Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Downton Abbey – Four years after the hit BBC series that captivated audiences all over the world finished its run, the residents and servants of Downton Abbey hit the big screen in this brand new and heavily anticipated feature film. The story of the Crawley family, wealthy owners of a large estate in the English countryside in the early 20th century, continues in 1927 as the household prepares for the imminent arrival of the Royal family to visit. The entire cast is present for this one, including patriarch Hugh Bonneville as well as Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern and Penelope Wilton and also features the return of audience favorite Maggie Smith. Full disclosure, I have not finished the entire series yet so going any deeper on this movie would put myself in the realm of spoiler territory.

Rambo: Last Blood – It’s Sylvester Stallone’s reportedly last time of stepping into the role of the bigger than life John Rambo, which is indicated by the movie’s title, and I have to say that this is kind of a nostalgic moment for me as these films were everything to me as a kid. Hell, even the last movie, released in 2008, was a kick-ass action piece that satisfied the audience’s bloodlust and gave a great reason for the hero to return to the screen. This film is a little more self-contained as it has Rambo making a last stand on his country farm against a threat from his past looking to snuff out his legacy. With a hard R rating once again, expect this movie to go balls to the wall in violence and to end this story, that started in Hope, B.C., with a deafening bang. I’m so excited.

Ad Astra – If you are an A-list star and haven’t been to space yet in one of your films are you really an A-list star? It’s a weird question but f you think of all the space films we’ve had over the last forty years it kind of makes sense. That said, this one is a movie that has been on my most anticipated list since it was announced, all because it teams Brad Pitt with acclaimed filmmaker James Gray. Pitt plays astronaut Roy McBride who undertakes a mission to journey across the solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe. The reviews have been absolutely stellar, skirting the line of being a compelling science fiction story with the emotional human drama of the connection between an estranged father and son. I knew this was going to be a solid film and the trailer really backs me up on that.

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson And The Band – 2019 has been such an incredible year for music documentaries and retrospectives and it continues here with this look at the legendary Robbie Robertson and the group he led, The Band. Yes, if you’ve seen Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz you are very familiar with their work but instead of a focused concert, this tells the story of a group that went from backing up Bob Dylan to become one of the most influential groups of its era with a catalog of songs that are so beautifully written by a group of songwriters with unfathomable cohesion. With both me and my wife being huge fans of The Band, this movie was incredibly special to us. (Opens in Toronto and Vancouver. Opens in Calgary and Hamilton on Sept 27 and Edmonton on Oct 3)

Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool – To quote a line from Billy Madison “if peeing your pants is cool you can consider me Miles Davis”. I really don’t know why I placed that line in here, it just felt right, but this is a pretty definitive documentary about the gifted musician’s life and legacy. As a horn player, bandleader and an innovator, Davis was an absolute force of nature and the very embodiment of cool, something I’ve known for years thanks to my very music smart mother. The film explores archival photos and home movies shot by Miles and his colleagues, his manuscripts and original paintings all to give a glimpse into the man behind the music featuring interviews with Carlos Santana, The Roots, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Herbie Hancock and more. (Opens in Toronto and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Dark Phoenix – I haven’t had any faith in an X-Men movie since Bryan Singer ripped the reigns of the franchise back from director Matthew Vaughn after First Class, which was phenomenal, to make Days Of Future Past which was a film that crumbled under the weight of simply deconstructing it after my viewing. Then came Apocalypse, which was a dismal piece of convenient plot piece garbage and now we have this movie, the end story to this long-running Marvel created story but produced by Fox franchise, directed by usual EP Simon Kinberg, who I think is the reason, along with Singer, that this series took such a nosedive. So, where does this one lie in the pile of X-Men crap movies? I’d say it lands with a dull thump alongside Apocalypse but still being a bit better than it. The acting and story are incredibly awkward and the main adversary for the film is so lackluster that no matter how cool the final X-Men battle is, and it does look great, it’s hard to really care about anything going on. It’s fitting that this who Fox battle with Marvel went out with such a whimper of a movie.

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am – Heading into this documentary, my knowledge of Toni Morrison’s work was slightly limited. I was a huge fan of the Jonathan Demme directed film Beloved, based on her novel and knew she was the frequent author of choice for Oprah’s famous book club. This film gave me a crash course in this gifted and important literary voice and Nobel Prize winner and, most importantly, it all comes from Morrison herself who tells her story to the camera, leaving no stone unturned. Including interviews with friends like Black Power activist Angela Davis, writer Fran Lebowitz and Oprah Winfrey herself, we get a full portrait of how pivotal she is to black literature, the preservation of it and the need to keep it on the forefront of history. As far as biographical documentaries go, this one is top notch.

Above The Shadows – Two of the three bigger Blu-ray releases this week have zero clout or push behind them and, when it comes to the previous movie Dead Water, that’s probably for the best but with this film I think it could command a bigger audience but, besides me talking about it here, it will go unnoticed. Juno actress Olivia Thirlby stars as a young woman who has faded to the point of becoming invisible and must find her way back to society with the help of the one man who can see her, a former MMA champion, played by Alan Ritchson, who has fallen on hard times. I really enjoyed this one, an engaging fantasy romance film that capitalized on good chemistry between Ritchson and Thirlby which manages to shine through even if some of the thematic elements are a little muddled. I’m interested to see what writer and director Claudia Byers does next as both her other films Fort Bliss and Kettle Of Fish aren’t bad either.

Dead Water – Sometimes you just know a movie is going to be bad just by looking at the cover and this tells that warning pretty quickly. The movie has Banshee’s Griff Furst as a former soldier returning home after a tour in the Middle East and suffering from PTSD who is taken on a sailing expedition with his wife by a family friend played by Casper Van Dien. As soon as the trio get into open waters and out of cellphone reception things begin to get weird and their host starts to act out of character but unfortunately for the audience all of the acting, production level and directing is so awful it will put you off even before the dumb reveal of Van Dien’s intentions. Of course, all of this also happens before Judd Nelson, the reason I wanted to see this, appears on screen and, for the record, he’s terrible too. This movie is a waste of time.

Kung Fu League – Receiving all of these Asian releases from Well Go USA has been an absolute privilege as it gives me access to martial arts films that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise and the movies I have been getting have ranged from good to great and I feel like I’ve been very lucky. Well, my luck ran out on this movie, a truly awful abomination of a film that felt like utter nonsense throughout. The story follows a nerdy comic book artist who yearns for his dream girl but is constantly blocked by the bullying CEO of the company he works for causing him to use some magic to summon four martial arts masters to aid him. This film is hokey, badly put together with shoddy special effects and confusingly haphazard story and script and some of the worst music and songs I have ever heard. If the only thing I do today is deter you from watching this garbage, I’ll be happy. What a waste of time.

The Good Fight: Season 3 – I definitely consider myself a fan of the CBS series The Good Wife, a show that got me from the get-go with great characters and compelling storylines so when it was announced that a spin-off would be made with big wig partner Diane Lockhart leading the way I was excited and I think this show has satisfied in every way. The show picked up where the other series left off, Diane readying for retirement when her investment banker is arrested for fraud and she is left penniless. Now years in at her new firm, she is just as ruthless as you remember but the supporting cast of Delroy Lindo, Audra MacDonald and Game Of Thrones alum Rose Leslie this show is stellar with that same character work as well as making good use of the no rules CBS All Access platform. It may go heavy on the anti-Trump message, which may turn other viewers off with its heavy hand, but I totally love it.

Elementary: The Final Season – This modern take on the cases of Sherlock Holmes came to a close this past television year and now it is on DVD for everyone to check out, as well as in a complete series box set. I initially saw a lot of hate about this series and it’s approach when it came out and I finally checked it out with the release of the last season, the sixth one, and, truth be told, I kind of dug it. I’ve always enjoyed Jonny Lee Miller ever since I saw him in Hackers and his cocky attitude works brilliantly as Holmes, especially incorporating the former addict angle as well, and Lucy Liu is the perfect foil I never would have saw as Watson. There really is a reason this show lasted seven years and got to go out on its own terms.

The Case Of Hana & Alice – More anime, Steve? Yes, I guess so but this one has all sorts of acclaim behind it so I’m predisposed to enjoy it, right? This one is kind of weird as I feel like even the title was toned down from it’s original Japanese title of “The Murder Case of Hana & Alice” to the current and more innocuous one we have now but the movie does revolve around an unsolved murder case as it follows a new girl who starts at a new school and is mercilessly bullied after being assigned the “Judas” seat who’s previous occupant was killed. Weird storyline and that is how these movies operate but this movie actually is fascinating in its plot reveals and would transition to an interesting live-action piece.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:

Vice Squad – The cool thing about being hooked up with Shout Factory is getting these weirdo 80s tough-guy movies that I have never heard of and I definitely had no clue what this film was when I received it. Actress Season Huxley plays a prostitute named Princess who is forced by a Los Angeles detective to take down a brutal pimp named Ramrod, played with an edge by Cole Hauser’s dad, Wings, who has been killing other ladies of the night. The movie was made by Gary Sherman just after he directed to killer horror film Dead & Buried and, interestingly enough, the guy now makes true crime documentary series for A&E like The First 48. This movie had a lot of backlash behind it with people denouncing its violence, especially against women, but it did have an advocate in its favor with Martin Scorsese defending it, he himself going through the same thing with Mean Streets and Taxi Driver.

Endless Love – Let’s dig into a bit of controversy from the 1980s this week with this film that definitely pushed the boundaries but this was something director Franco Zeffirelli was not new to. The now infamous film starred Martin Hewitt and a very young Brooke Shields as a teen girl who falls for an older high school boy despite the protests of her parents, so essentially this is a Romeo and Juliet story. The film featured on-screen sex between the two teens and was initially awarded an X rating before being given an R after being resubmitted five times. Interestingly enough, this film was remade just five years ago and no one cared at all. The shock of having such a torrid romance film with this young of a focus has worn off.

Wildland – This is a weird one so I had to bring it right away to this section. This film, also titled Young Men And Fire, is available in the States on Blu-ray, is also screening at this years Vancouver International Film Festival, so in a rare occasion, you can get up on this movie in advance of that. The movie brings you closer than ever to the wildfires that ravage the western side of North America every year, following the fire crews in a sweeping yet deeply personal account of as they struggle with fear, loyalty, dreams, and demons within themselves. The movie is a true testament to the very real threat of climate change and is a slap in the face to any deniers, especially in the face of all the adversity these crews face doing their very deadly job. This is a massively important documentary.

Television:

Disenchantment: Season 2 (Netflix) – Matt Groening’s third original series and his first with Netflix enters into its sophomore season, following Princess Tiabeanie or ‘Bean’, voiced by Broad City’s Abby Jacobsen, a royal in a world of fantasy that wants desperately to shed the shackles of what a princess is supposed to be, yearning for action ad adventure. After meeting Luci, a demon, and Elfo, an elf, she gets more than she wished for in a series that is honestly a bit hard to get into through the first four episodes. Towards the end of the first season the show kind of finds its footing so I really hope that this new season builds on that from the get-go because, honestly, it feels slow and we are talking about an animated series here.

Between Two Ferns: The Movie (Netflix) – Who would have thought that the insane little interview sketch show that Zach Galifianakis created for Funny Or Die would see its own feature film but here it is and I’ve been ready for it ever since its announcement. The story sees Zach trying to make amends with his public access network after killing Matthew McConaughey (and reviving him), so he sets out on a road trip to try and gather a catalogue of episodes to satisfy his bosses. The trailer for this movie is straight insanity and the hilarious burns on his guests, mispronouncing of names and the ignorant insults are so funny. This is going to be the most streamed thing this weekend I think.

Criminal UK-France-Spain-Germany: Season 1 (Netflix) – This new series is massively ambitious and maybe can lead to some more very open platform series to be created as this thriller is made up of twelve stories set in four different countries, each takes place within the confines of a police interview suite and each countries series sitting as a stand-alone season on Netflix. A focus on the intense mental conflict between detectives and suspects, the show’s UK counterparts features David Tennant and Hayley Atwell, the German one has Phoenix actress Nina Hoss and honestly, cast aside. the approach to this show has me interested.

A Little Late With Lilly Singh: Season 1 (NBC) – As a Canadian I was overjoyed when I read on Twitter that homegrown YouTube star Lilly Singh was getting the spotlight of taking over the secondary late-night talk show on NBC from Carson Daly who seemed to have had that show for over a decade and a half and no one seemed to care about it. I’m really looking forward to what Lilly has planned for the show as the week’s go on but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen after the first night. I do feel she relies a bit on the fact that she is both a woman and a person of color in this position and so she should, it’s very progressive of NBC and I hope they are protective of that. The only thing I can see working against this is she is slightly unknown to the larger audience.

American Horror Story: 1984 (FX) – I’m kind of hit and miss with the American Horror Story series but I feel like this season was tailor-made for me to fall in love with and get over my edgy feelings about creator Ryan Murphy. Taking his cue from his two-season series Scream Queens, this season delves into that whole slasher genre like Friday The 13th and Halloween by bringing the homage to us in bright technicolor and it even takes place at a summer camp! Oh man, does that ever excite me as a huge horror fan and while the show doesn’t have such AHS staples as Jessica Lange and Evan Peters, it still has Emma Roberts from the before mentioned Scream Queens as well as Billie Lourd, Glee’s Matthew Morrison and Twisty the Clown himself, John Carroll Lynch who now plays Mr. Jingles, the killer for this series. I am so psyched for this season!

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New Releases:

The Goldfinch – Based on a bestselling novel from Pulitzer Prize winner Donna Tartt, the bidding war from studios for this adaptation was high but it ended up with Warner Bros. and most notably in the hands of gifted director John Crowley, following up his brilliant film Brooklyn. The film is about a boy in New York who is taken in by a wealthy Upper East Side family after his mother is killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The trailer plays everything pretty ambiguously but what is known is that the kid, who is played by Oakes Fegley from Pete’s Dragon as a child and Ansel Elgort as a teen and adult, harbours a deep secret which could blow up all his newly found relationships. I’m fascinated to see this film because the story sounds incredible. (Not opening in Hamilton)

Hustlers – Just looking at this movie it is pretty much completely unappealing to me. This film is toplined by Constance Wu, an actress I really enjoyed in Crazy Rich Asians but her real-life diva antics have really turned me off, and Jennifer Lopez who I’ve never really been a fan of so it has a bit working against it. That said it has Cardi B and Lizzo in supporting roles and is about a crew of former strippers who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients so I have a glimmer of hope for entertainment in this. The fact that, at the time of writing this, the movie has eleven positive reviews makes me a little bit intrigued.

Freaks – My first narrative film of last year’s VIFF, this hit me with all sorts of parental feelings like a loaded punch to the face. Freaks is a paranoid mystery that slowly blooms to its audience but, interestingly enough, shares a few different qualities from the Academy Award-winning hit Room. Just like young local actor Jacob Tremblay dazzled in that film, nine-year-old actress Lexy Kolker is the battery at the heart of this film as well, it’s driving force. From the directing and writing duo of Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein, the story drops you into a rundown house with papered windows and padlocked doors with our main two characters, Chloe (Kolker) and her dad played with deep nuance by Emile Hirsch. With what appears to be an unhealthy amount of itching paranoia, he constantly quizzes his young daughter on how to act outside the walls, in the real world, something that is absolutely foreign to Chloe. It’s life and death to Dad though. Inside the house is where they are safe and outside everyone will try to kill them. It’s a bleak and horrifying message to instill in a child, raising the immediate question: Is he indoctrinating his child with his own psychosis or is he protecting her from the reality he already knows? This movie is a must-see tour de force of acting and will hopefully make some waves a full year after I discovered it. (Only opening in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver)

Riot Girls – If you’ve been reading my stuff since I’ve started publishing you would see a trend that odd movies are really my thing, especially in the horror, sci-fi and action genre so this new film from Canadian director Jovanka Vuckovic, her first feature, is a red alert on my radar. The movie takes place in an alternate 1995, as a mysterious disease has wiped out all of the adults. In the new forged age, two gangs are pitted against each other in a brutal war for territory, resources and survival. One thing that grabs me immediately, besides the post-fall dystopia, is that it’s led by two badass ladies with the names of Nat and Scratch and that it’s the first feature from Vuckovic who made her mark with me in the all-women anthology movie XX. This could be a great breakout film for her. (Only opening in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver)

Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! – Morgan Spurlock is back with a follow up twelve years after he almost killed himself, eating nothing but McDonald’s for a month, supersizing whenever it was offered. This time he takes on the task of opening up his own fast food restaurant with the focus being on the fastest rising piece of that menu right now, the almighty chicken sandwich. With his focus on being transparent with the public, fresh and healthy food and a sustainable business model, Spurlock gives us an in-depth crash course on how the big corporations handle their business, the costliness of organic food and how “big chicken” is constantly screwing over the little guy who’s product it miles better than what these evil bastards shop to us. As a huge chicken sandwich guy myself, I found myself laughing with the filmmaker’s charm but also horrified at the facts I was being given. A beautiful companion piece to Super Size Me, Holy Chicken is about to give you way more food for thought. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

One Cut Of The Dead – Enduring a week of horror films, this movie definitely did the trick of spinning my brain around in my skull. The movie starts out as this low budget behind the scenes of a Japanese zombie film that gets totally disrupted when real zombies attack them at their location, forcing the cast and crew to desperately escape as the eccentric filmmaker follows behind, trying to make his magnum opus. Then after thirty-seven minutes of a single shot take the story ends and credits roll and I’m confused but then we rewind to the beginning of this project to find out that the making of was the real movie and we get to see how this who one-shot madness came to be. This film is massively original, totally fun and playful and exuded that Japanese cinema charm. The only thing that didn’t hold me was the over the top sentimental silliness that ends the movie, otherwise, I think horror fans should check this out. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Aladdin – Yes, Disney has been making so many of these live-action updates but something about Aladdin feels so sacred, firstly the fact that we all have such reverence for Robin Williams’ performance as the Genie. That aside, I wanted to believe in this movie because it is directed by Guy Ritchie but his last film King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword was such a horrible mess. The good news is that the film is vibrant, gorgeous and always fun to watch and does try to forge a separate identity while still keeping all of the songs intact and also a lot of Genie’s lines are the same but done with the stylings of Big Willy himself, Will Smith. The movie isn’t bad, the attempt to keep true to the heart of the film is there but it just isn’t memorable.

Aladdin: Signature Edition – It’s probably easy to say that a lot of people hold this movie high up as their favorite Disney animated film and who could blame them? It’s an absolute classic and makes us all feel warm and cozy with the voice of Robin Williams to guide us. Now, coinciding with the release of Guy Ritchie’s live-action remake, we get the Signature edition which has a sing-along track which is fun for the whole family, commentaries with the directors and animators, new featurettes, a brand new alternate ending and outtakes from Robin that will bring a tear to your eye. This may not be my favorite of the bunch but it is definitely in the top three.

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum – Definitely one of my most anticipated films released this year, both movies leading up to this one have been like a gift from the action film gods, bestowing on us the perfect anti-hero story all birthed from the death of his dog. Now in this next piece, the whole world is after John Wick due to his decisions in the second movie and he has to bring in an old friend, Halle Berry’s character, to make it out alive. This movie burns all action movies to the ground and shows them how it’s really done, a story that would work as a Kurosawa samurai movie or a Sergio Leone spaghetti western told through Keanu Reeves dispatching assassins in a heightened world of secret organizations, blood oaths and neutral ground hotel establishments. It is awesome and if you aren’t on board with it by now I don’t think you ever will.

The Dead Don’t Die – Jim Jarmusch takes his hilariously deadpan style and applies it to a genre that always needs a bit of fresh breath, zombie horror. Bringing some of his staple stars including Bill Murray from his film Coffee And Cigarettes, Adam Driver from his last effort Patterson and, of course, Tilda Swinton, Jarmusch crafts a small-town story of a zombie outbreak where the weirdo citizens have to band together to survive. This movie is definitely not going to rope in everyone as horror fans will be possibly put off by the dialogue style and, well, all of this great filmmaker’s movies have a less than mainstream appeal but I found myself really enjoying it despite some of the parts of the film that sort of drag. I was definitely not ready for the movie to go full meta in the end which had me laughing hysterically. Again, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it got me and oh man is the ending bleak.

SEAL Team: Season 2 – Even though the series ended fifteen years ago I will always see David Boreanaz as the brooding vampire with a soul Angel from the Joss Whedon created Buffy spinoff and that’s even after twelve seasons as Seeley Booth on Bones. His new series is going very well though, a series that follows the lives of an elite Navy S.E.A.L. team as they train, plan and execute the most dangerous, high-stakes missions for the American government. Created by first-time showrunner Benjamin Cavell, this series has compelling characters and has the potential to get better in this vein if they can steer away from being a mission by mission procedural. I have enjoyed both seasons that Paramount sent me though.

Hawaii Five-O: Season 9 – As far as new series reboots of old classic shows go, I’d have to say that Dan-O and company are doing pretty well heading into season ten, especially after two cast members left the show due to pay inequality. Well, season eight and nine went off fine without them, adding The Event and Salvation’s Ian Anthony Dale and Michelle Borth, who was last seen in the big DC Comics blockbuster Shazam, and this season has some solid guest stars with John Wick 3’s Mark Dacascos returning to terrorize the Five-O, Andrew Lawrence in addition to his brothers bad guy role from the previous season and even Dog The Bounty Hunter as himself. Also, to keep with the theme, all of the episodes have names that are unpronounceable.

Curious George: Royal Monkey – An easy go-to for any kid is the Curious George stories and in theatrical form only one of them has made it to the big screen, featuring voices by Will Ferrell and Drew Barrymore. The film did very well for itself, opening the door for a bunch of direct to video releases as well as a television series. Now with this new one, the adventure continues as George goes on a journey with his pal Princess Isabel to deal with all matters of the grown-up world. Not only is this a weird one to bring to my regular feature but my own daughter told me halfway through watching this that this was too baby like for her to enjoy so now I’ve got emotions about the passage of time and I was left to watch the rest of it by myself. Thanks, Paramount!

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Charlie Says – This seems to be the year of Charles Manson in movie form as we got a quick glimpse of him in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and here we get former Doctor Who Matt Smith shedding some of that timey wimey stuff to influence some easily led sheep to do some horrific slaughter. Smith has quite a few recognizable stars around him for this one as Nurse Jackie’s Merritt Weaver and Game Of Thrones’ Hannah Murray co-star in this film that is directed by American Psycho’s Mary Harron who continues to lead a great number of women in the horror director’s chair. Some very cool character work for Matt Smith in this one.

Babylon – This movie has a very interesting story as it was originally intended for release in late 1980 and appeared at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of 1981 but then didn’t get its American theatrical release until this year. Why? Because the powers that be deemed it as “being too controversial, and likely to incite racial tension”. The movie centers around Brindsley Forde’s character Blue, frontman for a reggae band based in west London and captures the trials and tribulations of young black youths in troubled London in the early eighties. The film is a fascinating character study against a socio-political landscape and it’s a cinema crime that we’re only seeing this film now.

Mountain Rest – Now that Stranger Things has made her a star on the rise, Natalia Dyer’s indie career is getting a bit of a focus including this moody emotional drama led by Six Feet Under’s Frances Conroy. She plays an ageing actress who sequestered herself to a small mountain town years earlier and is now calling her estranged daughter and granddaughter home for reconciliation and one final celebration before she passes away. The film is the debut of writer and director Alex O. Eaton and is a great film about the erosion of family relationships over time against a gorgeously shot canvas of cinematography.

Cruising – When this film was made in 1980 the backlash against director William Friedkin was huge because he put one of the hottest stars working at the time, Al Pacino, in a controversial role that was getting nothing but hate. Fresh off of Norman Jewison’s And Justice For All, Pacino played an undercover detective who entered the world of the underground S&M gay subculture in New York City to catch a serial killer who is preying on gay men and the public and critics alike were perturbed, with the ratings board saying “there aren’t enough XXXs in the alphabet to rate this movie”. Heck, Friedkin was even nominated for a Razzie that year, the first year they existed. Is the movie that bad? No. It’s progressive for its time and showed an abandonment of safe mainstream filmmaking but it would be a trend that would have a hard time catching on. Beyond that, it is a fantastic Al Pacino performance.

Television:

Unbelievable: Season 1 (Netflix) – Look, it is just a given with me that if you cast Toni Collette in the lead of something then you have me as a fan immediately and not only does this new original series have her but it has Merritt Weaver who has already made an appearance on my list this week as well as Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever. The show is the true story of Marie, a teenager who was charged with lying about having been raped, and the two female detectives who followed a twisting path to arrive at the truth. In a time where the #MeToo movement has helped so many women come forward with painful truths, this series digs into what all of these victims face, the ability to undoubtedly prove their story and the burden of truth. Created by Ern Brockovich writer Susannah Grant, Wonder Boys writer Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, this could be the must-see Netflix series to start the month.

Mr. Inbetween: Season 2 (FX) – A breakout hit from Australia, this show is another great film about a brutal anti-hero that I loved with the very first episode, a show I was turned on to by Drex. Created by the show’s star Scott Ryan and directed by Nash Edgerton, the series is a black comedy-drama about Ray, a guy who has to juggle being a father, ex-husband, boyfriend and confidant as well as maintain his employment as an enforcer for hire, dishing out violence to whomever his clients want him to. Scott Ryan is a fascinating actor to watch onscreen in a series that hugs the line between wholly grim and hilarious, sometimes in the same moment. I really think that this show needs to catch on in a Breaking Bad sort of way.

Mr. Mercedes: Season 3 (Crave) – As a Stephen King fan I feel massively late to the party with this show based on a later novel in his writing career and this one stars a favorite of mine, actor Brendan Gleeson as well as the always incredible Holland Taylor. The show tells the story of a psychopathic killer who drives a stolen Mercedes into a crowd and a recently retired detective who tries desperately and a little outside the bounds of the law to bring him down. Brought to television by one of the greatest showrunners ever, David E. Kelley, through that shepherding this show has great dialogue, nuanced character work and a creepy and intense plotline that keeps you on the edge of your seat. This is a solid binge for anyone looking for something to occupy the void that Castle Rock left.

Undone: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – Coming off her guest spot on Parenthood and this year’s underrated sci-fi adaptation Alita: Battle Angel, I’m a pretty big fan of actress Rosa Salazar which has me looking forward to this new Amazon original which again sees the streaming service spread their wings into different things you wouldn’t see on conventional television. She plays a woman who discovers she has physical control over time after surviving a car accident and the really weird thing is this is the brand new show from BoJack Horseman creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg and writer and producer Kate Purdy. Just the trailer alone is enough to convince people who love shows like Lost to jump on board.

The I-Land: Season 1 (Netflix) – Netflix again reaches out for something a little fresher for their new series that has an interesting cast featuring Kate Bosworth, Alex Pettyfer and Canadian actor Kyle Schmid. The show is a twisted mystery about ten people who wake up on a treacherous island with no memory of who they are and how they got there and set off on a trek to try to get back home only to discover the world is changed for the worst. I love weird shows like this as they remind me of the unpredictable nature of a show like Lost. Yes, I’m kind of fixated on that show this week which means I might be a bit nostalgic for it.

New Releases:

It: Chapter Two – Stephen King is a special writer in my life because e is a big reason why my reading level started to excel when I was a preteen as I ravenously ate up everything he had written in chronological order. His novel It was among my absolute favorites and after the TV movie in 1989 I was hoping that a big-screen version would come and I’m so happy director Andy Muscetti nailed it in the first chapter, released two years ago, and now we get the follow-up and I’m so excited to see it. We get the adult versions of the Losers Club this time as they look to put away the evil of Pennywise the Dancing Clown who has lurked in Derry, Maine for decades and, although I may be a bit biased, I think this could be one of the biggest horror events of the year.

Blu-Ray:

Men In Black: International – Seven years after the attempt to bring this franchise back with the lacklustre Men In Black 3 we are going for the reboot treatment with really no returning cast members except for Emma Thompson who only appeared in the last film. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson reunite to take on intergalactic threats which may tie back to a mole in their own organization. I enjoy both actors a lot so I really want this film to work and rejuvenate this story but the trailers leave me with absolutely nothing aside from a hopefully funny animated side character voiced by Kumail Nanjani. I don’t really have enough faith in director F. Gary Gray to pull this off either.

Booksmart – To start this off, I think this is one of the best comedies of the year right here and I have yet to find someone who saw this and didn’t fall a bit in love with the story of friendship between two brilliant friends, Amy and Molly. Olivia Wilde makes her directorial debut with this story of two academic overachievers who decide to let loose in a big way on the eve of their graduation, almost in the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg Superbad way which is fitting as Feldstein is the little sister of Jonah Hill but I feel like that descriptor undersells it a bit. Starring Kaitlyn Dever from Justified and the hilarious Beanie Feldstein from Lady Bird and Neighbors 2, this movie is a fantastic blend of a fantastic script, dutiful and grounded direction with an incredible pair of performances form these two ladies. Now that the movie is on Blu-ray you have no excuse not to see it and fall in love.

Ma – This new thriller reteams Octavia Spencer and The Help director Tate Taylor in a genre movie that is far different then either of them has done, aside from Spencer’s quick scene in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II. In this film the Academy Award winner plays Sue Ann, a lonely woman who befriends a group of students, letting them party at her house, nicknaming her “Ma”. Slowly, the kids begin to realize that Ma isn’t quite right and the friendship shifts to murderous obsession. The film features some really stellar character work form Spencer but after all of the reveals are given to her real motive I honestly felt a little bored by its simplicity and wanted far more from it. In the end, the movie, although not bad, is just forgettable.

Mary Magdalene – Lion director Garth Davis takes on another ambitious project with this film following the story of Jesus Christ but from the perspective of one of the closest to him, Mary Magdelene. Rooney Mara takes the lead role with Joaquin Phoenix playing the “lord and saviour” but as much as the film breaks the mould of faith-based movies and showing some filmmaking guts I couldn’t really get engaged with this one and felt bored for the most part. Both actors usually impart such a deeply gratifying charisma that just seems to be lost in the void in a story that feels too long and sparse to be called a good film. It’s sad because Joaquin was and still is on such a great roll.

Nightmare Cinema – Being raised on films like Creepshow, Cat’s Eye and Tales From The Darkside, I am a huge fan of anthology horror films are we’ve gotten some pretty cool modern cinema ones like Trick r’ Treat, VHS and Southbound, so this new one crossing my path was certainly welcomed. Put together by five incredible directors, Alejandro Brugués (From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series), Joe Dante (Gremlins), Ryûhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train), David Slade (30 Days Of Night) and Mick Garris (The Stand), this is about five strangers who stumble upon a haunted movie theater owned by The Projectionist (Mickey Rourke). Once inside, the audience members witness a series of screenings showing them their deepest fears and darkest secrets over five tales. Look, like other films like this some stories are better than other but oh man do some of these stick out as great moments in horror with great chills and insane gore. Plus, Mickey Rourke is a creepy special effect himself.

Cold Blood – A brand new action thriller starring a favorite of mine, Jean Reno, I had no idea this movie even existed, which is a fail on my part. Reno, settling into some familiar territory like Leon The Professional, plays a hit-man that lives by himself in a cabin at the edge of a lake who takes an injured woman in who arrives in front of his house one day, possibly putting himself in danger of being discovered by past enemies. This film is so unknown that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page but it has Across The Universe’s Joe Anderson in a supporting role as well as Canadian actress Sarah Lind as Reno’s protectee and former Ms. Moneypenny Samatha Bond. You should also read into the fact that this is writer and director Frédéric Petitjean’s first feature film and it has a big fat zero on Rotten Tomatoes.

Santana: Live At US Festival – I really love classic rock but honestly Carlos Santana’s older catalogue of music is something I never really delved into. Of course, I do know probably his biggest hit Black Magic Woman by name but the others I can’t even really remember titles for. That aside, getting this concert Blu-ray was something very cool for me. Taking a full look at one of his greatest performances ever, at the US Festival in 1977, I got a full scope of why Santana is considered one of the greatest guitar players ever ad the cool thing is he introduces and talks about each song in retrospect, giving a whole new quality to this classic concert. Any music fan will want to get their hands on this and crank that surround sound loud so you feel like you were there.

NCIS: Season 16 – Holy crap, Season sixteen? Yes, I fully acknowledge that I have been rining a season a week of these shows for the last three weeks but it all ends of with this show that started it off, well, after it had spun off of J.A.G. but you get the point. Mark Harmon plays Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, the leader of the Major Case Response Team in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and rocks possibly the worst haircut in television. This season treads new ground as it is the first season without series mainstay Pauley Perrette after her very public exit that seems to be because of bullying from the lead himself. Although we are without the fan-favorite of Abby in the lab, the show has added Wilmer Valderrama and Maria Bello over the last few seasons to make it better.

Bull: Season 3 – Look, this show may feature a former NCIS star in lead Michael Weatherly but it has more in common with Dr. Phil than it does that crime procedural as this is a show based on the famous television psychiatrist’s life although, I assume, very loosely. Weatherly plays Dr. Jason Bull a brilliant, brash, and charming observer of jurors, attorneys and witnesses to get the pertinent edge his firm needs to defend their clients and, in some cases, condemn them. Unfortunately this show has the stink of the bad conduct the star showed towards at the time possible co-star Eliza Dushku but I actually enjoyed the handful of episodes I’ve got through so far and it featured some pretty good guest stars like Mercedes Rheul, Jill Hennessey for a couple of episodes and former Bond girl and Law and Order original Carey Lowell.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Lust For A Vampire – Shout Factory digs deep in their vaults of screams for this new special edition of this 1971 b grade horror film by one of the biggest pieces of the Hammer Film empire, Jimmy Sangster. The movie is about a rich Count and Countess who conduct a satanic ceremony to resurrect their daughter, which has an effect on the entire lands around their Karnstein castle which includes nearby Finishing School rife with nubile women for the taking. The film was originally supposed to star Hammer staple Peter Cushing who asked to bow out shortly before filming so that he could continue to look after his ailing wife. The person who was cast in his place, The Horror Of Frankenstein’s Ralph Bates, has said that this is his most hated performance.

BoJack Horseman: Season 1 & 2 – I feel like whenever I review anything that is available of Netflix I have that majority of readers wondering why they would even bother with picking up a physical copy of a title you could easily stream. I get it entirely, especially if you’re only in it for the one watch and are done with it. A show like this animated brilliance I really want as a part of my collection and I’m glad that Shout Factory has now put the first twenty-five episodes in this box set with full cast and crew commentaries for each one as well as extensive behind the scenes featurettes and storyboard to screen comparisons. It’s more than enough to keep a television nerd like myself happy.

The Island – Another great resource with reviewing Blu-ray, Well Go USA has been very kind in gifting me brand new films that I wouldn’t have had the chance to see like this Chinese comedy. The film is about a man with dreams of striking it rich finds himself stranded on an island with a multitude of different people from different walks of life in sort of a light-hearted Lord Of The Flies. The movie is the directorial debut of actor Bo Huang who is a sizeable star in China, starring in hit films like Journey To The West and No Man’s Land and has it’s moments although some of the comedic moments get lost in translation a little.

The Swindlers – Being a huge Korean film fan, I was very excited to receive this new movie from Well Go USA as the stylishness of their cinema is something I always look forward to. A bit of a con man mystery film, this movie has unlikely allies from different sides of the law working together to achieve the common goal of trapping the world’s most legendary con man. Expect double-crosses and moments of devious outsmarting in this film but as much as the style will keep you engaged visually, I felt the plotting pretty flimsy and the twists a little predictable. While this movie is not in the realm of bad movies it doesn’t rise to the occasion of being a good con movie.

S.W.A.T.: Season 2 – Revivals and remakes of classic properties have been pretty lucrative for television with the successes of Hawaii Five-O, MacGyver and Magnum P.I. and with this show it is relying on its past as a series that ran from 1975 to 1976 but a Colin Farrell led movie as well. The new incarnation of this show has ex-Criminal Minds and soap opera superstar Shemar Moore playing a locally born and bred S.W.A.T. lieutenant who is torn between loyalty to the streets and duty to his fellow officers when he’s tasked to run a highly-trained unit that’s the last stop for solving crimes in Los Angeles. A procedural, yes, but one that has a really good cast behind Shemar with Jay Harrington from the cancelled way too early Better Off Ted and Kenny Johnson from The Shield and Saving Grace and if you have a good cast I’m willing to give your show a chance.

Television:

Paper Champions: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – This week I’m not just starting with some Canadian content but some homegrown local stuff to me as Vancouver’s Matt Ewart and Brady Roberts bring this new web series to life. The show follows Aubrey, a woman that has to shoulder a large responsibility when her father passes away as she must oversee his indie wrestling promotion in middle Amerca. You can see that involving wrestling plays right into the things I love and Roberts is a pro wrestler himself as cast member and friend of mine Paul “The Mauler” Lazenby and former ECW, WCW and WWE legend Lance Storm who also plays in this movie. The series is funny, well written and showcases one of my favorite pastimes and I hope to see more of it.

Mayans M.C.: Season 2 (FX) – Sons Of Anarchy fans, myself included, still have something to cling to as this series enters its sophomore season and is reportedly Kurt Sutters last as a showrunner, leaving it to co-creator Elgin James. The show has now established it’s new Jax, EZ, played by JD Pardo, a character that starts his journey from the bottom as a prospect which adds to a different dynamic in the show. I love the supporting cast like Edward James Almos and Tudors star Sarah Bolger and the returning actors Ray McKinnon and Emilio Rivera in their Sons of Anarchy roles, this all taking place in a post-Jax Teller world. As a merchandise owning fan of the original series, I will ride with this show until the wheels fall off. Heck, I even watched the entire series of The Bastard Executioner for Kurt Sutter, this is far better.

Untouchable (Hulu) – This may not be exactly a television series but it’s new to Hulu this week and it is both important and completely relevant as it this figure was really the accused that pushed the Me Too movement. This documentary is a look at the rise and fall of disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein featuring interviews with former colleagues and those who accused him of sexual misconduct which makes this film, to me, absolutely fascinating. Weinstein is now known to have blocked the careers of Ashley Judd, Mira Sorvino, Rose McGowan and many more and to see this catalogued in a tell-all film makes this one can’t miss and a really interesting conversation to have.

New Releases:

Brittany Runs A Marathon – Sometimes just looking at the lead actress of a movie will totally misrepresent what you think you are going to get with it. Starring comedic actress Jillian Bell, the scene-stealer from 22 Jump Street, Comedy Central’s Workaholics and Office Christmas Party, the immediate thinking is that this will be a romp of a movie, not the inspirational piece that it really is. This film has Bell as the title character, a woman living in New York who takes control of her life by taking control of her weight and her motivation, a beautiful character study that will resonate with many viewers and may push you in your own direction of self-realization. Jillian Bell is incredible in this movie, showing a range that totally surprised me. I really hope this movie catches on with audiences because it is a really special and also true story. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Tigers Are Not Afraid – This movie has a couple of things working against it coming out of the gate. Firstly, this is an independent film so if you want it to hit the big time it needs to have that word darling attached to it. That’s not going to happen because the second deterrent from that additive title is that this s a horror film as well. Hopefully, Guillermo del Toro calling this Issa Lopez written and directed movie one of his favorites of the last year can help because I found this movie to be incredibly special. The film is a dark tale about a gang of five children trying to survive the horrific violence of the cartels, led in a way by a girl who can see the ghosts created every day by the drug war, spirits looking for vengeance. Lopez’s style breathes right off of the screen and sort of reminds me of the earlier del Toro film The Devil’s Backbone, signifying that she has a huge future ahead of her. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

This Changes Everything – The equality gap across the world is a huge issue that only seems to get better in sputters and spurts but where it is the most evident is in show business. This documentary delves right into that battle with a lot of the heavyweights of Hollywood including Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep and Jessica Chastain, showrunners like Shondra Rhimes and Jill Soloway as well as those affected directly in recent scandals like Rose McGowan, in a collected group of interviews that illuminate women’s roles in film over the years, leading to now, and what the future of the gender in that medium could possibly be. With help from the Geena Davis Institute of Gender Studies, we get a fascinating look at just the numbers when it comes to equality o screen but the movie is a little awkward with driving its point home by relying on focused point moments at the end of each interview bit and the end is almost anthemic with the message which felt largely unnecessary. Otherwise, I think this movie is massively pivotal and a must-watch. (Only opening in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Rocketman – After Bohemian Rhapsody’s success last year, this Elton John biopic had been hotly anticipated although it is less of a straightforward film than the Queen movie was, instead taking more of a musical route. Taron Egerton stars as Elton with Jamie Bell playing his co-writer Bernie Taupin in a film that has the definitely hugs the line of being fantastical and serious in the same beat. It’s interesting to note that Egerton did all of his own singing in the film and the sounds incredible in it, giving the music a whole new life in my opinion. This movie totally lives up to the hype and gives us a flamboyant but unflinching look at a legendary singer who has multitudes of demons and flaws and where Bohemian Rhapsody seemed to shy away from Freddie Mercury’s sexuality, only giving a sort of suggestion to it, Rocketman wears it out in the open and is unafraid which should always be the lead choice. Not only is Rocketman one of the best ways to approach a musical biopic, but it may also be one of the best films this year.

The Secret Life Of Pets 2 – Illumination Entertainment brings out this new sequel, one that isn’t connected to their Despicable Me franchise and all without the problematic Louis CK providing the lead voice, this time around being replaced by one of the good guys, Patton Oswalt. All the other favorites have returned including Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate and Kevin Hart along with newcomers Tiffany Haddish and Harrison Ford, so all the kids should be happy and I actually thought the first movie was pretty fun and this one maintains that feeling, even if it is a little bit of a diminished return. The animation is definitely continuing that cute style, the voices are well cast and if there was any real issue with the film it would be its tendency to meander a bit in the story, which is odd for a movie that clocks under an hour and a half.

Godzilla: King Of The Monsters – Five years ago Gareth Edwards rebooted the giant Japanese monster that has headed the longest-running franchise in history with Jordan Vogt-Roberts placing the next piece with Kong: Skull Island, a prequel. Now Krampus and Trick r Treat director Michael Dougherty furthers the story with this highly anticipated rumble pitting Godzilla against the most devastating monster in existence King Ghidorah. A massive effects-driven film, this movie is going to blow everyone away with some really great massive battles between these iconic monsters but as far as the human element of the story goes, that’s where all of the brains drop out of the whole project. The dialogue and story for the main three characters played by Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobbie Brown and Kyle Chandler are so bad and nonsensical that it really almost cripples the film, it’s just a great thing that everything else works to save it.

Apocalypse Now: Final Cut – In my opinion, one of the greatest films ever made, Francis Ford Coppola has put the final touches on his Vietnam War masterpiece with this new director’s edition of the 1979 movie. Everyone knows the story here, Martin Sheen playing U.S. Army officer who is given the mission of navigating through the treacherous jungle in order to assassinate a renegade Special Forces Colonel named Kurtz who has gone rogue, insane and now sees himself as a god. This role is played brilliantly by Marlon Brando who was incredibly difficult to work with according to Coppola. A movie I have bought in various editions, it is fantastic to finally now own the definitive vision of a filmmaker who almost went crazy to make it.

Akio Jissoji – Another great release from Arrow Academy, this box sets features three films from Akio Jissoji, a Japanese television and film director best known outside Japan for the 1960s TV series Ultraman. In this collection known as The Buddhist Trilogy, his very Japanese famous erotic series is showcased, which consisted of This Transient Life, Mandala and Poem, each film focusing on taboo and disturbing subjects including incest and rape as an overhanging subject. Made from 1970 to 1972, these films came from a time where no creator was willing to put this sort of subject matter into their work out of fear of being blacklisted or exiled from their country and Jissoji spearheaded his own cause with unflinching attitude. I love that movie collectors can now dig into some of the forgotten film culture in Japan with this new set.

NCIS Los Angeles: Season 10 – What’s that? More NCIS you say? Well, yes, but this is the cool one because if features former Robin Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J and that guy has the word cool in his name. They play key agents in the Office of Special Projects branch of the organization which puts them undercover to crack cases, utilizing their backgrounds as street kids. I’m fully aware of the dime a dozen nature of crime procedurals but I will admit something about this particular one and that is that I kind of like it and, really, at the end of the day it needs to be somewhat good to make it to season ten and now eleven, right?

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

The Reptile – Bring out some more classic horror, and some of the best of that genre with the “accidental experiment/incantation gone wrong” kind, this special edition revitalizes a film from 1966. The movie takes place in a Cornish village where various locals are dying from mysterious snake bites but the city officials rule the deaths as heart attacks until a family of newcomers starts an investigation. The film was made by the historic Hammer films and was filmed back to back with the infamous Plague Of The Zombies, reusing a lot of the sets, the village being the most obvious. This collector’s edition features the film in two separate aspect ratios, commentary with film historians, a new interview with the first assistant director and an all-new documentary on the making of it. Shout Factory has again released a golden oldie.

Quatermass II & Quatermass And The Pit – A very cool thing about a cinephile like me getting sent all of these old classics is I get to see some of the films ad stories that paved the way for every original story we see today and the films of Quatermass was a springboard point for a lot of the sci-fi genre. I received two of these movies this week as the second Quatermass movie, probably the most famous one, has our titular professor trying to gather support for his moon colonization project and discovers that there might be some sinister inhabitants that could spell doom for the move of humanity. The second of the new Shout Factory releases made ten years later and with a different lead actor, has a mysterious artifact unearthed in London, causing Quatermass to be called to investigate its origins and explain its strange effects on people. Both movies have a brand new 2K scan for the Blu-ray as well as commentaries by film historians and even, in some cases, limited commentary with the actual filmmakers.

Television:

The Dark Crystal – Age of Resistance: Season 1 (Netflix) – As a kid from the eighties, I found myself obsessed with the Dark Crystal world, created in the mind of the great Jim Henson, Frank Oz and David Odell, and brought to life in a film that I still feel like I’m unpacking to this day. Dealing with alien philosophies, gods and a quest to find the missing shard of a magical crystal, the tale of the Gelflings is massively complex and one I’m surprised we got to see on such a massive level. Well, friends, Netflix has given us more of what we crave as we get not just a movie but a ten-episode series that returns to the world of Thra, where three Gelfling discover the horrifying secret behind the Skeksis’ power and set out to ignite the fires of rebellion and save their world. Ever since this show was announced my childhood has been singing in my soul and I can not wait to binge it all.

Carnival Row: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – Amazon Prime seems to take a lot of chances with their original series and this one is no exception and it comes from the mind of the Pacific Rim creator Travis Beacham and features episodes directed by Lucky Number Slevin’s Paul McGuigan, Entrapment’s Jon Amiel and two veteran television stalwarts Anne Foerster and Andy Goddard. The show stars Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevigne as a human detective and a fairy respectively who rekindle a dangerous affair in a Victorian fantasy world, where the city’s uneasy peace collapses when a string of murders reveals an unimaginable monster. I really enjoy world-building things like this and seeing Foerster’s background on Outlander has me even more intrigued because she shoulders the most amount of work in this at four episodes. This may be your sleeper hit here.

Ballers: Season 5 (HBO) – Closing out with its final season, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson returns to his role as Spencer Strasmore, former football star and now the financial manager to the best of the best in the NFL. Coming from the producers of Entourage, this show fills the niche of big muscles, fast cars and scantily clad women but also is a massively entertining series with great supporting turns from Rob Corddry and the breakout star of Blackkklansman John David Washington. My favorite part of this show is seeing Johnson flex a different muscle in his repertoire which is his dramatic range that I think the average viewer forgets he has. Spencer is the moral center of the series, just as he is the visual one, and The Rock never lets you forget that.

The Affair: Season 5 (Showtime) – It seems like this is a year of endings for not just big shows like Game Of Thrones but smaller critically acclaimed shows like this show, one I was very late to discovering and wish I had been up on it earlier. For those who haven’t had a chance to see it, the show is a multi-faceted story about a struggling novelist and a young waitress who strike up an extramarital relationship that promises to forever change the course of their lives as well as their spouses and the people around them. Over its run, the series has picked up three Golden Globes, for best series as well as actresses Maura Tierney and Ruth Wilson, and nominations for Primetime Emmys and Writer’s Guild awards and I think this final season will give it more accolades on the way out.

Workin’ Moms: Season 3 (Netflix) – Originally broadcast on our very own CBC, this show got the boost from Netflix but still needs a little push I think for people to really dig into it. I think what I’m saying is after you’ve finished Schitt’s Creek and Kim’s Convenience, check this one out before you make the mistake of watching Mr. D for your Canadian content. Starring the creator of the show, the very funny Catherine Reitman, this is the story of four very different thirty-something working moms and friends as they try to balance their jobs, family life and love life in the reported center of the universe, Toronto, Canada. This may have the stigma of Canadian broadcasting all over it but Reitman comes from the writing staff of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia so have some faith.

New Releases:

Ready Or Not (Opened on Wednesday) – Horror can be a dime a dozen bunch of releases that all look like one another, a random ghost story or slasher film or maybe even a reboot of a horror franchise that didn’t really need it. This is the appearance to none fans and mainstream film watchers. Then a movie like this comes along from two unproven writers and a couple of indie guys to bring something that feels fresh, funny and with an acerbic wit that makes it all come together. Samara Weaving plays a bride who’s wedding night takes a sinister turn when her eccentric new in-laws force her to take part in a terrifying game where they play hide and seek in their giant mansion but the only catch is that when they find her, they kill her. Weaving delivers a star-making performance that also features killer (no pun intended) outings from veterans like Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell. The best way to go into this movie is with as little knowledge possible and enjoy the ride. Thank me later.

Angel Has Fallen – Sometimes I am completely baffled to what gets the green light in Hollywood and what gets sequels and for how much I enjoyed Olympus Has Fallen, which was a bit above middling, London Has Fallen was complete garbage so why do we have this movie? The film has Gerard Butler returning again as the head of the Secret Service, this time he is framed for the attempted assassination of the new president, the former vice played by Morgan Freeman. Not much to expect from this one other than Butler dispatching bad guys left and right which spitting out one-liners and Danny Huston playing a smirking villain while chewing the scenery. Basic eighties and nineties action film fodder and I don’t expect good things from it.

Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles – Not being a fan of musicals, the appeal of the production Fiddler On The Roof is kind of lost on me even though my dad got us kids to watch it in our childhood, you know, the movie version made by Norman Jewison. You’d get me more interested with a documentary on it, which is what this is, the origin story behind one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals and its creative roots in early 1960s New York. The progressiveness of the show when society was completely uninclusive on gender roles, sexuality, race relations and religion is interesting and pretty groundbreaking in retrospect. Coming from a little known documentary maker, this movie could be a total hidden gem for theater buffs.

Aquarela – This film is, no joke, a movie about water but deep than that, no pun intended, this movie is about being immersed in it. Confused? Me too but to simplify it, this is Russian director Victor Kossakovsky’s cinematic journey through the transformative beauty and raw power of water in all of its forms. Done without the traditional style of talking-head interviews or voice overs, this is the story of Siberia’s frozen Lake Baikal and it’s rapid change of temperature, icebergs off the coast of Greenland and more all told in ninety six frames per second, capturing every essence of the moment. Just for comparison, all other films are shot in twenty-four frames per second.

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.

The Death And Life Of John F. Donovan – French Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has made some incredible movies over his career and is, in my opinion, one of the best writers and directors we have to offer. That said, his last movie It’s Only the End of the World was an infuriating mess of disjointed arguing for two hours of my life that I will never go back so even with his incredible skill I go into this movie with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. This film has Game Of Thrones star Kit Harrington as a young actor who reminisces the written correspondence he shared with an American TV star who passed away a decade earlier, as well as the impact those letters had on both their lives. The cast around Harrington is big, both internationally and nationally, as it has Kathy Bates, Natalie Portman and Susan Sarandon as well as local star Jacob Tremblay, the fantastic Sarah Gadon and Letterkenny creator Jared Keeso. I really want to have faith that this movie will be great as Dolan needs to rise to the top again.

The Queen’s Corgi – It seems like there is a lot of these little studio animated films that fly under my radar and another one just crossed my inbox today so on short notice I have to scramble together what this one is all about. The film is pretty simple, the British monarch’s favorite dog gets lost from the palace and finds himself at a dog fight club and then needs to make his long and arduous journey home, so it seems like a… wait… did that say “dog fight club” like dog fighting ring? Whoa, this just got dark and with the only recognizable name in this being Dam Julie Walters and other characters being ones named “Trump” this movie may be just enough under the radar to be completely weirdo. I think I’m in.

Overcomer – Oh fantastic, another faith-based film. This movie comes from a couple of the heavyweights in this genre of films, the Kendrik brothers who are responsible for movies like War Room, Fireproof and Facing The Giants, which were all successful within that audience. This film has one of the brothers Alex taking a front and center role, playing a high school basketball coach who has to use his faith to uplift his team when the local plant closes, losing most of their parents their jobs in the process. Expect a lot of religious pandering and terrible acting and direction as none of these films seem to rise to the level of any mainstream movies, content to give the lowest form of talent just to drive home their message.

Blu-Ray:

A Dog’s Journey – I really don’t think the first movie A Dog’s Purpose or the unconnected canine film A Dog’s Way Home really drummed up enough theatrical interest for these dog movies but watching my daughter’s eyes light up in moments in this movie makes it pretty clear why Sony would keep on this path. The story of this film is the continuing story of a dog learning about existence and the strength of love through continuous reincarnation, which sounds sweet but only if it wasn’t presented in such a contrived and totally cheesy way. Yes, this will definitely land with the kids but the first one was such a plodding and grating mess of a movie this one even undershot that. Even with the delighted joy my daughter found in the playful moments of this film, there is still the crushing blow of inevitable death in each of these dog’s incarnations which is a hard pill to swallow as both parent and child. The kids may like it but you will have some explaining to do afterwards.

Brightburn – Coming from the mind of the brilliant writer and director James Gunn, this movie poses the question “what if Superman didn’t take the path of good?” Yes, deeply a horror film, the movie has an alien boy crash land on earth, adopted by a small town family but snaps when bullying and life’s problems get too much and he learns of his extraordinary powers. The film isn’t directed by Gunn but his style is all over the script and the trailer is so deeply satisfying to genre fans such as myself. This one could be really cool.

The Hustle – Just looking at the title of this new comedy film you wouldn’t know that it’s a remake with a gender twist but once you get about thirty seconds in you realize “Hey, this is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels!” Now after watching it I’m wondering how did a reimagining of one of my favorite comedies turn into such a pile of garbage? Minutes into the film I knew I was in for a terrible time as Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway stood in for the iconic Steve Martin and Michael Caine in a cringe-worthy update filled with easy jokes, corny sentimentality and completely predictable beat after beat. By the end of this hour and a half mess, I felt like I’d been locked into it for three hours.

The Sun Is Also A Star – I’m really on the fence with this one because on the surface it looks like a standard teen romance film, something that has never really found any resonance with me. Looking deeper, the movie is about a girl on the eve of being deported from the United States, the only home she has ever known, who meets a boy that sparks an immediate connection with her. The trailer invokes feelings of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, a burgeoning romance that unfolds over one day and that intrigues me. The added factor that Ry Russo-Young, director of the surprisingly great Before I Fall, is the director behind this film gives it that much more weight. This movie has a lot of potential and seems to be timely in its delivery.

The Tomorrow Man – Two stellar actors in John Lithgow and Blythe Danner lead this lighthearted romantic drama about two ageing people who have seemed to have given up on love and friendship. Lithgow plays Ed, a recluse who is constantly preparing for the end of the world, constantly buying provisions to stock in his bomb shelter at the local grocers, the place he spots Blythe Danner’s character Ronnie, who works at the local knick-knack shop, buying things she will never use. Ed eventually steels up enough nerve to ask Ronnie out and the odd relationship of feeling out each other’s quirks begins. The story feels a bit standard but these two veterans are really what the draw is here because they make every moment of the film feel so deeply meaningful.

The Biggest Little Farm – This documentary is the start of a really great trend this week, the “feel good” doc because this one is full of good intentions and celebrated outcomes. The film follows the journey of John and Molly Chester, a Los Angeles couple who dream of owning their own sustainable farm, something that seemed like a pipe dream to them. Through a string of circumstances, they decide to put their ideas out into the world and find many financial backers to help get them the land they need, two hundred acres north of the City Of Angels. Now on the farm, a dilapidated space that needs a complete overhaul, the two find themselves in control of the next step. This movie was massively inspirational in a push to follow what drives you and has surprising depths of emotion that seem to bubble up here and there. I found myself enthralled with the Chesters’ story very quickly and was gripped to the end.

NCIS New Orleans: Season 5 – The expanded spinoff series seems to be a thing of the past as we only have one Law & Order now, there are no CSis left and the Criminal Minds one didn’t work out, although I heard it wasn’t bad. This all seems to have skipped the NCIS franchise, which is a spinoff of JAG itself and has not one but two extra shows with NCIS Los Angeles and this one starring Scott Bakula as the lead. The show is your standard fare for these, just factoring in a cajun flavor for the locale, but the charm of Bakula himself, the friendly face of classics like Quantum Leap and Star Trek Enterprise may draw you to it. I like the cast formed around him like stalwart veteran CCH Pounder and former child star Lucas Black.

Blue Bloods: Season 9 – Starting with the traditional procedural, I now move onto the primetime crime dramas with this Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg led show that moves into the double digits in seasons next month. Basically, this is like the Charles Bronson series of made for television movies A Family Of Cops but told much better as we have Tom Selleck as the patriarch of the family and also the commissioner of police, his sons Wahlberg and Will Estes as a detective and police sergeant respectively. The cast rounds out with Bridget Moynahan as the sister, an assistant DA, and the great Len Cariou as the grandpa, a former commissioner himself and the show is actually very solid and its long tenure is indicative of that.

Ronja – The Robber’s Daughter: Complete Series – It’s time for another adventure of Steve’s foray into the anime genre as he attempts to grasp an opinion on it. Okay, that’s a long title that needs shortening but it’s fitting as this box set is a full series consisting of twenty-six episodes. Told over a four-disc blu-ray, this is the story of Ronja, a young girl whose father is the chief of a tribe of bandits in a huge castle in a forest. The show follows her as she encounters mystical creatures and experiences life in her element. It’s based on the fantasy story Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, written by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren who also brought us the classic Pippi Longstocking so my daughter latched on to that as it kind of resonates in the same way.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Weird Science – This is a special little gift from Arrow Video, a collector’s edition of one of the greatest comedies of the 1980s and a movie that got young Steve on his way to loving movies and comedies. From the mind of writer and director John Hughes, the absolute legend, this is the story of two computer nerds played by Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith who bring the woman of their dreams to life through their computer in the form of mod eighties it girl Kelly LeBrock. This new edition features three different cuts of the movie, which includes an extended version and one edited for television as well as a treasure trove of brand new featurettes. All of it is so great for any movie buff looking to celebrate a Hughes classic.

Pretenders With Friends – A cool part of being hooked up with MVD Visual Entertainment is they put Blu-ray, DVD and CD combos like this one that I never would have checked out otherwise. Chrissy Hynde and her band The Pretenders put together this show where they invited guests like Kings Of Leon, Incubus, Shirley Manson of Garbage and the legendary Stooge, Iggy Pop to do some songs with them, recorded live at the Decades Rock Arena in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The little switch up in this collaboration is The Pretenders perform their guest’s hits with them so we get to hear Hynde’s voice on songs like Only Happy When It Rains, Drive and The Bucket. For a guy that’s been raised on songs like On The Chain Gang and Day After Day, this is a real treat of a show even if the video quality isn’t amazing.

Television:

13 Reasons Why: Season 3 (Netflix) – Every time Netflix announces that a new season is coming for this show I’m a little taken aback because I always thought that this would be kind of a standalone series but I think the property must be too lucrative for them to sit on. Now, heading into a bit of spoiler territory, this third season has Dylan Minnette’s character Clay Jensen investigating the murder of Bryce Walker, his fellow classmate putting the whole film noir aspect of this show back into high gear. My question is how much longevity does this show have ad how many suspicious deaths can one high school contain?

American Factory (Netflix) – A brand new Netflix produced documentary, this movie has a pertinent place in the world right now, especially with the Trump administration’s trade wars, tariff threats and promises of an increase to the industry in America. The film focuses on post-industrial Ohio and a Chinese billionaire who opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring two thousand blue-collar Americans who had been laid off due to outsourcing. Unfortunately, all of the hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China and calls for speed and efficiency clashes with working-class America and their needs. In the news and politics of today films like this are massively important for us to take in, giving us a broader look at the industry depths of Americans.

Hyperdrive: Season 1 (Netflix) – This is a super easy one to describe. Former UFC champion and British trash talker Michael Bisping hosts this reality series where drivers from around the world compete in one of the largest automotive obstacle courses ever made in a tournament to whittle the customers down to find the best. This will appeal to the subscribers who already take in every episode of Ultimate Beastmaster or check out things like American Ninja Warrior, Robot Wars and those type of series but we get fast stunt cars instead. All I know is that my daughter is probably really excited about this one.

This Way Up: Season 1 (Hulu) – If you like to follow along with comedians on Twitter, the name Aisling Bea might be familiar to you, a hilarious comedian from the U.K. who doesn’t pull her punches and will come at anyone. Well, now she has her own Hulu original that she stars in with the equally funny Sharon Horgan, who recently made an impression on North American audiences with her supporting role in Game Night. This series follows Bea as a young woman who is trying to put her life back together after suffering from a nervous breakdown so probably something totally relatable for a lot of people. We need more shows that deal with depression, anxiety and other very common life issues that bog all of us down.

The Righteous Gemstones: Season 1 (HBO) – As a huge fan of Danny McBride’s work, crudeness being a main factor, I have always been massively supportive of his work. Starting with his insane character study Eastbound and Down, the ballad of burnt-out baseball player Kenny Powers, then his turn on Vice Principals about two men battling over a vacant principal position, I love all of his work so this one is sure to be great too. Co-starring his Vice Principals co-star Walton Goggins as well as John Goodman and Adam Devine, this show follows a world-famous televangelist family with a long tradition of deviance, greed and charitable work which I love as a premise because someone has to take the piss out of a user like Joel Osteen and Danny McBride is the perfect person to do it I think.

New Releases:

The Angry Birds Movie 2 (Opened on Tuesday) – From mobile game to big screen adaptation, this Rovio product of simple catapulting birds into structures to foil a bunch of green pigs has proved to be a massive property and truth be told I didn’t mind the first movie at all which is a good thing because my kid loves the movie and TV show. This new movie has the birds and pigs teaming up to take on a new threat located on an undiscovered island in their area and the voice talent is definitely present for this one including the returning Jason Sudekis, Josh Gad and Danny McBride as our main heroes as well as Sterling K. Brown, Bill Hader, Awkwafina and many, many more. That’s the element that keeps me interested.

Blinded By The Light (Opened on Wednesday) – Music driven comedies haven’t had the greatest un this year with Danny Boyle’s world without Beatles movie Yesterday making a pretty short stumble at the box office. Hoping to break that mould of 2019, this film takes it in a different direction with a teenager learning to live life, understand his family and find his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen in n 1987 during the uptight days of Thatcher’s Britain. Right away the blue-collar American nature of The Boss’s music with the sensibilities of a Hindu British family is a very interesting dynamic and the movie looks so charming. It also should be noted that this film comes from the writer and director of Bend It Like Beckham so this isn’t her first kick at this sort of story. I think it will be great. (Not opening in Hamilton)

Good Boys – The basic premise here is preteen Superbad, rude, crude and lewd. This might make you a little uncomfortable or you will have the bandwidth to say that, hey, this is a movie and just take it in as such. Vancouverite Jacob Tremblay joins his buddies Keith L. Williams from The Last Man On Earth and Boardwalk Empire’s Brady Noon in this film about three sixth grade boys who ditch school and embark on an epic journey while carrying accidentally stolen drugs. Along the way, they are hunted by teenage girls all while trying to make their way home in time for a long-awaited party where they may kiss a girl for the first time. The advance reviews for this movie are really positive and the movie may find itself in the same conversation as the movie I compared it to but in calibre and not just subject matter.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged – Shark movies, it should be standard to have one each summer, right? I mean, just to keep Spielberg’s Jaws legacy alive and remembering where we got our blockbuster culture from. This year’s shark movie is a follow up to the Mandy Moore starring film from a couple of years back that honestly wasn’t that bad. This time we get all new characters in this story about four teen girls diving in a ruined underwater city who quickly learn they’ve entered the territory of the deadliest shark species in a claustrophobic labyrinth of submerged caves. Made by the same guy who did the first film, as well as the great Strangers sequel from last year, this looks to ramp up the shark fear and intensity on a bigger scale but will it work or will it just be laughably ridiculous? (Not opening in Kamloops)

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – I feel like it’s been a while since we’ve seen a Richard Linklater film and I have been going through with drawls without his cinema sensibilities on the big screen. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true but it has been two years since Last Flag Flying and the simple fact that this pairs him up with Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett had me salivating for this movie as soon as it was announced. The film has her as a mom who becomes compelled to reconnect with her creative passions after years of sacrificing herself for her family. This takes her on an epic adventure that jump-starts her life and leads to her triumphant rediscovery with her family chasing along behind her. Co-starring Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer and the great new star Troian Bellisario, this movie showcases what Linklater does best, deeply human stories in a contemporary setting. (Not opening in Hamilton, London, Kamloops or Oshawa)

Cold Case Hammarskjöld – This is one of those interesting documentaries of the discovery of a deeper subject while investigating something that only turned out to be scratching the surface. Told by Danish director Mads Brügger as he dictates the events of an investigation into the death of a UN secretary-general to a typist, the film gives a point by point visual aide to a localized conspiracy with global implications. As their investigation closes in on some undeniable truths on the murder, they uncover a series of crimes far worse than that perpetrated by a government-created agency of mercenaries tasked with carrying out white supremacist orders in Africa. Although the approach to telling this story made it a tough watch for me, the information given in this film is grossly fascinating and absolutely terrifying in every way. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

After The Wedding – Writer and director Bart Freundlich is a pretty ambitious filmmaker with his new film as he has taken on the task of adapting the great Susanne Bier and her 2006 drama starring Mads Mikkelsen. Swapping the genders of the lead three characters, the film is about a manager of an orphanage in Kolkata who travels to New York to meet a benefactor who has promised them a massive boost to their funding. When she arrives there she is invited to attend the wedding of her potential angel investor’s daughter, which begins a revelation that changes everyone’s future. The film is nowhere near the calibre of its source material but the emotional moments land with sledgehammer weight through the powerful performances of Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore and Billy Crudup. This is a serious actor’s clinic. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Luce – With his first movie out of the gate being Cloverfield Paradox, the third piece in the J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot monster universe, it was hard to get a sense of what kind of filmmaker Julius Onah is. Now with his second feature, he taps into a dramatic side with a married couple who is forced to reckon with their idealized image of their adopted son after an alarming discovery by a devoted high school teacher about his former life in a war-torn country threatens his status as an all-star student. The cast is deep, featuring Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts, Tim Roth and It Comes At Night star Kelvin Harrison Jr. as the title character. PArt of me geeks out because this is the reunion of Watts and Roth as a married couple following the remake of Funny Games. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am – Heading into this documentary, my knowledge of Toni Morrison’s work was slightly limited. I was a huge fan of the Jonathan Demme directed film Beloved, based on her novel and knew she was the frequent author of choice for Oprah’s famous book club. This film gave me a crash course in this gifted and important literary voice and Nobel Prize winner and, most importantly, it all comes from Morrison herself who tells her story to the camera, leaving no stone unturned. Including interviews with friends like Black Power activist Angela Davis, writer Fran Lebowitz and Oprah Winfrey herself, we get a full portrait of how pivotal she is to black literature, the preservation of it and the need to keep it on the forefront of history. As far as biographical documentaries go, this one is top notch. (Only opening in Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Avengers: Endgame – It’s finally on Blu-ray so I can relive it again and again and again! After over ten years of movies and one of the most devastating cliffhangers in any mainstream movie ever we were gifted the fates of the Earth’s mightiest heroes and the end or new beginnings for a large part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as both Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. have stated, no spoilers involved, that this is their final times in these bigger than life roles. Yes, Spider-Man: Far From Home is currently in theaters, Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 3, The Eternals, Black Widow, Shang Chi and more sequels for Black Panther, Thor and Doctor Strange are still coming but the timeline going forward is still unknown. I have many thoughts and speculations to what could happen but I don’t want anything I say to be construed as a spoiler so get watching the home release so I can talk freely in about six months.

All Is True – Director Kenneth Branagh reimmerses himself in something that is comfortable and must feel like second nature to him, the works of Shakespeare. It comes with a twist this time as he takes on the story of the man himself and even dons the role to do so. The film depicts the final days of the iconic playwright, exposing his demons and his damaged relationship with his daughter. Co-starring Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellan, this movie may seem very longwinded for anyone just jumping into the story uninitiated but I found the movie fascinating, especially from the point of view of all of Branagh’s work behind him. It really feels like a capper to this portion of his career, like he is ending this story with the end of William Shakespeare himself.

Unplanned – This movie was released a while back in the states, months ago to be accurate, and given its subject matter the timing of the film is both horrifying and fascinating. The movie is a pandering faith-based film with nothing more than an agenda to be brainlessly consumed by their base. The plot follows a woman who becomes one of the youngest Planned Parenthood directors in the US. After she is asked to assist in an abortion at thirteen weeks she instead resigns, becoming a pro-life activist. I’m usually against banning films or boycotting it as I feel its pretty limiting in the art field but this is a movie that I hope earns no box office numbers whatsoever. No movie should be used as a political weapon or one that confused people with fiction disguised as fact. This honestly makes me mad.

Shadow – Usually I’m on board with acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s work from the get-go, whether it’s the high concept action set pieces like Hero or House Of Flying Daggers or thee stilled emotion of Raise The Red Lantern or Coming Home. As a viewer, he always has me in the palm of his hand but this new feature had to play a bit for me to get some foothold. Set during China’s Three Kingdom’s era, this is the story of a king and his people who will be expelled from their homeland if they don’t fight back to keep it. The king, his general and the women of the palace struggle to find redemption in a world where they have no place as a commoner called “Lord of all the world” might be the one to take them all down. For however long I struggled to make this movie work in my mind, the second and third act make up for it with crazy and bloody action all filmed with breathtaking expertise. Yimou is a master and he never lets you forget that.

New Amsterdam: Season 1 – Let’s face it. When it comes to medical procedurals they are kind of a dime a dozen and get instantly compared to Grey’s Anatomy or House M.D. and kind of brushed off. That’s what I thought when I received this new show from Universal, as, from the outset, it has that formula written all over the cover. Not to be confused with the Nickolaj Coster-Waldau series from over ten years ago, this show has BlackkKlansman’s Ryan Eggold as a new medical director who breaks the rules to heal the system at America’s oldest and most rundown public hospital, all while dealing with terminal cancer. The pilot was very intriguing and it also features Maple Ridge’s Tyler Labine in a plum role as a hospital administrator. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen so far and it earned the pick up for season two.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:

Silent Hill – Without a bit of hyperbole, I can say that this movie is the greatest video game adaptation ever made. The source material freaked the hell out of me when I had originally played it on Playstation and the film had the same effect on me when I saw it opening weekend in theaters. The atmosphere, the sound design, the visual effects, all brilliantly crafted by French director Christophe Gans to give you an experience you won’t forget. Now, thanks to those sweethearts at Shout Factory, we have a brand new collector’s edition because they know their fanbase and know that we needed this incredible movie back in our lives with all the goodies of great special features.

Shortcut To Happiness – Sometimes I am sent movies that I am literally looking at for the first time and usually they are films from before 1970, which is a weak point in my movie knowledge. Then there are movies like this one which I feel like I should have known because of the cast which includes Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin and Bobby Cannavale. The movie is about down-and-out writer Jabez Stone, played by Baldwin who also directs the film, that sells his soul to The Devil in the form of Jennifer Love Hewitt for the purpose of fame and fortune. Why haven’t we heard about this? Well, according to Alec Baldwin, this movie was re-edited after it came into the possession of Bob Yari Productions, and no longer is anything true to its original form or to the Benet short story, The Devil And Daniel Webster. Baldwin requested that his name be removed from the credits as director and producer and instead this movie is credited to Harry Kirkpatrick. The end result though is kind of a hilarious trainwreck in all the worst ways.

The Chill Factor – Oh baby, early nineties horror, what a treasure trove this can be because it predates the resurgence that Wes Craven gave the genre in the middle of the decade, although this movie was never in the popular category. Starring no one you know, this is about a group of snowmobilers who become trapped on a lake and hole up in an abandoned camp. What they don’t know is that the camp was once used by a satanic cult for its rituals, and is still infested by demons, who begin to kill off the group. Yeah, this is like a cheesy demon movie made for B-movie fans like myself and a big reason why I’m so happy I liked up with a company like Arrow Video. They just get me.

Television:

Mindhunter: Season 2 (Netflix) – I feel like we’ve been waiting forever for this creepy look into the minds of serial killers at a time law enforcement was getting into profiling them. Executive produced and sometimes directed by the incredible David Fincher, this is the type of series that will keep you up at night. Starring Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany, the show puts these two agents on real cases with real killers being portrayed and this season will bring in notorious names like Charles Manson to the fray. I seriously can’t wait.

Straight Up Steve Austin: Season 1 (USA) – Usually I wouldn’t bring a reality show to this part of the write-up but I am a wrestling fan and this is led by the biggest badass to enter the ring, Stone Cold Steve Austin so deal with it. The show has Austin in his element, hosting an interview-based series, chatting with some of his celebrity friends in exciting surroundings like Rob Riggle in a tank, Impractical Jokers’ Sal Vulcano getting some just desserts from the Rattlesnake and even some ATVing with “The Man” Becky Lynch. All of this is geared totally towards me so maybe this one is a little self-serving.

The Terror: Infamy (AMC) – It’s an all-new story for this sleeper AMC hit and I’m really excited for it because season one of this show is an absolute frozen gem that will chill you to the core with its monstrous tale. The second season takes place on the west coast of the United States during World War II and follows an uncanny spectre that menaces a Japanese-American community from its home in Southern California to the internment camps to the war in the Pacific. The reviews haven’t been as great for this season but the focus I find fascinating, especially as a fan of Asian horror. With George Takei and Torchwood’s Naoko Mori starring in it, I still have high hopes.

Succession: Season 2 (HBO) – I used to be so in tune with whatever HBO was releasing because everything had such a stellar quality to it that it was all can’t miss television so the fact that this one has flown outside of my radar is a bit sad. It follows the Roy family who controls one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world and their lives as they start to make power moves in the hopes that their ageing father begins to step back from the company. It stars Brian Cox as the patriarch of the Roys as well as Kieran Culkin, Nicholas Braun and Jeremy Strong but the standout for me is Hiam Abass as Cox’s wife who constantly delivers knockout performance after performance. This is a winner for sure.

Lodge 49: Season 2 (AMC) – We definitely need more quirk in our comedy dramas and this show is totally indicative of that and I’m sure a large part of the mainstream audience has zero clue of its existence. Starring Wyatt Russell as the lead, Sean ‘Dud’ Dudley, a character that finds himself one day on the steps of Lodge 49, a dusty fraternal order that offers cheap beer and strange alchemical philosophies on the modern world, this show blew me away within twenty minutes of the first episode. The show is a fascinating blend of existential despair, wild ideas and a bit of redemption and I’m so happy to see it got a chance to further its odd folk tale. This is an odd one, so take it with an open mind.

New Releases:

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark – Adapted from a classic book that gave me the serious creeps as a kid, this quasi-anthology horror film was shepherded to the screen by Guillermo del Toro and directed by Troll Hunter and The Autopsy Of Jane Joe filmmaker André Øvredal. To give a bit of story to this, it all takes place in the late sixties and follows a group of kids who find a book of scary stories in an abandoned house. When each of the stories starts to come to life they find that there is some larger evil that is responsible for it. The trailers for this film are unsettling, terrifying in it’s imagery and downright gross for one scene and I think it’s holding back on what the full theatrical vision is. I’m excited for this.

The Kitchen – Based on a graphic novel from Vertigo Comics, a subdivision of DC Comics, this movie is going to be a great one. The directorial debut of Andrea Berloff, one of the writers on Straight Outta Compton, this film boasts a great cast led by the solid trio fo Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elizabeth Moss in roles that are decidedly different for these gifted actresses. They play the wives of New York gangsters in Hell’s Kitchen in the 1970s who continue to operate their husbands’ rackets after they’re locked up in prison, so picture a bit of the plot of Steve McQueen’s Widows from last year with a handful of aesthetic changes. I’m really looking forward to this one and the trailer is dynamite.

Dora And The Lost City Of Gold – It feels like a long time coming for this educational kids franchise to make the leap to the big screen as I’m unsure what the popularity of this Nickelodeon show is at these days. Sicario: Day Of The Soldado star Isabela Moner stars in as the title character who is in a transitional time in her life as she is being sent out of the jungle and into the public school system to try and normalize her a bit. This is until her parents are captured by greedy treasure hunters and Dora nad her new friends must save them while searching for, you guessed it, a lost city of gold. All I can say in closing is you’re either going to take your kids to this or you won’t but please don’t read the Hollywood Reporter review of this movie because the critic went to some weird and inappropriate places with his thoughts. (Not opening in Hamilton)

The Art Of Racing In The Rain – In the next film of using dogs as manipulation, This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia stars in this story about a formula one race car driver who buys a golden retriever puppy to accompany him on his journey through life. That sounds cheesily grandiose but that is really the film in a nutshell. I will say that this movie looks like a better told story than any of the Dog’s Way Home and Dog’s Journey films and we are spared the voice of Josh Gad this time but an inner dog monologue from Kevin Costner? I’m completely unsure about this and I don’t see it being any better than middling but there is a pretty sizeable built-in audience for this so I may be completely wrong about the want for this type of story. (Not opening in Hamilton or Kamloops)

Mike Wallace Is Here – In this time of demonization of the mainstream media and the vilifying of the truth from the big orange tyrant to the south, a film like this documentary is so important as it is the portrait of a giant among journalists Mike Wallace, a man with conviction that would ask all of the right questions whether his subject was prepared for it or not. He truly was the last gunslinger as far as unflinching journalism goes. This film floored me with Wallace’s incredible work showcased from his beginnings doing ad run television to his breakthrough show Nightly on ABC then to his life’s work heading the groundbreaking newsmagazine 60 Minutes. All the while I was watching this, and just like the Watergate documentary I had just ingested two weeks ago, the parallels to the current events is truly chilling. This is must-see right here. Get educated. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

David Crosby: Remember My Name – A story of remorse and regret built into a lifetime of brilliant music, many out there hate David Crosby including a lot of his former closest friends and collaborators and he is completely aware of that. Making no excuses, Crosby leads us through his life with his interviewer being director and former Rolling Stoner writer Cameron Crowe as they drive through Los Angeles and notably Laurel Canyon recounting his days in The Byrds, CSN, CSNY and his descent into ego, explosive rage, love, loss and eventually drug addiction. This is a deep dive into David Crosby’s psyche pulling back every emotional aspect of his life for examining. I was totally blown away by this documentary and to be honest I’ve been listening to his whole discography since. Damn, this has been an incredible year for music documentaries. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Light Of My Life – Probably one of those “hey man, this movie is thematically problematic for you” but Casey Affleck has made a movie where he exists in a world with no women. Yes, you read that right and he not only stars in it but wrote and directed it as well but let’s take a deeper look. He plays a parent who must protect his 11-year-old child journey through the outskirts of society a decade after a pandemic has wiped out half the world’s population. So, automatically if has that The Road feeling for me, which I’m completely on board for, but I get people’s trepidation with Affleck as the allegations are very damaging. I try to skirt away from this opinion but I still really enjoy Casey’s work but I feel in no way like a sort of Woody Allen apologist, I usually keep this kind of stuff to my self. I got a little revealing in this write up I guess. (Only opening in Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

UglyDolls – I have to be honest about this one because when I first saw the trailer for this animated kids tale I couldn’t even find a thread of story to it. Now that we’ve gotten a little more information on it, the larger picture being that this is a big movie version of the popular stuffed animal line, I still have no plot beyond that. It seems to be a big vehicle for this cast that includes Kelly Clarkson, Pitbull, Blake Shelton and Gabriel Iglesias to sing vapidly catchy songs and spread the message of acceptance, that last part not being a bad thing just find a better way to deliver it. I don’t have high hopes obviously.

Poms – When I initially saw the premise for this new comedy my eyes rolled so hard that I was in danger of losing them from my skull, never to return to my ocular cavities again. Diane Keaton, Jackie Weaver, Pam Grier and more star in this hoping to be an inspirational film about a bunch of retirees who decide to form a cheerleading troupe in their retirement community. There might be a slight chance that this movie has a bit of charm to it, directed at a certain age demographic, but I have yet to find a Diane Keaton film in the last decade that was really worth the time and I highly doubt that this is the film to break that mould. It just looks awful.

Tolkein – Almost two decades after the Lord Of The Rings became a massive theatrical franchise from Peter Jackson, we get the biopic of the man who’s mind that Middle Earth came from, J.R.R. Tolkien, played in the film by Nicholas Hoult. Not looking into the years where he was exploring the battle for the one ring, this movie focuses on his formative and college years, looking into him finding love and his friendship with an outcast group of art students who would eventually inspire him as they would for a “literary secret society” together. Overall, I enjoyed the film and Hoult’s performance is well done as he continues his popularity climb in Hollywood but I felt like the focus of the story was so meandering and I was unsure what the goal was. Is this a story about the friendships he cared so deeply about, the love story he shared with who would become his wife or the formation of a language and universe that he would become known for. It all feels a bit like a mishmash of these points.

Pokemon Detective Pikachu – To be completely honest, Pokemon was really more popular with the generation after me but I still have enough of a knowledge of the massive video and card game franchise to totally nerd out when I saw the trailer for this and especially the Mewtwo reveal in the final preview. Now I feel like I lost a lot of you so I’ll bring you all back with Ryan Reynolds providing the voice for the titular detective as the main human of the film, played by Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s Justice Smith, who is the only person who can actually understand him. All of that aside and fan of the show or not, this movie is actually pretty spectacular with non-stop action, beautiful imagery and a really fun script that will pull everyone in. Heck, after this movie you might just impress some kids with your new knowledge of the Pokemon universe.

The Curse Of La Llorona – Existing in the Conjuring universe from executive producer James Wan and company, we get a new ghostly horror film that takes place around the time of the first Conjuring movie with a connective tissue to the first Annabelle film as well. The story, set in 1970s Los Angeles, follows a social worker who finds her and her family under attack from a malevolent spirit who had previously terrorized one of the clients in her caseload to their demise. I like that the film stars Linda Cardellini, a huge draw for me but I really have to give some love to longtime supporting actor Raymond Cruz, who played Tuco in Breaking Bad, finally getting his first top billing in a feature film. Both of them are great, even if this film is a tad predictable, and even with that working against it I found the movie wholly engaging, stylistically interesting and featuring some very solid jump scares. With director Michael Chaves now being the guy to make the next Conjuring film I feel like the franchise is in the right hands.

Amazing Grace – Sadly, we lost the legendary and bigger than life singer Aretha Franklin just last August at the age of seventy-six so it was inevitable that we would get a documentary about her life and we do get a little glimpse of that here. Focusing on her performance with the choir at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles at the beginning of 1972, we follow Aretha at the top of her game, a thrilling time for any of her fans. The movie is being called one of the greatest concert documentaries ever and you’d have to think that the film has been in development for a long time as one of the co-directors, Sydney Pollack, passed away in 2008. Well, in reality, Pollock was the guy who shot the whole thing in ’72, passing it off in 2007 when he became too sick to continue this film’s crusade to the finish line.

The Souvenir – This is a really interesting film as it has Tilda Swinton playing mother to her real-life daughter Honor Swinton Byrne in a story about a young film student in the early 80s who becomes romantically involved with a man who sends her life into chaos. Coming of age dramas can be hit or miss but the narrative moves a bit differently in this movie as it is a semi-autobiographical film for director Joanna Hogg. Swinton Byrne feels like an established veteran already, handling the emotional heavy lifting that shows the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree or other metaphors of that nature.

What We Left Behind: Looking Back At Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – I am definitely not a big Trekkie by any extent but the one series that has always earned my love is Deep Space Nine and so much so that I consider it one of the greatest television series to ever hit screens. This documentary, co-directed by the creator of the show Ira Steven Behr, is a love letter to the third ever Star Trek series and, at the time, the most maligned and hated show by its fan base. It was obvious that the fans were obtuse to all the changes to what Star Trek was all about exhibited in the show, like no exploration, no real prime directive and the soap opera nature of the show but this seven season journey is a groundbreaker for the current golden age of television storytelling we have today. Fan or not, this documentary is fascinating and I didn’t even get to the original writers making a hypothetical follow up series decades later. So good.

Penguin Highway – More anime from Shout Factory and GKids with this new movie and this one is a bit more mature in its scope. The movie follows a fourth-grader named Aoyama-kun who investigates the mysterious reason behind the sudden appearance of penguins in his village, which is somehow related to special power from a young woman working at a dental clinic. Weird, right? Well, it gets more coming of age then that as at one point he questions why the young dental assistant’s breast makes him feel differently than his mother’s and he has odd run-ins with the local bully that goes in very strange directions. Honestly, this movie was the closest to me enjoying an anime fully but then it kind of lost me at the same time. Oh well, on to the next one.

Alice Sweet Alice – A brand new special edition that I received from Arrow Video before street date, this is a creepy little horror film from 1976 that was actually the debut of actress Brooke Shields. The film takes place in 1961 suburban New Jersey about a withdrawn adolescent girl who is suspected of her younger sister’s brutal murder during her first communion, as well as a series of stabbings that follow. The common ground with Arrow and this film is this is the same company that brought out the special edition of Bloody Birthday, another movie about homicidal kiddies, this rounds out a really great double feature in my opinion.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:

Winter Passing – This film was a discovery I made as a video clerk, the debut of writer and director Adam Rapp, a story about an actress played by Zooey Deschanel who returns to her hometown in Michigan to secure the rights of a book of love letters her father (Ed Harris) had written to her mother. What she finds is he has rented his house out to a couple of odd grad students and is living his life without a care for his ailing health. The movie came out during a period that supporting star Will Ferrell was doing phenomenal dramatic work like Stranger Than Fiction and this movie resonated with me beautifully. So happy to see this one on Blu-ray.

Fatso – I had never heard of this comedy-drama led by the great Dom Deluise but that is the great thing about these Shout Factory Select titles, as they give a spotlight to classic films that may not have been on anyone’s radar. Deluise plays a man who has a deep love for eating that must make some drastic life changes when his cousin dies from health complications due to a lack of exercise and improper diet. The movie delves into the struggle of following a new diet, figuring out the proper exercise routine and the brutal sweat of temptation. Co-starring Anne Bancroft who also wrote and directed the film, this movie is groundbreaking in that she used Brianne Murphy as the cinematographer, the first woman to shoot a major studio, union picture and it was released with Mel Brooks’ production company Brooksfilms.

The Green Inferno – This is a passion project fro writer and director Eli Roth that had a hell of a time securing a theatrical release and when it did it was out of theaters within two weeks, a total tragedy for horror movie fans. In an homage to Cannibal Holocaust and its director Ruggero Deodato, this film follows a group of student activists travelling to the Amazon to save the rain forest who soon discover that they are not alone and are captured by a tribe of cannibal natives looking for their next feast. This movie is sick, twisted and definitely not for the faint of heart at all which may have led to its early box office bow out but I really love this movie just because Roth is totally unflinching in what he will show on screen and his cinematic knowledge and love is always evident with every shot. I feel like this one will become a deep cult classic just like the movie it was trying to emulate and I think Shout Factory feels the same way I do.

Mojin: The Worm Valley – I was really wanting this movie from Well Go USA as it seems to be combining two things I really like, martial arts movies and monster movies but little did I know that it was a follow up to an earlier film, Mojin: The Lost Legend. The story follows legendary tomb explorer Hu Bayi on a dangerous mission as he seeks out the Tomb of Emperor Xian, located on an island of monstrous creatures. Everything about this sounds cool, a mishmash of cool genres directed at people who just want to be entertained. There are no huge stars and the director isn’t hugely experienced so just go into this one with an open mind and there is a book series this is based on as well for those who want a deeper dive.

Hold Back The Dawn – We’re getting some classic cinema in this batch of geek outs this week with this film that features Casino Royales’ Charles Boyer, mega Hollywood starlet Olivia de Havilland and Charlie Chaplin’s star Paulette Goddard. The film is about a man hoping to gain entrance into the U.S. from Mexico by marrying a citizen in basically Donald Trump’s nightmare film dating back to 1941. For a tidbit of cool old Hollywood trivia, this was the last script that the legendary Billy Wilder wrote and didn’t direct. Due to liberties taken with the material, he decided he would take control of his art so it was never altered again. Wilder was a genius and I love his resolve.

Television:

GLOW: Season 3 (Netflix) – I feel like I’ve been waiting for the latest season of this Jenji Kohan created show to arrive and it is finally here. To give a little insight into what it is all about, it follows Ruth, a struggling actress in 1980s Los Angeles who was having a hell of a time finding work until she came across the opportunity to be part of something new and different with the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling, an all-women wrestling promotion. Now having found success, the whole group movies to Las Vegas to hit the big time and I can’t wait. As a wrestling fan already, I’m preconditioned to love this show but I think it has a lot of appeal beyond that because it is such a well-done show with everyone knocking their role out of the park, especially Betty Gilpin and Marc Maron. Get on board the GLOW train immediately, it’s fantastic.

Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling (Netflix) – For any of you nineties kids out there, the alarm bells must have gone off when you saw the title Rocko’s Modern Life and I applaud you for it because I loved that show too. This show is the jumping point for the creators who would later bring us Spongebob Squarepants and would prepare us for the insanity within that franchise by giving us the craziness that is Rocko and his pal Heffer. Now, twenty-six years after the original series debuted we get the return that sees the return of our favorites from space to resume their mundane and more modern life. This will only excite a certain demographic but consider me part of it.

Free Meek: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – I love a good documentary series and this one is very interesting as it involves a high profile court case that captured North American with people arguing for either side even though it looks pretty clear cuts as far as verdicts go. The show chronicles Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill’s transformation from chart-topping rapper to the unflinching face of criminal justice reform. We also see Meek, his family and his legal team fight for his freedom while he was incarcerated due to a court system rigged against him and a judge trying to prove a moral point as well as reinvestigating his case which was filled with allegations of corruption. This is going to be a solid courtroom drama that has serious real-life ramifications.

BH90210: Season 1 (Fox) – Television fans from the nineties are going to be salivating for this show, including my own wife who is almost shaking with excitement. Although it is a bit bittersweet without the inclusion of the late Luke Perry, it’s pretty cool just to see everyone reunite for a little more closure, Aaron Spelling style. The series will focus on the original cast members of Beverly Hills, 90210, Jason Priestley, Jennie Garth, Ian Ziering, Gabrielle Carteris, Brian Austin Green, Tori Spelling, and Shannen Doherty, playing heightened, fictionalized versions of themselves. Having parted ways 19 years after the original series ended, they reunite to get a reboot up and running and must reconcile their new lives with the complications of their histories together. Seems weird in a way, right? From what I understand, Tori Spelling and Ian Ziering were the main force pushing to get this going so I just hope it was wall worth it.

Preacher: Season 4 (AMC) – One more kick at the can for Jesse, Cassidy and Tulip as they look to resolve all of their issues through as much violence as possible and really give it to God for unleashing Genesis on Earth and potentially ruining our heroes’ lives. This season will include some of my favorite plot points from the comic series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, a book I consider one of the best ever, as they head to the darkest swamps in Louisiana to seek out their answers. Seriously, this show is an adaptation I could only dream of and how well it has transitioned to the screen under the eyes of Sam Catlin, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg is more than enough to make this fanboy incredibly giddy. Can wait to see how it will all shake out by the end.