Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Snake Eyes – It’s been a bit of a tough go for the IP of G.I. Joe, known by fans for decades as the greatest American heroes, as the film versions, besides the animated one in the eighties, have all kind of flopped on the world stage in live-action form. There were cool elements in them like Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Cobra Commander who never got fully realized and the inclusion of box office viagra The Rock as Roadblock in the sequel but nothing fully came together to make an awesome franchise. They’re now going back to the origins for this new film that focuses on the fan-favourite of Snake Eyes, a tenacious loner who is welcomed into an ancient Japanese clan called the Arashikage after saving the life of their heir apparent. After he arrives, the Arashikage teaches Snake Eyes the ways of the ninja warrior while also providing something he’s been longing for, a place to call home. Unfortunately, when secrets from his past are revealed, Snake Eyes’ honour and allegiance will be tested as he turns to fight against those who had taken him in. Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding takes the title role of this film that, let’s face it, will have him go silent and never reveal his face again by the conclusion of this film. Still, it’s great casting and Samara Weaving as Scarlett honestly has me more excited about this film than anything. I’m really hoping it turns out to be good.

Old – After the fizzling third act of his Unbreakable trilogy with the slightly underwhelming Glass, the trickster and twisty filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan returns with a film that looks like straight-up horror and the film looks so deeply disturbing and equally intriguing. Of course, this movie is all contingent on if Night can keep the story going but the cast is really solid with Gael Garcia Bernal, Rufus Sewell, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, Abbey Lee and more so I feel a hit here. The story is about a family on a tropical holiday who discover that the secluded beach where they are relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly reducing their entire lives into a single day. The tone of the trailer is absolutely delicious as a horror fan so I’m hoping that it comes through as a breakout hit as nobody needs that more at this point than Shyamalan as he has an army of haters looking to disparage his work at every turn.

Joe Bell – A lowkey Mark Wahlberg film makes its quiet debut this week and just reading up on the story, if handled correctly, this movie could earn a lot of acclaim and put director Reinaldo Marcus Green on the A-list track with his second well-received film in a row after Monsters And Men. This film is the true story of a small town, working-class father who embarks on a solo walk across the United States to crusade against bullying after his son is tormented in high school for being gay. From what I’ve read, the relationship between Wahlberg and the youngster that plays his son, Reid Miller, was really important to the blockbuster star and he invited him to his house for breakfast just to tell him in person he booked the role of Jadin Bell. Stories like this are what makes these dramas so important and must-see in my opinion and it has been a few years since Wahlberg made a straightforward drama. I have good thoughts about this movie.

Jolt – I am a sucker for a slightly ridiculous premise, as I do have a deep love for Neveldine/Taylor’s Crank movies, but this film also has the bonus of being an action-comedy starring Kate Beckinsale and directed by Tanya Wexler in her follow up to the insanely fun Zoey Deutch comedy Buffaloed. The film is another tough woman story of a bouncer with a slightly murderous anger-management problem that she controls with the help of an electrode-lined vest she uses to shock herself back to normalcy whenever she gets homicidal. After the first guy she’s ever fallen for is murdered, she goes on a revenge-fueled rampage to find the killer while the cops pursue her as their chief suspect in a wild ride that has a great supporting cast with Jai Courtney, Stanley Tucci, Bobby Cannavale and Laverne Cox. This is probably a great bet to watch if you don’t want to head to the theatre for Snake Eyes and want to get some action in as it comes at you on Amazon Prime.

How It Ends – Zoe Lister-Jones has had an interesting career as a filmmaker as the Life In Pieces star releases her third feature and the follow-up to her reboot of a beloved nineties favourite that didn’t quite live up to its predecessor, The Craft: Legacy. The bite of this new comedy looks to me like a total redeemer as it follows a woman named Liza, played by Lister-Jones, who scores an invite to one last wild party before the world ends but making it there won’t be easy after her car is stolen and the clock is ticking on her plan to tie up loose ends with friends and family. Accompanied by her younger self, she embarks on a hilarious journey across Los Angeles, running into an eclectic cast of characters played by a great cast including Helen Hunt, Olivia Wilde, Fred Armisen, Lamorne Morris and Nick Kroll. The film is co-directed by Lola Versus filmmaker Daryl Wein and almost has a vignette or skit sort of delivery to it, like a Jarmusch film but I kind of have a thing for the end of the world comedies so I’m on board.

Creation Stories – I have a deep love for not just British movies but films from the surrounding areas as well from the ard to understand Welsh films, to the brogue-filled Irish movies and the rough Scottish stories as well. Because of this, I was exposed to Irvine Welsh’s works at a young age, at first from the wildly successful Trainspotting then discovering The Acid House on Showcase so that’s why this new film popping onto my radar intrigued me so much and it has Ewen Bremner who is no stranger to the author’s work, appearing in all of his films. For this film, the Scottish madman is going for the biopic, as this tells the unforgettable tale of infamous Creation Records label head Alan McGee and of how one written-off young Glaswegian upstart rose to irrevocably change the face of British culture. Directed by Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels actor Nick Moran, this film has Bremner giving a hell of a performance and the source work getting that beautiful rebellious kick from Irvine who just delivers with this script. I really adored this.

North Hollywood – As a skater boi myself, I was instantly drawn to this sort of coming-of-age film that involves skateboarding in a big way but it didn’t strike me as closely as Jonah Hill’s debut film Mid90s did but that’s not altogether. a bad thing. The film comes from Mikey Alfred who wrote this debut film as well as plays a supporting role and I really loved his dedication to the characters of it even if it sometimes comes at a detriment. The story follows Michael, played by Ballers actor Ryder McLaughlin, as he tries to answer the question every high school kid faces when they graduate: What’s next? Michael’s best friends already seem to have it figured out; one is going to college, and the other is going to work, but Michael is caught somewhere in between. He’s an aspiring professional skateboarder with the talent to back it up, but his blue-collar father, Oliver, played by an excellent Vince Vaughn, thinks it’s a pipe dream. Oliver wants Michael to either get a college degree and pursue a more conventional career, or join him in the construction business. Over the course of the film, Michael is torn in multiple directions. This film resonates in its ability to relate to everyone who’s had to take the next step in life and I really enjoyed it on that level.

The Last Letter From Your Lover – Now probably predominantly known as Taylor Swift’s fiance, I’ve seen Joe Alwyn’s career start with a great leading performance in Ang Lee’s forgotten 3D film Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk to his recent villainous work in the Harriet Tubman biopic and I had that in mind when I saw this Netflix romance coming down the line. Featuring a great cast around him including Felicity Jones and Shailene Woodley, the story is a pair of interwoven stories set in the present and past that follows Ellie Haworth, an ambitious journalist who discovers a trove of secret love letters from 1965 and becomes determined to solve the mystery of the forbidden affair at their center. As she uncovers the story behind Jennifer Stirling, the wife of a wealthy industrialist, and Anthony O’Hare, the financial journalist assigned to cover him, Ellie’s own love story unfolds with the assistance of an earnest, endearing archivist who helps her track down more letters. The film comes from director Augustine Frizzell who is red hot after directing the pilot of the very popular HBO series Euphoria and it was shot by George Steel who has done great work on the first season of Peaky Blinders. This might become a low-level hit for Netflix.

Alice – A film made on a micro-budget in a totally contained feeling setting, even though it does explore a bit outside, this drama has been garnering buzz at festivals and it definitely comes for the exquisite work that lead star Emilie Piponnier brings as well as the intricate writing and directing from Aussie filmmaker Josephine Mackerras in her debut feature. The story follows the titular character, a happy and perfect wife and mother who has her life turned upside down when she discovers her husband is living a secret life. When her husband steals her money and abandons her and her son, Alice finds herself broke, desperate, and on the verge of losing her house and with time running out, she realizes that the only way to make good money fast is to turn to her husband’s vice and become a prostitute. This movie operates in such a realistic fashion and reminded me of the work of hyperrealistic filmmaker’s The Derdennes, who have been making award-worthy films for decades. With this being just the beginning of Mackerras’ career, the sky is the limit I think.

Beans – One of my regrets at this past year’s online Vancouver International Film Festival was that I didn’t get the chance to check out Mohawk filmmaker Tracey Deer’s debut film that went on to win Best Canadian Feature Film. Now having gotten the chance to see this stunning film I think it is not just one of the best of 2021 but one of the most important stories I’ve watched this year. The film is a coming-of-age story of an indigenous teen girl at the same time as the 78-day standoff between two Mohawk communities and government forces in 1990 in Quebec. This movie is an engrossing look at the loss of innocence against the backdrop of racial hatred and violence that often left my jaw on the floor. The character development with Beans from the opening scene to a scene in the third act with her mother is mindblowing and I really can’t wait to see what Deer has coming next because she has a fan for life.

Amy Winehouse & Me: Dionne’s Story – I feel like it will be hard to top the documentary we got on this tremendously talented but ultimately tragic singer and songwriter from master filmmaker Asif Kapadia but this one is a little different. Already having debuted in the States on Paramount+, this is a deeply personal, heartfelt film tribute to the late Grammy-Award-winning singer-songwriter and cultural icon, but told through the lens of her goddaughter, singer-songwriter Dionne Bromfield. produced ten years after Amy’s passing, Broomfield opens up for the first time about the impact of Amy’s death on her life but illustrates the woman she remembers in a really well-constructed documentary that is a nice addition to the film that is already on Netflix and is still as important of a music and human template as it was then. That movie moved me to tears and this one did as well, a special piece of filmmaking that was definitely cathartic for those involved.

Stuntman – The unsung heroes of the film world are without a doubt the stunt players who work tirelessly behind the scenes and on camera to handle the carnage. They have dropped off buildings, thrown through glass windows, set on fire, bludgeon for our enjoyment, safely of course, and more things that I can list here. This film celebrates that a bit by showing us the story of legendary stuntman Eddie Braun in documentary form as he attempts one of the most dangerous stunts in history. Contemplating retirement and having survived over three decades of hellacious car crashes, explosions, high falls and death-defying leaps, Eddie decides to complete what his childhood hero never finished, the infamous Snake River Canyon rocket jump, an audacious televised event that almost killed famed daredevil, Evel Knievel. I’d say the biggest bummer of the film’s presentation is being on Disney+ rather than being experienced on the big screen. It really feels like it was intended for that format but just taking it in a story of a remarkable human being is a reward all on its own.

Blu-Ray & DVD:

Spiral: From the Book of Saw – This week in Canada we get to final experience in the proper format of blu-ray the new film in a franchise that was supposed to end after the seventh film, which was a 3D extravaganza. Oh and then a soft reboot with the flick, Jigsaw, but it flopped badly so do we still consider it a cog in the series? Now Chris Rock has stepped up as the executive producer and lead star, director Darren Lynn Bousman is back with writer Josh Stolberg and we get a whole new bag of nightmares to start fresh on. This story focuses on brash detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks who always seems to be working in the shadow of his father, an esteemed police veteran played by Samuel L. Jackson. With his rookie partner in tow, he takes charge of a grisly investigation into murders that are eerily reminiscent of the city’s gruesome past, which we all know now what’s alluded to there. Unwittingly entrapped in a deepening mystery, Zeke finds himself at the center of the killer’s morbid game as more bodies begin to pile up. These movies all used to operate with a bit of torture porn horror wink but the good news is that this film, not without its rough parts, does enough to reinvigorate the fan base and give us a few new threads to follow as far as the continued legacy goes. I’d be interested in more, personally.

Die In A Gunfight – You know, with a title as brash and audacious as this one you better hope you come with all the genre oomph you can muster or those four words will be the best thing about it and you might as well heed that titular advice. A little harsh, I know, but I would say the same thing for comic books as well. Starring Diego Boneta and the IT girl of the last few years, Alexandra Daddario, the story follows the Rathcarts and the Gibbons, very much the modern-day Montagues and Capulets, two rival families who each control their own media empire in New York City. Their teenage kids ignore the feud and fall in love, despite their parents’ efforts to keep them apart and with a hitman, corporate corruption, love, jealousy, revenge and lust all combining to a huge crescendo, all of the characters and emotions come to a head at the wedding in a culmination that falls short on its production level. This usually wouldn’t be an issue but some of the action sequences feel awkward to the point that they seem like a production afterthought. It honestly hurt the movie a lot in my opinion and kept dragging me out of the story. The filmmakers don’t need to go die in a gunfight though. Too harsh.

Jakob’s Wife – Horror writer and director Travis Stevens has had this story in the chamber for a long time and I had no idea that horror icon and Reanimator star Barbara Crampton had such a hand in getting it made as she had been pushing it for years and not only stars as the title character but also produced the film as well. Co-starring another indie horror icon, Larry Fessenden as Jakob himself, the story follows Anne, a woman married to a small-town Minister who feels her life has been shrinking over the past thirty years. Encountering “The Master” one day during a moment of weakness with an old flame, the experience brings her a new sense of power and an appetite to live bolder along with a couple of worrisome bite marks on her neck However, the change comes with a heavy body count and her husband is forced to come to her rescue if he will be able to save their marriage as well. This movie is so well written with great tongue-in-cheek comedy and, even in a vampire film, it manages to bring new and fresh ideas to a subgenre that has been reinvented countless times. It also features a small role for the former wrestler and mixed martial artist CM Punk which made me smile.

Georgetown – Just having Christoph Waltz leading your film will automatically have me interested in it because he always brings such gravitas to every role even if he’s playing a self-conscious villain in The Green Hornet. In this film, he plays an eccentric and smooth-talking social climber who seems to have everyone in Washington, D.C., wrapped around his finger. His momentum seems to be impeded when he is investigated after his wealthy, well-connected and much older wife turns up dead in their home and questions are raised about his true identity. Co-starring formidable actresses Annette Bening and Vanessa Redgrave, the script and plot are what begin to fail this story before any of the performances do and it all works out to be far less than the sum of its parts. I wouldn’t call it a bad or so-so movie but I was expecting far more from it and the ending just seems to fizzle.

Take Me Out To The Ball Game – This week Warner Archive is going classic Americana with one of their releases as they’ve got both Frank Sinatra and the have the age-old pastime of baseball. The interesting thing with this film is that it came at a time when Frank Sinatra’s career was struggling and the only time he did well at the box office was when paired with Gene Kelly, so, we have this musical romantic comedy. The story has Sinatra and Kelly as two turn-of-the-century baseball players, who work in vaudeville during the off-season, that run into trouble with their team’s new female owner and a gambler who doesn’t want them to win the pennant. The film would have had the triple head billing of Judy Garland’s star power but due to her developing drug problem she was unreliable so Esther Williams was picked for the role which, in turn, created confusion to the audience as to why there weren’t any swimming sequences, the reason Williams rose to fame. Old Hollywood is so weird yet so fascinating and I love behind-the-scenes stories like this. It gives the films a whole new context.

I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes! – For the second of three Warner Archive films this week we head back to 1948 for a film noir mystery that came from a pioneer filmmaker named William Nigh who was in his late sixties making this film with this and Stage Struck, released in the same year, being his final production after a career that started behind the camera in 1914. The story follows a dancer who is pinned for murder after his shoe prints are found at the scene of the crime. After he is convicted to death row and is on the shortlist to execution, his wife follows the trail of clues that don’t quite add up to her husband’s involvement to find the real perpetrator. This film has an ordinary nature to it that is dispelled by the great way in which they tackle the mystery. YOu can really feel Nigh’s veteran capabilities in some parts but also feel that he is a bit tired in others. Still, this was an interesting watch.

Step By Step – I totally geeked out on this blu-ray update of this film noir crime drama as it features Lawrence Tierney in the lead role and my first thought went to his appearance in Quentin Tarantino’s debut film Reservoir Dogs. This is for sure a movie that inspired Tarantino’s own film career and Tierney is so great in this, tough, virile and in his prime as a twenty-five year old man. The story follows him as Johnny, an ex-Marine, who, with Evelyn, a chance acquaintance, find themselves caught up in a plot involving Nazi spies infiltrating sunny California. In a hilarious bit of trivia, retakes were often required as a result of Lawrence Tierney’s showing too much, um, “enthusiasm” for his co-star Anne Jeffreys in his tight-fitting swim trunks. I don’t think I need to explain that one more but I think it’s funny that history discloses that tidbit of information.

Royal Deceit – This was a weird one as MVD Entertainment sent me the blu-ray update of this mid-nineties medieval story with a killer cast including Christian Bale, Kate Beckinsale, Helen Mirren and Gabriel Byrne yet I had never heard of it. The film is a re-telling of Hamlet that goes back to the original Danish source material with the opening scenario remaining the same, Hamlet’s father is murdered by his brother who then weds the widowed mother. Like the original tragedy, Hamlet then must discover his strength and leadership that will allow him to regain his rightful throne but the twist hits in the second and third act as this story chooses to follow a more Viking route of storytelling. This film wasn’t well received at the time as Kate Beckinsale stated that after this movie’s release, she was approached by a man in Paris, praising the movie, saying that he never saw the story of Hamlet work as a comedy. This movie was definitely not meant to be a comedy but it showcases some actors who hadn’t yet hit their star-making stride.

Close Range/Savage Dog – Underrated action star Scott Adkins gets showcased big time in this new blu-ray double feature that features two of favourites of his work according to his fans. Close Range has him as a rogue soldier turned outlaw who is thrust into a relentless fight with a corrupt sheriff, his obedient deputies, and a dangerous drug cartel to protect his sister and her young daughter. The film has a big-budget action quality that really comes through on the fight scenes and the camera just loves Adkins thoroughly. The second film is the late fifties set Savage Dog that has him as a former boxing champion imprisoned in the Den-Dhin-Chan labour camp run by Vietnamese warlords and European war criminals. He makes a name for himself fighting tournaments on which wealthy criminals gamble in high-stakes events in the hopes of earning himself a release but the corrupt forces running the jail will do everything in their power to keep him locked down. This is another consistent action film that delivers on its brutality and is absolutely entertaining throughout. I was surprised by how satisfying this double feature was.

Dead & Buried 4K – One of the minds behind Alien, Ronald Shusett, was the driving force behind this creeper horror film from 1981 that operated a little bit under the radar but gained a huge cult following years later and now, on its fortieth anniversary, is quite revered by horror fans as an original and iconic piece of genre filmmaking. The first film from Raw Meat director Gary Sherman in almost ten years, this film is set in a small coastal town where, after a series of gory murders committed by mobs of townspeople against visiting tourists, the corpses begin to come back to life. The sheriff and his wife start to realize that the town’s coroner, played by Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory actor Jack Albertson, which will come into play later in the blog, is responsible for it and is creating an army of rural zombies. This movie is totally awesome and features some amazing gore and creature effects from a young Stan Winston in an incredible establishment of his work. It was also sadly the final film of Albertson who passed away before the film’s release from cancer that he suffered through while making it.

Star Trek Discovery: Season 3 – Look, I’m not fully caught up on everything in this series yet so for my research I just went as spoiler-free and vague just so I wouldn’t spoil everything for myself but I will say that fans of Star Trek aren’t too happy with the series. I’m enjoying it so far as I’m not as invested in it as everyone else but I can totally get people’s issues with it. The show is set ten years before Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise, as the USS Discovery discovers new worlds and lifeforms with one main Starfleet officer learning to understand all things alien both about herself and those around her starting at the disadvantage of being an accused mutineer for her brash actions. Great casting, exciting adventures and inner politics and an infinite ceiling due to being on the CBS All Access streaming service, I really like what they’re doing with this show and the possibilities are really endless to where they can go.

Gangs Of London: Season 1 – As a network that generally has made great decisions for its line up by picking up British programming like Quiz most recently, they have done it again by nabbing this gritty crime series from the UK network Sky. Coming from the man behind The Raid movies, Gareth Evans, this series tells the story of London being torn apart by the turbulent power struggles of its international gangs and the sudden power vacuum that’s created when the head of London’s most powerful crime family is assassinated. The only recognizable stars in this are Joe Cole who featured in the other British crime saga Peaky Blinders and Colm Meaney who was O’Brien in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine but it’s shot so beautifully and the story is absolutely fascinating for fans of these crime family series. As a guy that usually has my plate full with films most weeks, I was so happy to receive this show on blu-ray, to watch the series at my own pace in hi-def and fell in love with it. The series describes itself as “Game Of Thrones without dragon” and I have to agree that they share the same ruthlessness.

Shameless: Season 11 – A show that I kept feeling was going to abruptly end its run at least four seasons ago is finally drawing to a close and it was without the main star that kicked off the show, Emmy Rossum. The story of the Chicago dirtbag family the Gallaghers are shuffling out the door as there are probably no more stories to tell and the kids are all grown up now. For those who have never seen an episode and can now binge all one hundred and thirty-four episodes, I haven\’t sugar-coated the premise at all. It is an outrageous family drama that is based on the long-running hit UK series and follows a working-class patriarch of an unconventional Chicago brood of six kids headed by the eldest sibling who keeps the home afloat while their dad is out drinking and carousing. I will admit that this final season makes the same mistake as many long-running shows where it really didn’t know where to quit and should have ended with the exit of their major star. Why won’t they ever learn, especially Showtime who already made this mistake with Dexter?

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

The Signifyin’ Works of Marlon Riggs – Another incredible collection of films from a powerful but under-recognized filmmaker is now available in beautiful blu-ray quality thanks to the great minds at the Criterion Collection. Marlon Riggs was an American filmmaker, educator, poet, and gay rights activist whose main focus was making hard-hitting documentaries that examine past and present representations of race and sexuality in the United States. This set has the films Ethnic Notions, tracing the deep-rooted stereotypes which have fueled anti-black prejudice, Tongues Untied, about the experiences of black homosexual men living in the United States, Affirmations, a look at what it’s like to be gay and black in America, Anthem, an exercise in dance, music, words and poetry in defiant celebration of the sensual and sexual pleasure of being black and queer and so many more. This is pivotal and important black filmmaking that is just as indelible as the works and works of James Baldwin. Tragically passing away at age 37, Riggs never got the chance to rise to the head of black filmmakers so hopefully, this set will live on and ideas from it are explored.

Adam Resurrected – I know that week to week it’s not a surprise that I’m a total movie nerd, hence this blog and my weekly spot of The Shift as a “movie expert” but I totally geek out, even more, when I receive a film by a great director that I have either never seen or never heard of. This film falls into the first category as it is a film I never had the chance to check out and it comes from acclaimed writer Paul Schrader who has made some of my favourite movies ever. This film stars Jeff Goldblum and Willem Dafoe and follows the story of Adam Stein, a charismatic patient at a mental institution for Holocaust survivors in Israel, 1961. Before the war, in Berlin, Adam was a circus entertainer who was loved by audiences and Nazis alike until he finds himself in a concentration camp, confronted by Commandant Klein. Adam survives the camp by becoming the Commandant’s “dog”, entertaining him while his wife and daughter are sent off to die and years later we see the trauma of his survival in a brilliantly constructed film. Goldblum and Dafoe are electric in this film, one I dub a must-see.

Feed The Gods – Also another arrival from MVD Visual like my previous geek out, this little horror film has not only the distinction of being a Canadian film but it was right here in my backyard of beautiful British Columbia with a lot of local talent. The film comes from the mind of writer and director Braden Croft who absolutely rocks this story that feels deliciously original and, in ways, is completely untethered in the best ways. The story follows two brothers who return to a small mountain town in search of their long-lost parents only to discover that the place has a monstrous taste for tourists in a result the feels as it leans towards the arthouse side of the genre. The plot engaged me and the familiar faces of Resident Evil’s Shawn Roberts, Letterkenny’s Tyler Johnson and a face that pops up in damn near every Canadian production, Aleks Paunovic kept me in it. This is a hidden Canadian gem, I think.

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory 4K – When I was just a kid this movie was a total obsession of mine. Of course, on the surface level, it was for the obvious reasons, a kid winning a contest to go to a fabled chocolate factory. Underneath that was an adaptation of a book I knew, the great Gene Wilder doing what he does best, burn up the screen every moment he was there and odd elements of borderline horror which intrigued me to no end. For those new to this fifty-year-old classic, the story is about candy man Willy Wonka who prompts a worldwide frenzy when he hides five golden tickets inside his infamous candy bars. The lucky ticket holders will become privy to a tour of his eccentric secret world of candy making that involves chocolate rivers and walls that taste like snozzberry. Iconic and a seminal family film, the transition that Warner Bros. made for this to 4K blu-ray is breathtaking and a total treat for anyone who loves movies. This is, pardon the pun, a total treat.

His Dark Materials: Season 2 – I’m going to say something controversial here and reveal that I really like the Chris Weitz made Golden Compass film from 2007 which was the first kick at the Phillip Pullman written series of books and I really wanted to see more. It’s a damn great thing that HBO and BBC joined forces to do a faithful adaptation of these books and cast Dafne Keen, who astounded audiences alongside Hugh Jackman in Logan, as the lead character of Lyra. The potential of this series is unlimited and while being compared to Game Of Thrones is becoming a bit tiresome, the comparison feels a little more real with this one as the book series is popular and perfect for this style of adaptation. The first season set such a great tone for it that separates it from the previous version, immersing it in a great world of realism that is dying to be explored in this new season. I am excited about it.

Television:

Behind The Attraction: Season 1 (Disney+) – As a huge ride junkie but one that has never gotten to experience Disneyland or Disney World as an adult, I feel like this new docuseries on Disney+ was made for me. Narrated by former Criminal Minds star Paget Brewster, this show explores the history of how popular Disney attractions and destinations came to be, how they have changed over time and how fans continue to obsess over them. Each episode follows a different attraction like how Imagineers filled the Haunted Mansion with 999 happy haunts, how the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror transformed into Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT!, with incredible and gravity-defying construction to do so, and why Space Mountain took so long to launch. It even takes a look at the construction of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge which is the thing I’m most interested in. For a nerd like me, this is the perfect show.

Masters Of The Universe: Revelations (Netflix) – A man I consider my personal Gretzky, Kevin Smith, a driving force to me pursuing podcasting, then radio and movie critiquing, anything he puts his name on becomes very special to me and when it was announced that he would be executive producing this new He-Man series I was automatically intrigued. As a fan of the show and toys himself, Smith has the perfect reverence for the source material and he brings all of that with a great voice cast to this show that feels like it picks up where the original series left off with a tone that suits the time that has passed. The story pits our heroic warriors, He-Man, Orko, Cringer, and Man-At-Arms and guardians of Castle Grayskull against Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, Beast Man and the vile legions of Snake Mountain but after a ferocious final battle forever fractures Eternia, it’s up to Teela to solve the mystery of the missing Sword of Power in a race against time to prevent the end of the Universe. This show had so many jaw-dropping moments in just five episodes and it has me absolutely salivating for the next batch of episodes that can’t come fast enough. Rejoice, HeMan fans because we got a show by a cast and crew that totally get it!

Ashes To Ashes (BritBox) – One of my favourite British shows of the modern television era, this series is actually a spin-off of one of my other favourite Brit shows and one that actually got a short-lived American remake, Life On Mars. Named after David Bowie songs, these are actually a weird sort of time travelling sort of sci-fi shows but it’s never quite as simple as that. This complete series takes you back to ‘the decade that taste forgot, the 1980s and revels in nostalgia, providing plenty of sight jokes and, of course, a brand new car for DCI Gene Hunt and his crew who return after Life On Mars where he once again acquires a time-travelling sidekick, this time in the sexy and smart DI Alex Drake. Alex’s journey began back in 2008 when she was shot during a botched kidnapping of her daughter Molly and left for dead. Philip Glenister and Keeley Hawes lead this show that is reliant on incredible mystery, great music and brilliant chemistry to make a three-season series that I couldn’t stop watching when I discovered it. I’m so happy that it can be rediscovered by binge-watchers!

Ted Lasso: Season 2 (AppleTV+) – The best current comedy on any streaming, cable or network platform is back for a second season and just a week after the first season earned an incredible twenty Emmy nominations that it most certainly deserves. Jason Sudekis leads a series that is without a doubt the most feel-good and serotonin filled comedies that I have come across in my life. For those who aren’t on the Lasso bandwagon yet because, I don’t know, you’re scared or don’t want to join the mainstream, the show follows an American football coach who heads to the U.K. to manage a struggling London football team in the top flight of English football for an owner who is using him as a way to tank the team to get back at her ex-husband. This show is amazing in how it makes you care about every character as the whole cast is absolutely stellar and there aren’t any wasted lines or moments and has recurring jokes and moments that will both endear you to the show and have you rolling on the floor with laughter. I can not stress enough how much this show is needed in everyone’s lives. It’s that special.

Turner & Hooch (Disney+) – I’m doubling down on my Disney coverage this week with a new series that I was sure I was going to hate but in the end, I dug it, probably just based on the charm of Josh Peck as the lead character. I had my hackles up against this one as I love the original Tom Hanks comedy but after the first episode had finished, I noticed that the showrunner is Matt Nix who made the awesome Burn Notice which I still consider must-see procedural entertainment. This series, just like the film it’s based on, follows a detective who solves crimes reluctantly with the help of an oversized dog, plain and simple. Is it corny? Yes. Will you roll your eyes a lot? Yeah, probably. But does it still work as an entertaining story? Yes, it really does and the fact that it’s using Vancouver as Chicago is something I can kind of get behind in a ridiculous way. Just like with Mighty Ducks, Disney got me again.

New Releases:

Space Jam: A New Legacy – I feel like a sequel or reboot of the NBA and Looney Tunes collaboration fantasy action film Space Jam was inevitable and with Lebron James being the modern equivalent to Michael Jordan, sidestepping Kobe Bryant who was another player in that echelon, and with King James being so involved in movies these days, he’s the logical choice to lead the charge. The film is about a rogue artificial intelligence that kidnaps Lebron’s son and he must get them home safe by leading Bugs, Lola Bunny and the whole gang of notoriously undisciplined Looney Tunes to victory over the A.I.’s digitized champions on the court made up of a powered-up roster of professional basketball stars. It’s really what you would expect from a reboot but just modernized and with so many other Warner Bros. properties in the background. I think that’s the most fun in the trailer, pointing all of them out. I think I even saw A Clockwork Orange in the crowd which is kind of inappropriate. Will the film be any good though? I think it’ll be passable but not great.

Gunpowder Milkshake – It’s a lady led action extravaganza this week on Netflix with a new film that I think looks totally bad assjust based on the trailer alone. The cast is incredibly likeable as well, with Karen Gillan, Carla Gugino, Angela Bassett and Lena Headey facing off against Paul Giamatti and it looks like the stylishness of the film matches the impeccable casting. The film follows Sam, a hardened assassin who was led down the same path of her cold-blooded hitman mother who abandoned her as a child. After a high-stake mission spins out of control, putting an innocent 8-year-old girl in the middle of the gang war she has unleashed, Sam has no choice but to go rogue which ultimately leads her back to her mother and her former hitwomen sidekicks, who all join forces in an avenging war against those who took everything from them. The film comes from writer and director Navot Papushado who follows up his fantastic horror thriller Big Bad Wolves from 2013 and the antipation is huge for those who know his work.

Fear Street Part 3: 1666 – The Fear Street trilogy concludes this week after dazzling us with two decade specific slasher movies preceding this movie that felt like it was channeling a bit of Robert Eggers’ The VVitch but with that same teen centric energy. Utilizing all of the cast from the last two movies but in setter era roles, he origins of Sarah Fier’s curse are finally revealed as history comes full circle on a night that changes the lives of Shadysiders forever. To be honest, some of the back story is a bit of a slog to get through, no matter how necessary it is to the overarching story but the third act goes back to 1994 and it gets totally crazy and I really loved it. The story does get a full resolution but there is a part of me that wants another Fear Street trilogy, a series or even just one movie and the stinger at the end sort of indicates that we may get it. Horror fans got a sweet little gift with the last three weeks and, by the numbers Netflix has projected, it looks like we’re all grateful.

Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions – The original film to this horror sequel was actually a huge surprise to me as I thought it was going to be a badly written cash grab that was honing in on the escape room craze that still runs rampant all over the world. What we got was a cool sort of horror adventure as we see the characters go from elaborate trap to trap in an unpredictable and totally thrilling film. So, was I looking forward to this follow-up? You bet your ass! Joining forces with two of the original survivors, the story follows six people who unwittingly find themselves locked in another series of escape rooms, slowly uncovering what they have in common to survive. AS they move room to room, they soon discover that they are all survivors of a previous game and are now playing on a sort of “championship” level. I’m here for the unique set pieces and the mystery so hopefully, this one can keep it going and we get a franchise out of it.

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain – When Anthony Bourdain committed suicide in June of 2018 it, without hyperbole, shook the world. I swear that most people were shaken by the loss of one of the greatest chefs on the planet who took his love of food out of the kitchen and into and all across the world with his incredible travel shows that went much deeper than the surface level in every way. This documentary is an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at how an anonymous chef became a world-renowned cultural icon known to us also as a writer, adventurer and provocateur. The film comes from Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville who curates thousands of hours of footage of Bourdain, dating back to the late nineties, to create a portrait of an absolute legend with the help of his close friends as well. The film never shies away from the darkness and impulsiveness that peppered Bourdain’s life and gives an incredible well-rounded resolution to his story without softening the blow of his end. This movie was incredible.

The Misfits – Well, I got duped pretty bad but the good thing is a knew pretty quickly that I had been but the bad thing is that I had to grit my teeth and continue through it just to see if it improved at all. Spoiler alert, it did not. The interest came with the cast of this con man centric film that includes Pierce Brosnan, Tim Roth, Nick Cannon and Jamie Chung in a Renny Harlin production, the guy behind so many action blockbusters in the 90s, most of them underrated. The film follows renowned criminal Richard Pace who finds himself caught up in an elaborate gold heist that promises to have far-reaching implications on his life and the lives of countless others after being recruited by a group of unconventional thieves. The movie is corny and utterly lazy from the get go, relying on Cannon’s cliche filled narration to impart a false and unearned sense of coolness that the audience never feels. I felt totally bored by everything I was seeing on the screen and as the nonsense of the plot got dumber and dumber I just wished for the merciful end to the film and credits to roll. I dare say I hated this movie.

Pig – It’s a weird week in the new release section as we’ve got two films that are completely pig centric and in a fashion that would surprise no one that knows me, we are starting with the Nicolas Cage movie. The legendary and iconic actor adds another incredible performance to his recent renaissance in his career with a film that fits neatly in the caliber of films like Joe, Mandy and Color Out Of Space, giving me more ammo to call him one of the greatest. The story is fairly simple at first, with Cage playing a truffle hunter who lives alone in the Oregonian wilderness that must return to his past in Portland in search of his beloved foraging pig after she is kidnapped in the middle of the night and the assailants leave him for dead. The story opens itself up as it begins the second act leading to a totally brilliant finale, all with Nic alongside his benefactor, played by Alex Wolff in an equally great performance. This movie had me on the edge of my seat and not just because it is a Nic Cage film but because it was so well presented by writer and director Michael Sarnoski who guides this story with veteran precision. This movie is so damn good.

Gunda – The simplicity of this dialogue free and humanless documentary may not win a lot of favour from the mainstream audience but both my daughter and I found ourselves absolutely captivated from the beginning to its tragic but business as usual ending. This is, without a doubt, experiential cinema in its purest form, as the film chronicles the unfiltered lives of a mother pig, a flock of chickens and a herd of cows with incredible intimacy, shot beautifully in a textured black and white. Director Victor Kossakowsky really invites the audience to slow down and experience life as his subjects do, taking in their world with a magical patience and an otherworldly perspective in a story that asks us to meditate on the mystery of animal consciousness, and reckon with the role humanity plays in it.

The Call – Two horror legends take the shoulder weight of the clout in this new addition to Shudder’s line-up this week as genre favourites Lin Shaye from the Insidious movies and more and Tobin Bell, Jigsaw from the Saw series, feature in this new thriller that was definitely written for them. The film is set in the fall of 1987 and follows a group of small-town friends who must survive the night in the home of a sinister couple, played by Shaye and Bell, after a tragic accident brings them to the couple’s door. This movie only succeeds on the two veterans’ ability to make anything work like the rest of the film gets tied up in tired slasher tropes, predictable reveals and other horror cliches that consistently bring the smaller productions down to their knees. IT’s still awesome to see a Lin Shaye freakout scene and I suspect that will never change.

A Classic Horror Story – Netflix is doubling down on horror this week with not only the conclusion of their high profile trilogy but this little film that features Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz who kicked so much ass the in the bloody and violent film Revenge. The story follows five carpoolers who are traveling in a motorhome to reach a common destination but when night falls, and to avoid a dead animal carcass, they end up crashing into a tree. When they come to their senses, they find themselves in the middle of nowhere and the road they were traveling on has disappeared, leaving only a dense, impenetrable forest and a wooden house in the middle of a clearing, which they discover is the home of a spine-chilling cult. This movie goes balls to the walls for it’s first two acts before kind of faltering with it’s finish but it all still ends up being pretty chilling and original in it’s thrills. If you want a good horror tale that is off the beaten path a little bit, this is a solid bet.

The Loneliest Whale: The Search For 52 – With Gunda finally rolling out this week, it managed to make it in good company of nature documentaries as this beautiful ocean film gets it’s time in a wider release after a small limited one last week. AS much as nature documentaries make you feel uplifted, this film gave me a rollercoaster of emotions that didn’t stop for the entire ninety minute duration. The film is a cinematic quest to find the “52 Hertz Whale,” which scientists believe has spent its entire life in solitude, calling out at a frequency that is different from any other whale. As we search for this elusive creature, we will explore the phenomenon of human reaction to its plight, while revealing its connection to the growing epidemic of loneliness in our interconnected world. This movie is not just an overarching insight into a world of nature that is awe inspiring but also a showcase of a dedicated documentary crew led by writer and director Joshua Zeman who has already brought us amazing Netflix shows and the unshakeable Cropsey which needs to be seen to be believed. This was such a special movie and I feel lucky that I got to experience it.

Blu-Ray & DVD:

Mortal Kombat – Oh man, we are starting with one of my guilty pleasures this year arriving on blu-ray and a revamp of a property that means a lot to me. Why? Well, it may have something to do with how ravenous I was about the original movie, which I saw in theatres multiple times. It may be my disappointment in the sequel to said movie, my insane love for the video game franchise or my whetted appetite that the Legacy YouTube series gave me but, you get the point, I’m into this. The film follows MMA fighter Cole Young, a warrior accustomed to taking a beating for money who is unaware of his heritage and why the mythic Outworld’s Emperor Shang Tsung has sent his best warrior, Sub-Zero, played by The Raid’s Joe Taslim, an otherworldly Cryomancer, to hunt Cole down. Fearing for his family’s safety, Cole goes in search of Sonya Blade at the direction of Jax, a Special Forces Major who bears the same strange dragon marking Cole was born with. Soon, he finds himself at the temple of Lord Raiden, an Elder God and the protector of Earthrealm, who grants sanctuary to those who bear the mark. Here, Cole trains with experienced warriors Liu Kang, Kung Lao and rogue mercenary Kano, as he prepares to stand with Earth’s greatest champions against the enemies of Outworld in a high-stakes battle for the universe. This movie is so much fun and I feel like I love it in a Godzilla vs. Kong way where I can just appreciate it for what it is and be dazzled by it. I mean, Sub Zero stabs a dude with a sword made from frozen blood! How awesome is that?

Separation – I have to admit, when I saw the name William Brent Bell attached to this new horror film as it’s director I immediatly had a sort of post trauma stress flashback of having to sit through his films Stay Alive, The Devil Inside, The Boy and it’s awful sequel. Seriously, the guy has made the worst cringe inducing schlock and in not even close to a fun way. For this one he’s got a good lead in actor Rupert Friend, playing the father of a little girl who is processing the lost of her mother by claiming that she can see her ghost everywhere. Co-starring Golden Globe winner Brian Cox and Mamie Gummer, this movie proves it again that Bell is a dreadful writer, an uninteresting director and a creator incapable of making a believable character. I feel like I’m making a long list of times that I want compensation for wasting when it comes to this filmmaker. I don’t want to say that I’m better, having never made my own movie, but I feel like I’m dangerously close.

No Man’s Land – I’ve always stated my man-crush on tough guy Frank Grillo so when this film popped up you just know I’m going to nab it on my list and give it the rundown even though I didn’t know much about it beyond his involvement. The film was written by the Allyn brothers and Conor Allyn took his place behind the camera while Jake puts himself in the lead role for this new border patrol action thriller. The film is a modern Western that is inspired by the real-life “no man’s land” areas along the Texas-Mexico border and follows a father and son border patrol who get into an altercation that results in the son killing an illegal immigrant child. When the father tries to take the blame for the killing, the son flees south on horseback, becoming a “gringo” or illegal alien himself in Mexico. Chased by Texas Rangers and Mexican Federales, he journeys across Mexico to seek forgiveness from the dead boy’s father only to fall in love with the land he was taught to hate in a film that broad bravado makes for a bid of a tedious drama. As great as Grillo and co-star Andie MacDowell are in this movie it isn’t enough to keep a mediocre script afloat and the bloated runtime starts to show more cracks in its foundation. I guess there was a reason I hadn’t heard of this one.

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

A Cinderella Story: Starstruck– Remember the Hillary Duff and Chad Michael Murray film that kicked off this whole elongated franchise and, by no means, was ever supposed to be the basis of a direct to video empire? Well, you might not as that film came out over fifteen years ago but have no fear rapidly aging person because we’re going western with this story in 2021. This new film follows Finley Tremaine, a small town farm girl who longs to spread her wings and soar as an aspiring performer. When a Hollywood film crew arrives in her sleepy town, she is determined to land a role in the production and captures the attention of handsome lead actor, Jackson Stone. Unfortunately, a botched audition forces her to change course. Now, disguised as cowboy “Huck,” Finley finally gets her big break but her evil stepmother and other shenanigans threaten to have her fairy tale come crashing down around her. See what I did here with the “fairy tale” thing? It’s much more attention than this movie deserves as it is really just for the pre-teen girls and it is pretty lame overall.

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street – For all the kids that grew up under the tutelage of the Children’s Television Workshop, like me, get ready for a rollercoaster of nostalgia and sweet memories with this new documentary that takes us on the wild ride of our on-screen education. Coming from Mad Hot Ballroom director Marilyn Agrelo, this film takes the viewer inside the minds and hearts of the Sesame Street creators to help us understand not only how they produced this groundbreaking show, but also what it was like to be at the center of a cultural and social phenomenon. Street Gang concentrates on the most experimental and groundbreaking period of Sesame Street with the original surviving creators and archive interviews with those who have since passed to weave together personal narratives and with never before seen behind the scenes footage to reveal how they collaborated to push every boundary that confronted them, changing television and changing the world. Many times in this movie I felt tears of memory and joy rolling down my cheek as I saw the little sketches and vignettes that helped form my childhood brain and then the part dealing with Mr. Hooper came on and I lost it all emotionally. I can’t stress how much I recommend this wonderful movie.

My Fair Lady 4K – Paramount is giving more of the 4K treatment to another classic film that moulded a whole generation with this Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison iconic musical. Now, I’m definitely not a musical fan by any standard but I do recognize that this move is revered by a hugely vocal audience and it did win eight Academy Awards of the twelve it was nominated for, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Cinematography, no small feat at all. The story follows a pompous phonetics professor named Henry Higgins who is so sure of his abilities that he takes it upon himself to transform a Cockney working-class girl into someone who can pass for a cultured member of high society. His subject is the lovely Eliza Doolittle who agrees to speech lessons to improve her job prospects and as the process deepens and the clashes surface, the bind between the two strengthens until it is all threatens by a new aristocratic suitor. I can’t really say anything bad about this film as it is a masterpiece of classic musical cinema, inspired so many more like it and it looks so great in the full 4K transfer.

Almost Famous 4K – One of my favorite movies of all time has gotten the full 4K remastering treatment and it makes it that much better to watch! Honestly, if you’ve never gotten the chance to see Cameron Crowe’s very autobiographical film that has just reached the milestone of a twentieth anniversary this year then you are depriving yourself of one of the greatest music driven cinematic experiences in history I believe and, oh man, just the cast alone should sell it. For those trapped under a rock for two decades, the film follows a high-school boy who is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming rock band as he accompanies them on their concert tour. Featuring Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Lee and many more, the script, the music, the performances and the aesthetic all converge for a completely unforgettable film that should be talked about forever. I love this movie.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Camino – Zoe Bell is an Aussie bad ass that should be name on everyone’s lips when it comes to the best action stars, male or female, who can deliver believable fights because they are actually trained fighters. The big reason that Bell should be notable is that she was Uma Thurman’s stunt double in Kill Bill and has an incredible sequence in Deathproof that is still breathtaking but this film is all hers. This film has her playing a photographer on assignment in the Columbian jungle following a group of missionaries as they bring meds to the poor. When her lens captures the leader conducting a cocaine deal and murdering a child witness, the group turns on her and orders her death, sending her on a run for her survival. Bell is so awesome in this movie that is pulse pounding and intense with a great villain turn from Nacho Vigalondo who is usually behind the camera in a directors role.

Horrorpops: Live At The Wiltern – MVD Visual is always sending me interesting films and documentaries and one of the regular installments I get are these three disc sets of live concerts, a lot of the time featuring bands that I’ve heard of fleetingly but never actually heard their music. The Horrorpops are one of them. Horrorpops are a Danish punk band formed in Copenhagen in the mid nineties who’s sound is rooted in psychobilly, rockabilly, and punk rock. What drew me to them immediately was bassist Patricia Day who fronts the band as a vocalist as well and plays a stand up bass which makes me think of one of my favorite bands, The Violent Femmes. I also love some rockabilly like The B52s, The Brian Setzer Orchestra or the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies so this didn’t take a lot to sell me as I was basically into this about two or three songs through the concert. Add to that the gradiosity of The Wiltern as a venue and it’s a pretty damn cool show no matter how you look at it.

The Daimajin Trilogy – Thanks to the creative geniuses at Arrow Video, I have an all new box set full of niche filmmaking to grace the geekouts with and this series of films from 1966 Japan. It starts with Daimajin about a giant stone statue that comes to life to protect the residents of a small town against the depradations of an evil warlord, followed by Return of Daimajin with the giant statue exacting revenge upon those who conquer its worshippers, then it finishes off with Daimajin Strikes Again or Wrath Of Daimajin about the mysterious statue attacking an evil warlord that invades a peaceful lakeside village and enslaves the villagers. These are very cool movies to take in if you like Japanese cinema and it almost feels like a little offshoot of the Godzilla or Gamera movies that started gaining popularity at the time. I also love the artwork on this boxset which is eye popping to say the least. Arrow always rocks their collector’s editions and this one is no different.

Resurrection – I can’t believe I’m putting this one into the geekouts but it was a late arrival from Warner Bros. and I didn’t want to anger the gods of distribution by not talking about a movie they sent me about the son of God. That makes sense, right? I hope so, because it’s going to get terrible now. Featuring veteran actresses Joanna Whalley and Greta Scacchi, the film follows the followers of Jesus who are being mercilessly hunted for their devotion. Their only salvation is the rising of Jesus from his grave which formulates the believe and devotion to him and blah, blah, blah. Sorry, I honestly couldn’t hold it together anymore because this movie was a dreadful mess and it’s all thanks to the producing hands of Touched By An Angel’s Roma Downey and Survivor’s Mark Burnett. As soon as you see that faith based power couple’s names you should probably back out slowly. I wish I did.

Television:

Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes (Crave) – A new documentary series arrives this week and usually I bring the murder filled ones to occupy your sick little minds but this time I’m bringing something far more focused and important and it is all thanks to Ronan Farrow and HBO Max. The show is a six parter that brings Farrow’s intimate and revealing interviews with whistleblowers, journalists, private investigators and other sources to the screen in a never before seen larger platform. If you are already an avid reader of all of his column and pieces then nothing new will be revealed here but I found the approach to the series so fascinating and it opens the door for Farrow to tackle more opportunities in the future and maybe a bigger bombshell will land in a future season. I feel like the ceiling for this show is absolutely limitless and I would love to see many more tyrants brought to their knees. It’s time for it.

McCartney 3,2,1 (Disney+) – Being a huge Beatles fan, you just know that I have been chomping at the bit to check this one out, a documentary series that centers around one of the last living members of the greatest group ever, along with Ringo Starr. The film has legend and acclaimed producer Rick Rubin interviewing Paul McCartney on his work with the Beatles, Wings, and as a solo artist, including stories about his personal relationships that inspired his songwriting. As a fans who believes he knows it all, this show blew my mind with new information and new stories about the songs I have been enjoying for my entire life as well as Paul’s process as a singer and songwriter and how that has evolved up until this point. This is a special six episode series that will long live in my memory and may even get a repeat viewing a few months down the road.

Never Have I Ever: Season 2 (Netflix) – From producer Mindy Kaling comes the second season of this smart, funny and John McEnroe narrated teen comedy drama that I fell in love with quickly into the first season. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan leads this show about the life of a modern first-generation Indian American teenage girl navigating love, friendship and sexuality, all based on the formative years of the show creator, Kaling. The second season has Devi now involved in a love triangle and still in the “shunned zone” with her friends Eleanor and Fabiola after her very selfish acts in the latter half of the season. I absolutely love the writing in this show that constantly makes me laugh and smile but also can bring the real drama, the power of loss and grieving and the simple notion that Will Smith taught us all those years ago and that’s the fact that parents just don’t understand.

Schmigadoon (AppleTV+) – I hate musicals, I haven’t ever made a secret of that but someone must have been listening and made a character out of how I feel and plunked them into a musical series as this show speaks to my soul. Starring Cecily Strong, Keegan Michael Key and many more and co-created by Strong as well this show follows a couple in a lull in their relationship who go on a backpacking trip, end up getting lost an then stumble upon a magical town in which everyone acts like they’re in a musical from the 1940s like a bright eyed and sweethearted Twin Peaks. I absolutely love Key’s standoffishness about everything he’s experiencing around him in this show and the biting comedy the lies under each tongue in cheek song had me totally howling, It will keep me watching every episode religiously and I’m probably the most surprised about my drive to watch a musical series.

Wellington Paranormal (The CW) – As a big fan of everything that Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi and their insane New Zealander comedy stylings, I have been waiting for this series to hit North American television screens as it has finished it’s entire run in it’s native country. Following on the heels of the phenomenal What We Do In The Shadows, the series follows Sergeant Ruawai Maaka of the Wellington Police who enlists the aid of Officers Minogue and O’Leary to tackle paranormal events in New Zealand’s capital city. In a police reality show style, the six part series follows these kiwi cops as they investigate cases such as the demon possession of a teenager, a noise complaint at a haunted house and a blood bank robbery in completely irreverant comedic fashion. Seriously, New Zealand might be the funniest country on the planet and I’m pretty sold on that opinion. Prove me wrong, other countries!

New Releases:

Black Widow – It’s been over a year since we were robbed of the next installation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a film that was a long time coming and, honestly, show have been made years earlier. Yes, Scarlet Johansson finally gets her own solo Black Widow movie and I am happy to have it, especially with the supporting cast of Florence Pugh, David Harbour and Rachel Weisz and the emergence of Marvel villain Taskmaster. The film follows Natasha in a story that precedes Infinity War and Endgame as she confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger. The action is fast and hard-hitting, the characters are well fleshed out and this is exactly the Black Widow story we have been waiting for and I hope it becomes a massive hit because it really deserves to. This is the real welcome back to theatres thanks to the legends at Marvel.

Fear Street Part 2: 1978 – We continue down the path of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street this week with the next part of the Shadyside curse story and I think I loved this one more than last week’s opener as it pulls from all of those summer camp horror films in all the best ways. The film ties into the 1994 beginning then takes us back to Shadyside in 1978 where school’s out and activities at Camp Nightwing are about to begin and get violent as another Shadysider is possessed with the urge to kill, the fun in the sun becomes a gruesome fight for survival. This movie is full of style, great music and great kills as it features Stranger Things star Sadie Sink in the lead role and she pulls off the scream queen very well. This one directly reminded me of a series of books within Fear Street so it had my attention fully. I am just sweating in anticipation for the finale next week!


Lift Like A Girl – Two very interesting documentaries are getting small releases this week and they both play into the field of being sports related as well as inspirational and it all kicks off with this one that also deals with the gender divide or the continued implying that there is one in reality. The film is about the female weightlifting community training in the streets of Alexandria, Egypt, as it follows the 14-year-old Zebiba as she pursues her dream to become a professional weightlifter. Her coach Captain Ramadan believes so much in her and never takes no for an answer and has been training world champion weightlifters for more than 20 years, including his daughter Nahla Ramadan, a former world champion, an Olympian and the pioneer of weightlifting in Egypt, as well as Abeer Abdel Rahman, the first Arab female two-time Olympic medalist. For 4 years, Zebiba goes through victories and defeats, including major losses that shape her, as she finds her way from dust to gold in a movie that really displays the strength and resolve of a remarkable human. I really enjoyed this film and think that it should be shown widely as a great template for those who doubt their own ability.


Running Against The Wind – This is the second inspirational documentary this week and it is almost like the distributor knew that this would be a great pairing to put together for people. Maybe they’re thinking that audiences need it because I certainly did. The story starts with twelve-year-old boys, Solomon and Abdi,  growing up in a remote village in Ethiopia whose lives are changed by a single photo. Solomon heads for Addis Ababa to become a photographer while Abdi remains at home and trains to fulfil his dream of matching the sport successes of Haile Gebrselassie, a famous Ethiopian long-distance track and road running athlete. Ten years later, the story picks up when Abdi is nominated for the Ethiopian National Running Team and moves to Addis Ababa. Thinking Solomon might be dead, Abdi is spurned on by a gentle voice in his head to reconnect with his old friend and the result is amazing. The division of this story feels a little disjointed but, just like the last movie, the human drive of this story is enough to keep you looped in from beginning to end and it had me totally captivated.

Bone Cage – There was something about this new Canadian indie drama out of Nova Scotia that had me looped in pretty much immediately and it has to be attributed to the focused drive of British Columbian Taylor Olson who wears multiple hats in this film as the lead star, writer and director, an adaptation of the play from writer Catherine Banks. The film has Olson as Jamie, a gentle soul working as a wood processor, clear-cutting for pulp who, at the end of each shift, he walks through the destruction he has created looking for injured animals, and rescues those he can. Yearning for more meaning in his life, his desire to break free from this world is always thwarted by the very environment and circumstance he’s trying to escape in a story that often feels relatable and devastatingly true. Olson establishes himself well as a filmmaker with this feature and I look forward to what stories he brings in the future, especially being a west coast born and bred creator, which puts him in the win column for me. I guess I’m shallow like that.

Blu-Ray & DVD:

Defending Jacob – What initially weirded me out about this new limited series from AppleTV+ is that Chris Evans is now at an age where he can play the father of a high school teenager and no one will bat an eye at it. Maybe that’s just me that thinks it’s crazy. Anyways, this new show comes from Academy Award-nominated director Morten Tyldum and creator Mark Bombeck, known for penning The Wolverine among others and is based on the best seller of the same name from by novelist William Landay. The story unfolds around a shocking crime that rocks a small Massachusetts town and one family in particular, forcing an assistant district attorney to choose between his sworn duty to uphold justice and his unconditional love for his son who may be the murderer. The show also has Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery and It’s Jaeden Martell and has a great chilling mystery to it that keeps you engaged episode after episode and, let’s face it, Evans will bring so many eyes to it just being his attractive self. I can admit that.

Equal Standard – With the past two decades of his work being dedicated to playing a part of law enforcement on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, it’s probably crazy for the younger generation to think that Ice-T is one of the originators of gangster rap, the lead singer of the rap-metal hybrid Body Count and an outspoken voice against social injustice but he is and always will be. Just take a peep at his Twitter if you don’t agree. This film puts him back into the urban gangster landscape in a real feeling story about communities and gang members coming together to fight for real justice after an NYPD detective shoots a black man in the streets. This film’s voice feels like it’s a little muted as the makers seem to hold back on some of the angrier of opinions and hush them in the need to further the drama. It’s glaringly and frustratingly obvious every time they do it because now is not the time to pump the brakes, especially given the uprise of the last few years. Our art needs to fight as hard as those in the streets are, plain and simple. Anything else is, for lack of a better term, a cop-out.

Space Dogs: Tropical Adventure – I really don’t know how I can talk this one up for adults but for kids it will be a colourful and easy sell. Apparently, this is in a series of films and for this adventure, it follows astronaut dogs Belka and Strelka are sent to investigate a mysterious and dangerous whirlpool that appears in the tropics of the Atlantic Ocean and must complete a daring mission to save the planet along with the distant home of their new alien friends discovered in the process. As I said, a total eye-roller for the adults but you know it will occupy the little ones and that’s what matters in the end, at least an hour and a half of quiet time.

Threshold – Arrow Video is giving exposure to another little indie film and this one is a hidden gem that has a short but sweet runtime of only an hour and fifteen minutes but it’s looking to give your brain a little twist during that time. Coming from writing and directing duo Powell Robinson and Patrick Robert Young, the story follows a woman who persuades her estranged brother to accompany her on a cross-country road trip because she believes that she is cursed and this is the only way to lift it. The slow burn of this film is a winding road, just like the ones the characters traverse as they bicker the whole time, ending in a gnarly third act that has such a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to get your skin crawling. I really look forward to whatever these guys do next because they’re incredibly talented and with a studio budget they could be unstoppable, like Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead.

Silat Warriors: Deed Of Death – Martial arts movies will always get me and that is pretty much the only thing I knew about this film heading in. Upon further investigation, I saw that it was a Malaysian martial arts film which made me pop it on immediately as I still rave about The Raid movies which I think are possibly the greatest of all time. The story follows a reckless young gambler whose wild lifestyle of illegal gambling, drag racing, and betting on brutal street fights pits him against a ruthless criminal betting ring when his luck finally runs out. The gang shows up at his family’s home to collect on the debt, forcing his family to fight to save their land and his life. Unfortunately the lack of experience and low-budget kind of dog this movie at every opportunity to separate itself from the pack and it fails to be memorable at all. I paid the price for jumping the gun on this one so you don’t have to. At least that’s a bonus.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

The Human Condition – Not really just a film and more like a collection of them, Criterion Collection debuted this new set of films from legendary Japanese filmmaker Masaki Kobayashi whose oeuvre was mostly based around the Japanese experience in World War II with a strong anti-war sentiment. The set is broken into six parts that make up three films that start with No Greater Love, which follows a Japanese pacifist, unable to face the dire consequences of conscientious objection, that is transformed by his attempts to compromise with the demands of war-time Japan. It is followed by Road To Eternity about a pacifist who is conscripted in wartime Japan’s military that struggles to maintain his determination to keep his ideals. The trilogy concludes with A Soldier’s Prayer as the pacifist fights for survival in the depths of a war he doesn’t believe in, fully bringing the title of the human condition full circle. As with a lot of Criterion-selected films, this is a master class in filmmaking and is a deeply meditative group of films that reflect strife, resolve and ideals beautifully.

Years Of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977 – What? I’ve got two film box sets this week? Yes, I do and this one comes from Arrow Video who love to grab niche films off the beaten path of cinema and into the realm of the unknown or forgotten. This set has five films that kick off with Savage Three about three young men, fresh into the world, who work together at a computer analysis company that, through their boss, evolve from well-mannered professionals to violent criminals. Like Rabid Dogs follows an upper-class young man who lives a hectic double life and, under the guise of a good student, stalks and kills prostitutes in the company of a couple of friends. Colt 38 Special Squad tells the story of a police commissioner who forms a secret motorized brigade to fight a dangerous terrorist who is depositing bombs throughout the city of Turin. Highway Racer is about a hot-shot police driver who has more guts than brains which often puts him at odds with his middle-aged mentor who was once a legendary police interceptor responsible for numerous large-scale arrests. Finally, No, The Case Is Happily Resolved is the story of a murderer who turns the tables on an eyewitness and gets them accused of all of his crimes. The set is a barrage of over the to Italian cinema but it’s all still so wildly entertaining and I’m really used to all of their horror and Giallo work so this was a very cool departure from that.

Avatar – I probably don’t need to say a lot about this one but I saw the ultimate edition of this on sale for just twenty bucks and I had to get it. Yes, this is essentially James Cameron ripping off Ferngully by combining it with the Dances With Wolves storyline but it was incredible to see in theatres and has probably the most immersive 3D effects I have ever seen in my life. For those new to this movie, it follows a paraplegic Marine who is dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission, put into the bodies of the native creatures, the Na’Vi, to obtain resources but becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home. Cameron knows how to give us breathtaking action sequences and amazing imagery but his script is sometimes lacking. We are eventually getting more stories from this world so it’s a great time to get caught up now.

Mission Impossible – I feel like I talk about this franchise a lot on these blogs as I’ve received all of the films in 4K releases and I also got the original series in it’s fully completed version on blu-ray so where else is there to go? Well, Paramount has the answer to that as they’ve released the twenty-fifth anniversary edition of the original Brian De Palma directed film that is a completely 4K remastered version of it, the first time it had been done. For those who haven’t seen Ethan Hunt, AKA Tom Cruise in his first mission, which turns disastrous as his teammates are all killed and he is put in the crosshairs as the prime suspect. In the greatest of De Palma’s twists and turns, Hunt must find the real murderer and clear his name in a movie that still rocks and got this movie franchise going in a big way. I love this film.

Snoopy Collection – For any Peanuts fans out there that have a deep nostalgia for the show like I do and want to show their young kids, nieces, nephews, cousins and whatnot these classic and wholesome movies, well, they are all available in pretty much one place now. This set features four of the big Charlie Brown movies with A Boy Named Charlie Brown,  Snoopy, Come Home, Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown and Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!!) which is a fantastic starter kit to get any new viewer going. The Peanuts gang shouldn’t be a hard sell for any kid as my daughter is in love with all the characters and has now moved on to the AppleTV+ original shows that just started in the last couple of years.

Television:

I Think You Should Leave: Season 2 (Netflix) – Produced by Lonely Island, my anticipation for the new season of this sketch comedy series on Netflix was through the roof as it’s from one of my favourite collaborators currently. For those who don’t recognize Robinson’s name and haven’t had the privilege of seeing season one, I get you in on the ground level and tell you that Tim was a main writer for Saturday Night Live and is the co-lead alongside Sam Richardson in the hysterically funny series Detroiters. What can you expect from this show? How about a show where the main goal is for them to get their guest to want nothing more than to leave? That’s the basic premise and they have guests like Vanessa Bayer, Will Forte and Steven Yuen to help out in the first series and pro-wrestler Brody King, John Early and Tim Heidecker.

Gossip Girl (Crave) – One of my guilty pleasures on The CW for a long time was the vapid and high society scandals in the series Gossip Girl which introduced me to the beauty of Blake Lively, more than he role in The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants, but also the, at the time, young stars Leighton Meester, Chace Crawford, Penn Badgley and the smarmy anti-charm of Ed Westwick’s Chuck Bass. Now the show looks to reboot with Kristen Bell still providing the voice-over narration of the title character after, let’s face it, a bumpy final season that left a lot to be desired. Is this one going to be better? Well, it’s being made by HBO Max which gives it no tether and the moon to shoot for so I can get behind it even if no other connectable character from the first series is set to appear. I am a completionist, so however bad it is, I’ll be on board.

Cat People (Netflix) – I immediately fell in love with this new docuseries that follows interesting people from around the world and that’s probably because it kicked off with an episode about one of my favourite cat people on the internet. The show tells the stories of some of the most remarkable and surprising “cat people” in the world, defying negative stereotypes while revealing the truth of what it means to love such fiercely independent creatures and, honestly, made me jealous that I can’t have a cat in my own home right now. Episode one is about Moshow, a “cat rapper” who makes songs about his cats like DJ Ravioli and more and, to be totally real, I absolutely adore him. Just watch the first fifteen minutes of it and I’m sure you’ll agree.

Resident Evil Infinite Darkness: Season 1 (Netflix) – If you stick Resident Evil on anything, it will automatically pique my interest because I consider the first video game one of the greatest of all time. It was a real obsession mine in the late 90s and onward. I know the movies were not the greatest but the animated movies have all been awesome and this is that kind of production but in the form of four episodes. The story follows federal agent Leon S. Kennedy who teams up with TerraSave staff member Claire Redfield to investigate a zombie outbreak in a sort of re-ignition of the original story. There’s a brand new live-action film coming as well so I think this is just a small tidbit of Capcom centric zombie horror to tide us over until then.

Atypical: Season 4 (Netflix) – It’s the final season of this slow burn but critically acclaimed series that has a stellar cast to it with Kier Gilchrist, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Rapaport and many rising stars and has cemented showrunner and creator Robia Rashid as a producer of note and someone I’m sure Netflix has under contract for her next project. The show s a coming-of-age story that follows Sam, an 18-year-old on the autistic spectrum as he searches for love and independence. While Sam is on his funny yet emotional journey of self-discovery, the rest of his family must grapple with change in their own lives as they all struggle with the central theme, what does it even really mean to be normal? I’m far late to this show as I currently at the beginning of season two but I reiterate what all the reviews have already said, this is a show that is begging to be watched.

New Releases:

Zola – The anticipation for this movie was absolutely huge  for me as the festival and critical buzz has been looming all over social media since the Sundance Film Festival and now that it’s here I am happy to say that it doesn’t disappoint. The crazy thing, and an indicator of where we can get film stories now, the inception of this story came from Twitter and a story told through a series of one hundred and forty eight tweets that laid the whole insane narrative out. “Y’all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out? It’s kind of long but full of suspense.” These are the words that start this Florida odyssey, following Zola, a Detroit waitress who strikes up a new friendship with a customer named Stefani that seduces her to join a weekend of dancing and partying in Florida. What at first seems like a glamorous trip full of “hoeism” rapidly transforms into a 48-hour journey involving a nameless pimp, an idiot boyfriend, some Tampa gangsters and other unexpected adventures. This movie is crazy and jaw dropping with it’s developments but still holds on to a rough command of cinema that puts it into the same category as the Sean Baker masterpiece The Florida Project. Oh man, I loved this movie so much.

The Boss Baby: Family Business – Dreamworks Animation is definitely looking to snag that post pandemic family movie money this weekend as they kept this one out of theaters and off of VOD the whole time, patiently waiting for theaters to re-open. It may not look like any sort of an entertaining film but I really enjoyed the first movie about a little businessman baby voiced by Alec Baldwin and that’s probably due to how much I love his 30 Rock Character Jack Donaghey and how he seems to channel it with this character. The sequel picks up with the Templeton brothers, Tim and his Boss Baby little bro Ted, who have become adults and drifted away from each other. Tim is now a married stay-at-home dad and Ted is obviously a hedge fund CEO. The adventures reignite when a new boss baby with a cutting-edge approach and a can-do attitude aims to bring them back together which starts with a quick de-aging process, reverting them back to babies. The animation is goofy and fun and the script feels like a snappy improv of throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks which I really like but audiences can sometimes be cold to. It makes me think of how much I was into the Andy Samberg film Storks and how much everyone else hated it.

The Tomorrow War – As proven with the Guardians Of The Galaxy and Jurassic World movies, Chris Pratt is a bankable star when you put a huge franchise on him but with Passengers and the Magnificent Seven remake he didn’t bring that same box office glow with him which is not good for expensive tent pole films. He’s hitting up the sci-fi action thriller genre again to see what falls out with this new film that comes from Tom Cruise’s company Skydance and Chris McKay who’s mostly known for doing The LEGO Batman Movie. The film is set in an alternate version of our world that is changed forever when a group of time travelers arrive from the year 2051 to deliver the urgent message that thirty years in the future mankind is losing a global war against a deadly alien species. The only hope for survival is for soldiers and civilians from the present to be transported to the future and join the fight and among those recruited is high school teacher and family man Dan Forester, played by Pratt. Determined to save the world for his young daughter, Dan teams up with a brilliant scientist, played by Chuck actress Yvonne Strahovski, and his estranged father, in the form of Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons, in a desperate quest to rewrite the fate of the planet and I have to say it looks pretty cool. I’ve been duped by these genre films before but I want to believe that Chris Pratt made a solid film, and he produced it for his first time as well.

America: The Motion Picture – Not since Team America: World Police has the puffed out chest of bravado that makes the American pride been poked so viciously but lets face it, they kind of deserve it. Coming from the producers of Archer, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, The Expendables and Magic Mike comes an animated retconning of history featuring the voices of Channing Tatum, Simon Pegg, Andy Samber, Will Forte, Killer Mike, Jason Mantzoukas and so many more. The film follows a chainsaw-wielding George Washington who assembles a team of rabble rousers including beer-loving bro Sam Adams, famed scientist Thomas Edison, acclaimed horseman Paul Revere, and a very pissed off Geronimo to defeat Benedict Arnold and King James in the American Revolution. Who will win? America, duh. I mean he has chainsaws, just like history intended. Look, with Independence Day on Sunday, this is the perfect way to acknowledge it and give the story a bit of a kick in the pants.

The Forever Purge – They’re still making these movies? Yes, of course they are because they make money, cost little and even spawned a television spin off. Also, it seems like everyone in America kind of wants to kill each other already so the thirst for a horror film about a one night mass killing spree is still pretty appealing. This installment has the fallout from the events of the previous film and instead of improving the world through the main characters heroic actions and the exposing of the elite who created it, all the rules are now broken as a sect of lawless marauders decides that the annual Purge does not stop at daybreak and instead should never end. The imagery is totally gnarly with all of the Purge costumes and this aesthetic is what always brings me back to these movies as a glutton for punishment I guess. Will this be any good? No, probably just towing the line until the next movie as this franchise peaked with the Frank Grillo led second film and has never gotten back to that level.

Fear Street Part 1: 1994 – As a pre teen and teenager I got hooked on the works of R.L. Stine but I didn’t start with the younger book series Goosebumps, which has already had the television series and movie treatment, because I was a fan before those books existed. No, I’m talking about the pure horror that was Fear Street and it’s many titles and now, through Netflix, we get our movie version of it with a little trilogy of films. Part one is a nostalgic kick off in the mid nineties that features all the greatest music needle drops you could get and follows a group of teenagers brought together when they accidentally encounter the ancient evil responsible for a series of brutal murders that have plagued their town for over 300 years. The film feels a bit heavy handed with all of it’s horror tropes to a detriment but a few gory minutes in the final act will definitely haunt my dreams and has me gassed up for next week’s follow up that has the Friday The 13th Camp Crystal Lake vibe written all over it.

Summer Of Soul – If I keep receiving music documentaries every week or every other week then I’m going to start becoming a euphorically happy critic from week to week because it is honestly one of my favorite subgenres. This film is a pivotal and important capturing of history with a message and a drive that makes it completely must see and it also happens to be the directorial debut of A Tribe Called Quest member, Jimmy Fallon bandleader and total music legend Questlove, billed in this by his real name, Ahmir-Khalib Thompson. Subtitled “Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised”, the film is a powerful and transporting documentary that is part music film and part historical record created around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969, just one hundred miles south of Woodstock at The Harlem Cultural Festival in Mount Morris Park, now named Marcus Garvey Park. The footage was never seen and largely forgotten, mothballed in a warehouse basement, until now thanks to Questlove. The film has incredible concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Ray Baretto, Abbey Lincoln & Max Roach and so many more and I found myself grooving continuously to a fantastic soundtrack that I really hope gets a release on vinyl, CD or at least Spotify. This is such a fantastic movie and it really earns that Certified Fresh rating.

Let Us In – Sometimes you know a movie is a horror movie just by the inclusion of certain actors and seeing that Tobin Bell is one of the featured stars of this movie was like a shining beacon of genre specific stories. When I saw who the director of the film was, Craig Moss, I got a little worried to it’s quality as the guy did a couple buddy action films with Danny Glover and Danny Trejo and a spoof movie called The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It and you can probably figure out how good that was. The film follows a spirited twelve year old girl and her best friend who look to uncover the sudden disappearances of several missing teens in their small town and, realizing there might be something deeper happening, they quickly find that they might be up against forces they can’t even imagine. The thing I appreciated most about this film was that they went for more practical effects and in camera tricks to further the horror, which borders on science fiction quite a bit. Unfortunately, that’s where the praise ends as the end product is just not very good and only rises in it’s quality with the appearance of Bell who can only do so much to elevate it.

Vicious Fun – Shudder is a treasure trove for great little indie films from week to week but there’s a little catch, you have to love horror. Not just lie it, love it, because then and only then will you get the full appreciation of the artful on a niche level. This new flick that debuts this week caught my interest immediately and it’s definitely due to the smaller indie medium’s ability to be way more subversive. A story aiming directly for my heart, the story follows a caustic 1980s film critic for a national horror magazine named Joe who finds himself unwittingly trapped in a self-help group for serial killers and, with no other choice, he must try to blend in or risk becoming the next victim. This movie is all sorts of brilliant with incredibly meta threads running through it and never takes itself seriously for a second which just adds heaps more to it’s charm. I really hope that word of mouth drags this one into the stratosphere because it is that damn great.

First Date – This week has a lot of smaller films with great buzz around it and cast members that you won’t immediately recognize but that is certainly no reason to marginalize any of them into unknown just future sleepers I think. Take this film for example, the feature debut of writing and directing duo Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp that channels the great things about Risky Business into the awkwardness of trying to impress someone on their first date. The film follows shy teen Mike who, after being conned into buying a shady ’65 Chrysler, his eagerly-anticipated first date with the girl-next-door, Kelsey, implodes as he finds himself targeted by criminals, cops, and a crazy cat lady. This is one of those fun comedies of errors that are reminiscent of the big Hollywood versions like Date Night or the recent Netflix film The Lovebirds with lead actors Tyson Brown and Shelby Duclos sharing some really great comedic chemistry. This film is a low level riot that showcases all of the influences of the creators behind it

Black Conflux – We get some Canadian content this week with a film that has been getting so much great buzz on the festival circuit and it all has to be from the twist on conventional psychological thrillers it gives. A little in joke for Canadians, the film is also set in 1980s Newfoundland meaning that it is a straight up Newfie movie so get your jokes ready now. The film is a dreamy account of two converging lives, fifteen-year-old Jackie, who is navigating from vulnerable adolescence to impending adulthood, and Dennis, a socially inept loner with a volatile dark streak and delusional fantasies of adoring women at his beck and call. It opens with Jackie auditioning for her school choir with a gorgeous rendition of “Hey, Who Really Cares?” by little-known 1970s psychedelic folk singer Linda Perhacs, in a symbolic opening for a promising young woman from a broken home. Raised by her aunt and living under the cloud of all the failures endured by the women in her family, Jackie finds herself giving in to internal and external pressures like partying, skipping school, and hitchhiking in search of her own identity. Her choices leave her speeding inevitably towards Dennis, whose car doubles as a venue for his violent desires. The film is a fantastic debut from filmmaker Nicole Dorsey with a completely unpredictable script and I can’t wait for her next film which looks to be heading into production soon according to IMDB.

The Winter Lake – This new slow burn thriller may not have a big name cast but if you’ve seen Peaky Blinders, Sex Education, Alexandre Aja’s Crawl or recognize Roose Bolton from Game Of Thrones you know the acting is where this one shines. The film is the feature debut of director Phil Sheerin and comes from David Turpin, whose last film The Lodgers was a pretty solid mystery thriller as well. The story follows a young woman whose darkest secrets are accidentally uncovered by her new emotionally unstable neighbor which pulls them into a violent confrontation with her father, who will do anything to keep the secret hidden. This film is quiet and somber but really plays out on the long run and shows the treasure in being patient with your story telling. I feel like Sheerin has a good future ahead of him.

Blu-Ray & DVD:

Body Brokers – Sometimes we just need a middling crime thriller to entertain us for a couple hours to kill some time and we come across something like this on VOD or a streaming service, make sure that Bruce Willis isn’t in it (more on that later) and plunk it on. This is one of those such films that will get the consideration but the good news is that it’s actually quite good which was a total surprise for me. Featuring the tried tested and true Frank Grillo (more on him later too) Happy Death Day’s Jessica Rothe and The Wire’s Michael Kenneth Williams, the story follows a recovering junkie brought to Los Angeles for treatment that soon learns that the rehab center is not about helping people, but a cover for a multi-billion-dollar fraud operation that enlists addicts to recruit other addicts. A fresh and boldly original film from writer and director John Swab, it does an incredible job of drawing you into the story by focusing on making that characters work and being worthwhile so you actually care about what’s happening to them, something that usually gets lost in the shuffle. I’m really looking forward to anything Swab has next as this is just his third film.

Here Are The Young Men – As a teen and into my early twenties, stories about people living their lives to excess were really my jam. I was fully into nihilistic authors like Bret Easton Ellis for Less Than Zero, American Psycho and Rules Of Attraction, loved Chuck Pahlaniuk for Fight Club and Survivor and ate everything Irvine Welsh like Trainspotting or The Acid House. This new film might have me changing my tune because for all of its substance< I should love it, but it felt like it tread too much unoriginal ground. Based on the acclaimed novel by Rob Doyle, the film catalogues the last hurrah of three high school graduates intent on celebrating their newfound freedom with an epic, debaucherous bender but when they witness a horrible accident, it sends them spiralling badly and the trio must grapple with the most daunting challenge of their lives which is largely facing their own inner demons and, in some cases, their true nature. My screener for this film was grainy, stuttery and awful which may have led to some of my dislikes but the cast features Anya Taylor Joy, Finn Cole and Dean-Charles Chapman and utterly wastes them with a predictable story full of dumb character decisions and paint by numbers descent into chaos. This should have been way better.

Percy – Speaking of crops in Canada, this film takes it to the plains of Saskatchewan for a real David versus Goliath battle with some great veteran talent taking the screen, led by the legendary Christopher Walken. Directed by actor and filmmaker Clark Johnson, this film is based on events from a 1998 lawsuit and follows small-town farmer Percy Schmeiser, who challenges a major conglomerate when the company’s genetically modified canola is discovered in the 70-year-old farmer’s crops. As he speaks out against the company’s business practices, he realizes he is representing thousands of other disenfranchised farmers around the world fighting the same battle and suddenly he becomes an unsuspecting folk hero in a desperate war to protect farmers’ rights and the world’s food supply against what they see as corporate greed. Featuring co-stars Zach Braff, Christina Ricci and good Canadian Adam Beach, this film is a great character drama that excels over its small flaws to be a compelling story about a real fight that rages on now. I really enjoyed this one.

Wildcat – When I see a movie on the new release list I feel an obligation to let the public know of its existence and give it a little platform for a moment and sometimes that is something I live to regret in the usage of my time. Given the unknown cast and a director, Jonathan S. Stokes, I didn’t know, I felt like this might be another low budget American made half baked Middle Eastern terrorist film but I was happy I watched it in the end. The film follows an ambitious reporter stationed in the Middle East who is taken captive after her convoy is ambushed. She is confronted by the trauma of her past and must find a way to bring down the militants who incarcerated her in a film that has a few cool reveals and twists and turns as she struggles to make choices to ensure her survival. That said, it’s not a movie I would really go out of my way for.

Madame Curie – Warner Archive is bringing us back to the World War II era for a film about the discoverer of radium which, given the upcoming nuclear bomb that would be detonated a few years later, seems either ironic or like foreshadowing. Starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, two of the biggest stars of the era, the film follows poor physics student Marie, studying at the Sorbonne in 1890s Paris as one of the few women studying in her field. Of course, she  encounters skepticism concerning her abilities, but is eventually offered a research placement in Pierre Curie’s lab and the scientists soon fall in love and embark on a shared quest to extract, from a particular type of rock, a new chemical element they have named radium. Unfortunately, history tells us that this eventually ends in tragedy but it is an interesting story that was re-tackled recently with the Rosamund Pike film Radioactive on Amazon Prime. If you like a Turner Classic Movies approach to the story, I would definitely recommend this one.

Steve’s Blu-Ray & DVD Geekouts:

Nightmare Alley – A newer release from the Criterion Collection, those geniuses are pulling on a title from the late forties that is about to become rejuvenated from one of the current masters of horror, Guillermo del Toro, in the form of a remake. slated for next year with Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Bradley Cooper and so many more. This film is celebrated now for the chances it took, including a departure for Tyrone Power from a good guy role and it’s disturbing noir feel, but it was totally hated at it’s time of release and bombed badly, losing the studio heaps of money. The story follows workman Stanton Carlisle who joins a traveling carny and unsuccessfully schemes to figure out the mind-reading act of Mademoiselle Zeena and her alcoholic husband, Pete. When Pete dies, Zeena is forced to take on Stanton as a partner, and he quickly proves more gifted than his predecessor and eventually abandons Zeena and the carny to reinvent himself as “The Great Stanton,” becoming a devious superstar, impressing high-class audiences in a Chicago hotel. This movie’s look and execution are totally ahead of its time and is definitely an inspiration for a lot of filmmakers as so many scenes evoked many cinematic memories for me.

There Was A Crooked Man… – The cast from this recent Warner Archive release grabbed me immediately and the fact that it’s a comedy western is all just excellent extra gravy in my opinion as this epic from the man behind All About Eve and Cleopatra. Starring Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Hume Cronyn, Warren Oates and Burgess Meredith, the story follows Wild West bandit Paris Pitman Jr. who, after a botched heist, hides his newly stolen money where no one will find it, then loses his entire gang in a blaze of bullets before being captured by the law and given a lengthy sentence in a desert jail. Paris believes that he can buy his way out of his predicament by offering some cash to the guards, but the upstanding Sheriff Lopeman makes sure his men remain honest, forcing the outlaw to begin plotting a jailbreak. I absolutely loved every moment of this classic, a film that was costly for the studio and one that was a constant worry as it was being made and even in how lucrative it would be upon release. Released at Christmas in 1970, the fears would be realized as it would do very poorly over the holiday season but I’m totally confused as to why because it is well written and has great performances. It makes me sad that the pretty racy and sexy scenes are most likely the reason for it’s failure.

Animaniacs: Complete Series – This is one of the greatest animated shows of all time and that’s a stated fact and not an opinion. A staple part of my generation’s preteen and teen years, Yakko, Wakko and Dot’s weekly antics are still an often quoted subject in my household and probably will be until I leave this plane of existence. For those who have never had the extreme pleasure of indulging in these classic episodes and are like “who, who and who?”, the show was about a trio of troublesome cartoon characters from the 1930s that have escaped from the Warner Brothers WaterTower and are unleashing their maniacal energy upon the world. Blending wit, slapstick and pop culture references in an almost variety show format, it was just perfection and it spawned an underappreciated series called Freakazoid that got cancelled far too early. THe show is also back in public perception in the last year or so as Hulu has rebooted the show but, as of yet, it hasn’t been released in Canada.

Rick And Morty: Seasons 1-4 – What? I’m bringing up Rick And Morty again? Yes, but I’ll be brief as it really is just to show off my new box set of all the older seasons of this show that has just entered into season five on Adult Swim. This show is really divisive, a series that is definitely a take off of the relationship between Doc Brown and Marty McFly in Back To The Future which has been thrown into a blend with some really warped ideas. You are either going to ravenously love it or hate it’s frenetic comedy with a passion. I adore it and think creators Justin Roilland and Dan Harmon are absolute geniuses and they should make episodes forever with no break in between. Too much to ask?

Baphomet – This film lands on my geekouts just for being a combination of my heavy metal side with the inclusion of Cradle Of Filth frontman Dani Filth and satanic horror films and if that wasn’t big enough, it has the title of a satanic god to nail it home. Does that mean it’s awesome and hits the spot for horror fans? No, not quite but its execution is so wooden tht it may find itself as a cult hit at some time in the future. The film tells the tale of an American family celebrating their daughter’s pregnancy when things go awry with a Satanic cult leader named Henrik Brandr unexpectedly visiting their ranch. Henrik offers to pay the family a large sum for ownership of their land, claiming it is sacred to his congregation but the father rejects the offer due to the sentimental value of his ranch. Henrik, displeased, begins to put curses on the Richardsons, trying to force them off their own land, even if it means murdering them. After suffering unexplainable tragedies created by the curses, the family seeks help from Marybeth, a white witch high priestess and they soon discover a terrible secret about their house, revealing why their land is so sacred to the cult. This film reminds me of the 90s horror films that had a kicking soundtrack, gallons of blood and a reverence for the dark lord that borders on comical and, really, for that reason I kind of loved it all that much more. I might be alone on that though.

Television:

Monsters At Work (Disney+) – As a big Pixar fan, I was surprised that I only found out about this show just a few short weeks before it’s release this Friday. I love both Monsters Inc and Monsters University and it is definitely due to the great chemistry between John Goodman’s Sully and Billy Crystal’s Mike Wazowski who are now in charge of the whole shebang for this new show. It takes place the day after the Monsters, Incorporated power plant started harvesting the laughter of children to fuel the city of Monstropolis, thanks to Mike and Sulley’s discovery that laughter generates ten times more energy than screams. The main story follows Tylor Tuskmon, an eager young monster who graduated top of his class at Monsters University and always dreamed of becoming a Scarer until he lands a job at Monsters, Incorporated, and discovers that scaring is out and laughter is in. After Tylor is temporarily reassigned to the Monsters, Inc. Facilities Team (MIFT), he must work alongside a misfit bunch of mechanics while setting his sights on becoming a Jokester. The casting is great, with all the big stars returning and Superstore’s Ben Feldman playing Tylor and Mindy Kaling, Lucas Neff and more rounding out his crew. The first two episodes were great and I can’t wait for more. I hope they do this with more of the Pixar properties as I’d love to see a Wall-E related show.

Aya Of Yop City (Criterion Channel) – Kino Lorber usually does a pretty deep dig with their original releases and it definitely is the case with this animated feature from France that now gets a bigger platform to shine on with the renowned Criterion Channel as part of the Arthouse Animation collection. Set in the seventies, the story takes place in Ivory Coast’s working-class district of Abidjan, otherwise known as Yop City, following a nineteen-year-old girl with the hopes of being a doctor against her father’s wishes as this didn’t gel with the gender norms of women marrying and starting a family immediately. The film was created by the original writer of the graphic novel this was based on, Clément Oubrerie, and it really is a pretty astounding feature to look at and an interesting look into the class system of a foreign country.

New Releases:

F9: The Fast Saga – After over a year of delay we get our dose of “The Family” film and I’m not talking about a Disney animated adventure< I’m talking about Vin Diesel and his family of, well, we used to call them car thieves and a heist squad but after the insane things in the previous movies I have really lost track of what to identify them as. This film takes a twist on the family theme as it opens with Dom Toretto leading a quiet life off the grid with Letty and his son, little Brian, but knowing that danger always lurks just over their peaceful horizon. This time, the new threat aligned with old enemies will force Dom to confront the sins of his past if he’s going to save those he loves most as his crew joins together to stop a world-shattering plot led by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they’ve ever encountered, a man who also happens to be Dom’s estranged brother, Jakob, played by John Cena. As ridiculous as this movie looks, I’ve been salivating for my chance to see it ever since that first trailer last year. I am pumped for it.

The Ice Road – Let me start this piece off by saying that I respect Liam Neeson, an actor who has had a storied career and reinvented himself for them more than a few times but I just wish that writers and filmmakers would respect him more than being a one-trick pony. Years after saying that he was giving up the action genre as he was ageing out of it but that seems to be untrue as he’s made many since saying that and here we go with yet another one. In this film, he plays a ‘big-rig ice road driver who must lead an impossible rescue mission over a frozen ocean to save the trapped miners of a remote diamond mine that collapses in far northern Canada. Contending with thawing waters and a massive storm, they discover the real threat is one they never saw coming but they should have because it is obvious corporate greed. This movie is just plain bad with paper-thin characters, ridiculous dialogue, decisive moments created out of buzz terms of the modern-day and more corn than your body has room for. Neeson is becoming the poster boy for “skip this” really fast now.

False Positive – I will admit that the trailer for this movie threw me off immediately as it has Broad City and usually comedic actress Ilana Glazer in the lead role of a very genre-specific horror thriller which is an interesting hurdle to get over but good for her for branching out. Beyond that, this is definitely a triggering movie for any woman who has been, will be or is currently pregnant but I think that is exactly what writer and director John Lee was going for when he wrote it with, oh wow, Ilana Glazer. So crazy. The film follows a woman named Lucy who, after months of trying and failing to get pregnant, her and her husband Adrian, played by Justin Theroux, finally find their dream fertility doctor in the illustrious Dr. Hindle, in the form of a well-cast Pierce Brosnan. After becoming pregnant with a healthy baby girl, Lucy begins to notice something sinister through Hindle’s gleaming charm, and she sets out to uncover the unsettling truth about him, and her own upcoming birth story in a creepy little mystery that has great genre substance all over it. This could become a sizeable sleeper hit, I think.

Wolfgang – Disney+ has been pretty solid in all the new documentaries they’ve commissioned and produced, telling the stories of some behind-the-scenes players in their films and productions but this one is a bit different as it focuses on a trailblazer and total rock star of his industry. Even if you aren’t a big foodie or pay attention to restaurant trends, you have definitely heard the name of Wolfgang Puck before. Hell, he even guested on The Simpsons! This film starts with Wolfgang as a teenager in Austria, harnessing his love of cooking to escape the harsh rule of his stepfather, something that would forever drive him. A local apprenticeship forged his path to training at a revered French restaurant before landing in America at age 24 and by 1970 he’s already working in Ma Maison, crafting an original menu around fresh ingredients, making the once-tacky eatery a popular, acclaimed darling. Still, the lack of acknowledgement from Ma Maison’s owner pushed Puck to take the biggest risk of his career and open his first restaurant, Spago, an instant hit where famous clientele obsesses equally on Puck’s new American cuisine and personality. Almost by accident, Puck created the concept of a “celebrity chef” with his decades-spanning television appearances, building a staggering global empire of restaurants, cafes and products for home cooks but at home, as with all driven workaholic empire heads, the frenetic professional demands disrupted his family life. This was such a phenomenal look at a powerhouse that paved the way for every advance in the cooking world through entertainment and, really, the main reason that people like Gordon Ramsey, Emeril Legasse and even Guy Fieri are in the spotlight.

Good On Paper – Iliza Scheslinger is the latest actress to try out the Amy Schumer track with her own little “Trainwreck” and like Amy, she wrote the film herself but unlike the popular stand-up comedian she didn’t have the helping hand of Judd Apatow to keep it on track so to speak and it really shows. Iliza plays someone very close to herself, a comedian who always put her stand-up career first, and while dating came easy, love wasn’t a priority or very interesting to her until she meets Dennis, a quirky nerd with disarming charm who coaxes her into letting her guard down. Her best friend Margot isn’t convinced he’s all he seems and she urges Andrea to embark on a wild goose chase to uncover who Dennis really is and that’s when the movie starts to get a bit wild. To this point, the film is formulaic, no one seems like a real person and It starts to stumble down a predictable path when the mystery really begins. Is it enough to save it? Unfortunately, no, as the answers aren’t grandiose enough to correct the path and really too many unexplained crazy things happen that it feels like a waste and, sorry, I do not care about the main character’s plight at all.

LFG – The push for equity and equality in the paying of female athletes has been at the forefront of controversy for a long time now but the fight has been taken to a more viral level by the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s captain Megan Rapinoe in a big way as she leads the fierce charge as a stalwart warrior for the cause. Produced by the great people at HBO Max, this film, an anacronym for “Let’s Fucking Go!”, this documentary starts three months before the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup when the players filed a class-action, gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, which sets the stage for this groundbreaking story. The film interweaves transcendent athletic performances, including a record-breaking World Cup victory in 2019, with the players’ ongoing pursuit for equal pay and grants viewers unprecedented access to these game-changers as they meet the physical demands and pressures of being some of the world’s top athletes while showcasing their courage, unflinching spirit and resiliency to create long-lasting social change. As far as important documentaries go, this is a story of our times and a call to stand up for athletes who have been completely marginalized due to their gender. We as a society are better than this.

Silent Night – In the late nineties and early 2000s I really had an addiction to gritty underground London gangster films like Snatch, Gangster No. 1 and Sexy Beast but the well seemed to run dry a bit since then or at least nothing really has grabbed me in that same way. Heck, maybe I’ve outgrown them? Nah, that can’t be it. This film is trying to pull me back on board and follows Mark, recently released from prison, who tries to reconnect with his daughter and give her a Christmas to remember. Struggling to find work, he meets his former cellmate, who encourages him to return to a life of crime but the decision soon becomes easier when Caddy, a ruthless crime boss, blackmails him into doing one last job. The film is definitely lacking in the acting department, with Cruella’s Joel Fry being the only recognizable star, but the story is compelling enough to keep the momentum and interest going although, against the films I mention at the top of this, it really doesn’t compare. You can definitely see where the inspiration came from though.

Sun Children – I love the releases that Mongrel Media gets behind sometimes to distribute because they usually represent international films that wouldn’t get the exposure here without their push and this is one of them. Made by Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi, who directed the incredible Baran in 2001, this movie has been getting a lot of festival attention and even earn lead actor Rouhollah Zamani the Best Young Actor Award at Venice Film Festival 2020 and was the official submission of Iran for the Best International Feature Film category of the 93rd Academy Awards in 2021. The story follows twelve-year-old Ali and his three friends who work hard together to survive and support their families. In a turn of events that seems miraculous, Ali is entrusted to find hidden treasure underground that they were hired by a local gangster to unearth. This film is an incredible ride through the eyes of these young boys who evoke so much empathy and emotion through their plight and, although it will definitely fly under a lot of people’s radars, I think it is such an important film to see.

Blu-Ray & DVD:

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

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

Chaos Walking – It’s been a few years since Doug Liman made his unexpected sci-fi time travel masterpiece Edge Of Tomorrow and regained his status as a notable filmmaker who can be believed in. With that in mind, I was so excited to check out his new film, the first genre-specific one since that great Tom Cruise flick plus it has Spider-Man and Rey Skywalker so it had all the selling features for me. I have to be a little plot vague on this but it’s set in the not-too-distant future and follows Todd, a citizen of Prentisstown, who has been brought up to believe that a phenomenon called the Spackle released a germ that killed all the women and unleashed Noise on the remaining men, which makes all of their thoughts visible. After discovering a patch of silence out in the swamp, his surrogate parents immediately tell him that he has to run, leaving him with only a map of New World, a message, and many unanswered questions because he has found the source of the silence and possibly something to save humanity, a girl, named Viola. This movie has so many big ideas but not the logic or coherence to follow through satisfyingly. I kept finding my interest in it waning which is weird for me because the villain is Mads Mikkelsen. This all should have been a win but it is a total time waster.

The Umbrella Academy: Season 1 – This Netflix original based on the comic series from My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way hit with their first season and grabbed views immediately with its sort of Addams Family crossed Charles Xavier’s School For The Gifted from X-Men charm. Starring a very cool cast of Elliot Page, Misfits’ Robert Sheehan, Colm Feore and even Mary J. Blige, season one was a fantastic jumping point of character origins and fleshing out what the focus was of the series. As a huge fan of the comic series, I feel like showrunners and developers Steve Blackman and Jeremy Slater have given this show a new life in series form and one that is different from the path we’ve already seen but without losing what we love about the characters. This is such a great show and I love that it’s on a physical disc now.

The Paper Tigers – Old dogs dusting off their skills to become heroes and champions and giving hope to all of us dudes who have felt like the years have passed us by. We too could be formidable again and be the “Best OF The Best”! Is that Eric Roberts movie reference too obscure? Well, anyway, the film follows three Kung Fu prodigies who have grown into washed-up, middle-aged men, now one kick away from pulling their hamstrings. When They discover their master has been murdered, they must juggle their dead-end jobs, dad duties and old grudges to band together, retrain and avenge his death. The premise sounds totally 1980s and 90s cornball but everything manages to work really well character-wise and the action is actually really entertaining, even when it gets into a bit of silly territory. As a martial arts film fan, I really dug into this one but I also think a casual viewer could pull some enjoyment from it as well.

Night Of The Sicario – If you’re looking for a direct to video hitman action flick that is doing some serious piggybacking off of a name that is far more successful and must-see, trying to gain that “maybe it’s a sequel” crowd, then you have definitely found it. Even more upsetting, it features a Canadian I without a doubt had a crush on with her sci-fi thriller Species and it’s the wonderful Natasha Henstridge who requires a career rejuvenation. She plays Taylor a woman who is forced to hide the young daughter of a Colombian woman in witness protection who will be testifying against a powerful drug cartel in Federal Court, struggling to keep her head above water as ruthless sicarios aim to hunt them down. What this film fails to convey in any shape or form of description is that it’s a faith-based movie with all the action cliches it can throw at you, an infuriating reveal in my opinion. I don’t want to call this film utter garbage but I’m struggling to find other words.

Hunter Hunter – I don’t care if you call it a nineties or 2000s nostalgia-driven desire but I just want Devon Sawa to succeed because he is a pretty solid part of my movie-watching at the turn of the millennium with at least Idle Hands and Final Destination. That’s why when I saw this got a “Certified Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes I instantly put this one on my list as a must-see. This is the second wilderness horror this week and it follows a family living in the remote wilderness earning a living as fur trappers to make ends when the return of a rogue wolf starts to create a problem of rising amount of empty traps. Determined to catch the predator in the act, the father leaves his family behind to track the wolf in the most badass performance I’ve ever seen from Sawa. Seriously, believe the hype because this movie is awesome and writer, director Shawn Linden knocks this film out of the park, and Canadian actress Camille Sullivan is amazing, providing the other half of the emotional weight of the film.

Batman: The Long Halloween Part One – One of my favourite Batman stories ever made, a masterpiece from writer Jeph Loeb and artist Time Sale, finally gets that high profile adaptation into the DC Animated universe and good lord is it beautiful. Split into two parts for the release, this story is revered by all Batman fans and is a go-to for beginners just getting into the Caped Crusader so the need to get it right is imperative. Part One begins as a brutal murder on Halloween prompts Gotham’s young vigilante, the Batman, to form a pact with the city’s only two uncorrupt lawmen, police captain James Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, to take down The Roman, head of the notorious and powerful Falcone Crime Family. When more deaths occur on Thanksgiving and Christmas, it becomes clear that, instead of ordinary gang violence, they’re also dealing with a serial killer that, with each conflicting clue, grows harder to make a suspect list for. Few cases have ever tested the wits of the World’s Greatest Detective like the mystery behind the Holiday Killer and the first part ends with such a great cliffhanger that even my daughter is on pins and needles for the next one. August can’t come soon enough!

Visions Of Eight – Criterion Collection is heading to the Olympics this week with a look at a very pivotal year in the storied competition featuring the short films of some of the most profound filmmakers of the time. Eight film artists from different countries, including One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’s Milos Forman, Kon Ichikawa, Bonnie And Clyde’s Arthur Penn and Midnight Cowboy’s John Schlesinger, are given carte blanche to make a collection of short documentaries on the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics, offering unexpected, original and often humorous perspectives. Criterion has a knack for celebratio=ng the most obscure but pivotal films in cinema history and it is really felt with these little shorts including Claude Lelouch’s take on Olympic losers and their struggle to remain dignified even in the face of bitter disappointment and defeat which hits so hard still to this day. I love receiving these movies as it feels like a constant education and opens my eyes to the foundations of the industry.

Irezumi – Arrow Video is opening up my pre-1970s international cinema horizons with a special edition of this 1966 Japanese drama that didn’t actually get any exposure in North America until a limited theatrical release in 1983, over twenty years after it was made. The film was directed by filmmaker Yasuzô Masumura who was known as a maverick director whose main legacy was films portraying and promoting individualism, which was the opposite of the norm in Japanese society. The film is about a woman with a double life as a librarian and seductress who gets kidnapped into prostitution and after getting a spider tattoo made on her back, she grows vengeful, leaving several men destroyed in her path. This movie is a far different jaunt through Japanese cinema than I was expecting but the evident reasons in which Arrow picked this film are pretty much evident from the get-go. A fascinating film.

It Happened At The World’s Fair -Besides the HBO documentary series The Searcher, I really think this is my first Elvis Presley film on this blog so it’s pretty interesting that it isn’t one of his massive hits to start with. Funny enough, this is actually Kurt Russell’s debut film as well, who would go on to play the rock n roll icon in a biopic directed by John Carpenter who he would go on to have more great success with, some bigger than others. This film is a comedy musical that has Presley as Mike who, with his friend Danny, hitch a ride to the World’s Fair in Seattle after the sheriff seizes their crop-duster biplane to cover Danny’s gambling debts. While Danny tries to earn money playing poker, Mike takes care of a small girl, Sue-Lin, whose Uncle Walter has disappeared and, of course, being a ladies man, he also finds the time to court a young nurse, Diane. This is one of those classic romance comedies aimed to get the camera loving every part of Elvis’s face and showcasing his music, nothing more, nothing less. Does it age well? Probably not but it serves its purpose.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Flowers Of Shanghai – It seems like I bring a Criterion Collection film a week these days and to a movie buff like me it is absolutely glorious every time because these are the cream of the crop, the best of the best and the films that you should be watching to keep the finer touches of cinema in your brainpan. This week’s film comes from Chinese filmmaker Hsiao-Hsien Hou who incredibly directed ten films in the eighties and seven of them received best film or best director awards from prestigious international films festivals in Venice, Berlin, Hawaii, and the Festival of the Three Continents in Nantes. This film could be considered his crowning achievement, following the struggle of the different women in a Shanghai brothel where everything only appears to be beautiful but the steady underbelly is just seeping through to be exposed. This film is a masterpiece that is comprised of thirty-eight long and beautiful shots and the special features. of this blu-ray are insanely intricate.

Indiana Jones 4K – What can I say about this box set that you don’t already know? Indiana Jones is the adventurer of my generation and, along with Star Wars, Ghostbusters and others was my conduit into movies and definitely a piece of my childhood that made me love the medium. All four movies are included in this set with Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Temple Of Doom, The Last Crusade and, yes, I will say it, Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, all remastered in glorious 4K to be vibrant on your screens, shake the house with its sound and packed full of special features to keep you in Indy’s world for hours. I also implore people to give Kingdom another chance, there are fun sequences in it and Shia Labeouf isn’t that bad, people. As an actor that is.

Television:

Good Girls: Season 4 (NBC) – It looks like this might be the final season for this underrated hit with a little bit of a fan following as NBC loves to cancel their shows roughly around this time in their runs if they haven’t already given it the chop after season one. This show immediately got my attention with its phenomenal cast with the gorgeous Christina Hendricks, the hilarious Mae Whitman and equally funny Retta, plus it has Matthew Lillard who I adore. The show follows three suburban Michigan mothers, two of whom are sisters, who are having a hard time trying to make ends meet. Tired of having everything taken away from them, they decide to pull off an unlikely heist by robbing a supermarket, only to discover that they’re in for more than they bargained. Their successful robbery attracts the attention of the store manager after he recognizes one of the women, but for a different reason altogether than just the money. The show comes from creator Jenna Bans who definitely has paid her dues, writing for Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and Desperate Housewives, so it’s great to see her have a serious hit.

Rick And Morty: Season 5 (Adult Swim) – The day I write this is Father’s Day, a day where we get to celebrate the men in our lives who formed us, in some shape or form, to be the people we become as adults. So, in that spirit, we also celebrate Rick And Morty Day, an acknowledgement of one of the more fucked up paternal relationships that probably changed young Morty for the worse and possibly made him a monster. Wait, is this the sentiment I’m going for? The show, now available in a season one to four box set as well as individually, is set to debut its fifth season tonight on Adult Swim and fans are drooling for it with creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon wringing their hands in excitement. The best news is that there are another fifty episodes commissioned beyond this and the show seems like it will continue indefinitely. Even better news, and don’t hate me for this, but I’m kind of new to the show and am still in season one so I am discovering all the “schwifty”, Szechuan sauce and Pickle Rick references beyond the times that they’ve become viral memes across the internet. Soon, I will be caught up and still kind of behind all the references. The point is, I’m receiving the Adult Swim education and goddamn is Chris Parnell great, right?

Bosch: Season 7 (Amazon Prime) – One of the original shows to debut on Amazon Prime, this long-running, critically acclaimed and low-key fan-favourite show is finally drawing to a close. Starring the phenomenal actor Titus Welliver in the title role, a guy you know his face and voice but can never put a name to, this show will be re-discovered for years to come. If you want to start at the beginning with an introduction, the series follows Welliver’s Harry Bosch, an irreverent homicide detective in Los Angeles who has problems with authority, follows his gut and bends a few rules while achieving the best-solved case rate in all of California. This is another notch in a long line of sort of likeable anti-heroes which we all seem to enjoy on television these days but this one comes from veteran writer and creator Eric Ellis Overmyer who has penned episodes of Homicide: Life On The Street, The Wire and Treme, meaning he’s a David Simon guy, one of the best in the business.

Central Park: Season 2 (AppleTV+) – Loren Bouchard, the mind behind the wildly popular Bob’s Burgers, and the multi-talented Josh Gad have teamed up for this new animated comedy-musical series and after an immensely entertaining first season, I have been eagerly awaiting this sophomore season. Featuring the voices and wonderful singing voices of a talented cast including Leslie Odom Jr. Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell, Tituss Burgess and Gad himself, I was pretty much hooked with the quirkiness of episode one. The series tells the story of the Tillermans, a family that lives in Central Park consisting of Owen, the park manager, and Paige, his journalist wife who raise their kids Molly and Cole in the world’s most famous park while fending off hotel heiress Bitsy Brandenham and her long-suffering assistant Helen, who would love nothing more than to turn the park into condos. The show has such wit and warmth that can be attributed to the great mix of Bouchard’s great comedic writing and Gad’s grandiosity that makes for a real perfect storm in animation. If you already love Bob’s Burgers this is definitely your next step.

The Mysterious Benedict Society (Disney+) – Tony Hale has to be one of the most versatile actors working today, a rising star as Buster Bluth in Arrested Development, an award winner for his time on Veep and a welcomed delight in any movie or television series he pops up in. Heck, in this new series he doesn’t even show up until near the end of the first episode but I was already hooked in by that point. In a rare hour-long family series, the story focuses on a group of gifted orphans who are recruited by an eccentric, benefactor to go on a secret mission. That mission? Something I am totally keeping spoiler-free as you don’t even get that reveal at the end of episode one but oh man just you wait for episode two! I also love that this show is shot in Vancouver so when they zoom through the city to the orphanage I was like “Hey, that’s Gas Town!” Yes, I’m THAT locations nerd!

Today is Father’s Day, a day where we get to celebrate the men in our lives who formed us, in some shape or form, to be the people we become as adults. So, in that spirit, we also celebrate Rick And Morty Day, an acknowledgement of one of the more fucked up paternal relationships that probably changed young Morty for the worse and possibly made him a monster. Wait, is this the sentiment I’m going for?

The show, now available in a seasons one to four box set as well as individually, is set to debut it’s fifth season tonight on Adult Swim and fans are drooling for it with creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon wringing their hands in excitement. The best news is that there are another fifty episodes commissioned beyond this and the show seems like it will continue indefinitely.

Even better news, and don’t hate me for this, but I’m kind of new to the show and am still in season one so I am discovering all the “schwifty”, Szechuan sauce and Pickle Rick references beyond the times that they’ve become viral memes across the internet. Soon, I will be caught up and still kind of behind all the references. The point is, I’m receiving the Adult Swim education and goddamn is Chris Parnell great, right?

New Releases:

Luca – Pixar is back with their second film released during the theater shut down and I’m reading reports about how disappointed the animators are that their work hasn’t been able to be displayed on the big screen and I definitely feel their frustration because I would have loved to experience Soul that way and now this beautiful film. Inspired by the works of Studio Ghibli and Hiyao Miyazaki, director Enrico Casarosa, this film is set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera and is a coming-of-age story about one young boy experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. Luca, voiced by Langley’s own Jacob Tremblay, shares these adventures with his newfound best friend, Alberto, in the voice of Shazam and It star Jack Dylan Grazer, but all the fun is threatened by the deeply-held secret that they are sea monsters from another world just below the water’s surface. This film is an endearing story of friendship and the need for escapism as they chase their dreams and I feel like it’s another strong entry into the library of Pixar who seem to always bring the top caliber of stories and warm and comforting experiences.

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard – It looks like I’m going to be a bit contrarian to the reviews that have already been given for this Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson action comedy sequel but it’s a hill I’m willing to die on. It probably helps that I really liked the first movie and think that Reynolds and Jackson have great comedic chemistry and Salma Hayek is a pure joy but here we go. Following the events of the first film we pick up with Reynold’s Michael Bryce still unlicensed and under scrutiny from the bodyguard association who is forced into action by Darius’s even more volatile wife, the infamous international con artist Sonia Kincaid. As Bryce is driven over the edge by his two most dangerous protecters, the trio get in over their heads in a global plot and soon find that they are all that stand between Europe and a vengeful and powerful madman named Aristotle Papadoulpolis, played by Antonio Banderas. The story isn’t anything new when it comes to odd couple style action fun but it is riding on the shoulders of these three actors and I feel like it largely works for the duration of it. I’m not burnt out on the comedy stylings of Ryan Reynolds yet, he’s still a British Columbian treasure.

Fatherhood – It was with a chip on my shoulder I entered into this new Kevin Hart comedy as I usually really dislike the films he chooses to make unless he’s teamed with The Rock. This film had some great things going for it though, as it was made by Paul Weitz who directed great films like About Boy and Grandma, so I had glimmers of hope. The film follows Hart in a sweet story about a father who brings up his baby girl as a single dad after the unexpected death of his wife who died a day after their daughter’s birth. Hart plays this role in a beautifully subdued performance that has instant chemistry with his little co-star Melody Hurd who can be seen in the incredible Amazon Prime series Them. I also adored his friends in the film, played by Bill And Ted Face The Music’s Anthony Carrigan and Get Out’s Lil Rey Howery who have hilarious lines throughout. I was really surprised by how much I adored this movie and I hope it lands with people.

The Sparks Brothers – We get a new music documentary this week and that puts me over the moon with love but even better than that, I comes from director Edgar Wright who is one of my favorite filmmakers of all time and it satiates me until his new horror film Last Night In Soho comes out in October. This film is about a songwriting duo that I am really unfamiliar on but this is the best kind of documentary to watch because it is educational then. The film is about Los Angeles brothers Ron and Russell who grew up in the sixties and got by on a heavy diet of popcorn matinees and pop music until the spotlight of school talent shows illuminated their way on a musical journey as the Sparks and spawned 25 studio albums. Edgar Wright’s vision brings five decades of invention to life through animations and interviews with a huge number of people including Beck, Flea, Mike Myers, Fred Armisen and more, digging deeply into the band’s rich, career-spanning archival. This film is incredible and a must see for anyone who loves music in any form.

The Space Between – On the outside of this film, I was really looking forward to it as Kelsey Grammer takes the prominent role as a faded musician and, for those who don’t know, Grammer is a pretty damn good singer in real life as well. I really wish that my enthusiasm lasted into the movie because, for me, the deeper I went, the more I disliked it. Grammer plays Micky Adams, an eccentric has-been rock musician, who has lost his grip on reality all while his record label is looking to drop him. A young Charlie Porter is tasked with traveling to the musician’s bizarre home and forcing Micky Adams out of his contract but starts to form a friendship with him and instead moves to convince him to start creating new music. Honestly, this movie is an absolute mess and for whatever things work in it, there are three things to erase it from your mind and frustrate you. What a bummer this film turned out to be.

Censor – Horror is a varied genre and one that has a high level of over saturation to it, much like action films, but when you strike with a fresh new idea and spin the ideas to an unpredictable level, this is where new experiences and new voices shine the brightest. This is definitely the case with this new brilliant piece of cinema that comes from Wales and showcases not just the brilliant filmmaker Prano Bailey-Bond in her debut but lead actress Niamh Algar whose performance has you glued to your seat. The story follows film censor Enid, a professional who takes pride in her meticulous work, guarding unsuspecting audiences from the deleterious effects of watching the gore-filled decapitations and eye gouging she pores over in films listed as “video nasties” in the eighties. Her sense of duty to protect is amplified by guilt over her inability to recall details of the long-ago disappearance of her sister, recently declared dead in absentia. When Enid is assigned to review a disturbing film from the archive that echoes her hazy childhood memories, she begins to unravel how this eerie work might be tied to her past as her reality starts to crumble around her. This film is a mind-bending experience with an ending that left me reeling and thinking deeply about it ever since. This is one of my favourite films this year.

Akilla’s Escape – The critical acclaim from film festivals last year, all largely done by streaming and less the full theatrical experience, have all praised this new crime-noir movie that is a Canadian and American co-production. The thing that nabs me is that it’s the first narrative feature from director Charles Officer since Nurse.Fighter.Boy which was released almost fourteen years ago. The film follows a drug dealer who finds his moral code challenged when he interrupts an armed robbery and captures one of the gang members who is a 15-year-old boy. The movie is a phenomenally written film that allows lead actor Saul Williams to weave acting magic on the screen, the best reason to watch this and hopefully in a performance that gets some love in the award scene that is shortly incoming.

Every Breath You Take – Just looking at the cast list on this new mystery thriller draws me into wanting to watch it right away as it features Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan and Sam Claflin in the lead roles, all proven character actors plus it’s a Gone Baby Gone reunion between the first two. The fact that this film is being dogged by bad reviews and comes from director Vaughn Stein, who’s last film Terminal was a heinous waste of time, gives me an appropriate pause. The story is about a psychiatrist, played by Affleck, whose career is thrown into jeopardy when his patient takes her own life. When he invites his patient’s surviving brother into his home to meet his wife and daughter, his family life is suddenly torn apart from the inside. This film looks like it would be intriguing but manages to keep making the easy and predictable choices throughout. Very frustrating.

Revolution Rent – I have said many times before on this blog that musicals are generally not my thing and it takes a really special one to break through and catch my attention. That being said, Rent was a Broadway musical that blew me away when I saw it live and in person, giving an fascinating human story with songs that I thought were incredibly catchy and meaningful, so when this new documentary came up on HBO, I was interested for sure. The film follows a Cuban-American director who travels to his exiled parents’ homeland to mount a stage production of the legendary musical where he discovers an inspiring artistic family and embarks on a personal journey to reclaim his complicated heritage. This was such an fascinating way to renew my love for the original source material and also see it inspire new viewers who hadn’t been exposed to the inspirational and vibrant musical that really transcends the art form to become a commentary on the human condition.

Take Back – I feel like I would have been into a movie like this in the nineties and pretty easily too. Mickey Rourke, a known bad ass who retired from acting for a stint in boxing for a while and Michael Jai White, the only man up to this point to play the comic book demigod Spawn in live action form. Older me has seen way too many of these though and it takes a lot to rock my world and this film really doesn’t look like it has that gusto. The story follows couple Zara and Brian who are living the perfect small-town life when Zara heroically foils a robbery and becomes headline news. This unwanted notoriety draws elements of Zara’s mysterious past back into her life, putting the lives of her family in danger. When Zara and Brian’s daughter is kidnapped by a sadistic gang of people traffickers led by the vicious Patrick, the pair face a race against time to save her life. The film has a great set up and keeps you strung along for the duration but that third act came in like a bull in a china shop to destroy all the momentum with a corny desert shoot out that reeks of them writing themselves into a corner.

Blu-Ray & DVD:

Godzilla vs. Kong – The behemoths are finally going to battle it out for the first time in the modern age after a build that started with 2014’s Godzilla. I have my qualms about the human element of both Godzilla movies to this point but the epic that was Kong: Skull Island, one of my favourite IMAX experiences ever, is too awesome to take a step down from. This film brings King Kong from the 70s into the present-day and “legends collide” as these mythic adversaries meet in a spectacular battle for the ages, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Kong and his protectors undertake a perilous journey to find his true home, and with them is Jia, a young orphaned girl with whom he has formed a unique and powerful bond. They quickly and unexpectedly find themselves in the path of an enraged Godzilla, cutting a swath of destruction across the globe for an unknown reason as he’s turned from the planet’s protector that took down King Ghidorah and now becomes their terrorizer. Look, they didn’t improve the human element of this franchise, which still feels like cardboard cutouts of real people with the wooden dialogue to match but that’s not what this is all about, is it? We just want to see these two monsters throw down and they most definitely do. Enjoy it in your own home theatre and crank that sound!

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

Vanquish – Uh oh. I was excited when I saw Morgan Freeman’s name attached to this new action thriller but then I saw it was from filmmaker George Gallo whose last outing, The Poison Rose which also starred Freeman, was a total cringe filled dog of a film with John Travolta doing a cajun accent straight out of What The Hellsville. Seriously, it’s the worst. This film has Ruby Rose as a mother named Victoria who is trying to put her dark past as a Russian drug courier behind her but retired cop Damon, played by Freeman, forces her to do his bidding by holding her daughter hostage. Now, Victoria must use guns, guts, and a motorcycle to take out a series of violent gangsters or face the consequences of never seeing her child again. It seems Gallo hasn’t learned from his last pile of crap and Morgan is doomed to repeat his mistakes as this is an absolute flop of a film that has zero excitement to it and tries to go excessive to the ceiling in its style but has no substance behind it to substantiate why we should care. This movie is a total waste of time.

Voyagers – With a hot aesthetic, the sleek blackness of space and a neon glow, Limitless and The Illusionist filmmaker Neil Burger returns with a great cast and a creepy sci-fi mystery to baffle everyone with again. Starring Colin Farrell, Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp, Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead and Game Of Thrones alum Isaac Hempstead Wright, the film is set in the near future and chronicles the odyssey of thirty young men and women who are sent deep into space on a multi-generational mission in search of a new home. The mission descends into madness, as the crew reverts to its most primal state, not knowing if the real threat they face is what’s outside the ship or who they’re becoming inside it and it hits all the right buttons for me. The creeping paranoia of this film is so deliciously infective but I feel like it failed to capitalize on that or steer from the narrative of being a sort of Lord Of The Flies in space and continues to follow all the same beats as the originality of this story is slowly leached from it scene by scene. That said, the film is gorgeous to look at and that futuristic space travel neon glow is pretty pleasing to the eye.

SAS: Red Notice – Ruby Rose is a busy woman as she pulls double duty this week in the blu-ray section with another action driven thriller but with a pretty stellar cast around her. Featuring Outlander’s Sam Heughan, Lord Of The Rings heavyweight Andy Serkis, Ant-Man and The Wasp’s Hannah John-Kamen, The Umbrella Academy’s Tom Hooper ad so many more, despite looking like a direct to video actioner, this movie has a bit of promise to it. The film follows Tom Buckingham, who is taking Dr. Sophie Hart from London to Paris to propose. When their train is deep inside the Channel Tunnel, heavily armed mercenaries, led by Grace Lewis, seize control of it and hold everyone hostage. Grace threatens to blow up the Channel Tunnel and declare economic war on a government that has its fair share of secrets to keep. Unarmed and cut off from his counter terror team, Tom is the only hope that Sophie and the other passengers have to make it out alive. The plot seems simple and contrived but the action and intrigue are where the film consistently delivers to give us the thrill of just being a plain old popcorn flick and who can’t get behind that?

Anything For Jackson – You bump up your horror credibility seriously when you have Canadian actor Julien Richings anywhere involved in your film so this film is bursting with it considering it features him in the lead role and one that was written for him. The movie has him as one half of a bereaved Satanist couple who kidnap a pregnant woman so they can use an ancient spell book to put their dead grandson’s spirit into her unborn child but end up summoning more than they bargained for. This film baffles me in the fact that it was made by director Justin G. Dyck, a guy known for making a lot of Hallmark movies and I mean a lot. The genre shift isn’t the weird part, it’s the fact that this movie is so fantastic. Is it the writing? The acting? The directing? It’s honestly everything, the perfect storm of horror awesome and a must see.

The Great War Of Archimedes – Well Go USA has my eyes for not one but two titles this week but before we get to the stuff they’re really known for, this killer action flicks, we’re going to get a little historical first. The film is set in the early 1930s as the command of the Japanese Imperial Navy determines to construct the world’s biggest and most formidable battleship, Yamato. One of the admirals, Yamamoto Isoroku, disagrees and recruits the upstart and mathematics’ expert Tadashi Kai who discovers there are discrepancies between the official cost estimates and the actual figures which exposes a conspiracy being hatched within the military power. The film comes from Japanese director Takashi Yamazaki who’s last outing was the animated action mystery Lupin III: The First which was alright but this was a step down as the character development was anemic and the pacing made the two and a half run time just crawl by.

Streetwise/Tiny: The Life Of Erin Blackwell – The theme to my Criterion releases that I received this month seems to be little movie collections and it kicks off with this new double feature from American writer and director Martin Bell. Streetwise follows photojournalist Mary Ellen Mark and Bell as they travel the streets of Seattle, taking a harrowing look at the lives of young members of the city’s homeless population. The teenagers they follow come from broken families and have resorted to drug use, crime and prostitution and the two document the teens as they attempt to survive on the streets and also deal with their complex, dysfunctional home lives and cling to one another to achieve a sense of family. In the follow up made more than thirty years later, Tiny picks up with Bell chronicling the life of Erin Blackwell, mother of ten children, from the time she was a 14-year-old prostitute through her battle with drug addiction, poverty and parenting in the original film. A brilliant portrait of the disenfranchised, forgotten and left behind youth, Bell’s ability to show the urgency of his subject’s existence is always felt on the surface of his work. Fascinating stuff.

Guns For San Sebastian – I really love the exposure that Warner Archive gives to their vault of classic films when they get the blu-ray treatment but I get even more excited when it’s a genre film, in this case being an action western with some iconic stars leading it. Starring Anthony Quinn and Charles Bronson, the film follows fugitive Leon Alastray who meets Father Joseph, a Franciscan priest, while on the run. The two form a friendship as Joseph helps Alastray avoid the law with Alastray disguising himself to travel with him. As they reach a ghost town, Joseph is shot dead from afar. Alastray then meets half-Indian Telco, played by Bronson, who explains that the inhabitants are in hiding from a band of violent Yaqui Indians and, mistaken for the priest, Alastray helps the villagers fight back. This movie is super entertaining and is a great showcase of Quinn’s power as a lead actor. It also features a great score from Ennio Morricone which is always welcome in a solid western.

Ziegfeld Follies – Warner Bros. is bringing one of the big guns out of their extensive vault for a big Warner Archives blu-ray edition with one of the biggest musicals of all time. The cast is thorough and extensive, with William Powell, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Fred Astaire, Lena Horne, Gene Kelly, Red Skelton and so many more and under the direction of six different filmmakers including the minds behind Show Boat and The Unsinkable Molly Brown and master director Vincente Minnelli. The film is almost like a big compilation as it is presented as a production for showman Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. in Heaven as he fondly recalls his first Broadway revue, the Ziegfeld Follies of 1907. Even in the great beyond, he is hoping that he can, for one last time, create that same magic by mounting one last follies. As he thinks about who he would like to appear in these follies, he is assisted in realizing his fantasy, at least in his own mind, by some of the biggest stars of the modern time, with the film being made in 1945. Not being a big musical guy, a lot of the music didn’t do a lot for me but the art direction is incredible and lavish looking, enough to impress even a cold genre cynic like myself.

Punk The Capital: Building a Sound Movement – The voice of a cultural and social revolution, punk in a driving force of those who consider themselves voiceless and became a real lightening rod for those who felt push back, kept down and totally marginalized. The forefront of this genre voice was groups like Black Flag, The Dead Kennedys and more, all driven from the American capitol, Washington, D.C. This documentary explores why the sounds and ideas from this influential music continue to inspire around the world and beyond the legends I just mentioned it features bands like the sadly forgotten Bad Brains who helped create a movement that redefined a genre and became a model for social and political engagement with interviews with Henry Rollins and Jello Biafra just to make it that much more awesome.

Lust For Gold: A Race Against Time – The gold rush is something that seems so far back, like in the settler days or the discovering of our great frontier in the backyards of our wilderness but the rush is still happening for a group of explorers and this documentary takes aim at that in this new documentary. The film follows a team of modern adventurers on a quest for gold in the mountains of eastern Arizona, a true story is about obsession, greed, and the hunt for gold. Although it is nothing that I feel I would have gone out of my way for, I still felt myself being drawn into this retiree’s need to search for what to others looks like an extreme pipe dream and it slowly moves you to the edge of you seat in wonder at if he will achieve that dream. Very cool real life drama that loses that scripted feel immediately.

Steve’s Blu-Ray & DVD Geekouts:

Fast Times At Ridgemont High – Written by Cameron Crowe in his first film and directed by the teen voice conduit that always delivers, Amy Heckerling, I still think it’s a pretty easy call to say that this is one of the greatest high school films ever made. I think we all probably know this film deeply and intimately from Sean Penn’s stoner character Jeff Spicoli to Brad masturbating in the bathroom to a day dream of Phoebe Cates in the pool, we all know it. For those who don’t, the film is a reality infused look at the lives and loves of a group of high school students. It’s the final year of high school for Brad Hamilton who decides he should break up with his longtime girlfriend to play the field and gets completely floored when she breaks up with him first. Spicoli continues to take delight in getting under the skin of his teacher, Mr. Hand in one of the best onscreen rivalries in history and others are looking for love, sex and just plain having a good time which, for the most part, they all seem to find though sometimes in unexpected places. This movie had laughs, tackled issues, got into the inner workings of high school cliques and had such an honest heart to it which I believe will always keep it relevant. This is a must see forever.

The Final Countdown 4K – Time travel sci-fi with Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen and an aircraft carrier all to the sounds of eighties rock band Europe? Okay, that last part was a lie but you can’t honestly tell me that you don’t read that title and have the song stuck in your mind. For real, the film is set in 1980 and follows aircraft carrier USS Nimitz as it is on a routine voyage off the coast of Hawaii when she travels through a strange storm. Upon clearing the storm she encounters some strange occurrences, all of which suggest she has travelled back in time in 1941. Moreover, it is December 6th, 1941 and the Nimitz is in a position to prevent the disastrous outcome of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This was a big movie at it’s time, expensive but also made with full cooperation by the United States Navy and sort of paved the way for films like Top Gun later and, let’s face it, most of Michael Bay’s filmography. I love that a film with a high budget but dated to campiness in the effects now is getting its rebirth in a 4K presentation.

King Kong – It’s interesting to bring this new collector’s edition from Shout Factory this week in the same posting as the latest King Kong flick and just a couple weeks after the sad passing of the incredible Charles Grodin who featured in this movie alongside Academy Award winners Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange. Made in 1976, this is a remake of the 1933 classic about the giant ape, following an oil company expedition that disturbs the peace of Kong and decides to bring him back to New York to exploit him in obvious fashion. Even though a woman somewhat tames Kong, he finally breaks loose and terrorizes the city, and as the military attempts to stop him he falls to his death from the top of the World Trade Center. Ah crap, I just gave the full story but I’d like to think that we all kind of know this one now. It’s also pretty cool that a forty foot animatronic was created of Kong that was transported to Universal Studios where it traumatized kids in ride form for decades. This is such a special movie.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider/Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle Of Life 4K – A bunch of high definition video game film updates landed on my doorstep this week in two separate forms but both featuring the beautiful and well cast Angelina Jolie as explorer and general bad ass Lara Croft. Presented as a standalone copy of the first movie or in a two pack, the film chronicles this British treasure hunters exploits, starting with the first film where she has to thwart a secret society doomsday cult seeking two pieces of a mysterious device hidden in two different places of the world in order to use it during a rare planetary alignment to bring them unlimited power to control or destroy the world. The Cradle Of Life, the sequel, brings Gerad Butler into it and has Lara on a quest to save the mythical Pandora’s Box, before an evil scientist finds it, and recruits a former Marine turned mercenary to assist her. These films, upon a rewatch, are still really entertaining and have some great sequences in it that make you look a bit beyond how terrible the script is.

Undercover Punch & Gun – The title of this movie is ridiculous. I know it, you know it, I’m sure everyone at Well Go USA knows it but, that aside, this Chinese action film has, as you can probably guess, incredible action sequences. The story is almost comically formulaic, following an elite cop working undercover to infiltrate a notorious drug ring that is exposed when a rival agency with a grudge attacks during a trade, killing the gang’s leader. Their cover compromised, both teams are forced to unite in order to take to the high seas and attempt to overthrow the ruthless smuggler behind it all and I must stress again how great each fight is, totally worth the pretty short hour and a half run time. I’m really happy that I enjoyed this film because one half of the director duo made the deplorably bad Donnie Yen movie Enter The Fat Dragon and I was not prepared at all to forgive him just yet.

Television:

Blindspotting: Season 1 (Crave) – With Blindspotting being one of my favorite films in the last twenty years, I almost lost my mind when I heard that writers, producers and stars Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs were taking it to series form, although Diggs’ character Collin won’t be appearing. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you need to drop everything to watch it as soon as possible because it is the most special, hard hitting, angry and biting social commentary, something I will never forget. The new series is a continuation and centers on Ashley, who is nipping at the heels of a middle class life in Oakland until Miles, her partner of 12 years and father of their son, is suddenly incarcerated, leaving her to navigate a chaotic and humorous existential crisis when she is forced to move in with Miles’ mother and half-sister. I’m chomping at the bit to take in this already critically acclaimed new show and I’ll silence my sadness that we only get an episode a week until it’s finale. Remember those times of patience with television?

Penguin Town (Netflix) – If you’ve already exhausted all of your nature documentaries and have absorbed all the David Attenborough lilted learning that you can glean from Netflix then it’s time for Patton Oswalt to help you out with a great helping of cute. So with that, let’s get all penguiny with the most in depth thing I’ve seen of the little tuxedoed birdies since National Geographic gave us the March Of The Penguins. The series is shot in a picturesque South African town and gives us an intimate look at an eclectic group of endangered penguins flock together to find mates, raise a family and mix with the locals. Oswalt’s narration gives the series a feel that isn’t heady or jargon filled and instead makes you laugh, mixes in the real sorrow of the situations they face and definitely makes you say “awwwww” a lot. What a delight for the whole family this one is.

Tuca & Bertie: Season 2 (Adult Swim) – There’s not much I can preface this little blurb with except the disclaimer being that this show is incredibly weird and comes from the mind of the creator of Bojack Horseman but definitely isn’t the same. Featuring the voices of Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong, the show is simply about a free-spirited toucan Tuca and a self-doubting song thrush Bertie who are best friends and birds who guide each other through life’s ups and downs, with Bertie being a little more pragmatic but a push over and Tuca being problematically self centered. With the first season streaming on Netflix to give you a taste of what it’s all about, this show may be a hard sell as it really likes to go off on tangents quite a lot but I am enamoured with the bold chances it seems to love taking. If you’re a fan of either of these ladies, who both have so many great comedy specials, I recommend this to you and you only.

Dave: Season 2 (FX) – Comedic rapper Lil Dicky got his own series last year with a show that is produced by Scooter Braun. who is probably not high up on the likability chain with how he tried to screw Taylor Swift over, but also Kevin Hart and Greg Mottola who also directed a few of the first season’s episode and welcomes Honey Boy’s Alma Har’el and Bad Trip filmmaker Kitao Sakurai. Co-created by Curb Your Enthusiasm writer Jeff Schaffer, the show follows a mid-twenties suburbanite whose neurosis has convinced him that he is going to become one of the greatest rappers of all time, a totally misguided journey. Those who know Lil Dicky’s work, like his song he did with Chris Brown called Freaky Friday, will be into this and as much as I hate Brown that song is damn catchy. This show has certainly caught on and became a big success for FX so it’s probably a great time to jump on the show now and get with the trend.

Physical: Season 1 (AppleTV+) – All you have to tell me to sell me on this new series is that Rose Byrne is in it and it takes place in the eighties. Hell, if I didn’t have an AppleTV+ account already, I ‘d get it for sure. Look at this streaming service go! The ten episode series follows Byrne as Sheila Rubin, a quietly tortured, seemingly dutiful housewife supporting her smart but controversial husband’s bid for state assembly but behind closed doors, she has her own darkly funny take on life she rarely lets the world see. She’s also battling a complex set of personal demons relating to her self-image which come to a head when she finds release through the unlikeliest source in the world of aerobics. At first hooked on the exercise itself, Sheila’s real road to empowerment comes when she discovers a way to merge this newfound passion with the burgeoning technology of videotape to start a revolutionary business. Directed by the trio of Cruella’s Craig Gillespie, Dollface’s Stephanie Laing and newcomer Liza Johnson, this show had me hooked in from episode one and I didn’t even include that the great Rory Scovel is in this.

New Releases:

In The Heights – A casualty of the pandemic, this film was supposed to premiere in the summer of 2020 and is the much anticipated new musical created by Hamilton mastermind Lin Manuel Miranda that would definitely have some new viral tracks contained within it. Now we sit almost a year later, and the film’s anticipation still exists, especially with Hamilton being a highly streamed film on Disney+ right now. Coming from Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu, the film centers on a variety of characters living in the neighbourhood of Washington Heights, on the northern tip of Manhattan. At the center of the show is Usnavi, a bodega owner who looks after the ageing Cuban lady next door, pines for the gorgeous girl working in the neighbouring beauty salon and dreams of winning the lottery and escaping to the shores of his native Dominican Republic. Meanwhile, Nina, a childhood friend of Usnavi, has returned to the neighbourhood from her first year at college with surprising news for her parents, who have spent their life savings on building a better life for their daughter. Ultimately, Usnavi and the residents of the close-knit neighbourhood get a dose of what it means to be home in a film that is, at this point, earning perfect scores from critics who are calling it a joyous and infectious celebration of life and culture. It might be best to get on the ground floor of this one as it looks like it’s going to be a monster hit.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway – When the first film adaptation of this rolled out of the Sony lineup, I was totally trepidatious but, in the end, my daughter and I both got a solid kick out of this and even adored the human element, being the great tandem of Domnhall Gleeson and Rose Byrne, which makes up for Peter himself being voiced by the often insufferable James Corden. Well, after a lengthy pause in release dates due to the pandemic, Peter is up for another adventure and this one gets into the bunny lineage, really. The film picks up a bit after the first with Bea, Thomas, and the rabbits having created a makeshift family, but despite his best efforts, Peter can’t seem to shake his mischievous reputation. Adventuring out of the garden, Peter finds himself in a world where his mischief is appreciated, but when his family risks everything to come looking for him, Peter must figure out what kind of bunny he wants to be. The great news for adults, beyond being an entertaining and, at times, a silly movie for the kids, is that it works and is enjoyable for adults, is pretty well written, and has a great sense of self-awareness. I’m not saying it’s Paddington levels of great but it still earns your time watching it.

Wish Dragon – There is so much to check out for the kids and family this weekend and all the studios are getting into it like Dreamworks here who follow up their previous weekend release of Spirit Untamed with this animated Chinese co-production that is just dazzling to look at based on the trailer alone. Featuring the voices of Harold and Kumar’s John Cho, Silicon Valley’s Jimmy Wong, Crazy Rich Asians star Constance Wu and comedian Bobby Lee, the story follows Din, a working-class college student with big dreams but small means, and Long, a cynical but all-powerful dragon capable of granting wishes, who set off on an adventure through modern-day Shanghai in pursuit of Din’s long-lost childhood friend, Lina. Their journey forces them to answer some of life’s biggest questions, some very reminiscent of the most famous “wish” movie Aladdin, like the notion of just because when you can wish for anything, you still have to decide what really matters. This film looks like it still has that great Dreamworks charm that has been serviceable for over twenty years now and I wouldn’t let the fact that it was sold to Netflix for its release fool you on that.

The Amusement Park – I know I’m not alone in this world as a horror movie fan in saying that I really miss the voice of master filmmaker George A. Romero on this earth as he passed away closing in on four years ago now. I’m supremely sad that I never had a chance to speak with him, interview him or even thank him for the tremendous influence he had on my movie life but knowing that he had an unreleased film in his catalogue that was getting a posthumous debut was like an incredible cinematic present and the fact that it’s getting great reviews makes me even more excited. Recently discovered and restored forty-six years after its completion by the George A. Romero Foundation and produced by Suzanne Desrocher-Romero, the film follows an elderly man who finds himself disoriented and increasingly isolated as the pains, tragedies and humiliations of ageing in America are manifested through roller coasters and chaotic crowds. No stranger to subversive and socially biting commentary, this is being described as perhaps Romero’s wildest and most imaginative movie, an allegory about the nightmarish realities of growing older, and is an alluring snapshot of the filmmaker’s early artistic capacity and style and would go on to inform his ensuing filmography. At the time of writing this, I am ravenous to get into my Shudder account and devour this “new” Romero as I have with all of his films.

Awake – Netflix is gearing up to Bird Box you again and it could be a win for you if you enjoyed that or an unintentionally hilarious hour and a half watch which it kind of was for me. Starring Gina Rodriguez, the plot centers around the global hysteria that ensues after a mysterious catastrophe wipes out all electronics and takes away humanity’s ability to sleep. Scientists race against the clock to find a cure for the unexplained insomnia before its fatal effects eliminate the human race but the cure may lie within the innocence of youth when Jill, a former soldier, discovers her young daughter may be the key to salvation and she must then decide to protect her children at all costs or sacrifice everything to save the world. The film is interesting in its scope of storytelling but has so many moments of ham-fisted logic, over-the-top acting and points of what’s supposed to be pure terror that comes off really funny. I know that sleep deprivation causes us to make terrible decisions but some of these pieces in the film are just insanely comical to me.

Kate Nash: Underestimate The Girl – To be completely honest, all that I knew previously about singer and songwriter Kate Nash was from her role as Rhonda Richardson on the Netflix comedy series GLOW that was sadly cancelled last year after a renewal had been announced. It seems par for the course in Nash’s experience as this film documents well. The film outlines Nash’s career as she reaches the stratosphere of pop music at 18 but then just ten years later she is nearly homeless, dropped by her music label and defrauded by her manager. Deciding on her third album that she wanted to get away from the pre-packaged slog of pop music and hit a wave of more powerful punk anger, this ultimately is what stalled her career and we see Kate rising from the darkness of this through her music, fighting back and staying true to her artistic vision. The film was a fascinating study of an unbreakable talent and actually put me onto some of her music which I’ve subscribed to on Spotify now. My wife had already been a fan of hers but I’m a little late to the indie music game sometimes.

A Perfect Enemy – Lets go international for this Spanish, German and French co-produced dark crime thriller which features the great French actor Dominique Pinon who I’ve been a fan of for decades as he is a regular staple in Jean Pierre Jeunet films, starting with Delicatessen in 1991. The film follows Pinon as a successful architect named Jeremiasz Angust who is approached on his trip to the Paris Airport by a chatty girl called Texel Textor. She is a strange young woman who seems to be looking for captive victims whom she forces to listen to her strange stories. Jeremy loses the flight because of Texel and once they are installed in the lounge area, he will not be able to get rid of the annoying stranger. Although the meeting seems fortuitous, soon there will be a turn that will transform the character of that encounter into something much more sinister and criminal. Writer and director Kike Maíllo does an incredible job of stringing the viewer along in an almost mundanity that puts you in the mindset of Angust as the rug slowly gets pulled from under you and you decend into it’s pretty messed up finale. I felt on the fence for the majority of the film but the end really got me.

New Order – Just the lead into this new thriller is utterly fascinating as it has almost a “High Rise” like collapse of society to it which makes it really fit into in to today’s overhanging feeling. A Mexican and French-produced drama that was originally conceived six years ago, this is a near-future dystopia that takes place in the midst of a protest that rages in the streets while Marianne’s high society family prepares for her wedding. At first, only splatters of green paint and the appearance of Rolando, a former employee seeking emergency medical funds, intrude on the festivities but soon the party is unable to keep the reckoning at bay, and what follows is a swift disintegration of law and order defined first by class lines, then by disastrous government recapitulation. The reviews on this film are off the charts with so much praise being heaped on the excellent acting, cinematography and editing, I am salivating to get my eyes on it, personally. This film feels almost Kubrickian by comparison.

The Dose – Also being distributed as La Dosis, this Argentinian drama starts to play quickly into the field of psychological thriller in a way that feels subversive to it’s beginning and I found myself drawn more and more in by each plot reveal. The film follows Marcos, a night shift nurse at a provincial hospital who cares for patients in severe stages of illness. Sometimes, secretly, when a patient certainly won’t recover, Marcos helps them reach their last moment quickly but the settled routine of the ward is shattered when Gabriel joins the staff as another nurse. Gabriel is young, attractive and everyone is seduced by him but soon the death rate on the ward increases andMarcos realises that Gabriel is also killing patients, but indiscriminately and carelessly. He decides to try and put an end to both their actions but doing so places his own identity in jeopardy and in the crosshairs of a lengthy prison sentence. This film is gripping and the character work is really superb as the heaviness of the story is also infused with a dark humor that gives it that subversiveness with a genre bend and I thought it was pretty great.

The Dare – When people saw the horror thriller Saw in 2004 it definitely gave some light to the smaller, self contained bloody and gory stories of minimal characters and a whole lot of blood, which is evident here with writer and director Giles Alderson’s film here. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and, honestly, this one is pretty column B for me. This film follows the fallout of a childhood prank gone wrong at a rare family night which ends in four strangers, including the workaholic father, who are forced to relive a cruel game at the hands of a masked psychopath. The film has all sorts of style that works for it but it seems more focused in giving that and splatter fans some eye candy to look at then giving a cohesive story with satisfying reveals and explanations. I feel like this is a great jump point for Alderson as a filmmaker but he needs to get those films that inspired him and preceded him out of his head when creating.

Blu-Ray & DVD:

The Lovebirds – A theatrical victim of the COVID-19 pandemic which was supposed to hit theatres at the beginning of April in 2020, Paramount made a quick deal with Netflix which then debuted in late May that year and now we get this brand new comedy starring two red hot stars, Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae, on DVD this week. Coming from director Michael Showalter, following up The Big Sick which was written by and starring Kumail, this film is about a couple who has literally just broken up when they get put right in the middle of a murder conspiracy forcing them to run from the law. The chemistry between Nanjiani and Rae is phenomenal and the lines are hilarious even if this is a far lesser movie than The Big Sick. If you’re looking for a hilarious movie to kill an hour and a half then I highly recommend this one because it had me laughing throughout.

Assault On VA-33 – Of course we need to cover some straight to video lowbrow action because what would a release week or month be without them. The sad thing about this film is it has some very likeable stars in it, like Boondock Saints’ Sean Patrick Flannery, Spawn’s Michael Jai White, John Wick: Chapter 3’s Mark Dacascos and WWE Hall Of Famer Rob Van Dam but everything else about this film is so shoddy and low budget. Flannery plays decorated army veteran Jason Hill who, while on a routine visit to the local VA hospital, finds organized terrorists have infiltrated the building and taken hostages, including a decorated general, and Hill’s wife. The highly trained veteran is outnumbered and the last line of defense, taking on a building full of armed insurgents before it’s too late in a really low rent Die Hard sort of way.The film has zero room for character development or delivering a reason to care about anyone in it which makes it a total slog to get through. Films like this make my extracurricular activities seem so brutal.

City Of Lies – With the wide release all but cancelled and the distributors dropping the film outright, this is a movie that suffered the world wrath of the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard divorce and court battle as when Depp was accused of abuse, everyone washed their hands of him. The movie is pretty interesting though, following the murder investigation of the Notorious B.I.G., directed by The Lincoln Lawyer filmmaker Brad Fuhrman with a great cast including Forest Whitaker, Shea Whigham and HBO favorites Toby Huss and Dayton Callie. The film takes place in 1997 and follows LAPD Detective Russell Poole as he investigates a case of an undercover cop killing another cop. This draws him into the Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur murders and what he uncovers is huge, so much so, that the closer he gets to the truth, the more his superiors try to prevent him from getting to it. This movie reeks of that eighties and nineties style crime procedural but I thought it worked really well and Depp and Whitaker are so great together. It’s sad to have this stigma of Johnny’s personal life marring all of his films now as I really still enjoy him as an actor.

Zeroville – James Franco is not the most popular guy these days and for good reason so for his new film that he also directed to slip under the radar of regular releases is not surprising at all, even if it features his now former friend Seth Rogen. To be honest, with it’s cult film like prowess, I should have loved this film, following Franco as a young ex-communicated seminarian Ike “Vikar” Jerome with two tattoos of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor on his shaved head who arrives in Los Angeles on the same August day in 1969 that a crazed hippie ”family” led by Charles Manson commits five savage murders to begin a dreamlike journey through the film business to kick off the 1970s. What bothered me about this movie is that it felt absolutely fruitless other than Franco giving the middle finger to an industry that made him and gave him the power he so abuses now. It tries to piggyback on better films of its ilk and fails to do so and really just sort of panders to Franco and his tastes while failing to utilize a great cast including Joey King, Jacki Weaver, Dave Franco, Craig Robinson and more. So disappointing but fitting for this douchebag.

The Land of Azaba – We’re getting deep into the field of quietly observant documentaries this week, thanks to the push of Kino Lorber who is amazing at giving a platform to these smaller productions. This is a closely observed film exploring the theme of ecological restoration, a worldwide movement to turn back the tide of mass extinction and restore planet earth to ecological balance. Filmed in far western Spain, “the film immerses you in a magical world where humans and wildlife work together to restore the largest tract of wild nature in western Europe where, as it is globally as well, the survival of many rare species, including ancient oaks, insects, vultures, and horses, is at stake. The message is glaring and urgent throughout this film but it’s storytelling devices of being observant may not jive with those casual viewers who need a little more narrative in their films.

The Stylist – We’ll never steer too far from horror at least on this blog as it seems to be the most productive genre, they always sent me the screeners for them on the first ask and, hell, I absolutely love them. Arrow Video does as well and they have an eye for new horror as well as they snapped this one off the festival circuit that has been getting some warm love from the critics. Starring Najarra Townsend and horror queen Brea Grant, the film is about a lonely hair stylist named Claire who dreams of being someone else but the dream goes from an obsession to a living nightmare as she goes from hairstylist by day to serial killer and collector of scalps by night, Claire’s lonely existence is thrown into turmoil when her regular client, Olivia, asks her to style her hair for her wedding day. Increasingly fixated on Olivia’s seemingly flawless life, Claire vows to lock up her scalp collection and change her ways for good, only to discover that repressing your deadly desires is easier said than done. This movie is so effective with its style and character development that I felt onboard with whatever it was going to do and the kills in it are so savoured that it will delight many of the genre fans. Believe the hype on this one, it’s the real deal.

Fuller House: Season 5 – Another reboot, or continuation in this case, has come to an end as the wildly popular Netflix restart of the TGIF line-up classic Full House from my generation’s childhood and teen years has wrapped up and a new young generation has been served this sweet and sugary little family comedy. Do I need to explain what the show’s about? Well, okay, the show picked up with D.J. Tanner-Fuller is now a recently widowed mom to a thirteen-year-old named Jackson, a seven-year-old named Max and a newborn son named Tommy. After realizing she is unable to cope with the demands of holding a full time job as a veterinarian in addition to raising three kids, her sister Stephanie and childhood best friend Kimmy, who is also the mother of a thirteen-year-old daughter, offer to move in to bring up her children. It seems a lot of the fans were a little let down by this series’ finish but I felt the same tone and message conveyed the whole run and the saccharine cheesiness of it made my teeth hurt more than a few times.

Steve’s Blu-Ray & DVD Geekouts:

The Sweet Requiem – Going international to kick off this week’s geek-outs with this Indian-made drama that revolves around the revered lands of Tibet and has earned some real underground acclaim from critics ahead of its Kino Lorber spearheaded release. The film follows Dolka who, at the age of eight, fled her home with her father to escape the Chinese armed forces and faced an arduous journey across the Himalayas. Now at twenty-six, she lives in a Tibetan refugee colony in Delhi, where an unexpected encounter with a man from her past awakens long-suppressed memories, propelling Dolkar on an obsessive search for the truth. This film is a captivating drama that deals with a person ripped from their home and traditions, deposited in a new form of life entirely without the ability to come to grips with that until almost two decades later. The reality of this movie must be held in the hearts of so many and really made me introspective about my own white privilege that I’ve felt, even though I am a newly verified member of the indigenous in Canada. No matter where you are in the world, I feel like a story of this nature and message can and will affect everyone that has their hearts open to it.

The Gentlemen – Writer and director Guy Ritchie returned to the roots of the type of cinema that got him popular, the gangster flicks like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, and it was oh so satisfying and I just wanted to bring some attention to it again. For this film, he grabs a huge cast with Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell and more for the story of a drug lord looking to get out of the game and sell of his empire to the highest bidder which sets off a bloody war in the London underworld, a place that Ritchie knows as well as he knows himself. This movie probably won’t draw in a new audience but will satisfy the hordes of fans of this genre he made famous, all of us salivating for him to do another movie with great dialogue and loud gunfights. Got to hand it to him that he can make all of these already cool actors to an even higher level of coolness. That is some serious talent there.

Television:

Little Birds: Season 1 (Crave) – Kind of on a high after the critical and audience lauded Ted Lasso, actress Juno Temple takes the lead in this steamy new Starz original series from creator Stacie Passon who did a great job on a few of the episode of Dickinson on AppleTV+ earlier this year. The show is an adaptation of Anais Nin’s infamous collection of erotic short stories and is a mid twentieth century period piece that follows New York heiress Lucy Savage fresh off the transatlantic steamer and looking for love and marriage in an exotic and strange land. When her husband Hugo does not receive her in the way she expected, she spins off into the surprising, diverse and degenerate world of Tangier in a modern feeling tale of a woman losing and then finding herself down a mesmerizing rabbit hole. The shows unique sense of style and art direction is what keeps everything on the rails as I felt the story had a bit of meandering to it that made it a struggle for me to keep interested in it. I will continue to watch it for Juno’s great work as she always feels like a star with everything she does.

Lupin: Part 2 (Netflix) – We’re heading back to France for the second part of this new series that takes Transporter helmer Louis Letterier and places him in the showrunner position of the story of a master thief, embodied by the phenomenal Omar Cy in the title role. The show is inspired by the adventures of Arsène Lupin, a gentleman thief that appears in literary form and is the assumed identity that Senegal immigrant Assane Diop takes to set out to avenge his father for an injustice inflicted by a wealthy family. The show is all about the long con and pulls each one off beautifully in a series that will delight international viewers and draw in those fans that latch onto mystery serials. The consistent misdirection of this series that always seems to pull the rug out from under you really kept me engaged throughout the first volume and I’m so happy to have another handful of episodes to see Omar Sy flesh out this phenomenal character.

Betty: Season 2 (Crave) – A few years back now, I fell in love with a little New York shot indie story from writer and director Crystal Moselle called Skate Kitchen about a teenager new to the area that falls in with a group of skater girls. It’s really great that HBO feels the same way I do, if not more, as they have produced, with Moselle directing, another six-episode series of this show version that already had a great initial run to kind of reinitiate us as an audience right back into this group and putting us right back into the skatepark. I think this was one of the most underappreciated and woefully not talked about shows of last year that made me want to experience Skate Kitchen all over again. I also love that the show is premiering during Pride month as there is so much representation within it.

Home Before Dark: Season 2 (AppleTV+) – Ever since I saw Sean Baker’s The Florida Project at the Vancouver International Film Festival and cried my eyes out at the Centre For Performing Arts, young actress Brooklynn Prince who is electric on the screen at all times. Sadly, I didn’t get into this show when it premiered it’s first season but am now on the bandwagon of this dramatic mystery series that co-stars Across The Universe’s Jim Sturgess. The show follows a young girl who moves from Brooklyn to the small lakeside town her father left behind to follow his career drive. While there, her dogged pursuit of the truth leads her to unearth a cold case that everyone in town, including her own father, tried hard to bury. This show has such a deeply original feel to it and season one is so deeply fascinating with its twists and turns, again spearheaded by an incredibly committed performance from Prince. This is going to be one of those dark horse shows people should be watching but it’s understandable about it’s fringe status being on AppleTV+.

Loki (Disney+) – After WandaVision and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier have already completed their limited runs, we make way for one of the Phase One original heavyweight villains in Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, a character that arguably catapulted him into stardom, due to how brilliantly he played the role, how much development he gave the God Of Mischief and how hard us as fans fell in love with the growing antihero. For fear that someone at Disney or Marvel may have a sniper trained on me lest I reveal secrets, I will say that I have seen the first couple episodes of the show and I love it but it leans towards the WandaVision side of things with so much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at play in it. I also will say that it starts off with that moment in Avengers: Endgame when a soon to be incarcerated Loki gets hold of the Tesseract and disappears during the “time heist” sequence. Look, no spoilers! You can take that laser pointer off my head now, please.

New Releases:

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It – Director James Wan has sat on top of the horror game for closing in on twenty years now, starting with his surprise hit Saw that grew into a massive franchise and now with his Conjuring universe which all kicked off almost a decade ago and brought an old school feel with the all-new scares. After doing the sequel, another trip in based on a true story horror, he steps back into the producer role for this new installment in the originator series, with The Curse of la Llorona director Michael Chaves taking the reins in this adaptation of one of the most sensational cases from the files of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. A chilling story of terror, murder and unknown evil, it starts with a fight for the soul of a young boy, then takes the ghost experts beyond anything they’d ever seen before, to mark the first time in U.S. history that a murder suspect would claim demonic possession as a defence. The aspects I love about these movies is the fully immersive tone that they bring through sound design and simple visuals and it looks like this third piece of the Warren’s puzzle brings that style and more. I’m very excited about this one.

Spirit Untamed – This was one of those family animated films where I really had to rely on my eight-year-old daughter’s knowledge of the pre-existing Netflix series that proceeded it to get an idea of where it was coming from. Also, being a Dreamworks property, the film was also derived from Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron, one of the animation division’s first films. For this expanded theatrical adventure, the story follows young Lucky Prescott who, after moving to a sleepy little town to live with her father, she befriends a wild mustang named Spirit that shares her rebellious spirit. When a heartless wrangler plans to capture Spirit and his herd, Lucky and her new friends embark on the adventure of a lifetime to rescue the horse that forever changed her life. The story is light and fluffy, great for all the little kids and the animation is gorgeous but I was surprised with some of the star power in the voice cast, including Jake Gyllenhaal, Julianne Moore, Andre Braugher and Walton Goggins. With theatres opening in Canada in the next couple of weeks, this is a great one to bring all the kids back to the movie experience.

Little Fish – Filmed and completed in Vancouver and the surrounding areas before the pandemic had even taken hold, this film manages to encapsulate a bunch of our realities during the over a year shutdown almost inadvertently. An idea that was shepherded and developed closely with lead actress and producer Olivia Cooke, this film annihilated me by making me care so deeply for the couple in its focus. The film is set in a near-future Seattle teetering on the brink of calamity as the world is in the midst of a global epidemic with Neuroinflammatory Affliction, or NIA, a severe and rapid Alzheimer’s-like condition in which people’s memories disappear. Couple Jude Williams and Emma Ryerson are grappling with the realities of NIA, interspersed with glimpses from the past as the two meet and their relationship blooms but as NIA’s grip on society tightens, the virus hits the couple hard and they are left to grapple with experimental procedures, watching their friends succumb to the sickness and wonder if that’s what’s in store for them and preserving their love story so their bond is never separated. I was glued to this film for its duration and wore the character’s plight on my sleeve, making the finale that much more hard-hitting. When I say that it devastated me, it’s no hyperbole but that’s a tribute to how much they make you care about these two people.

Oslo – True story films really intrigue me when they are done properly and when you have HBO backing it and a cast like this one, featuring Luther’s Ruth Wilson and Fleabag and Sherlock’s Andrew Scott, two of the best British character actors today, well, you have my patronage even more. Adapted from the Tony Award-winning play of the same name, this film is based on the story of negotiations between implacable enemies with the secret back-channel talks, unlikely friendships and quiet heroics of a small but committed group of Israelis, Palestinians and one Norwegian couple that led to the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. With all of the conflicts rising to a fever pitch in just the last few weeks, the timing of this movie’s release seems to be almost perfect and, according to reviews, the performances in this film, coupled with the urgency of its material, really drive it. It should also be noted that theatre director Bartlett Sher makes his feature film debut here so it does have that appearance of a stage play for his comfortability.

Rockfield: A Studio On The Farm – Sometimes in these weekly write-ups of what’s coming out I feel a bit lost without a coll music documentary to plug but this week has given me the gift of this film which is punctuated with the best of British rock from the seventies, eighties and nineties and has given me another bucket list location to visit one day, if only in my mind. This film is the very unlikely tale of how two Welsh brothers, both hilarious characters in their own right, turned their dairy farm into one of the most successful recording studios of all time, producing four decades of legendary rock music from Black Sabbath, Queen, The Stone Roses, Oasis and Coldplay. It’s fascinating to see these two guys, Kingsley and Charles Ward, along with Kingsley’s commanding wife Ann, realize their dream of helping to create music while still running a successful farm with the upkeep of the land and animals being as important as the mics, mixers and soundboards. The stories told by Ozzy Osbourne, Robert Plant and even Liam Gallagher, who comes off a bit like an underground London gangster, are utterly fascinating and I felt like I could watch a three-hour Snyder cut of this movie beyond its hour and a half run time. I loved this movie.

Edge Of The World – It’s been a couple years since we got a solid British explorer film, the last one in my memory being the incredible James Gray adaptation of The Lost City Of Z, so I was pretty interested in this new film that features Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Lord Of The Rings alumni Dominic Monaghan and The Witch’s Ralph Ineson. The film follows the adventures of Sir James Brooke, who defied the British Empire to rule a jungle kingdom in 1840s Borneo, embarked on a lifelong crusade to end piracy, slavery and head-hunting, and inspired the Rudyard Kipling story The Man Who Would Be King which, of course, would be adapted into a film directed by John Huston and starring Sean Connery. The film does a great job at presenting the known history of this story but where it lacks is the character finesse which kind of leaves these people as blank slates that are really hard to build any feeling for let alone sympathy or any sort of triumph in their discoveries. Rhys Meyers has been going through a rough patch both in his career and real-life and this one won’t help the former, unfortunately.

Equal Standard – With the past two decades of his work being dedicated to playing a part of law enforcement on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, it’s probably crazy for the younger generation to think that Ice-T is one of the originators of gangster rap, the lead singer of the rap-metal hybrid Body Count and an outspoken voice against social injustice but he is and always will be. Just take a peep at his Twitter if you don’t agree. This film puts him back into the urban gangster landscape in a real feeling story about communities and gang members coming together to fight for real justice after an NYPD detective shoots a black man in the streets. This film’s voice feels like it’s a little muted as the makers seem to hold back on some of the angrier of opinions and hush them in the need to further the drama. It’s glaringly and frustratingly obvious every time they do it because now is not the time to pump the brakes, especially given the uprise of the last few years. Our art needs to fight as hard as those in the streets are, plain and simple. Anything else is, for lack of a better term, a cop-out.

Blu-Ray:

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

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

Trigger Point – I really like Campbell River’s own Barry Pepper. Like I really like him, he’s so great to watch on screen but, besides his major debut in Saving Private Ryan and a handful of others, he really tends to pick absolute dog shit movies. In this thriller he joins fellow Canadians, Laura Vandervoort and Colm Feore, playing a disgraced U.S. operative who suffered memory loss at the hands of his captors who gets dragged back into the deadly spy world when a colleague goes missing and he needs all of his skills to find her, but to uncover the truth, he must remember the past. Well, the good news is that Pepper is the best thing about this movie, delivering a solid performance despite a script that wants to bury him in tough-guy cliches and a marine’s “hoorah” bravado. The bad news is everything else about this movie, a complete waste of time, even for action fans.

Endangered Species – Action thrillers are definitely a dime a dozen when it comes to direct-to-video releasing, which, let’s face it, has been pretty much everything for over a year in the pandemic, but looking at this one it is definitely true. Starring real-life married couple Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell alongside Strike Back star Philip Winchester, this adventure tale unfolds beneath a brutal African sun as Jack Halsey takes his wife, their adult kids, and a friend for a dream vacation in Kenya but, as they venture off alone into a wilderness park, their safari van is flipped over by an angry rhino, leaving them injured and desperate. Then, as two of them go in search of rescue, a bloody, vicious encounter with a leopard and a clan of hyenas incites a desperate fight for survival. Yes, this is a safari mishap thriller that seems a bit original to an untrained eye and it honestly has some pretty great moments of almost horror-like action and you know I love that stuff.

Shoplifters Of The World – Heading into this movie I had nothing but positive thoughts as I have enjoyed artist-driven films quite a bit, whether it was the crazy antics of the KISS film Detroit Rock City, the rock operatics of Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Metallica’s Through The Never or the mind-twisting of The Who’s Tommy and Quadrophenia. This film rests solely on the shoulders of the music it celebrates, The Smiths, and it makes one thing painfully obvious, Smiths fans are insufferable assholes. The film is set in 1987 in Denver, Colorado and happens on one crazy night in the life of four friends reeling from the sudden demise of iconic British band The Smiths while the local airwaves are hijacked at gunpoint by an impassioned Smiths fan who’s had enough of the heavy metal they usually play and wants one uninterrupted night of the Smiths discography to celebrate Morrissey, Johnny Marr and company. This film feels at all times like it was based on some mediocre stage play complete with an awful script and painful overacting for a pretty solid cast with Helena Howard, Ellar Coltrane, Elena Kampouris, Joe Manganiello and more. At the end of the film in its triumph, I felt nothing as I didn’t care about any of these self-righteous and self-hating depress cases and had no care for where they were going. This movie was so disappointing.

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

Embattled – Stephen Dorff is an actor that seems to either get smaller roles on the big screen or lead roles on the direct to video market and I’m not sure who blacklisted him but he hardly deserves it and films like Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere exist just to show how talented this veteran is. Playing the looming shadow in this, the story follows a young mixed martial arts fighter who enters his first fight, seeking to repeat the path of his famous father, a revered champion in the sport. The vicious circle of cruelty that the father supported and used on the son to raise him turned out to be a point of no return for his son and a desire to find his own way or be doomed to repeat the same pathway. The filmmakers, Nick Sarkisov and David McKenna do an incredible job of turning out characters that feel born and bred in this avenue of life while addressing and isolating the true male toxicity that drives it and impedes it from evolving. What results is a sort of social narrative that I was not expecting from a fight-driven drama.

The Vault – On television, following his years of playing creepy Norman Bates in his own “Wonder Years”, we’ve had a few seasons of Freddie Highmore playing the highly intelligent lead character of the CBS series The Good Doctor so it’s easy to cast him as the brilliant character in anything these days, as what is the case in this new heist action thriller. In the film, he plays a genius engineering graduate who learns of a mysterious, impenetrable fortress hidden under The Bank of Spain and joins a crew of master thieves who plan to steal the legendary lost treasure locked inside while the whole country is distracted by Spain’s World Cup Final. With thousands of soccer fans cheering in the streets, and security forces closing in, the crew has just minutes to pull off the score of a lifetime in a story that feels all too familiar in parts but still manages to drag you into its safecracking intrigue. The film will get lost in the shuffle with better crafted and casted movies that have done it in a more memorable way but it will hold your attention for the whole two hours and there are some decent twists to behold in it. There are frankly worse films this week than this one.

Spare Parts – If you’re in the mood for some gory, campy and pretty ridiculous grindhouse-style horror that also happens to be an entry into Canadian genre filmmaking, well, I’ve got your hook up right here. The film follows the ladies of Ms. 45, an all-girl punk band who is drugged and kidnapped while travelling on their first American tour after playing a volatile show in a small middle of nowhere town. They awaken to find their limbs removed and replaced with crude weaponry, and are forced to fight as Gladiators for a sadistic town to appease the “Emperor” who calls for the ground to be soaked in blood to appease the gods. The film definitely has its low budget and stilted dialogue but it does feature the Canadian horror great Julian Richings as the Emperor and shock comedian Jason Rouse in a role that felt like it was written directly for him. I loved that Alexisonfire guitarist Wade Macneil’s jarring riffs scored this film, after his debut with Jay Baruchel’s Random Acts Of Violence last year. It adds that perfect late seventies, early eighties exploitation value that this film feels it was literally built on. This will be a hard sell for the casual horror viewer but I had some fun with it.

Benny Loves You – By all accounts of what this comedy horror film is I should have adored it and started posting everything I can about it on social media, as, really, Benny’s ultimate champion but I really can not. Written, directed by and starring Karl Holt, this is a mean little story about Jack, a middle-aged man thrown out of his comfortable lifestyle after the accidental death of his parents on his birthday. Needing to sell the family home and desperate to improve his life, Jack throws out his childhood belongings including his beloved plush, Benny but it’s a move that has disastrous and murderous consequences when Benny springs to life with an intent to kill everyone in Jack’s life so he can have him all to himself. Brimming with cheap gore and pitch-black humour, I never really latched on to the sardonic sort of horror presented here as it lacks the charm of better films in the hybrid genre that came before it. That said, it is better than a film like Toys Of Terror from earlier this year but, yeah, this isn’t it for me.

Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal: Season 1 – One of the greatest creators in the game, Genndy Tartokovsky has returned with another incredible epic that he can put alongside Samurai Jack and beam with pride. A decidedly violent tale, this series follows a caveman at the dawn of evolution as he forms an unlikely friendship with an almost extinct dinosaur. Again, without a single word of dialogue, the series is a painting come to life, relying solely on music and graphic imagery to tell the story of two unlikely allies as they navigate through a treacherous world and, after bonding over unfortunate tragedies, they seem to become each other’s only hope of survival against a common enemy. The show is mind-meltingly beautiful in a way that Tartokovsky has the utmost command over and The emotional resonance of even the first episode had me bursting into tears with how heavily it was handled. I think he has released yet another masterpiece that will be celebrated for years to come, just like the legend of Samurai Jack.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Drawn Together: Complete Series – Last week I brought the nihilism and low-grade evilness of the children’s show satire Wonder Showzen and now I’m doubling down with the offensiveness of this controversial animated show that was spawned on Comedy Central and got two seasons and a movie. A parody of reality shows like Big Brother and cast with spoofs of several famous types of animated characters, the show is an insane ride of what happens when eight completely different cartoon characters from various genres and styles live together and have their lives filmed for the entire world to see. It follows the daily adventures of eight mismatched cartoon characters using the dramatic storytelling conventions of established reality television shows with the housemates Captain Hero, a not so moral do-gooder reminiscent of the Saturday morning TV superheroes of the seventies, Clara, a twenty-year-old sweet and naive fairy-tale princess, Toot, a black and white pudgy heartthrob from the twenties, Foxxy Love, a sexy mystery-solving musician, Spanky Ham, a foul-mouthed Internet download pig, Ling-Ling, an adorable Asian trading card creature, Wooldoor-Sockbat, a wacky Saturday morning whatchamacallit and Xandir, a strong young adventurer, similar to the great video game warriors. This show constantly pushes boundaries, is always irreverent and just when you think it can’t get more insane, it piles on for another offensive helping of what the hell just happened. I love this show but I fully admit, it can be an acquired taste.

Television:

Sweet Tooth (Netflix) – One of my favourite comic series of the last twenty years and a Canadian made one to boot, from the mind of creator Jeff Lemire, I was absolutely ecstatic when I heard that this, pun intended, sweetheart of survival tale was picked up for adaptation on Netflix from Robert Downey Jr. and his wife Susan’s production company with Stakeland filmmaker Jim Mickle overseeing it. The story starts out ten years prior with a pandemic called “The Great Crumble” which wreaked havoc on the world, creating a virus that kills most of the world’s population, and led to the mysterious emergence of hybrids, babies born part human, part animal. Unsure if hybrids are the cause or result of the virus, many humans fear and hunt them, causing paranoia throughout the survivors still trying to live off the land. The main focus is Gus, a sheltered hybrid deer-boy who, after a decade of living safely in his secluded forest home, unexpectedly befriends a wandering loner named Jepperd and together they set out on an extraordinary adventure across what’s left of America in search of answers about Gus’ origins, Jepperd’s past and the true meaning of home. I’m absolutely in love with this show and quickly gobbled up everything that was sent to me in the weeks leading up to its release and am now in a state of jealousy that you all get to live it for the first time. This show is so special, beautifully constructed and I hope it hits huge like Stranger Things did. It’s that damn good.

Feel Good: Season 2 (Netflix) – In a lighter way but heavier on the addiction side, this new series reminds me a bit of Fleabag but without that great Phoebe Waller-Bridge edge. The show is about stand-up comedian Mae Martin, a Canadian transplant now living in London and dealing with being a former addict which informs all of their current decisions. When a regular audience member asks them out on a date, Mae finds themself on a whirlwind romance with the girl of their dreams until the crushing reality of their addiction problem comes to light and fleshes all of their deepest insecurities to the surface. This show is definitely a sardonically funny show about damaged people and really revels in it in a great way and is a solid way to introduce them as I hadn’t heard of Martin before the first season. They have concluded that this will be the final season of the show so a quick two-season run, or a full weekend binge, and you will be totally sold on Martin as a writer and creator and waiting for their next project. I love these shows about deep self-examination when they’re handled well like this was.

Lisey’s Story (AppleTV+) – This is such an oddball show so it really feels fitting that it debuts on an oddball sort of streaming services like AppleTV+ which, besides the monster hit of Ted Lasso, is a bit weird in its scope and original series pickups. Based on a book written by Stephen King, who also wrote the teleplay, and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Pablo Lorrain, this weirdly dreamlike and sort of untethered show follows Lisey Landon, played by Oscar winner Julianne Moore, two years after the death of her husband, famous novelist Scott Landon as a series of unsettling events causes her to face memories of her marriage to Scott that she has deliberately blocked out of her mind, drawing her to his unpublished manuscripts as a crazed fan starts to deliberately stalk her, possibly hired by someone in her late husband’s past. I’m not going to sugarcoat this one at all as it’s a weirdly constructed show that shrugs of the constraints of any narratives you’ve seen before in this format but it still feels very much in the vein of Lorrain’s other work like the Academy Award-nominated Jackie. Lots of great cinephile draw to this show but it seems pretty inaccessible to any other viewer, really.

HouseBroken: Season 1 (Fox) – It’s not often that I get to bring new network animated shows to this section so when I see one, I’m all in unless it starts to slag after the pilot. The cast of this one is awesome, featuring Maria Bamford, Lisa Kudrow, Clea DuVall, Nat Faxon, Will Forte, Tony Hale, Greta Lee, Sharon Horgan, Jason Mantzoukas and Sam Richardson, under the eye of Veep writer and producer Jennifer Crittenden in her first animated foray and, by all the previews, looks very funny. The show is pretty simple and follows a therapy dog named Honey who explores human dysfunctions and neuroses and applies her knowledge of psychiatry through leading a group of neighbourhood animals in group therapy sessions. It could be a flop, as Fox doesn’t generally give these shows long to breathe, but I have good hopes for it.

New Releases:

Cruella – Before I get into one of the biggest movies this week, I have to begin by saying that I find the trend of humanizing these classic villain characters a little troubling, as the direction for blockbuster filmmaking is heaping sympathy on the truly evil in their origin story so that we look at their endgame a bit differently. In the case of Cruella De Vil, played in this film by Emma Stone, we all know that she goes on to try and murder dogs for a coat. This film is set in 1970s London amidst the punk rock revolution and follows a young grifter named Estella, a clever and creative girl determined to make a name for herself with her designs. She befriends a pair of young thieves who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they are able to build a life for themselves on the London streets. One day, Estella’s flair for fashion catches the eye of the Baroness von Hellman, a fashion legend who is devastatingly chic and terrifyingly haute, played by Emma Thompson, but their relationship sets in motion a course of events and revelations that will cause Estella to embrace her wicked side and become the raucous, fashionable and revenge-bent Cruella. The film is lavishly shot by director Craig Gillespie but feels bloated in it’s over two hour run time and has some moments of time-bending through music and dialogue. That said, it still is pretty entertaining even if Stone’s British accent comes and goes.

A Quiet Place Part II – It’s been over a year since the pandemic robbed us of one of the most anticipated horror sequels of last year and after being pushed to September then pushed to this date it is still unknown when Canadians will get this film as theatres are still closed but, what the hell, I want to mention it anyway. Following the events at home in the first film from 2018, the remaining members of the Abbott family now face the terrors of the outside world as they are forced to venture into the unknown to see what is left of civilization. They realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats lurking beyond the sand path as humanity has fallen to dark and desperate motives. The first film is incredible and a landmark movie really and the advance reviews of this one tout much of the same as director John Krasinski continues to make all the right moves as a filmmaker and Emily Blunt’s performance shakes the room. This is must-see stuff for me.

Blue Miracle – I really have to be honest here because judging by the poster and trailer for this new inspirational drama it looks like a paint-by-numbers, underdog wins-out style competition movie with an unlikeable character that ends up redeeming himself. What grabs my attention is Dennis Quaid, although he has arguably done some terrible work recently. I’m looking at you, The Intruder. This film follows a guardian and his kids who partner up with a washed-up boat captain for a chance to win a lucrative fishing competition that would give them the funds to save their cash-strapped orphanage and when I said it was paint by numbers, I wasn’t far off, but, oddly, that kind of works for this film in particular. Written and directed by Julio Quintana, who did the phenomenal Martin Sheen drama The Vessel, this movie knows when to lay in that emotional manipulation in such a way that you don’t know that it’s been laid on you until it hits you which is actually really refreshing to see. Don’t let the ads fool you, this is a pretty solid film.

Dog Gone Trouble – While Cruella may be a bit too dark and long for the littler kids, Netflix does have a new animated film that will occupy them, featuring the voices of rapper Big Sean, Better Things star Pamela Adlon, Lucy Hale, who also features in Son Of The South this week and That 70s Show star Wilmer Valderrama among other. A Canadian and American co-production that had been shelved since 2019, the story centers around a pampered dog named Trouble who must learn to live in the real world when he has to escape from his former owner’s greedy children. The movie definitely has its cute value and will entertain the kids but I definitely wouldn’t say that it is memorable enough to stick around and won’t replace any Pixar, Disney or Dreamworks films in any child’s regular rotation.

Endangered Species – Action thrillers are definitely a dime a dozen when it comes to direct-to-video releasing, which, let’s face it, has been pretty much everything for over a year in the pandemic, but looking at this one it is definitely true. Starring real-life married couple Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell alongside Strike Back star Philip Winchester, this adventure tale unfold beneath a brutal African sun as Jack Halsey takes his wife, their adult kids, and a friend for a dream vacation in Kenya but, as they venture off alone into a wilderness park, their safari van is flipped over by an angry rhino, leaving them injured and desperate. Then, as the two of them go in search of rescue, a bloody, vicious encounter with a leopard and a clan of hyenas incites a desperate fight for survival. Yes, this is a safari mishap thriller that seems a bit original to an untrained eye and it honestly has some pretty great moments of almost horror-like action and you know I love that stuff.

Body Brokers – Sometimes we just need a middling crime thriller to entertain us for a couple hours to kill some time and we come across something like this on VOD or a streaming service, make sure that Bruce Willis isn’t in it (more on that later) and plunk it on. This is one of those such films that will get consideration but the good news is that it’s actually quite good which was a total surprise for me. Featuring the tried tested and true Frank Grillo (more on him later too) Happy Death Day’s Jessica Rothe and The Wire’s Michael Kenneth Williams, the story follows a recovering junkie brought to Los Angeles for treatment that soon learns that the rehab center is not about helping people, but a cover for a multi-billion-dollar fraud operation that enlists addicts to recruit other addicts. A fresh and boldly original film from writer and director John Swab, it does an incredible job of drawing you into the story by focusing on making that characters work and being worthwhile so you actually care about what’s happening to them, something that usually gets lost in the shuffle. I’m really looking forward to anything Swab has next as this is just his third film.

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

Skull: The Mask – Shudder continues to bring the new and off-the-beaten-path horror every week. This time, they reached into South America to grab this Brazillian genre film that’s brought some serious praise for filmmakers Armando Fonseca and Kapel Furman. The film opens in 1944 on an artifact called the Mask of Anhangá, which was worn by the executioner of Tahawantinsupay, a Pre-Columbian God, being used in a military experiment that ultimately fails. Fast forward to modern times and the Mask arrives at Sao Paulo and immediately possesses a body and starts to commit visceral sacrifices on vengeance for the incarnation of its God, initiating a blood bath. A policewoman named Beatriz Obdias is put in charge of investigating the crimes and challenging her beliefs and sending her life into a chasm of terror. This film is gory and frantically action-paced but still has a smart and cerebral quality to it and an endgame that is pretty diabolical. Horror fans will be happy to discover this one.

Blu-Ray and DVD:

Son Of The South – We got a bit of true story drama this week and it probably will rope in some of the CBS primetime crowd as it features Lucas Till who plays Angus MacGyver in the rebooted series but it also has one of the final performances from the late and totally legendary Brian Dennehy, although in a pretty villainous role. The story is set during the sixties Civil Rights Movement, following a Klansman’s grandson who is forced to face the rampant racism of his own culture and, defying his family and white Southern norms, he embraces the fight against social injustice, repression and violence to change the world he was born into. This story is a really important one and should be told but the method by which it is done fails to steer it out of the quagmire of “white saviour” storytelling and even misses the mark on what the whole civil rights movement is all about. Till is really solid in the film but the narrative really doesn’t deliver anything fresh or lasting, only presenting a story that we’ve seen far more than once.

Long Weekend – I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of romantic comedies as many of them feel like dismal retreads, stale stories with dull characters or feature terrible outdated cliches. It was with this chip on my shoulder that I entered into this film, starring future Green Lantern Finn Wittrock and the charming Zoe Chao, who I sometimes get “spoonerism” saying her name and call her Chloe Zhao. The film follows a down-on-his-luck struggling writer who meets an enigmatic woman who seems to enter his life at the right time which leads to an enchanted weekend courtship with unexpected revelations from this woman who harbour some deep secrets that will definitely catch you off guard. This movie benefits from the great chemistry between Wittrock and Chao but it’s fascinating reveals in the story that almost keep you on the edge of your seat and that final moment before the credits will leave you with a smile on your face for the rest of the day. I loved this movie.

Cosmic Sin – We’ve got another direct to DVD Bruce Willis film this week which more than likely means he appears at the beginning, finds an excuse to duck out and returns for the finale to earn a paycheque which is actually a pretty brilliant ploy. It’s a good thing we got Frank Grillo to help string this one along, which is always a bonus to me. The story is set in the year 2524, four centuries after humans started colonizing the outer planets and follows retired General James Ford who gets called back into service after a hostile alien fleet attacks soldiers on a remote planet. The threat against mankind soon escalates into an interstellar war as Ford and a team of elite soldiers try to stop the imminent attack before it’s too late. This movie is such a flatulent dud of a movie that spews the noxious gas of science fiction stories of the same ilk and makes you wish you were watching the movies that did it better. Why must Bruce punish us so badly and why is he dragging Grillo into this mess?

Happily – I’ve been hearing such great things about this darkly comedic romantic comedy as the praise has been rolling in from across the internet from our lucky American friends that have gotten to check out the debut of writer and director BenDavid Grabinski. Starring Joel McHale and Red State standout Kerry Bishé as Tom and Janet, a happily married couple who, after fourteen years of marriage, still have an undying love and lust for each other. When they discover their friends are resentful of their constant public displays of affection, the couple starts to question the loyalty of everyone around them and then, a visit from a mysterious stranger thrusts them into an existential crisis, leading to a dead body, a lot of questions and a very tense vacation. This movie is so deliciously bizarre that it manages to string you along to the edge of your seat. With an extended cast that includes Office Space’s Stephen Root, Justified’s Nathalie Zea, the hilarious Paul Scheer and stand-up comedian Al Madrigal, just to name a few, this is a sleeper comedy worth searching for.

Deliver Us From Evil – If you throw any South Korean cinema on my doorstep, I’m going to eat it up ravenously and ask for more but if it’s incredible, engrossing and amazingly constructed, I will scream the praises from the rooftops. It’s my favourite international cinema, bar none. This film is a violent and brutal game of cat and mouse and follows a government-agent-turned-mercenary who is forced to re-emerge after a little girl is kidnapped and he learns the incident is closely connected to him. However, when an infamous gangster learns who has entered the country and is finally within his grasp, he goes on a bloody rampage to thwart the ex-agent’s rescue mission. This movie is absolutely intense, stylishly shot and totally gripping from it’s opening scene. The action scenes feel so visceral and real with each punch, kick, gunshot and stab wound punctuating in an impactful way. I also love how South Korean film is able to entwine emotion so deeply into the fight which gives everything that much more weight. This film is an absolute must-see.

100 Candles – Want some creepy horror that just screams “what the hell are you doing? Do you want ghosts? This is how you get ghosts!” at every turn? No? Too bad because it’s coming out this week and I’m thorough as hell. A stylish New Zealand-made film, the story follows a group of friends who reunite after a time apart to play a game of storytelling around a circle of candles looking for an otherworldly reward for their efforts. That’s weirdly vague but sort of intriguing, right? That’s how I felt too! Unfortunately, the good stories within this partial flop of a film are few and far between and it really leaves you looking at your room around you in boredom rather than exude any feelings of fear or even a slight chill. After some of the great Kiwi horror hits like Housebound recently, I thought I was going to find a diamond in the rough here but it really didn’t work out that way.

Shithouse – With a title like this screaming at you from the cover I think it would intrigue the majority of viewers flipping through their VOD, or Netflix where this also resides, as you don’t really get a lot of titles with swear words in them, am I right? This college party-driven film doesn’t boast any big names or anything but what it does have is an incredible writer, director and star behind it by the name of Cooper Raiffwho is definitely going places after this debut film that is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The story follows a homesick college freshman who goes to a party at the “Shithouse”, a fraternity party house, and ends up spending the night with his sophomore RA who’s had a terrible day and wants someone to hang out with. This movie connects like a lightning rod to the feeling of coming out of teen angst into that early to mid-twenties depression that I feel connects a lot of us in this experience of being human. This film absolutely blew me away and I had zero expectations going in.

Weird Wisconsin: The Bill Rebane Collection – Whenever Arrow Video hooks me up with a weird and unheard of box set full of films I get a bit giddy about it because they wouldn’t have such a hyper-focus on it if it wasn’t important in some way. This set looks at the works of Bill Rebane, a Latvian-born director and producer who had a love for making films in his adopted backyard of Wisconsin. The set features seven films, Monster a Go-Go! about a space capsule crash-lands on Earth with the missing astronaut possibly being an earth terrorizing monster, Invasion from Inner Earth about a group of young pilots barricading in a remote region of the Canadian wilderness against an unknown force, The Alpha Incident about a microorganism from Mars, brought to Earth by a space probe, that terrorizes passengers in a railroad office, The Demons of Ludlow about a murderous demon that lurks inside an antique piano in a picturesque coastal town and so much more. I’m nowhere near done with all of these films but I’m enjoying the hell out of them!

Django 4K – Quentin Tarantino can really be credited with bringing the collective movie audience’s attention to these classic Italian and Spanish co-productions of westerns with his film Django Unchained but once you’ve seen Franco Nero on screen as the title character, you’ll never forget him. Restored in a beautiful 4K edition from Arrow Video, the story is about a lonely cowboy, dragging a coffin through the desert who rescues a woman from a group of bandits, an act that bites him immediately as the next town he comes upon is under the thumb of that posse. What results is a showdown with the enemy who is made up of a Klan of Southern racists and a band of Mexican Revolutionaries. Just starting this film, you can see what inspired Tarantino to pay homage to it with his first western and also where the influences are for The Hateful Eight. I’m so happy to have this film in my collection now, it is so special.

Athena – Warner Archive has some deep dives this week, kicking off with this romantic comedy musical from the mid fifties that featured Jane Powell, Virginia Gibson, and Nancy Kilgas, three of the brides in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers which was a huge hit earlier that year. The film follows lawyer and aspiring politician Adam Shaw who meets Athena Mulvain who claims the stars have told her that they will marry. However, Adam is already engaged to socialite Beth and, furthermore, he is confused by Athena’s unusual family, which includes six other sisters raised in an extremely health-conscious environment that excludes meat, smoking and alcohol. Gradually, Adam is slowly won over by Athena, even at the detriment of his political future and the love affair blossoms. The film’s casting of Powell led to studio turmoil as the star that MGM built this production around, Esther Williams, felt slighted when the producers removed her from it and left the studio. Even still, the film was a success and is a lavish production to look at almost seventy years later.

The Tender Trap – The second film in the Warner Archive titles this week brings the star power big time as it has “Ol’ Blue Eyes” Frank Sinatra and one of the most popular actresses of her time and the mother of my forever princess, Debbie Reynolds. This was an adaptation of the massively popular Broadway production of the same name, following successful theatre agent Charlie Reader who lives a playboy’s life in New York City when his childhood friend Joe McCall shows up with a desire to leave his wife. Joe immediately falls in love with Charlie’s girl Sylvia while Charlie spends his time with young actress Julie who turns up for an audition and rebuffs Charlie’s advances, making her a must-have for the Casanova. Debbie Reynolds and Frank Sinatra became good friends and during production, he took her to lunch and said, “Sweetie, don’t get married. Don’t marry a singer. We’re nice guys but we’re not good husbands.” Reynolds was engaged to Eddie Fisher at the time, who ultimately left her for Elizabeth Taylor. Random stuff, right? The film is ultimately dated but still gives a great indication of how far we’ve come in romantic comedies.

Infinity Train: Book Two – Usually when I get a new Cartoon Network original, I wave it in front of my daughter’s face and go “look what I’ve got” and she gets all crazy excited about it. This one she had no idea about but once I read deeper into it I figured that it was less up her alley and way more of my kind of show. The show is one of my favourite forms of storytelling, the anthology style, which explores the mysteries of Infinity Train, where every train car is an adventure and nothing is what you expect. Our main character Tulip was just trying to get to game coding camp when she ended up on the mysterious train where she’ll encounter plenty of friends and enemies along the way in a journey to finally find her way home. I love when cartoons try to explore the unknown with something more linear in the storyline and continuous rather than being unconnected one-offs. If you loved Gravity Falls on Disney+ and have finished everything there, get on this one because it’s pretty great.

Supernatural: Season 15 – This is an odd one for me as I have a whole bunch of catching up to do to even get close to watching this new box set which is the final season in this very long-running demon-fighting series. Full disclosure, I own up to season three of this show and only have seen past that into season seven but for those who are new to the show, it’s about two brothers who follow in their father’s footsteps as hunters, fighting evil supernatural beings of many kinds, including monsters, demons and gods that roam the earth. That’s definitely an oversimplification of fifteen seasons of storytelling but I need to whet the appetites of those who now will buy into it now that it’s over because it is a really great show and Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are so perfect in it, as is Misha Collins who joins the cast later in it’s run. Now excuse me, I have so much Supernatural to watch!

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Mackintosh and T.J. – Not only am I kicking this week’s geekouts with something frontier and western but it is the ultimate in that genre as it is the final film of the one and only Roy Rogers, an actor considered to be one of the closest on-screen conduits to the real thing. From multiple Emmy Award-winning director Marvin J. Chomsky, the film has Rogers as a wandering old ranch hand named Mackintosh who takes care, in a very fatherly way, of the young and homeless T.J. who he helps him to keep on a straight path. Both of them find a job on the ranch of Jim Webster where Mackintosh proves his skills as a horse tamer, winning him the sympathy of Webster. Webster asks Mackintosh to hunt coyotes, as the area is unsafe because of them but when a murder takes place, it is pinned on Mackintosh as the new one to the area. This is a solid film with many memorable scenes including a badass bar fight that is so well shot for its time. The film was written by Paul Savage who worked for over a decade on Gunsmoke, a show that I own most of.

They Won’t Believe Me – I’ve got some classic film noir this week on the geekouts, thanks to Warner Archive, and it’s new to blu-ray just a few weeks ago and, notably at the time of its release in 1947, was among the first movies to show the taboo subject of suicide. The story follows philandering stockbroker Larry Ballentine, on trial for murdering his girlfriend, who takes the stand to claim his innocence and describe the actual, but improbable sounding, sequence of events that led to her death. Told in the most direct of narratives, the film is deceptive in its obscurity of the facts and features great performances from both of its leading women, Susan Hayward and Janet Greer. It also should be noted that this film comes from director Irving Pichel who did the human hunting thriller The Most Dangerous Game which has inspired many others like it.

She’s The Man – I adore this movie and I don’t care who knows it. The film is hilarious and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise but the heartbreaking fact at the center of it is that the film excels, not just on its brilliant script, but on the Carol Burnett like leading performance from Amanda Bynes who has fallen down the path of mental illness in the last decade and recovery seems unlikely. The film, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, follows Viola, a teen whose soccer team at Cornwall gets cut, who decides to disguise herself as her twin brother and heads over to his elite boarding school to play on his team when he decides to ditch for a couple weeks. Once she gets there she falls for the star captain of the team, played by Channing Tatum in the first thing I ever saw him in. The cast in this is so great including those two, with David Cross, Vinnie Jones, Julie Hagerty, Jonathan Sadowski and Amanda Crew rounding out the awesome ensemble. I already owned this one on DVD so this anniversary edition is just icing on the cake.

Wonder Showzen: Complete Series – You haven’t seen the ultimate nihilistic television series until you’ve seen this parody of a Sesame Street kid’s show that aired on MTV2 in its debuting years, directly from the minds of Vernon Chatman and John Lee who went on to create even more madness in the shows Xavier: Renegade Angel and The Heart, She Holler. It’s an all-cynical, all-evil absurdist variety show that parodies the classic educational PBS shows of the 1970s, made up of old cartoons and educational films, children, and puppets from one’s worst nightmares and I love every second of it. To be honest, I already own both individual box sets but I just couldn’t pass up this set. Maybe they indoctrinated me to pick it up, who knows?

The Legend Of Korra: Complete Series – A couple years ago Paramount sent me a two-pack of the Nickelodeon shows Avatar The Last Airbender and the companion series The Legend Of Korra and has since sent me. steelbook version of Avatar. Now it’s Korra’s turn for this beautiful upgrade, a show set seventy years after the events of “Airbender”, following Korra as she moves to Republic City to master her final element, air. With the guidance of the previous avatar Aang’s son Tenzin, she has to fight crime and face a growing anti-bending movement that threatens to rip the metropolis apart in a series that’s just as addicting as its predecessor. This is a must-own for any fan and it loos so gorgeous on my shelf right now, I can’t stop looking at it.

Television:

Master Of None: Season 3 (Netflix) – The acclaimed and award-winning Netflix original series from the mind of creator, writer and star Aziz Ansari returns for a very anticipated new season that almost seemed to come out of nowhere. This season pulls away from Aziz Ansari’s character of Dev and instead is a limited five-episode series about Lena Waithe’s character Denise and her wife Alicia as they look to take the next step in their marriage and possibly expand the family. Waithe has been a writer on the show through its whole run and it’s so cool to see that her character is getting the focused treatment for what feels to be the final season. This show has been a bit of a lightning rod for diversity in television and pulls in the consistent critic praise and awards to show for it, so this is definitely one to check out.

Black Monday: Season 3 (Crave) – As a big fan of Don Cheadle’s House Of Lies series on Showtime, I was immediately drawn to his new show that comes from the mind of Happy Ending creator David Caspe and has all the excessiveness added to a brilliant script and a great cast around it’s star like Paul Scheer, Regina Hall, Casey Wilson and Andrew Rannells. The show centers around the Wall Street crash of October 19, 1987, which no one knows who caused but this series looks to speculate. Contained in that event, this is the story of how a group of outsiders took on the blue-blood, old-boys club of Wall Street and ended up crashing the world’s largest financial system, a Lamborghini limousine and the glass ceiling. It’s brilliant in its execution, hyperactive in its use of cocaine and hysterically funny, sometimes in a brutally mean sort of way. I’ve loved all of it leading up to now and can’t wait for more of this season.

The Kominsky Method: Season 3 (Netflix) – All good things must come to a serviceable end and it’s great when the creators of a series have the good forethought of giving themselves an out as creator Chuck Lorre has done with this one. Starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Sarah Baker and Paul Reiser, the inception of this series is about an ageing actor, who long ago enjoyed a brush with fame, makes his living as an acting coach. Now the show has grown, co-star Alan Arkin has shuffled off in his own way (no spoilers) and our main character Sandy Kominsky finds himself dealing with and relating all too much to his daughter’s new boyfriend who is almost the same age as he is. This show definitely captured the love of both my parents and in-laws and seems to gather the older audience as its demographic but I think the show is fun for every adult even if you don’t directly relate to it. Plus, it doesn’t have a freaking laugh track like Lorre’s other shows. That’s a bonus.

Lucifer: Season 5 Part 2 (Netflix) – The show that the fans keep having the ability to revive enters what I thought was going to be the finale for it, split into two parts with the final one now available to binge. My question consistently felt like “is this the final one?” as it keeps giving me an indication that it’s not quite over. It appeared that I was right as the Tom Ellis-led series has preemptively earned its sixth season now and the current season will focus on Lucifer’s lineage, his past and those close around him getting the truth of what he is revealed to them. There is also a killer guest spot of 24’s Dennis Haysbert showing up as, wait for it, God himself. Yes, I’m so behind President David Palmer portraying the thing that makes people do the stupidest thing, worship Donald Trump as the saviour of the world. Yeah, boom! I just went political but it really was worth it. Let me know on Twitter how much you hated it!

Mr. Inbetween: Season 3 (FX) – A breakout hit from Australia, this show is another great one about a brutal anti-hero that I loved with the very first episode, a show I was turned on to by Drex originally. 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.