Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Boss Level – From the outside this movie looks like unoriginal crap, again recycling the “Groundhog Day” style time parabol tropes that have appeared a lot in the last decade and, yes, I can’t fault anyone for feeling that but with the combination of these elements, lead star Frank Grillo, director Joe Carnahan and the no holds barred action style, I kind of loved it. Grillo plays former special forces agent Roy Pulver who is trapped in a time loop that constantly repeats the day of his murder, each day uncovering more and more clues about a secret government project that could unlock the mystery behind his untimely death. In a race against the clock, Pulver must hunt down Colonel Ventor, played with a subtle wink by Mel Gibson, the powerful head of the government program, while outrunning skilled ruthless assassins determined to keep him from the truth in order to break out of the loop, save his family and live once again for tomorrow. This movie is violent and excessive but manages to deliver as a fun and wild ride if you don’t try to over analyse the science behind it.

The Seventh Day – This week has a bit of an exorcism theme with this movie and the blu-ray released retrospective of The Exorcist but this movie has Guy Pearce as a demon fighting priest so that’s cool, right? He stars as a renowned exorcist who teams up with a rookie priest for his first day of training and as they plunge deeper into hell on earth, the lines between good and evil blur, and their own demons emerge. Did that just sound like the Exorcist version of the movie Training Day? Kind of and, to be honest, that would have been amazing in my opinion. What is instead the result is a great performance from Pearce in a movie that is muddled in it’s plot and seems to constantly borrow from better films which, in turn, makes it look way worse. If I hadn’t seen any exorcism movie prior I may have been slightly impressed by this one but, alas, I’m well versed in the subgenre.

In The Earth – Writer and director Ben Wheatley is on fire as he has been since he debuted but more recently he had a remake of a Hitchcock film, Rebecca, for Netflix and now he has this small, self contained little pandemic made thriller and the psychedelia of the whole thing may turn people off but I thought it was brilliant. This mysterious film hits really close to home, taking place in a world that desperately searches for a cure to a disastrous virus, following a scientist and park scout who venture deep in the forest for a routine equipment run. Through the night, their journey becomes a terrifying voyage through the heart of darkness as the forest comes to life around them and a stranger they come across who may be more dangerous than he is helpful. The film stars usual British comedy guys Joel Fry and Reece Shearsmith and is an incredible meditation on both paranoia and blind hopefulness and the emotional horror that can result from it. The score is also done by the genius composer, Clint Mansell, and adds a thick level of atmosphere that helps drive the dread. I really loved this one but I adore the weird stuff, so take that as it is.

The Good Traitor – This week we get some pre World War II drama in a freedom fighter story about rebellion and the cost of standing up against a rising evil regime. Starring Ulrich Thomsen, Burn Gorman and Ross McCall, the film is set in 1940 when Denmark is invaded by Nazi Germany with demands for immediate and unconditional surrender. The government quickly surrenders after a few hours and begins cooperating with the Nazis but on the other side of the Atlantic is Denmark’s ambassador to the United States of America, a daredevil and a man of the world, Henrik Kauffmann, who is willing to put everything on the line. Refusing to follow the German directives, he engineers a rebellious plan to defeat Hitler and give the Danish people their freedom back. The reality of this story is absolutely fascinating and even when the narrative style dries out the intrigue contained within, the consistent reminder that this is a true story keeps everything mostly afloat. That said, Thomsen absolutely owns his performance as Kauffmann, the main reason to check this out.

The Violent Heart – There’s a lot of secrets contained in this high school mystery thriller with some Shakespearian tropes to it but it attaches itself interestingly to many current thematic issues even if it does get a bit grandiose in it’s scope. The film stars Jovan Adepo from HBO’s Watchman limited series and has him playing twenty four year old Daniel, a man trying to recover emotionally from the murder of his siter fifteen years earlier and finds himself falling for Cassie, an outgoing high school senior which starts to increase the darkness he’s been trying to keep contained. This film is ambitious in it’s scope but the paper thin characters and development always serve to bog it down as you really don’t have any investment in them so why would you care what happens to them? I felt the need to know what was going to happen next but it was more of a completionist thing for me rather than a finality to the story.

Arlo The Alligator Boy – Just before I put this new animated Netflix produced movie on for my kid I thought, “oh man, this better not be dreadful. I can’t take an awful kid’s movie right now” and I thought my fears were coming true when my daughter said “it’s a musical, I think”. She then informed me that it was good so far and, really, I kind of started enjoying it myself. The story is so cute and precocious and follows a young humanoid alligator who travels to the big city in hopes of reuniting with his estranged father while meeting a colorful cast of characters along the way, building up friendships with all of them. The film features a pretty good supporting cast of voices around the debuting Michael J. Woodard like Brett Gelman, Tony Hale, Red Hot Chili Peppers bass player Flea, Jennifer Coolidge, Annie Potts and Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness and is a solid family outing with a good message and songs that won’t make you want to tear your ears off. That’s a win.

The Banishing – Shane is going to be glad that he’s off this week as I have a new Shudder original horror to talk about this week and it has early festival buzz and now some of my go to genre critics are praising it as well so I feel like we’re in good hands here. Starring Jessica Brown Finlay and Sean Harris and directed by Black Death’s Christopher Smith, The Banishing tells the story of the most haunted house in England. Set in 1930s England, the film follows Linus, his wife Marianne and their daughter Adelaide move into town, where the patriarch has been posted as the new reverend. Tasked by the Church to renew the villagers’ faith which has been lost after the disappearance of the previous reverend’s family who lived in the very same mysterious manor where Linus and his family have settled into, he too starts to experience strange events like ghostly voices, dark figures dressed as monks, mysterious totems and his daughter’s behaviour starts becoming stranger by the day. It soon becomes clear that a malicious entity seeks to possess Adelaide and that the Church is hiding a terrible secret and may be even forcing it to happen. This movie gets under your skin and uses the very atmosphere around it to fuel the horror. Be warned, this film may stick with you for days and may make you avoid mirrors for a bit.

Blu-Ray:

Leap Of Faith: William Friedkin On The Exorcist – One of the greatest horror films of all time and a movie that always appears at number one on the list of things that have scared people for life, The Exorcist, gets a full on retrospective from the only one who can give the full details about the story’s move from a book to screenplay and the construction and philosophy of the actual film, director William Friedkin. This may come across a bit dry to a casual viewer but, as a guy who just loves documentaries on film, I ate every second of this movie up. Having previously stepped into the shower for his exhaustive study of Psycho’s famous shower scene with 78/52 and boarded the Nostromo for the far reaches of space in Memory: The Origins of Alien, acclaimed documentarian Alexandre O. Philippe turns his attention to another landmark of genre cinema, framed around an epic six-day interview with the legendary director. The assembled analysis is not just an in-depth musing on one of the most influential and widely acclaimed horror movies of all time but also an enlightening and intimate portrait of Friedkin’s creative process as he passionately discusses his influences, from his religious upbringing to Caravaggio and interrogating the obsessions he has returned to throughout his filmmaking career. This film is always insightful, awe inspiring at times and often disarmingly candid, such a great companion piece to a true masterpiece.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Defending Your Life – Albert Brooks has a long line of genius both in from of and behind the camera that I feel has been forgotten in a large way as he hasn’t done a film himself since that sort of forgotten about Looking For Comedy In The Muslim World was released sixteen years ago but it’s a good thing that Criterion is her to celebrate his greatness. In one of my favourite of his ventures, he stars alongside Meryl Streep as Daniel Miller, a man who finds himself in Judgment City after being killed in a car crash in a waiting area for the newly deceased. While there, one must prove in a courtroom-style process that he successfully overcame his fears but in the process Daniel meets Julia in an afterlife comedy club and falls in love with her. Julia seems to have what it takes to move to the ‘next stage’ of existence, but Daniel’s worried he’ll be sent back and, in turn, lose the one person he loves so much. This is thoroughly a great film that plays on the afterlife with such wit and charm that you keep a smile on your face for the entire duration. I’m a big fan of this movie.

Cosmoball – I guess the Russians must have seen James Caan’s Rollerball or something because they have dipped into the sci-fi future sports field with this new fantasy action film. Featuring some dazzling special effects but a pretty muddled storyline, the film depicts a life on earth that is desolate and in despair after a brutal intergalactic war decimates most of our world which is then brightened only by the dangerous, high-flying sport Cosmoball, the lifeblood of the new way but no one knows that at each match the four gifted humans are really fighting furiously to ensure the survival of humankind. Honestly, beyond it’s gaffes, which are definitely present, I found myself really enjoying this film and got into the action on an almost Tron Legacy like level but the frenetic pace of Russian films does sort of make that stakes feel not as urgent and it does get in the way of good character development.

Television:

Wahl Street (Crave) – How did Mark Whalberg rise so quickly as a star? It really is colossal how he moved from Marky Mark And The Funky Bunch and a Calvin Klein model to the villain in the Reese Witherspoon thriller Fear and that opened the floodgates as he was a top billed blockbuster star by 2000. This new documentary series explores what Wahlberg has done with that massive rise in fortune in his modern life as the show’s focus is a candid look at the business pursuits of the mega star and his personal life in the midst of the global pandemic as he manages his growing business ventures against his rigorous film schedule. I know we all feel a COVID-19 pandemic fatigue but things like this really fascinate me and it’s so interesting to see the on the fly adjustments that the industry I love have had to make. I’m really intrigued to see where the series goes after episode one which starts as the pandemic is a looming threat and hasn’t yet hit the United States in the brutal way that we all lived through.

The Nevers (Crave) – This new HBO series already leaves a bad taste in my mouth as it was shepherded to the television screen by the former nerd messiah and current Hollywood parian Joss Whedon and episode one has the markings of him all over it which, up until Justice League, wasn’t a bad thing. Hell, we used to celebrate it! How times have changed. The series is set during the last years of Queen Victoria’s reign in a London is beset by the “touched” a group of people, mostly women, who suddenly manifest abnormal abilities, some of them charming but some are very disturbing. Among them are Amalia True, a mysterious, quick-fisted widow, and Penance Adair, a brilliant young inventor. They are the champions of this new underclass, making a home for the Touched, while fighting the forces of every malevolent force that crosses their path to make room for those whom history as we know has no place. I will say that I have hopes that the show will improve as the acting is great and the production value is stellar but the world building is sluggish, disjointed and kind of nonsensical in moments.

The Circle: Season 2 (Netflix) – A total Netflix reality show addiction is returning to rope people in and, I can’t lie, I was totally hooked by the original series. Now, I know nothing about any new changes or anything about the new contestants but I do know what the first season was all about as I watched every single episode. In a nutshell, the contestants live in an apartment building showcasing the infamous circle on the outside. They are literal neighbours but never meet face to face and only communicate through a social media app called “The Circle.” They can create a profile as themselves or make up a fake persona to play as and they regularly rank the other players based on their impressions through social media interactions with the top rated players becoming influencers who get to block, or eliminate a player, until ultimately a winner is crowned. Written out like that, it all seems so hopelessly dumb, which it is, but holy hell is it an addicting watch. I hate reality shows until you plunk this in front of me. I’m angering the television gods right now, I know it.

Big Shot (Disney+) – Disney+ and their original shows must have a real love for sports because, besides the revival of The Mighty Ducks and the new High School Musical series, they have put the Full House heartthrob John Stamos in the lead of this new series that has me comparing it to the subplot of the show Episodes. Those who know that great show get the reference. Stamos stars as a hothead men’s basketball coach who gets ousted from the NCAA and must take a job at an all-girls high school. He soon learns that teenage girls are more than just wins and losses and, shockingly, they require empathy and vulnerability, something our main coach has no training for. By learning how to connect with his players, predictably, he starts to grow into the person he’s always hoped to be and the girls learn to take themselves more seriously, finding their footing both on and off the court, surging to become a winning squad. Like The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, this really wasn’t made for adults and plays into the family programming that the Disney Channel is known for. Take the knowledge when getting into this but also know that Stamos is still as dreamy as he always was.

Kate & Koji (BritBox) – This is going to tap a bit into my love for British television, which is deep and varied as I was raised on it but it has to seep into my weekly reviews at some point. This one has big British acting credibility as Brenda Blethyn leads the show, a two time Academy Award nominated actress, playing a working-class woman who runs an old-fashioned café in a neglected British seaside town who develops a strong and sometimes volatile friendship with an asylum-seeking African doctor played by the great Jimmy Akingbola who Arrowverse fans may know as Baron Reiter. Personally, I just enjoyed the hell out of his work on the Brit series In The Long Run which he featured in alongside Bill Bailey and Idris Elba, who actually created that show. He’s not only dreamy and a special effect looking human specimen but he’s a gifted creator too! Some people have all the luck. Or talent.

New Releases:

Nomadland – For months I have been sitting on this review and the hype is evident as this film has already picked up Golden Globes for Best Picture and Best Director for Chloe Zhao and has six Academy Award nominations and is a heavy favorite to win all of those categories. Starring the incredible Frances McDormand, the film follows Fern, a woman dealing with the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, who packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. This film is a fascinating look at a real society of people who now find themselves disenfranchised to the American dream or even an affordable home and Zhao uses some real nomads peppered into this story for a hard hitting effect. The stories told in this movie were enlightening and a bit of stark modern reality contained in one of the most beautiful pieces of cinema this year.

Voyagers – With a hot esthetic, the sleek blackness of space and a neon glow, Limitless and The Illusionist filmmaker Neil Burger returns with a great cast and a creepy sci-fi mystery to baffle everyone with again. Starring Colin Farrell, Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp, Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead and Game Of Thrones alum Isaac Hempstead Wright, the film is set in the near future and chronicles the odyssey of thirty young men and women who are sent deep into space on a multi-generational mission in search of a new home. The mission descends into madness, as the crew reverts to its most primal state, not knowing if the real threat they face is what’s outside the ship or who they’re becoming inside it and it hits all the right buttons for me. The creeping paranoia of this film is so deliciously infective that I must have had a weird grin on my face the whole time. The Neil Burger I enjoy has fully returned in this movie, a huge improvement from The Upside. And Allegiant for that matter.

Thunder Force – With an exasperated groan and much against my will I clicked watch on the newest offering from Melissa McCarthy and her writer and director husband Ben Falcone who have gifted us the cinematic presents of Tammy, The Boss, Life Of The Party and Super Intelligence. Spoiler alert, all of those were terrible and the bar was low going into this one. Co-starring Octavia Spencer and Bobby Cannavale, the story follows scientist Emily Stanton who accidentally imbues her estranged best-friend with incredible abilities in an experiment meant to give superpowers to regular people in a world terrorized by super-villains. The two women must become the first superhero team, naming themselves Thunder Force, to battle the super-powered Miscreants and save Chicago from the clutches of The King. With a couple jokes here and there that land, I call this movie spaghetti funny as it takes five pieces and throws them against the wall to see what sticks and, usually, one of them does. This movie will make you facepalm on a level of “okay, the joke is over and didn’t land” and has painful levels of bad CGI but isn’t an overall waste of an hour and forty minutes.

Moffie – This movie out of South Africa is getting a huge amount of buzz from both the festival circuit as well as the LGBTQ+ community and, I will warn you now, it’s not for the faint of heart and hits levels of real brutality that I wasn’t ready for. The film follows the story of Nicholas van der Swart who, from a very young age, realized he is different but, try as he may, he cannot live up to the macho image expected of him by his family, by his heritage. So, at the age of 19 he is conscripted into the South African army and finds his every sensibility offended by a system close to its demise, and yet still in full force. Set during the South African border war against communism, this is a harsh tale about the emotional and physical suffering endured by countless young men, brilliantly put together by writer and director Oliver Hermanus who adapted this from André Carl van der Merwe’s book of the same name which actually is a derogatory Afrikaans term for a gay man. This movie is like a cold slap to the face and never relents until the credits hit.

Held – We’ve now been in some form of lockdown isolation for more than a year now and it makes horror based in isolated areas so much more chilling at the present time and this new horror thriller hopes to prey on that weakness. The story follows a couple whose marriage is losing its spark and, in an effort to reconnect, they vacation to a remote high-end rental, complete with automated smart house features and integrated security. However, after suspecting a nighttime intruder they decide to flee, only to become forcibly trapped inside by the automated security system. Emitting from the house, an unknown voice watches their every move through an array of hidden cameras, revealing an intimate and unsettling knowledge of their relationship. While the situation grows increasingly brutal, the couple must work together to uncover the truth and find a way out before it’s too late. This movie was a hidden surprise that has great twists throughout and a crazy ending that I can’t even begin to describe, nor would I want to because it is incredibly satisfying on a storytelling level. This is truly a special film.

Quo Vadis, Aida? – Well, if you want to know how my weekend was, it will definitely contain the anecdote about how this movie kicked my ass emotionally on a Saturday night. Nothing will prepare you for the sorrow of this now Academy Award nominated film from Serbia, set in a time of horrible atrocities in the mid nineties. The story follows Aida, a translator for the United Nations in the small town of Srebrenica which has just been taken over by the Serbian army. Her family is among the thousands of citizens looking for shelter in the UN camp and, as an insider to the negotiations, Aida has access to crucial information that she needs to interpret that she can hopefully maneuver into being a bargaining chip to help protect her loved ones. This movie is powerful, constantly moving and always embedded with an urgency that’s quick to follow with despair. As it is every year, it’s a tight race in the Oscars foreign category but this one deserves eyes on it.

Night In Paradise – Hell yes, some new South Korean cinema is hitting Netflix this week and, better than that, it is written and directed by Park Hoon-jung who started his career out writing the cat and mouse serial killer thriller I Saw The Devil, a movie I consider one of the greatest of all time. The story follows a wronged mobster with a target on his back hiding out in Jeju Island following a brutal tragedy who connects with a woman who has her own demons. This film is beautifully shot and moves at such a great pace that it keeps you engaged with these characters throughout. This movie plays with a blend of emotion and old school gangster noir that operates brilliantly and never lets the story get muddled. I loved this movie but I am, as you know, totally biased.

Felix And The Treasure Of Morgaa – Family animated releases have been few and far between during the pandemic rocked time we have been going through for over a year now and besides Trolls, The Croods and Disney releases, it’s been tumbleweeds in this department. We look to the French Canadian sector of our country for something this week, an animated adventure that follows twelve-year-old Félix who, taking advantage of his mother’s absence as she departs on a cruise ship for some rest and relaxation, sets out to find his father, a fisherman who disappeared at sea two years earlier. With no voices that are recognizable and an animation style that isn’t that fresh or new, all that Felix’s adventure will do is hold the kids attention for ninety minutes while you give yourself a respite to plan the next thing to occupy them because you sure as shit won’t want to watch this one, trust me. This is another example of me going above and beyond for you, my faithful reader and listener.

Pandemic – Oh great, just what we need. A pandemic themed thriller that definitely cashed in on the opportunity to change its name from the originally titled Alone to something with a current hotness. Starring Teen Wolf’s Tyler Posey and Canadian legend Donald Sutherland, the story follows Aiden who barricades himself inside his apartment when an outbreak hits and starts rationing food in his complex which is overrun by the infected, known as “Screamers”, and with the world rapidly falling apart into chaos, he is left completely alone fighting for his life. We could relate, right? Unfortunately, everything about this movie screams mediocre. Posey is half assed in this one, the effects are borderline terrible and, for a story that could play up the urgency and isolation that we all feel, it’s more content on going down a long beaten path in a tired genre. It’s pretty sad and a complete waste of time, even for a horror guy like myself.

Underplayed – Bud Light produced a film? And it’s about the party scene of DJs? Yes, but it’s not as vapid as you would be led to believe as this documentary goes straight for the issues and takes a direct route to get under your skin and drive home the message of inequality and inequity in the constant fight to get women an equal share in, heck, any industry. Featuring an artist I absolutely adore, Australian’s entrancing Alison Wonderland, this documentary was filmed over the summer festival season and presents a portrait of the current status of the gender, ethnic, and sexuality equality issues in dance music. The story and issues are through the lens of the female pioneers, next-generation artists and industry leaders who are championing the change and inspiring a more diverse pool of role models for future generations. This film has a big message to it, the pulse pounding reflection of the festival scene to power it and some really great music to keep your head in the game. I really dug this movie a lot.

Sugar Daddy – This week seems to be filled with little films that are far off the beaten path and this is another one of those but it benefits from having the great gravitas of distinguished Canadian actor Colm Feore to give it some immediate weight. The film stars Letterkenny’s Kelly McCormack, who also wrote it as well, and has her playing Darren, a young talented musician who dreams of making music like nobody has before but she’s hopelessly broke. Desperate for cash, she signs up to a paid-dating website, throwing herself down a dark path that shapes her music with it and adds some serious substance to her experience whether she wants it or not. McCormack delivers such a special performance in this film that I think will catch on with word of mouth, a story that navigates the hopeful dreamer and plunges it into the reality of gender politics and harsh life lessons. It doesn’t always play to it’s strengths but when the iron is hot it strikes with a blinding fire.

Amundsen: The Great Explorer – Straight out of Norway comes this explorer story based on the life and facts of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first man to arrive on the South Pole. With the only recognizable actress being The World To Come’s Katherine Waterston who is pretty fleeting in it, the draw to the film is the expansive beauty and haunting quality of the Arctic through methodical pacing and panoramic shots that punctuate it throughout. Is it enough to keep the whole thing afloat, so to speak? Yes and no, because, as the expedition progresses, the actual historical action is very interesting but the execution of it in a filmmaking setting is poorly done and suffers from some amateurish post production. I feel like people who are able to look through these gaffs will be rewarded with a story that is not well known but it was hard for me to get beyond these issues.

Senior Moment – William Shatner stars in a goofy and slapstick romantic comedy and even with his romantic lead being played by the amazing and hilarious Jean Smart, I couldn’t be less enthused about this wet fart of a movie. Shatner plays a retired NASA test pilot who, after drag racing his vintage convertible around Palm Springs, loses his license and is forced to take public transportation. This ends up working out for him as he meets Caroline and starts to learn to navigate a love life again in a movie that is so horribly “paint by numbers” I began to feel like I had forgotten if I had actually written this one myself. Not even a Christopher Lloyd supporting role as his doting best friend could keep me complacent as I kept checking the runtime like a detention student waiting for the teacher to let him go. There may be a market for this but it certainly isn’t me.

Blu-Ray:

Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar – Comedy audiences have been demanding a sequel to the massive hit Bridesmaids ever since it was released ten years ago this year and it’s probably what was expected when it was announced that writers and star Kristen Wiig and Anne Mumelo had a new project together. Heck, maybe they intended for it to be a follow-up, but it isn’t and instead Wiig teams with Mumelo on screen as two very different characters. This is the story of best friends Barb and Star, who leave their small Midwestern town for the first time to go on vacation in Vista Del Mar, Florida, where they soon find themselves tangled up in adventure, love, and a villain’s evil plot to kill everyone in town. This duo both on and off-screen work absolute magic as they once again create hilarious and memorable characters, this time wackier than those of Bridesmaids, but still grounded with a sense of being real people.

Shadow In The Cloud – I thought this one would be a movie with the utmost potential but all of that was quickly erased when I saw that it was partially written by the bottom-feeding troll that is Max Landis, for me one of the worst interview subjects I have ever had. Not to go into detail but the dude is awful. The movie does sound pretty cool, as it stars Chloe Grace Moretz as a female pilot with top-secret cargo talks her way on board a bomber plane about to take-off on a stormy night during World War II. The crass all-male crew reluctantly agrees, but their suspicions about her identity and the mysterious cargo quickly grow. Then a shadow appears in the clouds that may be the incoming Japanese fleet or it could be caused by some other sinister stowaway on the plane. The end result isn’t something I disliked but instead was a pulpy little horror film that would fit in an elseworlds World War, like the actioner Overlord. It feels like two separate movies thrown together at times but the unevenness of that is handled deftly by Moretz who is bringing her A-game here. It’s worth your time on a slow New Year’s Day, for sure.

The Reckoning – Neil Marshall is a horror filmmaker that I have enjoyed for years now. Starting with Dog Soldiers and moving to The Descent, Doomsday and Centurion, he had a killer four movie start and did stellar episodes of both Game Of Thrones and Westworld but then helmed the horribly realised remake of Hellboy that I would love to expunge from my memory forever. Now he follows that up with this witchcraft film that masquerades as horror but is an action film under that. The film follows Grace Haverstock, a woman who, after losing her husband during the Great Plague, is unjustly accused of being a witch and placed in the custody of England’s most ruthless witch-hunter, Judge Moorcroft. Forced to endure physical and emotional torture while steadfastly maintaining her innocence, Grace faces her own inner demons as the devil himself starts to work his way into her mind and turning her into the very thing that she is accused of being. This movie is horribly crafted, terribly edited and features effects that feel almost unfinished in many instances. I don’t want to have such a negative feeling about Neil’s future projects but ouch.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Outs:

The World of Wong Kar Wai – Criterion Collection is giving an incredible gift of cinema here with a boxed set of all of the incredible works of writer and director Wong Kar Wai. So what’s in here? There’s seven movies so let’s go through it. As Tears Go By, a mid-level gangster named Wah who falls in love with his beautiful cousin, but must also continue to protect his volatile partner-in-crime and friend, Fly. Days of Being Wild, about Yuddy, a handsome Hong Kong lothario, who seduces and dumps women without compunction but when he charms and then abandons a shy shop girl named Su Li-zhen, he sets in motion a chain of events that climax in unforeseen self-discovery and shocking violence. Chungking Express, following two melancholy Hong Kong policemen that fall in love, one with a mysterious female underworld figure, the other with a beautiful and ethereal server at a late-night restaurant he frequents. Fallen Angels, a Hong Kong-set crime drama that follows the lives of a hitman, hoping to get out of the business, and his elusive female partner. Happy Together, about a couple who take a trip to Argentina but both men find their lives drifting apart in opposite directions. In the Mood for Love, about two neighbors, a woman and a man, who form a strong bond after both suspect extramarital activities of their spouses but agree to keep their bond platonic so as not to commit similar wrongs. Lastly, there’s 2046, about several women who enter a science fiction author’s life over the course of a few years, after the author has lost the woman he considers his one true love. The set also includes The Hand, a short that appeared in the erotic compelation Eros with Steven Soderbergh. This is another awesome set from Criterion.

The Ten Commandments 4K – We’re getting biblical this week, just after the Easter weekend so it’s kind of fitting, as classic Hollywood is showcased in this new box set that has both the original film made in 1923 and the more popular remake starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Edward G. Robinson and Vincent Price made in 1956, put into the glorious format of 4K. I feel like most people have seen some iteration of this movie, maybe on television, but this film has been completely restored to high definition levels and the remake features commentary by a biographer of the film, Katherine Orrison. A showcasing of the golden age of Hollywood, this was definitely a cool movie to receive.

Television:

Them (Amazon Prime) – I only caught the trailer for this new limited series just a few weeks ago but it quickly catapulted to the top of the most anticipated list just with the words “produced by Lena Waithe” who brought us The Chi, wrote Queen & Slim and now gets some horror under her nails. Simply put, this is a limited anthology series that explores terror in America. The first season is the 1950s-set “Covenant” which centers around a black family who move from North Carolina to an all-white Los Angeles neighborhood during the period known as The Great Migration. The family’s idyllic home becomes ground zero where malevolent forces, next door and otherworldly, threaten to taunt, ravage and destroy them. I highly recommend getting the trailer into your brain which features some increasingly unsettling imagery that gives it all an American Horror Story edge with an even darker epicenter. That last shot of it still haunts me and is my driving force in seeing this show as soon as possible.

Genndy Tartokovksy’s Primal (Crave) – One of the greatest creators in the game, Genndy Tartokovsky has returned with another incredible epic that he can put alongside Samurai Jack and beam with pride. A decidedly violent tale, this series follows a caveman at the dawn of evolution as he forms an unlikely friendship with an almost extinct dinosaur. Again, without a single word of dialogue, the series is a painting come to life, relying solely on music and graphic imagery to tell the story of two unlikely allies as they navigate through a treacherous world and, after bonding over unfortunate tragedies, they seem to become each other’s only hope of survival against a common enemy. The show is mind meltingly beautiful in a way that Tartokovsky has the utmost command over and I think he has released yet another masterpiece that will be celebrated for years to come.

This Is A Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist (Netflix) – It’s time again for some more true crime to hit Netflix and satiate those who love a crazy story involing high crimes, betrayels and maybe even murder. You are all a sick bunch but I find myself part of that crew as well and we seem to be keeping this side of the streaming service pumping. This limited series follows the events around March 18, 1990 when thirteen works of art were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Guards admitted two men posing as police officers responding to a disturbance call who then tied the guards up and looted the museum. Legendary works by Rembrandt, Vermeer and others worth over half a billion dollars today were stolen and this show chronicles the leads, dead ends, lucky breaks and speculations that characterized the investigation of this still unsolved mystery and it’s pretty well done and fascinating. This one will probably capture a lot of imaginations.

Kung Fu (The CW) – It’s been a long time since David Carradine roamed the streets of Western America as Shaolin Monk Kwai Chang Caine in the original series Kung Fu, which ran from 1972 to 1975, a movie in 1986, then rebooted in 1993 to run for another four seasons. Well, The CW, who are no strangers to rebooting popular shows, have put this classic martial arts serial in the crosshairs for a gender swapped update. Starring Legacies actress Olivia Liang, she plays a young Chinese-American woman named Nicky Chen who, after a quarter-life crisis, decides to drop out of college and go on a life-changing journey to an isolated monastery in China. She returns home to find her hometown overrun with crime and corruption and vows to use her martial arts skills and Shaolin values to protect her community and bring criminals to justice while searching for the assassin who killed her Shaolin mentor and is now targeting her. Much like the Walker, Texas Ranger reboot, this show plays in the corny sandbox but it still has all of those nods to the original that will make you smile and remember Caine and how he was here to help us.

Birdgirl (Adult Swim) – Speaking of reboots and updated sequel series, Adult Swim is jumping into the game with a follow up to one of my favorite cartoon shows of all time, Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law, a series I still quote daily to a frustrating degree for my wife, I’m sure. This new show follows our titular character Judy Ken Sebben, also known as the great Birdgirl, who has to find a way to maintain her work and superhero life balance after being named CEO of the world’s largest and most nonsensical corporation, Sebben & Sebben. The hysterically funny Paget Brewster voices our hero and I expect many of the former cast members to make an appearance and I hope it catches on as we got four glorious seasons of the original show and a Harvey Birdman: Attorney General special. There is a market and total thirst for it!

New Releases:

Godzilla vs. Kong – The behemoths are finally going to battle it out for the first time in the modern age after a build that started with 2014’s Godzilla. I have my qualms about the human element of both Godzilla movies to this point but the epic that was Kong: Skull Island, one of my favourite IMAX experiences ever, is too awesome to take a step down from. This film brings King Kong from the 70s into the present-day and “legends collide” as these mythic adversaries meet in a spectacular battle for the ages, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Kong and his protectors undertake a perilous journey to find his true home, and with them is Jia, a young orphaned girl with whom he has formed a unique and powerful bond. They quickly and unexpectedly find themselves in the path of an enraged Godzilla, cutting a swath of destruction across the globe for an unknown reason as he’s turned from the planet’s protector that took down King Ghidorah and now becomes their terrorizer. I have my reservations about this movie, given my thoughts on the Godzilla movies, but I am still so very excited.

French Exit – Writer and director Azazel Jacobs has been on a roll with me lately and only because I just discovered his work through the Kino Lorber releases of Momma’s Man and The Good Times Kid which then led me to Terri and The Lovers, quickly cementing him as an indie favourite, in the same vein of a Noah Baumbach style filmmaker. With this new movie, I got even more excited as it features the lovely Michelle Pfieffer and one of the best young actors today, Lucas Hedges. Pfeiffer plays an ageing Manhattan socialite living on what’s barely left of her inheritance, moving to a small apartment in Paris with her son and a cat that may be the conduit to contacting her dead husband. Yes, it’s a bit weird but if it leaned harder into that weirdness the final product wouldn’t feel this uneven. Is this an absurd comedy or a down drama? I never could glean exactly what it was going for but it has great emotional beats but also many hilarious moments. I’m really on the fence with this one.

The Unholy – With the great Jeffrey Dean Morgan leading it and horror legend Sam Raimi producing with his Ghosthouse and Evil Dead counterpart Rob Tappert, I felt like this might be an enjoyable little popcorn supernatural horror flick. Oh boy, was I ever wrong. The film follows Alice, a young hearing-impaired girl who, after a supposed visitation from the Virgin Mary, is inexplicably able to hear, speak and heal the sick. As word spreads and people from near and far flock to witness her miracles, a disgraced journalist, played by Morgan, who, hoping to revive his career, visits the small New England town to investigate. When terrifying events begin to happen all around, he starts to question if these phenomena are the works of the Virgin Mary or something much more sinister and, obvious spoilers, it is. This movie is haphazardly plotted, filled with dumb reveals, cheesy and seemingly unfinished special effects and, worst of all, it isn’t scary for even a second and relies on jump scares to get you. This movie was a complete waste of time and a total bummer.

Tina – Honestly, these days, if any music documentary comes out I’m basically on to it right away and that was definitely the case with this film that showcases one of the greatest singers and performers on the planet and someone that I quipped to my wife is the original Beyonce, a talent worthy of the Goddess title. With a huge treasure trove of never-before-seen footage, audiotapes, personal photos, and new interviews, including with the singer herself from her home in Switzerland, the film presents an unvarnished and dynamic account of the life and career of music icon Tina Turner. Everything changed when Tina began telling her story, a story of trauma and survival, that gave way to a rebirth as the record-breaking queen of rock ‘n’ roll but, behind closed doors, the singer struggled with the survivor narrative that meant her past was never fully behind her as her abuser is constantly chained to everything she does and she can’t seem to escape the shadow of Ike Turner. This movie was incredible but it made it very apparent to the constant gaslighting she has faced at every turn with Ike being brought up and even with her induction into the Rock n’ Roll Hall Of Fame, of course, it’s with Ike. So upsetting but this is a must-see triumph.

Shiva Baby – I received the screener for this new American and Canadian co-production from my PR rep and, honestly, shelved it with the thought that if I had time, I’d get to it eventually for review. Not a priority. Then I saw a little buzz on Twitter about it. Then it got louder. And louder. And louder to the point that I couldn’t ignore it anymore, I had to see if it holds up to the hype and, you know what? It does. A comedy of a downhill slide into a bed of errors that resembles a pile of cactuses, the story follows a college student who, while at a Jewish funeral service with her parents, has an awkward encounter with her sugar daddy, who is attending with his wife and baby daughter, and her ex-girlfriend, all unknown to the rest of her family. Writer and director Emma Seligman arrives with such a well-constructed and deeply funny debut, based on her short film, and really sets herself up nicely as a filmmaker to take note of, as is her lead star Rachel Sennott whose delivery on each line is absolute gold. This movie for sure lives up to the great things said about it.

The Conductor – This is a story of inspiration, following a Dutch-born woman who dreams of becoming a conductor of an orchestra in the 1920s but a huge obstacle stands in her way as there have never been any women to ever do this. The film has the lead actress Christianne de Bruijn, who looks strikingly like a cross between Phoebe Cates and Drew Barrymore, facing down sexism and gender norms to achieve her dreams and is consistently the best thing about this movie, everyone else seeming wooden in their delivery. Honestly, that takes the most out of it as the story is pretty intriguing.

Witness Infection – Oh zombie films, how you never cease to pop up in the new releases. This one has a little fun streak to it as it takes actors and actresses like Tara Strong, Carlos Alazraqui and Maurice LaMarche out of the voice-over booth where we are used to hearing them voice shows like Powerpuff Girls, Batman The Animated Series and Rocko’s Modern Life and puts them front and center in a live-action horror movie. The film is the story of two rival mob families who are transferred from the Witness Protection Program to the same city by mistake, centred around Carlo Serrelli. His father has kept him out of the deadly mob business by giving him a job at the family dog groomers, while his younger brother, Dominic, has always done the dirty work but all that comes to an end as Daddy has to force him into an arranged marriage with the daughter of the rival Miola family boss. Carlo’s two best friends, Gina and Vince, vow to help him get out of this predicament, but they all get in way over their heads when a serious zombie infection starts eating the town. The film is goofy and low budget but that is no excuse for having such a meandering storyline that feels like too many pokers in the fire to give enough focus to one singular element. In the end, it kind of falls on its face.

No Ordinary Man – In one of the most effective and soul-bearing documentaries I have seen in recent memory, directors Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt and writer Amos Mac explore the life of American Jazz musician Billy Tipton who, moments after his death was revealed to be a woman living as a man by his son which then resulted with his family being paraded all over tabloid television as a rating grabbing freak show. In this film, Tipton’s story is reimagined and performed by trans artists as they are brought together in an audition-like situation to paint a portrait of a posthumous trans hero and relate their stories to the struggle Tipton went through in his era. The filmmakers also go to Tipton’s son Billy Jr. to reconcile a complicated and contested legacy that has informed his entire adult life without seeing the boundaries his father had broken for trans and non-binary around the world. I got to check out this documentary last year at the Vancouver International Film Festival and thought it was thoroughly fascinating and informative, my first great doc of the event.

Blu-Ray:

Wonder Woman 1984 – Finally, after waiting since June after delay after delay due to the pandemic we got to see the next piece in the theatrical story of Princess Diana of Themyscira, also known as Wonder Woman. It would have been way better to see this on the big screen obviously but, at first, we were happy with what we got as both Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins had returned for this sequel that looked to be bigger and better than the first film. What we ended up receiving was a garish and poorly written ramshackle sequel which again throws Diana into a puppy dog love story that renders her useless, a haphazardly put together villain build for Kristen Wiig’s character and a seriously problematic storyline that puts an unconscious man in the center of a sexual relationship. It may feel like I’m reading way too far into this superhero film but it is a real mess and anyone can see that.

Our Friend – Coming from the director of the wildly popular documentary Blackfish, I put a lot of stock in this new drama from filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite, her second narrative feature after the critically acclaimed Megan Leavey, and she has a great trio to lead this one with Dakota Johnson, Casey Affleck and Jason Segal. The story follows a couple who find unexpected support from their best friend, who puts his own life on hold after they receive life-altering news and moves into their family home to help raise their two girls. Segal’s performance may go down as one of his best but the film refuses to let you resonate in its emotional beats and always tries to up the ante in an obvious manipulative way that pulls you out of the drama far more than the scattered timeline of the storytelling which may frustrate other viewers. Everyone is so good in this and the cinematography is exquisite but it feels like it fails in the end.

Another Round – One of my most anticipated films of the Vancouver International Film Festival last year, I was already seeing great reactions to this new Thomas Vinterberg film on Twitter before I even got the chance to check it out and they are all very much warranted. Starring one of my favourite international actors of all time, Mads Mikkelsen, the story is about four friends, all high school teachers, who embark on an experiment where they each sustain a certain level of alcohol intoxication during their everyday life, believing that all people, in general, would benefit from a bit higher Blood Alcohol Content. As a result, their working experiences are turned upside down, forcing their lives into deeper turmoil than they were in the first place. The performances are phenomenal as the story keeps descending into a chaotic nose dive until an odd resolution that seems like a conflicted triumph, What a pure cinematic gem this movie is!

55 Steps – This movie has something going for it for me with the inclusion of actress Helena Bonham Carter but also has a Hilary Swank in the lead role which is a bit of a negative for me. A movie that was made and shelved in 2017, it gets its debut now and follows a workaholic lawyer who helps a psychiatric patient sue a psychiatric unit of a San Francisco hospital for mistreating its patients. The movie comes from acclaimed filmmaker Bille August, the man behind Smilla’s Sense of Snow, the 1998 Les Misérables and The House Of Spirits but lacks the polish that his films usually have and kind of pushes both actresses into a frustrating sort of a character build that seems unearned, frantic and, honestly, a bit annoying. It definitely didn’t do anything for my opinion of Swank’s work because this is for sure one of her lower works.

The Bermuda Depths – When this sci-fi fantasy adventure landed on my doorstep from Warner Archive, I really had no clue about its existence or the seemingly vocal fans that still champion it to this day. It follows Leigh McCloskey as a traumatized and orphaned college dropout named Magnus Dens who returns to Bermuda to find the cause of his father’s mysterious death years before. At the Bermuda Biological Station, he finds friends and colleagues of his late father and joins them on a quest for gigantic sea creatures where he also meets Jennie Haniver, a mysterious young woman who was once his only childhood friend. An island local warns Magnus that Jennie is dangerous and the beautiful but vain young woman had sold her soul with the Devil centuries before and lives forever young deep in the waters of the Devil’s Triangle or the Bermuda Triangle. Of course, nobody heeds the folklore and the researchers end up trapping a giant sea turtle, setting the stage for a deadly confrontation with both minions of the Devil. This movie is pretty fun and I see why, before its initial DVD release in 2009, there was an online petition for Warner Bros. to release this movie in home format. It kind of lives up to that hype.

Isle Of The Dead – Boris Karloff and Jason Robards Sr. in a classic horror film together? Yes, I’m so sold and, to make everything more genre-specific, it’s an “Of The Dead” title too which always makes it that more delicious. The story is set on a Greek island during the 1912 war with several people trapped by quarantine for the plague, which feels hugely relatable today. If that isn’t enough worry, one of the people, a superstitious old peasant woman, suspects one young girl of being a vampiric kind of demon called a vorvolaka which translates as a harmful and undead creature in Greek folklore and Salento culture. This film is so classic and yet really original as it uses fear and paranoia to power its horror to an effective crescendo and Karloff is just there to add to its credibility. I’m surprised by how much I dug this movie.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:

Everybody Wants Some!! – Richard Linklater returned with one of his most anticipated films of five years ago for me, a “spiritual sequel” to his first major hit, Dazed and Confused. Again taking place in Texas but in the fall of 1980, the story follows college freshman Jake Bradford, a hotshot pitcher in high school, who moves into an off-campus house with other college baseball team members. He meets several teammates, including his roommate Billy, who has been nicknamed “Beuter” because of his deep Southern accent. He joins Finnegan, Roper, Dale, and Plummer in cruising the campus by car, looking for women and, oh man, do I ever love this movie. A killer soundtrack, infinitely quotable moments and the Linklater charm permeate this movie that exists in a blender that brings the microcosm of that time and the fun of a party weekend.

Slither – This was my real official introduction to the filmmaking genius of James Gunn before I knew of his beginnings with Lloyd Kaufman at Troma Entertainment, but because of this movie I was on the path of him becoming one of my favourite writer and directors. The film harkens back to those alien invasion-type stories from the fifties and sixties with a modern twist, following the happenings after a flaming meteorite crashes into the dark woods of the sleepy town of Wheelsy, South Carolina. The meteor contains a baneful parasitic organism and a subtle alien invasion commences with the war’s unlucky first victim being the town’s local businessman, Grant. Little by little, as an internal change transforms Grant into an utterly hideous monstrosity, his new alien malevolence takes over and he begins to turn his focus on the town. This movie is a plethora of things, all great, as it’s gory, filled with action and gross gore and a hilarious script delivered by an uber-talented cast, many of them before they hit their big break like Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks and Jenna Fischer, who was married to Gunn at the time. I love this movie.

Midnight Special – Jeff Nichols is a filmmaker I have enjoyed more and more with every viewing, a storyteller with an incredible penchant for great deep south tales and it always involved Michael Shannon in some capacity. For this film he heads down a bit of a science-fiction-based story, something that I called, at the time of its review, “Southern Fried Spielberg” and I still hold fast to that description. It follows Alton Meyer, a boy unlike any other in the world with bizarrely powerful abilities and strange weaknesses. In the middle of the night, his father, Roy, spirits him away from the isolated cult that practically worships him and is determined to regain him at all costs but, at the same time, Alton’s abilities have been noticed by the US government as well and they are equally insistent on getting to the bottom of this mystery with Paul Sevier of the National Security Agency, played by Adam Driver, leading the Federal pursuit with his own questions. The film is largely a chase as Alton is drawn to an epicentre that may mean new planes of existence for the human race and the big ideas that Nichols is dealing with in this movie come to fruition in the most spectacular ways. Believe the title, this one is truly special.

Television:

The Moodys: Season 2 (Fox) – Yes, I’m definitely bringing the new season of this comedy series because it features a friend of mine, Jay Baruchel, but the cast around him is nothing to balk at with Denis Leary, Weed’s alumni Elizabeth Perkins and French Canadian The Borgias star François Arnaud. Loosely, the first season followed a tight-knit, but slightly dysfunctional family of five who gather in their hometown of Chicago for the “perfect” Christmas holiday. The second season starts with Sean Sr. contemplating retirement and taking road trips across the country in an RV with Ann with the hopes that Sean Jr. takes over the family HVAC business. Of course, hilarity ensues and this talented group always brings the funny, all from a good foundation as the show was created by We’re The Millers’ Bob Fisher, How I Met Your Mother producer Rob Greenberg and Scrubs producer Tad Quill.

Creepshow: Season 2 (Shudder) – With my love of anthology horror being large as well as my adoration of the first season of this brand new Shudder series, you best believe I have more than a little excited for a brand new season of disturbing horror stories led by The Walking Dead showrunner and gore specialist Greg Nicotero because that Christmas special was only just enough to keep me going for another couple months. First off, the list of directors on this new bunch is being kept very secretive but Nicotero will be helming some and Mayhem and Everly director and podcaster Joe Lynch is shooting one too which makes me excited. Because of the wild speculation going on with the cast and crew, it’s up in the air as to what stories we’ll see or if any of Stephen King’s stories will be touched but, gauging how great the first season was, we are almost guaranteed a hell of a ride.

City On A Hill: Season 2 (Crave) – Kevin Bacon is absolutely fascinating in this Boston law enforcement series with a dirty cop edge from the same guys who put the spotlight on Baltimore in Homicide: Life On The Street. Bacon plays Jackie Rohr, a sleazy and corrupt FBI agent who reminisces about the more abusive times in policing when you could knock around perps and witnesses. He latches on to the new assistant D.A. with an axe to grind, the two looking to make a difference in a city they both want to see excel. The show suffers here and there with some of the tough-guy bravado writing that harkens back to a different era of television but when this show hits its stride it is a totally effective and engaging show. The first season is such a great establishing point and I’ve been waiting not too patiently for this follow up but, you know, Showtime loves to make us simmer and squirm. Catch up with all of it beforehand on Crave and thank me for it later. You will.

This Time With Alan Partridge (BritBox) – Steve Coogan is one of my favourite comedians working today and has been for a long time, largely thanks to the Michael Winterbottom film 24 Hour Party People but a good portion of it comes from his bigger than life talk show host character Alan Partridge, first seen in the British television series The Day Today. Well, he has resurrected the character again for this show in which Alan’s career is handed a lifeline as he is given the chance to stand in as the temporary co-host on This Time, a weekday magazine show, an opportunity that he’s a free thought or bad interview away from squandering. Like all of the other Alan Partridge projects, this one is hysterically funny and has Coogan operating once again at the top of his game, making you wonder why he takes breaks from this character.

New Releases:

The Courier – I feel like I’ve seen Benedict Cumberbatch pretty often in the last few weeks with The Mauritanian a few weeks ago and this one now and both stories are centred around real events which makes it that much more compelling. Cumberbatch absolutely shines in this new tense drama, playing an unassuming British businessman named Greville Wynne who is recruited into one of the greatest international conflicts in history, the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis. At the behest of the UK’s MI-6 and a CIA operative, played by Marvelous Ms. Maisel’s Rachel Brosnahan, he forms a covert and dangerous partnership with Soviet officer Oleg Penkovsky to provide crucial intelligence needed to prevent a nuclear confrontation and defuse the international conflict before it hits disastrous consequences. This film is a treasure trove of white knuckle nervousness and near misses as both men, sweating profusely, elude authorities who will certainly execute them if caught. Fans of historical spy films will dig into this one quite well.

Bad Trip – If you have never had the chance to check out any of Eric Andre’s work, whether it be his series The Eric Andre Show, his scripted series work on Man Seeking Woman or his stand up special Legalize Everything, I don’t think this new film is a great jumping-off point because, well, it’s complete insanity. Much in the way the Jackass guys did the Johnny Knoxville comedy Bad Grandpa, this is a film with a scripted story but besides Andre and his co-stars Ll Rey Howard. Michaela Conlin and Tiffany Haddish, everyone else isn’t in on the joke. The film is a mix of a scripted buddy comedy road movie and a real hidden camera prank show which follows the outrageous misadventures of two buds stuck in a rut who embark on a cross-country road trip to NYC and the storyline sets up shocking real pranks that will seriously knock you on your ass. The planning that must have gone into the construction of this film is immense and seems like an incredible accomplishment but as much as I want to call this one a must-see I have to caution you with many trigger warnings.

Breaking News In Yuba County – The cast is the immediate draw to this new dark comedy is definitely the cast as the poster boasts a great ensemble with Alison Janney leading Mila Kunis, Awkwafina, Wanda Sykes, Clifton Collins Jr., Regina Hall and more and it’s directed by Get On Up’s Tate Taylor in a bid to wash the disappointment of Ma off his resume. The film has Janney as Sue Buttons, an under-appreciated suburban wife, gets a taste of being a local celebrity after her husband goes missing as she embarks on a city-wide search in Yuba County to find him. To prolong her newfound fame, she stumbles into hilarious hijinks as her world turns upside down, dodging a wanna-be mobster, a relentless local policewoman, her half-sister who is a local news reporter desperate for a story and her husband’s dead-beat brother who all set out to uncover the truth behind the disappearance. Unfortunately, with all of that great setup, this film is never as good as the sum of its parts and is another sad entry onto the list of movies that started so promisingly as the darling who made the Oscar praised The Help. For the record, I didn’t like that movie either.

Nobody – I have been waiting patiently for the return of writer and director Ilya Naishuller, the pun rock pirate Russian filmmaker who was responsible for the first-ever first-person action adrenaline ride Hardcore Henry starring Sharlto Copley. Why is he a pirate? Because he has a rough and gritty style of innovation and will accomplish it by any means necessary. He gets a big-budget Hollywood boost this time and a fan favourite star of Mr. Show creator and Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk and it is another piece of action cinema that will be remembered as a can’t miss John Wick style pulse pounder. He plays Hutch Mansell, an underestimated and mild-mannered family man, increasingly unaffected by his life’s hardships and mundanities. One night, when two thieves break into his suburban home, he declines to defend himself or his family, hoping to prevent any serious complications. His son, Blake, and his wife, Becca disappointed in Hutch’s inaction, start to drift further away from him than before but the incident has actually ignited his resentment towards being an unsubstantial father and husband and awakening his suppressed skills and illuminating his dark secrets to cause some brutal violence. Buckle up for a full ninety-minute ride that takes no prisoners and still, although being a distinctly American feeling story has a Russian dressing to it.

Six Minutes To Midnight – Benedict isn’t the only one who’s bringing the historical dramas this week as Dame Judi Dench and the great Eddie Izzard have a little piece of World War II-centric story to tell you. Set in the summer of 1939, the story follows the influential families in Nazi Germany who have sent their daughters to a finishing school in an English seaside town to learn the language and be ambassadors for a future looking National Socialist. A teacher there sees what is coming and is trying to raise the alarm, predicting the horrifying future, but the authorities believe he is the problem. This movie plays out interestingly at first but then the story starts to slide in an unbelievable direction, causing me to frantically look up the real story to fact check and, lo and behold, this is a completely fabricated plot. That kind of thing really bothers me as there are so many real tales in this time and made-up ones feel unnecessary in my opinion. It is great to see Izzard and Dench on screen together though.

Doors – Ambitious and eye-catching, this little anthology science fiction thriller really had me going early on and I thought it’d be one of those little sleeper indie films that I could praise, much akin to a now cult classic like 2007’s The Signal. The film follows multiple stories reacting to a shared human experience when, without warning, millions of mysterious alien “doors” suddenly appear around the globe. In a rush to determine the reason for their arrival, mankind must work together to understand the purpose of these cosmic anomalies. Bizarre incidents occurring around the sentient doors leads humanity to question their own existence and an altered reality as they attempt to enter them and, honestly, none of them are super unsettling until the final story which presents itself as a podcast style Zoom meeting until you realize that it is more of an unwilling ascension to a new state of being than it is an interview. I feel like these filmmakers will hit an incredible stride once they have a studio backing them and the groundwork they have here is so impressive even if some of it leaves me scratching my head in confusion.

Violation – A huge hit at festivals last year, it’s about time that this new horror drama made its way to us as I’ve been reading reviews of it for months leading up to my viewing of it. The plot follows Miriam, a troubled woman with her marriage about to implode, who returns to her hometown to seek solace in the comfort of her younger sister and brother-in-law. One evening a tiny slip in judgement leads to a catastrophic betrayal, which leaves Miriam shocked, reeling, and furious and believing her only recourse is to exact revenge, she takes extreme action but the price of retribution is high and she is not prepared for the toll it takes as she begins to emotionally and psychologically fall apart. Lead actress Madeleine Sims-Fewer, who co-directed and co-wrote the film as well, is astounding and totally gut-wrenching in her performance, a total starmaker of an outing. This movie will absolutely rock you with its unflinching story of a woman’s deep trauma.

I Am Lisa – Is it time for some horror yet? Okay, let’s go! Coming from American director Patrick Rea, the film follows a sadistic, small-town sheriff and her underlings who brutalize a woman named Lisa and leave her for dead in the woods. Unfortunately for them, she is subsequently bitten by a werewolf and is bestowed with supernatural abilities that put her on a bloodthirsty tour of revenge that takes absolutely no prisoners. This movie is a mashing of two very popular themes in horror and thrillers and does it in such a great way that it elevates both of those story elements. The cast is made up of, to this point, unknowns but they all work so well together and also serve the story well in presenting it as a badass lady led horror both in the protagonist and antagonist sense. This film exists on what looks to be a shoestring budget but with all of it being played so well you never really notice.

Blu-Ray:

Soul – I have to be honest here when Inside Out came out both my wife and I enjoyed the film but it never hit us on that deeply emotional level that it resonated with everyone else on. That said, when I watched this new film from Pete Doctor, the director of that one and Up, it hit me like a ton of bricks and easily fit into my list of the best of the year. Jamie Foxx voices Joe, a middle-school band teacher whose life hasn’t quite gone the way he expected. His true passion is jazz and he’s good, able to get in the zone and float away on his own tangents and it ends up earning him his big break and then he falls into a sewer drain right after. Now he must team up with an earth-defiant little soul, voiced by Tina Fey, and travel to another realm to help her find her passion, he soon discovers what it means to have a soul. This is such a beautiful film about purpose and Doctor nails it in every respect. It feels like the Pixar of old was missing for a few years but they came back big time for this one.

News Of The World – It’s hard to believe that in Tom Hanks’ long and storied career he has never tackled a western before, although he has played a cowboy before but his Toy Story adventures don’t really count in this regard. Reteaming with his Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass, he finally corrects this wrong, playing a Civil War veteran who now goes across the country reading the news who agrees to deliver a girl, taken by the Kiowa people years ago, to her aunt and uncle, although against her will. They travel hundreds of miles and face grave dangers as they search for a place that either of them can call home and create a bond together that may be stronger than they have ever experienced. This movie is sombre and methodical with Greengrass shelving his usual shaky handheld style for something more poignant and it works so beautifully. I was gripped by Hanks’s performance and the character development holds fast to you until the very end.

The Undoing – A brand new HBO drama lands this week and it should be a more noteworthy premiere as it is the first series on the cable network for a mega television producer and creator David E. Kelley, known for making Ally McBeal, The Practice and, my personal favourite, Boston Legal. This show has some big names to it as it stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant and follows Grace Sachs, a successful therapist who has a devoted husband, a young son who attends an elite private school in New York City and is living the only life she ever wanted for herself. Overnight a chasm opens in her life as a violent death disrupts her perfect life structure, her husband goes missing and the investigation only yields a chain of terrible revelations. Left behind in the wake of a spreading and very public disaster and horrified by how she has failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another for her child and herself. The entire series was directed by acclaimed Danish director Susanne Bier which is the biggest reason I want to take in all six episodes of this show which is very different from Kelley’s previous work.

Iron Mask – Okay, let me set this one up for you. This is a Chinese-made fantasy action epic that features a wise, old and long-bearded Jackie Chan and a curly wigged and moustachioed Arnold Schwarzenegger. Are you intrigued? The story follows English traveller Jonathan Green, played by Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels actor Jason Flemyng, who receives from Peter the Great an order to map the Russian Far East. He sets out for a long journey full of incredible adventures that will eventually lead him to China but along the way, he unexpectedly faces a lot of breathtaking discoveries, encounters bizarre creatures, meets with Chinese Princesses and confronts deadly martial arts masters, and even the King of all dragons, the Dragon King. This movie, for lack of a better term, is just plain bad. No matter how good the CGI looks, and it really is impressive at times, and how well thought out the fight scenes are, this film can not escape its bad plotting and horrendous script that make it consistently bizarre and, I assume, unintentionally hilarious.

The Bloodhound – Arrow Video is usually known for doing incredible collector’s editions of fan favourites like the recent Southland Tales or Weird Science and the 4K updates on Tremors and Cinema Paradiso but they also have a great platform of movies that wouldn’t get this sort of international treatment. This film fits that mould big time, the simple synopsis is following the strange events that plague a young man when he’s summoned to the secluded home of a wealthy childhood friend and his twin sister. The vibes feel akin to a horror mystery like the Karyn Kusama mindbender The Invitation as they are both films that live and breathe with their reveals and the less explained about it, the better. The film also features a great young cast including Captain Fantastic’s stand out Annalise Basso, former Stepmom child star Liam Aiken and former Damnation and Grey’s Anatomy actor Joe Adler and is a sleek, stylish and underhandedly chilling film that will resonate in your mind for a little bit after watching. This was a nice little surprise this week.

Gattaca 4K – Remember this stylish and impeccably dressed science fiction story that took the not quite hot button topic of cloning on in the late nineties? Well, the Andrew Niccol written and directed mystery starring Ethan Hawke, Jude Law and Uma Thurman has gotten the full 4K treatment now and looks and sounds better than ever and presents the perfect opportunity to rewatch it or discover it for the first time. The film was Oscar-nominated for Best Art Direction in the Set Decoration category and is set in a future society in the era of indefinite eugenics where humans are set on a life course depending on their DNA. Young Vincent Freeman is born with a condition that would prevent him from space travel, yet is determined to infiltrate the Gattaca Corp, an aerospace firm. I wasn’t a fan of this film when I initially saw it but the reconnection I just did with it shows that the film has aged beautifully and definitely hit me differently and landed as a heady mystery with big background ideas.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Man Push Cart/Chop Shop – American-born and of Iranian descent, director Ramin Bahrani finally gets the respect of some of his films getting the prestige of Criterion Collection editions showcasing two of his establishing pieces that highlight the immigrant’s plight in the sprawling metropolis of The Big Apple. Man Push Cart tells the story of Ahmad, a Pakistani immigrant who struggles to drag his heavy cart along the streets of New York to his corner in Midtown Manhattan every night while the city sleeps, and every morning, from inside his cart he sells coffee and donuts to a city he cannot call his own. He is the everyman worker found on every street corner in every city as he is also every man who wonders if he will ever escape his fate. Chop Shop follows Alejandro, a resourceful street orphan on the verge of adolescence, who lives and works in an auto-body repair shop in a sprawling junkyard on the outskirts of Queens, New York. Existing in this chaotic world of adults, Alejandro struggles to make a better life for himself and his sixteen-year-old sister. Breaths of reality punctuate Bahrani’s work and I feel they are most on display in these two unforgettable films that are so beautiful on blu-ray. Must-see stuff here.

The Great Caruso – What would this whole weekly blog be without highlighting something totally classic that I had just discovered myself and wanted to share with the world? Nowhere, that’s where! Thanks to Warner Archive, we are heading back to the beginning of the fifties for a film that traces the life of tenor Enrico Caruso. A meandering lover, he loves Musetta, a girl in his hometown of Naples but then Dorothy, the daughter of one of the Metropolitan Opera’s patrons but Caruso is unacceptable to both women’s fathers. To one, because he sings and to Dorothy’s, because he is a peasant but even beyond his muddled love life to his New York patricians he is thought of as short, barrel-chested, loud, emotional and unrefined. Their appreciation comes slowly as the film depicts Caruso’s lament that “the man does not have the voice, the voice has the man” and he cannot be places he wants to be, because he must be elsewhere singing, including the day his mother dies. The film would go on to earn three Academy Award nominations, all in technical categories, and it was a passion project for many of the crew members involved as they all had known or had worked with the real Enrico Caruso. Fascinating stuff.

Hansel And Gretel – You know my love for South Korean movies and, to be honest, this movie sat on my list for years, unpurchased and unknowing of my love for it. Well, I finally made it my own and cradled it like a baby as soon as it arrived because it is that special. A Grimm fairy tales adaptation from writer and director Pil-Sung Yim, the story is a hybrid of the one you are familiar with, following a young salesman who is invited to a beautiful house with bizarre secrets and no way to escape after meeting a mysterious girl on a dark stretch of road. The film is genuinely macabre, more so than the history of this story will prepare you for but also shows that its trappings lend deliciously to the South Korean style of filmmaking. I’m surprised that we haven’t seen more work from Pil-Sung Yim as this film is absolutely astounding and with a third act that is damn near unforgettable.

Television:

Q: Into The Storm (Crave) – HBO Max documentaries are never anything to fly under or over your radar but this one should definitely land squarely in front of everyone as it shines a spotlight on all the stupidity that had been glorified and emboldened over the last half of a decade. A six-part documentary series, this show charts a labyrinthine journey to unmask the mastermind behind QAnon while revealing how the anonymous character known only as “Q” uses conspiracy theories and information warfare to rile the internet up into a fever pitch, hijack politics and manipulate people’s thinking. Yes, this is a series to show any Q-cumber troll that exists in your family, your friends list or your workplace and say “hey stupid, you know you’re being played by the very thing you think you’re so ‘woke’ to, right?” Seriously, the followers of the “Mighty Q” may be some of the dumbest people I’ve ever come across but, remember, they think that YOU are the sheep. Huge eye roll.

The Irregulars (Netflix) – From the writer of the recent BBC adaptation of the classic book Watership Down, Tom Bidwell, comes this new mystery fantasy that is putting a dark twist on the story of one of the greatest literary detectives that is NOT Batman and a character that has been television chic in the last decade, Sherlock Holmes. Set in Victorian London, the series follows a gang of troubled street teens who are manipulated into solving crimes for the sinister Doctor Watson and his mysterious business partner, the elusive Holmes himself. The trailer is hugely misleading as it plays more on the strings of fantasy than it does with a “mystery of the week” style, more like Amazon Prime’s Carnival Row than it is like the BBC Benedict Cumberbatch-led show. Aimed at a teen to mid-twenties crowd definitely.

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers (Disney+) – So many people are looking forward to this continuation of a story we all adore and most of the fans drooling for it are my age and, yes, I can definitely be included in the ravenous waiters. Before heading full-on into this description I will say that the show was sadly not made for us at all. The show follows twelve-year-old Evan who, after failing to make the cut to join the now powerhouse Mighty Ducks junior hockey team, is encouraged by his mother to form a new team of underdogs with help from Gordon Bombay, the Ducks’ original coach who is now operating a rundown ice rink and, for some reason, hates hockey entirely. Yeah, this show is a bit of a headscratcher motivation wise and the push to re-establish Bombay as an anti-hero is just plain weird but, as I said, this show isn’t for us. Everything about it just reeks of the Disney Channel originals and I tried to push my way through the first three episodes and seriously struggled with it. This show kind of bums me out but maybe I’ve outgrown the Mighty Ducks. The original films though? Never.

Invincible (Amazon Prime) – One of my favourite comics in the last ten years and one that has since ended its run, Amazon Prime can seriously start calling itself the heavyweight of adult comic adaptations with this and The Boys under its belt. Coming from the mind of The Walking Dead’s creator Robert Kirkman, this show is animated exactly in the style of the comic, this is a superhero show that revolves around seventeen-year-old Mark Grayson, voiced by Oscar nominee Steven Yeun, who’s just like every other guy his age except that his father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons). Mark soon realizes that he is developing powers of his own but as these new abilities grow he discovers that his father’s legacy may not be as heroic as it seems. The template of this story and the groundwork of the comics is so brilliantly thought out that it would be a serious misstep for any of this to fail so, without hyperbole, I will say that this might be one of the best R-rated superhero cartoon shows ever. You know, alongside Harley Quinn and Drawn Together.

New Releases:

Zack Snyder’s Justice League – Finally the hashtagging of #ReleaseTheSnyderCut has paid off for all the nerds looking for the “real” version of the Justice League and thus proving that if you bitch long enough you will get handed something you don’t really deserve. Yes, it irks me obviously but I will say that the Joss Whedon version was a terrible mess of a movie but Snyder’s establishing pieces of Man Of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice was certainly not better but, even though this version clocks in at a grossly bloated four hours, it is an improvement. The story follows Bruce Wayne, determined to ensure Superman’s ultimate sacrifice in the last film was not in vain, aligns forces with Diana Prince with plans to recruit a team of metahumans to protect the world from an approaching threat of catastrophic proportions. The movie is crammed with slow-motion hero shots, action moments and grim dialogue proving that, once again, in Snyder’s eyes there should be no levity whatsoever. Are we now saved in the DC cinematic universe now that this definitive vision is out? Not really, I could take it or leave it.

The Father – Two of the best performances that you will see this year or in the last decade are right here in this new drama that has Academy Award winners Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman as a father and daughter who must cope with the new living arrangement changes coming as he slips further into Alzheimer’s. Refusing all assistance from his daughter as he ages, he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances and starts to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality in a film that puts you into almost a side seat position in the illness as the disorientation washes over you. Having just lost my grandfather, this film hit me so hard emotionally and the final scene, which is one of the most heartbreakingly poignant I have ever seen, totally shattered me. Give this movie all the awards, it deserves it.

Crisis – It was only a matter of time before the opioid crisis was tackled in some shape or form which makes Steven Soderbergh seem that much more prolific when you realize that he adapted the miniseries Traffik in 2000. Hell, he did Contagion ten years ago. Man, maybe we should be listening to him exclusively! This story is broken down into three stories about the world of opioids which collide: a drug trafficker arranges a multi-cartel Fentanyl smuggling operation between Canada and the U.S., an architect recovering from an OxyContin addiction tracks down the truth behind her son’s involvement with narcotics, and a university professor battles unexpected revelations about his research employer, a drug company with deep government influence bringing a new “non-addictive” painkiller to market. The cast is eclectic, featuring Oscar-winner Gary Oldman, the Wasp herself Evangeline Lilly and the possible cannibal Armie Hammer but as interesting as the story starts out it completely falls apart in the end and becomes predictable and formulaic. This movie could have been special but will ultimately get lost in the shuffle.

Above Suspicion – With a notable young cast and an experienced director, this new based on a true story action thriller should be an easy hit and the man behind it, Philip Noyce, has a great track record with the spy film Salt, the Michael Caine led The Quiet American and even a Tom Clancy Jack Ryan adaptation under his belt, Clear And Present Danger. This film features Jack Huston and Emilia Clarke and is a chilling true story of a newly married F.B.I. poster boy assigned to an Appalachian mountain town in Kentucky where he is drawn into an illicit affair with an impoverished local woman who becomes his star informant. She sees in him her means of escape but, instead, it’s a ticket to disaster for both of them. This scandal shook the foundations of the nation’s top law enforcement agency, ending in the first-ever conviction of an F.B.I. Agent for murder and I wish I could say that it all works out theatrically but it is filled with so many logic missteps that it starts to drain away from the reality of which we’re seeing a blur into a makeshift crime thriller with loose plotting peppered throughout.

Enforcement – I know we’re all just about ready to come out of isolation and rejoin our already in progress lives but come take a trip with me to Denmark in the meantime to get embroiled in one of the most inventive and engrossing international crime thrillers I’ve seen in a long time. On the surface, the film is about two police officers on routine patrol who find themselves trapped in a maze of buildings when a riot spreads. It all starts with the arrest of a suspected terrorist who is just a nineteen-year-old kid and the exact details of what took place while Talib Ben Hassi was in police custody remain unclear but he died in the process. Police officers, Jens and Mike, are on routine patrol in Svalegården’s ghetto when news of Talib’s death comes in over the radio, igniting uncontrollable, pent-up rage in the ghetto’s youth, who lust for revenge. and suddenly, the two officers find themselves fair game and must fight tooth and claw to find a way out. I was completely blown away by this film, gritty and tense with a palpable rage that runs through it constantly. Like Les Miserable did last year, this movie strikes like a firebrand and doesn’t relent.

Food Club – Let’s head back to Denmark for some of that feel-good and light-hearted comedy romp that is so needed to wash the dull greys of the dower world off you. The new film from director Barbara Topsøe-Rothenborg follows three longtime girlfriends from elementary school who are coming into their prime and finding a new lease on life after participating in a cooking course in Italy. Each woman is going through catastrophic changes in their life, from a husband abandoning their marriage, a daughter’s complicated relationship and the end of a long grieving process. This film comes through as some great catharsis for an older generation as this story’s general mission is to illustrate that there is much more life to be lived in the latter part of your years and reinvention is attainable any time. The premise may be contrived and seen before but the characters are new and fresh, keeping you engaged for the duration.

Blu-Ray:

Promising Young Woman – Just when you think your best of the year list is all completed, the last week of releases comes through and throws a couple more at you to think about including this film that has a Carey Mulligan performance that demands to be seen. The feature debut of Killing Eve creator Emerald Fennell, this film is a gutshot to every toxic dude on this planet and it may be uncomfortable at times, but it is all necessary. Mulligan plays Cassie, a young woman who is traumatized by a tragic event in her past that happened to her childhood best friend and seeks out vengeance against those who cross her path as well as men who prey on drunk women at clubs. This film’s narrative is caustic, searing and totally unrelenting but has an ability to be sardonically funny and then slap you hard with its seriousness. Very quickly into this movie, I knew I was watching the year’s best and it kept getting better.

Songbird – Everyone ready for a pandemic-themed thriller? Goodie!! Yeah, my sarcasm bleeds through because, honestly, with all the shared trauma that nests in all of our brains daily over the last year, do we need to have a film scaring us with the isolation we already feel anyways? Starring Riverdale’s KJ Apa, The Office’s Craig Robinson, The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford and more, this film is set in 2024 as a pandemic ravages the world and its cities and centers on a handful of people as they navigate the obstacles currently hindering society like disease, martial law, quarantine and vigilantes. The film comes from low-budget horror guy Adam Mason, who I appreciate for all the Alice In Chains music videos he did recently, but, really, this all feels like the low-hanging fruit that all filmmakers should avoid. I speak for myself but I don’t think we want COVID horror flicks.

Psycho Goreman – I had a small inkling that I would love this movie just based on the description and the fact that it’s the brand new film from The Void writer and director Steven Kostanski really just added to the hype for me. So, are you ready for the low down? Well, friends, this film follows siblings Mimi and Luke who unwittingly resurrect an ancient alien overlord bent on the destruction of all worlds and the flaying of all life within them. Fortunately for them, they are also in possession of a magical amulet connected to his powers and they force the monster to obey their childish whims, accidentally attracting a rogues’ gallery of intergalactic assassins to small-town suburbia. This movie is absolutely insane, full of dark humour, gore and incredible creature effects from the great Masters’ FX who put on a clinic of wonder throughout. I didn’t know that I’d be looking at one of my favourite films of 2021 but here we are.

Don’t Tell A Soul – This movie is so well put together that I have to just hit you with the synopsis immediately to get your appetite going. The story follows a security officer who falls down a hidden well while chasing two teenage brothers who stole more than $12,000. Desperate to get out, he soon tries to convince one of the siblings to set him free and save his life and the tension in this movie is off the charts and totally delicious. The cast features the always great Rainn Wilson, Shazam’s Jack Dylan Grazer and Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead and is one of the most brilliant small scope thrillers I have seen in a while. The film comes across a bit mean-spirited at times and definitely bleak for the whole time but it all settles so beautifully and I found myself hooked immediately. This one was great.

Sacrilege – Beware, everyone, because I’m starting the horror picks this week now and this is a great little niche within the genre, the isolated cabin set scary movie and this one definitely starts well. The story follows four young women who, after accepting an invitation to join in with local celebrations for the Summer solstice, find themselves in the grips of a mysterious pagan cult. They are offered up as a sacrifice to the cult’s mysterious ancient goddess, who has the ability to sense their greatest fears and, using this power against them, she turns their nightmares into a horrifying reality. A film out of the United Kingdom under the eye of writer and director David Creed, it all starts well and he astounds with his ability to chill you to the bone in only his first feature. Unfortunately, as the movie progresses through its second act to the third you can literally feel the wind coming out of its sails as it falls into unoriginal trappings and a script that could have used another once over. I’m disappointed because it was going so well.

Adverse – I feel like someone, namely writer and director Brian A. Metcalf, must have seen Michael Mann’s thriller Collateral and was like “I can do that but modern and different!” Notice I didn’t say better? Anyways, this film features Thomas Nicholas and Mickey Rourke in a story about one man’s quest for revenge, following a rideshare driver named Ethan, struggling to make ends meet, who learns his sister Mia is deep in debt to a sleazy drug dealer. When Mia goes missing, Ethan discovers that crime boss Kaden is behind the act, and to get close to him Ethan takes a job as Kaden’s driver. One by one Ethan hunts down members of Kaden’s crew to wreak bloody vengeance as he prepares to confront Kaden himself. Just looking at this trailer and synopsis you would be led to believe that the film is formulaic garbage but I was surprised by how much the movie actually works and it is all due to Rourke’s menacing performance which really drives the emotional beats of it. As I said, it’s no Collateral but it is pretty damn entertaining.

Celine And Julie Go Boating – Ready for the warm cinematic light of some classic international cinema through the lens of the adored Criterion Collection? Well, this film made its way over from France in 1974 from writer and director Jacques Rivette and follows a mysteriously linked pair of young women who find their daily lives preempted by a strange boudoir melodrama that plays itself out in a hallucinatory parallel reality. What the hell is that, am I right? Still, this is some of that great French new wave experimental filmmaking that dazzled those in the know at the time but didn’t really make it to the big time because, let’s face it, the mainstream appeal is limited. Now, over forty-five years after its release, the film is largely regarded as one of the top one hundred french movies of all time and a must-see for any cinephile.

The Invisible Man Appears/The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly – Arrow Video is digging deep into the classic for their impression of a Warner Archive release but with a sci-fi horror twist to it with this two-pack of films that takes us back to 1949 Japan for some weirdness. The first film, The Invisible Man Appears, follows a group of jewel thieves who become interested in an invisibility formula invented by Professor Nakazato and want to use his invention to acquire a diamond necklace called the “Tears of Amour”. The second one puts our new invisible character in a battle, with a ruthless serial killer with a peculiar method of stalking and killing his victims coming face to face with a police officer turned see-thru by a scientific experiment. It’s a weird and kooky Japanese mystery that spanned a decade and, crazy enough, it still works in a fun way.

Damn Yankees – A couple of Warner Archive classics are landing in stores this week, starting with this classic musical romantic comedy from one of the biggest directors of the era, Stanley Donen, in 1958, the same year he would release the very popular Indiscreet with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. The film stars Tab Hunter, Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston and is an adaptation of the George Abbott written Broadway musical, who also co-directed this with Donen, and is about a Washington Senators fan who makes a pact with the Devil to help his baseball team win the league pennant. A deal with the devil movie, would that fly in this day and age? As much as I dislike musicals, this film is quite enjoyable and would be a great one to watch with the grandparents in the eventuality that we can be in the same room as them. It should also be known that the legendary Bob Fosse choreographed this film, a really special talent that shines in this.

Crossfire – Oh yes, my friends, we get some classic film noir this week from Warner Archive and I’m just salivating thinking about it because it really is the good stuff and it features a killer leading line up for its time in 1947 with Robert Young, Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan who, if you do your research, was the best of the best. The story follows Homicide Captain Finlay who finds evidence that one or more of a group of demobilized soldiers is involved in the death of a man named Joseph Samuels. In flashbacks, we see the night’s events from different viewpoints as army Sgt. Keeley investigates on his own, trying to clear the lead suspect Mitchell, to whom circumstantial evidence points. Then the real, ugly motive for the killing begins to dawn on both Finlay and Keeley and the conspiracy grows infinitely darker. This film is great and was a huge hit for its time, earning five Academy Award nominations, but the lead star Mitchum hated it. He later claimed that any American actor could have played Keeley which, having just watched it, I disagree with. He kind of makes that character work with his incredible nuance. This is an absolute golden classic to discover in my opinion.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Outs:

Smooth Talk – I’m not done with the Criterion Collection movies yet as they hooked me up with this new reissue just a few weeks after its release and it showcases a young Laura Dern far before she won an Academy Award but it’s a great indicator of the talent she would become impeccable at harnessing. Co-starring Treat Williams in a menacing and creepy performance, Dern plays free-spirited fifteen-year-old Connie Wyatt who is a bombshell that is already driving the boys crazy but is anxious to escape the boredom of family farm life. Her suspicious mother wants to keep her safely at home but Connie would rather spend the languid summer days hanging out with her friends and flirting with boys at the local burger stand. Connie’s natural curiosities start to go down a dark path when she flirts with a handsome and mysterious stranger named Arnold Friend, played by Williams, and she finds herself in dangerous waters and must prepare herself for the frightening and traumatic consequences. This film is such a great hidden gem, directed by Joyce Chopra who had a brilliant feature film career starting with this one and The Lemon Sisters four years later who then pivoted to television in episode and movie of the week formats. She is a truly nuanced filmmaker who wasn’t appreciated at the time.

The Goonies 4K – Easily one of my childhood favorite films of all time, it’s hard to find a kid of the 80s who wasn’t deeply affected by this Steven Spielberg produced and Richard Donner directed adventure that had us all digging for an escapade in our own backyards, hoping for pirate treasure. For those who haven’t had the absolute privilege of this movie, it’s about a kid named Mikey and his friends who have always wanted to go on an adventure. One night they are all in Mikey’s attic when he stumbles across an old map and, always wanting to know if the local myth of One-eyed Willy ever was a real person and with this indicating he might, they set off for the treasure. To enter the underground caves that the map illustrates, they have to go through the evil Mama Fratelli’s restaurant to get to a secret passage to the caves which ends up setting some more adult dangers in motion and, oh man, is this movie ever fun. Now restored to 4K, this adventure just shines on the screen and hopefully, it can rope in a new generation of fans because I still believe this film is that damn good. Pure Spielberg blockbuster filmmaking here.

Beetlejuice 4K – One of my favorite films of my childhood and one that definitely messed me up quite a bit with its themes, this new reissue was a totally welcome addition to my collection, replacing me earlier anniversary DVD edition with a gorgeous 4K remaster. For those unfamiliar with one of Tim Burton’s greatest works and a classic Michael Keaton character, the story follows Adam and Barbara, a normal couple who happen to be recently dead. They have given their precious time to decorate their house and make it their own but, unfortunately, a family is moving in and not quietly. Adam and Barbara try to scare them out, but end up becoming the main attraction to the money-making family and, unknowing of the consequences, they call upon Beetlejuice to help. Their new hire has way more in mind than just helping and sees this as an opportunity for escape. This cast is phenomenal around Keaton, with Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder and Catherine O’Hara all doing incredible comedic work and the special effects boggled my mind then and are just as fun now. This classic totally holds up so it’s time to traumatize a new generation with it.

Shogun’s Joy Of Torture – A latecomer in the new releases this year from Arrow Video, I couldn’t let this one just slip into my collection without saying anything about it. The film comes from Japan, made in 1968, and comes from the mind of the insane writer and director Teruo Ishii who was known as “The King of Cult” in Japan but largely unknown in the West. Well, he gets his due with this one, an anthology that is made up of three separate stories that all intersect. The first segment is about Shinza who was hurt while working when a log hit him on the head and now sister Mitsu is forced to give herself to her brother’s boss Mr. Mino to help pay for Shinza’s doctor bills. The second segment is about the arrival of mother Reiho and her servant Rintoku at the Jukuin monastery. The monastery is located near a temple inhabited by priests and one day when one of them named Shunkei runs by Reiho he arouses something inside of her. The final segment is about a tattoo artist named Horicho who has just given Kimicho his greatest tattoo to date. While showing his work off to a group of people, a man named Lord Nambera walks by mocking the tattoo and its lack of realism. This is really niche filmmaking here and I notice I’ve gone off the beaten path with a lot of the titles here but where else but me and The Shift are you going to get this?

Television:

Mayans M.C.: Season 3 (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 fully on co-creator Elgin James plate. 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!

Slaxx (Shudder) – I’m bringing a movie this week about a killer pair of jeans! I don’t know how I can ever possibly top this but Shudder is giving me some really b-movie gold here and I can’t deprive you of it. Well, I already buried the lede on this but this film is about a possessed pair of jeans that is brought to life exclusively to punish the unscrupulous practices of a trendy clothing company. Shipped to the company’s flagship store, Slaxx proceeds to wreak carnage on staff locked in overnight to set up the new collection and it is hilariously bloody and completely tongue in cheek. The lo-fi style of this movie works completely in its favor and it really bums me out that I didn’t get to experience this in theaters or on the festival circuit because it really would have been a fun time and I would’ve had someone to say “did you see that?!?” to.

Koko-di Koko-da (Shudder) – Let’s head back to Denmark for some more cinema but, given that this is a Shudder original, it is covered in weirdness, some blood and all under the great umbrella of horror. The set up for this film is deliciously insane as it follows a couple who go on a trip to find a way to reconnect with each other when a sideshow artist and his shady entourage emerge from the woods to terrorize them and lure them deeper into a maelstrom of psychological terror and humiliating slapstick. Yeah, this movie is crazy and picks up deeply human threads of grief and loss and weaves it into a story that is comedic even in its darkness and the visuals head down the path of being completely mind-bending in parts. This is one of those word-of-mouth foreign films that is going to be talked up by subscriber after subscriber to Shudder. Get on the ground level now.

The Falcon And The Winter Soldier (Disney+) – Been missing your weekly dose of the MCU through the eight episodes of WandaVision? Well, it’s time to get back on track as we get a brand new six-episode limited series but definitely, a different one than its predecessor in its tone and scope. Following the events of Avengers: Endgame Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, and Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier, team up in a global adventure that tests their abilities and their patience for each other’s company. The first episode is such a great establishment for where we are in this universe, the consequences of the ending of the last phase and, of course, the fallout from “the snap”. I’m absolutely ravenous for the next episode but now I have to wait longer than you guys. Such a bummer.

Calls (AppleTV+) – You know I love a good anthology horror series and this one doubles down on being awesome by including one of my favorite new directors in the last decade, Fede Alvarez who helmed the remake of the Evil Dead. Featuring a cast that includes Succession’s Nicholas Braun, Emily In Paris star Lily Collins and Avengers: Endgame’s Karen Gillan, this series is told through a series of interconnected phone conversations chronicling the mysterious story of a group of strangers whose lives are thrown into disarray in the lead-up to an apocalyptic event. I’m just one episode into it so far and I’m totally hooked as I’ve never seen anything like it before and all the twists to this point have been completely original and absolutely mindblowing. There are little gems to be seen on AppleTV+ and this is definitely one of them.

New Releases:

Yes Day – Miguel Arteta is a fascinating filmmaker as he seems to bounce around in television, comedy movies, indie flicks and family films at a crazy rate but he returns to the kids genre for the first time after 2014’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and doing the stellar Beatriz At Dinner in between. The film stars the incredibly likeable Jennifer Garner and Edgar Ramirez as Allison and Carlos, a couple of parents who decide to give their three kids a “yes day”, where for twenty four hours the kids make the rules, sending them on a whirlwind adventure around Los Angeles that will bring the family closer to each other than ever before. This is definitely a return in the inoffensive fluff that has permeated Arteta’s career and while gems like Youth In Revolt get unjustly forgotten, this one deserves to be lost in the shuffle as, if you’re not a kid, this movie makes no mark in your memory whatsoever.

Cherry – Tom Holland and the Russo brothers reteam for this one after the massive successes of Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, three films that their individual box office and critical praise certainly didn’t hinge on their involvement but were helped by them nonetheless. This one is definitely far outside of the realm of those Marvel stories as this one has Holland as a disenfranchised young man from Ohio who meets the love of his life, only to risk losing her through a series of bad decisions and challenging life circumstances. What results is an unhinged character who drifts from dropping out of college to serving in Iraq as an Army medic, only anchored by his one true love, Emily, played by Ciara Bravo. When he returns home a war hero, he battles the demons of undiagnosed PTSD and spirals into drug addiction, surrounding himself with a menagerie of depraved misfits and after draining his finances, he turns to bank robbing to fund his addiction, shattering his relationship with Emily along the way. Stylishly shot, this story felt like a mix between a junkie’s story like the Heath Ledger film Cherry and the adaptation of Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead but without the resonance that both of the stories carried. We aren’t onboard with Holland’s title character once and it’s really hard to care about his plight just missing that simple connection.

Death Of A Ladies Man – I feel like it’s been forever since we’ve seen Gabriel Byrne on screen in a leading role or maybe the pandemic has just made time stretch out forever because he was in the Amy Ryan Netflix movie Lost Girls last year but that’s inconsequential as he is back in this new drama from writer and director Matt Bissonnette, the first film in over a decade from the Canadian filmmaker. The film follows a carousing college professor’s life as it takes a series of unimaginable turns, and all the old stories are given a new twist, when he begins to have surreal hallucinations and learns he may not be long for this world. I really had a good time with this movie and I have to say the stand out for me was Montreal actress and former Don Draper arm candy Jessica Pare who shines on screen every moment she appears. I also really enjoyed the work from cinematographer Jonathon Cliff who did Brian De Palma’s Redacted and Wyatt Cenac’s People Of Earth previously.

Jump, Darling – One of the funniest people of all time, Cloris Leachman left the planet earlier this year and, at the time, I thought her last performance was the voice work she did on the Croods sequel until the email about this movie hit my inbox. She takes second billing in this LGBTQ driven drama made right here in our own glorious backyard following a rookie drag queen still reeling from a bad break-up who escapes to the countryside where he finds his grandmother in steep mental decline yet desperate to avoid the local nursing home. Leachman is so perfectly captivating in this movie, giving us a performance to leave her brilliant body of work behind and also make us miss her all that much more. This is a special film that won’t get the love it deserves but I am doing my part in getting it to the eyes of you, my faithful reader.

Night Of The Kings – This is a film that has been getting a lot of buzz on the international independent scene, winning an award at the Toronto International Film Festival and getting an Independent Spirit Award nomination as it’s highlights. A co-production between France, the Ivory Coast, Canada and Senegal, the story is about a young man who is sent to “La Maca”, a prison of Ivory Coast in the middle of the forest ruled by its prisoners. The wild ‘auto-gestioned- prison of Abidjan becomes the theater of a fight for power, as the old ‘chief’ of the prison must submit his power, due to illness. This last night of the blood full moon a newcomer assumes the role of the storyteller, not knowing that this will end with his own death. To stay alive, he begins to tell the story of a fellow criminal in the slum of Abidjan, and how he was driven to his death. This film, for lack of a better descriptor, is absolutely stunning. Writer and director Philippe Lacôte operates like a seasoned veteran in just his third narrative film and has me absolutely salivating for his next offering. This is also a piece of new black cinema that the masses need to get behind immediately.

Come True – Is it time for some horror? Oh yes, it is kiddies but remember, in my world it’s always time for horror! The theme of new releases this week is movies from the Great White North and, you guessed it, this one is Canadian as well, the sophomore film from filmmaker Anthony Scott Burns who made a pretty solid debut with Our House starring Thomas Mann. This film features the always great Julia Sarah Stone as eighteen year old Sarah who, looking for an escape from her recurring nightmares, submits to a university sleep study, but soon realizes she’s become the conduit to a frightening new discovery. I really liked this movie on a surface level but the more I started to break it down after viewing it the more that I felt the hollowness of its attempts to be clever as plot holes and missteps start to rend the experience apart. The film is by no means bad, just under developed and a bit underwhelming in it’s final delivery.

Own The Room – When I saw the National Geographic produced Science Fair a couple of years ago at the Vancouver International Film Festival, I was totally blown away by its approach to showing a competition of the brightest young minds all vying for a sizable research grant to hopefully one day change the world. Now those producers and the directing duo of Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster are back for another story of brilliant young minds yearning for more, as this film chronicles five students from disparate corners of the planet as they take their budding business ventures to Macau, China, to compete in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. Santosh is from a small farming town in Nepal, Alondra works the register at her family’s bakery in Puerto Rico, Henry is a programming wiz from Nairobi, Jason is a marketing machine from Greece and Daniela, an immigrant fleeing the crisis in Venezuela, is taking on the chemical industry from her lab at NYU. Each of the business hopefuls has overcome immense obstacles in pursuing their dreams, from hurricanes to poverty to civil unrest. As they represent their countries as the top student entrepreneurs, the high-stakes global finals are their opportunity to win worldwide attention and the coveted $100,000 grand prize to make their life-changing business ideas a reality and transform the world. This is another inspirational story that will give you a sweet message that the “kids are alright” and their working hard to save our asses, collectively.

Underplayed – Bud Light produced a film? And it’s about the party scene of DJs? Yes, but it’s not as vapid as you would be led to believe as this documentary goes straight for the issues and takes a direct route to get under your skin and drive home the message of inequality and inequity in the constant fight to get women an equal share in, heck, any industry. Featuring an artist I absolutely adore, Australian’s entrancing Alison Wonderland, this documentary was filmed over the summer festival season and presents a portrait of the current status of the gender, ethnic, and sexuality equality issues in dance music. The story and issues are through the lens of the female pioneers, next-generation artists and industry leaders who are championing the change and inspiring a more diverse pool of role models for future generations. This film has a big message to it, the pulse pounding reflection of the festival scene to power it and some really great music to keep your head in the game. I really dug this movie a lot.

Blu-Ray:

Vanguard – Yes, I will watch any martial arts movie if it has Jackie Chan’s name attached to it and that goes doubly if it was made in China because, undoubtedly, that’s where his best films came from. Right back in the genre that he does best and, let’s face it, he made famous, this is the story or a covert security company called Vanguard that is the last hope of survival for an accountant after he is targeted by the world’s deadliest mercenary organization. Now that I’ve started getting you all hyped for the return of Jackie to Hong Kong cinema, here’s where the other shoe comes down to tell you that this movie is bland to the point of being devoid of all character and, in parts, it almost feels like a retread of things he’s done in his career before but it comes off like a tribute band that isn’t very good at cover songs. What a total waste but I hope he does try to make more before his wheels fall off.

Ip Man: Kung Fu Master – It’s no secret that on this weekly blog posting and my spots on The Shift that I’m a fan of these films about the legend of Master Ip and his teachings that were made international by his most famous student, Bruce Lee, but, admittedly, the ones without establishing star Donnie Yen come across a little flat and charisma light. That goes for this one, which follows the title character during his time as a police captain in Foshan, Ip Man is targeted by a vengeful gangster just as the Japanese army invades the region, the common enemy that the master finds himself tangling with. I haven’t been given the review opportunity to see this one but it does feel like another cash in on the name but from what I read it’s just a great excuse to watch over eighty minutes of kick ass fighting.

Rent-A-Pal – Looking for some creepy voyeur style horror thriller to creep you out and infect your psyche so that it’s hard to sleep at night? Awesome, I’ll help you out with that by pumping up this new film that features former Star Trek: The Next Generation and king of the nerds Wil Wheaton and no, he’s not Wesley. The film is set in 1990 and follows a lonely bachelor named David who searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his aging mother. While seeking a partner through a video dating service, he discovers a strange VHS tape called Rent-A-Pal hosted by the charming and charismatic Andy, played by Wheaton, and the tape offers him much-needed company, compassion, and friendship. Andy’s friendship unfortunately comes at a sinister cost and David desperately struggles to afford the price of admission in a movie that surprised the hell out of me with it’s originality and ingenious twists that will earn it some solid word of mouth from everyone who sees it. This is the real deal here for crazy thrillers plus VHS! we have a relevant reason to discuss it!

ON-GAKU: Our Sound – It’s been awhile since I’ve jumped into the pool of anime but this one had me a bit intrigued off the bat because it had a little rebellion to it, a little bit of punk attitude and just enough nihilism to keep it all afloat. The basis of the story is a trio of delinquent school kids who form a music band but, more to the point, it’s about being a bored teenager looking for thrills, having no skill, money, or , heck, even a full set of drums. I was actually really surprised with how much I dug this movie which presents a highly original take on the beloved slacker comedy with pitch-perfect deadpan humor, kind of a lo-fi buddy film. The film honestly has the potential to rope in viewers from outside the fan base because I enjoyed this one with ease and usually it’s a bit of a muscle flex for me to get on board.

Touki Bouki – Another installation of classic groundbreaking international cinema arrives this week as the new entry into the hi-definition side of the Criterion Collection. This film comes from Senegal in 1973, released in North America under the title Journey of the Hyena and follows Mory, a cowherd, who rides a motorcycle mounted with a cow’s skull, and Anta, a university student, that have met in Dakar, Senegal’s capital. Alienated and disaffected with Senegal and Africa, they dream of going to Paris and work up different con schemes to raise the money and when Mory steals clothing and money from a wealthy gay man who had brought him home, he and Anta book passage on a ship to France to finally realize their life plan. This film is believed to be Africa’s first avant-garde film and is ranked very highly on many best of all time lists and evokes even some French new wave filmmaking like that which Goddard would have made at the time. Fascinating and thoughtful cinema which was incredible for me to discover.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:

Sherlock Holmes & Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows 4K – Leave it to a couple of 4K special editions for me to fall in love with Guy Ritchie’s retelling of possibly the greatest fictional detectives ever created, along with Batman probably. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law’s fantastic chemistry along with Ritchie’s frenetic and flashy action style make both of these movies infinitely rewatchable and Warner Bros. retouching and updating to the 4K level are absolutely glorious. If you’ve never had the chance to check them out, the first film has Holmes and his stalwart partner Watson engaging in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis, played by Mark Strong, whose plot is a threat to all of England and the second movie goes a bit more traditional and has him on the trail of criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty, who is carrying out a string of random crimes across Europe. These movies are awesome, exhilarating and just plain fun, totally worth picking up.

Crazy Heart – Is it weird to say that the film that Jeff Bridges won a Best Actor Academy Award for is an underrated gem? In my mind, it totally is and it feels like this fantastic character drama with a foothold in traditional country music has been largely forgotten about which is really sad. Bridges stars as Bad Blake, a broken-down, hard-living country music singer who’s had way too many marriages, far too many years on the road and one too many drinks way too many times and yet, he can’t help but reach for salvation with the help of Jean, a journalist played by Maggie Gyllenhaal who discovers the real man behind the musician. The Dude does all of his own singing in this, as well as co-star Colin Farrell, in the debut film from writer and director Scott Cooper that immediately put him on the map as a filmmaker of note. This blu-ray was dirt cheap to pick up too which feels like I got away with a robbery given the caliber of the film.

Mean Man: The Story Of Chris Holmes – I’m slightly music themed this week with my Geek-Outs but this one is a straight up documentary and we’re shedding the frontier vista of country from the electric shredding of eighties hair metal to change it up that much more. This is the story of Chris Holmes, an iconic guitar player who has lived a life of extreme highs and lows and, after losing the publishing rights of his own songs and combatting dangerous addictions, the legendary W.A.S.P. guitarist is shown starting over from scratch while living at his mother-in-law’s in Cannes, France. Now ready to take on Europe with his new band, we follow him along as he meets many fans and proves that he still is the showman he was as a young and famous rockstar. This Film is fascinating in his musical journey as it draws parallel stories of the rise, fall and rebirth of Chris Holmes with archives, live performances, interviews and behind-the-scene footage but the underproduction of some of this, including some amateurish feeling editing, kind of drags it a bit but it’s kind of what I expect from some of these MVD Visual films. Still a really cool story in rock.

The El Duce Tapes – Let’s finish off this week’s geek-outs with another documentary but a decidedly weirder one, lovingly put together in a special edition from Arrow Video. Made in 2019, the story follows Ryan Sexton, who, between appearing in supporting roles in General Hospital and local TV commercials, spent the early 90s documenting the life and art of El Duce, lead singer of the notorious shock rock band The Mentors. Famous for taking the stage in black executioner hoods, the band spent a few moments in the national spotlight after some of their most offensive lyrics were denounced on the floor of the US Senate. Now, twenty five years later, filmmakers David Lawrence and Rodney Ascher dive into the long unseen VHS footage searching for clues about who El Duce really was, how much of his disturbing persona was for real, and what an act built around a cartoonish sense of violent misogyny can tell us about our own time and place. As far as stories of human oddities go, this movie is fascinatingly weird and sent me on a deep Google dive for anything more I could find out about El Duce. This is some must see documentary stuff that may lead you to Reddit message boards of discussion.

Television:

Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell (Netflix) – Netflix back with another hard hitting documentary? Oh yes, and if you’ve already done all the music series they have to offer, definitely including the Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine series The Defiant Ones, then you should move on over to this one. Coming from acclaimed music filmmaker Emmett Malloy, this documentary features rare footage filmed by Christopher Wallace’s best friend, Damion “D-Roc” Butler, and interviews with his closest friends and family, revealing a side of Biggie Smalls that the world never knew. As a fan of his music, albeit retroactively, I was totally into this story about a prolific and gifted rapper and producer who was taken from this earth far too early, robbing us all of so much more possibly landscape changing music. A good one two punch would be watching this film then following it up with the biopic Notorious which is streaming on Disney+, Crave and Amazon Prime.

63 Up (BritBox) – This is definitely a repost but given that filmmaker Michael Apted recently passed away and Britbox has put up this last film on their service, I must address it. Honestly, within ten minutes of this documentary I was absolutely hooked on the humanity of this story. An ambitious project started in the mid-60s, this is Apted’s crowning achievement in my opinion. as he does a character study on fourteen students, starting at age seven and then visiting them every seven years after, chronicling it as the Up series. Now into their sixties, each person’s story proves the individuality in our world but also the similarity in a lot of our politics, daily life decisions as well as love and relationships. Luckily, this is a franchise where any of these films can be a jumping in point as the recap of everything Apted has recorded so far is reiterated in each movie. These documentaries may be the most important film about human life ever made and, in my opinion, the greatest franchise ever constructed.

New Releases:

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 I am hugely looking forward to and maybe this will be that wide celebration I’ve been waiting for.

Raya And The Last Dragon – We have definitely been missing the movie theatres, like these top two films this week totally remind you of, but this movie is the biggest reminded of that as I felt throughout my viewing of it how incredible the experience would have been. Originally slated to arrive in theatres this past November, this dazzling Disney film follows a lone warrior named Raya whose mission is to track down the last dragon to finally stop the Druun, sinister monsters that turns all life to stone and have broken apart humanity into different tribes who hide to keep their pieces of an ancient dragon artifact that keeps the enemy at bay. The only chance for a future lies in the unification of all these pieces that will restore the balance of the world. Featuring an all Asian cast including Star Wars star Kelly Marie Tran and the hilarious Awkwafina, I loved every moment of this film and so did my family, a breath of fresh air in the Disney animated films that fell like another piece in their iconic original stories that could stand shoulder to shoulder with movies like Aladdin and The Lion King.

The Mauritanian – I picked the perfect time to watch my screener for this new drama thriller that is based on the novel from the author and the main focus of this film, Mohamedou Ould Salahi, as it picked up a Golden Globe just this past Sunday for Best Supporting Actress Jodie Foster. Coming from acclaimed director Kevin Macdonald, this is the true story of Slahi’s fight for freedom after being detained and imprisoned without charge by the United States government for years. Alone, afraid and yearning to be reconnected with his family, Slahi finds allies in defence attorney Nancy Hollander, played by Foster and her associate Teri Duncan, played by Shailene Woodley who battles the government in a fight for justice that tests their commitment to the law and their client at every turn. Their controversial advocacy, along with evidence uncovered by a formidable military prosecutor, The Benedict Cumberbatch played Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch, uncovers shocking truths and ultimately proves that the Americans have been so shady and callous in their reaction to 9/11, the catalyst for all their actions. The film is brilliantly acted but there is a dry dullness that snakes through it and kind of drags it down in parts.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday – Now that this film has won lead actress Andra Day the Best Actress Golden Globe we can now probably dub this biopic about legendary singer Billie Holiday as this year’s Judy, meaning that it will award its number one star all of the accolades, like Renee Zellweger last year, for their work while, as a whole, not being a great movie. This story follows Holiday during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, played by Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes, with whom she had a tumultuous affair. The film was directed by Lee Daniels who has made incredible films in the past like Precious, The Paperboy and The Butler but it seems like this one misses the mark largely. Just watch Lady Sings The Blues, it’s amazing.

Moxie – After the fun but a bit vapid lady-led romp that was Wine Country, I was really looking forward to Amy Poehler’s next offering as a director, an actress turned filmmaker who studied under the tree of knowledge that is Wet Hot American Summer director David Wain. Instead of having a big cast filled with her friends, Poehler turned her focus to a high school story in this adaptation of the book by Jennifer Mathieu about a shy sixteen-year-old fed up with the sexist and toxic status quo at her high school who finds inspiration from her mother’s rebellious past and anonymously publishes a zine that sparks a school-wide, coming-of-rage revolution. The movie sounds great but manages to step into every pandering cliche about teenagers, high school life, love interests, dialogue and even hits crazy levels of white saviour thinking. Very quickly I knew I was knee-deep in a bad film and it didn’t improve its stance and just kept sinking into its problematic quagmire.

Land – Veteran actress and former crush of mine back in the Princess Bride days Robin Wright makes her directorial debut with this emotional drama the puts a grieving woman in the middle of the wilderness in a story not just of personal survival but soul resurrection. Wright stars in the film as well, playing Edee, a woman living in the aftermath of an unfathomable event and finds herself unable to stay connected to the world she once knew. In the face of that uncertainty, she retreats to the magnificent, but unforgiving, wilds of the Rockies in Wyoming and, inexperienced in how to live off and protect herself from the land, she puts her life in extreme danger. After a local hunter, played beautifully by Demián Bichir, brings her back from the brink of death, she must find a way to live again and open herself up to the continuation of her being. The film starts off rocky in my opinion, giving so much emotion to a character that we haven’t even gotten to know yet and her survival naivete comes off as frustrating but the second and third act comes in to totally elevate that film and give us a really tender one-two dynamic with these characters. Wright sticks her landing as a filmmaker and I’m looking forward to what she has next.

My Salinger Year – This is definitely one of my favourite films of the Vancouver International Film Festival last year and the crowning achievement for the director and screenwriter Philippe Falardeau whose last outing I saw at a previous festival was My Internship In Canada, an absurd comedy that I’d love to forget. Based on Joanna Smith Rakoff’s novel of the same name, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’s Margaret Qualley plays Joanna as a young aspiring writer who lands a day-job at J.D. Salinger’s literary agency in n New York City during the late nineties. While her eccentric and old-fashioned boss, played by Sigourney Weaver, tasks her to process Salinger’s voluminous fan mail, she struggles to find her own voice through romance, a crash course in the publishing world and communications with the reclusive writer that she knows as Jerry. This film is beautifully shot, wonderfully acted and leaves a resonance that will put a smile on your face.

The World To Come – Is everyone out there ready to get depressed because have I ever got the movie for you to get into the depths of your sullen emotions! Not to make light of it but this film has to be one of the bleakest films I have received into my brain in a while and it is another Vanessa Kirby project that did it, less than two months after Pieces Of A Woman. Starring Fantastic Beasts’ Katherine Waterston, Casey Affleck and Christopher Abbott as well, the film takes place in upstate New York in the 1850s and follows Abigail who begins a new year on the rural farm where she lives with her husband Dyer. As Abigail considers the year to come through her journal entries, we experience the marked contrast between her deliberate, stoic manner and her unravelling complex emotions, dealing with the death of their only daughter. Spring arrives and Abigail meets Tallie, an emotionally frank and arrestingly beautiful newcomer renting a neighbouring farm with her husband, Finney. The two strike up a tentative relationship that soon turns romantic as the two share a torrid romance that ends in sullen tragedy. This film is beautifully shot in the countryside of Romania but the dour nature of this story refuses to let you enjoy that scenery as we watch Abigail fall apart emotionally. Fantastic performances from the whole cast but it’s not really a recommendable film unless you enjoy depression.

Boogie – A teen story to wipe the bad taste in my mouth that Moxie left, this is a sort of coming of age film that delves into themes of ancestry, lineage, family pride and individualism in a modern world and the shrugging of race politics. This is the story of Alfred “Boogie” Chin, a basketball phenom living in Queens, New York, who dreams of one day playing in the NBA. While his parents pressure him to focus on earning a scholarship to an elite college, Boogie must find a way to navigate a new girlfriend, high school, on-court rivals and the burden of expectation with a domineering mother who only sees the prosperity of her family and his recently released from prison father who just wants the American dream for his son. The indie style is a driving factor to this film that is only really let down by the inexperience of its lead cast and the hurtle in this film is Boogie isn’t really likeable until a good way into this story and the first “pick up line” he uses is so laughably cringy that I had to pause the movie to stop laughing.

Dreamcatcher – Oh man, have we not hit up the horror genre yet? Well, let’s quickly fix that with this new party-themed slasher film that has a really cool-looking central villain in it. With an unproven cast led by the Incredible Hulk’s kid Lou Ferrigno Jr., this film centers on two estranged sisters who, along with their friends, become entrenched in a forty-eight-hour whirlwind of violence after a traumatic experience at an underground music festival. Dylan, known to his fans as DJ Dreamcatcher, an artist who plays under a mask much like Deadmau5, is on the brink of global stardom but someone has co-opted his mask for a series of murders that will make him memorable for the opposite reason he wants. It’s a bumpy ride through the beginning of this film as noting really takes a good hold of you until the second act and some viewers may have checked out by then. Some inventive kills, pulsing music and neon vibrant visuals are enough to keep it sailing to the end in my opinion.

Stray – This documentary is as straightforward as they come but it is such a singular journey in its narrative that it may at times feel like you are watching paint dry. I’m not setting this one up too well, am I? To get the synopsis out of the way, the film explores what it means to live as a being without status or security, following three strays as they embark on inconspicuous journeys through Turkish society. There’s Zeytin, fiercely independent, who embarks on adventures through the city at night, Nazar, nurturing and protective, who easily befriends the humans around her all the while Kartal, a shy puppy living on the outskirts of a construction site, finds companions in the security guards who care for her. The strays’ disparate lives intersect when they each form intimate bonds with a group of young Syrians with whom they share the streets. This film is an intimate take on living on the streets and its effect and the judgement laid upon those individuals, canines and humans alike. It’s a beautifully shot tale of pure existence but it can definitely leave viewers wondering what the purpose of it was.

The End Of The Storm – I’m not really a soccer fan. Hold on, let’s switch to European style so I don’t piss people off. I’m not really a “football’ fan but anytime a documentary crew goes deep on a sport it generally has a human connective draw to me and I will always appreciate the strength, both mentally and physically, that goes into being a professional athlete no matter what the sport is. This film offers unprecedented access to Liverpool Football Club, a gripping look at their 2019/20 Premier League winning season. In a year when all sports came to a standstill, fans of Liverpool Football Club finally saw their team lift the trophy that had eluded them for thirty long years, seen through the eyes of manager Jurgen Klopp and his first-team players including Jordan Henderson, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino. The blood, sweat and tears of not only this team, its coach and its staff but the fans as well are felt in this but some angry outsiders would like to come at this championship win with an asterisk which is unfortunate. A win is a win, right?

Notturno – As a slice of life documentary filmmaker, I have to admit I’ve been pretty aloof on the works of East African director Gianfranco Rosi’s work aside from the Academy Award-nominated Fire At Sea which was a film about life on the Italian island of Lampedusa during the European migrant crisis. His new film isn’t far off that mark, an immersive portrait of those trying to survive in the war-torn Middle East, filmed over three years on the borders between Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria, and Lebanon. his documentary captures everyday life in the aftermath of tyranny, invasions and terrorism in a stilled and pragmatic way the almost acts like the camera is a fly on the wall that we take this shattered existence from. So much beauty is captured by Rosi but is equally contrasted by the rubble, cracks and destruction left behind and the fire and brimstone on the horizon. A truly fascinating experience.

Blu-Ray:

Monster Hunter – Can somebody please take these Capcom properties away from Milla Jovovich and her writer, producer and director husband Paul W.S. Anderson? Really, just take all adaptations away because Anderson has tanked the Resident Evil franchise, made a mess out of the history of Pompeii and even Alexander Dumas has been slighted with his terrible Three Musketeers adaptation. This slogfest that has bright points of action jumps on a game franchise I’m unfamiliar with, following Marine lieutenant Artemis and her loyal soldiers who are transported to a new world and engage in a desperate battle for survival against enormous enemies with incredible powers. Co-starring Ong Bak action star Tony Jaa and featuring T.I., Megan Good and Diego Boneta for all of ten minutes, the film is haphazard in plotting and brainless in its script and that’s me going easy on it. Ugh, when will the torture end, Milla? I used to love you!

Fatale – Hilary Swank and Michael Ealy are trying to bring you some sexy thrills before Christmas with this new film that seems to borrow a lot of its plot from nineties thrillers, which would be fine if you had a competent filmmaker to bring that to the screen. Instead, you have Deon Taylor, a director who has brought out laughable films like the Dennis Quaid dumbness The Intruder, a film so unintentionally funny that I couldn’t take it seriously for a millisecond. Predictably, this film is about a successful married man who, after an adulterous one-night stand, finds himself entangled in a cunning police detective’s latest investigation. My request for a screening link for this was denied so you know this is going to be craptacular.

Half Brothers – Newly discovered familial bonds are at the center of this new comedy adventure that I really just found out about this week and, let’s face it, the reason is that it doesn’t have a notable director or stars that we’ve heard of in North America. The story follows Renato, a Mexican aviation executive, who is shocked to learn he has an American half-brother he never knew about, the free-spirited Asher. They are forced on a road trip together, tracing the path their father took from Mexico to the United State in the hope that it will bring them closer together and erase the deficit that time has put between them. I had such a hard time following the tone of this movie, whether it was an emotional dramedy or a screwball road trip comedy at times but the worst offence was that the pulse of the film is almost no existent with a limp script, haphazard delivery and a directional execution that seemed to be learning on the fly. A pretty disappointing end to this one.

All My Life – It is the tearjerker side of this week’s write-up as this movie delves into the romantic drama side with a tragic twist. The film stars former Glee star Harry Shum Jr. and the glowing piece of both Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2U, Jessica Rothe and follows a couple whose wedding plans are thrown off course when the groom is diagnosed with liver cancer. This movie looks pretty corny on the outside and, to be totally honest, it really is but the sugary sweetness that comes with it is kind of a breath of fresh air in the darkness of 2020 and hearing the COVID numbers every day. This may ease your mind and give you a reprieve from all of that and not in that terrible Hallmark movie sort of way.

Scare Me – Being a fan of one of the original Youtube sketch groups College Humor, I was really excited when I saw that long-time actor and writer from that group, Josh Ruben, had produced, written, directed and starred in his own horror film. Co-starring the breakout star of the second season of The Boys, Aya Cash, and SNL cast member Chris Redd, and it’s simply about two strangers telling scary stories during a power outage but the more Fred and Fanny commit to their tales, the more the stories come to life in their Catskills cabin and the horrors of reality fully manifest when Fred confronts his ultimate fear. The satire in this film is a brilliant side of biting that is a continuous wink to the audience but carves out a new side of the genre at the same time. This is one of the most inventive chillers I’ve seen in a while but it also has a broader side to it to inviting those who don’t love horror. You weirdos.

Pinocchio – I guess Gomorrah filmmaker Matteo Garrone looked at the original 1940 Disney telling of Pinocchio and said “Nah, that’s not grim and grotesque enough” and decided to make a faithful adaptation of the book because he put his all into making a true, poverty-stricken and dirty version of that classic story and it is certainly not for kids. Co-starring Academy Award winner Roberto Benigni, this film fully fleshes out the Carlo Collodi book, the story of old woodcarver Geppetto’s puppet creation, Pinocchio, who magically comes to life with dreams of becoming a real boy. Of course, easily led astray, Pinocchio tumbles from one misadventure to another as he is tricked, kidnapped and chased by bandits, gets turned into a donkey and swallowed by a whale in his journey to becoming flesh and blood. I remembered things from the old cartoon but seeing the way that Garone tackled these plot points made me totally rethink what I had seen. The donkey transformation scene is almost disturbing, reminding me quite a bit of a werewolf transformation. What a strange movie this was.

Zappa – Being a late arriver to the genius of Frank Zappa, an uncompromising artist who sought out the highest quality of work rather than the volume of being a desired artist, most of what I knew about this legend came from the previous documentary Eat That Question released four years ago but this new film, written and directed by Bill And Ted’s Alex Winter, feels totally definitive. Compiled from hours and hours of home videos, tour footage, backstage documentation and interviews over his career, this is the peering into the mind of a legendary musician almost directly from his point of view, a man who was known as difficult due to his perfectionism and an emboldened fighter in the war with the establishment, the government and that nasty word that we regard as censorship. I found myself constantly blown away by Zappa’s drive to create content over commercialism and his process to keep himself out of the mainstream medium. So many artists, not just in music, can look at Frank’s story as the utmost tale of fierce originality and a will unbreakable and unbendable by any of society’s constraints. This is an amazing film.

Crazy Samurai: 400 vs 1 – You know you’ve got my money when you boast that a movie has “the world’s first seventy seven-minute, one-take action film sequence” in it so when this email landed in my inbox I smashed that “send it to me” button immediately. Is there a real story to it? With a setup like that, who honestly cares? Just to be thorough, I’ll give you a little bit, as the story is set in 1604 as Miyamoto Musashi attacks the Yoshioka family at their dojo and defeats master Seijuro and his younger brother Denshichiro in two duels. To save their reputation, the Yoshioka family decides to fight back with all one hundred family members and hire an additional three hundred samurai and now Musashi sets out to defeat all 400 enemies in his most famous battle. Sounds totally badass and a total gold mine to any fans out there itching for an insane samurai movie, right? Well, just know that it all pays off and that blu-ray quality and sounds are oh so sweet to behold.

Victor And Valentino: Folk Art Foes: Season 1 Volume 1 – More Cartoon Network goodies land on the shelves this week with this brand new series from creator Diego Molano who has taken his adventurous little short and turned it into a full-fledged series for his first full-on series after writing for The Powerpuff Girls. The series follows two brothers, very opposite from each other, who spend a summer with their grandma in Monte Macabre, a small and mysterious town, where the myths and legends of Latin American folklore come to life. So, think Eerie, Indiana, Latin edition but animated and that sounds pretty fantastic to me. The kids will really dig this show has it’s flashy, fast-paced and seems to be exactly in line with all the hit shows from the Nickelodeon side of Cartoon Network that has been going strong since Dexter’s Laboratory.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:

Defendor – This is a hidden Canadian-produced gem about underlying mental health that completely blew me away and not because the actor-turned-director Peter Stebbings partially shares my name. Woody Harrelson, Kat Dennings and Sandra Oh star in this comedy-drama that follows Arthur Poppington, a regular man who adopts a superhero persona, known as “Defendor”, to comb the city streets at night, in search of his archenemy, Captain Industry. Arthur knows he doesn’t understand and doesn’t belong in this ordinary world but is committed to fighting with no power other than courage, no matter how blind it looks. Harrelson delivers another beautifully nuanced performance that keeps you rooting for Arthur and hoping that his psychosis is more cathartic than damaging. I saw this movie when it came out over ten years ago and have always recommended it as a pick off the beaten path.

V For Vendetta 4K – One of the coolest graphic novel adaptations of the early 2000s, this was such an ambitious project to pick up and it really had to be the Wachowski Starship that tackled it, just after The Matrix series had been fully realized and with their protege James McTeague behind the camera in his debut as a director. Based on the book by renowned warlock and public curmudgeon Alan Moore, the film is set in a totalitarian future with Britain in the height of tyranny, London is a police state occupied by a fascist government, and a vigilante known only as V, played always under a mask by Hugo Weaving, who uses terrorist tactics to fight the oppressors of the world in which he now lives. When V saves a young woman named Evey, stunningly played by future Oscar winner Natalie Portman, from the secret police, he discovers an ally in his fight against England’s oppressors. This movie was incredible to look at on the big screen and is so immersive now on this 4K home release, one of Warner Bros.’s great bullets in their arsenal of great action films in the last twenty years. If you haven’t seen this one, now is the perfect time to get acquainted with this great and relevant story.

Full Metal Jacket 4K – War movies have a large niche fan are that usually delves into each film purely on a need for some action sequences, historical posturing or just to see some of the biggest moments in these conflicts reflected on the big screen. This is why I love these 4K movies and the reissues of the older titles as it breathes new life into the movies and it definitely does with this classic that focuses on the psychological side of the Vietnam War in one of the most unforgettable films of the eighties and another masterpiece from the greatest director ever, Stanley Kubrick. The film is a two-segment look at the effect of the military mindset and war itself on Vietnam era Marines with the first half following a group of recruits in boot camp under the command of the punishing Gunnery Sergeant Hartman and the second half which shows one of those recruits, Joker, covering the war as a correspondent for Stars and Stripes, focusing on the Tet offensive. Of course, the boot camp portion is the most memorable for most people but there are shots and scenes in the final act that are sear indelibly into my brain. This movie is incredible still.

Television:

Murder Among The Mormons (Netflix) – Just a couple of weeks after Joe Berlinger producer the Cecil Hotel docuseries that ruffled a few feathers, he is back co-producing this murder documentary series with Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre director Jared Hess in a story close to the filmmaker’s heart as it strikes right at the heart of his religion, the Mormon faith. The series brings you to Salt Lake City in 1985 when a series of pipe bombs kill two people and severely injures another, jolting the epicentre of the Church Of Latter-Day Saints. The murders send further shockwaves through the community when a trove of early Mormon letters and diaries are found destroyed in the vehicle of the third victim, Mark Hofmann, a renowned collector of rare documents, including the infamous White Salamander Letter, an artifact whose contents threatened to shake the very foundations of Mormonism. As Hofmann fights for his life, investigators race to uncover the truth in a fascinating trip that is the first comprehensive look at one of the most shocking crimes to have ever taken place among the Mormon community and the criminal mastermind behind it all. I was hooked from episode one and not just because I feel like the founding beliefs in this faith are ridiculously stupid.

New Releases:
Tom And Jerry – For the kids of this generation and, well, those born in say the mid-nineties and beyond, this new animation and live-action hybrid may be new to them but as a child of the Saturday morning cartoon generation, I know Tom and Jerry quite well and really grew up on those shows along with my Hanna Barbera. Hopefully, this will work out for the current generation as the two iconic cartoon frenemies hit the big screen for the first time, starring with real human Chloe Grace Moretz in this adaptation that serves as more of an origin story, revealing how Tom and Jerry first meet and form their rivalry. From the outside, this is definitely a family geared story that looks to occupy its demographic of small children but I’m really hoping that it took some of the cues from last year’s Sonic The Hedgehog and gives it some substance to give the long-suffering parents something to cling to. 

Minari – For months I have been hearing the accolades and awards rumble for this new film following a Korean family on the search for the American dream as well as the praise for lead star and former Walking Dead actor Steven Yuen but as far as awards season goes, the Hollywood foreign press already dropped the ball by marginalizing it to just the foreign category. Now, having seen it, I can join the massive chorus celebrating this film because it is a perfect drama in every way. The story is about a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm to carve out their own piece of paradise. The family home changes completely with the arrival of their sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother, which leads to a stand-off relationship with the family’s youngest, David. This movie is a little slice of real people that are constantly engaging and endearing as you become deeper and deeper with your emotional attachment to these characters. I adored this movie and could watch it over and over again.

Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry – Oh boy do I love myself a good music documentary and already being a fan of the young Billie Eilish, I was already so on board with this film. This well-crafted film tells the coming-of-age story of the multiple Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and her rise to global superstardom alongside her producer and bandmate brother Phinneas from award-winning filmmaker R.J. Cutler, the guy behind the recent biographical documentaries Belushi and The World According to Dick Cheney. This documentary offers a deeply intimate look at the extraordinary teenager’s journey, at just 17 years old, navigating life on the road, on stage, and at home with her family, while writing, recording and releasing her debut album “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? all from the point of view of home videos and behind the scenes tour footage. I was blown away by this film, watching her process, dealing with her mental quirks, darkness and even Tourettes and even reacting to a longtime crush she’s had on Justin Beiber. Seriously, their first meeting is worth watching the film by itself. I loved this movie.

Nose – Hear this in a Derek Zoolander voice: “what is this? A documentary for nasals?” Okay, maybe that sounded better in my head but this film is not a documentation of the nasal passage or that thing that occupies the space between your mouth and eyes but about some of the more pleasant aromas that permeate it, notably perfume. It’s actually a pretty special and groundbreaking film as, for the first time in a documentary feature, the prestigious House of Dior opened its doors to its perfume creation process and let some of its secrets out. Travellers at heart, filmmakers Arthur de Kersauson and Clément Beauvais followed François Demachy for two years and over fourteen countries, from Grasse to the other side of the world, in his search for inspiration and the most precious raw materials. It’s really fascinating how much this film pulls back the curtain on a very secretive process but, unless you have some interest invested in this industry, some of its components may feel a bit dry to you.

Blu-Ray:
The Croods: A New Age – Heading into this brand new Dreamworks sequel I was already at a huge disadvantage as I hadn’t and still haven’t seen the first movie of this caveman-centric animated franchise that has already spawned a Netflix television series. I knew I liked the cast though which has Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke and Cloris Leachman and adds Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann and Kelly Marie Tran to the mix for this continuing adventure. This film has the prehistoric family discovering a lush utopia that was formed by the more evolved family, the Bettermans, who invite the Croods to stay with them under the one rule, don’t pick the bananas. This movie surprised the hell out of me as I laughed from beginning to end with a big goofy smile on my face. Its great fun for the whole family and Cage goes insane in his vocal performance and it’s worth every second.

The Last Vermeer – I wonder if Claes Bang’s agent has him only auditioning for art-related projects because, besides his turn as the titular character in the miniseries Dracula, he’s done three films revolving around the subject with The Square, The Burnt Orange Heresy and now this. Bang stars here as Joseph Piller in this dramatic thriller set just after WWII about a soldier investigating renowned Dutch artist Han van Meegeren, played by Guy Pearce, the total reason to watch this film, who is accused of conspiring with the Nazis. Despite increasing evidence, Piller becomes increasingly convinced of Han’s innocence and finds himself in the unlikely position of fighting to save the life of the most beloved man in the country who has a very mysterious past. The film is a very dry and monotone film so the term “thriller” is very loose in my opinion but the film is gorgeously shot throughout by cinematographer Remi Adefarasin, who also shot both of Cate Blanchett’s Elizabeth movies. History buffs will definitely dig into this one.

Redemption Day – Remember Gary Dourdan? He played the fan-favourite Warrick Brown on CSI and before that he was in Alien Resurrection but he screwed it all up by being a heavy drug addict and a brash loudmouth that got him canned from the popular series without the possibility of returning as they iced his character with finality. So, when I say he has a new movie the bar is ultra-low because who would employ him, right? In this aptly named film he plays war hero Brad Paxton, who is in a race against the clock to rescue the love of his life who is kidnapped and held for ransom by terrorists in a daring and deadly operation that pits him against the most powerful and shadowy forces. Co-starring veterans like Andy Garcia and Martin Donovan as well as Canadian actress Serinda Swan, the action to this movie is awkward and dumb constantly and every character is a generic template of a bland action flick character making the entire film feel like a waste of time.

Wrong Turn – As a big fan of the original 2003 film which featured awesome effects from the Stan Winston special effects department, I looked at this reboot or reimagining as total blasphemy and it made me clutch my DVD copy to my chest in anger. The film tries to play it more straight forward without weirdo mutants playing a factor at all and instead just go forward with a simpler backwoods terror about a group of friends who set out to hike the Appalachian Trail and, despite warnings to stick to the trail, the hikers stray off course and cross into land inhabited by The Foundation, a hidden community of mountain dwellers who use deadly means to protect their way of life. Under siege and fighting for survival, the group seems headed to the point of no return unless the main character’s father can reach them in time. This film tries so hard to carve out its own story while bastardizing another that it veers constantly into doing ridiculous things to set itself apart that usually doesn’t work out. It’s kind of a crapshoot of a movie.

Silk Road – Nothing sells me on a movie quicker than having Nick Robinson lead it. I loved Kings Of Summer, Love, Simon, and, hell, he was even fun in Jurassic World and this movie not only has him but stalwart actor Jason Clarke too. Starting awesome, I think. This film is inspired by a true story and has Robinson as Ross Ulbricht, a philosophical twenty-something driven to succeed who creates the internet’s first unregulated marketplace, Silk Road. Business hits a wall when it becomes a multimillion-dollar pipeline for illicit drugs, Ross is set on a collision course with Rick Bowden, played by Clarke, a disreputable and dangerously unpredictable DEA agent, who will use any means necessary to take him down. The film is interesting in its full story scope but all of the characters feel like paper-thin representatives of real people and it does nothing for the increased drama and thrills that are thrown at you with both the actors I named being kind of lost in the shuffle.

Last Call – Sometimes the timely manner of the release of a movie can totally seem like it’s capitalizing on tragedy but the awareness for suicide and dark thoughts isn’t a new one but it’s about time that a film focused on those who are literally there to talk people off of ledges. This new Canadian filmed production had the fortitude to do it, telling the tale of a bitterly alone man named Scott who thinks he is calling the Suicide prevention hotline but accidentally gets through to Beth, a janitor with nothing to do with the program who now has the task of saving someone’s life. This is an intensely personal feeling film from writer and director Gavin Michael Booth who co-writes this with his lead actor Daved Wilkins in an exercise that almost looks like catharsis. The film never feels like exploitation or a marginalizing of the suicide mentality as everyone’s struggle is vastly different and Booth and Wilkins know this implicitly. What it feels like in the end is a stand-up to take charge of these crippling thoughts, a cry to check on your friends and family no matter what their strength or fragility is and just to help take care of each other as a society. It’s a message that I will proudly wave a flag for.

Pump Up The Volume – One of the most iconic films of the 1980s and a brilliant time in lead actor Christian Slater’s career, my first question is why the hell did it take so long to get a good release of this movie on home release. A favourite with many friends of mine, this Allan Moyle-directed story of rebellion follows Mark, an intelligent but shy teenager who has just moved to Arizona from the East Coast. His parents give him a short-wave radio so he can talk to his pals, but instead, he sets up shop as pirate deejay Hard Harry, who quickly becomes a hero to his peers while inspiring the wrath of the local high school principal. His new path of bringing his message to the people is put to the test when one of Harry’s listeners commits suicide and chaos breaks out at the school and the authorities are called in to put a stop to Harry’s broadcasts. If you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing this forgotten gem, this Warner Archive edition is perfectly timed in a time where we largely feel silenced and ignored, bringing forward an absolutely timeless message.

Lady Sings The Blues – With a Billie Holiday biopic currently playing at festivals this year and, from what I hear, not getting great reviews this is the perfect time for Paramount to bring out this new reissue that puts a legend in the place of another legend with the great Diana Ross playing the iconic Lady.  Beginning with Holiday’s traumatic youth, the film depicts her early attempts at a singing career and her eventual rise to stardom, as well as her difficult relationship with Louis McKay, her boyfriend and manager played by one of the coolest men to ever grace the screen, Lando Calrissian. Sorry, I meant Billy Dee Williams and, to be fair, this was eight years before he would take that role. Continuing on the description of this one, the film depicts a shadow over Holiday’s brightest moments as the vocalist’s severe drug addiction deepened, which threatened to end both her career and her life and those in the know have the story of what the outcome was. The film would be nominated for five Oscars but was ultimately dominated by Cabaret which pulled in eight Academy Awards that year. 

On Moonlight Bay – And so begins Doris Day week or so Warner Archive has deemed it with not one but two new remasters of her classic films starting with this well-received musical that paired her with Backfire star Gordon MacRae. Coming from It Happened on Fifth Avenue director Roy Del Ruth, the story follows the Winfield family who moves into a new house in a small town in Indiana and quickly tomboy Marjorie Winfield begins a romance with William Sherman who lives across the street. Marjorie has to learn how to dance and act like a proper young lady but, unfortunately, William Sherman has unconventional ideas for the time, as the film is set in the era of World War I and his ideas include not believing in marriage or money, which causes friction with Marjorie’s father, who is the local bank vice president. This movie proved to be so popular that the studio immediately filmed By the Light of the Silvery Moon for release two years later, which is a direct sequel with all the actors playing the same characters, something that was very unusual at the time.

Show Boat – I was pretty excited to receive this new release from Warner Archive as it was a giant film for its time and features one of the most legendary actresses of that era, Ava Gardner. Helmed by Annie Get Your Gun director George Sidney, the film follows Julie LaVerne and her husband Steve Baker who is forced to leave the showboat Cotton Blossom after their marriage is declared illegal because of Julie’s mixed blood and their places are taken by Magnolia Hawks, the Captain’s daughter, and Gaylord Ravenal, a gambler. Magnolia and Ravenal fall in love, marry, leave the boat and move to Chicago, where they live off Ravenal’s earnings from gambling. After they go broke Gay feels guilty and leaves Magnolia, not knowing she is pregnant. Yes, it’s all a convoluted folly of relationship mishaps in musical fashion but it earned two Academy Award nominations but lost both awards to An American In Paris. Maybe if they nabbed the original star Judy Garland they would have curried some Oscar sympathy.

My Dream Is Yours – Let’s finish out these golden classics with the second Doris Day film, which was notable for having not just Casablanca’s Michael Curtiz behind the camera but legendary animator Friz Freleng in an uncredited directorial role as well. The story follows a radio agent named Doug Blake who decides to find a new personality to replace conceited singer Garry Mitchell when he refuses to renew his radio contract and, in New York, he finds Martha Gibson, a single mother with a great voice and the perfect candidate. He arranges for her to move to Hollywood, but then has a problem trying to sell her to the show’s sponsor and while trying every trick he can think of to make Martha a star and as the two work more closely, he falls in love with her. Martin Scorsese has cited this film as a primary influence on his own downbeat musical, New York, New York, which I didn’t know until after watching this one and it made me love it even more, a weird notion as I really hate musicals.

John Hughes 5-Movie Collection – The filmmaker that was instrumental in putting me on the path to adoring movies is finally getting the celebration he deserves as some of his greatest accomplishments have been loaded into this collection of films and it’s so satisfying to go through them. It starts with the Steve Martin and John Candy road tripper Planes, Trains and Automobiles, then the Matthew Broderick high school skipping Ferris Buehler’s Day Off, to the adorable Jersey Girl inspiration She’s Having A Baby before the Molly Ringwald led Pretty In Pink and then it all finishes off with the underrated Some Kind Of Wonderful. Honestly, this kind of sells itself so I’m really just bragging here that I got the early hold on a treasure chest full of gold in movie form. Be jealous, everybody but only until you buy your copy.

Scooby-Doo!: The Sword And The Scoob – It looks like I’m on the Fury Road of owning every piece of the Scooby-Doo library and thanks to my friends at Warner Bros. I get closer and closer every time something is released. Featuring my favourite voice cast for these characters, with Frank Welker, Grey Delisle, Kate Micucci and the best Shaggy of all time Matthew Lillard, we get a brand new adventure as, of course, Shaggy unwittingly pulls out Excalibur from a nearby stone to cut a block of cheese and now no one is sure who the rightful ruler is. The legendary wizard, Merlin, appears and explains that the throne of Camelot must be determined through “trial by combat” which must have made Rudy Guliani ecstatic. Our heroes pull out all the stops to try and win the tournament, break the witch’s hold on King Arthur, and find a way back to the present in this adaptation that puts Scooby Doo right in King Arthur’s Court.  What can I really say about this one, it’s Scooby-Doo! You kind of know what to expect from it in this format. Zoinks, “you meddling kids”, credits. Right?

Inside Amy Schumer: The Complete Series – I don’t need to go on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook to know that Amy Schumer’s comedy is divisive and a lot of people do not like her brand of humour. It’s plain as day. I will tell you here that I’m not one of them and have really enjoyed her work ever since I saw Trainwreck and was absolutely delighted to have this complete box set show up on my doorstep with three hysterically funny seasons from the mind of one of the funniest women on the planet. Yes, she is. Deal with it. With memorable sketches like 12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer with a jury of men debating if Amy is “fuckable”, her Friday Night Lights parody Football Town Nights or Last Fuckable Day which sees her meet up with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Patricia Arquette and Tina Fey to send off Fey on her last maiden voyage, it’s all so hilarious and, according to my wife, infinitely relatable. I’ll take her word for it but I enjoy the hell out of it.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:
The Parallax View – Hell yes, Criterion has brought some classic Warren Beatty this month and I had my heart set on grabbing a copy of it to review when it came out but now I’ve got it and it is every bit as great as I wanted it to be and pretty pivotal to filmmaking in general. Released in 1974, this thriller follows Joe Frady, a determined reporter who often needs to defend his work from colleagues prying from it but after the assassination of a prominent U.S. senator, he begins to notice that reporters present during the assassination are dying mysteriously. After getting more involved in the case, Frady begins to realize that the assassination was part of a conspiracy somehow involving the Parallax Corporation, an enigmatic training institute and then decides to enroll for the Parallax training himself to discover the truth. The film comes from masterful All The President’s Men filmmaker Alan J. Pakula two years before he did that one and is a forgotten piece of journalist intrigue that set the table for many great films in this vein to come. It was also shot by one of the greatest cinematographers of all time, Gordon Willis, which is even more of an incentive to go buy this.

Accepted – There was a period in time at the end of the nineties to the mid-2000s when the high school or college-age comedy was king and just a few were at the top of the pile, soaking up the love, while some languished in obscurity but still had a deeply loving fanbase and this one is a perfect example of that. Justin Long played the brilliantly named Bartleby Gaines, a high school slacker who’s been rejected by every school he applies to so he opts to create his own institution of higher learning, the South Harmon Institute of Technology (check that acronym), on a rundown piece of property near his hometown and, oh man, this movie is hilarious and was the jumping point for a few that are huge stars now like Blake Lively and Jonah Hill as well as some great veterans like Lewis Black who really steals the show in parts. I saw this film at Walmart on sale for the first time on Blu-ray and it was a no-brainer to pick it up.

Total Recall 4K – “Get your ass to Mars!”, “See you at the party, Richter!”, “Baby, you make me wish I had three hands.”. Just a few of the great lines that this Arnold Schwartzenegger action classic that comes from the mind of science fiction legend by way of the balls to the walls direction of the mad man Paul Verhoeven and I feel like a lot of my peers have this same love for the film that I do. For those who have never had the pleasure and are just crawling out from under a rock, the story follows Douglas Quaid who is haunted by a recurring dream about a journey to Mars. He hopes to find out more about this dream and buys a holiday at Rekall Inc. where they sell implanted memories but something goes wrong with the memory implantation and he remembers being a secret agent fighting against the evil Mars administrator Cohaagen. Now, this awesome ride has been updated to the pristine 4K and it looks better than ever and, to add even more to the pile of gold this is, the special features disc is crammed with great behind-the-scenes stuff and retrospectives. This movie influenced so many and I had so many epiphanies about it on my recent rewatch.

Death Of Me – I’m bringing the Hemsworth this week. Chris? No. Liam? No. Luke. You don’t know Luke? Alright, if you’re not watching Westworld or an Australian then I can understand that but he stars with the beautiful Maggie Q in this new horror mystery thriller from Darren Lynn Bousman, the bloodthirsty man behind a good majority of the Saw franchise. In a further bid to stop people from going on destination adventures forever I guess, the film is about a couple named Neil and Christine vacationing on an island off the coast of Thailand who awake hungover and with no memory of the previous night. They find footage on Neil’s camera, and watch, horrified, as Neil appears to murder Christine. With twenty-four hours until the next ferry and a typhoon threatening the island, Christine and Neil attempt to reconstruct the night’s events and are snared in a web of mystery, black magic and murder. As intriguing as the premise is, the film never manages to take full advantage of its solid groundwork and instead dives into the seas of cliches that pepper horror mysteries and cool gore isn’t enough to keep it afloat.

The Swordsman – Thanks to Well Go USA I have a brand new martial arts action to spread my geek voice about as I really do love this genre of film. From one of my favourite foreign producers of film, South Korea, this is the debut feature from writer and director Jae-Hoon Choi and is a story about three different swordsmen,  a swordsman who is going blind, the best swordsman in Joseon Dynasty and the best swordsman in Qing Dynasty who aspires to be the best even in the Joseon Dynasty. Together, they must take on political forces that have kidnapped the blind man’s daughter and prove to the gods above that they are the most dangerous warriors in the world. The movie is filled with engrossing performances and pulse-pounding swordplay action sequences that keep you on the edge of your seat throughout and the cinematography behind it is absolutely mind-blowing. I love when a new South Korean discovery lands in my lap, like a gift from the big cinema man upstairs. You know, Stanley Kubrick… or Orson Welles.

Television:
Ginny & Georgia (Netflix) – I thought this show was going to be so terrible just based on the trailer and you can witness yourself below this blurb but by the end of episode one, this voice in my head spoke up and said” you should watch more” and, you know what? I did. The show follows angsty and awkward fifteen-year-old Ginny Miller who often feels more mature than her thirty-year-old mother, the irresistible and dynamic Georgia Miller. After years on the run, Georgia desperately wants to put down roots in picturesque New England and give her family something they’ve never had, which is a normal and relatable life but it’s not all suburban dreams and high school crushes as Georgia’s past threatens her and her family’s new way of life and Georgia will do anything to protect her family which becomes very evident in the final twist of episode one. The show comes under inexperienced showrunner Sarah Lampert and operates like a sort of ungrounded Gilmore Girls which is actually a real joke from the series. As I said, I was surprised by this one and you might be too. 

Superman & Lois: Season 1 (The CW) – With Arrow ending its run almost two years ago and Black Lightning and Supergirl both calling it quits this year, I was really surprised to see that we were getting a new Superman series which is actually a spin-off from his cousin Kara-El’s show. With Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch sticking to their titular DC universe roles, the world the mega-producer Greg Berlanti has crafted continues on its path with this show that follows the world’s most famous superhero and comic books’ most famous journalist as they deal with all the stress, pressures, and complexities that come with being working parents in today’s society. Oh, did I not mention that they had a super baby? Well, I guess you should have boned up on Supergirl before starting this one which is not me mocking you, just a real prerequisite to actually being able to enjoy this because following it would be pretty easy. I’m just happy for this to erase Dean Cain from my mind because that dude is a real waste of space these days.

The Walking Dead: Season 10 (AMC) – Time to pick up where we left off with the survivors in a world that has moved on and left the dead to roam the earth. Really, I’m eloquent when I need to be but this show is now firmly in the double digits of seasons as I believe we travel on to the end I see coming in season eleven but not until these last six episodes see off series regular Danai Gurira and her fan favourite, both in the series and in the comic, the samurai sword-wielding Michonne. Where zombies feel like sort of a hard horror trope to get over originally these days, I’m surprised the steam for this series has remained at this much of a fever pitch but I know that the wheels are starting to fall off and the writing is beginning to present itself on the wall that it’s time to call it quits. I’m alright with that but only if Darryl and Carol walk off into the sunset together. Those are my non-negotiable terms.

New Releases:

Synchronic – Writing and directing duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are back with their new highly anticipated sci-fi mindbender, providing their fans such as myself with what they are supremely gifted at, something I call the equivalent of cinematic salvia. It’s an intense term that I feel means that the reality is warping into something else continuously but for this film, they play it a bit more linear and a bit closer to the true reality. The film stars the Falcon himself, Anthony Mackie, and the Fifty Shades trilogy main man Jamie Dornan and follows them as two New Orleans paramedics whose lives are ripped apart after they encounter a series of horrific deaths linked to a designer drug with bizarre, otherworldly effects. The look of this film is constantly intriguing and the performances from these two actors drive the emotion that anchors this story that’s main root is the friendship between the two. I loved every second of this one and the horror elements are very small so it’s open to a broader audience.

Supernova – Break out the tissues because Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci are here to steal all of your tears and these guys aren’t messing around either. Coming from acclaimed writer and director Harry Macqueen, this is the story of Sam and Tusker, partners of over twenty years, who are travelling across England in their old RV visiting friends, family and places from their past. Since Tusker was diagnosed with early-onset dementia two years ago, their time together is the most important thing they have as the two try to come to grips with his declining health and Sam readies himself to transition their relationship into that of a caregiver which may not be in Tusker’s plans. This film shows just how masterful both Firth and Tucci are at their craft as both men have such textured history as a couple on the screen that leaps out at you within minutes into the film. There’s such a soft touch of emotional beats that send this story cascading into your heart and, honestly, my heart was heavy by the end. This is a beautiful film filled with truth and light and I really loved it deeply.

Flora & Ulysses – Maybe it’s the age gap or maybe it’s that the film wasn’t made for me as the target audience but there’s something drastically off about this new Disney Plus film and it’s not just that the movie is a totally mess. The film is based on the novel by Because Of Winn-Dixie and The Tale Of Despereaux author Kate DiCamillo and follows an imaginative and creative ten year old cynic and comic book superfan named Flora who never could have predicted that the little squirrel she found in her yard would be born anew as a superhero after getting sucked up in the vacuum and have the uncanny knack for helping her and the lovable but broken people in her life realize their full potential as a family. Co-starring How I Met Your Mother’s Alyson Hannigan, the voice of Sonic The Hedgehog and Community’s loveable Abed, Danny Pudi, the movie has a sweetheart at its core but is pepper with a mean spirit, especially directed towards Flora’s blind neighbor who honestly gets the crap kicked out of him for almost the entire duration. I’m totally confused by this and, really, it took me out of it more than once.

Some Kind Of Heaven – With the title being like it is you expect something sunny upfront and debuting director Lance Oppenheimer gives you just that to open his documentary on a little slice of paradise on earth, The Village, a retirement town located in Florida. With amenities, golf courses, tennis courts, pools, community activities and social events, the place is just as the identity card suggests, “some kind of heaven”. Oppenheimer immediately swerves you by then focusing on four individuals not enjoying themselves, one couple heading into a deep divide in their marriage, one woman widowed as soon as she reluctantly moved to The Village and another man living in his van, hoping to woo a single woman living there to punch his ticket to luxury. The film becomes a quietly reflecting mosaic of characters against the backdrop of the Panhandle sun and it is absolutely captivating from the get-go. Engrossing in its reality and a very exposing look at the actions of either gender when they get to retirement age, this movie is human nature at its very core.

The Sinners – When we were growing up, namely in our high school years, we all secretly believed that our mean girls clic was part of an overarching hierarchy of a cult, right? Or was that just me? Either way, this is the basis of this new Canadian-made drama thriller which follows an A-List Girl clique that starts a secret cult where each of them must embody one of the seven deadly sins. They soon realize there’s more to their small religious town and their reactions to their new project as they start to go missing one by one. The main cast is a group of unknown actresses save for the daughter of former Sons Of Anarchy star Kim Coates Brenna but features a couple of Canadian treasures like Aleks Paunovic, Lochlyn Munro and Letterkenny star Dylan Playfair in a story that debuting writer and director Courtney Paige manages to navigate a series of narrative cliches while stepping wholeheartedly into others. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, really.

Animals On The Loose: A You vs. Wild Movie – I really don’t know what can be said about this movie as far as a review can go because it’s unconventional and I’ve never really gone in-depth with one and it’s not the first that Netflix has done with their interactive entertainment, following installments of Black Mirror with Bandersnatch and even a Kimmy Schmidt one that was a lot of fun. I will forgo a review portion, as I find it impossible and will instead inform you that this is a bigger and more expanded version of the survivalist Bear Grylls show You vs Wild and has him calling to you for help when the protective fence surrounding a wildlife sanctuary suffers a breach and he is called in to help rescue a mischievous baboon, track down a hungry lion, and fix the fence before any more animals get out. Some of the setups are ridiculous and you put Bear through hell, including making him eat a leech, which disturbed my wife to no end. All in all, I got him through it in about forty-five minutes. Go me!

Blu-Ray:

Fear Of Rain – Now going on week three, I am again talking about former Grey’s Anatomy actress Katherine Heigl and again it’s a role that she isn’t usually playing, which tells me that she’s really trying to go against her image type, a refreshing idea. She hits up the horror-thriller genre for a definite change in a story she plays the parent of a teenager named Rain, living with schizophrenia and struggling with terrifying hallucinations that are heightened as she begins to suspect her neighbour has kidnapped a child. When Rain insists against her parents’ advice that the shadows and cries from her neighbour’s attic aren’t real, she enlists help from Caleb, the charmingly awkward new kid at school who himself may not be real. The film is not just a genre shift for Heigl but for writer and director Castille London who usually makes family movies and takes a hard turn for this one. Looks promising.

A Call To Spy – Spy films can come from everywhere but some of the best ones are rooted in reality and come from historical settings and I personally really dig the embedded World War II stories and that is exactly what we get with this new drama from director Lydia Dean Pilcher which marks her first solo outing behind the camera. The film is set in a desperate Britain at the beginning of the war as Prime Minister Winston Churchill orders his new spy agency, the Special Operations Executive, to recruit and train women as spies with their mission being to conduct sabotage and build a resistance. The agency’s “spymistress,” Vera Atkins, played by Absentia’s Stana Katic, recruits two unusual candidates, Virginia Hall, an ambitious American with a wooden leg and Noor Inayat Khan, a Muslim pacifist. Together, these women help to undermine the Nazi regime in France, leaving an unmistakable legacy in their wake. This film is a super effective spy thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat and builds characters that you actually feel like you have a stake in. Katic is really great in her performance and it feels like a far cry from the years of police procedural she did with Nathan Fillion in Castle.

Archenemy – As soon as I see the identity card of production company SpectreVision I know I’m about to see something special, especially within a genre of bright and vibrant sci-fi, action and horror and this one satisfies those cravings but with a bit less of that third option. Another bold feature from writer and director Adam Egypt Mortimer, coming off his sleeper hit Daniel Isn’t Real, this one features Joe Manganiello as Max Fist, a homeless man who claims to be a hero from another dimension who fell through time and space to earth, where he has no powers and no one believes his stories except for a local teen named Hamster looking to make a mark for himself as an urban journalist. This movie is dripping with badass style throughout and Manganiello is playing it so nuanced that you continually ask yourself if he’s crazy or is he really an interdimensional hero. Rounding out the cast around him and really getting into the stylish and almost cartoony characters is Glenn Howerton playing the villainous “Manager”, Paul Scheer for a short, drug-fueled but memorable scene and the great Amy Siemetz who plays a massively pivotal role. Just by looking at the trailer, you will know immediately if this movie is for you and it seemed to be a love letter to my brain so take that as you will.

Horizon Line – I know we are all keeping inside, cancelling vacations and staying away from destination vacations but that isn’t stopping filmmakers from giving you extra incentive to keep your butt parked on the sofa. This one goes the distance, pun intended, as it follows Girls and Get Out star Allison Williams as one half of a couple flying on a small plane to attend a tropical island wedding who must fight for their lives after their pilot suffers a heart attack, putting the plane solely in their control. For me, that’s pretty much a nightmare scenario and the worst possible thought to have during any flight but even with that brilliant set up the film fails to capture any sense of suspense or intrigue because the characters are so underwritten that we don’t care about them whatsoever. It seems that all the imagination put into this just pertained to the premise and that’s it.

The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee – Being a kid from the eighties that was raised on movies of that era and the nineties when you hang the name Dundee and Paul Hogan’s picture in front of me I get all nostalgic because, oh man, did I ever love the first two films! I don’t dare talk about the film where he went to Hollywood because even as a kid I thought that was a stinker but seeing that we sort of getting a new adventure here, I was excited. It’s not exactly a sequel though as Paul Hogan plays himself in this and is reluctantly thrust back into the spotlight as he desperately attempts to restore his sullied reputation on the eve of being knighted. Unfortunately, self satire doesn’t work in this limp comedy and it gets so bad in parts that I almost wish I hadn’t had my initial burst of nostalgia that pused me to watch it in the first place. No matter if you put John Cleese, Chevy Chase or anyone else in comedy I loved, this just isn’t it. Learn from this but no reboots either, please. We can’t bear the thought of it.

San Francisco – Getting some of that A-list mid thirties Hollywood this week from Warner Archive as this musical romance is led by the top star of the time, Clark Gable, alongside Jeanette MacDonald, the star of the hit The Merry Widow, and another giant of the era, Spencer Tracy. The story follows a Barbary Coast saloonkeeper and a Nob Hill impresario who vie for the affections of a beautiful singer, both personally and professionally in 1906 San Francisco and the film already had MacDonald in place, going on her third lead film straight, riding on hits with both of them, and she insisted that it had to star Gable as well. On the other side of that, Clark Gable did not want to make the film but was at the mercy of MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer, who had just paid off one of Gable’s numerous lovers who was trying to make some money from his name. As you can see, it all worked out although the stars did not get along at all during filming and avoided each other completely off the set. Ah, classic Hollywood.

Baby Doll – This one intrigued me as soon as I received it and looked it up because it is one of the first restricted films ever made, a total game changer in mainstream film from master filmmaker Elia Kazan and it is the debut films for Eli Wallach and Rip Torn. The story comes from the mind of acclaimed playwright Tennessee Williams, following Archie Lee Meighan, a middle-aged cotton gin owner who can hardly wait for the twentieth birthday of his childish bride Baby Doll so he’ll be finally allowed to consummate the marriage or so he thinks. Rival owner Silva Vaccaro has suspected Archie of burning his gin down and has taken it upon himself to create a long con in an erotic form of Sicilian vengeance. Starring Karl Malden and Carol Baker, who earned an Academy Award nomination for this, the film was a racy product of its time and definitely would not see a greenlight today. This movie still holds up as being integral cinema that pushed boundaries and paved the way for more bold films to come.

Mandabi – Criterion Collection hit my doorstep with another film I had not heard of before but one that is, again, very important to the grand umbrella that is cinema in its own unique way. Made in 1968 in France by way of Senegal, the film is about a money order sent from a relative in Paris that throws the life of a Senegalese family man out of order. Dealing with and distancing himself from the corruption and greed within his own problematic family members as well the locals around him, he begins to undergo a change from his traditional way of living to a more modern one. This is an interesting class system film in a time before we really started taking note of this microcosm of storytelling plus it’s a bold movie from the black community and shines the spotlight on a gifted filmmaker named Usman Semben who followed up his impressive debut Black Girl, also a Criterion title. I love this film education that I’ve been receiving through these and Warner’s titles. Absolutely incredible stuff.

Lovecraft Country: Season 1 – This was definitely one of the most anticipated new HBO shows of last year and it did its duty in delivering a product that is on par with the excitement we television fans had for the Watchmen limited series. Created by Jordan Peele and Underground creator Misha Green, the series follows a young African-American man who travels across the U.S. in the 1950s with his uncle and a close friend, who just might become something more, in search of his missing father but it’s definitely going to get way deeper and far sinister given that Lovecraft is in the title which usually means that it will be a continuing spiral of despair and suffering that leads to doom and death. So, yeah, not going to be bright and sunny but it has Birds Of Prey’s Jurnee Smollett Bell and The Last Black Man In San Francisco’s Jonathan Majors in it and episode one is a total doozy of a springboard into it as it gives the layout of America it resides in then throws monsters and blood and gore at you in copious buckets  Get on the train now for this because you will love it but be warned, it’s not for the faint of heart.

Harley Quinn: Season 1 & 2 – Kaley Cuoco is looking to shed that image of her as the blonde and sweet Penny that lived across the hall from the boys of Big Bang Theory and she’s doing it hugely as the bad insane villain sidekick turned good insane hero who really seems like the DC Comics version of Deadpool. Coming from the now recalibrated and shifted to HBO Max DC Universe streaming service, this comedic gem follows a newly single Harley Quinn who casts off the shackles of a toxic relationship with the Joker and joins her new best friend and fellow former Arkham Asylum inmate Poison Ivy as she sets off to make it on her own and create her own legacy in Gotham City. This show is hysterically funny with a punchy script that’s crass and biting, gratuitously violent action and voice performances from Cuoco, Alan Tudyk, Lake Bell and more that will have you on the floor laughing. This is a true gem of a show and I can’t wait for season three.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Outs:

The Silence Of The Lambs – One of the greatest thrillers of all time hits its thirtieth birthday this week and it is a great time to revel in how much of a masterpiece this film is and how it helped elevate talent that was already thriving for years and had the hottest lamps of stardom on it as it would later win five Academy Awards. For those living under a rock, the film is about a young F.B.I. cadet who must receive the help of an incarcerated and manipulative cannibal killer to help catch another serial killer, a madman who skins his victims. Of course, those two main roles were played by odie Foster and Sir Anthony Hopkins who would win an Oscar for his portrayal of the now infamous Hannibal Lecter but it’s director Jonathan Demme who is the real star of this one, crafting a brilliantly deceptive film filled with chills, incredible and unforgettable shots and establishing one of the greatest characters of all time and setting an archetype for villains to come. This movie is still one of the best

Cache – Michael Hanake is a filmmaker who’s been acclaimed in the international cinema community for years but it was this film, celebrating its fifteenth anniversary this week, that put him on the map for me. A subtle and chilling Hitchcockian thriller, the film is set in France and follows Georges, a TV literary reviewer who lives in a small yet modern townhouse with his wife Ann, a publisher and his young son Pierrot. They begin to receive video tapes through the mailbox of their house and family, alongside obscure child-like drawings. They visit the police with the hope of aid to find the stalker, but as there is no direct threat, they refuse to help and, as the tapes become more personal, Georges takes it upon himself to figure out who is putting his family through such horror. Brilliantly filmed and fantastically acted by veteran French actors Daniel Autiel and Juliette Binoche, this movie floored me when I was back in my movie clerk days in the mid-2000s. This is must-see French cinema and there’s no better time than now.

The Witch – A press screening that left my jaw on the floor when the credits hit, this masterpiece and the debut film from writer and director Robert Eggers turns five this week and it remains one of the most audacious, chilling and gothic horror films in recent memory. The story follows a family, newly banished from their righteous pilgrim community, with the troubled patriarch, William, and his Puritan family setting out to make their new lives in a humble farmhouse on the outskirts of a thick and dark forest in mid-seventeenth-century New England. As the struggling family tries to settle in their new isolated homestead tragedy strikes when their infant child vanishes into thin air, and, shortly after, other unforeseen and disasters smite the God-fearing farmers. However, is this situation the result of a family on the brink of psychological breakdown, or is William’s first-born daughter, Thomasin, the root of all of their problems? Anya Taylor-Joy made her astounding lead role debut in this film with an incredible performance that has now led her to the limelight of audience favorite shows like The Queen’s Gambit but I implore people to check out where it all started. You won’t be disappointed.

Television:

The Crew (Netflix) – Well, Netflix did it. They commissioned Kevin James and his return to sitcom series making and maybe it was paired with the huge Adam Sandler deal that could be the reason we’ve seen more of him and David Spade on the streaming service but not being a fan of King Of Queens and Kevin Can Wait, I’m a bit leery of this one. The show follows the life in the garage of a NASCAR crew chief and his tight-knit racing team who’s usually lackadaisical way of life is thrown into upheaval when a new boss steps in and shakes things up. Besides James, the cast features the reliable veteran skills of Boston Legal actor Gary Anthony Williams and Freddie Stroma, who is hot off of the blindingly quick Netflix hit Bridgerton and I’d love to be proven wrong on this but the pairing of Kevin and NASCAR is a bit of a turn off for me.  

How To Catch A Serial Killer (Britbox) – Oh, yes. More creepy goodness for all of those true crime fans that savoured the Richard Ramirez Netflix docuseries were let down by the Cecil Hotel series and in desperate need of something all new. Well, this is your saviour from across the pond and it has two full seasons already in its rearview but keep in mind that the shows run for shorter seasons over there. This show, which ran as To Catch a Serial Killer with Trevor McDonald on British television, follows the knighted McDonald as he explores the extraordinary pursuit of serial killer Christopher Halliwell by detective Steve Fulcher complete with interviews, eye witness account and investigation documentation to back up the facts. Because only a small niche group of people have bought into the great streaming service of Britbox, not many people are going to know about this one but you can be ahead of the curve when it becomes massively popular and say stuff like “meh, I already saw that.” How cool would you be?

Behind Her Eyes (Netflix) – Looking for some of that melodramatic thriller to get you through the weekend? Well, this transplant from the United Kingdom should do the trick to distract and it has the beautiful Eve Hewson to lead it, who also happens to be the daughter of U2 frontman and humanitarian, Bono. Hewson stars as Louise, a single mom with a son and a part-time job in a psychiatrist’s office who begins a sleazy affair with her boss and strikes up an unlikely friendship with his wife which may or may not be part of her grand plan. The show may not look like much but it is the return of showrunner Steve Lightfoot who may have Netflix Marvel fans salivating because he was the guy that helmed the Jon Bernthal-led Punisher series which was a massive hit and one that I know a lot of people want back. Well, it’s not exactly Frank Castle dispatching bad guys but the writing might be on par here.

Amend: The Fight For America (Netflix) – With the need for a bigger spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement att a fever pitch because, let’s face it, people aren’t getting it, this is a really important docuseries aimed at, above everything, educating audiences in simple constitutional things that should be common knowledge. Presented by host Will Smith, this six episode series explores American history through a lens that will have its viewers questioning what an idea of a United States really means, how the history has shaped where we presently are and where we really need to be as a society but, of course, through a purely American filter. As a Canadian looking from the outside, there are definitely things that can be learned on this side of the border and this that definitely apply to us and for sure our indigenous population. This is a series of progression that needs to be looked at as a template for change rather than just some nice idea that the Netflix producers put out.

For All Mankind: Season 2 (AppleTV+) – We’re now continuing into the second year of the streaming service that Apple has created to compete with the big boys so in the sophomore roll out comes this second season of the NASA centric show that has actually gotten very good reviews and, a little caveat from me, I’m predestined to enjoy this show because it features a friend of mine, Nate Corddry. starring The Killing’s Joel Kinnaman and created by Battlestar Galactica’s reboot showrunner Ronald Moore, the series is set in an alternative 1969, as the world, and especially the United States, watch in shock as the Soviet Union successfully manages to land men on the Moon before the USA does. With that defeat, NASA is presented with a renewed challenge in the space race that they never expected to face and the cold war rivalry takes on a new intensity and grander ambition to reach far further than ever dreamed and with more diverse resources than ever before. I’m a real sucker for elseworlds or alternate history plots so this show really gripped me early on and the production and performance level is great, almost on par with big productions like HBO or BBC puts out. Now with two seasons available to check out, the time has never been better to grab this service and get going on the binge.

New Releases:

Judas And The Black Messiah – With a cast boasting the fast-rising stars of Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stansfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback and Ashton Sanders, all performers on the road to future Academy Awards, I was already on board with this new historical drama but it’s the subject matter and importance of its timing that got it’s hooks into me most. The second feature film from writer and director Shaka King, most known for her work on Aidy Bryant’s show Shrill and Wyatt Cenac’s People Of Earth, she goes for the throat in this story that follows FBI informant William O’Neal as he infiltrates the Illinois Black Panther Party and is tasked with keeping tabs on their charismatic leader, Chairman Fred Hampton. A career thief, O’Neal gets lost in the danger of manipulating both his comrades and his handler, Special Agent Roy Mitchell and, as Hampton’s political prowess grows, he also starts falling in love with fellow revolutionary Deborah Johnson. This film is being called electrifying and authentic with performances that leap off the screen. This is definitely one of my most anticipated films of the first quarter of this year.

Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar – Comedy audiences have been demanding a sequel to the massive hit Bridesmaids ever since it was released ten years ago this year and it’s probably what was expected when it was announced that writers and star Kristen Wiig and Anne Mumelo had a new project together. Heck, maybe they intended for it to be a follow-up, but it isn’t and instead Wiig teams with Mumelo on screen as two very different characters. This is the story of best friends Barb and Star, who leave their small Midwestern town for the first time to go on vacation in Vista Del Mar, Florida, where they soon find themselves tangled up in adventure, love, and a villain’s evil plot to kill everyone in town. This duo both on and off-screen work absolute magic as they once again create hilarious and memorable characters, this time wackier than those of Bridesmaids, but still grounded with a sense of being real people.

Fear Of Rain – For the second week in a row I’m talking about former Grey’s Anatomy actress Katherine Heigl and again it’s a role that she isn’t usually playing, which tells me that she’s really trying to go against her image type, a refreshing idea. She hits up the horror-thriller genre for a definite change in a story she plays the parent of a teenager named Rain, living with schizophrenia and struggling with terrifying hallucinations that are heightened as she begins to suspect her neighbour has kidnapped a child. When Rain insists against her parents’ advice that the shadows and cries from her neighbour’s attic aren’t real, she enlists help from Caleb, the charmingly awkward new kid at school who himself may not be real. The film is not just a genre shift for Heigl but for writer and director Castille London who usually makes family movies and takes a hard turn for this one. Looks promising.

The Map Of Tiny Perfect Things – It appears that actress Kathryn Newton really likes the stories with a crazy twist as just months after the Freaky Friday body swap fun that was the gory and awesome Freaky, she’s back in this new fantasy that has her doing the Groundhog Day thing. It all worked out great for Andy Samberg who earned a Golden Globe nomination for his day resetting comedy Palm Springs, and on Amazon Prime just like this one, so maybe lightning can strike twice. Newton stars opposite Kyle Allen, the lead in the upcoming Spielberg directed West Side Story in a film that tells the story of quick-witted teen Mark, contentedly living the same day in an endless loop whose world is turned upside-down when he meets mysterious Margaret also stuck in the time loop. They form a quick partnership and set out to find all the tiny things that make that one day perfect, hence, the title of the movie. The film comes from director Ian Samuels whose last film, Sierra Burgess Is A Loser starring tragically former Stranger Things star Shannon Purser, which is an underrated gem on Netflix. Hopefully, he continues the streak with this debut on Amazon Prime.

Saint Maud – Weeks after I got the pleasure to check it out, one of the boldest filmmaker debuts I have seen in horror in the last year lands and both writer and director Rose Glass and her lead star Morfydd Clark will be household names in the years to come. The film is an unsettling story that boils to bone-chilling fever pitches following Maud, a newly devout hospice nurse who becomes obsessed with saving her dying patient’s soul but sinister forces from within her, as well as her own sinful past, threaten to put an end to her holy mission. This film is gorgeously shot by The End of the F***ing World cinematographer Ben Fordesman who seems to lead you down the path of Maud’s descent into the darkness of her own fevered devouring, catching you off guard many times. To describe this film is to ultimately experience it and I do believe that a film like this will eventually earn its place alongside classics like The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby.

Cowboys – I have a real soft spot for when comedic actors start to take on dramatic roles and while this is certainly not the first time that lead actor Steve Zahn has done this, his co-star in this new film Jillian Bell is just on the beginner’s path of it, doing the hybrid comedy-drama thing with one of her more recent films, Brittany Runs a Marathon. This film, the debut of a filmmaker with a bright future, writer and director Anna Kerrigan, follows Troy, a troubled but well-intentioned father who has recently separated from his wife Sally. Stunned by Sally’s refusal to let their trans son Joe live as his authentic self, Troy runs off with Joe into the Montana wilderness with a police detective hot on their trail but her resolve about the case is tested the more she learns about and sympathizes with Joe’s family. This film is incredibly shot by John Wakayama Carey, who previously shot the indie horror masterpiece Porno, and gives the film such a rich background for the phenomenal performances given by Zahn and Bell, as well as young actor Sasha Knight and veteran character actress Ann Dowd. This is another solid drama that people will slowly discover and love.

Skyfire – Ever been on a tropical vacation on a destination island in Asia when a volcano pops off and kills a bunch of people? Me neither but this new disaster action film puts you right in the crosshairs of Mother Nature’s rage and it is super entertaining if you can get past the bad dubbing, terrible script and cheezy melodrama. Produced by an all Chinese production company, crew and cast besides former Harry Potter series actor Jason Isaacs and Con Air director Simon West, the film follows Wentao Li, a geologist who vowed he would never return to Tianhuo Island after a catastrophic volcano eruption tragically killed his wife. But twenty years later, his daughter Meng continues his research work on the island that took her mother’s life, developing a brilliant eruption forecasting system that could save countless lives. The island has now been transformed into a thrill-seeking theme park by greedy businessman Jack Harris, played by Isaacs, despite Meng’s warnings and, unfortunately for our characters but awesomely fortunate for the viewer, she was right. Distraught over his daughter’s safety, Wentao lands on the island as the volcano begins to erupt and it’s a race against the clock to save his daughter and the tourists and villagers from the apocalyptic chaos. Look, this is a lot of dumb action and vapid characters getting picked off but I had so much fun in the ridiculousness that I can’t help but have a little soft spot for this movie.

Blu-Ray:

Freaky – When Christopher Landon hit his stride with audiences in the horror-comedy Happy Death Day I have to admit I was really not on board and, to be totally honest, I outright despised the film. Well, the sequel Happy Death Day 2U turned it around for me and now with this new film I see that those movies had to walk so Freaky could sprint because he has made a genre masterpiece here. In a Freaky Friday and horror mash-up, a teen girl finds herself body swapped with a vicious serial killer after he attempts to murder her with a cursed dagger and discovers she has less than 24 hours before the change becomes permanent. This is lead actress Kathrine Newton’s real coming-out party as an absolute star and Vince Vaughn, playing the unstoppable killer, has such an adorable nature to him when he’s portraying a teen girl. I absolutely adored this film from start to finish and know that it’s going to become a massive hit.

Greenland – It’s a double hit of frontier films this week and it is also a twofer of disaster movies but this one plays it a bit more earnestly, which was a complete shock for me as it is a reteaming of Gerard Butler and director Ric Roman Waugh whose last outing was the vapid action sequel Angel Has Fallen, a terrible movie in every sense so I really wasn’t expecting anything even passable as good. The story follows Butler as John Garrity who, with his estranged wife, played by Deadpool’s Morena Baccarin, and their young son, embarks on a perilous journey to find sanctuary as a planet-killing comet hurtles toward Earth. With terrifying accounts of cities getting levelled playing everywhere on the radio and televisions, the Garrity’s experience the best and worst in humanity as the countdown to the global apocalypse approaches zero. This movie definitely hits some dark and desperate places that given our present perceptions of how people behave during a global event like a pandemic, seems totally plausible making the film even more of a total downer, not that that’s a bad thing. The film is effective, engaging and puts you on the edge of your seat more than once.

Lost Girls And Love Hotels – Alexandra Daddario is either one of the hardest working actresses right now or she has a really diligent agent because she has been starring in multiple titles a year going back to 2013. She leads this new sexually charged and emotional drama, playing an American ex-pat named Margaret who finds herself in the glittering labyrinth of Tokyo by night and as a respected English teacher of a Japanese flight attendant academy by day. With little life direction, she searches for meaning with fellow ex-pat Ines, played by Game Of Thrones actress Carice Van Houten, in a Japanese dive bar, drinking to remember to forget and losing herself in love hotel encounters with men who satisfy a fleeting craving. When she crosses paths with Kazu, a dashing yakuza, she falls in love with him despite the danger and tradition that hinders their chances of being together. Daddario gives a stunner of a performance in this but the story is so slow and plodding that it feels painfully dull, even when there are large bursts of sexual energy this feeling is lost as is the sympathy for the main focus herself.

Sputnik – Usually when you get into a Russian genre film, whether it be a horror, sci-fi or action, they’re generally fast-paced with an “in your face” hyperactive presence to it but this new film gets broody, methodical and plays with a dark repose that’s really refreshing. Best of all, it’s a delicious little creature feature. The film is set at the height of the Cold War, after a Soviet spacecraft crash lands after a mission gone awry, leaving the commander as its only survivor. After a renowned Russian psychologist is brought in to evaluate the commander’s mental state, it becomes clear that something dangerous may have come back to Earth with him and is hell-bent on escaping the government facility and getting into the outside world. This movie is smart and cerebral and has a great effects team behind it with some killer and, in parts, unforgettable sequences of gore, a worthy addition to the space monster sub-genre. I loved this movie.

Wander Darkly – Having no knowledge of the plot of this movie, I really wasn’t expecting it to knock me on my ass as it did, nor did I expect to be so crazily engaged by it immediately. In a sort of dark and depressing version of Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, the film follows a new mother played by Sienna Miller who is sent on a disorienting search through her memories after a horrific car accident with her husband, played by Diego Luna, at the wheel. Unknown if she survived the car wreck or is on her journey to the next plane of existence, she makes acknowledgements and emotional fixes in her psyche along the way. A bold and ambitious switch of filmmaking style from writer and director Tara Miele, I wasn’t prepared for how hard this film would hit and how dazzling its exposition was until the credits hit and I deemed this one of the best films that most people will sleep on. Don’t let this happen, watch it now.

The Right One – Well, there’s been a whole lot of darkness on this list so far this week so I think it’s about time that I brought in some more levity as it’s been a slog of emotional downers this week, not that I’m ragging on those because some of these titles are must-see. This one is a vapid little rom-com for you to rest your brain with and follows Sara, a novelist struggling with writer’s block and in desperate need of inspiration who finds it when she serendipitously meets Godfrey, a down-on-his-luck oddball that constantly changes personas and alter egos to cope with his past and avoid reality. Just as Godfrey begins to open up to Sara, he discovers that she’s been using him as inspiration for her next novel and he vanishes from her life leaving Sara to wonder if she just lost the man of her dreams or will she be able to find him and make things right. Starring The Last Man On Earth actress Cleopatra Coleman and comedian Nick Thune, the strengths are in veteran co-star David Koechner and stand-up comedian Iliza Schlesinger but the film rarely feels like its standing on its own and feels horribly contrived at times.

Jiang Ziya – Also known as Legend of Deification, this film is the new dazzling piece of animation from the international distributor Well Go USA and really is just for a niche audience, mostly the anime crowd and those who love stories entrenched in Chinese folklore. The plot follows the title character and top commander Jiang Ziya who is given the task to banish the Nine-tailed Fox Demon who threatens all mortals’ very existence right after he vanquished a huge foe in war. When he discovers the Nine-tailed Fox’s life linked to the soul of an innocent girl, he is faced with a challenging decision, if he should follow the will of heaven or find his own path to righteousness. The great thing about this movie is that I didn’t feel like I needed to be so fluent in Chinese history or the storytelling style as a large piece of it seemed to be easier to digest to bring it to a larger audience but the marketing isn’t geared to doing that. For many, this may be a Saturday afternoon discovery that you will feel the sole responsibility for because it seems no one is talking about it which is a shame as it is gorgeous as well.

A Tale Of Two Cities – Let’s get some of that classic film history into your bellies this week, thanks to the good people at Warner Archive, and this one has some deep gravitas to it as well as it comes from the works of Charles Dickens in one of his most iconic stories, aside from the two heavyweights like A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist. The film adaptation follows a downtrodden lawyer named Sydney Carton who defends a French dissident, Charles Darnay, from charges of spying against England. Becoming enamoured of Darnay’s fiancée, Lucie Manette, he agrees to help her save Darnay from the guillotine when he is captured by Revolutionaries in Paris. Made in 1935, incredibly, this was the fourth film version of the novel, previously made in 1911, 1917 and 1922 but it was the most successful to that point as it was producer David O. Selznick’s last film for MGM because he was able to fund his own studio afterwards largely on the strength of this film’s box office receipts.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:

Ingagi – Watching the Shudder original documentary Horror Noire: A History Of Black Horror last week actually gave me a good piece of insight into this movie, a new piece of Kino Lorber’s continued blu-ray series Forbidden Fruits. The story follows an expedition that enters an area of the Congo jungle to investigate reports of a gorilla-worshipping tribe and after many dangerous adventures, they come upon the tribe they sought, only to watch as a virgin is sacrificed to a huge gorilla, who takes her away. The expedition follows the gorilla in an attempt to save the woman in a movie that spawned a handful of other “gorilla-and-the-maiden films,” including possibly King Kong and perpetuated racist and colonialist notions of Africa. It wasn’t until the trope was taken back by a black filmmaker with the aptly named Son Of Ingagi in 1940, a decade after this film, that this movie was put through a new lens and cast the original one into obscurity until now.

Vigilante 4K – Nothing is more badass than a film led by the late and very great Robert Forster and very tough and very big man Fred Williamson, especially in 1982 when this film grace multiplexes everywhere. Being totally new to its gritty and violent charms, I immediately fell in love with this brand new 4K, directed by the legendary William Lustig, the mind behind two of the most iconic horrors of all time, Maniac and Maniac Cop. Really Death Wish like, the film follows a New York City factory worker who turns to the brutality of vigilantism to find some measure of bloody justice after his wife and son are beaten by thugs and a corrupt criminal justice system puts the perpetrators back on the street. This film is super grindhouse and really relies on Forster doing the heavy lifting but I found it super entertaining just for that reason. I like to imagine that this is one of the early paths of Jackie Brown’s Max Cherry but I’m a geek like that.

Tremors 4K – One of my childhood favourites of all time and something that traumatized me a little bit back in the day, this gloriously great underground sandworm thriller gets the hi-definition treatment thanks to those madmen at Arrow Video and I couldn’t be happier. Starring Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward as, in my mind, the iconic duo of Valentine McKee and Earl Bass, the film follows citizens of a small isolated town defending themselves against strange underground creatures which are killing them one by one and it all leads to a fantastic scene with Family Ties’ Michael Gross and country star Reba McIntyre obliterating a worm with their huge arsenal in their basement which includes a frickin’ elephant gun. Oh man, this movie is so damn cool. I still love it with all my heart.

Red Cliff – The last amazing thing that legendary action director John Woo has done, this film brought the Boiling Point and Hard Target filmmaker home to China for a taste of Chinese history and epic storytelling. Told over two films, the story is set in the final days of the Han Dynasty, with shrewd Prime Minister Cao Cao convincing the fickle Emperor Han the only way to unite all of China was to declare war on the kingdoms of Xu in the west and East Wu in the south. Thus began a military campaign of unprecedented scale, led by the Prime Minister, himself and left with no other hope for survival, the kingdoms of Xu and East Wu formed an unlikely alliance. Numerous battles of strength and wit ensued, both on land and on water, eventually culminating in the battle of Red Cliff where, during the battle, two thousand ships were burned and the course of Chinese history was changed forever. The film is mesmerizing, with incredible cinematography from dual directors of photography Yue Lü and Yue Lü and breathtaking action choreography, there isn’t a single dull moment to be had, stretching across both parts. I’m such a fan of this one that I went and purchased it myself. It’s like my own version of the “Hair Club For Men”, I guess.

Television:

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at The Cecil Hotel (Netflix) – Oh yes, there is more true crime documentary coming to Netflix in series form and it’s sure to bring them another hit show that will captivate subscribers without a doubt. Even better, this show also features a Vancouver local connection and one that I didn’t even remember until halfway through the first episode. A four-episode series, the focus is on Elisa Lam, a 21- Canadian tourist who stayed at the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles in February 2013. Weeks later, after disappearing, her body was discovered in the hotel’s rooftop water tank but how the hell did it get there? Executive producer and director Joe Berlinger, the guy behind Netflix’s earlier chiller Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes and the movie that followed with Zac Efron, we go piece by piece through the investigation that all started with a creepy elevator video that seems to have many clues hidden within its subtext and is the last known footage of Lam. I was captivated by the first episode which led to a quick binge of all four and I think many will do the same.

The Equalizer (CBS) – Move over Denzel, Queen Latifah is coming through to take your place in the lead chair as this property, once a television series made into a couple of movie with the greatest actor of the last thirty years, now reverts to being a new network series again proving that everything in Hollywood is cyclical. Latifah is Robyn McCall, an enigmatic African American woman with a mysterious background who uses her extensive skills to help those with nowhere else to turn. McCall comes across to most like an average single mom who is quietly raising her teenage daughter. But to a trusted few, she is an anonymous guardian angel and defender of the downtrodden, who’s also dogged in her pursuit of personal redemption. The series takes off on the original Edward Woodward show from the late eighties as each episode seems to be reworkings of the older plots to get things going then it will hopefully find its own footing.

Clarice (CBS) – As I’m writing this, today marks the twentieth anniversary of when Ridley Scott made Hannibal and a day after this is posted it will be the thirtieth anniversary of The Silence Of The Lambs so I guess it’s the perfect time for a new Thomas Harris influenced project to get going, especially if we’re not getting more Hannibal the series, which is a damn shame. Pretty Little Liars actress Rebecca Breeds takes the title role in this new show which is a deep dive into the untold personal story of brilliant and vulnerable FBI Agent Clarice Starling as she returns to the field in 1993, one year after the events of “The Silence of the Lambs” and the closing of the Buffalo Bill serial murder case. The show comes from showrunners Alex Kurtzman, following up Picard, and Jenny Lumet, who actually wrote Silence director Jonathan Demme’s dram Rachel Gets Married, but the show is a bit of a misfire so far, even if the dark tone and esthetic is correct. I hope it improves as the ten-episode series progresses.

Diana: The Interview That Shocked the World (BritBox) – Now that we’ve all been sensationalized by the Diana Spencer season of The Crown on Netflix, we can now dig into the real woman and this interview that, as the title suggests, shook the world. Taken from a 1995 BBC Panorama sit down, Princess Diana got candid about her marriage to Prince Charles and life as a royal but now, twenty-five years later, this documentary looks at how this broadcasting event was orchestrated, what the interview revealed about modern society and new insights into the psychological portrait of Diana herself. As a person that’s interests got reinvigorated by Netflix, I found this film pretty fascinating and it’s totally understandable how some never lost their fever pitch for the Royals.

Helter Skelter: An American Myth (Hollywood Suite) – Let’s get serial killer creepy now, especially if you haven’t had enough while continuing on about the Cecil Hotel and we’re going to look at the ultimate murder influencer but not anyone that actually killed people themselves and, no, it’s not Donald Trump. Sad trombone. No, this brutal series is about Charles Manson and his horrific followers and how fifty years have passed since they committed their crimes and yet, the public remains truly in the dark about The Manson Family and their journey into the abyss. This docuseries features never-before-accessed interviews from former family members and journalists first on the scene and in the courtroom, weaving these original narratives with archival footage and newly-unearthed images and it is engrossing and brutally chilling the whole time. If you’ve read all the books and seen all the other documentaries, this show will still manage to shock and surprise you. Its such a well put together show.