Bullet Train – As far as fun action flicks go, I have been looking forward to this new high-octane thriller ever since I saw the trailer because it stars a game-looking Brad Pitt who appears to be having the time of his life and it’s directed by David Leitch who hasn’t made a disappointing film yet in my opinion. It also has a killer supporting cast in it, pun intended, as they all appear to be playing dangerous assassins. Pitt plays Ladybug, an unlucky assassin determined to do his job peacefully after one too many gigs gone off the rails. Fate, however, may have other plans, as Ladybug’s latest mission puts him on a collision course with lethal adversaries from around the globe-all with connected, yet conflicting, objectives-on the world’s fastest train, that’s right, the bullet train. That aforementioned killer cast? It features Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Bad Bunny and Sandra Bullock in a film that looks snappy with its script and bone-crushing with its action. Based on a Japanese manga that grew a following with North American readers, this might be a lowkey hit if it’s as good as it appears to be.
Prey – When it was announced that Disney+ through their Star division would start to do accompanying movies and shows based around some of the Fox-created properties that they had inherited in the merger, the internet came at it with bloodthirsty anger. I chose to give it time and see what products would come from this and got immediately excited when I saw that there would be a Predator-related story and it would be done by 10 Cloverfield Lane’s Dan Trachtenberg. The film is a way back prequel to the original Arnie-led film in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago following Naru, a skilled female warrior who fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth. This movie is awesome from the cool title card on, featuring awesome Predator hunting and fight scenes with great blood and gore and a hero that we can really get behind. I loved every second of this new film and really found myself enamoured by the representation of it too. I hope everyone loves it so that this new Disney+ venture gains more steam.
Thirteen Lives – It was really a matter of time before the brave and intense rescue mission of the 2018 Tham Luang cave expedition that had a junior football team and their coach trapped there for eighteen days was adapted as a feature film. Personally, I would say to just check out the documentary The Rescue from Free Solo directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi because this version comes from Ron Howard whose last film Hillbilly Elegy left me as a seething pile of rage for glorifying the known douchebag J.D. Vance. The cast is what has me more interested than anything, as it features Viggo Mortensen, fresh off of a great Cronenberg movie, Colin Farrell, fresh off of his chameleon performance in The Batman and Joel Edgerton, fresh off of Obi-Wan, all three actors who are always a great selling feature. I do balk at the fact that there is an almost two-and-a-half-hour run time for the film but hopefully, Howard was able to reinterpret the incredible intensity that Chin and Vasarhelyi were able to capture in The Rescue.
Easter Sunday – Jo Koy is one of those phenomenal stand-up comedy talents that has been doing great work for years now but is only kind of known to the niche audience that gets deep in that scene or has watched a lot of Chelsea Lately when it was on the air. Now he’s about to hit a whole new medium as he has a brand new comedy feature that he gets to lead and it’s under the proven comedy chops of director Jay Chandrasekhar, a Broken Lizard member responsible for both Super Troopers movies, Club Dread, Beerfest and more. Based on Koy’s own experiences with his family, he stars as a man returning home for an Easter celebration with his riotous, bickering, eating, drinking, laughing and loving family, in this love letter to his Filipino-American community. The supporting cast is great, with Silicon Valley’s Jimmy O’ Yang, former teen Canadian legend Carly Pope, the hysterical Eugene Cordero, Lou Diamond Phillips and Tiffany Haddish, I have really great thoughts headed into this one and it’s refreshing to see a stand-up comedian’s first movie not helmed by Judd Apatow. This isn’t a knock on Judd but his films have a certain formula to them and this one looks like it avoids that.
Luck – AppleTV+ is playing their animated feature card for this summer with this new adorable-looking film from an animation filmmaker who has only really gotten to explore the direct-to-video market. Given this could also be considered a direct-to-video type of release, being relegated to a streaming service drop, there is something a little different with these, as explored by Disney+’s releases of Pixar’s Soul, Luca and Turning Red and by Netflix’s recent and awesome The Sea Beast, this can be considered, in my mind, a theatrical release. The film follows the story of Sam Greenfield, the unluckiest person in the world who suddenly finds herself in the never-before-seen Land of Luck where she must unite with the magical creatures there to turn her luck around. Being a huge Edgar Wright and Spaced fan since the beginning, being Shaun Of The Dead for me, I was delighted to see that Simon Pegg was one of the main stars in this and it gives me more incentive to watch it as I’m always looking for something to watch with the family. I feel like this one, although low-key in the advertisements, could be a little niche hit for family viewers who have subscribed to AppleTV+, a kind of low percentage streaming service unless you are addicted to Ted Lasso like I am.
Mr. Malcolm’s List – I don’t think it’s a far stretch of belief for me to tell you that I’m not really a Jane Austen genre fan at all, as they generally come off really predictable and totally stuffy while it does its thing. Something that can sway me into watching it is a good cast or notable actors in the cast and that’s what this film did with this by having Slumdog Millionaire’s Frieda Pinto, The Haunting of Hill House’s Oliver Jackson Cohen and British actress Zawa Ashton. While not directly Austen, it can be said that the story derives from some Austen tropes as the story follows a spoiled woman looking to win the heart of the most sought-after suitor in town, Mr. Malcolm. When she fails to meet an item on his list of requirements for a bride, she enacts a plot of revenge and convinces her friend to play the role of his ideal match. OF course, love and hijinx ensue and people end up in matches that weren’t perceived at the beginning of the story in a very Jane Austen fashion but the performances are so good that I was able to look past the things that would generally make my eyes roll. If that isn’t an inkling of a good review then I don’t know where I went wrong.
What Josiah Saw – Shudder has been releasing fantastic original films continuously without much fanfare but I will always be here to give the niche streaming service its flowers and it deserves it with this new release this week again. The film has a killer Terminator connection as it features one-time John Connor actor Nick Stahl as well as T-1000 actor Robert Patrick in a slow boil thriller that just drips with character build and atmosphere. The story follows Josiah and his youngest son, Thomas, all that remains of an estranged family that everyone in their small town knows about, residing in the haunted Graham Farm on Willow Road. After experiencing terrifying visions from beyond, Josiah decides they must change their ways to right a great wrong but, being away for over two decades, Eli and Mary, Josiah’s eldest children, are enticed to sell the property and reunite at the old farmhouse in hopes of closing this haunting chapter of their lives for good. This looks like a fascinating film of the sometimes real horror of family bonds and the haunting of past secrets and misdeeds that boil over the surface to destroy souls forever. The film is being praised for its brutal and unflinching nature and could be the introduction of a great new voice in horror with director Vincent Grashaw who impressed critics and audiences alike with his previous drama, And Then I Go.
Resurrection – This new horror drama got a soft release last week which flew outside of my radar for some reason but I get to bring it this week as it expands to more theatres and that satiates my fear of missing out big time. The film features lead performances from Rebecca Hall, who starred in a favourite of mine last year, The Night House, and Tim Roth, who featured in a film I loved this year, Sundown, so we’re already on a good track. Hall plays Margaret, a capable, disciplined, and successful woman whose life is in impeccable order. This is all thrown into disarray with the arrival of Roth’s character David, a man returning to Margaret’s life with all of the horrors of her path. The film is sitting at a Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes right now, with big praise for Hall’s leading performance that captivates and makes up for any unevenness that shows up in the story and script. Reviews like this make me excited, still, for a voice like writer and director Andrew Semans who only has two features to his credit including this one with his last film being released ten years before. For the record, that one, Nancy, Please, got stellar reviews as well.
Cow – It was only just around a year ago that audiences were treated to the black and white feature documentary Gunda, which was a day in the life of a farm pig just after her babies had sadly been taken away. Now we get a whole lifetime with one cow from the point of view of a filmmaker who has always been gifted with capturing pure unfiltered life, Andrea Arnold. Having given us great films like Fish Tank and American Honey, she goes through farm life in this documentary that follows a calf from birth to the ultimate end in a shocking moment before the credits. This isn’t to act as a spoiler at all as all is just business and the circle of life on the farm but as a city boy myself still trying to get a foothold in the small town and, more to the point, the daily farm doings, it still caught me way off guard. This film is slow, dialogue-free and a hard sell for any casual viewer but I think the end result is very interesting even if you question why you’re there periodically during the film.
White Elephant – There has to only be a handful left of the films that Bruce Wills and his team used to pad up his bank account before his recently announced illness caused retirement and as much as I’d like to celebrate the one-time fan favourite, I’ll be happy when they are done. That said, this isn’t even his movie to lead as it hovers somewhere between Olga Kurylenko’s cop character and Michael Rooker’s violent former marine turned hitman but Willis is still present in a third billed sort of way. The story follows Gabriel Tancredi, an ex-marine turned mob enforcer (Michael Rooker), who is ordered by his ruthless mob boss (Bruce Willis) to eliminate any and all threats when an assassination attempt is witnessed by two cops. With an eager underling out to prove himself, rival gangs making moves and a rising body count, every step Tancredi makes threatens lives and it gets deeper when he starts to have a crisis of conscience. This movie has a plot going for it but finds itself riddled with holes by almost the mid mark of it, some that are absolutely insurmountable. I could watch Rooker in anything all day long but the whole thing is dragged down even more by bad fight choreography, terrible digital blood ad bullet wounds and the sad realization that Willis is losing what he has left in front of us on screen in a bad production. Time to rip the bandaid off, I think.
Steve‘s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:
The Book Of Eli – THis movie is actually a bittersweet one for me and I had to purchase it on blu-ray as it is the last film as a directing unit for Allen and Albert Hughes, collectively known as the Hughes Brothers, responsible for the films Menace II Society, Dead Presidents, American Pimp and the adaptation of Alan Moore’s Jack The Ripper graphic novel From Hell. I remember seeing this one in theatres, loving the casting of Denzel Washington and the counterpart of Gary Oldman, a casting that Denzel was responsible for. The story is set thirty years after nuclear war turned the world into a wasteland, following a lone warrior named Eli, played by Denzel, who marches across the ruined landscape, carrying hope for humanity’s redemption. Only one other man (Gary Oldman) understands the power of what he carries and he is determined to take it for himself. A peaceful man at his core, Eli risks death to protect his precious cargo, for he must fulfill his destiny to help restore mankind. This movie is exquisitely shot by Spider-Man and Forrest Gump cinematographer Don Burgess and just pops on the high-definition screen. I also really enjoyed the performance from co-star Mila Kunis, probably one of her best in my opinion.
DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow: Season 7 – Another piece of the setting sun on the Arrowverse within the DC Comics television universe comes to a close here and I regard this series as the goofy and fantastical heart contained within. The series is a great ensemble that features some of my favourite characters both in the comics and the series depiction of them like The Atom, Firestorm, Hawkman and Hawkgirl and even Constantine who was rescued from the cancellation of his own series. Loosely, from the beginning, the show had Doctor Who’s Arthur Darville as time-travelling rogue Rip Hunter who is tasked to recruit a rag-tag team of heroes and villains to help prevent an apocalypse that could impact not only Earth but all of time itself. Of course, the kicker is that he has grabbed the supes that would cause less than minor time ripples with their absence which adds a fun underdog quality to the show that I still think remains in place. This show is so much fun and a nice breather from the darkness of a couple of the included shows in this universe and I’m kind of glad that it got such a long run to play around with its weirdness, something that is totally rare in regular network television.
Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 (Netflix) – As a MuchMusic generation kid, I remember being glued to the screen in 1999 watching as one of the biggest music festivals I had ever known was television worldwide. It was all meant to be good, peaceful and loving, a representation of what the generation before us got to experience and a chance for us to break off a piece for ourselves. This is definitely not what happened. Instead, the audience was driven mad and aggressive under a hot sun, water was overpriced and damn near unobtainable and the worst of the worst dudes started to circle women and other men itching for violence. It was all a powder keg that exploded the second night of the festival and caused it all to be burned down on the third night. This docuseries takes you back, following the timeline of the weekend as well as bringing you back to the development times, budget cuts and corporate greed that ultimately served to create the mess that was to come. This series was so fascinating and, though I know a lot of what happened, it was pretty insane to sort of renew my interest in it.
Industry: Season 2 (Crave) – The theme of this week’s television section of the blog should be “shows that I’m late to the game on” but this one should be considered for everyone because I had never even heard of it until my PR person at Crave included it in their monthly releases email. It should be an easy sell for a larger audience because for me it plays like Euphoria meets high-stakes finance and trading but it even goes beyond that as a series about young people losing their souls with money that isn’t theirs. The series follows graduates from all walks of life who compete for a limited number of available full-time employment opportunities at Pierpoint, a top investment bank in London. The graduates include Harper Stern, a Black upstate New York native who uproots her life in pursuit of success, despite having lied about the university she attended, Hari Dhar, a state-school graduate and child of Hindi-speaking immigrants, Augustus “Gus” Sackey, a gay Black British graduate of Eton and Oxford, Robert Spearing, a white working-class Oxford graduate who is eager to please, and Yasmin Kara-Hanani, a privileged, well-connected child of Lebanese parents with an underachieving, drug-addled boyfriend.The show comes from a couple of new and unproven showrunners with Mickey Down and Konrad Kay but the directorial heavyweights in Showtime, AppleTV+ HBO’s roster are present with Lena Dunham even doing the pilot. I was hooked very early by this series and I think it takes one or two for that to happen.
The Bear (Disney+) – A few weeks after it’s release on American television, we finally get the first two episodes of what critics and audiences are calling the best debut series of 2022 in Canada and I couldn’t be more excited. The series stars former Shameless star Jeremy Allen White and it’s really funny that the actor can’t escape shows set in Chicago as this one takes place in the Windy City as well. The series follows White as Carmy, a brilliant young chef from the fine-dining world who is forced to return home to run his family sandwich shop, the Original Beef of Chicagoland, after a heartbreaking death in his family. A world away from what he’s used to, Carmy must balance the soul-crushing reality of trading in Michelin star restaurants for the small business’ kitchen filled with strong-willed and recalcitrant staff and his strained familial relationships, all while grappling with the impact of his brother’s suicide. From the symbolism of the first scene to the chaos of the first lunch rush in episode one, I was so onboard, looking at an authentic vision of a well known and established world for many. Just seeing so many career chefs and kitchen workers praise this show got my appetite for it running and I say, as a layman, this show doesn’t disappoint and has amazing potential.
The Sandman (Netflix) – This show isn’t even out yet and it’s getting immediate hatred from comic book gatekeepers and Netflix production haters alike but I would like to point out that the subject matter is already heady with deep lore so it would have been divisive anyways. I would liken it to The Witcher which felt like it was dripping with an already established and fully built world right from the beginning but at least The Sandman tries a bit of back story with its first episode. Based on the popular Vertigo comic from creator Neil Gaiman, the story follows a wizard attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life and traps her younger brother Dream instead for leverage. Fearful for his safety, the wizard kept him imprisoned in a glass bottle for decades until his grand escape a century later. After his emancipation, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power and to restore his once powerful and beautiful kingdom. I have to say that this show looks gorgeous, the cross-pollination of Warner Bros. DC Comics television division and Netflix has made a giant of a potential mountain. I love Gaiman’s writing style and have been impressed with the page-to-screen transition of it so far.
The Outlaws: Season 2 (Prime Video) – This is a British produced little gem from out of nowhere that I feel upset that I’m just learning about it now, especially because it stars and comes from the mind of The Office, Extras and Hello Ladies creator Stephen Merchant and it has Darren Boyd and the legendary Christopher Walken in the cast as well. I have to think that the direct initial comparisons to Misfits had me biting for it but there’s no superpowers to be had in this one, just questionable decisions. The show is a multi character mosaic that follows seven strangers from different walks of life forced together to complete a community payback sentence in Bristol. When the actions of one of the community service workers puts a huge duffel bag of cash in front of them, they must band together to protect against the real owners of the small fortune to save their lives as well as their loved ones. This show is so awesomely written and so well put together with each character being immediately interesting and intriguing. I feel a deep binge for this show coming on as I prepare for the brand new season.
Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head: Season 1 (Paramount+) – The renewal of this nineties classic comedy was given with the recent Paramount+ movie Beavis And Butthead Do The Universe, a hilarious new adventure that brought the horny television-watching slackers to the present day and now creator Mike Judge can give them a modern age series like, well, some of us wanted. Yes, the iconic animated duo are back and dumber than ever to resume their duties to confound common sense, torment each other, and showcase some of the dumbest comedy imaginable. My personal grievances is that instead of watching music videos, the duo will be making fun of viral YouTube videos but maybe my anger comes at the fact that we really don’t have a music video station like what MTV or MuchMusic used to be. My rage is all so misdirected, much like these two. Damn, we are so alike.