Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Brahms: The Boy II – How we have a sequel to a horror movie that, as far as I know, totally bombed in theaters is beyond me but here we are. Without the star of the first movie, Luren Cohen, we get Katie Holmes playing the mother of a young boy who moves into the Heelshire Mansion with her husband where her son discovers a creepy little boy doll who becomes his new friends, communicating to his on a ghostly level. The film was directed by the director of the first film William Brent Bell but it must also be noted that this same guy who did The Devil Inside one of the worst cop-out ending horror films I have ever seen in my life. This storyteller has yet to impress me on an original idea movie yet and I’m doubting that this one will change my mind.

The Call Of The Wild – Harrison Ford is the ultimate draw to this story based on the iconic frontier story of the same name, written by Jack London, a film that has been made many times before in 1935, 1972, 1997 and as a series in 2000. The story is one of friendship and survival with frontiersman John Thornton and a sled dog that changed his life in the wilderness of the Yukon. I would be totally into this movie, as I really enjoyed the Disney+ movie Togo a lot, but the fact that this is a totally obvious CGI created dog is kind of a cinematic turn-off. It doesn’t matter to me that director Chris Sanders is the creator of Lilo & Stitch, the big screen herald of How To Train Your Dragon and a wizard of animation, this dog is still very unsettling to me. Just check out the trailer to see what I’m talking about.

Ordinary Love – Liam Neeson and the always great Leslie Manville star in this romantic drama, from little known directing duo Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn, and it looks to be a movie that is destined to get your tears out of you in a quick fashion. The story follows a middle-aged couple in the midst of the wife’s breast cancer diagnosis which shines a light on their relationship as they are faced with the challenges that lie ahead and the prospect of what might happen if or when she passes away. This movie encompasses the tough reality of planning for tragedy and has Manville giving a performance which should again put the spotlight on a career actress who is constantly forgotten during award season, well, unless she does a Paul Thomas Anderson movie that is. With stellar reviews, this movie is a diamond in the rough this week. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Terra Willy – An animated import from France, it’s a wonder if the creators of this movie had paid attention to any of the children’s television shows and movies that had been released in North America in the last ten years because there are some striking similarities to this film, that is also known as Astro Kid. The story follows a kid named Willy that lives on a space travelling research center, just like the Disney Junior show Miles From Tomorrowland. When an asteroid field destroys the ship, Willy and his parents are separated into two different escape pods and Willy’s lands on an uncharted planet, the pod containing a droid to help him survive. The movie is bright and vibrant for the kids but I always take issue with dubbing on foreign films as it feels like I am missing something. This movie passed before my eyes with zero excitement so I don’t expect it to become a hit. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Jojo Rabbit – I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand how Taika Waititi is able to be such a deeply adorable man, even when he plays Adolf Hitler, but here we are. This is the story of a young boy growing up in Nazi Germany, enrolled in the Hitler Youth program, with designs on becoming the fuhrer’s best friend. All of young Jojo’s ego and courage comes from his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, played by the aforementioned Waititi in the most hilarious way possible. To truly enjoy this movie you really have to throw away any offended feelings you have because the film is the height of pure satire. That in mind, the performances from everyone are so top-notch, which includes Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell and Leave No Trace standout Thomasin McKenzie and now that this has won Taika an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay you certainly have to call this a must-see now.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood – Tom Hanks secured himself an easy Academy Award nomination by playing the most wholesome man to speak kids from the television set ever, Fred Rogers. This film follows the long friendship between Rogers and journalist Tom Junod, played by The Americans’ Matthew Rhys, a jaded magazine writer who was assigned to do a character piece on the PBS host. As his friendship with Rogers broadens, he overcomes his skepticism and starts to learn about empathy, kindness, and decency from America’s most impassioned children’s entertainer ever. I think this movie is an easy slam dunk for great films and I love that it is directed by Marielle Heller who made the great movies The Diary Of A Teenage Girl and Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a filmmaker who improves with every film she does. I want to point out that this is largely Rhys’ film to carry and, yes, Hanks is the support role in this movie and there are moments that are completely uncanny between him and the real Fred Rogers. This is a gem of a movie that will have you openly crying.

Midway – One the outside, this movie looks like a slam dunk, a World War II fighter pilot story about the infamous Battle Of Midway with Woody Harrelson, Patrick Wilson and Dennis Quaid anchoring a good cast of young stars. When you look closely at this movie you will notice the name Roland Emmerich attached to this as director, a filmmaker who hasn’t made a hit film since The Day After Tomorrow fifteen years ago and that movie wasn’t very good and this one follows suit because the guy couldn’t make believable human contact for the life of him. The film capitalizes on what Emmerich does best, engaging and dazzling looking special effects, so the dogfight scenes of fighter pilots diving and tailing their enemy is exhilarating but everything in between serves to drag it down constantly. I will say that Woody Harrelson was perfectly cast in his role, looking very much like Chester W. Nimitz but it was a total bust.

21 Bridges – Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman reteams with the minds behind the last two epic Avengers films, The Russo Brothers, who act in the producer capacity for this new police action thriller. Boseman plays an NYPD detective, the son of a slain police officer, who now dedicates his life to tracking down cop killers when two killers start a police war that starts to take over the entire city. Co-starring Taylor Kitsch, If Beale Street Could Talk’s Stephan James and Sienna Miller, this is exactly as cookie-cutter as it looks with every character delivering tired dialogue that you’ve heard before, playing up the machismo from every angle. The movie could be interesting but it gets so lost in trying to be tough and gritty that it falls into a predictable rut that even its attempt at a big reveal can’t help it out of. It also features a terrible performance from Sienna Miller who hams it up to an awful degree.

Another Day Of Life – War journalism is a level of bravery, resolve and strong constitution that few people have and that even fewer can maintain without cracking up. This animated film I was sent by Shout Factory give you an almost crash course into the hell of a war-torn country, in this case, Angola, the gripping story of a three-month-long journey that renowned Polish reporter Ryszard Kapuscinski took across the country, ravaged by a war in which the front lines shifted into a brand new horror from one day to the next. The film itself is an astounding achievement, blending a computer animation and the freedoms there with documentary beats that show the real people involved, giving their first-hand accounts of their encounters with Kapuscinski. This is a very special film that took these filmmakers a decade to make.

The Twilight Zone: Season 1 – It seems like everything that Jordan Peele has touched in genre storytelling has turned to gold so why not take the iconic Rod Serling serial series that creeped out the generations before and give it a bold kick in the ass on CBS’s All Access streaming services. There are some redone gems in here, like “Terror At 30,000 Feet” with Adam Scott stepping in for Shatner and one of my best friends ever Katie Findlay co-starring, as well as some brand new mystery like the phenomenal premiere “The Comedian” with Kumail Nanjani, an episode that got him nominated for an Emmy. Friends, this box set is a home run and it allows you to watch each episode in black and white. How cool is that?

Avatar The Last Airbender: Complete Series – It feels like only six months ago I received the complete series of Avatar The Last Airbender which was released on Blu-ray back in June and now I double up with a gorgeous steelbook version of the complete set, without the accompanying Legend Of Korra. This is a massively popular anime series produced with the help of Nickelodeon that had both the fan support behind it from the beginning as well as some big critical acclaim. We just won’t speak of the M. Night Shyamalan garbage that was derived from it.

Antonio Gaudi – I am completely nerding out about this arrival because it is the first review copy I have received from the Criterion Collection, which is a very prestigious releasing company that just focuses on the greatest pieces of cinema, pressing editions that are the definitive versions of these films. My first entry as press for this company is this documentary made by Japanese New Wave director Hiroshi Teshigahara, who was nominated for an Oscar in 1964 for Woman in the Dunes. This film is about its title subject, a Catalan architect, ceramist, and sculptor with Teshigahara’s camera taking the viewer over, under, around, and into buildings and a park designed by the great Antonio Gaudi.

Deadly Manor – More Arrow Video means more unheard of horror for you to check out. This B-grade find came out in 1990 from writer and director Jose Larraz, a name that has gotten more than a few mentions in the history of this blog, in a story about a group of teenagers who take refuge in an old, deserted mansion. Of course, the members of the group start turning up dead and the teenagers realize that they’re not alone in the mansion as a homicidal maniac is satiating his blood lust just like Larraz likes to show off. This is going to satisfy the horror fans who love to take a look into the hidden gems of the 80s and early 90s but those who aren’t genre embedded will fail to see the appeal of this one whatsoever.

Steve’s Blu-Ray and DVD Geek Out:

Betty: They Say I’m Different – Controversial, totally original but ultimately forgotten, this documentary is about Betty Davis, an American funk and soul singer that arrived in the 70s with so much promise to break boundaries for women with her daring personality, iconic fashion and outrageous funk music. A close friend of Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, she wrote songs for some of the biggest acts of the time and then married wild man musician Miles Davis, influencing his change of genre as well. She was soon banned and boycotted, but still went on to become the first black woman to perform, write and manage herself. but suddenly at the top of her game, she just vanished. This is a great look into an artist that has been described as “Madonna before Madonna, Prince before Prince” by Miles Davis himself.

House By The Cemetary – From those weirdos at Blue Underground releasing I have received another classic horror film from one of the great Italian fright makers, Lucio Fulci. Released in 1981, this film is about a New England home that is forever tainted by a series of murders and, unknown to the new inhabitants of the home, there is a gruesome secret that is the catalyst for everything hiding in the basement. This is the third part of Lucio Fulci’s “Gates Of Hell” trilogy also including City of the Living Dead from 1980 and The Beyond which was also made in 1981, utilizing some of the same locations and sets. The cutting for the VHS of the film was erratic and confusing, ruining the cohesion of the plot but with this new Blu-Ray the sequencing has been corrected and you can now watch this madness how it was intended.

About Time – A romantic comedy that feels like it has been largely forgotten, save for the few fans like myself that continually champion it, this movie is so much more than just your standard love story and also is the touching tale of the bond between a father and son. The film stars Domnhall Gleeson, Bill Nighy and Rachel McAdams and is about a man who on his twenty-first birthday finds out that he has the inherited power of being able to time travel to change the direction of his life for romantic reasons, family reasons and even some superficial ones. Written and directed by the immensely talented Richard Curtis, this might be my favorite rom-com of all time. I adore this movie.

Django Unchained – With Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood finishing off its award season run with a Best Supporting Actor win at the Oscars, I picked up Quentin’s first foray into westerns for myself and, coincidentally the first time he worked with Leonardo DiCaprio. For those who don’t know about this movie, the story follows a freed slave who sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner with the help of a German bounty hunter posing as a dentist. Jamie Foxx is badass, DiCaprio is so much fun and Christoph Waltz won an Academy Award for this movie in addition to Tarantino’s Screenplay win. The best thing about watching this movie now is that you can doubleheader it with the next movie this great auteur did, The Hateful Eight.

Penelope – With Natalie Wood’s name trending recently on Twitter after the death o Kirk Douglas for dastardly reasons, it’s really neat that I received this movie that puts the gifted actress that was stolen from us in the main spotlight. Part of the “She’s Entertainment” series of films, this is a comedy about a flighty, bored, kleptomaniac wife of a banker who robs her husband’s bank of sixty thousand dollars and goes on the lam. The film was made in 1966 by Love Story director Arthur Hiller but was the final straw for Wood and Warner Bros., as she was very unhappy with her multi-year contract and bought herself out of it for $175,000, and fired her staff of agents, managers and lawyers. She didn’t make another film for 3 years which would be Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice which kicked off another four-year hiatus until The Candidate.

Television:

Hunters: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – Jordan Peele executive produces this new show that has a secret group of people who are dedicated to hunting down Nazi war criminals in the seventies and I am so very excited to check it out, something I have been waiting for ever since I saw the first trailer. The cast is phenomenal, led by the Academy Award-winning Al Pacino and featuring Fury’s Logan Lerman, Lena Olin, How I Met Your Mother’s Josh Radnor and more, this might be that new Amazon series that catches fire like Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or Jack Ryan. Don’t quote me on this but the show looks awesome enough to hook a large audience.

The Last Thing He Wanted (Netflix) – Ben Affleck and Anne Hathaway topline this new feature film from Dee Rees, the critically acclaimed director of Mudbound, a political thriller about a veteran D.C. journalist who loses the focus of her own story when a favor for her father thrusts her from byline to unwitting subject in the very story she’s trying to break. The word from the festival circuit is that Rees dropped the ball a little bit with this film but the supporting cast of Willem Dafoe, Toby Jones and Rosie Perez, who was recently awesome in the Birds Of Prey movie, has me still very much interested in checking this out.

Star Wars The Clone Wars: Season 7 (Disney+) – It was never known how completely inclusive the new Disney+ service was going to be to the pre-existing shows under the umbrella of the “House Of Mouse” what with all the reboots and reimagines we have gotten or that were announced so far which is hat makes getting a new season of Clone Wars that much more exciting. Now, thanks to these wonderful producers, definitely including the great Dave Filioni, we get some closure on the early war stories of Anakin Skywalker and his padawan apprentice Ahsoka Tano who very quickly became one of my favorite characters in the Star Wars universe. Yeah, I’m definitely ready for this.

Gentefied: Season 1 (Netflix) – A new half-hour comedy-drama, this series comes from showrunner Marvin Lemus and is based on his internet series of the same name about three cousins who band together to keep their Grandfather’s popular Boyle Heights taco shop in business as the neighborhood becomes more gentrified. The cast is all unknown to me other than the grandfather who is played by Joaquín Cosio from the Del Toro FX series The Strain and Wilmer Valderrama who plays the building owner. The show is well written and original and it looks like Lemus capitalized on the much higher budget from Netflix because this show looks great.

Babies (Netflix) – A brand new Netflix produced series that explores one of life’s biggest mysteries, human babies. In a huge docu-experiment, this series follows fifteen babies from birth through to their first birthday and the science in how much an infant’s body and mind transform in that time sitting, eating, crawling, eventually talking and walking. So basically the cute will be overwhelming and you’re going to cry a lot especially with the amount of crying you will see on screen. I only meant to just watch the first episode of this and ended up being engrossed in three straight.

New Releases:

Sonic The Hedgehog – After a delay in release to repair a horrendous looking lead character with teeth and muscle structure that will give you nightmares, we finally get to see this video game adaptation that is hotly anticipated for a rabid fanbase. For those who have lived under a rock for decades, Sonic is a speedy blue hedgehog with a cocky attitude who, in this film, befriends a small-town police officer played by James Marsden to join him in a battle against an evil genius, the villainous Dr. Ivo Robotnik who wants to do experiments on it. My excitement comes from the fact that the big bad is played by one of my favorites of all time, Jim Carrey, who I hear is the best part of the movie. I initially thought that this movie was going to be garbage but from what I’m hearing now, this might be the movie that definitively ends the video game to movie curse. This could be a “gamechanger.” Sorry, I couldn’t help it.

Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island – Talk about a massive genre shift as the classic series Fantasy Island starring Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaize gets a Blumhouse horror makeover and as much as I’m weirded out by this, having seen many episodes of the show, I’m strangely attracted to this film as a genre fan and especially because the park is now run by an evil Michael Pena and I kind of love that. What doesn’t excite me about this movie is it comes from director Jeff Wadlow who as yet to make a movie that doesn’t fall apart like dried playdough. He bobbled a great potential franchise with a lackluster Kickass 2 and his last horror film Truth Or Dare is a ridiculous mess of bad filmmaking. Maybe he can right his own ship with an idea that feels so off the wall that it could only come from the twisted factory of Blumhouse.

The Photograph – This movie, although heavily under-marketed, could be a sleeper of a hit just due to the red hot appeal of its stars, Issa Rae and Lakeith Stansfield, both actors making all the right moves at the moment. The film is a romantic drama, fitting for a Valentine’s Day opening, about the estranged daughter of a famous photographer who falls in love with the journalist assigned to cover her late mother. The film comes from writer and director Stella Meghie who earned some critical acclaim with her features The Weekend in 2018 but faltered in her last studio feature Everything, Everything so hopefully, with some proven star power, she can make a mainstream feature that connects. I love both of these actors so I’m really excited to see this one. (Not opening in Kamloops or Oshawa)

Downhill – The penchant for Americans to remake absolutely perfect foreign films is a trend that frustrates me to no end and this one is no different as they are redoing one of my favorite films of 2014, Ruben Ostlund’s Force Majeure. This is a double edge to this one as it has the always fantastic Julia Louis Dreyfuss but it also has the extremely hit and miss Will Ferrell in a story that really doesn’t need outlandish comedy as it is all about subtlety. The movie is about the turmoil driven into a marriage when a family is put in danger of a potential avalanche and the father’s flee instinct is too overwhelming and he temporarily abandons them. The original is amazing and highly recommended as I don’t think it could ever be reproduced. Prove me wrong, The Way, Way Back directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops or Oshawa)

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire – I really wish I had seen this movie at the Vancouver International Film Festival or at least before the end of the year as it definitely would have made my “Best of 2019” list because this movie is an absolutely astounding film and has a final scene that will resonate with me cinematically for the rest of my life. The film takes place at the end of the eighteenth century and follows Marianne, a painter employed to do a portrait of the daughter of a rich aristocrat. As the sessions go on, the two women fall in love with each other, a forbidden secret that could destroy both of their lives. Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel are incredible together in this film, a clinic in how just one glance can say volumes. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Ford v Ferrari – This new biopic should definitely be at the top of your list to buy because it is another tour-de-force performance from Christian Bale as well as another incredible piece of cinema from director James Mangold, a true story of a seemingly impossible task put in the hands of two real-life larger than life characters. Matt Damon plays American car designer Carroll Shelby with Bale starring as driver Ken Miles, the two employed in an uphill battle of corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford that could challenge and beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. This movie is crammed with charisma, has a smart and snappy script with the cast to deliver it and definitely is a total crowd-pleaser. You missed out on the big screen and even bigger IMAX experience but don’t let it pass you by now on your home entertainment sound surround.

Roma – Coming off this year’s Academy Awards, it’s a great time to look at last year’s big winner in the international department now that it hits Criterion Collection this week. Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron digs deep with this slice of Mexico City life in the early 1970s following Cleo, a housekeeper for a couple and their four children. Her employer’s marriage starts to crumble at the same time Cleo is forced with a life changer, making the two women’s bond closer and closer. Cuaron’s autobiographical connection to this film adds to the heart of it combining with the technical brilliance in its construction and cinematography. I spent many a moment slack-jawed over beautiful dolly shots, framing and use of reflection. This one is very special.

First Love – A head turner any time he makes a film, writer and director Takashi Miike returns with a movie that is not just satisfying his large fan base but is getting huge acclaim from the cinema world in general. In his heightened vision of a Yakuza run Tokyo, Miike crafts the story of a young boxer and a call girl who get caught up in a drug-smuggling scheme over the course of one night. The movie digs into the type of stories we love from Miike, brutal antihero led tales with blood streaking every scene and it’s very cool to see people who usually aren’t into this genre picking it up and giving the filmmaker another renewal in his popularity. Maybe this will lead to an uptick in the viewings of Ichi The Killer or Sukiyaki Western Django, although I highly doubt it on that second totally underrated gem.

My Bloody Valentine – One of the greatest Canadian slasher films ever gets a beautiful new collector’s edition from Shout Factory and I’m so happy to add this movie to my collection alongside the original DVD I have and the 3D remake from 2009. The movie is a simple horror plot structure, taking place in a small mining town where decades-old folk tale surrounding a deranged murderer killing those who celebrate Valentine’s Day turns out to be an actual factual legend when a group defies the killer’s order and people start turning up dead. I love this movie, one that Quentin Tarantino considers the greatest slasher of all time, a classic horror with some iconic shots that I hold in the all-time greats list.

Gunsmoke: Season 18 & 19 – More Gunsmoke has made its way into my collection, one that’s fattening up with old western classics by the month it seems. For those who don’t know about the show, this is the story of Marshall Matt Dillon and his town Dodge City one that he governs and keeps safe from all the lawless townfolk and bandits that roll through. This series ran for a total of 20 Seasons so we are at the penultimate seasons of it and a lot of the original characters and actors had moved on from the series, including Miss Kitty who starts her bow out in season nineteen. Still, this is a great show to go through for nostalgic reasons and see how episodic serial television was done in its first golden age.

Shutter Island – A massively underrated Martin Scorsese team up with Leonardo DiCaprio, this Dennis Lehane adaptation didn’t really get the love it deserved when it came out and I was definitely included in the detractors at the time, a feeling I regret now having let it resonate for ten years and after a recent viewing. The story follows a U.S. Marshal and his partner who are investigating the disappearance of a murderer that escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane on a remote island and that’s just the bare bones of this total mind twist of a film that frustrated me in theaters but is actually really genius especially when it comes to the end game of it. The movie also features a stellar supporting cast including Mark Ruffalo, Sir Ben Kingsley and Michelle Williams.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

High Strung Free Dance – A dance movie from Steve on his Geek Outs list? Yes, I didn’t think this would be anything I was interested in but the movie is very visually engaging and the sheer muscle talent is mind-boggling even if the acting isn’t really up to the same level. The movie, a follow up to High Strung, a film lampooned in great fashion by the fantastic podcast How Did This Get Made?, this one follows a young dance choreographer hoping that the big break he just gave to two fledgling dancers will pay off but things get complicated when the two fall in love. The glossiness of the story and acting maybe a little bit of a turn off here but, as I stated earlier, the performances are pretty great.

Television:

Narcos Mexico: Season 2 (Netflix) – Continuing the spin-off of the massively popular Netflix series, Narcos, this show continues to document the rise of the Guadalajara Cartel as an American DEA agent learns the danger of targeting narcos in Mexico. Starring Michael Pena and Diego Luna with narration from Scoot McNairy, this show has more than enough star power to keep me engaged and I’m really excited to see where this show is going, especially with the chaos and tension of season one’s finale. Hopefully, the momentum keeps up, which feels like an easy bet as neither this nor the original series really has had a lull point. Get ready for the binge, everybody!

Kidding: Season 2 (Showtime) – This show is absolutely amazing and definitely my favorite series in the last year. Jim Carrey stars as Mr. Pickles, a Mr. Rogers like character in every way. Has loveable puppets, beautiful and catchy songs and a way to really speak to children. Jeff, the man who portrays Mr. Pickles, is the main face of a multimillion-dollar brand, a father grieving the tragic death of his son and a husband dealing with the separation from his wife. The reunion with Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind filmmaker Michel Gondry is brilliant on all levels as this series hits emotionally with humor and that incredible artistic flair we love from this acclaimed auteur. This is must-see television and season two has taken so long to get here that when I saw it on the calendar I actually exclaimed out loud.

3 From Hell (Shudder) – I have to admit, as much as I wanted a sequel to The Devil’s Rejects and House Of 1000 Corpses, the chronicling of the murderous Firefly family the greatest creation of rocker turned filmmaker Rob Zombie, I didn’t feel the need for another piece of the story or the avenue for it because, spoiler alert, they all died at the end of the last one. That said, I am totally in for more bloody mayhem with Otis, Captain Spaulding and Baby especially because this kind of looks like Zombie’s take on a pulpy Oliver Stone Natural Born Killers approach and there’s even courtroom scenes in this. The trailer is nuts and I’m so intrigued.

Mustang (Criterion Channel) – One of the greatest international films from the last decade, this is a movie that is begging to be seen and heard. Guaranteed to drain every tear out of your body, as it did a friend of mine who I brought to the original screening, this is the story of five orphaned Turkish girls who are sold off in marriage by their guardians. This is a beautiful and heartbreaking film of sisterhood and the destruction of innocence, a movie that will leave its mark on you like a belt lashing. This movie was nominated for an Oscar but ultimately lost to Son Of Saul in a year of incredibly tough competition. The release was bobbled badly here in Canada so this is a great opportunity to check it out.

Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (Netflix) – I have made it no secret that I adore everything Aardman puts out. Just like Laika Studios, their films have an original charm to them that I love on a consistent level and I know that extends to my kids as well because every time I put on one of the movies they are immediately captivated. One of the favorites is Shaun The Sheep, the television series being a big hit and that last movie is absolutely adorable. Now we get the return to the big screen of Shaun and his farm friends, this time the gang encountering an alien with amazing powers who crash-lands at their home and pushes everyone to go on a mission to shepherd the intergalactic visitor home before a sinister organization can capture her. This is exactly everything the trailer sets it up to be, nothing more, nothing less, but damn it looks enjoyable.

New Releases:

Birds Of Prey – The DC Cinematic Universe continues on its upswing with this new film that will hopefully wash the taste of Suicide Squad out of our mouths as this is the second kick at the can for Margot Robbie’s version of Harley Quinn, now shedding the shackles of the abusive Jared Leto Joker and looking to be a force for good alongside the rest of the Birds Of Prey. Who are they? Well, we have the supersonic ass-kicker of Black Canary, played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Huntress, an assassin played by Ramona Flowers herself Mary Elizabeth Winstead and the iconic Rosie Perez playing Gotham City detective Renee Montoya, a comic favorite. Together they take of Ewan McGregor’s villain character who is looking like he’s having an insanely good time playing this bad guy. The reviews are good so I am excited.

Come To Daddy – Elijah Wood is the champion of independent horror that you never knew. He produced the incredible Nicolas Cage films Mandy and Color Out Of Space as well as taking the lead in the incredible remake of William Lustig’s Maniac and there’s much more in the tank. This movie is one of them, a tension and anxiety-filled reconnection between a father and son who have been estranged for decades, from first-time director Ant Timpson, a producer for the Canadian film company RKSS, responsible for films like Turbo Kid and Summer Of ’84. The film takes its outside premise to a crazy and final conclusion between these two characters and then the real story begins, one I can’t even begin to describe for spoiler reasons. This is one of those future cult hits that gets that slow burn of the word of mouth until horror fans are all in the know. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

The Assistant – In the week after we heard the disturbing first-hand account of Harvey Weinstein’s raper accuser we get this indie film that made a huge splash at film festivals and turned heads just based on the subject matter alone. Starring Ozark’s Julia Garner, this is the story of the assistant to a powerful executive and, in turn, the silent witness to all of the unethical, illegal and degrading things he does behind closed doors. The film is a searing narrative debut of Casting JonBenet documentary filmmaker Kitty Green and from all of the reviews, I’m reading this is a damning and truthful look at abuses of power that happen every day completely unchecked. This is probably the beginning of an incredible feature directing career for Green and definitely a lead lady moment for Garner who has so much acclaim already for her Netflix series. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

The Traitor – A brand new sprawling look into the Cosanostra and Corleone mafia families, writer and director Marco Bellocchio has no time or patience to lower you into this story but instead throws you in at breakneck speed as person after person is murdered in brutal fashion all in the introduction of our main character Tommaso Buscetta, played brilliantly by veteran Italian actor Pierfrancesco Favino. His performance is the driving force of a film that feels erratic in its execution, making the whole story feel very scattered in its storytelling. That said, when Buscetta is giving his testimony against the family that is trying to kill him, it gets tense and very interesting. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Playing With Fire – John Cena hits the kids movie point of his rise as a Hollywood actor and most notably an action star but the good news is, just like The Rock, Cena has a great command of his comedy chops but that said, the bad news is this movie is still absolutely brutal in every way. He plays one of the all-business members of a crew of rugged firefighters who meet their match when try to rescue three endlessly troublemaking kids and the fact that this film is made by Paul Blart Mall Cop 2’s Andy Fickman may tell you all you need to know. This movie isn’t made for anyone but the juvenile viewers of Nickolodeon programming with fart jokes, slapstick and a horrible and disturbing moment of poop humor. I didn’t enjoy a single moment of this movie, possibly one of the worst things I have ever seen.

Last Christmas – I heavily dislike Christmas movies and to make matters worse this film’s title is my most hated Christmas song ever so it is really was a bad omen for me and this romantic comedy already. The Mother Of Dragons Emilia Clarke was the bright point to start the movie on, playing a desperately single woman with a disastrous love life who meets the man, played by Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding, who may be the one, someone she meets while working her job as an elf a year-round Christmas store. This movie starts out with so much charm, some good situational comedy and fun dialogue but it all starts to deteriorate as the story progresses. It’s hard to believe that this is a Paul Feig film as the consistency even in comedy beats isn’t there and there is more of a penchant to go for the corny, sappy or easy joke which doesn’t feel like his style. I was thoroughly disappointed by this one.

Doctor Sleep – Finally one of my favorite movies of last year is on Blu-Ray and it has an all-new director’s cut to check out which is just an even sweet cherry on top of this sundae. Based on a novel by Stephen King, this is the follow up to The Shining, which has both the distinction of being one of the greatest horror stories and films of all time as well as being one of Stanley Kubrick’s greatest works. Ewan McGregor takes the role of an adult Danny Torrence who has to protect a young girl from an evil cult known as The True Knot who prey on children with powers to remain immortal, an ensuing battle that will definitely lead to some sort of a showdown at the Overlook Hotel. This movie is a beautiful love letter to both the original film and the source material and I was in tears almost immediately with the return to the Overlook in the opening shot. This movie is truly exquisite.

The Good Liar – Veteran acting is the big selling point of this movie as it features Sir Ian McKellan and Dame Helen Mirren in the lead roles. McKellan plays a con artist named Roy Courtnay who believes he’s found his career jackpot when he meets a well off widow Betty McLeish (Mirren) online. As Betty opens up her life to this possible new suitor, Roy begins to have a sneaking suspicion that he may be on the receiving end of a con job himself. The film is directed by Bill Condon who has teamed many times with McKellen on films like Mr. Holmes and Gods And Monsters, which I enjoyed both of, and this movie is definitely resting on the talents of he and Mirren but it’s just enough for the movie to coast by on a good but not great level. I kind of wanted more from it.

The Nightingale – In her follow up to the massively popular indie horror film The Babadook, writer and director Jennifer Kent is bringing something horrifying as her second feature but this story lies in the truth of Australian history. The movie stars Aisling Franciosi as an Irish convict woman living with her husband and newborn child who is set off on a mission of revenge when they are brutally murdered by three British officers. This movie may be one of the most violent films I have ever seen but it never feels gratuitous and always serves the story. Kent has crafted a near-perfect film and the performances of Franciosi and co-star Baykali Ganambarr who plays her aboriginal tracker Billy are heartbreaking in their conviction. I also have to give so much praise to Sam Claflin for his villainous role, one for the ages.

Waves – Director and writer Trey Edward Shults has made an incredible film about the bonds of family across terrible decisions and seemingly monstrous actions and how far the notion of “unconditional love” extends. The film follows the story of a suburban African-American family, led by a well-intentioned but domineering father played by This Is Us star Sterling K. Brown, as they are thrown through the loop by the domino effect their son goes through when his college wrestling career is brought to an abrupt end. This is a movie that will stun you with its incredible realism and the performances throughout are dominated by these fantastic actors. This is a movie that gained such little clout last year at the start of awards season and could have done lots to satisfy that racial inclusion issue because it is that damn good.

Kill Chain – Nicolas Cage! Again! Just a little preface just to get you in the mood because, yes, this is a brand new Nic Cage movie and you know I’m here for it. The film has Cage, True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten and Veronica Mars’ dad Enrico Colantoni in a story about three strangers who get embroiled in a deadly conflict, told in a film noir style setting. As usual, I have my “Ridiculous Cage” blinders on for this movie so I’m just going to enjoy it while he’s onscreen and, really, with no other reviews anywhere I’ll say that it’s highly entertaining and expect no backlash.

Rabid – After being a loud voice against the multitudes of horror remakes, the Vancouver born and raised Soska Sisters, known lovingly in the genre community as the Twisted Twins, wade into the pantheons of “re-imagines” with this film, the first-ever remake of a David Cronenberg movie. The film has former Supergirl Laura Vandervoort as Rose, a mousy woman who works for a highly powerful fashion designer who, after a horrific accident and disfiguration, finds new life in an experimental stem cell procedure that completely repairs her but comes at the cost of a viral outbreak and a monstrous evolution in her own body. While the make up effects in this movie are masterful, the story feels like a lesser retread of the original film and the execution was a little less than desired for me, coming off as a bit of B-grade schlock horror and not in the fun popcorn spilling way.

White Snake – I find my grip on anime is gaining more traction as I have now seen another film which I both connected with and really enjoyed and maybe it had to do with the visual similarities between this animation style and that of one of my favorite anime films, Appleseed. The story of this film is, at its heart, a simple story of the love bond between a snake trapper and a demigod that takes the form of a giant white snake, hence the name. The action of this film is absolutely dazzling every moment which detracts a bit from the very bland looking main female character, probably my only complaint about the movie. I really love how much this film dives into the mythology of the Tang dynasty and I hope they make more out of this story.

Donten: Laughing Under The Clouds Gaiden – So, this is the mid or endgame to a series that I have no knowledge of or connection to so I had a fixed look of confusion on my face when I watched the first of the three movies contained in this box set. Heck, I might have looked like I was doing calculus or something trying to make sense of the loose threads of a far larger story that was absolutely impossible for me to grasp. The story drops you in the years after the imperial restoration in central Japan when a forceful and malevolent snake, which rears its head once every 300 years, is about to reappear to cause destruction. Three successors to the local shrine ally with other forces to block this evil but have to contend with the forces it allies with itself. Honestly, this is the simplest way I can describe the show and it even confused me all over again. Insert shrugging emoji here.

Steve’s Blu-Ray and DVD Geek-Out:

Melody Makers – Continuing my music rush from last week’s geek out, I received this DVD which takes a deep dive into the iconic songwriters of Britain’s music scene from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies. In a rough feeling talking heads style documentary, the film gets stories and recollections from great artists including Eric Burdon, Ian Grant of The Cult, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull and more. As with most of the films I have received from this company, the quality of the production leaves a lot to be denied and kind of effects my feeling on the documentary as a whole, causing my interest to wain a bit. Music lovers will still find this one fascinating though.

Brick – The greatest modern noir story in the last twenty years has now made its way to a Blu-Ray special edition and I’m in love with it and have watched it three times since I have gotten it. This was my introduction to the incredible mind of writer and director Rian Johnson, one of the most brilliant and original filmmakers working today, no matter what any The Last Jedi hater will cry at you. Starring Joseph Gordon Levitt, this is an old fashioned detective story told through a contemporary high school age lens following a loner on the outside of all clique who leads an investigation into the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend. With style and substance like crazy, this movie draws you deep into the mystery and rewards you with great lines and astounding writing. This is one of my favorite movies of all time and everyone I’ve recommended it to loves it. Depp words, I know, but trust me.

Television:

Locke & Key: Season 1 (Netflix) – One of my favorite modern comic series ever, a little piece of haunted mystery from the minds of Stephen King’s son Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez, finally makes its way onto Netflix after a long and rocky road of an adaptation process. The story follows three siblings who move into their ancestral estate after their father’s murder and discover their new home has magical keys that must be used in their stand against an evil creature who wants the keys and their powers. Knowing the endgame of the comic book, I am so excited to see where the live-action telling will bring this story and I think it will grab a pretty sizeable audience, especially those ravenously waiting for the next “Haunting” season.

Honey Boy (Amazon Prime) – Mark my words, Shia Lebeouf is going to go on such a comeback tear that his talent will be undeniable to all of those who considered his career over. He started this positive momentum with the beautifully crafted outsider story The Peanut Butter Falcon and now continues with this film he wrote which is the real tale of the damaged relationship between him and his father. An incredible young actor himself, Lucas Hedges takes on the older role in Lebeouf’s life story, chronicling his stormy childhood and early adult years as he struggles to reconcile with his father and deal with his mental health. My hope is that this movie is a source of catharsis and he keeps creating amazing art because I love everything I’ve seen so far.

The Pharmacist (Netflix) – Another documentary series to piss you off and make you paranoid but something that will hopefully educate you, this is a four-episode series about a small-town pharmacist who decides to conduct his own investigation into the 1999 murder of his son in New Orleans and starts to see connections to his own industry that are quite disturbing. I only meant to watch the first episode just to give myself a feel for the show and found myself pounding back each episode like a good old fashioned Netflix binge. You want your true crime docuseries? Well, here you go, friendo!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Season 7 (NBC) – NINE-NINE! Yes, the greatest currently running television series is back and I’m deliriously excited about it as I adore every single character on this show, it is simply perfect. With infinitely quotable lines, series long-running in-jokes, characters that ACTUALLY develop, which is rare in these shows, and a cast that brings it with every episode, what’s NOT to love? This show is up in the hall of fame of great shows with absolutely no bad episodes in it and I can’t think of another show like that except for maybe Breaking Bad? I digress though, NINE-NINE!

Horse Girl (Netflix) – Alison Brie leads this quirky new comedy that Netflix acquired on the festival circuit, following a socially awkward woman with a fondness for arts and crafts, horses, and supernatural crime shows who finds her increasingly vivid dreams making their way into her real-life which kind of sounds like a Michel Gondry nightmare to me and I’m totally excited for it. Brie helped write this movie with the director Jeff Baena who directed and wrote her earlier film The Little Hours which was one of my favorite comedies that year. Expect a lot of insanity directly on the surface of this movie, one I think will grab a pretty eclectic audience.

New Releases:

Gretel & Hansel – In the dark niches of mystery and horror actor turned director Osgood Perkins has been making waves with stylishly done films like The Blackcoat’s Daughter and with this film, just his third feature, he may hit more of a mainstream level and he’s doing it with a classic Grimm fairy tale. The story is exactly what you remember it to be, a young girl and her little brother who live in a distant countryside long ago are lured in a desperate search of food and work to a cottage in the woods that may be the end of both of them. The film stars It’s Sophia Lillis and The Borg Queen herself Alice Krige as the formidable villain of this film and one who looks absolutely terrifying on the poster. I have very high hopes for this movie as everything about it seems to steer right into my wheelhouse of gothic horror and stunning visuals. I feel like Osgood’s legendary father and genre legend Anthony Perkins would be very proud right now. (Only opening in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver)

The Rhythm Section – Ryan Reynolds can’t be the only ass-kicker of his family as his wife Blake Lively makes her leap to the action genre. Yes, I know we already saw her take on a shark in the thriller The Shallows but this film sees her in hand to hand combat and firing a gun and, by all the trailers, I’m looking forward to this one. In the film, she plays a woman looking for revenge after her family is murdered during a terrorist plot. Kind of leaning into that cliche a bit, she arms her self up and goes into training to destroy those who took her loved ones but the film looks a bit grittier than your standard Taken film and it has Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown to do some heavy lifting as well. I find it exciting that Reed Moreno makes her first action film with this, the woman who beautifully shot the Beyonce Lemonade video.

Corpus Christi – A nominee representing Poland for Best Foreign this year at the Academy Awards, a movie destined to lose to Parasite most likely, this story had me gripped immediately. It follows Daniel, a young man in a juvenile detention center who has found the path of God but, because of his crimes, is unable to act on this in any official capacity. He escapes from his holdings and steals the local pastor’s robes and heads out on the road on a bus until he’s dropped off at a small village that has a vacancy from a priest. He assumes this position and quickly learns that the townspeople are in deep mourning from an accident that claimed the lives of six teens. In getting the town to heal, Daniel learns to heal himself in a film that is beautifully shot and crafted with a soulful and ground shaking performance from young star Bartosz Bielenia. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Rosie – This is a film that should be grouped together with the last couple of Ken Loach movies I, Daniel Blake and Sorry We Missed You as they are all damning stories of lower-class struggle in the United Kingdom, glaring truth that is just going to get worse. Coming from acclaimed filmmaker Paddy Breathnach, this is the story of Rosie Davis, a mother of four who is desperately looking for a place to sleep and live temporarily after their landlord evicts after selling the house from under them. While her husband works shift after shift for an uncaring employer, Rosie is the only person fighting to keep their family from becoming destitute and homeless in a film that always feels incredibly real and palpable. When the final credits hit I need to give myself a minute to collect my emotions that had been shattered over the hour and a half of this tragic story. These are the films that are most important right now. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Parasite – This film was an amazing way to start out my coverage of this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, some great Korean cinema from one of the masters, Bong Joon-Ho. In his return to all Korean film, he tells the story of a family of con artists who grift their way into a rich family’s lives as a chauffeur, housekeeper, tutor and personal assistant respectively. They think they’ve hit the big time until the former housekeeper shows them a deep secret that she’s been hiding in their employer’s house that blows everyone’s situation up. Joon-Ho crafts another incredible masterpiece of a movie that’s filled with twists, incredible cinematography and the amazing ability to tell stories within a story. He never relents in showing that he is not only one of the greatest Korean storytellers today but one of the best in cinema today. This is your chance to check out the movie before it wins a Best Picture Oscar, the first foreign film to do so.

Terminator: Dark Fate – A new entry into a series that I felt has burnt me a few times before, I was a little trepidatious heading into the new installment of this iconic sci-fi action series but there are a few differences that gave me hope for a good movie. This film marks the return of producer James Cameron in a more hands-on capacity, the first time since Judgement Day and it has Deadpool director Tim Miller making his first film since that mega-hit, shrugging off the comedy for something far grimmer. Adding to that mix we get the return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, the only one who can do it justice, to join Arnie as well and damn is it a return! Honestly, just having her gruff and pessimistic presence in this film elevates the movie entirely and instantly made everything great. She makes up for whatever shortcomings the new action hero of this series, Mackenzie Davis’s time-travelling character of Grace, has. I really love the darker and extremely dour direction this film has taken as now we aren’t trying to save the world, we are trying to survive in it.

Motherless Brooklyn – Edward Norton is back behind the camera for the first time in almost twenty years with this new detective noir drama where he plays a private investigator’s helper who takes it upon himself to unravel a mystery that gets his boss killed. It should also be mentioned that Norton’s character suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome, which is sometimes played for laughs. The film is an engaging film with a great script but no one in the film is particularly amazing, no standouts that I could see. It is definitely is a little rough around the edges and could be trimmed down a bit, plus there was a bit of additional dialogue that felt a little tacked on.

Harriet – Talk Tom Me director Kasi Lemmons, also an actress who appeared in The Silence Of The Lambs among many others, takes on a huge historical figure with this new film, the amazing story of Harriet Tubman and her escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes who freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history. Cynthia Erivo, who last appeared in the great movies Widows and Bad Times At El Royale, takes the lead in this movie that is without a doubt led by her performance that is now nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards but unfortunately, this was a movie that fell a bit flat with me. The blocking of the film felt like a stage play largely and the cinematography felt very stock and stale with contemporary music that seemed to take about from the reality of the history being told. As great as I find Erivo in this movie it never felt like an award caliber performance and in a year where we got the incredible and soulful portrayals we got, it seems like it doesn’t measure up.

Battle Of Jangsari – Coming from the international movie house of Well Go USA, there are probably a lot of people who have never heard of this movie and, to be honest, I am among them. The film is the story of the Jangsari Landing Operation, which saw seven hundred and seventy-two student soldiers at the average age of seventeen who has only received two weeks of boot camp training tossed into the Korean War effort in order to pave the way for Incheon Landing Operation, which turned the tide of war. The film features Megan Fox and former CSI star George Eads but they only feature in the English portions of the movie, probably to give it North America appeal. Maybe Megan Fox wasn’t the strongest choice?

Edge Of The Axe – Arrow Video digs into the slasher films of the late eighties for this brand new collector’s edition of a film I feel like no one has heard of. Heck, I’d never heard of it. This horror is Spanish produced and focuses on a small California mountain town that is terrorized by a brutal axe murderer leaving two brave computer nerds as the smartest people to figure out who is doing it and how to stop them, The film was made by a director very special to Arrow, José Ramón Larraz, as they released some editions of his more popular films last year, a filmmaker known for more erotic films as well, but this one was supposed to be his foray into something more mainstream and he even adopted the American name of Joseph Braunstein for this and his previous effort Rest In Pieces. At least they get immortalized now with this Blu-Ray edition.

Black Angel – It has been a while since I’ve gotten to bring some good old fashioned film noir to this segment and now thanks to the high brow of the Arrow Academy I can with this classic film. The film follows Kirk Bennett, a man falsely accused of the murder of a woman who had been blackmailing him. This predicament propels his wife to take up an investigation that is aided by the help of an unlikely assistant, the victim’s ex-husband. Extramarital affairs, double-crosses and torching secrets are all revealed in a movie that plays it’s genre to a satisfying conclusion, leaving the viewer to fill in the blanks a little. Based on a popular novel at the time, this was the final film of director Roy William Neill who passed away the year this was released, 1946, at the age of 59. The remastering of this film is really gorgeous, the selling point of this blu-ray for sure.

Steve’s DVD Geek Out:

Come On Feel The Noize: The Story Of How Rock Became Metal – The name pretty much says it all, this is how the world of rock n’ roll made a niche shift over to something a little different, way heavier and something so massively influential to me, heavy metal, my driving force of music. The real unfortunate thing about this movie is the title which is taken from a horrible song by a horrible band, Quiet Riot, a group that was complete crap after Ozzy Osborne poached the charismatic lead guitarist Randy Rhoads. The film features interviews with Alice Cooper, Disturbed’s David Draiman, Metallica’s James Hetfield, Anthrax’s Scott Ian and way more.

Kenny Rogers: The Gambler’s Last Deal – With this massive country and western star in the news recently with his failing health, having something released that states anything as the “last” feels like a proverbial nail in a coffin but here we are. With the popularity of “The Gambler” ever since it’s inception, this is the final hurrah for this aspect of Rogers’ career but it’s not just a farewell concert but a full documentary that movies through the iconic stars storied career and those who joined him along the way. 2020 seems to be a year in which we are losing so many great stars so hopefully, this release doesn’t “tempt the fates” if you know what I mean.

Television:

BoJack Horseman: Season 6 (Netflix) – The saga of fallen former television star BoJack Horseman draws to a close with the closing piece of their sixth season and who would have thought it would go so long and have an actual wrap up? I’ll be completely honest, I only just got in to this show in season four but I can not speak enough about how smart and witty the show is and how it can easily shift from something so absolutely ridiculous to an emotional beat that feels so unfathomably poignant and relate-able. The creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg has gifted us with a series that is something special and with a great cast to boot. This show will be seriously missed.

Bliss (Shudder) – This film did its rounds on the festival circuit last year and really captured audience acclaim at Fantastic Fest alongside the director Jeff Bagos’ other film, the monster creature feature VFW, which usually means great things for genre fans when said movie finally earns its release. Well, as of Friday, Shudder has this film streaming, about a gifted painter who finds herself creatively stumped and goes deep into the evil underbelly of Los Angeles to find inspiration. The movie is getting shoved into the same sort of horror category as Mandy and Color Out Of Space so expect a totally messed up ride into a psychedelic nightmare.

Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) -More Ted Bundy documentaries? What, are we at the beginning of 2019 again? No, streaming history isn’t repeating itself, it’s just Amazon Prime wanting to get its own foothold in the world of one of the most disturbingly charismatic serial killers in the last hundred years, Ted Bundy. This docuseries has Bundy’s ex-girlfriend and the one that Lily Collins plays in the Netflix movie Elizabeth Kendall and her daughter Molly sharing their experiences with unsettling new details about Ted Bundy after nearly 40 years of silence so as much as I’m thinking “what, there’s more?” I’ll definitely be watching it.

The Dead Lands: Season 1 (Shudder) – New Zealand wants their own Walking Dead series but they’re going with more the historical and spiritual route with it. This show comes with a bit of a caveat because the best way to get into this show is to have seen the original film that came before it at the end of 2014 about the teenage son of a Maori chief who sets out for revenge. This new series is far different, following an undead Maori warrior and a young tribeswoman as they team up to stop an evil entity from rising up and destroying the living. It’s a bold series for Shudder to pick up on their streaming service but I’m really liking it so far.

Taylor Swift: Miss Americana (Netflix) – One of the biggest selling artists in the world, Tay-Tay gets her second piece of the Netflix pie after her concert movie with this documentary that was held up in legal red tape for a long time with this Scooter Braun drama but now that “allowances” have been made, the masses can be happy. The film is a look at the iconic pop artist during a transformational time in her life as she embraces her role as a singer/songwriter and harnesses the full power of her voice and her effect on her fanbase. I may not be a big fan of her music or some of the victim mentality in some of her music but her effect on the current zeitgeist is undeniable.

New Releases:

The Gentlemen – Writer and director Guy Ritchie is returning to the roots of cinema that got him popular, the gangster flicks like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. For this film, he grabs a huge cast with Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell and more for the story of a drug lord looking to get out of the game and sell of his empire to the highest bidder which sets off a bloody war in the London underworld, a place that Ritchie knows as well as he knows himself. This movie probably won’t draw in a new audience but will satisfy the hordes of fans of this genre he made famous, all of us salivating for him to do another movie with great dialogue and loud gunfights. Bring it all the way on, Guy! (Not opening in Hamilton)

The Turning – Adapting the classic Henry James novel The Turning Of The Screw, this is a modern telling of the darkly gothic horror thriller about a young governess who is hired by a man who has become responsible for his young nephew and niece after the deaths of their parents. The film stars one of my favorite actresses, Blade Runner 2049’s Mackenzie Davis and two young stars in Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard and The Florida Project’s brilliant lead Brooklynn Prince, so it has a great backbone of acting that has me very interested in this. It is directed by Floria Sigismondi who follows up her only other feature film The Runaways with this one so I expect it to be stylish, like the many music videos she has directed for The White Stripes, David Bowie and more.

The Last Full Measure – Let’s head back to World War II for this new film from writer and director Todd Robinson, a filmmaker usually known for documentaries. Starring Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Plummer and Peter Fonda in his final onscreen performance, this is the story of Airman William H. Pitsenbarger, Jr., also known as “Pits”, a hero who is awarded the nation’s highest military honor for his actions on the battlefield thirty-four years afterwards. What has me really interested is the film was shot by cinematographer Byron Werner who shot an episode of Hulu’s Into The Dark called Culture Shock, a thought-provoking episode written and directed by local filmmaker Gigi Saul Guerrero. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops or Oshawa)

Color Out Of Space – This movie is a sweet cinema story just in its mere existence as it is the return of director and screenwriter Richard Stanley in a narrative feature role since he was fired from The Island Of Doctor Moreau by Paramount in 1996. Even better, the movie is an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation led by a Nicolas Cage performance that is completely unhinged from the get-go. The movie follows a family whose world is thrown into chaos when a meteor crashes on their farm, emitting a sinister purple hue and changing the world around them. This movie is unsettling and awe-inspiring with its look and execution, Stanley getting right back into that unique style he exhibited with Hardware and Dust Devil. This movie is definitely not for everyone but if you loved Cage in Mandy as I did, you will love this movie. (Only opening in Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver)

Cunningham – Usually documentaries are a great conduit to subjects, places and people we wouldn’t have learned about otherwise, exposing us to art and ideology that are completely new to us. That is definitely the case with this new film which gives the story of Merce Cunningham, an American dancer and choreographer who was at the forefront of modern dance for seventy years creating over seven hundred unique productions. The film is told in the avante garde style that Cunningham emitted, although he even says that he never considered himself that at all, this was just the free flow of his mind. Maybe it’s my lack of foreknowledge of Cunningham’s work or the inaccessibility of the movie at times but I just couldn’t get into this movie and felt like it really did nothing for me outside of the interesting work he did with Andy Warhol, the highlight of the movie for me. Dance fans should pick up on this one. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Nomad: In The Footsteps Of Bruce Chatwin – The great thing about Werner Herzog’s documentaries is that their infused with his peculiar and very original personality in so many ways that it gives the viewer a deeper understanding of the filmmaker’s journey and state of mind as he almost fuses himself with the project. This film is a very personal film for Herzog as he explores the life of a close friend of his, renowned travel journalist Bruce Chatwin, who passed away in 1990 from AIDS. Herzog takes his friend’s writings and goes place to place to get a sense of the emotion Chatwin was feeling at the time and it also works it’s way through the blueprint of Herzog’s filmography at the time as well. This film has an utter fascination to it that can only be heightened by the sheer scope of this great German director. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Zombieland: Double Tap – Roughly ten years ago I remember sitting in the theater laughing my ass off at the debut of director Ruben Fleisher, Zombieland, a fresh and funny rejuvenation of the zombie genre the kickstarted the undead for another couple of years. Written by a then-unknown Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, seven years before Deadpool would catapult them to where they are now, they gave us the characters of Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock who return to the screen after ten years of survival in the post-apocalypse, planning a more permanent move into America’s heartland while also dealing with a new threat of evolved zombies. More survivors join the pack, with new cast members Rosario Dawson and Zoey Deutch who damn near steals the movie. This movie is one of those rare sequels that manages to celebrate its predecessor but also gives us a reason to see these characters that is worth it plus these actors seem to have so much fun together which translates on screen.

The Addams Family – Its been around twenty-five years since Barry Sonnenfeld brought the classic television family of The Addams Family to the big screen so why not get a reboot but in animated form this time. The voice cast is pretty impressive for this film, featuring fan-favorite and requested Oscar Isaac as Gomez, Charlize Theron as Morticia, Chloe Grace Moretz as Wednesday, a pivotal role, Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard as Pugsley and Nick Kroll as Uncle Fester, which is a hilarious connection to the directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan who made Sausage Party their last time out. I want to have faith in this movie because I really love The Addams Family but its pretty tough as it got slaughtered by critics.

Pain And Glory – One of the most consistent international filmmakers returns with his most grounded and personal film yet. Pedro Almodovar is a world-class storyteller who always comes through with vibrant tales of real human struggle and this film may be one of my favorites in his filmography. Antonio Banderas is stunning in this, one of his best performances in my opinion, as he plays a director who suffers from chronic headaches and pain from a spinal surgery coming to grips with a childhood and relationship with his mother that made him the man he is today, for better or worse, as well as the early films that made him and the working friendships he may have tarnished with his own opinions of his art. This film is stunning from the getgo and reminds you why Almodovar is one of the true masters.

Countdown – Decisive horror can sometimes be a huge problem as we’ve seen some real crap with Truth Or Dare and the first Happy Death Day but sometimes it works out, as some of the Final Destination movies are fun. This film has a nurse downloading an app that claims to predict the moment a person will die and tells her she only has three days to live. With the clock ticking and a figure haunting her, she must find a way to save her life before time runs out. The film is the directorial debut of Justin Dec, so there was some hope that with the vision of a new storyteller and utilizing a young cast including Anne Winters from 13 Reasons Why and Charlie McDermott from The Middle we might get something of substance. Nope. In a crushing defeat, this movie is full of cliches and nonsensical jump scares, some of them even repeated over and over. Utter trash.

Black And Blue – There really wasn’t any sort of ad campaign or push behind this movie but the cast seemed interesting enough to garner some clout as it stars the always phenomenal Naomie Harris who toplines this crime thriller. She plays a rookie police officer in New Orleans who has to balance her identity as a black woman with her role as a police officer when she witnesses other police officers committing murder. Unfortunately, the film comes from director Deon Taylor who’s last outing The Intruder almost felt like a parody with Dennis Quaid turning in a ridiculous performance that was supposed to be menacing.I just have zero faith in this filmmaker who can’t see the ridiculous stereotypes in his execution and it doesn’t look like he’s learning from his mistakes at all.

I See You – Wait, there’s a crime thriller starring Helen Hunt and I’m just hearing about it now? What the hell? The movie follows Jon Tenney’s character, a small town detective who is investigating the disappearance of a local boy which puts him in the crosshairs of expectation from the entire town at a time that he is experiencing major family problems. The film is the second feature from director Adam Randall who follows up his debut Netflix feature iBoy with this first script from actor Devon Graye. The reviews call this an effective blend of scares and suspense making it a slow-building mystery worth watching.

Summer Days With Coo – In my never-ending quest to get a foothold in anime as a genre, I may have found a film that connected with me a bit and its this little feature that was made in 2007 and not released on Blu-ray until now. The story follows a mythical water creature called a kappa which survives being buried for three hundred years and is unearthed by a boy who deals with daily bullying. His luck starts to change when he befriends this new creature named Coo until the townspeople and media get wind of the reemergence of this ancient being, raising concern and fear from its mere existence. First off, this is not a kid’s movie in any way as the film starts off with the brutal killing of Coo’s father at the hands of a samurai. It has some great themes to it but has moments of pure darkness that will be hard to explain to the kids. Secondly, Coo is pretty much naked for the whole movie with his dangle hanging out. A little unsettling but I still found myself the movie as a whole.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

The Limits Of Control – Jim Jarmusch is a filmmaker that I will always hold a certain reverence in my cinema heart for, like Lynch, Cronenberg and Herzog, directors who are a genre all on their own. Each has their niche actors, cinematographers and trademarks and Jarmusch always has this somber and laid back vibe to all of his films and it usually includes Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray or Tom Waits and, a lot of the time, all three. This movie fits that mould perfectly, centred around a mysterious loner played by Ghost Dog’s Isaach De Bankole who is in the process of completing a criminal job. The job sends him to Madrid and into a world of confusion and a cast of strangers played by Paz de la Huerta, John Hurt, Gael Garcia Bernal and, of course, Swinton and Murray, and to make matters worse. he doesn’t speak a word of Spanish. This is Jarmusch with the quirk turned way up so proceed with caution.

Voice Of The Eagle: The Enigma Of Robbie Basho – The irony of receiving this movie is the real enigma of what it was all about as the cover simple just has this man Robbie Basho just sitting on a horse, nothing more than that. Upon deeper research, this is the story of an American guitarist, singer and self-proclaimed mystic who has a massive influence which laid the foundations for radical changes to the musical landscape of America during the 1960s and ’70s, paving a road to the success he never saw before his bizarre death from a chiropractor session. The film features a handful of interviews with a bunch of musicians that Basho’s style had an effect on like The Who’s Pete Townsend but also includes previously uncovered archive material and photography of the landscapes and natural phenomena that informed his life work.

Television:

Star Trek – Picard: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – Everyone has been waiting for this return series featuring one of the most popular Star Fleet captains ever and, in my opinion, the best captain as Sir Patrick Stewart slips back into the chair as Jean-Luc Picard for a brand new series. Set 18 years after his last appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis, the show finds him deeply affected by the death of Data from the events of that film as well as by the destruction of Romulus as referenced in the J.J. Abrams reboot which has me slightly confused. Wasn’t that storyline called the “Kelvin” line? Oh well, I’m still excited.

Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina: Part 3 (Netflix) – The third piece of this story hits Netflix for all the rabid fans of this show and I think it’s deservedly so because honestly this show kind of rocks. Former Mad Men star Kiernan Shipka is perfectly cast as the title star, a girl that is half human and half witch and constantly finds herself torn between those worlds, trying to keep evil at bay while still maintaining the life of a normal teenager. The show plays the gothic themes so well and the direction and cinematography matches it with so many great nods to classic horror tropes and the supporting cast of Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto as Aunt Hilda and Zelda will always keep me watching.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 10 (HBO) – Larry David returns for more cringe awkwardness as the heightened version of himself in one of the greatest comedy series ever made in my opinion. The new season has Larry offending everyone by wearing a MAGA hat as a people repellent and getting into some #MeToo trouble as well. The quirks are always so present in this series that has gotten it’s legs by how much Larry consistently puts his foot in his mouth or goes off on a viscous rant at the complete wrong time and it really seems to have endeared himself to us. Is Larry David a hero? Maybe in comedy, not with thus character though, not at all.

Project Blue Book: Season 2 (History) – We don’t have anything like The X-Files anymore but this is kind of keeping it close and, in my opinion, is keeping the History Channel from teetering off the cliff into really bad reality shows. The show features former Game Of Thrones bad guy Aidan Gillen as a skeptical scientist and a tough US Air Force officer who investigate UFO and alien conspiracies as the grip of Cold War paranoia starts to ramp up to a fever pitch. The show comes from a first time showrunner and the first season really surprised me with its mystery and detailed approach which I hope continues through its sophomore season.

Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens: Season 1 (Much) – An actress on fire right now, except for the Oscars who clearly have their thumbs up their asses, Awkwafina is worth every moment you are going to give her. This show is very different than what she is being celebrated for right now, The Farewell, The show has her playing Nora, a Flushing, New York native who is trying to figure out her life as a young adult with the help of her dad and grandmother. Awkwafina created the show which starts its ten episode run this week and I predict big things for it, maybe hitting the heights that Broad City did, one of my favorite shows of the last ten years. Its a high bar to clear, that’s for sure.

New Releases:

Bad Boys For Life – It’s been seventeen years since we last saw Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s characters of Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett and after so much teasing and collapses of this third film it is now finally here without Michael Bay behind the camera and I’m actually really excited for it as I loved the two other movies. This film teases the two cops’ “last ride” as they confront their ageing into different roles of law enforcement and the creation of their own squad which gets put to the immediate test with the emergence of a new enemy, Armando Armas, the vicious leader of a Miami drug cartel. This is the big-budget debut of the directing duo of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah and I would have to say that all bets are off for this action flick. My aim is to just have fun.

Dolittle – Its been a long time coming for this brand new version of the Rex Harrison classic and unlike the Eddie Murphy version and its sequel the producers went with a more traditional route. Starring the charismatic Robert Downey Jr. in the title role, the basic story is exactly the same as you remember it, a veterinarian discovers that he has the ability to speak to animals as well as hear their thoughts. The interesting aspect is the filmmakers behind this as Syriana writer and director Stephen Gaghan steps out of his gritty wheelhouse to do the same on this family film, shot by Pan’s Labyrinth cinematographer Guillermo Navarro which adds a whole new level of interesting to this movie. Honestly, just based on Downey Jr.’s involvement alone I’m looking forward to this one.

Clemency – Just a week after the death row drama Just Mercy comes this film that features two blistering lead performances that will leave you breathless by the end credits. The story has Alfre Woodard as the warden of a prison that carries out death sentences for inmates, each one taking a little piece of her soul as she dutifully does her jobs. Still reeling from the last one, a procedure that went wrong causing the inmate to spasm brutally until his death, the lead up to her next execution causes her emotions to rise and her life to slowly deteriorate. On the other side of that is that inmate in question, played with incredible nuance by Aldis Hodge, a man who hasn’t let the imminence of his death hit him yet, still deep in a well of hope that his life will be spared. While it lacks some of the pomp that Just Mercy has, the movie’s stillness is its strength. This movie is worth checking out just for the powerhouse performances alone. (Only opening in Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver)

Uncut Gems – Adam Sandler is here to give a shot to the haters, including me, that says he is only out for the easy work and to simply hang out with his friends. This is such a gamechanger that the ground shakes with every scene. Following up on their incredible tour-de-force Good Time, the Safdie brothers return with this incredible character-driven story of Howard Ratner, a New York City jeweller who is more interested in making money hand over fist than he is with his personal wellbeing or that of his family and friends as well. In a pulsing mosaic of tension and anxiety, Howard finds himself in increasingly dangerous predicaments as he uses the high profile of NBA star Kevin Garnett to lift himself out of a preexisting debt by piquing his interest with something special he procured in Ethiopia. This is an incredible film, another masterpiece from two of the best storytellers working today and proof that Sandler is not to be ignored. (Only opening in Hamilton, London, Edmonton, Kamloops and Vancouver. On Netflix on January 31st)

Blu-Ray:

Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil – We are now at the point of these Disney live-action re-imaginings that we are headed in the sequels to these films as the one to kick it off, a version of Sleeping Beauty that focuses on the villain, now sees an expansion to their story. Angelina Jolie returns in the title role, now godmother to Aurora played again by Elle Fanning, Maleficent finds herself at odds with the family of Aurora’s soon to be husband. Feeling threatened, she starts to unleash her full powers again, wreaking havoc in another special effects extravaganza. The film is made by Joachim Ronning who made the astounding films Kon-Tiki and Max Manus: Man Of War but then proceeded to make the kind of ho-hum Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales but the great thing is he adds such a luscious life to the visuals of this movie. Unfortunately, on the other hand, he plunges many of the scenes into murky darkness that is hard to see and coupling it with a pretty predictable story it becomes a very forgettable film in the end.

The Lighthouse – Ever since I saw The Witch at a press screening in 2015 I have been waiting rabidly for the new Robert Eggers film and he did not disappoint. Shot in black and white and in a 1.19:1 aspect ratio (basically a square on the movie screen), this is the story of two lighthouse keepers who arrive to run the light on a New England island in 1890. In two incredible and award-worthy performances, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe descend into isolated madness before your eyes and I’ve never seen anything like it. The description I’m trying to push to describe this film is it’s like if David Lynch wrote a sea shanty and put it on the big screen and now you can own it for life just like a good cinephile.

Gemini Man – The premise of this movie is one of those great action foils that draw you in, Will Smith playing a hitman who keeps getting duped by a younger assassin who turns out to be a younger clone of himself in a twist that is unfortunately given away in the trailer. With the star power of Smith in a long gestated project from producer Jerry Bruckheimer that was at one time in the hands of Curtis Hanson and Tony Scott, this movie should have been something to get the star back on that box office winning track. Unfortunately, nothing in this movie works even with Ang Lee as the director on this, a filmmaker who is honestly pretty hit or miss with me, but usually not this badly as this film doesn’t feel like a Lee project in any way. Even worse, his faster frame rate of 120 frames per second makes the movie an overly glossy mess which, coupled with a bad script and some really glaring logic gaffs, make this one a total dud and I didn’t even mention the de-ageing on Will Smith that goes from great to slightly nightmarish.

The Peanut Butter Falcon – Shia Lebeouf is an actor that went through a lot of issues in his transition from child and teen star to the crush and expectations of adulthood. He was mocked mercilessly in the press but the whole time he was still giving knockout performance after performance, never slowing down but just doing movies you haven’t heard of. Now with this film, I really hope he gets the recognition he deserves. The film is about a man with down syndrome named Zak who escapes his care home in the hope of finding his wrestler idols school in the hopes of being trained. Along the way, he runs into Tyler, a troubled fisherman who is on the run from others on the same dock. Deeply grieving the loss of his brother, Tyler reluctantly forms a bond with Zak and the end result is a beautiful emotional journey filled with redemption for Lebeouf, both in this character and hopefully to the skeptical viewer. This movie is massively special and I loved it.

Code 8 – The Amell brothers, Robbie and Stephen, come together for this brand new sci-fi film that has been playing well with fans of the genre as well as Arrowverse fanboys. The film takes place in a world where people with “special” abilities are living in poverty and follows Robbie Amell’s character, a powerful young man who is struggling to pay for his ailing mother’s medical treatment. To earn money, he joins a possibly lucrative underworld of crime through Stephen Amell’s Garrett, the right hand of a major drug lord. This is the debut feature film from writer and director Jeff Chan who adapted this from his short film of the same name and the reaction on a studio level was so good for this that Quibi has now announced a spinoff series that will air later this year. It’s best to get in the know on this film as soon as possible.

Little Monsters – Zombie movies are once again in a dodgy time as with The Walking Dead and it’s spin-off series and another one on the horizon, we quickly hurtle towards burnout on these creatures again. One of the saving genre shifts is the zombie comedy or zombedy which is exactly what this movie is, following a kindergarten class and their sunshiny teacher who tries to protect them all during an outbreak, shielding all their young minds by telling them that it’s all a game. Lupita N’yongo plays the teacher, Mrs. Caroline, the ultimate bright point of a film that gets lost in terrible characters that we are unable to root for and general silliness that bogs the story down at every turn. I wanted to love this film but ended up pretty so-so on it.

Beverly Hills Cop: 3 Movie Collection – In a week where Eddie Murphy was absolutely robbed of an Academy Award nomination for Dolemite Is My Name you can now get over those hurt feelings by getting the movie that introduced us to him on the big screen and the subsequent sequel in this new hi-def box set. The 80s action fan in me is singing as I loved the exploits of Detroit transplant cop Axel Foley and, hell, I even enjoy the third movie which is, let’s face it, an absolute mess but it was made by the legendary John Landis so it kind of scores some points there. The features a bit bare bones for the sequels but the first film has all the goodies including commentary with director Martin Brest and a retrospective about the movie’s pop culture effect. This is a box set crammed with iconic Eddie Murphy stuff.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:

Breaking Bad: The Complete Series – One of the greatest shows ever made is now available in an absolutely beautiful box set that features the “sketch artist” version of Heisenberg on the cover and, although it doesn’t have the new Netflix exclusive movie El Camino in the set, I’m pretty sure I’m in love with this Blu-ray collection and it sits pretty on the shelf with my Game Of Thrones complete series. This show is the definition of iconic with incredible characters, brilliant writing and an overarching endgame that no one saw coming except for creator Vince Gilligan himself. I think people will look back at this show as a benchmark in television for the time and a show that it seems no one has a bad thing to say about.

Television:

Sex Education: Season 2 (Netflix) – This British comedy series got a huge boost with geat numbers when the first season debuted that it was a no brainer for a pickup. The show stars Gillian Anderson and Asa Butterfield and is about the teenage son of a sex therapist who decides to use the smarts he’s learned from her to run his own “practice” in his high school with the help of the edgy girl in his class. The script for this series is so snappy and smart with both Butterfield and Andeson giving some of their best work and the best thing is how incredibly unpredictable the storyline is. Honestly, it is so good that I can’t get even a toe into spoiler territory because I would hate myself for it. Just watch it.

Grace And Frankie: Season 6 (Netflix) – The penultimate season of this massive Netflix hit is finally here and as a guy playing catch up with the show I definitely have my opinion about the show and it’s direction. For those who don’t know, the story follows two women who find out that their husbands are not just work partners but have also been romantically involved for the last twenty years. The two ladies already have a strained relationship but try to cope with the circumstances together and even go into business with each other over the five seasons. I watch the series definitely for lead stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin but mostly for June Diane Raphael who plays Grace’s daughter Brianna, the highlight of the show to me.

Tammy And The T-Rex: Gore Cut (Shudder) – Pulling out a B-movie classic from the 90s, this is the prime example of bringing a forgotten property back with some new goodies for a brand new introduction. Starring Denise Richards in the title role, this is the gonzo story of an evil scientist who implants the brain of a murdered high school student into a Tyrannosaurus which then escapes and wreaks vengeance on his high school bullies and is reunites with his sweetheart Tammy. Oh, and the difference is that there is now way more gore in this 1994 camp film and it is hilariously insane. This is kind of a deep dig for some people but it is things like this that make Shudder such a treat to have.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez (Netflix) – I love myself some true-crime docuseries and this one is fantastic as it delves into the high profile murder trial putting former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez as the mastermind of the execution-style killing of one of his close friends. This three-episode is a fascinating watch as Hernandez goes from an unlikely suspect to a tragic figure to a cold-blooded monster battle with rage issues, concussions and a man dealing with sexuality issues. I was on the edge of my seat for this whole series and need more Killer Inside documentaries like this one. This is a case I thought I knew a lot about but as it turns out, I really knew just the surface information.

Leslie Jones: Time Machine (Netflix) – Rising above the hate she got for being in Ghostbusters: Answer The Call and now separating herself from Saturday Night Live, the very funny Leslie Jones gets her first Netflix special and it’s a stand-up set that I enjoyed for the most part but keep in mind that Leslie likes to scream a lot and it probably should have been a warning to a couple of people in the front row of her show because they definitely get the brunt of her exacerbated anger. No worries though, it wasn’t really anger, just for the show, friends. It’s also amazing to see the energy she can exude especially talking about ageing into her fifties.

New Releases:

1917 – Now a Golden Globe winner for Best Picture and Best Director, we finally get the chance to check out this World War I epic from director Sam Mendes, shot by one of the greatest cinematographers ever to get behind the camera, Roger Deakins. The story follows two young British soldiers who are given an impossible mission to deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men, including one of the soldiers’ brothers, from walking straight into a bloodbath. The film is comprised of two single-take shots, put together with invisible and seamless cuts much like Birdman was, and, although it is early in the year, this is one of my most anticipated films of 2020. This is most likely your Best Picture Oscar winner right here, mark my words.

Just Mercy – Short Term 12 director Destin Daniel Cretin returns to form after The Glass Castle with this well-acted true story about civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard law school graduate who moved from Delaware to Alabama to give death row inmates proper legal representation, played in this film by Michael B. Jordan. Awards season will definitely contain talk of this movie now that it is finally getting its wide release and not just for Jordan who turns in another great performance but it’s more likely that Jamie Foxx will get the nomination as a wrongly convicted small-town Alabama man that was made a target by a brutal sheriff in his county.

Like A Boss – I really want to have good thoughts about this movie as it has Rose Byrne, one of my favorite comedic actresses, and Tiffany Haddish, someone who I think is funny in real life, taking on Salma Hayek, an actress that always brings it in comedy. My problem is that Haddish’s track record theatrically speaking is spotty at best and this storyline feels so lame. the film has Haddish and Byrne as joint owners of a beauty company but with massively different ideals in how they run the business. Their friendship is put to the test when they try to go into business with a successful businesswoman who decides that she would rather gut the company. The trailer for this movie is an absolute mess and it’s hard to glean any sort of comedic tone from it. Is it a slapstick? Is it a situational comedy or a girl power one? Obviously, the studio has no idea.

Underwater – Being buried in the first month of the year, any horror or action movie is usually something the studios want to bury as they’re generally not very good. I want to think that this movie could be really great because the trailer looks awesome and, yes, it’s got Kristen Stewart in it and I’m a big fan, hate me for it if you want. The story is about a crew of aquatic researchers who have a desperate struggle to get to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory but, worse than that, something has been released from the cracks underwater that starts to pick them off one by one and the creature design looks really cool. The movie was directed by William Eubanks who made the awesome sci-fi thriller The Signal, a film I stumbled upon and absolutely fell in love with. I really want this movie to be a sleeper hit.

Les Miserables – Taking the broader strokes of the famous book by Victor Hugo and omitting all of the Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway musical numbers, this is a stark look at one of the rougher areas of Paris following a new officer in the Anti-Crime Brigade of Montfermeil. In a very Training Day-esque ride-along, he finds that his new partners act with a brash above the law attitude and a public that is on the cusp of an irredeemable boiling point. This movie is an incredible film from writer and director Ladj Ly in his feature debut and left me in stunned silence for a while afterwards. The final moments of this movie will live in my mind, probably until I put it down on my year-end list in December, it is that powerful. This is some real must-see cinema and a film that just lost out on Best Foreign at the Golden Globes to Parasite.

Invisible Life – This is a film that kind of got dumped into this early January release week and I wasn’t too familiar with it. It comes from Brazilian director Karim Aïnouz and follows two sisters living in Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s, who separated to make their individual ways through life, each mistakenly believing the other is living out her dreams half a world away. The movie is very rich with emotion and is totally heartbreaking in its scope and, although I wasn’t feeling this movie in its first act and it made some acting choices that were confusing, the second act comes in like a sledgehammer and I was gripped for the remainder of the movie. This film was submitted as Brazil’s official selection for next year’s Academy Awards so it may be a film the cinephiles will want to take note of.

And The Birds Rained Down – A French Canadian film about three elderly men living in isolation in the forests of Quebec, this story was poignant and thoughtful with beautiful scenery. The draw for me immediately was Remy Girard who brings a fantastic sour edge to his weathered alcoholic character but it’s the ideology of the movie that keeps you around, pushing a deeply ecological message but also a heartbreaking tale of three men who headed into the forest when they were handed a death sentence from regular society and ended up finding a sort of rebirth in nature, the conduit being Andree Lachapelle’s character, a woman deteriorating in-home care brought into the forest as almost a refugee. Not everyone will pick up on this movie but it was effective with me.

Blu-Ray:

Joker – After a release that had many people divided over its merit, the overall message and what effects this could have on weaker-minded viewers, this Todd Phillips directed film has arrived on Blu-ray and it really can’t be contested, Joaquin Phoenix should be praised for his performance in it, an undeniable fact. With zero connection to any pre-existing comic story or film, this is the story of how struggling comedian Arthur Fleck became the Joker, a criminal mastermind that terrorizes Gotham City. This movie comes across as a gritty version of Martin Scorsese’s The King Of Comedy blended with a Taxi Driver quality if it was driven by a violent and clown-themed twist. this movie left me slack-jawed at times with its astounding bleakness and the finale is a ramping tension and intensity that makes you squirm in your seat. This film also has one of the funniest dark comedy beats of the year as well and it comes out of nowhere.

Judy – Ever since Rene Zellweger returned to the spotlight for her third Bridget Jones movie, I have been waiting for her to nab a juicy role that would put her back into the position of being an award hopeful like when she won an Oscar for Cold Mountain. Yes, I root for Rene and now she has just won Best Actress at the Golden Globes so I think I’ve been vindicated here. She plays the legendary Judy Garland in this biopic about the troubled and tragic actress from True Story director Rupert Goold, focusing on her series of sold-out concerts in London during the winter of 1968. Although this movie and Rene were publicly denounced by Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli, the performance from Zellweger is a showstopper and the film received a huge standing ovation at TIFF. I think this will be the one to look out for in the Best Actress at the Oscars now as its next conquest so make note of it now.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:

The Cider House Rules – Celebrating its twentieth anniversary this week, it’s the perfect time to pick up this Blu-ray and relive this beautiful Maine story from director Lasse Hallstrom, possibly the best film of his career. Tobey Maguire, Michael Caine and Charlize Theron star in this film set in an orphanage in the remote town of St. Cloud following a never adopted orphan who spends his time helping the director as a medical assistant of sorts. The movie earned two Academy Awards including Supporting Actor for Caine and is one of the best films of that year that still resonates every time I watch it.

Born On The Fourth Of July – One of the best Oliver Stone movies ever made, this is your first bulletin here that a new Blu-ray version will be in stores next week just in time to celebrate thirty years of release. For those who don’t know, Tom Cruise gives a fantastic performance as Ron Kovics, a paralyzed Vietnam War veteran, traumatized by his experiences there and is determined to prevent that happening to anyone else. He then turns his attention to being an anti-war activist, a life-changing decision that puts him in many different crosshairs in a totally different war of freedoms. The film earned Stone his third Oscar which was his second statue for Best Director in a total masterclass of a movie.

Daybreakers – This is definitely a genre pick here but as it is turning ten this week I had to bring it for a little geek out. Coming from the Aussie writer and director duo the Spierig Brothers, this film is about a vampire run future where humans are the animals just meant to be fed on but unfortunately that fresh meat source is running out causing the population to start to mutate into something a lot worse. The movie has such a great cast with Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill and Willem Dafoe and, one of my favorite things, the story is set in 2019. I guess they definitely got that one wrong but there are certainly some vampires running the world or should I say RUINING. Yeah, let’s go with that.

Television:

AJ And The Queen: Season 1 (Netflix) – This is a show that will capture a large audience already dedicated to RuPaul’s Drag Race as the creator of that show now gets their own series and it is a little unorthodox, just like they are. The show centers around RuPaul as a drag queen named Ruby Red, a bigger than life character that is in need of a serious luck boost as she makes her way across the country. Along the way, she befriends a tough-talking ten-year-old named AJ who stowed away in her vehicle. The show was co-created by Sex And The City showrunner Michael Patrick King and with RuPaul’s charisma, I really think this is going to be a big hit.

Medical Police: Season 1 (Netflix) – From the creators of the hilarious series Children’s Hospital comes this brand new spin-off starring Rob Huebel and Erinn Hayes’ characters of Owen Maestro and Lola Spratt. On a brand new adventure, the two physicians discover a civilization-threatening virus on an expedition to São Paulo, Brazil and are recruited as government agents in a race against time and around the world to find a cure and uncover a dark conspiracy at the head of it all. Yes, they’re doctors with guns and I’m totally here for it as many of the favorites from the original series pop in and it comes from the genius minds of David Wain and Rob Corddry so, without any boundaries, this could be amazing.

Dracula: Season 1 (Netflix) – How many times have we seen the Dracula story done and redone? So many times, right? Well, get ready for another one comes from the brilliant minds behind the latest Sherlock Holmes series Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat and I have to say that I’m really enjoying what I’ve seen so far. The show brings it all back to the Bram Stoker roots set in 1897 Transylvania with the blood-drinking Count forming his plans to take over Victorian-era London and with The Square star Claes Bang in the title role I am totally hooked on it. Really though, it should be way longer than just three episodes.

Schitt’s Creek: Season 7 (CBC) – One of the greatest Canadian television shows of all time starts its swan song as Johnny Rose and his family’s story ends. The draw is immediate, a show following a rich family led by legendary comedians Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara who are forced to move to a small town they bought years ago. With their two spoiled children in tow, played by Dan Levy and Annie Murphy, they try to make their best of the situation while scheming to figure out a way to get it all back. I thoroughly love this show so much and it introduced me to the younger Levy and his own sense of comedic genius that is very different than his father’s. This is a bittersweet ending but I’m going to enjoy it.

Treadstone: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – Now that we’ve had a spin-off film starring Jeremy Renner that failed to gain traction, although I enjoyed it, and another installment of the Matt Damon led series that was lackluster and unnecessary we get a show revolving around the program that created these operatives. The series actually looks really solid and coming from the streaming service that has already given up two fantastic seasons of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan I have nothing but good thoughts about this show. Besides Michelle Forbes and Patrick Fugit, there probably aren’t going to be a lot of recognizable stars but the show is run by Tim Kring who created the NBC series Heroes, which contributes more to my excitement.