a dangerous cult in a dusty Arizona town in 1993. The idea and execution of this movie are super compelling as it takes a low pro approach in a documentary feel that ramps up with the intensity we are seeing on screen. I feel like this is for the oddballs in the genre fans’ wheelhouse and not really a recommendable film by any standard but I know I found myself highly entertained.

From Paris With Love – Sometimes you need a campy and ridiculous movie to throw on and laugh at how bad it is, elevating it to be an enjoyable experience. That is exactly what this movie is through and through, a high budget and insanely explosive action comedy that pairs the proper and meek Jonathan Rhys Meyers with a gonzo hitman John Travolta. This one is over a decade old now but for those who have never seen it, the film follows a young employee in the office of the US Ambassador who is forced to tag along with an American spy looking to stop a terrorist attack in the city. The film was directed by the eyes behind the Liam Neeson franchise Taken, Pierre Morel, who is a protege of the great actioneer Luc Besson and all of those lessons he learned under the tree of one of the best work well in the high octane nature of this nutso flick. It’s just everything else like plot and script that don’t really cohese that well. Still, if you turn the volume up and grab some snacks you probably won’t even notice.

Television:

Close Enough: Season 3 (Netflix) – Ever since HBO Max has launched in the United States they have been releasing series after series of new show revivals, original programming and bold narrative choices for all ages but this new animated series might be one of my favorite products from the platform and I honestly just started getting into it. Coming from the creators of Regular Show, a Cartoon Network original from J.G. Quintel, this is a decidedly more adult-oriented series about a couple trying to face various challenges in their daily lives while trying to cope with their changes from 20s to 30s. Quintel takes the lead role, just as he did with his previous series but this also has Jason Mantzoukas who just might be my favorite current comedian, podcaster and writer. I think I love this show so much because I see so much of myself within it, a pretty immature dude who has the responsibility of molding a young mind to thrust into this thing we call society. I can’t be the only one that relates to it and that is something that Quintel has a gift for because I even saw myself in the Regular Show characters and they were a blue jay and a raccoon.

Tokyo Vice (Crave) – Michael Mann has been off the grid for a while but in the last six months he popped up again in a big bad way with the announcing of a sequel to his bank heist masterpiece, Heat, although it is in novel form. Another announcement, although a little bit quieter, was this series and just from the name alone I get excited because this is the man who started his career with a show called Miami Vice and I’m actually a fan of the movie as well. Starring West Side Story’s Ansel Elgort and the great Ken Watanabe, the story follows a Western journalist working for a publication in Tokyo who takes on one of the city’s most powerful crime bosses in a descent into the neon lit underbelly where foreigners are not welcome. I am so excited for this and though Mann only directs the pilot, he still oversees the entire eight episode run of a show produced by HBO Max so you know the grit contained will be boundless. This might be a good fit for those who were enamoured with True Detective.

New Releases:

Morbius – I have definite worries about this new piece of the Sony Pictures part of the Marvel cinematic universe and it’s not just because of the length of time it took for it to finally be released because that is all pandemic related. My trepidation comes from the lacklustre trailers that seem totally corny and uninspired, the shoehorning of Michael Keaton’s Spider-Man: Homecoming character into said preview or the fact that we get a glimpse of a villainous Matt Smit to go against Jared Leto’s Dr. Michael Morbius but zero motivation to why. The story follows the brilliant biochemist as he tries to cure himself of a rare blood disease but he inadvertently infects himself with a form of vampirism instead. I was never really on board with any of these unconnected MCU Sony films like Venom but both of those films kind of subverted my expectations so that’s how I will head into this film, will the bar set low. I will say that director Daniel Espinosa is usually pretty solid, with films like Safe House and Life, but the studio meddling may have dampened his style. hopefully, I’m wrong but the advance word is not great.

Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood – One of my favourite filmmakers of the last thirty years, Richard Linklater, is dipping into his past successes a little bit as well as into his own childhood for a delightful new movie that feels like more of a self-imposed passion project that a full-on linear story and at the end of it I was more than okay with that. The film seems to borrow from the growing-up drama that was the inventive and unseen before ten-year journey that was Boyhood and combines it with his digitally filmed but animated over top of gems like A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life. Narrated by Jack Black, this is a coming-of-age story set in the suburbs of Houston, Texas in the summer of 1969, centred around the historic Apollo 11 moon landing and most notably a ten-year-old boy who is picked by NASA to be shot into space to make up for a space capsule that was made too small. The second part of this is obviously fantasy but the narration brings us through the time period and daily life that was Texas in the late sixties, the pop culture and world-shaping events that transpired and their effect on the youth. Linklater seems to be exploring his own familial relationships in this film, a story that more feels like a catharsis for him and may not be broad enough for a large audience. I personally loved this film and found myself enthralled with its inventiveness and the subtle comedy of it.

The Bubble – It feels like so long ago when I was looking forward to Judd Apatow’s movies. Since Knocked Up I was totally into Funny People and Trainwreck, two very decisive films with audiences but nestled in there was the quasi-sequel to that Seth Rogan movie This Is 40 and The King Of Statin Island that left me a little off with its unevenness. Now he has a new quarantine made movie that features a good cast with Karen Gillan, David Duchovny, Keegan Michael Key and even his own daughter Iris that follows a group of actors and actresses stuck inside a pandemic bubble at a hotel attempts to complete the next piece of their fan favourite franchise. With this film, I can say that Apatow has made something so disjointed and unsatisfying that it makes me question his drive for narrative films anymore. The guy crushes it with documentaries like the Garry Shandling one and I have hopes for the upcoming George Carlin documentary but this movie is just plain not funny aside from one drug-fueled moment. I want to love Judd forever but I don’t want to force it and to give this any sort of a good review and not letting him feel the wrath would just plain be wrong.

Blu-Ray:

Sing 2 – It may be my lack of emotion for musicals or my need for a deeper story but neither of these Illumination Entertainment-produced music-driven animated features has done anything for me or remain memorable in my mind at all but I will say that my kid adores them. The voice cast should have roped me in, with Matthew McCoughnahey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson and more but it just feels like a loose plot and popular music to sing along to. This sequel has Buster Moon and his theatre full of performers in financial trouble again, pushing them to persuade reclusive rock star Clay Calloway, voiced by a debuting Bono, to join them for the opening of a new show. It is all paint by numbers stuff and, I have to throw some shade here, but Bono is incredibly wooden in a speaking role and it feels so weirdly distracting. I also feel like him voicing a lion was a weird stretch that he did not fit at all. This movie is total kid’s fluff so it should be regarded as such.

Pursuit – John Cusack is having a rough time movie-wise, much like a lot of former A-list stars who start to coast down to the B-level direct to video market and, hey, Morgan Freeman has done it lots as well so maybe it’s the lull before the renaissance. The good news is that Emile Hirsch is along for the ride as well in this thriller and he always brings it no matter how bad the script may be. The story has actor Jake Manley as a detective named Breslin who crosses paths with Calloway, a ruthless hacker who’s trying to save his kidnapped wife from a drug cartel. When Calloway escapes from police custody, Breslin joins forces with a no-nonsense cop to reclaim his prisoner. This is the bargain basement of action thriller filmmaking with terribly constructed sequences and the corny bad guy and tough-guy bravado. It feels needlessly convoluted, to the point of ridiculousness, and doesn’t have any sort of payoff for trying to go so deep. I guess it was a paycheck for a lot of these guys but I honestly feel robbed of my time.

The Requin – Giant shark horror films, yay! Am I the only one cheering for this? C’mon, friends, the allure of Jaws is a forever thing now and we always clamour for more that’s why we allowed the Jason Statham action flick The Meg to be somewhat of a hit. This movie has the added nineties nostalgia of starring Clueless actress Alicia Silverstone, and that’s the film she was in not the demeanour of the person. In the second of two films she features this week (the other being the much better Last Survivors), she co-stars with Big Little Lies actor James Tupper in a film that follows a couple on a romantic getaway who find themselves stranded at sea when a tropical storm sweeps away their villa. In order to survive, they are forced to fight the elements, while sharks circle below and it immediately springs to mind the thriller Open Water which I will say right here right now was a better movie. This film consistently suffers from not capitalizing on good opportunities horror-wise while also not giving us enough monster thrills with the sharks. I don’t know if it was the budget but I don’t need to squint through CGI fog for an hour and a half, please.

The Wonderful World Of The Brothers Grimm – The first of two Warner Archive titles this week, the new edition of this film fascinates me because it is rumoured that it could never be “restored” because the original three-panel Cinerama camera negatives were heavily water damaged. While we don’t have the capability to screen three-panel Cinerama anymore, no matter how much they tried, the rumours proved to be untrue and we get a special edition of this Lawrence Harvey fairy tale epic. Simply put, this film is set in the early nineteenth century, following the brothers Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm who are commissioned to write a family history for a local Duke which is shown in the reenactments of three of their stories including “The Dancing Princess”, “The Cobbler and the Elves” and “The Singing Bone”. Later nominated for four Academy Awards and won one for Best Costume Design, I feel like this film is largely remembered for the gimmick in which it was shown as well as the huge cast. As a Twin Peaks fan, I’m drawn to the fact that Russ Tamblyn is in it.

A Star Is Born – When Lady Gaga took her first big-screen movie role in the long gestated remake of this film a few years ago it elevated the original films into the spotlight again but probably more so the Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson version. Well, this isn’t that on, nor is it the Judy Garland one that came before it but instead it’s the one before THAT from 1937 starring Janet Gaynor and Frederic March. In the simplest version of the story, the story is removed from the music artist’s skewed tale and instead follows a young woman who comes to Hollywood with dreams of stardom, and achieves them only with the help of an alcoholic leading man whose best days are behind him. Just like the remakes to follow, this movie was also an Oscar darling that pulled in eight Oscar nominations and netted them two which included best Original Screenplay. Obviously, the approach to this movie is dated but the bones of a classic Hollywood story are very neat to see exhumed and there has to be a reason that this particular character tale is so popular.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:

Surf Nazis Must Die – I got my first Troma Entertainment review copy so I had to bring it out this section if not just to show it off to the people in the know. For those who aren’t, Troma is an independent film production company and distributor that makes the schlockiest and most ridiculous horror-comedies known to film, all under the eye of the great Lloyd Kaufman, known to his fans as Uncle Lloydie. With the ridiculous title that this film has, you know it’s going to be crazy and follows a tough gun-wielding woman who is sent on a path of revenge when her son is brutally murdered by neo-Nazi surf punks in a post-apocalyptic future. One by one she hunts each of them down to dispatch them in the goriest ways possible and this late eighties film comes through brilliantly on this newly restored Blu-ray edition. Is it in bad taste? Oh, most definitely but that is how Troma rose to be the indie darling it is and has spawned filmmakers like Eli Roth, James Gunn and Trey Parker and Matt Stone from South Park. The fans of this are savvy to everything this studio has to offer and this landmark release will be a big hit.

The Flag Of Iron – 88 Films has gifted me not one but two great classic Shaw Brothers classics from their extensive vault of martial arts stories. The cool thing about both of these is that they were made in the early eighties, a very different era for the Asian film company. This one was released in 1980 and was made more as a proof of concept film as it came from a burst of inspiration when director Chang Chen had found new talent and blood with his “The Five Venoms” actors, a movie he had made a couple of years prior, most of which were trained in the highly acrobatic Chinese opera and well versed with exotic martial arts weapons. This created a new spark for Chen as he started to write with the use of these bizarre weapons as the focal point in his films. The revamp of the picture for blu-ray is stunning as the colours pop off the screen, the special features are great and the packaging is everything a collector dreams of. This even includes posters which makes me very happy.

Legendary Weapons Of China – The second 88 Films and Shaw Brothers co-release comes from a couple of years later but this time from the legendary Chia-Liang Liu, a filmmaker that gave us movies like The Legend Of Drunken Master and the Wu Tang Clan inspiring, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. Liu was less about experimental filmmaking and more about what had worked previously and it always translated well to screen. That is evident with this action drama with a side of comedy that focuses on a band of killers from an ailing kung fu and magic society who are sent on a manhunt for a former member of the society whose bad mouthing threatens its existence. I absolutely loved the credits for this movie that does each actor’s credit with them fighting against a colour backdrop, a trope that would be used a lot in martial arts movies. Again the presentation of the blu-ray is exquisite and the cover of it may be my favourite that I’ve received from 88 Films.

Liar’s Moon – A cool thing about being hooked up with MVD Visual, besides all of the Shaw Brothers films and now Troma releases that I just talked about, is this collector’s series side of their releasing that sheds a spotlight on films I’ve never heard of with now big and prominent Hollywood stars. This one caught my attention because it has Matt Dillon and a couple of years before the cool one we got to see in the S.E Hinton adaptations of The Outsiders, Rumble Fish and Tex and just after his dorky appearance in My Bodyguard. The film is about a romance between class levels that blossoms in East Texas during the summer between the daughter of a rich banker and a working teen on his way to blue-collar career. Although he wasn’t at the time that this came out, Dillon is the most recognizable star in this film, just a young lad, but classic actor Broderick Crawford also appeared in this in his final performance after a forty five year career that included All The King’s Men and Born Yesterday.

The Stand – I felt like I’ve been waiting since the mid-nineties for someone to tackle this epic Stephen King novel and the timing is really weird for a story about an uncontrollable virus that decimates the earth’s population to be released but, when it was released mid pandemic, well, it was what it was. Let it be known that this is probably my favourite book of all time and under The Fault In Our Stars filmmaker Josh Green, the potential is huge. The story exists in the mass destruction caused by a manmade virus called “Captain Trips” with a false messiah emerging to gather his like-minded survivors, possessing incredible powers and hellbent to rule the remaining human society. It’s up to a group of people to journey the post-apocalyptic wasteland to stop him and his army or perish in the attempt. With a killer cast, including James Marsden, Whoopi Goldberg, Alexander Skarsgård and many more, the unrated platform of CBS All Access was supposed to be a perfect way to convey this story if they had decided to do it correctly, instead of just cherry-picking everything they wanted out of the book and essentially throwing the rest into a tire fire. I was so angry with what I was seeing and I felt like it was completely toothless by the end, a forgettable piece of fluff never to be thought of again. Between this and the treatment of The Dark Tower, I’ve been upset with the handling of the Master Of Horror’s works largely.

Television:

Moon Knight (Disney+) – The new arrival in Marvel Cinematic Universe television has arrived so you know exactly what to tune into for the next six Wednesdays on Disney+, something that has been missing since the end of The Book Of Boba Fett. What I find really cool about this is that one of my favorite directing duos, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead, the minds behind The Endless and their last release Synchronic, are the showrunners on this show that is a little inaccessible to a mainstream audience. Oscar Isaac takes the lead in a story that follows a  former U.S. Marine who is struggling with dissociative identity disorder, flipping back and forth between himself, Marc Spector and a museum giftshop employee named Stephen Grant. Spector knows that within him he is granted the powers of an Egyptian moon god but his dormant counterpart is not and quickly finds out that these newfound powers can be both a blessing and a curse to his troubled life and may cause the downfall of the world within the wrong hands. Isaac is brilliant as usual, playing between Grant and Spector so well and Ethan Hawkes shines so well in his villain role as the former host of the powers that Moon Knight possesses and one that will eat everyone’s soul to regain it. The show starts off strange and gets even stranger but the pay offs are so cool and the dual looks of Moon Knight are totally awesome. I’ve loved everything I’ve watched so far and can’t wait for more.

New Releases:

The Lost City – Sandra Bullock has a good penchant for picking good co-stars to feature in her comedies which is a genre she fits in best because, well, Sandy is always charming. I feel like her characters are always just a millimetre away from the true lady. While the movies aren’t exactly ones that stick in your memory, like The Proposal with Ryan Reynolds, they are always entertaining at the time and I expect the same from this new film with Channing Tatum in the co-pilot seat. Bullock plays an adventure romance writer who is kidnapped by a young and ruthless treasure hunter played by Daniel Radcliffe. This prompts the cover model of her books to prove that he is a real-life hero to her and heads into the jungle to rescue her. The trailers for this honestly look pretty funny, relying on the two stars’ onscreen chemistry and proven acting chops to get the audience a satisfying film that will remind us of the Michel Douglas and Kathleen Turner film Romancing The Stone and the sequel Jewel Of The Nile. Also, I have to mention that Brad Pitt is in this too and looks hilarious in a long hair action hero spoof role.

Everything Everywhere All At Once – After the insanity and soulful beauty that was Swiss Army Man, a must-see film for any arthouse fan, I’ve been waiting for the next collaboration between the two-headed creation team which is Daniels. Always idiosyncratic and entirely on their own path, the films that they created separately have been wildly original as well so they are seemingly on a constant hot streak in my opinion. For their new mind-bender, they’ve enlisted Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Lee Curtis and former child star Ke Huy Quan for this story about an aging Chinese immigrant who is swept up in an insane adventure, where she alone can save the world by exploring other universes connecting with the lives she could have led. Yes, it might be reminiscent of the sci-fi action flick The One with Jet Li from the early 2000s but I know that Daniels is going to give this story a whole new spin. The trailer makes my draw drop to the floor and I can’t even begin to consolidate my expectations which, at this point, are set from here to the moon. I can not wait and it may be on my best-of list at the end of the year.

Gold – Zac Efron’s most recent adventures were documented in his Netflix docuseries Down To Earth which had him travelling around the world with wellness expert Darin Olien in search of healthy, sustainable ways to live but it must have also been to help prepare him for this new survival thriller because it really seemed to pay off. Interestingly enough, he almost died making the reality show so it’s even more fitting that this film takes place in one of the most deadly places on the planet as well. The film is set in the not-too-distant future and follows Efron as a drifter travelling through the desert who discovers the largest gold nugget ever found with his driver who is reluctantly escorting him through the harsh terrain. While his new business partner treks off to find an excavator to dig up their find, the drifter is left to his own devices to guard it against thieves amid harsh conditions and wild dogs while waiting for his meal ticket to return. Beautifully shot but dour and depressing, this movie is as harsh as they come and shows, without any flinching, a man whose body is torn apart by the elements he faces. Efron is put through the absolute wringer in this film and I felt captivated the whole time. The viewer takes a beat, albeit far less than the character on screen, but it is quite the journey.

Moonshot – Cole Sprouse has left all of that Zack and Cody Suite Life stuff behind him as he has been in this new emo phase of his career ever since the fan loved Archie reimagining on The CW, Riverdale. The fans will certainly be following him over to the Crave streaming service via the conduit of HBO Max for this new romantic drama and I’m digging that it has a bit of a sci-fi edge to it plus it has Zach Braff so that guarantees it getting my time. Co-starring Lana Condor from Alita: Battle Angel, the film is set in a future where Mars is terraformed and colonized by the best humanity has to offer and two very different college students wind up joining forces to sneak onboard a space shuttle to the red planet in order to be united with their significant others. The film comes from filmmaker Christopher Winterbauer whose first feature Wyrm invoked comparisons to other nuanced directors like Yorgos Lanthimos and Todd Solondz which just adds to the pile of things that fascinate me about this film. I enjoy the weirdness in cinema, as evident from a lot of the recommendations I’ve given so I see this as being no different.

You Are Not My Mother – There is something about British, Irish, Scottish or Welsh-made films that automatically makes me gravitate towards them but the horror side of things really gets my attention because they are always so incredibly crafted. Last year had the Welsh mind twister Censor and the British chiller Caveat and it’s right in between those great films where this simple and slightly monstrous horror tells its compelling tale. Not featuring any cast members that are known on a global scale, this film is set in a North Dublin housing estate where a young teen named Char’s mother goes missing. When she returns Char is determined to uncover the truth of her disappearance and unearth the dark secrets of her family as she starts to see weird behaviours in her mother that she has never seen before and her grandmother seems both wary and knowledgeable about the whole situation. This film is immensely satisfying in its incredible atmosphere that draws you in deeper and deeper into the mystery that surrounds Char and her family with subtle little flashes of pure terror that will get under your skin. What I love about horror is it can be made for relatively nothing and still be effective with every frame, as this film shows off with class.

Run Woman Run – Immediately when I saw the premise for this new film I was reminded of the Jillian Bell comedy-drama Brittany Runs A Marathon which has the simple basis of a woman wanting to try the simple thing of running every day and it slowly starts to change her life. This one has a very loose similarity but I’m excited to talk about it as it is another piece of filmmaking from the indigenous community and it features Lorne Cardinal from Corner Gas. The Story follows Beck, a single mother who learns how to reclaim her dreams, family and honour her life, all thanks to an unlikely coach who forces her on the path to a better life. The film has already been screened for First Nations communities across Canada to great acclaim and it will be cool to see what the rest of Canada thinks now that it is in a wider release. It was written and directed by Zoe Leigh Hopkins who is fast becoming a rising storyteller n Canada and I look forward to what she’s coming out with next. 

Blu-Ray:

Nightmare Alley – It feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve gotten a Guillermo del Toro film because it has been four years since his Best Picture-winning The Shape Of Water divided audiences. Full disclosure here, it’s a fantastic film. One of the greatest cinema masters today, he returns with a remake of a classic film noir and it’s a timepiece of a film that speaks out from the exact era that it is voicing with a knowledgable tone. The film stars Bradley Cooper as an ambitious carny with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words who hooks up with a female psychiatrist, played by Cate Blanchett, who is even more dangerous than he is. Featuring a supporting cast of Toni Collette, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Willem Dafoe and Ron Perlman, this movie is a phenomenal character ride that drips with that del Toro style that just leaps off the screen thanks to the work of his many time collaborator and stalwart cinematographer Dan Laustsen. I really would love to see this film released in the same black and white style that the original film was made in because I think it would play really well, just like Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist did.

Fortress – Now for the periodically fun portion of this blog sometimes maybe, it’s time to look at the latest direct-to-video entry from Bruce Willis and a glimpse of what he’s lazily lining his pockets with. This sounds very harsh but it is only because I’ve been driven to this point by again and again being subjected to his mediocrity. The film has Willis as Robert, an ex-CIA agent, who lives in a hidden woodland resort that serves as a retirement community for former spies. His estranged son Paul is a cryptocurrency entrepreneur who has run into trouble and needs to ask his old man for help but, unfortunately, Paul’s plans aren’t as secret as his father’s location which leads a group of criminals hellbent on revenge to Robert’s doorstep. The film co-stars Chad Michael Murray and Jesse Bradford, two actors who have worked with Willis on a direct to video film here and there and is directed by James Cullen Bressack, a super nice guy on Twitter but, woof, is this movie ever bad. I think the issue is Willis who seemingly couldn’t give an ounce of energy to any line reading to save his life or the plot’s integrity. Just ho-hum level of delivery on everything. He’s now pathetic.

Ted Bundy: American Psycho – Really, another Ted Bundy story? Unfortunately, we can’t leave this serial killer story alone it seems and Chad Michael Murray makes his second appearance in a row but it is just as bad as the first one, sadly. Also known as the “American Boogeyman”, a terrible title, the film follows FBI agents Kathleen McChesney and Robert Ressler as they organize one of the largest manhunts in history to apprehend America’s most infamous serial killer, Ted Bundy, played by the former One Tree Hill star. I don’t know who this movie was made for because even the most season serial killer movie fans have seen this Bundy story played out over and over again and remarkably better so as well. This movie is hobbled from the get-go, playing hard into schlocky tropes with little to no pay off and the acting is truly dreadful on all levels. I know that the horror genre isn’t usually where one would go for some good line deliveries but there has to be a bar set and this film doesn’t even come close to even meeting it.

Come Drink With Me – Arrow Video is going back to their seemingly neverending well of Japanese cinema that carved a huge path for itself, creating impressions and inspirations on many of the Japanese filmmakers today. I’m loving all of these new collector’s editions because many of these films never made it to North America in any sort of a wide release until now. This one is a crime-action story that follows a ruthless band of thugs who kidnaps a young official to exchange for their leader who has been captured by the opposing organization. Golden Swallow is sent to take on the thugs and free the prisoner who also happens to be her brother and, though she is able to handle the overwhelming odds, she is hit by a poison dart and gets help from a beggar who is really a kung-fu master in disguise. With his help, she forms a plan to get her brother back in some really killer action sequences. The film was made by King Hu, a major piece in the Shaw Brothers releasing studio with films like A Touch Of Zen. Interestingly, this film is rumoured to be an early appearance of Jackie Chan as one of the child singers near the beginning of it although lead actress Pei-Pei Cheng denied this in the audio commentary to the Hong Kong DVD release of the film. Still, the film is listed among Chan’s acting credits on his official website and autobiography.

The Godfather Trilogy 4K – One of the greatest series of films of all time get their 4K release is coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of the adaptation of the first Mario Puzo written novel. Yes, I do concede that the third movie is pretty bad and only improved to a good movie through the recently mad Coda version but it definitely has the greatest sequel ever made with The Godfather Part II. Of course, for those who don’t know, this is the saga of the Corleone family through the eyes of Don Vito and then through Michael, the reluctant heir to the throne who descends down the path that eventually destroys him. Nestled in there is the brilliant origin of young Vito played by Robert De Niro which is, in my opinion, one of the greatest performances of all time. There is so much to love about this Francis Ford Coppola-directed trilogy and I’m so happy that I now own it in the best possible format other than having the original reels themselves.

Captains Of The Clouds – Warner Archive swooped in this week and gifted me with a brand new throwback edition of something from Golden Age Hollywood and it brings us to the era of the early forties, a few years before World War II ended. It features a giant of the times, the iconic James Cagney, not opting to play a gangster or a cop this time around but instead he does the hero thing. Set in a time that had the Ally Canadian nation inspired by Churchill’s Dunkirk speech, the film follows brash, undisciplined bush pilot Brian MacLean and three of his friends who enlist in the RCAF but are deemed too old to be fliers and that’s just the beginning of the story. Yes, that’s right, this is a Canadian story about the Royal Canadian Air Force, some national pride flavour from a classic movie era. The film was also made by director Michael Curtiz, one of the most sought after filmmakers of the time, responsible for films like The Adventures Of Robin Hood, Casablanca, which came out the same year, and White Christmas which came later but adds a whole new sense of credibility to this classic war story.. 

Dexter: New Blood – The Sopranos used their chance to satisfy their fans who were let down by the infamous fade to black that angered many but I really loved with a prequel movie that kind of disappointed more people. Dexter gets to do the same thing now by kind of retconning the last terrible season of the acclaimed series or, who knows, maybe they keep it in place as a “screw you, we did it” sort of thing. The series is set ten years after Dexter Morgan went missing in the eye of Hurricane Laura at the end of the final season and he is now living under an assumed name in Upstate New York, Iron Lake, far from his original home in Miami. We definitely should assume his “dark passenger” is still along for the ride but what is his son Harrison like now and does he have his own darkness to satiate? Also, Jennifer Carpenter, who played his sister Deb, is in this revival as well and, given her fate in the series, what role does she play now? There are so many questions swirling around this new revisit to an old friend and I’m definitely excited to check it out.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Outs:

23rd Century Giants: The Story Of Renaldo & The Loaf – When I get weird stuff after street date I always relegate them to this part of the weekly blog and that’s why this is the sole entry this week but it’s a decidedly weird one as well which gives me a little excitement. Even better than that, this film is one of those music documentaries that I cherish so much and about a couple of artists I have never heard of before. The film lays out a decades-long friendship that drives an architect and a biomedical scientist to make the weirdest music you’ve ever heard in your life, and thanks to the Internet, they became more popular than they could ever dream of. Brian Poole and David Janssen, aka Renaldo and the Loaf, are an avant-garde duo who have been creating strange and captivating music together since the ’70s and this documentary dives deep with interviews with the duo and virtually every key figure in their musical lives, unseen photos, unheard music, and comedic cutout animations that make this film embody the weirdness of its subject. After just learning about Sparks last year, I feel like these guys are my big discovery this year.

Television:

Halo (Paramount+) – It’s been a long and rocky road for the video game adaptation to find any sort of footing in Hollywood. At first, it was going to be executive produced by Peter Jackson, the mind behind everything J.R.R. Tolkein on the big screen, written by Alex Garland, the filmmaker behind Ex Machina, Annihilation and Dredd albeit afterwards and director Neill Blomkamp, the eyes behind District 9 and Elysium. At one point even the great Guillermo Del Toro, was mentioned for the second time this week, but the point is that many were gunning for this to happen. Well, Showtime actually went ahead and made the series but got cold feet and Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment took over and here it is, living big on Paramount+. The series really has ll you want from it if you are a Halo fan. Master Chief is there, the Covenant are launching their universal attack, Cortana is referenced, all of that good stuff. Now is where we see if that goodness is sustainable and I will say that some of the CGI with the Spartans is a bit dodgy but I’m having fun with it.

Bridgerton: Season 2 (Netflix) – Shondaland is bringing back the horny again this week because the famed production company has landed on Netflix with the second season of its randy little bodice ripper that can’t wait to show partial nudity and get swearing immediately. Created by one of Shonda Rhimes’ main dudes Chris Van Dusen, this series is set in the backdrop of Regency era England as seen through the eyes of the powerful Bridgerton family in their follies of wealth, lust, and, of course, betrayal. The young cast is young, attractive and relatively unknown, aside from Jonathan Bailey from Broadchurch, Nicola Coughlan from Derry Girls and Freddie Stroma, AKA Vigilante from the fantastic HBO Max and DC Comics series Peacemaker but it’s veteran inclusions like Rome’s Polly Walker and the legendary actress Julie Andrews that gives this one any weight. You’ll know quickly if this show is for you and I say that over the first season it had me and lost me multiple times but I do understand its appeal.

Parallels (Disney+) – Since the Netflix success of original shows like Stranger Things and picking up the Danish made series Dark which blew the minds of many who discovered it ad shepherded it on by word of mouth, I know all the streaming services are looking for their own pre-teen thrillers and Disney+ seems to have netted their own with this show that was a hit in it’s native France. The show dabbles in sci-fi more than it does in the horror genre but I love these types of shows so it is no bother to me. The main story follows four teenage friends, on the French-Swiss border, whose lives are turned upside down by an experiment of the LHC, the world’s biggest particle collider. Torn from their reality and deposited into four different alternate worlds, each of them must do everything possible to understand what exactly happened and look for a way to return to their original homeworld. The special effects in this look very cool and it seems to be a series that the whole family can enjoy, almost like a new type of Sliders and I’m not talking about those mini-burgers. The only thing it’s missing is Jerry O’Connell but, even though I’m bummed about that, I doubt he knows how to speak French fluently enough for a good role in this.

Atlanta: Season 3 (FX) – It’s been a long time since Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry and Lakeith Stanfield have reprised their characters on this hit FX series and, seriously, a lot has happened since the end of the second season almost four years ago. Glover’s Childish Gambino is one of the hottest acts on the planet, Henry is now a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Stanfield is an Academy Award-nominated actor for Judas And The Black Messiah but they all found time to come back for this season and the subsequent fourth one which will be its final one. For those who have never had the pleasure of seeing it, the show follows Earn and his cousin Alfred as they try to make their way in the world through the rap scene. Along the way, they come face to face with social and economic issues touching on race, relationships, poverty, status, and parenthood all to varying degrees of comedy and harsh realities. This is easily one of the best shows of the past twenty years and I think it will be talked about years after it ends.

New Releases:

Deep Water – It has to be frustrating for an actor to put all of his efforts into a film only for it to be shelved for a long period of time because the studio can’t find a spot for it in its release schedule then it gets relegated to being an almost home release and put of Prime Video. That is exactly what happened to Ben Affleck and his new film and to make matters worse he made it with his now ex-girlfriend Ana De Armas and subsequently has to do press with her for this film. Don’t feel too bad for Ben as he’s back with JLo so all well that ends well. This new mystery thriller follows Affleck as a well-to-do husband who allows his wife to have affairs in order to avoid a divorce but becomes a prime suspect in the disappearance of her multiple lovers. What excites me more than De Armas and Affleck being in this, because I do adore Anan, is that it was made by the legendary Adran Lyne who was responsible for thrillers like Jacob’s Ladder, Fatal Attraction and Unfaithful, a total master of his class especially when it comes to adultery and murderous jealousy. Based on a novel by acclaimed author Patricia Highsmith, the reviews are good and the screenplay was written by Euphoria creator Sam Levinson so it is blisteringly hot right now given the success of that show, now in its second season.

Windfall – Here’s another late to the game filmmaker for me as I really didn’t know about writer and director Charlie McDowell as a mumblecore filmmaker until years after his mysterious little drama The One I Love starring Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss had been long gone from movie screens and on-demand platforms but I am in the know now and with great timing as this new film debuts on Netflix this week. Once again, he has paired himself with greatness as the always bankable Jesse Plemons stars, with the lovely Lily Collins playing his wife, and usual comedic actor Jason Segal dips back into the drama field again, something he is so damn good at which is evident in The End Of The Tour and Our Friend recently. This film has Segal playing a man who breaks into a tech billionaire’s empty vacation home with no real intent other than to see how he lives but things go sideways when the arrogant mogul and his wife arrive for a last-minute getaway and the intruder’s intent pivots to extortion with a potential to explode into violence. This movie operates as a film noir in a Hitchcockian eye and pulls you in deeper and deeper with just these three actors as your moving parts. I was also really drawn to the cinematography and rightfully so as it. is Isiah Donte Lee, who also shot the great Netflix original Burning Sands as well as some solid J. Cole music videos. This isn’t really a broad appeal movie but mumblecore fans will eat it up.

The Outfit – Mark Rylance is an Academy Award winner who always gives his best in every film he does but a lot of people still don’t know who he is or know his face but not his name. Well, he might get some eyes on him now as he’s in this brand new crime thriller that has him front and center and the target of some pretty bad guys. The story has him as Leonard, a master English tailor who’s ended up in Chicago and operates a corner tailor shop with his assistant, played by the great Zoey Deutch, where he makes beautiful clothes for the only people around who can afford them, a family of vicious gangsters. One night, two killers, played by Dylan O’Brien and Johnny Flynn, knock on his door in need of a favour and Leonard is thrust onto the board in a deadly game of deception and murder as a result. This film is the debut as a director for writer Graham Moore who won an Academy Award for his screenplay for The Imitation Game and not to sound like a cliche when it comes to a film about a tailor but this looks so slick and stylish that it has me salivating to check it out. I also geek out that this was shot by cinematographer Dick Pope who has done incredible work in his career, especially his films with Edgar Wright.

X – Ti West is a voice in horror I’ve always loved, a writer and director with old-school American horror in his blood. Debuting with the throwback slasher horror House Of The Devil, he has always found a way to hook me in with his stories and when I saw his new trailer with the A24 studio card ahead of it I got really excited. Set in 1979, the story follows a group of young filmmakers who set out to make an adult film in rural Texas but when their reclusive, elderly hosts catch them in the act, the cast finds themselves fighting for their lives in a very Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspired tale of terror. Pardon my pun here but this film has a killer young cast including Scream’s Jenny Ortega, High Life’s Mia Goth, Brittany Snow from the Pitch Perfect franchise and rapper turned actor Kid Cudi and is just oozing with all of that style and substance that Tobe Hooper brought when he unleashed his brand of violence in the seventies. I also find it fascinating that they filmed this in New Zealand yet it looks so much like a dusty Texan setting. The power of movies, people!

Black Crab – I have been a fan of Swedish actress Noomi Repace ever since I saw her in the original adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. She has since been in huge Hollywood feature films like Sherlock Holmes and Prometheus but has decided to go back and make something Scandanavian again after returning home to make the stellar but totally weird drama Lamb. This movie hits the sci-fi button, following six soldiers on a covert mission in a post-apocalyptic world who must transport a mysterious package across a frozen archipelago. The look of the film is gritty and bleak which plays right into my wheelhouse as I eat that atmospheric stuff up and director Adam Berg certainly has big ideas contained within that. My issue is that it all seems too big for just one movie and the setup was never going to satisfy its conclusion and I really don’t see another production coming from it. That said, as far as debut feature films go, this is solid and betrays his inexperience greatly.

Umma – More horror to get inside your heads this week but this falls far from the path of slasher scares and gets spooky through family history and lineage. It has the added draw of lead star Sandra Oh who is in the forefront right now with the latest season of her hit series Killing Eve as well as the voice of the mom in the infinitely cute and heartwarming Pixar film Turning Red. Well, this one is aiming far away from that audience base as she plays a mother named Amanda who is living a quiet life on an American farm with her daughter. When the remains of her estranged mother arrive from South Korea, she becomes increasingly aware that she is turning into that person she feared with each passing day and their dark past is thrust into the light. The film is the narrative debut of writer and director Iris K. Shim, who earned a lot of acclaim with her documentary The House of Suh, and now turns to a genre that I love so deeply in my heart, much to the chagrin of our illustrious host. Shot by Gareth Evans cinematographer Matt Flannery, the eyes behind The Raid: Redemption, The Raid 2 and Apostle, I can not wait to get my eyes on the delicious camera work of this horror that may get that slow burn word of mouth by fans across North America.

Alice – We get some blaxploitation-derived revenge thriller for our eyeballs this week at it has the added bonus of starring the wonderful Keke Palmer in the lead role who has shifted from a solid child actress to a commanding leading woman in seemingly the blink of an eye. The fact that rapper turned actor Common is the co-star in this film isn’t too shabby either as well as a villainous Jonny Lee Miller who I have adored since the mid-nineties film Hackers but I’m losing the focus here. Palmer plays Alice, a woman who yearns for freedom as an enslaved person on a rural Georgia plantation under its brutal and disturbed owner Paul. After a violent clash with Paul, she flees through the neighbouring woods and stumbles onto the unfamiliar sight of a highway, soon discovering the year is actually 1973. Rescued on the roadside by a disillusioned political activist named Frank, Alice quickly comprehends the lies that have kept her in bondage and the promise of Black liberation. Inspired by true events, Alice is a modern empowerment story tracing Alice’s journey through the post-Civil Rights Era American South. Palmer is without a doubt the strongest thing in a thriller that loses its footing narratively when she isn’t present. It’s a bold debut from writer and director Krystin Ver Linden but the inexperience does shine through more often than not, that being said, this is a help of a crash course to start and I look forward to what comes next. It is also a hell of a lot better than that Janelle Monae thriller Antebellum so it wins in that department.

Master – Race and true psychological and spiritual horror come to a head in this new Prime Video original film and just looking at the synopsis I know that it will be divisive, relevant and utterly terrifying and I am here for all of it. Featuring a super-effective trailer that gets into your bones, this is yet another debut this week in a feature form, this time for writer and director Mariama Diallo, a short filmmaker up until this point but one with a lot of promise. The film follows two African American women who begin to share disturbing experiences at a predominantly white college in New England which was built on the site of a Salem-era gallows hill. Navigating politics and privilege, they encounter increasingly terrifying manifestations of the school’s haunted past and struggle to not become a footnote in its menacing present times. Starring Regina Hall, this film immediately springs to mind the limited series Them, which is also available on Prime Video, so hopefully, the inevitable success of it will lead people to check that one out, one of my favourite new shows of 2021.

Rescued By Ruby – With The Flash’s Barry Allen leading your film, the charming Grant Gustin, a cutesy little dog movie will always win at least a little spot in your heart just on substance alone no matter how terrible it might actually be. This movie has the added cushion of being directed and written by Katt Shea, a veteran filmmaker who has brought us movies like Poison Ivy, Streets and The Rage: Carrie 2 so it can’t all be bad, right. Well, maybe scratch that last one. This film has Gustin playing Daniel, a state trooper chasing his dream to join an elite K-9 unit who partners with a fellow underdog, a clever but naughty shelter pup named Ruby. Surrendered to the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals by her original owners, Ruby was deemed unmanageable due to her overabundance of energy but found her real home with Daniel. Probably not a lot of depth to this kids film but it does have a cute dog and former heartthrob from Party Of Five, Scott Wolf, in a supporting role. If anything this is an easy Sunday afternoon watch with the family that won’t offend anyone.

Tollbooth – I feel like it is in my blood to love crime comedies ever since I fell in love with the works of Guy Ritchie who kicked off the new releases this week with something big and bold. His beginning wasn’t as big but was bold as Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels formed my love for the British gangster film and it’s a bucket of love that could never be emptied. I think that’s why I gravitated to this one, though it is vastly different at its core. Starring the great Michael Smiley, this darkly comic thriller follows Brendan, a man who works solo shifts in the quietest toll booth in Wales, hiding from a criminal past where nobody would ever look. When he finally gets outed, word of his whereabouts gets to his enemies and they head west for revenge. Meanwhile, local traffic cop Catrin’s investigation into a simple robbery finds her heading for the booth at exactly the wrong time, setting up a cataclysmic finale for the guy who really just wanted to lay low for the rest of his existence. Co-starring Iwan Rheon, who people may remember as the sadistic Ramsey Bolton from Game Of Thrones, this film hit all the right notes for me and I found myself loving the writing style and whirlwind directing from Ryan Andrew Hopper who is yet another first-time feature filmmaker on this list. I will gladly follow him into more crime stories if he has them to give.

Moon Manor – On the outside, this film looks like an odd sort of drama about an old man coming to grips with his own mortality and the losing of the memories that he holds close to him, something great to pair up with the new AppleTV+ series The Last Days Of Ptolemy Gray from last week. On closer inspection, this is more a fantastical flight through the fleeting memories of an Alzheimer’s patient as he prepares for the next step. The film follows Jimmy, an ailing old man who is given the prognosis of having only one last day on the planet. He quickly decides to waste no time and to die like he lived, with intention, humour and zest, and show his funeral guests that the art of living may actually be the art of dying. This is definitely an odd duck of a movie that doesn’t really have a set audience but I really like its weird nature and it stars MadTV alum Debra Wilson, busy character actor Richard Riehle and Lou Taylor Pucci and I felt myself pretty engrossed with it. This is not to undersell lead actor James Carrazo who makes you root for Jimmy pretty much from the get go. As someone who has seen a couple of grandparents go to this horrible disease, I feel like it celebrated life more than it focused on death and I really appreciated that.

Tin Can – Some indie sci-fi slides into limited theatres this week which could mean a surprise hit that will earn the slow burn of word of mouth, a cheesy mess that needed millions of dollars to work or a forgotten film that will be on the woodpile of 2022 to burn at the end of the year. The cool thing and the reason I want to celebrate this movie is it comes from Nova Scotian filmmaker Seth A. Smith, a storyteller that surprised me with his film Lowlife in 2012 and then The Crescent in 2017. This film is set, ironically, in a world that faces a deadly plague, following a front-lines parasitologist who is imprisoned in a life-suspension chamber and to escape from this created tomb she must destroy the last of her kind. It’s cool that Michael Ironside co-stars in this movie, a classic actor. He now lends his time to being in smaller sci-fi and horror films like Turbo Kid and Bloodthirsty, almost like a return to what made him cult famous in legendary films like Scanners and Visiting Hours. This movie’s greatness is not just a success because of his involvement though, as it used the limits of the COVID isolation to a positive result. in a story that carves a new and fresh swath out of the path that David Cronenberg laid before it. Effective and well-acted, Tin Can makes a mark on you even if the name sounds a little dumb.

Dear Mr. Brody – Immediately the thing that upset me most about this movie was that I didn’t know who Michael Brody Jr. was beforehand nor had I ever even heard an inkling of his story which seems crazy. You would think that with how wild this story is and for how big it got that it would be a cautionary tale of either ignoring those powerful speakers who can make a difference in this world or not believing in false leaders but I’m getting ahead of myself. This documentary is about the titular Mr. Brody, a twenty-one-year-old hippie millionaire who, in 1970, promised to give away his $25M inheritance in an effort to usher in a new era of world peace. What resulted was a nationwide push to impress upon Brody the usefulness of his money to the causes of thousands of people that wrote him letters. The producers. of the film meticulously went through all of the unopened letters as a backdrop against the unfurling true story of who Michael Brody Jr. was by the people who know him intimately at this time is compiled interviews. This film is engrossing in its place in history plus the dreams and ideas that we’re flushed out of the American people when the possible benefactor or conman put his call out into the world. I live for mysterious documentaries like this and it satisfied my cravings on all levels.

The White Fortress – It’s not often or really ever that I get to talk about a foreign film out of Bosnia but that’s the greatest thing about being a reviewer that has many studio public relations contacts is that it sort of becomes a cultural melting pot in your emails. With all of the current global happenings on the conflict front, it is hard to watch an Eastern European war-related story but this one was too interesting to pass up and the war in Sarajevo isn’t a usual movie subject, aside from the incredibly must-see Quo Vadis, Aida?. This film is certainly not for the faint of heart but focuses on two teens from opposing sides in the Bosnian war who find love across a vicious divide. This film has all of those Romeo and Juliet star-crossed lover things going for it, with families that are volatile adversaries and a total class differential but still manages to be original and, at times, totally shocking. This one will certainly get lost in the global shuffle of cinema but I really enjoyed it.

Blu-ray:

West Side Story – Steven Spielberg’s long gestated passion project has finally made its way to the big screen to Disney+ for streaming and now on glorious 4K blu-ray and, impressively, during one of the toughest times to make a huge film, a global pandemic. While Scorsese’s passion project was a brutal film about missionaries bringing the word of God to Japan in Silence, Spielberg wanted to do the big musical with Maria, the Jets, back alley finger-snapping brawls and a very Romeo and Juliet plotline. For those who don’t know, this is an adaptation of the 1957 musical which explores forbidden love and the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. This film is an absolutely glowing piece of cinema but that isn’t a huge surprise when it comes to one of the best filmmakers in the game ever since he debuted. Spielberg got me into film, like many of us, and even though I don’t like musicals, I’m fascinated by his take on them and I thought this movie was gripping from the opening shot that needs to be seen to be believed as it is a treasure trove of the things we love about Spielberg. The story captivates, the cast and choreography leap off of the screen and it’s always evident why this story, even set when it is, will always be timeless when seen through a celluloid lens.

Red Rocket – Sean Baker, a writer and director who frequents Vancouver and has met a bunch of my friends, is one of the most important filmmakers of our time to me, telling the stories of real people and microcosms in our would the predominantly make up the majority. With his films Tangerine and The Florida Project, he exuded this and it came to a point in the latter that it broke me down into tears in theatres. Now he teams with actor Simon Rexx for this Trump-era comedy-drama that follows Mikey Saber, a washed-up porn star who returns to his small Texas hometown that has no interest in having him back. Rexx gave the performance of 2021 and I was hoping that this was the year that Baker’s work elevates him to the top of the game as he has deserved for a long time but, alas, he was only truly appreciated in the independent circuit as Rexx did get an Independent Spirit trophy for Best Actor. I dare say he’s one of my absolute favourites today and I also venture that if you watch this film you will never hear NSYNC’s Bye Bye Bye the same again.

Project Gemini – When I get these new releases from Well Go USA, most of the time I have no knowledge about them unless it’s a bigger international targeted film but sometimes I have seen a trailer for it on a previous release that sticks in my head. This is definitely one of those films as the preview is massively intriguing and could possibly be all of a ruse just to get you to watch it, as most trailers are, but I had a good feeling about this Russian thriller. The story follows a crew of space explorers sent on a mission sent to terraform a distant planet to ensure the survival of the human race. However, the mission encounters something unknown that has its own plan for the planet and it suddenly becomes a battle for survival with all o mankind at stake. This movie is a lot of fun and has some cool effects throughout while featuring great twists and turns to keep you guessing. There is a certain amount of frenetic filmmaking that is the norm when it comes to Russian filmmaking that could turn some viewers off but I really enjoyed it. I know it’s taboo at these times to praise anything Russian but I have to give this movie its due because the creators absolutely deserve it.

A Tale Of Two Guns – Bad western stories have made it to blu-ray release again this week and when your two lead stars are Casper Van Dien and Tom Berenger, both of who have had their great times in the sun before, you know you have made a wrong turn because those days are behind them. It’s a real bummer because I love a solid western but believe me, this is anything but. Obviously, this takes place in the lawless West, following The Cowboys, a notorious brotherhood of killers and thieves who reigned over the land with brutal fists and fast guns. Fate had finally caught up with them and now the merciless gang has but a single surviving member. When a deputized gunslinger takes up the call to hunt down the last Cowboy, the chase is on and the bullets fly and only one of these hardened men can survive. Corny and badly constructed, this movie sputters constantly with contrived moments and sequences that were done with much more spirit in far better films. I don’t see this one hitting in a big way on demand but if it does, just let it blow away like a bad tumbleweed. I’m doing you a favour, partner.

John And The Hole – At forty years old I feel like I’m still too immature to say this title without giggling like a schoolgirl but there’s just something about it that is inherently funny and I place the blame directly on the producers and creators. Laugh-inducing title aside, I was definitely unprepared for how good the film was that I was about to see and the fact that it has Dexter star Michael C. Hall in it is just a cherry on the sundae. The film is a coming-of-age psychological thriller that plays out the unsettling reality of a kid who holds his family captive in a hole in the ground. It’s really just as simple as that and, through satisfying twists and turns, it never becomes a story that feels familiar at all or predictable which serves to constantly keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering what’s next. Along with Hall, the film also features Taissa Farmiga who is fast becoming a favourite of mine, just like her mother Vera, and it is usually in a horror setting that she impresses. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea but the horror-like atmosphere and the traped isolation is so well done.

The Boy Behind The Door – When I saw the one location creature feature The Djinn starring young Ezra Dewey I remembered thinking that both the star and the minds behind the film, David Charbonier and Justin Powell, had massive futures ahead of them. For this reason, I was excited to receive this new thriller which takes the accelerator off of the supernatural stuff for something more grounded, and this was made before The Djinn, technically being their first feature film. The story follows best friends Bobby and Kevin who are kidnapped after their baseball game, separated from each other, locked in two different rooms. Bobby manages to escape but hears Kevin’s screams for help and realizes he can’t leave his friend behind and decides to steel himself for a showdown with his captor, a fight that only one of them will make it out of. Dewey again delivers a really fantastic performance as Kevin and newcomer Lonnie Chavis as young Bobby is put through the absolute wringer in his role and does it damn well. It was also great to see True Blood star Kristin Bauer Von Stratten appear in this one but I’ll keep quiet on her role to avoid spoilers. Sold thrills, chilling violence and kid actor that are not annoying definitely work in this movie’s favour and you don’t have to be a horror fan to enjoy it. It helps but you don’t have to be one, trust me.

Shooter 4K – Mark Wahlberg spent a lot of time in New Westminster during the filming of this Antoine Fuqua adaptation of the popular Steven Hunter book series and I think about the locations every time I watch it. The good news now is that the Bob Lee Swagger movie is now on beautiful 4K in an even cooler steelbook, which is something we collector’s totally geek out on. For those who didn’t get a chance to check this one out, it follows Wahlberg as Swagger, a marksman living in exile who is coaxed back into action after learning of a plot to kill the President. After being double-crossed and pinned with the assassination attempt, he is on the run and on a collision course with the real killer and the truth in a flick that features awesome action sequences and a great cast around Wahlberg, like Michael Pena, Danny Glover and Elias Koteas. They ended up making a television series around this film in 2016 with Ryan Phillippe but nothing holds a candle to what they did with this film and it was a missed opportunity that they didn’t make more, like Jack Reher, unfortunately, did with Never Go Back, an ill-advised movie.

An American Werewolf In London 4K – One of the greatest horror of all times with some of the best dark comedy beats that hold up to this day, I have a deep love for this John Landis classic. The title really gives you all the exposition almost immediately, a couple of American college students, played by David Naughton and Griffin Dunne, go on a trip to London where they are attacked by a werewolf, leading to one of our guys turning into one in the most iconic transformation film ever put on screen. Seriously, that scene is a work of art. The new Arrow Video special edition is gorgeous now that they’ve moved it to a 4K Collector’s release, with a brand new transfer of the film, a commentary track with Naughton and Dunne, many brand new featurettes and an interview with John Landis. This is a killer edition but there is only a limited amount of copies so if you love this stuff like I do then I would get on it immediately.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:

Ghostriders – My first thought when I saw this fun-looking release from MVD Visual was “hey, this doesn’t look like any Marvel release that I know of” and that’s because it isn’t and it’s very far removed from one as well. Made thirty-five years ago now, this one is a fun and definitely a dumb release that plays in a subgenre that is not often explored, the horror western. That’s right, this film follows the descendants of a group of cowboy lawmen who are targetted by the ghosts of an outlaw gang that were hanged by their ancestors. It’s a crazy storyline just in its simplicity and I would honestly love to see it get remade today because the film is a hell of a lot of fun to watch. I will admit that the pacing is at a snail’s pace in getting going but once the villains are introduced it gets pretty wild on a noticeably low budget. None of the actors are notable, the director hasn’t done anything else that would elevate him over cult status and it has been largely forgotten until this release but somehow it worked with me. I definitely can’t say it’s recommendable unless you like cult films though.

Deadly Games – Yes, I have to admit that my geek-outs this week are centralized in horror subgenres but these two were too good to pass up on a campy level cult double feature for this section. This one brings us back five years before the previous entry on the list and, again, doesn’t feature a cast you would recognize or a writer and editor who did anything notable afterwards as it loos like Scott Manfield’s follow up to this one, Imps, outright murdered his feature film career. The film is one of those classic exploitation flicks from the seventies and eighties, set in a town being terrorized by a masked killer who is murdering women. A young woman is attacked by the killer but escapes but with a bit of pertinent information as she believes the killer to be either the town’s policeman or the manager of the local theatre and she devises a plan to find out which is the actual killer. I wasn’t fully truthful when I said that this doesn’t feature any notable actors in it as Chicago Bears legend Dick Butkus appears in this mystery horror although I don’t think I can regard anything he does in it as “acting”. That really isn’t the point of this almost grindhouse style feature film as, just like the film on this list previously, its good old campy fun without any substance to it whatsoever.

Television:

Cheaper By The Dozen (Disney+) – Now that Disney owns Fox it’s time to capitalize on all of the properties that they owned under the Fox family film banner and that definitely includes this title which had two films that starred Steve Martin. Martin isn’t back for this one, nor is Bonnie Hunt who played his wife in it, but I think we have some solid lead actors in Gabrielle Union and, my personal favourite, Zach Braff. For those who didn’t get to see these movies in the early 2000s, this series follows the rambunctious exploits of a blended family of twelve, the Bakers, as they navigate a hectic home life while simultaneously managing their family business as well. Braff has incredible comedic timing as I am a huge fan of his show Scrubs which I’ve watched time and time again, something that is also on Disney+. I’m excited that this is a series that I can watch with my kids, the audience it is geared to because, well, Scrubs is definitely not family-friendly. I’m really hoping that there is a Donald Faison cameo that would set my nerd heart on fire.

DMZ (Crave) – One of my favourite graphic novels of all time, brilliantly written by Brian Wood and illustrated by Riccardo Burchielli, has finally made its series adaptation at, really, the best possible time to tell the story in a live-action format but I can’t help being scared that it will meet the same fate as another adapted favourite, Y The Last Man’ and get cancelled far before it’s time. Shepherded to the screen by producer and directors Ava Duvernay and Ernest R. Dickerson, this gritty post-fall of society story has a hell of a cast in it too with Rosario Dawson, Benjamin Bratt and Canadian star Agam Darshi and a storyline that I hope people see the depth in. Set in a near-future America, fractured by a Second Civil War, the story focuses on the titular DMZ, or the demilitarized zone, which is a ravaged Manhattan Island. No one goes in, no one comes out. But for medic Alma, who is desperate to find her missing son, it all comes down to her becoming a symbol of hope for the occupants trapped inside the DMZ. The future and the truth to the masses rests in her hands. I have no idea what to expect from this series but given the work that Duvernay and Dickerson have done before and the societal consciousness they have enacted, I can’t see them taking the teeth out of this biting world commentary that Wood created. I want more Wood adaptations if this does well because he has a bunch of really great stories ready to hit the small or big screen.

Human Resources (Netflix) – After the five seasons of Big Mouth I think the continuing story of the pubescent teens has hit the endgame and the resolutions have been met so Nick Kroll and his crew are moving on to spinoff with an integral piece of it, the hormone monsters and all the other psyche related creatures that make up the human mind. The spin-off pulls back the curtain on the daily lives of the creatures Hormone Monsters, Depression Kitties, Shame Wizards and many more that help humans journey through every aspect of life from puberty to childbirth to the twilight years. I’ve always said that the monsters were my favourite piece of the original series, especially Maury and Connie, and I’m glad my Netflix account was listening to me and whipping this up for us. I will say that this is not for everyone and is completely offensive but if you made it through all five seasons of Bog Mouth you are pretty much desensitized and if the show turned you off before that then the scars you have earned for life won’t let you watch this. It’s a win-win situation.

Minx (Crave) – I feel like a little precedence was set for this new show by the HBO series The Deuce which focused on the porn industry in the seventies because this HBO Max made show pull a little bit of the subject matter from that but leans into the comedy aspect a bit more. If that doesn’t sell you at all the casting of New Girl star Jake Johnson should help a bit and it is led by Ophelia Lovibond who MCU fans may remember as the assistant to The Collector who meets an unfortunate demise in Guardians Of The Galaxy. Like The Deuce, this show is set in the seventies as well and follows an earnest young feminist who joins forces with a low-rent publisher to create the first erotic magazine for women. The advance reviews are really good for it as it pushes the comedy but is also racy and raunchy in the exact ways you think it would be. I’m not hugely knowledgeable on creator and showrunner Ellen Rapoport but I do know the work of Rachel Lee Goldenberg who directs all of the episodes as she also directed the film Unpregnant, an absolute must-see film.

Life & Beth (Disney+) – Amy Schumer makes her return to the television series format with this new scripted series from Hulu and separates herself from the sketch comedy stylings that made up her first series, Inside Amy Schumer. She comes to this one with a bit more acting chops as well after starring in the fantastic dramatic film The Humans which had her on-screen with the always fantasy Richard Jenkins, Steven Yuen, Beanie Feldstein and June Squibb and something has to rub off in that company. The series follows Beth, who after an unexpected incident starts having flashbacks to her teen self and learns how she became who she is and who she wants to become. The show is getting a lot of praise and not just for its comedy but the depth of character to it as well. Much of it plays for a longer game in the plot and, although rough at times, Schumer’s character work shines through and the rest of the cast, including Michael Rapaport and stand-up comedian Gary Gulman, add a lot to it as well.

New Releases:

The Adam Project – Those ones there that think the fun and smile-driven success of the action flick Free Guy was just a fluke, well, leading man Ryan Reynolds and director Shawn Levy are back with a new blockbuster to prove that their hit-making combo isn’t a one-time thing. Not only that, as they did with their video game action-comedy, they are tapping into some big-screen nostalgia that is reminiscent of things like Flight Of The Navigator and The Last Starfighter in tone and I ate it all up happily. The film follows Reynolds as a time-travelling pilot who teams up with his twelve-year-old self after accidentally crash-landing in 2022. The mission is to destroy the time travel technology that was created by his father who passed away the year before he arrives. This film was awesome, featuring killer special effects, exhilarating action sequences and another charming performance from Reynolds as well as Catherine Keener and Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo in a 13 Going On 30 reunion. The stand-out is young Walker Scobell who has all of that sarcastic swagger of the guy he’s emulating the junior version of and then some. This is a fantastic film that will satisfy the audiences and give you that Spielberg and Zemeckis feeling you are craving but don’t even know it.

Turning Red – Another Pixar release had been given the direct route to Disney+ this week and, again after Luca, I feel for the people behind this beautiful production because it would have played so wonderfully on the big screen. Even more a bummer, this film is distinctly Canadian as it is a fully Asian story that feels so fresh and original. The story follows a thirteen-year-old girl named Mei Lee who turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets too excited which, as it turns out, is a family tradition she was not informed of. The movie is put together by writer and director Domee Shi who did the Pixar short Bao, a little story that literally brought me to tears in theatres. There are many beautiful moments that will make you well up in this and that third act is gargantuan in stature and in heart as well. The kids will love this one but so will the adults.

Donkeyhead – Family drama is always traumatic in some sense but when a film can’t seem to find the line for being fully dramatic or a comedy, it all gets a bit muddled and confused which is what we have right here. I want to be totally positive about this week’s batch of movies because it largely features Canadian productions but in the interest of transparency I have to be honest and start this by saying I’m on the fence here. The story mainly follows Mona, a failed writer, who carves out a life of isolation while caring for her ailing Sikh father. When he has a debilitating stroke, her three successful siblings show up on her doorstep determined to take control of the situation and start the proceedings to sell the house and prepare his estate for the next step which throws her life into disarray. This story could be triggering for a lot of people, me included having just lost two grandparents but the film can’t seem to find a pulse that doesn’t falter on a dramedy beat. What fascinates me is the different personalities within the Sikh culture but Mona seems so Canadianized that it loses its voice with her. This isn’t to say that this is a bad movie but it certainly feels a bit misguided.

The Wolf & The Lion – Canada is definitely the theme this week and this co-production with France had something even more rooted in our great nation as it also features Graham Greene who just showed up in the hilarious Last One Laughing Canada recently. The film comes from a story idea from director and writer Gilles de Maistre who has a penchant for lions as his last film Mia And The White Lion did some mind-blowing work with the majestic animals that left my jaw on the floor. The film follows a young woman named Alma who decides to go back to her childhood home, after the death of her grandfather, to a little island in the heart of the majestic Canadian forest. While there, she rescues two helpless cubs, a wolf and a lion, and they forge an inseparable bond but their world soon collapses as the forest ranger discovers the animals and takes them away. The two cub brothers must now embark on a treacherous journey across Canada to be reunited with one another and Alma once more. If you love animal movies then this movie will play to all of your sensibilities and once again de Maistre is able to put these wild animals so closely with the human actors, totally baffling me to the process one more time. The drama side and performances from the actual cast are not fantastic but I don’t think that’s where the draw of it lies.

Wildhood – This Canadian-made drama was only really on my radar because of the involvement of actor Michael Greyeyes who I really enjoyed in the zombie survival horror Blood Quantum and now also his upcoming turn in the Firestarter remake from Blumhouse. Not knowing anything about this film, I had no idea of the resonance and identity it has in our current landscape of cultural awareness. The story follows rebellious teenagers who run away from their abusive foster care in search of their identity, to find the eldest, Link’s, mother and heritage as a part of the Mi’kmaw people. As well as being an indigenous story of young people that have been failed by a terrible system, it also acts as an allied voice in the caring and understanding of the LGBTQA+ community and through a lens of not understanding his feelings, as Link displays in the film. This movie did really well at the Toronto International Film Festival and for good reason.

A Grand Romantic Gesture – Romantic comedies are pretty dicey as they largely feel contrived and unoriginal leading me to get a solid orbital workout of rolling my eyes almost constantly. It’s easy to say that the bar is set high and it takes a lot to squeak by my scrutiny and sadly this movie is definitely not it. To be honest, if this was a French film starring Isabelle Huppert I would be all over it because it works to that international degree. The film follows a woman who is encouraged by her husband and daughter to take up a class like cooking when she unexpectedly loses her job. Not quite gelling with the culinary world, she ends up taking a drama class where she falls head over heels for the leading man in the room and creates chaos in her home life. The film stars Gina McKee, a British actress who has done great work in films like Phantom Thread and Atonement, but this movie is pretty much just fluff with no substance in it. She deserves better than this bare-bones rom-com.

Scarborough – Another Canadian entry this week, which could easily be deduced by the title, I didn’t expect this movie to grip me as much as it did but deep character films involving kids do that and we have had two significant ones this week. The film comes from the triple threat of directors Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson and writer Catherine Hernandez who make a hell of a narrative film debut together and I have to say that it comes from their background in documentary filmmaking. Set in Scarborough, Ontario, the story follows three children who become friends while living in a low-income neighbourhood and strive to exist and grow in a system that has forgotten them and, in one case, a horribly abusive father who is destined to lead his daughter to more financial ruin and, worse, possible starvation. This movie hits like an emotional hammer more often than not and it has to be attributed to the life on the street style cinematography that puts you in the classroom, on the streets and in the low-income housing with the characters. Not a lot of people will check this one out as it isn’t really advertised at all but those who do will find a deeply emotional reward.

The Exorcism Of God – The title is terrible and the production levels aren’t great but a well-constructed trailer can do wonders for you and this movie has, possibly, one of the leading ad campaigns to get people’s eyes on this and it would have gotten me for sure if I didn’t already have to watch this for review. The film starts out with an American priest working in Mexico who is possessed during an exorcism and ends up committing a terrible act. Eighteen years later, the consequences of his sin come back to haunt him, unleashing the greatest battle within which turns out to be a more pointed critique on religion and gross-out brutal horror violence. I found myself wondering if it was more intent on being digested as a sort of satire than it was horror in a straightforward manner. It was hard to process what to take seriously.

Ella And The Little Sorcerer – Foreign animated films getting their North American revamps don’t always work out that well box office wise and I really can’t see this new one getting any sort of acclaim either. There isn’t any sort of big actor draw to it at all, It is low budget in its design and it is bafflingly trying to dispel the fact that it is a Cinderella story at its heart which is a family story that has been beaten to death, far past being a dead horse. Simply told, the story follows Ella and her friends who set off on a journey to find the magic potion ingredients to save Prince Alex when is trapped in the body of a mouse. Of course, friendship is the magic as the Little Ponies have always tough us, so of course, you can telegraph that moral but it might just be better to put the film on for the kids and walk away because there’s absolutely no adult merit to this film whatsoever and the target market is glaringly obvious.

Tzouhalem – Getting back to Canadian filmmaking, and specifically documentary storytelling, this is another special one as it is another voice in the indigenous community to shed light on. What I really love about films that come out of these great creators is that they are telling a history that was never shown in school or beyond and feature voices that have largely been silenced in the mainstream. Through interviews and creative re-enactments, this documentary examines the near-mythic figure of Cowichan Chief Tzouhalem, the account of his life from both historians and First Nations Elders, the folkloric tales concerning him, his impact on the modern relationship between the Crown and First Nations, and how his legend remains alive to this day, examining critically how his story has been told and passed down to us. Being First Nations myself, this one hits very close to home as the Cowichan people are tied to my own ancestry with the Shimshan and Haida so this film felt like a little bit of self-discovery as well, something that I have wanted since embracing my heritage through my mother. I’m not sure how broad all of it will be with a regular audience but I really enjoyed it.

Blu-Ray:

The Matrix Resurrections – Even though the last two movies in the original Matrix trilogy are not great, to say the least, the anticipation for his new restart to the franchise was at a fever pitch and the expectations, at least in my eyes, are kind of endless. Did we even know where this could lead or where the jumping point is? Did we know if this is set up for more to come? It was all speculation until we got our eyeballs on this visual feast and, for me, it was all worth it. Loosely speaking on its synopsis we return to a world of two realities, one which is everyday life and the other, the one that lies behind it. To find out if his reality is a construct, to truly know himself, Mr. Anderson will once again have to choose to follow the white rabbit once more. Keanu and Carrie Anne Moss are really the only returning stars from the first films aside from a small role from Jada Pinkett-Smith but it looks just as dazzling as we remember those films to be with slight tweaks to the fight sequences as there was a different choreographer for it. With only Lana directing this film, it has a slightly different feel to it but plays in its own meta-universe to a gleeful degree. I’m so happy that I have this one on blu-ray now as I really think it demands multiple viewings.

A Journal For Jordan – Denzel Washington made two appearances in cinemas around Christmas but this one had him behind the camera for his fourth feature film and one that puts one of the hottest actors today, Michael B. Jordan, in the driver’s seat. What I’m most surprised to see is that this film got slaughtered by critics which is a definite first for any Denzel project, whether he starred in it or directed it. The story follows Jordan as First Sergeant Charles Monroe King who authors a journal for his son, before he is killed in action in Baghdad, intending to tell him how to live a decent life despite growing up without a father. Back at home, senior New York Times editor Dana Canedy (Chanté Adams) revisits the story of her unlikely, life-altering relationship with King and his enduring devotion to her and their child. What I’m seeing online is that the melodrama in the film is so heavy that it almost feels like a made-for-TV drama and far less than the calibre of the star and its director would lend. This is so disappointing but at least we got Denzel and a Coen brother on AppleTV+ to dispel some of that downtrodden feeling.

Redeeming Love – Faith-based melodrama rears its head this week, an inevitability every few weeks but this one is trying to be more progressive, almost to a fault. The big thing that Christian entertainment news outlets are pushing is that this film is one of the few or any religious dramas to have a full-on sex scene in it. More than that, apparently the main characters are actually having sex on the poster but fully clothed and in a lush field of grass and flowers as I’m sure they do every time. Based on the novel by Francine Rivers, this is a powerful story of a young couple’s relationship that clashes with the harsh realities of the California Gold Rush of 1850. It could have been a well-told period piece against the backdrop of a developing America but, like most of the faith-based filmmaking, it is more driven in giving its messages and morals than telling a compelling and well-rounded story. It is also terribly dull and predictable and leaves you looking for the remote to fast forward to more completely clothed sex. Just as God intended.

Coming 2 America – I’m kind of disappointed in the film world for the simple fact that Eddie Murphy’s grand return in the biopic Dolemite Is My Name wasn’t as celebrated as it should have been, a total crowd pleaser and the brilliant role he needed to put himself back on top and for awards accolades to roll in. None of that happened but what we did get is him reteaming with the director, Craig Brewer, to bring us the long-awaited follow-up to a classic John Landis comedy that is still hilarious. The film brings us back to the lush and fictional royal country of Zamunda with newly-crowned King Akeem and his trusted confidante Semmi, played once again by Murphy’s pal Arsenio Hall embarking on an all-new adventure that has them traversing the globe from their great African nation to the borough of Queens, New York, back to where all of his worldly escapades began. Both Murphy and Hall once again don multiple characters in a film that sadly feels like a diminishing return that forgot the heart of the original story, goes for easy gags and jokes and, at times, becomes a muddled mess of morally questionable moments and lacklustre filmmaking from a guy I always praise. I even defended Craig Brewer on Footloose. Yes, I enjoyed that one.

One Shot – Scott Adkins is always going to be that underrated action hero that people will only remember for the small roles in things like The Expendables 2, Doctor Strange and Zero Dark Thirty but the guy has some range and should be utilized on a grander scale. This is definitely not one of the movies to showcase his acting chops as the action thrills are the draw as well as supporting performances from Ryan Phillippe and Ashley Greene. Adkins plays the leader of an elite squad of Navy SEALs who are sent on a covert mission to transport a prisoner off a CIA black site island prison but are quickly and efficiently trapped when insurgents attack while trying to rescue the same prisoner. The action is fast and furious with all of the Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six-style tactical scenes you could want but is warned that the film is incredibly bleak and all bets are off for who survives at the end. To be honest, everyone felt like fodder around Adkins who commands the screen as a good action hero does. To think that this dude was almost Batman at one point is pretty cool.

Silent Night – Camille Griffin gifted the world with a talented son who gave us the loveable character of Jojo Rabbit a couple of years back and now that she has done that the gloves are coming off with her narrative debut that she wrote and directed. The timing of the film might be a perfect storm for how heavy this story lands and how dark some of the comedy comes off but I think it all blends into how great the foundation is of it to start. The film follows Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode as a couple of parents who have invited their closest friends to join their family for Christmas dinner at their idyllic home in the English countryside. As the group comes together, it feels like old times but behind all of the laughter and merriment, something is not quite right as the world outside is facing impending doom, and no amount of gifts, games or Prosecco can make mankind’s imminent destruction go away. Now entering the endemic part of the crisis that affected us for the last couple of years, there are things in this movie that ring so blood chillingly true and conversations about vaccination, isolation and societal decisions start to blur the line between fantasy and unfortunate reality. I don’t want to delve deeper as it enters spoiler territory but I think the review scores are too low on this and it should be widely watched by a bigger audience.

The Legend Of La Llorona – The title here may be misleading for two reasons as the ghostly legend of La Llorona has been used a couple of times already, once by The Conjuring universe in the Curse Of La Llorona and then with the Guatemalan horror La Llorona. The first film was a pretty sizable letdown, even with the great Linda Cardellini as the lead, but the second one was absolutely amazing and a total must-see so my expectations with this were up there. The story follows a young family who is terrorized by a malevolent spirit while on vacation in Mexico. Staying in an isolated hacienda, the family is warned about the entity’s thirst for children’s souls and do everything in their power to escape with their lives in a movie that I should have known was going to be lacklustre when I saw Autumn Reeser and Danny Trejo were the top names. Not to say that they are bad or anything but they do such a huge body of work yearly and the ratio generally doesn’t work out in their favour. That said, this film was a dud that is unenthusiastic in almost every single way.

American Siege – To go along with the regular intervals of faith-based Christian films every few weeks, it seems that every other week we are getting new Bruce Willis action films that film me with just as much excitement as I do for Redeeming Love. I’m assuming that Bruce shares my same lack of enthusiasm as he exhibits it every time he does one of these direct to video productions and he even brings down lead star and former Sons Of Anarchy villain Timothy Murphy in this. Willis plays a washed-up sheriff who guards the secrets of the wealthy residents of a small Georgia town. When three outlaws take a prominent town doctor hostage in search of a missing woman, he is called in to handle the situation before the FBI arrives and in a race against time, the mayor pressures Sheriff Watts to launch an assault on the hostage-takers and to eliminate all witnesses. When the Sheriff realizes he may be a pawn in a larger scheme, he must carve a bloody warpath to expose the truth behind the town’s dark secrets. It’s crazy the amount of sleepwalking through scenes that the former John McClane actor can do and still earn a paycheck as I’m guessing all the good he did in his career was just so he could coast as he ages. It sounds like I’m critiquing him as a person, which is sort of what I’m doing, but I’m definitely jealous as well. I deviated from talking about this terrible movie here but just know it’s bad with no reason for anyone to watch it.

The Nowhere Inn – Music group St. Vincent and their pal Carrie Brownstein have collaborated for a new horror film and I had no clue it even existed but I’m really glad it does. Even better, the movie is a mockumentary that has all three of these talented ladies playing heightened versions of themselves in a Christopher Guest-like way. The story has the indie darling setting out to make a documentary about her music, but when she hires a close friend to direct, notions of reality, identity, and authenticity grow increasingly distorted and bizarre, which is where the ethereal horror starts to set in. I love it because the creators behind this as well as Ms. Annie Clark are such students of the indie scene and obviously know their horror tropes as well which blend to make a really engrossing little feature. There’s something about this film that makes it so oddly original yet it has a broadness that will engage viewers who want something a little unpredictable but still grounded.

National Champions – Sports movies can be a multiple-choice answer when you watch them. It can be a dime a dozen affair where you can predict all the dramatic beats, a well-acted and dynamic story that keeps you on the edge of your seat or a badly cast and put-together film that has you looking for the exit. This film is a mixed bag of all three, following a star quarterback who ignites a player’s strike hours before the biggest game of the year in order to fight for fair compensation, equality and respect for the student-athletes. What kept my focus in the film is the phenomenal cast assembled around lead star Stephan James including J.K. Simmons, Timothy Olyphant and Tim Blake Nelson but seems to pull the rug out from under it at all the worst times with a cringe-worthy script. It takes a lot for Simmons to come off like a cheeseball and director Ric Roman Waugh does it multiple times. It’s sad because his last film Greenland was such a pleasant surprise by being good and utterly depressing too.

Supergirl: Season 6 – Melissa Benoist and cast bid farewell to their little vision of National City as this Lower Mainland filmed part of the DC Comics television universe comes to an end. This show has had its bumpy points but I really enjoyed it for the most part and it has to come down to the casting of Benoist as the title character, David Harewood, who would eventually be revealed as the Martian Manhunter and the stunt casting of Jon Cryer as Lex Luthor which is such a great in-joke to the original Superman movie franchise. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing any of this series, it follows National City’s new hero, Supergirl, who takes on the responsibility of keeping the people safe. Going on adventures filled with action, hope and love, she is determined to make a difference by bringing not only her superpowers, but her heart to the table as well. I’m being a bit biased here but the best episodes of the show were the ones made by Kevin Smith who has put his fingerprints all over this show from season two on, as well as on The Flash, and as a comic book guy who knows his stuff, it resonates it what he created in his pieces and their resonance through to the end. As a guy slowly but surely collecting all of these pieces, this was a welcomed addition.

Adventure Time: Distant Lands – Almost two years after the ending of the original series, a fan favorite that drew a crowd of all ages, we get more adventures with Finn The Human, Jake The Dog and all of their friends but with a little bit of a twist. The new show is more hyper focused on the side stories of characters like BMO, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen on their own solo exploits doing heroic things. I’m being vague but I now this will also become a massive success with the fan base because Pendleton Ward has always delivered, including the series The Midnight Gospel on Netflix with Duncan Trussell.

Yellowstone: Season 4 – Kevin Costner takes the lead in this series that has taken audiences across North America in a big bad way and it’s because it is a damn good series both in writing from Hell Or High Water and Sicario’s Taylor Sheridan and a well-rounded cast around Costner including Kelly Reilly, Cole Hauser and Wes Bentley to get things started.. The show follows the Dutton family, led by John Dutton played by Costner, who controls the largest contiguous ranch in the United States, under constant attack by those it borders, such as land developers, a nearby Indian reservation and the keepers of America’s first National Park. It is an intense study of a violent world far from media scrutiny, where land grabs make developers billions, politicians are bought and sold by the world’s largest oil and lumber corporations, where drinking water is poisoned by fracking wells and unsolved murders are not news. I was severely late to the game and am currently immersed near the end of the third season and am really enjoying it, a good series for those who like crime series like Sons Of Anarchy or The Sopranos.

Steve’s Blu-Ray & DVD Geekouts:

Marionette Land – I feel like this is a documentary that is destined to creep not just me out but a myriad of people that find marionettes and old antique dolls utterly unnerving. That’s probably a seemingly harsh attitude to take and I am who I am and can’t stop that but I don’t want it to diminish the incredible work of the man at the heart of this film. The film is an intimate portrait of the world of Robert Brock, a man who lives above his own magical marionette theatre with his mother, Mary Lou. Brock creates and performs classic marionette shows for families as well as grown-up shows where he straps on his heels to become famous Hollywood divas of the past but new personal and professional challenges emerge as Robert and Mary Lou struggle to keep the marionette theatre open while preparing to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary. The film goes into directions that I didn’t really expect and for Brock to be able to live in his own identity and to pursue his passion is heartwarming but the struggle is something we can all relate to with any of our own interests. As far as character-focused documentaries go, this is a well-done film that puts you on Robert’s shoulders and I found it fascinating. The dolls still creep me out though.

Alice In Wonderland – In a continuing bid to own everything Tim Burton has made, for better or for worse, I bring this Disney-fied take on the classic Lewis Carroll book that I believe is just a dose of acid for kids. That said, this movie is so Burton-y but colourful it is just weird and Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter straight up looks like Madonna but I totally digress. For those who don’t know the classic literature, the story follows a nineteen-year-old Alice who returns to the magical world from her childhood adventure, where she reunites with her old friends and learns of her true destiny which is to end the Red Queen’s reign of terror. Of course, being a Tim Burton film, Helena Bonham Carter was your villainous queen and Christopher Lee appears but it is the voice of the always loved and long-missed Alan Rickman that keeps me coming back to this film. I feel like now, six years after his passing, I will always put on something he’s a part of just to hear that iconic voice.

The Wolfman – This Universal monster remake got a raw deal I feel and if only they had released this Blu-ray version, the director’s cut, I think audiences would have received it better. Made by an exhilarating director in Joe Johnston and starring a great cast with Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt, I guess it was just destined to fall into the underrated and underappreciated column. Del Toro plays Lawrence Talbot, a nobleman who returns to his ancestral home in Victorian-era England to search for his missing brother Ben, only to fall under a terrible curse that causes him to experience an unsettling transformation. Talbot soon discovers that a ravenous beast is on the loose and he must protect the woman he loves from its clutches as well as discover the true nature of his newfound affliction. The transformation scenes in this film are fantastic and, when we constantly hold it up to the greatest werewolf transformation ever, An American Werewolf In London, I think it passes the test. Johnston gives this film a solid pace as well that keeps you engaged with the mystery of it all. I’m still unsure why this movie bombed and wasn’t used as the template for a new Universal monsters franchise.

High Life – In the last few years, especially with season movie lovers, this title gets brought up and we immediately think of the Claire Denis sci-fi tale starring Robert Pattinson that is memorable for more than a few reasons that I don’t want to discuss here but this Canadian made bank heist comedy-drama came first and almost ten years prior. It has its charm in the top star of Timothy Olyphant but this is definitely not the dreamy leading man you know or the tough guy from Justified but a dirtier and drug-addled version. The story is set in the early eighties and follows a hopeless junkie named Dick who gets an unwelcome visit from the past, his seriously sleazy former cellmate, Bug, a violent man with a hair-trigger temper. Bug requires a crash course in the eighties with the different music, different drugs, and machines in walls that dispense money. Explaining the latter development gives Dick an idea and the two enlist some help into knocking off some ATMs to secure their futures… or a weekend worth of drugs. This film is purely character-driven and is almost a comedy of errors in a bank heist format that descends into some dangerous territory really fast. Olyphant is great as usual, as are co-stars Joe Anderson and Rossif Sutherland who I always enjoy but the breakthrough is the guy Bug himself, played by Steven Eric McIntyre who steals the show. I really don’t know him from anything prior or since so I guess this was a one-off. Still a solid discovery.

Television:

Letterkenny: International Women’s Day (Crave) – The boys of Letterkenny are back in one of their focused holiday specials in the perfect vein of this rural comedy and all of its hijinx. Lots of comparisons are made to Trailer Park Boys for this show but I firmly believe those comments are made by people who have never seen it. For those who are new to it, the series showcases the antics of the residents of Letterkenny, a small rural community in Canada. Siblings Wayne and Katy run a small farm and produce stand, with Wayne’s friends Daryl and “Squirrely” Dan helping out. Many of the town’s inhabitants fall into one of several groups, which include the farmers, or “hicks,” the out-of-towners on the local hockey team, the local drug addicts and the “natives,” who are members of the local First Nation. The sophistication in the writing of this series is on a whole other level and I always laugh until my sides hurt every episode. It’s really kicking me in the funny bone that they have focused on International Women’s Day with this special and I can’t wait to see what they do with it because, it may not look like it, but this series is massively progressive in its morals and attitudes which the fans of the show know and love already.

Upload: Season 2 (Prime Video) – After the surprise hit success of the first season which capitalized on everyone being on lockdown and needing something to watch, Amazon Prime has gone for a new batch of episodes of this sci-fi series from Greg Daniels, the creator of the American version of The Office and Parks And Recreation. Starring Robbie Amell, this ten-episode second season follows a man who gets to electronically pick the new world he inhabits after his untimely death. This is a show that has been long in development for Daniels as he started writing it right after the series finale for The Office and I really loved a lot about the first season including Amell’s brash sarcasm that really ropes you in as a lead character. I also really love the satire on humanity’s future as well as it trying to capitalize and make money off of the afterlife. It’s really smart, funny and the right kind of comedy for the world right now.

Shining Vale (Crave) – The main thing that brought me into this new Starz original was Courtney Cox, an actress I have loved since Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and one who is fresh in my mind after Scream in January. Oddly enough, it’s kind of hard to find a tone in this new half-hour series but I think that’s the draw to it as well. Is it a comedy, a ghost story or a drama about infidelity and depression? Who knows! I do know that it follows a family that moves to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place but no one seems to notice except for Pat, Cox’s character, who’s convinced she’s either depressed or possessed and, as it turns out, the symptoms are exactly the same. Episode one lays out the groundwork for a mysterious series quite well and with the first two immediately available, it could gather a fevered audience pretty quickly. It also has Greg Kinnear as her emotionally damaged but stunted husband and in this way, he works so well.

Winning Time: The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty (Crave) – Adam MacKay just had the critical fence riding comedy Don’t Look Up on Netflix that let him get some vitriol out while also resulting in him getting lambasted by half the audience online but he’s back to tell some basketball history. Sadly, this was also the project that broke the friendship of MacKay and longtime pal and collaborator Will Ferrell as he wasn’t approached to star in it but it looks to be an alright consolation prize for not getting a Stepbrothers sequel. The series is a comedy-drama that centers on the professional and personal lives of the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers, one of sports’ most revered, dominant dynasties and a team that defined an era, both on and off the court. The swagger of the eighties style is all there, we have Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as well as one-time majority shareholder Jerry Buss played by John C. Reilly in another team up with him and Adam. I’m loving episode one a lot and I can’t wait to burn through more of this

The Last Days Of Ptolemy Grey (AppleTV+) – Samuel L. Jackson and AppleTV+ are here to bring something trippy but totally heady and philosophical and what piqued my interest right away is the filmmaker who is heading u the who project. Featuring director Ramin Bahrani of 88 Homes among many other great films, the legendary Debbie Allen, and Guillermo Del Toro’s longtime cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, this show is definitely like no other and it is most definitely a limited series. The story follows Jackson as the title character, a ninety-year-old man forgotten by his family, by his friends and even by himself. On the brink of sinking even deeper into lonely dementia, Ptolemy experiences a seismic shift when he’s given the tremendous opportunity to briefly regain his memories and uses this precious and fleeting lucidity to solve his nephew’s death and come to terms with his past. There is probably a limited audience for this show but I feel like the built-in viewer just wants to see something different and that’s what I love about AppleTV+ and the chances they take with their content.