Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Godmothered – Disney is dipping back into that fairytale meets real life style of storytelling that really worked out for them well with Enchanted, a film I still find funny. Well, hopefully Jillian Bell can bring some of that magic from her great performance in Brittany Runs A Marathon as she takes the lead in this one too. The film has Bell as a young and unskilled fairy godmother who ventures out on her own to prove her worth by tracking down a young girl whose request for help was ignored and is now a jaded adult with the issues of a disillusioned childhood. The trailer for this is hysterically funny with Isla Fisher taking the role as the fairy godmother’s mission as well as Jane Curtin, Mary Elizabeth Ellis and June Squibb. As a classic Saturday Night Live fan, I’m so excited to see Curtin make an appearance in this and it comes from director Sharon Maguire who did both Bridget Jones’ Diary and Bridget Jones’ Baby which were way better than they had any right to be. This has a lot of promise.

Black Bear – Back when I watched this one for the Vancouver International Film Festival as soon as the credits rolled I blinked a few times and went “huh?” in an utterly confused way. With all the different movies of the festival it was bound to happen but even though it looks like I’m throwing a bit of shade at this film I am really not as the direction is great, the cast delivers but I just don’t think that the dual complexity of it worked. So, now, as I have you all confused I’ll try to give you a little context. Directed and written by Lawrence Michael Levine, the film follows a filmmaker at a creative impasse, played by Aubrey Plaza who seeks solace from her tumultuous past at a rural retreat with a married couple, played by Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon, only to find that the woods summon her inner demons in intense and surprising ways. This description is almost a red herring as this only sort of describes the first half of the movie before it shifts to a real film being made at the remote house, flipping the character motivations and dynamics completely. Again, I enjoyed it but am still, months later, trying to unpack it.

Luxor – Andrea Riseborough is a special kind of talent that can raise the bar of any production just by the subtlety of her performances. This is a film that is totally hinged on that quality from her because, honestly, nothing really happens in it so she has to fill in the blanks with nuance. In the film she plays a British aid worker named Hana who returns to the ancient city of Luxor and immediately runs into Sultan, a talented archaeologist as well as her former lover. As she wanders, haunted by the familiar place, she struggles to reconcile the choices of the past with the uncertainty of the present in a very broody and reflective turn. I really wanted to like this one as I love the lead and it is gorgeously shot in a way that almost feels like a tourism video but the story is almost non existent and we are given no real reason to get behind Hana as a character. Instead we get an example of making an hour and a half long movie feel like three hours.

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

Rocks – Sometimes a small, contained indie story is enough to burst the floodgates of your emotions and it looks like that’s what it did to me on my watch through this film. There isn’t anyone you will recognise in the cast but the director, Sarah Gavron is no slouch, the woman behind the films Suffragette and Brick Lane but the caliber of this film may be her best yet. The story follows a young teenage girl, Shola or Rocks, as she’s known, finds herself struggling to take care of herself and her younger brother after being abandoned by their single mother with no choice but to live out on the streets, with a headlong stubbornness on not relying on her tight group of friends. This movie got me hooked early on the beautiful character study of this young girl who is guarded and reserved but slowly starts to crack under the pressure which leads to a scene to kick off the third act that I may never recover emotionally from. What a film!

Survival Skills – This is an utterly strange experiment in film and, being a bit of a weird cinema connoisseur myself I was definitely all about it. Coming from Seattle born filmmaker Quinn Armstrong, this is an odd little comedy drama that only has it’s wheels on the ground for just the introduction of the story then blasts off to Weirdsville. In short, this film seemingly is a lost training video from the 1980s with Jim, the perfect policeman, our subject who gets in over his head when he tries to resolve a domestic violence case and takes outside the law as he starts to lose his grip with reality. Stacy Keach provides some serious gravitas as the video’s narrator who eventually gets himself into the mix in an odd and ethereal sort of way. Yes, this one is decidedly weird and if you’re into something off the beaten path, you may like what Armstrong does here.

Crock Of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan – Two weeks in a row now of great music biopic documentaries about brilliant songwriters and creators that I wasn’t super familiar with and, in the case of this one, my knowledge was even more fleeting. To be completely honest, the only thing I knew from The Pogues and frontman Shane MacGowan was the Christmas time song Fairytale In New York which is one of my favorites of the season. What I didn’t know was how haggard this dude looked and how much worse it is today as he is constantly strung out in appearance, appearing like he is a step away from death. That aside, this is very much a celebration of the Irish punk poet Shane MacGowan, composer and lead singer with The Pogues, which combines unpublished archive footage and family footage with animation for the more insane stories that he tells. The thing that hangs in the same area that Zappa did last week is the two artists uncompromising styles and their shrugging off of the status quo although I’d say that Shane is far angrier.

Triggered – Hell yes, some diabolical survival horror comes your way to finish off the new releases for this week and, really, this one is just a shut off your brain sort of movie because if you try to look for deeper meaning within the characters you will give yourself a migraine. The film follows nine friends, who all harbor a dark secret, that go camping in the woods. After a wild night of partying, they wake up with explosive vests strapped to their chests, all with varying times on their countdown clocks. They decide to work out how to disarm the bombs or find help until they discover they can ‘take’ one another’s time by killing each other. The concept is really cool and the need to understand each character’s plight is minimal but the endgame to the movie feels flimsy and almost makes everything you’ve seen pretty superfluous. That said, the violence in it is neat and stylish making it an entertaining but hollow and weightless thriller.

Blu-Ray:

Buddy Games – Josh Duhamel dons the director’s hat for the first time with this comedy that is based on his friends and their exploits and it was really cool to get the behind the scenes thoughts from the man himself when he did an appearance of Dax Shepard’s podcast Armchair Expert, especially since Dax is in this movie too. The film is about a group of friends who reunite to play The Buddy Games, a wild assortment of absurd physical and mental challenges. In the process, they try to heal old wounds, right past wrongs and figure out the true meaning of friendship and get beaten to hell in the process. Such a great cast with Duhamel and Shepard including Kevin Dillon, Olivia Munn, Nick Swardson and WWE superstar Sheamus, I feel like this movie has great pay off even if it lacks finesse in execution. Sometimes a dude comedy is exactly what is needed.

The Broken Hearts Gallery – What if you saved a souvenir from every relationship you’ve ever been in?That’s what is at the forefront of this new and audience loved film that follows the always unique Lucy, played by Blockers’ Geraldine Viswanathan, a twenty-something art gallery assistant living in New York City, who also happens to be an emotional hoarder. After she gets dumped by her latest boyfriend, Lucy is inspired to create The Broken Heart Gallery, a pop-up space for the items love has left behind. Word of the gallery spreads, encouraging a movement and a fresh start for all the romantics out there, including Lucy herself. This film co-stars the breakout heartthrob of Stranger Things’ Dacre Montgomery and the two leads share so much good chemistry together which really drives the movie in my opinion and the charm of the script is always there as a safety net. This movie really won me over.

Made In Italy – Actor James D’Arcy, a face you may recognize from Cloud Atlas, Dunkirk, Master And Commander or Marvel’s Peggy Carter, makes his directorial debut with this new comedy that he wrote as well. Starring an interesting cast that includes Liam Neeson and Lindsey Duncan, the film follows a bohemian artist who travels from London to Italy with his estranged son to sell the house he inherited from his late wife. Given that this is D’Arcy’s debut, an actor I really enjoy, I wanted this to be a great landing but the script is clunky to a degree that no matter how veteran some of these stars are, it just doesn’t work. No matter how much I enjoyed seeing Liam act alongside his real life son Michael Richardson, I couldn’t shake the amateurish feeling.

The Rental – Okay, so there’s a multitude of things that had me on board with this movie. First off, it’s the feature directorial debut of Dave Franco who did some behind the scenes work for his brother James on The Disaster Art, which was great. Secondly, the cast rocks, featuring Dan Stevens, Alison Brie and Toby Huss and thirdly it was written by mumblecore co-creator Joe Swanberg. Oh and did I mention that it’s a horror film? The story follows two couples on an oceanside getaway who grow suspicious that the host of their seemingly perfect rental house may be spying on them. Before long, what should have been a celebratory weekend trip turns into something far more sinister, as well-kept secrets are exposed and the four old friends come to see each other in a whole new light. I can not say enough great things about this movie, a slow burn that kicks up huge embers of intensity throughout plus the cast is so damn good. This one is a word of mouth must see.

The Rising Hawk: Battle For The Carpathians – This is a weird one as it is an international medieval war epic but features some recognizable American talent like T-1000 himself, Robert Patrick, Sons Of Anarchy club president Tommy Flanagan and more. The story is set back in the Mongol Empire, which at that time had grown to be the largest the world had ever known. With the armies having laid siege to much of Eastern Europe, one small village fights for freedom in the frontier landscape of the Carpathian Mountains. At just over two hours long, you would expect this one to be pretty action packed but it is unfortunately largely a dull affair of history lessons.The low budget of the production is also clearly on display is some ways which makes me believe that the scope was larger at one point and they had to dial it back or run out of money. There are way better Mongol films out there, trust me.

Beverly Hills Cop 4K – Eddie Murphy’s comeback trail at the end of last year was absolutely robbed of an Academy Award nomination for Dolemite Is My Name but you can now get over those hurt feelings by getting the movie that introduced us to him on the big screen and a film that still kicks so much ass and makes you laugh while doing it. The 80s action fan in me is singing as I loved the exploits of Detroit transplant cop Axel Foley and having director Martin Brest oversee the restoration of this film into the high definition of 4K and provide a new commentary for it is such a sweet spot for a collector like me. The special features have all of that mid eighties nostalgia for you as the soundtrack mixtape is included with the film as well as all the press junket interviews of young Eddie in his prime, deleted scenes and a look at the whole Beverly Hills Cop fandom phenomenon is explored. Some sweet Eddie goodness to start off a big review week of his classics.

Coming To America 4K – Not only is this Eddie Murphy classic getting the full 4K restoration but it comes in an absolutely gorgeous steelbook edition which is a little piece of gold to a collector like me and one of two that are released this week. For those who are unfamiliar with this fish out of water comedy, it follows Eddie as the extremely pampered heir apparent to Africa’s prosperous kingdom of Zamunda, Prince Akeem, who travels to Queens, New York, and goes undercover to find a wife that he can respect for her intelligence and will. Featuring Arsenio Hall, John Amos, James Earl Jones and Garcelle Beauvais, great make-up effects by Rick Baker and a studious direction from John Landis, this is a hilarious comedy that still holds up and will be a perfect watch as we prepare for the sequel, Coming 2 America, set for an Amazon Prime release in March.

The Golden Child – This is undoubtedly one of my movie staples as a kid, an adventurous Eddie Murphy comedy action that I may have burnt out time and time again on our VCR. Remember those? Anyways, the synopsis has Eddie playing a detective with a speciality of finding lost children. He is told he is the ‘Chosen one’ who will find and protect the Golden Child, a Bhuddist mystic who was kidnapped by an evil sorcerer. At first, he outright disbelieves the mysticism of this new case but finds more and more evidence of demon worship as he investigates. Making its debut on the higher definition of blu-ray so I can’t overwatch it, this Michael Ritchie classic was a longtime coming to this format and I was so happy to throw it on again. Nothing too deep on the special features but the Making Of featurette is interesting.

Popeye – A celebrity death that always seems to be a fresh new wound everytime he is mentioned is Robin Williams. It’s always bittersweet to watch him onscreen now and even my wife hasn’t been able to watch a movie of his without tearing up. We both perked up when this one landed on my doorstep, a Williams collaboration with legendary filmmaker Robert Altman to bring a classic cartoon to life, the first film to actually do this sort of adaptation. Co-starring Shelley Duvall, who was brilliantly cast as Olive Oyl, this is the story of the iconic buff sailor man Popeye arriving in the awkward seaside town of Sweethaven. There he meets Wimpy, a hamburger-loving man, Olive Oyl, the soon-to-be love of his life, and Bluto, a huge, mean pirate who is out to make Sweethaven pay for no good reason. Also discovering his long-lost Pappy in the middle of it all, Popeye must regain control of this small town, put down the oppressor and restore the happiness of all the citizens. Besides the picture restoration, this edition is a bit bare bones but has a great featurette on the work between Williams and Altman.

Top Gun 4K – This has to be at the top of Tom Cruise’s greatest films of all time, right? I remember as a kid being totally obsessed with this movie, Tom as the bad boy fighter pilot Maverick always butting heads with his rival the Iceman all to the sun bleached beat of a Kenny Loggins soundtrack. Then, when it all gets sensual under a cool blue filter for some love with Kelly McGillis we get the iconic tones of Berlin and the track Take My Breath Away, oh man, the memories. Well, with the sequel Top Gun: Maverick in the chamber and ready to fire at some point when the pandemic conditions will allow it, it is the perfect time for this 4K version to hit shelves and it is truly beautiful and the film has never sounded or looked better. I also failed to include that this is the second steelbook I received this week and it has a gorgeous brand new artwork on it that needs to be seen to be believed.

Mission:ImpossibleThe Original Television Series: Complete Series – I boasted last year about owning every Mission:Impossible movie but I had no idea of the real bragging rights that came with this box set because with this complete series which has been beautifully updated to the high definition of blu-ray, I truly do own everything to do with this spy title. For those who don’t know what the original series is all about, it follows the I.M.F. or Impossible Missions Force, an elite force of Agents who are given orders by tape and are asked to do jobs that are considered impossible by any other known means. The art of the con is used time and time again, and the Agents use technology, drugs, and plain greed to achieve their goals in a series that featured Peter Graves, Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. My daughter has been really wanting to watch the movies but at her young age it’s a great alternative to start her here now.

Looney Tunes Bugs Bunny: The 80th Anniversary Collection – The original Saturday morning cartoon bad boy is celebrating eighty years of entertaining us and getting hunters riled up during rabbit season. That’s right, Bugs Bunny is being celebrated here and long before he suited up for a Space Jam with Michael Jordan and company he had this collection to delight audiences. I really feel like I don’t have to give you a full rundown of the exploits and shenanigans of this dubious little rabbit but I will tell you that the limited edition blu-ray package does come with a sparkly little Bugs Bunny Funko Pop toy and it has kept me from opening it because it’s a total collector’s item. Yes, I am that nerdy.

Green Eggs And Ham: Season 1 – Ah yes, some Dr. Seuss to get our kid’s childhoods to meet up with our own because, really, who didn’t without reading him or having his words recited to you? It’s really a rite of passage I think. This one is easy to encapsulate in a nutshell as it’s an animated series based on the popular Dr. Seuss story “Green Eggs and Ham” and features a great voice cast including Michael Douglas, Adam Devine, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer and so many more and by all accounts the kids should be very entertained by it. For adults, your pleasure will arrive in the form of guessing who the guest voices are and the calmness of a child transfixed by the television glow giving them something more wholesome and a break from Ryder and the Paw Patrol. I think all of us parents feel the fatigue on that one.

Perry Mason: Season 1 – As a kid, I used to sit with my grandparents and watch reruns of this classic lawyer show starring the legendary status Canadian Raymond Burr and was captivated time and time again. Well, now Robert Downey Jr. has made my dreams come true as he and the global force of HBO have collaborated to bring this new series set in the era that creator Erle Stanley Gardner intended it to be in and it stars The Americans’ Matthew Rhys in the title role. Set in 1932 Los Angeles, the series focuses on the origin story of famed defense lawyer Perry Mason who is living check-to-check as a low-rent private investigator, haunted by his wartime experiences in France and suffering the effects of a broken marriage. A kidnapping gone very wrong leads to Mason exposing a fractured city as he uncovers the truth of the crime and uses it, sometimes lawlessly, to find some redemption. Needless to say, this show rocks in every way and Rhys is powerful, gripping and definitely in line for an Emmy for it.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Ghost Dog: Way Of The Samurai – This has to be one of my favorite Criterion releases of the year as a piece of Jim Jarmusch’s oeuvre and one of the most different films in his storied career gets the full special edition in this beautiful blu-ray edition. For those who haven’t been exposed to this brilliance, it features Forest Whitaker as a hitman who lives by the code of the samurai, works for the mafia and finds himself in their crosshairs when his recent job doesn’t go according to plan. Now he must find a way to defend himself and his honor while retaining the code he lives by. Gorgeously shot and featuring an incredible soundtrack spearheaded by producer The RZA, this is Jarmusch’s exercise in creating a badass anti-hero in a film that relies on what’s going on in the action and movement of the picture than any sort of dialogue exchange. It may be one of his most artful films in his filmography.

Moonstruck – Let it be known that I really can’t stand Cher, both in her music and in her acting styles, but that may come from the fact that I suffered through her last film, Burlesque, ten years ago. This, on the other hand, is the only passable thing on her resume in my opinion and it’s a shared one because she did win an Academy Award for it but it is also coupled with a fantastic Nicolas Cage performance. Directed by legendary Canadian director Norman Jewison, this is the story of Loretta Castorini, a bookkeeper from Brooklyn, New York, who finds herself in a difficult situation when she falls for Ronny, the brother of the man she has agreed to marry. She tries to resist, but Ronny lost his hand in an accident he blames on his brother, and has no problem with aggressively pursuing her while Johnny is out of the country. As Loretta falls deeper in love, she comes to learn that she’s not the only one in her family with a secret romance as her family one by one exposes their extra marital affairs. It was honestly just a matter of time before this landed on the greatest collection of all time, Criterion, and it really looks incredible.

Westworld: Season 3 – After a two year absence we finally get the next piece of this incredible mysterious show that emanated from a 70s Michael Crichton movie. The favorites are all back including Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores, Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard and Thandie Newton’s Maeve as well as newcomers Aaron Paul and Kid Cudi but what is this season about? Well, showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan are keeping everything secretive but what we do know is that Bernard and Dolores have been rebuilt outside of the facility so we get to see what this future looks like and I am damn excited for that.

Television:

Big Mouth: Season 4 (Netflix) – It’s time to get uncomfortable with our bodies all over again as this lewd, rude and massively crude animated comedy returns with all-new episodes. I adore anything that Nick Kroll and John Mulaney do and when you throw Maya Rudolph and Jason Mantzoukas into the mix than I am in love. For those who don’t know about this show, it is the awkward and sometimes brutal coming of age story of two best friends in the throes of puberty, this time sending the whole cast of characters to summer camp for more explorations of their sexuality and relationships. Watch it at your own risk but keep it in mind that it is totally my kind of messed up.

Mank (Netflix) – This new era picture from master director David Fincher is notable for a multitude of reasons, the small being that this production distracted him so much that it’s doubtful that we’ll get a third season of Mindhunter, which is heartbreaking for a lot of fans. The big thing is that with this movie he has hit the true god-like level in cinema, pushing him into the echelon of filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and even the man he has as a character in this, Orson Welles. The story has Gary Oldman playing screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he sequesters himself after a serious car accident to start his tumultuous development of Orson Welles’ iconic masterpiece Citizen Kane which starts to rope in real people from his life like American businessman and newspaper publisher Charles Randolph Heart. This film is incredible, leaping off the screen with every shot filled with nostalgia for the era but themes that are still painfully relevant today. Honestly, you can give Oldman another Oscar after this one because he shakes the whole room with his performance, my favourite lead actor of this year I think.

Selena: The Series (Netflix) – Remember when Jennifer Lopez burst onto the scene, not as an In Living Color Fly Girl or the mega pop star JLo, but in the tragic story or the murder of Latina American pop sensation Selena Quintanilla? Well, Selena’s family has spearheaded and produced this new limited series that retells that story but in a much more expanded telling. Rather than getting bogged down with the murder, this series opts to tell the story of the late Tejano singer’s burgeoning rise to success as her dreams come true, and her family makes life-changing choices on the singer’s journey to superstardom. The walking Dead former favorite Christian Serratos plays the title role with such charisma that becomes the real beacon of everything that works for the show as the acting around her is kind of dull and makes you yearn for performers like Edward James Olmos and Constance Marie from the original movie. That said, I know lots of people excited for this one.

Anything For Jackson (Shudder) – Just when you think that we’re done with horror for this year, Shudder brings another original to make us squirm into the holiday season. This one is a Canadian production, so it can go either way, that follows a bereaved Satanist couple after losing their only grandson in a car accident who kidnap a pregnant woman so they can use an ancient spellbook to put their dead grandson’s spirit into her unborn child but end up summoning a malevolent demon bent on destroying everything in its path. This movie is clever in its delivery and has a great creepy atmosphere that blankets it in style, especially with the always great Julian Richings taking the lead, an actor that usually chews the scenery in a supporting role. Who says you can’t get scared at Christmas, right?

Sound Of Metal (Amazon Prime) – Riz Ahmed has astounded me with his talent twice now this year, first with his role as a British Pakistani rapper in the drama Mogul Mowgli just over a month ago at the virtual version of the Vancouver International Film Festival and now this one, another deep character piece. In this film, he plays a heavy-metal drummer and former heroin addict whose life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing. Believing that there can be a solution, he fixates on an experimental but expensive procedure to “cure” his hearing loss in a sort of desperate hope. This is an impactful film about the state of denial and desperation a person must feel when they lose something that we take for granted, really. Director and writer Darius Marder beautifully creates an experience that seems to transcend the sensory experience and put you right into Ahmed’s character’s plight in such an incredible way. It’s truly stellar.

New Releases:

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

Happiest Season – Christmas movies can usually be filed into a few different categories, the cheesy, almost Hallmark Channel variety, the classic family film fare and the surprise hits and I think that the last one is exactly where this one fits in and it is such a great thing in my opinion as it was written and directed by Clea Duvall, an actress I absolutely adore and one who appears in this as well. Featuring a huge cast with Victor Garber, Mary Steenburgen, Kristen Stewart, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Dan Levy and Mackenzie Davis, this is an ensemble comedy about the pitfalls of meeting your girlfriend’s family but the even stickier situation it becomes when they don’t know you’re gay. Planning to propose at her family’s annual Christmas dinner, Abby (Kristen Stewart) learns that Harper (Mackenzie Davis) has kept their relationship a secret from her family which causes her to begin questioning the girlfriend she thought she knew at the worst possible time, the holiday season. The reviews pouring in for this one are phenomenal, some saying that it exists within a well-worn framework of other dysfunctional family stories but it still feels like a fresh and substantial comedy that will be an immediate addition to the Christmas movie rotation for many.

Stardust – My initial reaction to seeing the trailer for this film started with excitement to finally get some sort of a David Bowie biopic aside from the “inspired by” film we got in 1998 with Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing a character based on Bowie named Brian Slade. Imagine how my heart dropped when I read that Bowie’s family didn’t sign off on this one either. Even so, they went ahead with it without any Bowie music, chronicling a young David Bowie’s first visit to the US in 1971, a trip that inspired the invention of his iconic alter ego Ziggy Stardust. Sounds like a cool part of the iconic singer and songwriter’s career but really what is the point of doing it if you’re not allowed? What we get is a boring and plodding film that meanders so badly that you wish Bowie’s family had sued the production to put it out of its misery.

Girl – Besides the two very cool Babysitter movies that are now available on Netflix, I haven’t really gotten the hype around Bella Thorne as an actress and have a hard time separating her from any other middling actress that is plastered all over social media. She must have heard my thoughts on the matter because this film feels like a direct shot of vitriol and a performance that will make people stand back and pay attention. This new film is gritty, visceral and totally unflinching, following a young woman who returns to her small hometown with revenge on her mind, intent on killing her abusive father only to discover someone murdered him the day before. As the girl searches for answers, she uncovers a family legacy more dangerous than she’d imagined and finds herself fighting to get out of the town alive. This film is a badass exercise in destroying the stigma around Thorne and proving the haters like me totally wrong. I honestly loved every moment of this movie.

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

Collective – The hard-hitting documentaries never stop coming and with government obstruction and conspiracy always being at the forefront of our thoughts these days, this film is ready to share that real estate in your brain and catch a seat there. The film starts in 2015 with a fire at Bucharest’s Colectiv club that leaves 27 dead and 180 injured. Soon, more burn victims begin dying in hospitals from wounds that were not life-threatening causing a doctor to blow the whistle to a team of investigative journalists. One revelation leads to another as the journalists start to uncover vast health care fraud and when a new health minister is appointed, he offers unprecedented access to his efforts to reform the corrupt system but also to the obstacles he faces. This is an incredibly thorough political thriller about cover-ups and conspiracy that feels almost unrelenting in its revelations. This feels like a future narrative film in my opinion.

The Great Invisible – Originally made in 2014, this eco-documentary now gets its theatrical release and it’s a story that we already saw Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg take on a few years ago. This is a documentary on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion as seen through the eyes of oil executives, survivors and Gulf Coast residents who experienced it first-hand and then were left to pick up the pieces while the world moved on because, as we know, once the glitz of scandal is gone so are the cameras. This is a deeply damning look at the causes and effects of American energy policy and offers it in such an empathetic, smartly crafted, and totally devastating way that it’s really hard to shake what you’ve seen for long after the end credits. It’s weird because Wahlberg’s movie didn’t really hang out in my mind for very long at all.

Crash – Getting the full revamp treatment is this thriller based around car crashes and sex, not the Best Picture Oscar-winning film from Canadian Paul Haggis but from the mind of body horror auteur and Canadian legend David Cronenberg. In case you never had the pleasure of seeing this madness on DVD or playing on Showcase, as I did, this is the perverse story of a TV director who discovers an underground sub-culture after getting into a serious car accident of scarred, omnisexual car-crash victims who use car accidents and the raw sexual energy they produce and tries to rejuvenate his sex life with his wife with that new knowledge. There’s no better way to describe this one other than it is totally and utterly screwed up but quite the norm for a guy like Cronenberg and this one has been messing up audiences and been the “oh my god, have you seen this?” movie for almost twenty-five years. I find it fascinating that the studio is bringing it back for another run.

Blu-Ray:

The Irishman – Legendary director Martin Scorsese plays with the progression of the cinema medium with this movie directly made for Netflix and now it. Even better, Scorsese has rounded up some of his greatest collaborators because this film stars Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci who acts in his first movie since the 2010s The Love Ranch. The movie follows DeNiro’s character of Frank Sheeran, a mob hitman recalling his involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa, a long-unsolved murder so all of this can be listed under supposed. The film is another piece in a stellar career from Scorsese and it definitely deserving of a release as part of the most definitive film collections on the planet and I can’t wait to get immersed in the behind the scenes of a massive undertaking to de-age all of the stars involved in the picture and the huge CG and makeup process.

Friendsgiving – Also known as Dinner With Friends in North America, I’m not only completely surprised by the existence of this movie but totally upset with myself that I didn’t know it existed because, holy hell, this cast is great. Malin Ackerman, Kat Dennings, Aisha Tyler, Chelsea Peretti, Christine Taylor, Jane Seymour, Deon Cole, Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, Fortune Feimster and Ryan Hansen star in this hilarious film that follows the main character of Abby who is looking forward to a laid-back Thanksgiving with her best friend Molly but their’ plans for a quiet turkey dinner go up in smoke when they’re joined by Molly’s new boyfriend and her flamboyant mother. After the arrival of some party crashers including Molly’s old flame, a wannabe shaman, and a trio of Fairy Gay Mothers, and it gets chaotic to the point of a complete farce in a film that is really just a big fluffy comedy of no substance but still felt totally enjoyable from beginning to end.

Train to Busan Presents Peninsula – After the South Korean zombie horror hit went overseas and became a must-see film for genre fans in North America the obvious questions came up which are “can we remake it?” and “where’s the sequel?”. Well, hopefully, the answer to that first question is never but the second question has been answered with this brand new follow up which takes place four years after the zombie outbreak in Train to Busan with the Korean peninsula in full devastation and follows Jung Seok, a former soldier who has managed to escape overseas, who is given a mission to go back and unexpectedly meets survivors. Now having said all of that, it’s really unfortunate that the audience demand rushed this movie to be made because, in all honesty, it really isn’t very good and kind of makes the problems from the first film more glaringly obvious. This one, by extension, feels clunky, cartoonish and at many times totally ridiculous. I know zombie films, in general, are ridiculous but this far exceeds the limit.

The Secrets We Keep – Nazis are evil no matter what and we should stomp them out whenever we come across them, no question, no if, and or buts. This is unwavering but what if you were unsure because your trauma may be clouding your judgement. This is the story at the heart of this new thriller starring former Lisbeth Salander, Noomi Rapace, Chris Messina and Joel Kinnaman, set in a post-WWII America following a woman rebuilding her life in the suburbs with her husband who kidnaps her neighbour, seeking vengeance for the heinous war crimes she believes he committed against her. The film is well-paced and Rapace is absolutely riveting, wearing every emotion on her sleeve, so palpable with each drag of her character’s cigarette. Pieces of this movie feel a bit far-fetched but it’s her conviction that keeps it all grounded.

Fatman – On paper this sounds like the stupidest possible thing to make a movie out of, and honestly, the jury is still out on that one, and, maybe, people might find this one Christmas blasphemy but I am not afraid to admit that I was crazily entertained the whole time and thought it was wildly imaginative and original. The film follows a rowdy, unorthodox Santa Claus played by Mel Gibson who is fighting to save his declining business in a brutal modern world. Meanwhile, Billy, a neglected and totally bratty twelve-year-old, hires a hitman played by the great Walton Goggins to kill Santa after receiving a lump of coal in his stocking. This movie oozes tough-guy imagery against a snowy backdrop and delivers the violence in a bloody battling third act that keeps you hooting and hollering until the credits hit. So many times I marvelled at what I was seeing and knew deep down that it wasn’t going to be accessible to everyone but that sick action-loving side of me was thrilled.

Cold Light Of Day – Arrow Video coming through with this collector edition with this underseen and under-heard of fictionalized serial killer biopic from 1989, the only production from writer and director Fhiona-Louise who clearly made this on a shoestring budget. The story is about Dennis Nilsen who murdered at least 12 young men and boys in the two successive flats where he lived, storing their corpses for long periods of time before dismembering them and disposing of them in the drains. Fhiona-Louise crafts a character-heavy introspective piece with this film that is as fascinating as it is disturbing in a final result that will delight fans of films like Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer and Maniac. Definitely not for the weak of heart or those who are terrified of delving into a psychotic brain.

Sonic The Hedgehog – After a delay in release to repair a horrendous looking lead character with teeth and muscle structure that will give you nightmares, we finally get to see this video game adaptation that is hotly anticipated for a rabid fanbase. For those who have lived under a rock for decades, Sonic is a speedy blue hedgehog with a cocky attitude who, in this film, befriends a small-town police officer played by James Marsden to join him in a battle against an evil genius, the villainous Dr. Ivo Robotnik who wants to do experiments on it. My initial excitement came from the fact that the big bad is played by one of my favourites of all time, Jim Carrey, and he honestly does almost steal the entire show. I initially thought that this movie was going to be garbage but I had a hell of a lot of fun with it, the references to the classic pieces of the videogame are all there and the love for this character and the world it comes from is all there. I really hope that this leads to a full-on franchise because me and my family would definitely be interested in more, especially after that stinger at the end.

Libeled Lady – For the first of this week’s Warner Archive releases we head to the mid-thirties for an Academy Award-nominated romantic comedy that features starlet Jean Harlow in a role so important to her that she would be buried in the gown she wore in this film just a year later. The film follows the editor of a popular New York newspaper who calls in the help of his ignored fiancée and a former employee when a socialite sues him for libel. Together, they concoct a scheme to frame her in a scandalous situation and do everything in their power to make the false story seem true. Harlow really shows her star power in this film and it makes the tragedy of her passing away at the young age of twenty-six hit harder. She has a huge career ahead of her.

The Pirate – For the second classic film out of the vaults of the Warner Archive is this adventure musical that features the music of the legendary Cole Porter in a film that has the leading lady of Judy Garland and her husband Vincente Minnelli, the father of Liza, behind the camera. The film follows a girl who is engaged to the local rich man in her town but dreams about the legendary pirate Macoco. A travelling singer gets wind of this desire as he falls in love with her and to impress her he poses as the pirate to win her heart. This was a later film in the career of Garland as she was in declining health, only able to film for thirty-six of the one hundred and thirty-five shooting days, smoking four packs of cigarettes a day and the studio ended up hiring an on set psychiatrist for her. Even worse, the film was a box office failure and lost the studio over two million dollars.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Batman: Death In The Family – I have been waiting for the geniuses behind the DC animated films to finally get to this pivotal story in the tales of the Caped Crusader and especially his line of Robins that he’s had and the tragic end to this one. Bruce Greenwood reprises his role as both Batman and Bruce Wayne this telling of the ending of the second Robin, Jason Todd’s tenure in his sidekick role but it is a different styling as this is one of those choose your own adventure style blu-rays where you’re job is to interactively steer Todd from his comics inevitable fate at the hands of the maniac Joker. I really didn’t think I would enjoy this as I was hoping for a more straight-forward film but as a fan of the comic story, I thought going through it this way was fresh, original and added a whole new unpredictability that made everything feel brand new. For Batman fans, this one is a true gift.

RWBY: Season 7 – I have said time and time again that I have to have some sort of mental block between my film and television sensibilities ad the format of anime because I largely don’t get it. This was my initial thinking when I picked up this box set but I had no idea that Monty Oum, Rooster Teeth contributor and Red vs. Blue writer, had my back and had crafted a show that felt like it was skewed to exactly that kind of viewer. The story takes place in the world of Remnant, which is filled with supernatural forces and shadowy creatures known as the Grimm. Before the events of the series, mankind waged a battle of survival against the Grimm before discovering the power of a mysterious element called Dust, which allowed them to fight back against the monsters. In the present day, Dust is used to power magical abilities and weapons where those who use these abilities to battle the Grimm are known as Huntsmen and Huntresses, focusing on four girls who form a team at Beacon Academy, training for that battle role. Really cool animation drives this action-packed series that really gets better with each passing volume. I’m digging all of it.

Television:

The Flight Attendant (Crave) – I have to admit that whenever I see anything with Kaley Cuoco in it for over a decade I automatically think of her character Penny from the long-running series The Big Bang Theory because that’s just the stigma that these sitcom stars are saddled with but hopefully this new limited series will shift the focus. She plays flight attendant Cassandra Bowden who wakes in her hotel room in Dubai, hungover from the night before and with a dead body lying next to her. Afraid to call the police, she continues her morning as if nothing happened, joining the other flight attendants and pilots travelling to the airport but in New York, she is met by FBI agents who question her about her recent layover in Dubai. Still unable to piece the night together, she begins to wonder if she could be the killer. I love the mystery drive of this series and it was created by writer Steve Yockey, who wrote for years on the recently ended Supernatural and more so I have some high hopes for this.

Hillbilly Elegy (Netflix) – Based on the best selling book from J.D. Vance, who is the subject of the book as well, even the trailers set this film up to be total Oscar bait with Glenn Close and Amy Adams under some heavy makeup to play their roles and stalwart filmmaker Ron Howard at the helm to pull the strings. The film is a modern exploration of the American Dream through three generations of an Appalachian family as told by its youngest member, a Yale Law student forced to return to his hometown when his mother overdoses, forcing him to confront his upbringing, his pursuit of his career and the familiar relationships he still has. This movie is frustrating in that every advance it makes to being stellar is immediately cut down by a totally glossy and contrived scene. At the end of the day, when Howard, Brian Grazer and the rest of Imagine Entertainment are gunning for Oscar, it all comes up way too short in the end.

Uncle Frank (Amazon Prime) – Let’s be honest here, if you mention the name Alan Ball to me I am going to corner you into an hour-long discussion about how amazing and life-changing Six Feet Under was, a show that he created and one that still sits atop my list with Twin Peaks and a couple of others. That said, this new project has him tackling a medium that he usually doesn’t do, a feature film. Starring a deep cast including Paul Bettany, Judy Greer, Steve Zahn and Sophia Lillis, this film is set in 1973 and follows Frank Bledsoe and his 18-year-old niece Beth as they take a road trip from Manhattan to Creekville, South Carolina for the family patriarch’s funeral and unexpectedly joined by Frank’s gay lover Walid. The film has a textured retro look and Bettany is at the top of his game once again for this performance.

Black Narcissus (FX) – This is a really ballsy move for FX to take on as a network but after other cinematic masterpieces like Picnic At Hanging Rock have already been tackled, and done successfully might I add, well, I’m not giving everything carte blanche but I’m open-minded. This miniseries is the adaptation of a groundbreaking Deborah Kerr film from 1947 and features Gemma Arterton, a favourite of mine, in a story about a group of nuns who face challenges in the hostile environment of a remote old Himalayan palace that they wish to convert into a convent. This series is a bit bittersweet as it features the last performance from Dame Diana Rigg who passed away earlier this year and features in three of the episodes in a pivotal role. I’m really looking forward to this one as A Quiet Place cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen makes her directorial debut on this.

Belushi (Crave) – I really love all of these comprehensive documentaries on actors, actresses and comedians and I have been waiting for this one to get released as soon as I heard about it. Using previously unheard audiotapes recorded shortly after John Belushi’s death, director R.J. Cutler, who has previously brought us films like The September Issue and The World According to Dick Cheney, brings us this documentary that examines the too-short life of a once-in-a-generation talent who captured the hearts and funny bones of devoted audiences for the time and the generations that follow. The film features interviews with Belushi’s friends like Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd and Candice Bergen as well as those who have already left us like Carrie Fisher and Harold Ramis. Get ready for an emotional rollercoaster with this one.

New Releases:

Mank – This new era picture from master director David Fincher is notable for a multitude of reasons, the small being that this production distracted him so much that it’s doubtful that we’ll get a third season of Mindhunter, which is heartbreaking for a lot of fans. The big thing is that with this movie he has hit the true god-like level in cinema, pushing him into the echelon of filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and even the man he has as a character in this, Orson Welles. The story has Gary Oldman playing screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he sequesters himself after a serious car accident to start his tumultuous development of Orson Welles’ iconic masterpiece Citizen Kane which starts to rope in real people from his life like American businessman and newspaper publisher Charles Randolph Heart. This film is incredible, leaping off the screen with every shot filled with nostalgia for the era but themes that are still painfully relevant today. Honestly, you can give Oldman another Oscar after this one because he shakes the whole room with his performance, my favourite lead actor of this year I think.

Dreamland – Margot Robbie is really on track to win herself an Oscar pretty soon. Yes, she still affords herself time to get silly and step back into the role of Harley Quinn continually, something she was destined to do, but her dramatic work is so good and, with this film, it’s the thing that holds it together. This film is a love story set amidst America’s struggle during the Great Depression following Eugene, a teen who dreams of escaping his small Texas town when he discovers a wounded, fugitive bank robber, played by Margot Robbie. Torn between claiming the bounty for her capture and his growing attraction to the seductive criminal, Eugene must make a decision that will forever affect the lives of everyone he’s ever loved and also forge his own path away from dust storms, a domineering stepfather and general hopelessness. Finn Cole from Peaky Blinders plays the male lead opposite Robbie and does a fine job in a film that only seems to aim for the middle ground, beautifully shot but dragged down by one of the worst scores I’ve heard in a while.

The Witches – This one definitely surprised me with its existence, and not just because it’s a remake of a beloved 1990s classic film because that just seems to be part of the norm now whether it’s a reimagining, a sequel or a reboot. What shocked me is that this Roald Dahl classic is still keeping it’s absolutely creepy tone that shook me a little bit as a kid and is running with it again and I have to say that it is probably because Robert Zemeckis directed with Guillermo Del Toro as the co-writer. Starring Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci and more, this tells Dahl’s beloved story for a modern audience, a darkly humorous and heartwarming tale of a young orphaned boy who, in late 1967, goes to live with his loving Grandma in the rural Alabama town of Demopolis. As the boy and his grandmother encounter some deceptively glamorous but thoroughly diabolical witches, she wisely takes him away to a seaside resort but, unfortunately, they arrive at the same time as the world’s Grand High Witch has gathered her fellow cronies from around the globe-undercover-to carry out her evil plans. The creepiest thing about Nicholas Roeg’s original film was the transformation of the Witches from their disguises to their true form and they did the same thing with this, making it a film I would never show a kid in a million years. It’s also absolutely terrible with Hathaway giving a gonzo performance that may go down as the worst in her career. Damn my eyes, I hated this remake, a slap in the face to the original.

Sound Of Metal – Riz Ahmed has astounded me with his talent twice now this year, first with his role as a British Pakistani rapper in the drama Mogul Mowgli just over a month ago at the virtual version of the Vancouver International Film Festival and now this one, another deep character piece. In this film, he plays a heavy-metal drummer and former heroin addict whose life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing. Believing that there can be a solution, he fixates on an experimental but expensive procedure to “cure” his hearing loss in a sort of desperate hope. This is an impactful film about the state of denial and desperation a person must feel when they lose something that we take for granted, really. Director and writer Darius Marder beautifully creates an experience that seems to transcend the sensory experience and put you right into Ahmed’s character’s plight in such an incredible way. It’s truly stellar.

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

Team Marco – Kids these days, always with their faces glued to an iPad or a tablet or a Nintendo Switch and so on. I know, I have one and she’s obsessed. How do we get them off that and out into the world to do something physical? That’s what’s at the heart of this new family comedy following twelve-year-old Marco who is obsessed with his own iPad and hardly leaves the house. but when his grandmother dies and his grandfather moves in, Marco’s life is turned upside-down and he is forced to go play in the dreaded outside. Grandpa introduces him to the fun of bocce ball and to the neighbourhood crew of old Italian men who play daily at the local court and it turns Marco’s attitude around, giving him something to focus on as he finds a connection to other people and rounds up a team of neighbourhood kids to take on Marco’s grandfather and his pals. This movie is a sweetheart little piece of fluff that is enjoyable but fleeting, like the melt away of cotton candy.

The Donut King – Just watching this movie made me have a real sweet tooth craving for some REAL donuts and not that Tim Horton’s recreated and reheated crap so this is your warning now not to go in with an empty stomach. This is a great documentary that feels personal and loving, telling the story of Ted Ngoy, a Cambodian American entrepreneur who purchased his first doughnut shop, Christy’s Doughnuts in 1977 which was the first step to him becoming “The Donut King” becoming an example to other Cambodian immigrants, who began to follow his business model for their own entrepreneurial endeavours. He later went into politics as a Republican, so let’s avoid that part, but this is a really cool story about the “American Dream” in a time that we really need to hear about it.

Crazy, Not Insane – Just a month after he brought us the complete pandemic timeline from the American point of view under the blundering Trump administration, documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney returns with another hard-hitting film, this one produced by HBO, just like a lot of his others. Narrated by Academy Award winner Laura Dern, this film is an examination of the research by forensic psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis who investigated the psychology of murderers to get in their head t see what makes them tick and why they do the things they do. Gibney always has a deep talent for getting to the absolute heart of every subject he focuses on and the same applies to this film as it paints Lewis’s work with intricate detail rather than broad strokes, truly a fascinating film.

Blu-Ray:

The New Mutants – I was starting to get to the point that I thought this movie was a big deep state lie or something that I had made up in my mind as it was supposed to come out years ago and now finally its on blu-ray after hitting theatres at the end of August. A spin-off of the X-Men, the film follows five young mutants, just discovering their abilities while held in a secret facility against their will, who fight to escape their past sins and save themselves and features a great cast of then-rising stars who are now very established with Game Of Thrones actress Maisie Williams, Stranger Things actor Charlie Heaton and The Witch’s Anya Taylor Joy. My excitement left my face within the first fifteen minutes as I started to realize why it had been shelved for so long. The film is completely disjointed in its storytelling, its tone and its character development to the point that it outright starts abandoning plot points and character arches to fit in a cool looking but totally nonsensical final battle in the third act. This one isn’t Fantastic Four levels of bad but it is still a massive disappointment that seems to be cut to shreds by producers. These X-Men movies continue to break my heart like a horrible ex-girlfriend.

Unhinged – On paper, this movie sounds absolutely insane and with the rising tempers in citizens around the world during this pandemic maybe it’s a little ill-timed but what really surprised me is how entertaining this movie was and how absolutely gonzo Russell Crowe is in it, playing the ultimate villain role. This one is super simple, a woman and her son become the target of an unstable man’s rage after a confrontation at an intersection and the proverbial shit hits the fan as he pulls out all the stops to try and force an apology out of her. The film comes from German director Derrick Borte who just released the very dark thriller American Dreamer with Jim Gaffigan on Blu-ray earlier this year and this movie is just far-fetched enough to be a total popcorn flick and not as societally damning as the premise would initially suggest. This is a totally pulpy film and kind of grindhouse at its core and I totally enjoyed it for that reason.

Summerland – Consistently, British actress Gemma Arterton has been the main selling point for me to watch pretty much anything, a versatile performer who has done great genre films, comedies, historical dramas and romances and for this new film she combines those last two. Writer and director Jessica Swale makes her feature-length theatrical debut with this story, set during World War II, following an Englishwoman who opens her heart to an evacuee after initially resolving to be rid of him when the two realize they have more in common in their pasts than she had once assumed. Arterton is without a doubt the best reason to watch this movie, delivering another stellar performance, further proof that she is one of the most underrated leading actresses today. For another example of this in the same sort of setting, the film Their Finest, released four years ago.

Relic – Something in the subgenre of horror that deals with psychological warfare seems to really speak to me, like Ari Aster’s films Hereditary and Midsommar and immediately grabs me, I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s straight-up relating to the character’s plight, I’m not sure. This one had e quickly, following a daughter, mother and grandmother who are haunted by a manifestation of dementia that consumes their family’s home. Starring Emily Mortimer and Bella Heathcote from The Neon Demon, this is an amazing film that probably no one will hear of or see but is the incredible debut of filmmaker Natalie Erika James who makes it look like a veteran put this movie together. As a new female voice in horror, I sincerely can not wait to see what’s next for her.

2067 – Self-contained sci-fi and lower budget sci-fi, it can either be great and captivating or it can leak air for ninety minutes and make you wonder why you got into it in the first place. This film hits somewhere in the middle, starring former X-Men’s Nightcrawler Kodi Smit McPhee and former True Blood star Ryan Kwanten and is set, obviously from the title, over forty years into the future following a man sent on a dangerous mission to an unknown world to save the human race when Earth’s air becomes unbreathable, only on the prodding of a mysterious message that was sent out. The film has a detailed plot with several intriguing mysteries at its core but that may be the biggest issue being that it has so many strands going outward that it can’t resolve or make sense of most of them besides our main character’s increasing existential quandaries. It’s still a bold film for former VFX artist turned director Seth Larney to take on.

Paydirt – If you’re looking for dumb guy bravado with guns and terrible one-liners then this is the movie for you as direct to video tough dude and former Guillermo del Toro villain (note to self, watch Hellboy II: The Golden Army again) Luke Goss leads this heist action thriller that was just tedious to get through. Written and directed by Vigilante Diaries filmmaker Christian Sesma, this film follows a parolee who teams up with his old crew and is determined to find a buried bag of cash stolen five years ago from a DEA bust gone bad while being tracked by a retired Sheriff. The only real big star to grace the screen in this film is Val Kilmer, who features with his daughter Mercedes, and, oh man, he looks so awful that I felt like he died multiple times on camera. This movie is supremely awful, just avoid it.

Monstrum – I love a good South Korean movie but a South Korean horror movie definitely gets me salivating a bit and a South Korean monster horror movie is something I’ll bust through walls for like the Kool-Aid Man. This is exactly that last one and it is all the awesomeness that it sounds like. The story follows a loyal subject of King Jung Jong of Joseon who struggles to fight against a monster that looks like a sort of reptilian balrog from Lord Of The Rings that threatens King Jung Jong’s life and a group of people trying to depose King Jung Jong. This movie is big and fun with some killer action sequences and a feel that will remind people of Bong Joon-Ho’s The Host, another fantastic monster flick. This one is definitely recommended and crank the sound when you’re watching it.

Words On Bathroom Walls – Moody teen dramas seem to be my bread and butter these days and for as many of them, as they are, some of them don’t even deserve to be any good. This one falls into the total surprise category and only because I had never heard of it before and it has such a phenomenal cast with Spontaneous’s Charlie Plummer, Soul Surfer’s Anna Sophia Robb, the great Walton Goggins and former Ocean’s Eleven adversary Andy Garcia. The film follows Plummer as a witty and introspective teen diagnosed with a mental illness halfway through his senior year of high school who struggles to keep it a secret while falling in love with a brilliant classmate who inspires him to not be defined by his condition. The film comes from director Thor Freudenthal who goes low-key for this small production after doing the Percy Jackson sequel and other family fare and it works out beautifully. This is a little gem of a film, definitely recommended.

The Personal History Of David Copperfield – Things that are fleeting until the real weight of the knowledge hits you but when Armando Iannucci makes a film, you stop, take notice and salivate for it until it arrives. Now, after a brief “blink and you miss it” theatrical run, the creator of Veep, The Thick Of It and The Death Of Stalin returns with his send-up of Charles Dickens featuring a killer cast including Dev Patel, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Tilda Swinton and Ben Whishaw. The film is a fresh and distinctive take on Charles Dickens’ semi-autobiographical masterpiece, set in the 1840s, which chronicles the life of its iconic title character as he navigates a chaotic world to find his elusive place within it. From his unhappy childhood to the discovery of his gift as a storyteller and writer, David’s journey is by turns hilarious and tragic, but always full of life, colour and humanity done with a sardonic and acerbic bite that only Iannucci can give it. Trust me, you will throw this on and laugh yourself silly, in the most proper and dignified way, of course.

It’s A Wonderful Life – One of the most iconic Christmas films of all time gets the full 4K restoration special edition treatment as you can now show your entire family this classic Jimmy Stewart movie. For those who don’t know this story, the film centers around a stressed-out and overworked businessman who is shown what the world would be like without him in it. The film is one of the most celebrated holiday movies of all time and even earned five Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director for Frank Capra, one of the greats of the time. I honestly don’t need to prattle on any more about this one as we’ve all seen it or know about it or watched the Nicolas Cage sort of remake of it, The Family Man. Am I alone on that last one?

Vikings: Season 6 Volume 1 – The theme of this week with the television new releases it seems is “shows that are coming to a close” and we start with this show and the first half of its finale and a popular one that was the kick-off to History Channels scripted original productions. For those who don’t know, this is the adventures of Ragnar Lothbrok, the greatest hero of his age, following the saga of Ragnar’s band of Viking brothers and his family as he rises to become King of the Viking tribes. In the “Sons Of Anarchy” styling of history, Ragnar embodies the Norse traditions of devotion to the gods and, of course, legend has it that he was a direct descendant of Odin, the god of war and warriors. To get any deeper into describing the plot I would run into spoiler territory, especially with the synopsis of this final season, but I’ve fallen headlong into binging it and I love it.

Blindspot: Season 5 – Another finale to a pretty solid series run in this day and age, I was on board with this Jaime Alexander and Sullivan Stapleton mystery action series from its first season premiere as I enjoyed both stars from previous roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Cinemax’s Strike Back respectively. This show was awesome and follows a mysterious woman who is found zipped up alive in a duffel bag, in Times Square. With no memory of who she is or how she arrived there, the only clue to the mystery is that she is nearly completely covered in cryptic tattoos. The FBI is called in to investigate, and the tattoos are revealed one by one to be a mysterious ‘treasure map’ to prevent crime. I was such a fan of mystery shows like Lost, Prison Break and others that were frustratingly cancelled before their time that the fact that we got to see this one to its finish almost feels like an unheard-of treat on television.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Let’s Scare Julie – More horror? Still? Yes, it never ends for me and the great people at Shout Factory hooked me up with this brand new feature and, although it features no huge stars or a writer and director of note, it delves into a side of the horror fandom that is large and vocal but still only gets cosplay respect, the female fan of this genre. The story follows a group of teen girls who set out to scare their reclusive new neighbour, but the prank turns to terror when some of them don’t come back, sparking them to think that they have unwittingly stumbled across a serial killer. Although this movie is rough around the edges, I still thought it had effective scares and really pulled at the strings of grounded chills that feel like it could happen to anybody. Not a lot of push is behind this one, so it really relies on word of mouth to get the recommendations so consider this exactly that.

Television:

The Crown: Season 4 (Netflix) – One season after the next evolution of this story of the Royal Family arrived with Oscar-winner Olivia Colman taking the reins of the role of Queen Elizabeth II from Claire Foy, this new season gets into scandals and adversities that I think are still fresh in people’s minds This new season forges ahead with my one time crush Gillian Anderson joining the cast as the formidable Iron Lady herself, Margaret Thatcher for the Queen to butt heads with as well as the introduction of Princess Diana and the politics involved with that as well as the rebellion she made to the conventional rules of the Royal Family put in place for generations. I know I said it last season but this may be the top season of this Peter Morgan created show but, let’s face it, this whole series is incredible and so freaking addictive.

The Reagans (Crave) – There is nothing better and more informative than an HBO made documentary and it gets even better when they stretch it out to be a series, which is the case with this four-part show that chronicles the lives of the Republican golden boy President Ronald Reagan and his first lady Nancy Reagan. The series is a reexamining one of the most powerful and polarizing political couples of our time by award-winning documentarian and journalist Matt Tyrnauer who combines archival footage, exhaustive research and first-person accounts from the couple’s inner circle to craft a revealing portrait of their unlikely rise from Hollywood to the presidency as well as Nancy Reagan’s powerful position at the helm of their unprecedented partnership. This is a series that may distract from the buffoonery that is currently going on in the White House and remind you of a time when this party acted with even a little bit of class. Imagine that.

LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special (Disney+) – No, this isn’t a LEGO remake of that horrible holiday special that had Luke ice skating, dancing and singing, Chewbacca going back to his family for the holidays and even Bea Arthur for some confusing reason. No, there’s an obvious reason that George Lucas wants all copies of that abomination destroyed. This, instead, is a fun little short film that has Rey and the gang readying for Light Day, their version of Christmas, which sends her on a quest to find a Jedi artifact that will give the true meaning of the day. It also has the power to travel her through time, meaning we drop into every iteration of Star Wars for a bunch of chaotic but fun character cameos. This was an enjoyable and funny movie for all of those deeply immersed in everything Star Wars and, yes, the kids will love it too.

Marvel 616 (Disney+) – Even since the launch of Disney+, Marvel fans have been chomping at the bit for any new Marvel-related content and with the recent announcement of a mid-January premiere of Wandavision, its new documentary series might be just what we need to stave off that nagging craving until then. This brand new show, led by comedic star and Marvel writer Paul Scheer along with other Marvel top creators G. Willow Willow and Sana Amanat, is an anthology documentary series that explores the historical, cultural and societal impacts of the Marvel Comics Universe and its intersection with the world. The show will delve into the creation of heroes of colour like Ms. Marvel and Miles Morales’ Spider-man and much more, so I’m really excited to see this show educate those who don’t know the origin of these fantastic characters.

His Dark Materials: Season 2 (Crave) – 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 realism that is dying to be explored in this new season. I am excited about it.

New Releases:

Hillbilly Elegy – Based on the best selling book from J.D. Vance, who is the subject of the book as well, even the trailers set this film up to be total Oscar bait with Glenn Close and Amy Adams under some heavy makeup to play their roles and stalwart filmmaker Ron Howard at the helm to pull the strings. The film is a modern exploration of the American Dream through three generations of an Appalachian family as told by its youngest member, a Yale Law student forced to return to his hometown when his mother overdoses, forcing him to confront his upbringing, his pursuit of his career and the familiar relationships he still has. This movie is frustrating in that every advance it makes to being stellar it is immediately cut down by a totally glossy and contrived scene. At the end of the day, when Howard, Brian Grazer and the rest of Imagine Entertainment are gunning for Oscar, it all comes up way too short in the end.

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

Ammonite – Well, all you need to do is say the name Kate Winslet and it’ll get my butt in a seat but you add Saorise Ronan to the mix and I was just ravenous to get this film into my eyeballs. Francis Lee, the acclaimed writer and director of a total festival favorite God’s Own Country from a few years back, returns with this period drama about an acclaimed but overlooked fossil hunter named Mary Anning and a young woman named Charlotte Murchison who was sent to recover from her “slight bit of melancholia” by the sea who develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever in a time that definitely wasn’t ready for their love. This immediately brings to mind last year’s stellar French film A Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, one of my favorite films of last year and , while it doesn’t quite hit that level of amazing, it is a beautifully shot film, done by Jackie and Captain Fantastic cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine, and Winslet and Ronan are incredible in their very subdued performances.

The Climb – There’s no better way to enter this movie than to have no idea at all about the premise but it just might be the funniest movie of the year in my mind. Written by, directed by and starring Michael Angelo Covino, the simplest way I can safely describe this movie is that it is a look at the friendship between two guys that spans over many years. Over that time span the ups and downs between an emotional screwed up and self-destructive douchebag and the most continually accepting human beings on film. This movie caught me completely off guard and sucked me in from the get-go and it’s technical prowess immediately becomes another one of its strengths as the use of one take elaborate doll shots to make it a goldmine for cinematography fans. A film that has no huge stars or clout, this one will most likely slip under the radar but do not let it, you will thank me later.

Chick Fight – On paper, this is a movie I really should have enjoyed. The cast is solid, featuring Malin Ackerman in the lead with Alec Baldwin, Fortune Feimster and Bella Thorne in a story of female empowerment that feels like it is really needed in this day and age. Ackerman plays Anna Wyncomb, a down on her luck woman who is introduced to an underground, all-female fight club to turn the mess of her life around and discovers she is much more personally connected to the history of the club than she could ever imagine. This movie fails almost right out of the gate with easy jokes, contrived and dated plotting and, immediately, I head to the notes to see that this movie was made by two dudes who obviously didn’t get a woman to give them notes because, although it doesn’t go sexually exploitative, it is really apparent that they just had the cliff notes on what it means to be a woman. They also saw way too many Michael Bay films because it comes through in the direction.

The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel – Remember The Corporation, a Canadian made documentary from 2003 that looked at the concept of the corporation throughout recent history up to its present-day dominance and even put it through the psychopath test? Well, director Jennifer Abbott and new co-director Joel Bakan are back for this very and, yes, unfortunately, necessary follow up that exposes how companies are desperately rebranding as socially responsible and how that threatens democratic freedoms. It is infuriating to watch in detail how these tactics had blurred political lines between massive conglomerates and dirty politicians and have effectively choked the life out of democracy to the point that it is almost completely unrecognizable. It’s also really interesting to see how close this has all gotten in the timeline as the filmmakers have been able to include the happenings of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies’ reactions and ad campaigns around it, exploiting the public needs and even the exploitation of the Black Lives Matter movement. This is a great movie but, be warned, it will piss you off.

Dating Amber – A totally quirkly little teen comedy, this Irish film brings the awkward in yet another great LGBTQ+ story and, with limited ways to advertise in this current pandemic climate, caught me totally offguard again. The film follows a closeted gay teen and his lesbian counterpart who pretend to be a couple to avoid suspicion and skirt through the next years of high school until they can reveal their true sexualities unencumbered by the bullying of other students and the condemnation of their lives. The film stars the very likeable duo of Fionn O’Shea from the Netflix series The Letter For The King and Lola Petticrew who is totally new to me but their chemistry in this is unmistakable. This is a great movie, well worth checking out.

The Life Ahead – Screen legend and Academy Award winner Sophia Loren returns to film over a decade after her last big-screen role with this new heartfelt drama playing an aging Holocaust survivor who forges a bond with a young immigrant from Senegal who recently robbed her. The film comes from Swiss filmmaker Edoardo Ponti in his third feature film in twenty years of directing but it reteams him with Loren, his mother who he made his debut film Between Strangers with, a movie with a deeply veteran cast besides her. This time the biggest star on screen is Sophia and she shines like the incredible beacon she is, turning in a fantastic performance alongside young Ibrahima Gueye, who will be a star on the rise if he continues down this path.

Blu-Ray:

Mulan – With every new Disney animated classic adaptation, I feel a little more trepidation and not because the movies are bad but because they seem to lack the heart and soul of the original films. The pandemic has robbed us of getting the chance to see this new version of Mulan on the big screen and it really is a robbery because this is an incredible film to behold and it’s a total gamechanger for these movies. Directed by Whale Rider filmmaker Niki Caro and shot by the eye behind Baz Luhrman’s Australian, cinematographer Mandy Walker, this movie is vibrant and leaps off the screen at you, a breathtaking experience at all times. The casting is impeccable, featuring an amazing cast including Tzi Ma, Rosalind Chao, Pei Pei Cheung, Jason Scott Lee and Jet Li, gathered around an incredible lead in Yifei Liu who shoulders the load of this lead character amazingly, this may be one of the best films of the year. I adored it thoroughly.

Bill & Ted Face The Music – Being a pretty much lifelong fan of the two Bill and Ted movies we’ve received so far I am more than overjoyed that we finally get a full trilogy of the continued time travel stories Bill S. Preston and Ted “Theodore” Logan, Esquire, though it is with a twinge of sadness that George Carlin is no longer here to play their guide, Rufus. Now, over thirty years after the original movie, the two would-be rockers from San Dimas, California find themselves as middle-aged dads still trying to crank out a hit song and fulfill their destiny, once told they’d save the universe. This movie seems like a pass off for the daughters played by Ready Or Not’s Samara Weaving and Atypical star Brigette Lundy-Paine to take over the franchise and I’m totally on board for that because they’re both really great in this and their new guide Kristen Schaal is fantastic as always. No matter how this movie turned out I was going to love it unconditionally, like my own child, and to see that it is truly “excellent” makes me feel the warmth of a nostalgic hug.

Spontaneous – Coming of age is hard as I remember it. Budding sexuality, hormones, high school cliques, exploding bodies… wait, exploding bodies? Yes, this is the direction that this teen horror from com goes in The Babysitter writer Brian Duffield’s directorial debut and although the story seems insane he makes it work for the entire duration. Starring the “it” girl of right now, 13 Reasons Why’s Katherine Langford alongside Charlie Plummer, they play seniors Mara and Dylan two newly found lovebirds who struggle to survive in a world where each moment may be their last as students in their school begin exploding like balloons full of blood. The dynamic of the film is so interesting as the explosions at first come off as comical but when you start putting faces behind the victims the seriousness arises along with the stakes to keep everyone alive. I was honestly surprised by how much I liked this film and the script and lead stars are definitely what keep it afloat.

A Rainy Day In New York – Woody Allen, in an era where his schtick is faltering more and more every time out due to his very in the open antics, falls flat on his face in this new offering and, even worse, he takes down the incredibly likeable and, until this point do no wrong star Timothee Chalamet. Co-starring the also incredibly likeable Elle Fanning, this story follows a young couple who arrive in New York for a weekend where they are met with bad weather and a series of misadventures, kind of a standard fare for Allen but it all starts to feel so wildly out of touch almost immediately and that has to start with the disconnect he has for modern society. Hearing his words through young Timothee feels unnatural, almost like his character had been mothballed with other ideals and then brought back to life like a cro magnon man. I feel like we’re coming to the end of an era with Woody Allen films and after this one, it really couldn’t come fast enough.

Guest House – Pauly Shore is back everybody so we can now break out everything nineties and rejoice! As a guy that was definitely the target market for the zany comedian’s antics in his heyday, I would be totally lying if I said that this one didn’t excite me as soon as I saw the cast list but it totally did. The story follows a newly engaged couple who find the home of their dreams but it quickly becomes a nightmare when the previous owner’s friend, played by Shore, continues squatting in their guest house leading to a turf war that ultimately ruins their house, their marriage and their lives. Sure Billy Zane and Jackass alumni Steve-O appear in this as well but, who cares? It’s all about Pauly getting his time in the spotlight again. For non-fans, is it any good? Hell no, did you expect it to be?

Book Of Monsters – Anytime a horror film reaches back into the eighties styling I jump immediately on board because I really love the aesthetic. The hair, the atmosphere and, most of all, the pure bliss of a synthesiser score.This new film, that definitely slipped way under my radar, has everything going for it and follows Sophie, a teen celebrating her 18th birthday which quickly becomes a bloodbath when monsters descend upon her house and start to devour the party guests. This forces Sophie and her friends to rally together to send their party crashers back to hell and what a fantastically fun ride this movie is, filled with gore, practical creature effects and some kick-ass girl power to drive it all along. For genre fans, you really might discover that this is your sleeper hit of the year because damn did I love this movie.

Tennessee Johnson – For the installment of Warner Archive releases of the week, as it seems to be the case the last few, we’re going pre-World War II for this drama, a biography of Andrew Johnson, who followed Abraham Lincoln into office and became the first President of the United States ever to be impeached. The classic Hollywood that lies within this movie is Lionel Barrymore, one of the most famous actors of the era who played American Representative Thaddeus Stevens in what some critics thought was a distorted and derogatory way. It’s interesting to note that this very American history driven film was directed by German filmmaker William Dieterle which is a fascinating lens to put it through.

Girlfriends – The excitement of a brand new Criterion Collection entry is here and, something that happens now and then, I haven’t heard of this movie before but that is usually. a good thing. Released in 1978 his comedy-drama comes from writer and director Claudia Weill in her first of the only two feature films in her career, following a New York City photographer who feels an overwhelming sense of loneliness when her best friend gets married and moves out. Reading into this movie, I nerd out about it because my favourite filmmaker of all-time Stanley Kubrick raved about the film and called it the best of 1978. That is high praise in my mind.

The Last Starfighter – This is a very cool release to bring this week as it is, without a doubt, one of my favorite childhood movies of all time. It is really the damn coolest, about video game expert Alex Rogan who finds himself transported to another planet after beating the arcade game The Last Starfighter finding out it was a test and he was recruited to join the team of best starfighters to defend their world from the attack. It’s every kid’s dream scenario put on film and we ate it up and, honestly, still really go as it may have paled in the way old sci-fi productions do, but the feeling is all there as is the nostalgia, restored brilliantly by Arrow Video. I’m so pumped to have this new edition in my library, a very special one for me.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Claudine – A huge film for black cinema in the mid-seventies that wasn’t categorized as blaxploitation or anything campy, this movie featured the high profile star of Diahann Carroll, who just passed away last year, and James Earl Jones and was a relatable romantic drama with its sights set on the working class of America. The plot follows the titular character Claudine, a single mother who tries to provide for her six children in Harlem while on welfare who finds herself in a whirlwind romance with Roop, a cheerful garbage man she meets while working on the side as a maid. The chemistry between Carroll and Jones is so huge and drives this classic film as soon as they share the screen and it’s really incredible how charismatic young James looks, just a few years away from voicing one of the most iconic villains of all time.It should also be noted that Carroll was nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars that year, ultimately losing to Ellen Burstyn for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.

Superman: Man Of Tomorrow – I’m bringing more DC Animated again this week as they are just too good not to geek out on. This new release follows the big blue boy scout himself but in a younger time as Daily Planet intern Clark Kent takes more than his newspaper’s workload when Lobo and Parasite set their sights on Metropolis to lay their path of destruction. The film is missing that greatness that Tim Daly brings to Superman but being the younger version, I obviously get it, and Darren Criss does a solid job in his at-bat with the role. What I really enjoyed was Ryan Murphy productions’ buddy Zachary Quinto as Lex Luthor which brings the Heroes vibes all over again. This is a fun movie for sure.

Warning From Space – A Japanese space invader movie made by the minds at Toho, the creators of Godzilla just two years earlier, this is what we’re finishing this week off with and it honestly is really crazy how influential this movie was. Just to give you the story, it’s about a group of starfish-like aliens from the planet Pyra who come to Earth to warn mankind about a runaway planetoid known as Planet R that is on a collision course with Earth because they fear that when Earth is destroyed that their planet will be destroyed as well. Their form, unfortunately, causes people to panic, so they chose a female member of their race to take human form to spread their message and then decide to contact a prominent scientist who has invented a new source of energy that can also be made into the most destructive bomb the world has known to destroy the planetoid. The scientist is subsequently kidnapped by enemy agents who want to use the bomb for their own purposes and it becomes a race against time to find the scientist so he can complete his formula and save mankind. Whew, a lot going on there but it influenced many other Japanese science fiction films, such as Gorath in 1962, which, along with other 1950s science fiction films, influenced director Stanley Kubrick especially when he would later direct 2001: A Space Odyssey. The cinema owed to this movie is insane.

Television:

Moonbase 8 (Crave) – Space seems to be the new hotness in series form with Space Force, Away and the Challenger docuseries just released in the last few weeks and The Expanse, although more sci-fi that straight forward space exploration is still widely streamed. Now Fred Armisen, Tim Heidecker and John C. Reilly have joined forces with Portlandia co-creator Jonathan Krissel to create this brand new show they all-star in, minus Krissel, and it is already brilliant after just one episode. The show follows them as three astronauts stationed at NASA’s Moon Base Simulator in a remote part of the Arizona desert who are working vigorously to qualify for their first lunar mission, encountering many obstacles including loneliness, self-doubt and their own gross incompetence. Despite it all, they remain determined to prove they have the right stuff to reach the moon. The combination of each of their comedic geniuses makes this a must-see series and maybe the sleeper hit as this year draws to a close.

The Liberator (Netflix) – Netflix is transporting us back to World War II with this brand new original series that is led by Merlin’s Bradley James and Wind River’s Martin Sensmeier. The show follows a unit from Oklahoma known as the Thunderbirds, composed of Native Americans, Mexican Americans and Dust Bowl cowboys, most of whom couldn’t drink together in the same bars back home, who land in Sicily and endured a brutal 500-day trek through Nazi-occupied Europe. Honestly, if this is anything like the Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg produced HBO series Band Of Brothers or The Pacific, I am on board until they literally can’t pump any new stories out about this squad. I know that World War II stories are a dime a dozen but when you find a good one you latch on to it as hard as you can.

Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun (Netflix) – Holy buckets of crazy for you to ingest this week on Netflix as this madness lands, a transplant from Australia brought to you by Ed Helms and Comedy Bang Bang’s Scott Aukerman. A new sketch series that can be likened to the big hit of I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, this show takes viewers along for an absurdist adventure through the everyday lives of three roommates and best friends as they travel the mad landscapes of their own madcap nature. It was immediate love for me with the stars Mark Samual Bonanno, Broden Kelly and Zachary Ruane right at the beginning of episode one that starts with the musical number “Everything’s A Drum” before they start holding auditions for their new roommate, replacing their dishwasher who has just become sentient and with the voice of Kristen Schaal. If any of that seems intriguing or must-see than this show was certainly meant for you, just as it’s meant for me.

Trial 4 (Netflix) – Itching for a new crime-based docuseries and have blown through everything on the streaming service including the latest volume of Unsolved Mysteries for shits and giggles? Well, this new show is coming through and it may leave you with that simmering rage you get when you witness an absolute injustice. The show follows Sean K. Ellis, a man charged as a teen in the 1993 killing of a Boston cop who fights to prove his innocence while exposing police corruption and systemic racism, the perfect story to tell in a time where it’s getting increasingly harder for authorities to hide these occurrences. I will get the ball rolling here and say that episode one of this show is absolutely riveting from start to finish and I recommend everyone check it out.

Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds (AppleTV+) – There’s something so great about Werner Herzog’s brilliant narration that, honestly, I could watch anything he made into a documentary, including watching paint dry, a total cliche, I know, but it is so damn true. This new film from the informative and almost alien-like German New Wave master is about meteors and comets and their influence on ancient religions and other cultural and physical impacts they’ve had on Earth and it’s perfect that it was made by someone who always seems to be a strange observer. It should also be noted that this will mark the third collaboration between Werner Herzog and co-director Clive Oppenheimer after Into the Inferno and Encounters at the End of the World, which are both phenomenal must-see documentaries.

New Releases:

Let Him Go – Years after playing Ma and Pa Kent for Zack Snyder in his Superman film Man Of Steel, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane reteam for this noir feeling thriller that is a bit above the calibre of film that the trailer would lead you to believe it is. The film has them playing a retired sheriff and his wife who, following the loss of their son, leave their Montana ranch to rescue their young grandson from the clutches of a dangerous family living off the grid in the Dakotas. Both Lane and Costner give formidable performances but it is the small part that accomplished character actress Leslie Manville gives as the matriarch of the family in question that bolts you to the floor for her absolutely intense scenes. This is a taut and emotional slow bubbling thriller that keeps you engaged from start to finish.

Jungleland – Top lined by stars Charlie Hunnam and Jack O’Connell, I was immediately drawn to this film right away simply by their talent and the fact that this is the third feature film from director Max Winkler, a really compelling young filmmaker. This film follows two brothers who try to escape their circumstances of poverty by travelling across the country for a no holds barred boxing match that may net them a hundred grand. Hunnam plays the scheming and boastful older brother of O’Connell’s character nicknamed Lion, a bare-knuckle brawler with some emotional and development issues and both actors are absolutely astounding in their performances. Also notable is Lovecraft Country’s Jonathan Majors who plays a supporting role as the drug lord that sends them on their journey. This is an actor who will take the movie screens by storm, mark my words.

The Kid Detective – Usually a comedy favourite of mine, actor Adam Brody seriously brings it in a dramatic performance that hangs it’s hat on the detective noir style storytelling and does it so well in the feature debut of writer and director Evan Morgan, known for co-writing the sleeper comedy The Dirties. Brody plays Abe Applebaum, a once-celebrated kid detective, now 32 years old and continuing to solve the same trivial mysteries between hangovers and bouts of self-pity. His world may turn around when a naive client brings him his first ‘adult’ case, to find out who brutally murdered her boyfriend which may end up tying in with a kidnapping case that has dogged him since he was a kid. The movie is so impeccably shot and the noir nature of the film is brilliantly executed with Brody giving the performance of a lifetime. The final shot of this film is a brilliant mix of triumph and sorrow that will stick with me for weeks.

Major Arcana – Stories about addiction and overcoming addiction are always tough dramas to get through, especially if it is triggering to viewers that have gone through this or have watched a loved one go through it but the consistency is that if the story is created from a knowledgable place, the soul of it pokes through in phenomenal ways. That’s definitely true to say about this little indie feature that follows a long-troubled itinerant carpenter who returns home to small-town Vermont and attempts to build a log cabin by hand, hoping to free himself from a cycle of poverty and addiction. When he reconnects with Sierra, a woman with whom he shares a complicated past, he becomes locked in a desperate struggle between the person he was and the person he hopes to become and goes to the brink of self-destruction again to find his own truth. In such a harsh time where the news cycle seems to hold our emotions captive, it is a breath of fresh air to see a film that focuses so deeply on the growth of spirit and character which gives such a warm feeling in the end.

The Cuban – It feels like it’s been a long time since we were talking about Academy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr. in a leading sort of way but, aside from a higher profile role in HBO’s Watchmen last year, we haven’t seen a lot from this legend recently. He gets top billing in this new drama following a naive pre-med student named Mina who gets her first job in a nursing home and forms an unexpected friendship with Luis, an elderly Cuban musician, who reignites her love of music and changes her life forever. Gossett Jr. is so great in this movie, really the driving heartbeat behind it as co-star and Canadian actress Ana Golja feels almost green in comparison at times. The film also has veteran actress Shohreh Aghdashloo who is always a treat to see.

Saint Frances – Dramas made on the big studio level always have a level of unrealness to them as they try to skirt around issues, omit things and largely minimize indelible parts of being a woman just based on how uncomfortable it makes the general public. These are things that need to stop, freedom in telling the real truths can’t be taboo and writer and star Kelly O’Sullivan’s new film is definitely a great template of that, an indie film that is a darling in every sense, no matter how much it makes you squirm. She plays thirty-four-year-old aimless server Bridget who hasn’t yet achieved her goal of becoming a respected writer but when casual relations with a younger ‘nice guy’ leads to an unexpected confrontation with potential motherhood, she manifests a job nannying a pint-sized spirit guide disguised as an obstinate six-year-old. This movie succeeds on every level, giving some real situational laughs while still being grounded at all times. The commentary on abortion and the societal reactions, mental health and the societal reactions and emotional health are all explored in such a beautiful way and I felt myself digging more and more into my love for this film. One of the best this year.

Watson – Finishing off the week with a good old biopic documentary, this is a deeply fascinating film about one man’s incredible journey to try and save the earth and it’s oceans while lawmakers and corporations do everything they can to obstruct, undermine and destroy his work and discredit him in the process. A deeply fascinating film, it follows Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson who has spent his life sailing the globe to keep our oceans and their inhabitants safe, like a crime-fighting superhero of the high seas. Blending revealing contemporary interviews with Watson, archival clips of Sea Shepherd’s dramatic encounters, and spectacular underwater nature footage, filmmaker Lesley Chilcott paints a portrait of a man willing to put his own life and liberty at risk in a relentless quest to protect the oceans and the marine life within. For those looking for a documentary surrounding real change, this will be a golden recommendation.

Blu-Ray:

Antebellum – Even before the pandemic hit and movie release dates were scattered, I was really looking forward to this new thriller. The film stars Janelle Monae in her first leading role, another piece to a great period in the actress and singer has been having with her involvement in Hidden Figures as well as her great album, Dirty Computer, which was co-produced by Prince before his death. This film has Monae as successful author Veronica Henley who finds herself trapped in a horrifying reality of being deep in a Confederate owned and run plantation in the Civil War era that oddly forces her to confront the past, present and future. Without going too deep into reveals, the story is fascinating and engrossing until the first twist happens and you find yourself questioning how they can resolve it. Once the explanation is revealed I basically tossed this whole film out the window as a totally unsatisfying movie that was supposed to be a project of such promise for Monae. So disappointing.

Misbehaviour – A big cast and a crazy true story are at the center of this brand new film set in the seventies and I can’t harp on how great this group of performers is. Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jessie Buckley, Leslie Manville (again), Keeley Hawes, Greg Kinnear, Rhys Ifans and more feature in this film about a team of women who hatch a plan to disrupt the 1970 Miss World beauty competition in London and it is an insanely charming feelgood Brit flick that feels like it more in the same styling of crowd-pleasers like The Full Monty and this year’s true story charmer Military Wives. It’s really hard to discredit any of it, especially coming from filmmaker Phillipa Lowthorpe who follows up her phenomenal and imaginative Swallows And Amazons.

Blackbird – There’s something about a really great ensemble cast that gets me excited for a movie and, while I have been duped before, I’m still a total sucker for it. This one lands in that category as it features Susan Sarandon and Sam Neill as Lily and Paul who summon their loved ones to their beach house for one final gathering after Lily decides to end her long battle with ALS on her own terms. The couple plans a loving weekend complete with holiday traditions but the mood becomes strained when unresolved issues surface between Lily and her daughters Jennifer and Anna, played by Kate Winslett and Mia Wasikowska. Also starring usual comedic actor Rainn Wilson, veteran actress Lindsay Duncan and former The Killing star Bex Taylor-Klaus, the film feels like a sensitive drama with some real backbone to it as the characters never feel like cardboard cutouts and I’d have to credit that to the years of experience from the adept cast as well as the stalwart direction from the always accomplished Roger Michell.

The SpongeBob Musical: Live on Stage! – When I opened the package for this new release I laughed myself silly in a very Spongebob way as I was delighted that this even existed because I hadn’t heard a word about it. My curiosity was immediately abated as a close friend of mine said he loved this whole silly production and, after giving it a thorough watch with the kid, I adored it too. Classified as a live television event, we get a Broadway musical stylized and live-action version of the characters we love as SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy attempt to stop an erupting volcano from destroying Bikini Bottom while Plankton sees this as his perfect time to strike for Krusty Krab domination. Just like the series, this musical is irreverent, self-aware and a certain kind of madness that the creator Stephen Hillenburg would be proud of. If you love this hilarious sea sponge-like I do, you will love this special.

The Mortal Storm – Time to get cultured with some old classics from Warner Archive, their one release this week, and it’s one of note as it stars the legendary James Stewart. Directed by two time Academy Award winner Frank Borzage, this is the story of university professor Victor Roth who leads a contented life with family and friends in the south German Alps of 1933. This changes quickly and dramatically once Adolf Hitler comes to power and most of the town embraces the new creed while a few friends such as his close confidant Martin Breitner do not. Victor himself is classified as “non-Aryan” and his two step-sons soon leave his house because of this, while his loyal daughter Freya breaks her engagement from Nazi-inclined Fritz and against increasing difficulties, an attachment between Freya and Martin starts to grow. This film was released in 1940 and was banned by Hitler from playing in Germany and subsequently got all of MGM’s films banned there until after the war.

Catherine The Great – Whenever Helen Mirren and HBO team up for a miniseries it always turns out beautifully. She did the one for Elizabeth I and it won her a Golden Globe, an Emmy and a SAG award so you know this is a match-up made in television heaven. For this new show, the writer behind that series, Nigel Williams, and Mirren’s Prime Suspect director Philip Martin have reunited to tell this new historical biographical series about Russian Czarina Catherine the Great who, amidst scandal, intrigue and immense conflict, develops a unique and devoted relationship with Grigory Potemkin, played by Jason Clarke, as they overcome their adversaries and serve as the architects of modern-day Russia. I love shows like this that delve deep into the psyche of people we just read about in books and historical papers, brought to life by an actress who has an unbelievable presence. This is a great watch.

Josie And The Pussycats: Complete Series – With each new box set that is sent to me, my old school Saturday morning cartoon collection grows and my Hanna Barbera centric piece of that expands to include the definitive series. I feel like everyone knows about this one, either seeing the show on television, watching the live-action movie from 2000 or reading them as side stories in Archie comics but I’ll give you the rundown for thoroughness. Made in the 1970s, Josie & The Pussycats follows the adventures of a rock & roll band that consists of Josie, their guitar-playing leader, Valerie, the brilliant tambourine-player, Melody, the naive and optimistic drummer, Alan, Josie’s love-interest, Alexander, the group’s cowardly manager, Alexandra, Alexander’s pesky sister who constantly tries to upstage Josie and be Alan’s main squeeze and of Sebastian, Alexandra’s feisty cat. Of course, adventures ensue across three seasons. You know I have to paraphrase Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie to finish off my review by saying the shot the movie once, in my hometown of Coquitlam and a lot of people were in it from miles around. Okay, I’m done now.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

The Gunfighter – Gotta love a newly discovered piece of cinema history, which is exactly what the Criterion Collection is bringing with this newly restored 1950s western starring the legendary leading man, Gregory Peck. He plays gunfighter Jimmy Ringo who returns to his old home town to visit his estranged wife and see the young son he has never met. Believing his past life as a gunslinger is over and is looking to settle down, there is little he can do to shed his reputation as the fastest gun around and he can’t escape those looking to make a name for themselves by challenging him to a gunfight. The script for this film ended up getting an Academy Award nomination, losing to Elia Kazan’s Panic In The Streets, this movie still packs a punch seventy years later and the blu-ray transfer is absolutely gorgeous and the supplementals are totally fascinating, including breakdowns of the film from multiple historians. Well worth checking out.

The Hit – Criterion keeps picking these awesome sleeper gems that I feel like the world has largely forgotten and the same applies to this absolute classic criminal noir that really got filmmaker Stephen Frear’s career going. Starring the accomplished star power of John Hurt and the young faces of Tim Roth and Terrence Stamp, this film follows ex-gangster Willie Parker, played by Stamp, who has betrayed his former “colleagues” and now lives in Spain where he thinks he can hide from their vengeance. Unfortunately for him, one day, ten years later, two hitmen, Braddock and Myron, played by Hurt and Roth, show up and kidnap Willie, ordered to escort him back to Paris where he should stand trial. It is a long way to Paris and many things can happen in between. This movie has aged beautifully and is a pure piece of cinema that excels in every way, from it’s meticulous direction to the brilliant script, seamless cinematography and stellar performances. This is one that demands to be seen and elevated on the best of all-time lists.

Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons – I absolutely love all of the DC animated films, always featuring some deep pulls from the comic world that delight fans like me and this one is definitely no different as it focuses on one of the most badass pieces of the comic universe, the badass mercenary Deathstroke, also known as Slade Wilson. Yes, I’m totally aware of the Deadpool comparisons but, trust me, they’re very different characters. The story follows Wilson who must face the consequences of a life or death deal he made to spare the lives of his family ten years earlier when the murderous Jackal and the terrorists of H.IV.E. come to destroy everything he loves once again. The movie features former The Shield and The Commish star Michael Chiklis as Deathstroke, his second comic book role if you’re keeping score, and it all works so brilliantly well. Another great movie for Warner Bros. and DC Comics in their continued awesomeness.

Random Acts Of Violence – Canadian star Jay Baruchel returns to his seat behind the camera for his second film after the sequel to the hockey comedy Goon, Goon: The Last Of The Enforcers but this unrelenting and visceral horror film has been in gestation for almost a decade before finally being made. Based on a graphic novel by acclaimed creators Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, the story follows Todd, a comic writer struggling to finish his magnum opus who goes on a book tour and is subsequently followed by a sadistic murderer who is reenacting all of the kills from his book. This movie is balls to the wall and unrelenting in its brutality in an ethereal way that makes you question the reality of these characters. This movie is not for everyone and gives a grindhouse-style that would make the originators of the genre very proud. I loved every moment of this madness but it plays totally into my weirdo proclivities.

The Deeper You Dig – It’s really awesome when Arrow Video gives a focused special edition release to a brand new movie because it usually means that this is one that should be noted for genre movie fans and when the set is as extensive as this one, being two discs and including the original short film that inspired it, movie audiences should take notice. The film follows Ivy and Echo who are not your typical mother-daughter team. Ivy, once an intuitive psychic, makes an easy buck as a bogus tarot card reader and 14-year-old Echo likes old-timey music, hunting, and black lipstick. When reclusive Kurt moves down the road to restore an abandoned farmhouse, an accident leads to Echo’s murder, and suddenly three lives collide in mysterious and wicked ways. Kurt assumes he can hide his secret under the ground but Echo’s beyond the grave spirit burrows into his head until he can feel her in his bones and as she haunts his every move, trying to reach her mother from beyond, Ivy must dig deep to see the signs and prove that love won’t stay buried. Not featuring any largely known actors or a filmmaker with a huge body of work, this movie blew me away entirely. This is a highly recommended film that may put you ahead of the curve in indie cinema.

New Releases:

Come Play – On the outside of this movie it may look like another creepy kid horror film but this one only features a kid as the main character but is more about a malevolent creature looking to steal said kid. The story follows Oliver, a lonely young boy who feels different from everyone else who’s only way to speak is through his smartphone. Desperate for a friend, he seeks solace and refuge in his ever-present cell phone and tablet but when a mysterious creature uses Oliver’s devices against him to break into our world, Oliver’s parents must fight to save their son from the monster beyond the screen. The story seems a bit hokey, based on a short film for the director Jacob Chase, but had the potential to be a really great thriller and makes pretty effective use of its material early on but a terrible script and, therefore, really bad acting constantly serve to take you completely out of the movie time and time again. I love both Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr. but can’t muster up a good thing to say about either of them in this, they’re just terrible.

Spell – With the heavyweight of the horror classic The Serpent And The Rainbow behind it in a big bad way, I’m always excited to check out voodoo and hoodoo centric genre films and this one definitely piqued my interest as it not only has all of the boxes checked on these tropes but it also has character actress Loretta Deine doing some villain work. The story follows a man who crash lands in rural Appalachia with his family on the way to his father’s funeral and awakens in the attic of a traditional Hoodoo practitioner named Ms. Eloise who claims she can nurse him back to health with the Boogity, a Hoodoo figure she has made from his blood and skin. He desperately tries to break free from her dark magic and save his family from a sinister ritual before the rise of the blood moon in a film that has its really creepy moments but feels a bit less than effective. The thing that bothered me most about this lower grade but bloody thriller-horror was the score which felt like a placeholder rather than anything composed with what was going on in the movie.

Ravers – Yes, it’s all horror this week across the board in theaters and on-demand and what else would you expect this week? We cap it off in this section with this club based film which definitely feels tame when compared to the LSD laced madness that was Gaspar Noe’s Climax, which was one of my favorite films that year. This film is set at an illegal rave that gets turned into a living nightmare when a contaminated energy drink is ingested, slowly turning everyone into monsters leading a germaphobe journalist to overcome her deepest fears to get her friends out alive. This movie is low-budget and conceptually weird but it is totally wild and keeps you engaged the whole time. It’s also cool to see Canadian and former Species star Natasha Henstridge show up in this. I’ve had a crush on her since the nineties.

Blu-Ray:

Amulet – The horror is definitely relentless this week as Atonement star Romola Garai makes her directorial debut with this new creeper of a movie that she wrote as well. The story follows an ex-soldier, living homeless in London, who is offered a place to stay at a decaying house inhabited by a young woman and her dying mother. As he starts to fall for her, he cannot ignore his suspicion that something sinister is going on and that his life and his soul is increasingly at risk. Garai nails this mystery horror with great atmosphere and a few really choice moments of pure terror but the theme again is a thriller that rolls everything out very well but fails to fully capitalize on the groundwork it has laid. The highlight of this movie is Harry Potter franchise alumni Imelda Staunton who brings an incredible amount of gravitas and veteran attitude to the production.

Attack Of The Unknown – It’s probably best to start with the synopsis of this new sci-fi action so here it goes. The story follows a SWAT team transporting a high profile inmate who finds themselves trapped inside a county detention center as the world burns around them. Having no communication with the outside world, no radios, no television, and no working vehicles, they must put aside their differences and band together to escape the mysterious alien forces that are tracking them, bent on world destruction one human victim at a time. Sounds cool, right? Now I will give you that bad news that it stars former 21 Jump Street star Richard Grieco and Sharknado’s cast-off Tara Reid and, yes, the whole thing pales dramatically because the whole production is on caliber with their talent, almost non-existent. Such a disappointment because the eighties and nineties action fan in me absolutely loved that premise.

Fatima – This is a big movie in my mind as it is an anomaly of sorts, a faith-based film depicting Bible events that are actually, wait for it, good. Not just that but I’d dare to venture that this movie is great. Director and former Game Of Thrones cinematographer Marco Pontecorvo brings us the story of three young shepherds in Fátima, Portugal, who report visions of the Virgin Mary, inspiring believers and angering officials of the Church and the government, who try to force them to recant their story. The film’s cast features Harvey Keitel, a giant of an actor that I have been missing for a while now and while I contend that this movie will not work with everyone, it takes some bold chances that largely work out for it. It’s either that or I’ve been dulled down by faith-based movies so much that any improvement looks almost… miraculous.

Spree – Stranger Things is an incredible phenomenon that has given us a plethora of new stars like Finn Wolfhard and Millie Bobby Brown but we have to admit that the show’s darling is the character of Steve Harrington, played by Joe Keery, someone who went from a season one bully to the best dude on the show. This new high octane thriller looks to capitalize on that as he stars in this film as Kurt Kunkle, a rideshare driver thirsty for an online following who has figured out a deadly plan to go viral by killing his clients. This movie is filled to the brim with dark humor by bold writer and director Eugene Kotlyarenko who, while this isn’t his first bat at the plate, will be very remembered after the end credits of this film hit. This is an absolutely wild ride that puts the fleeting fame of social media directly in the crosshairs of satire.

Tom And Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale – Do the kids still remember Tom and Jerry? My daughter only vaguely has a notion about them but it was only in the context of comparing them to The Simpsons cartoon within a cartoon, Itchy and Scratchy. Well, I remember these two well and their 2007 Christmas special has been revamped for the higher blu-ray platform to hopefully rope in a new generation. The story has Tom and his army of stray cats taking over Jerry’s magical kingdom of living toys leading Jerry to find the Toymaker and get help to win his kingdom back before sunrise when the window of opportunity closes all the while chased by his nemesis and his cronies. It’s hard to review this really because it is all pretty standard so if you’re into showing the kids Tom and Jerry just go for this one for the upcoming holidays.

The Opposite Sex – Heading back to 1956 for this classic Joan Collins movie that is a remake of the famous Joan Crawford film The Women but in musical form. The film follows Kay, a former nightclub singer, married ten years and mother of a young daughter, who is informed that her husband Steven, played by one of the greatest Canadians of all time, Leslie Nielsen is having an affair with chorus girl Crystal Allen, Collins role, so she goes to Reno for a divorce. After that, Steven marries Crystal, but Crystal ends up cheating and when Kay hears about this, she starts fighting to win her ex-husband back. Crawford was not a fan of this remake and when asked about it said “It’s ridiculous. Norma (her co-star) and I might not ever have been bosom buddies, but we towered compared to those pygmies in the remake.”. Apparently, this cattiness was prevalent because Collins and this film’s star didn’t get along either.

Waterloo Bridge – It’s double Warner Archive this week with this film that starred Vivian Leigh hot off of her lead role in a film regarded as one of the greatest of all time, Gone With The Wind. Directed by Gypsy and Wizard Of Oz filmmaker Mervyn LeRoy, this story is set on the eve of World War II, following a British officer recalling his time at Waterloo Bridge as a young man at the beginning of World War I and the young ballerina he met just before he left for the front, Myra who ends up staying with him past curfew and is thrown out of the corps de ballet and ends up having to fend for herself, surviving on the streets of London. She ends up falling even lower after she hears her true love has been killed in action, an untrue piece of information. This film was nominated for two Oscars for cinematography and best score but Rebecca won for the former, the remake now streaming on Netflix and Disney’s Pinocchio for the latter.

Bonanza: Season 11 Volumes 1 & 2 – To add to my burgeoning collection of classic western television series I am pretty happy to cover this family show that my dad introduced me to as a kid. A season that is over three quarters through the show’s entire fourteen-year run, this is the iconic story of the Cartwright family and their Nevada ranch featuring the bigger than life stars Lorne Greene and Michael Landon, these episodes focusing on Hoss and Candy being misidentified as bank robbers, romance, uneasy alliances and, believe it or not, social distancing makes an appearance in this season of the frontier family’s life. The classic television fans are going to be all over these two box sets.

The Flintstones: Complete Series – As a Saturday morning cartoon nerd, this new complete series box set is another piece of gold in my collection and can sit next to my complete series of The Jetsons as it awaits the arrival of the Josie And The Pussycats set in January. For those born under a prehistoric rock, this popular animated television cartoon featured two Stone Age families, the Flintstones and their neighbors, the Rubbles, much of the humor was based on its comic portrayals of modern conveniences, reinterpreted using Stone Age ‘technology.’ Most notably were their cars, complete with absence of floorboards to allow them to be ‘foot-powered.’ This set features all six seasons of the series as well as a few of the feature films as well. No, not the live action ones.

Head Of The Class: Season 2 – As a kid and preteen I was all about Saved By The Bell, not because Zach Morris and A.C. Slater were the coolest, which they really were, but because I loved Kelly Kapowski. This show had none of those teen idols but had WKRP In Cincinnati’s Howard Hesseman who in my mind will always be the epitome of cool, Johnny Fever. A series that aired from 1986-1990, this show skipped me entirely, as I was too young for it, but reliving it now has been a total trip. The show is about a laid back teacher who provides needed guidance about life for a special class of exceptional students and features early performances from Robin Givens, Richard Pryor’s daughter Rain, John Cameron Mitchell, Billy Connolly and many more. The themes have paled but it’s still interesting to take the show in as a time capsule of the late eighties.

Steve’s Home Release Geekout:

Black Lightning: Season 2 & 3 – Let’s just acknowledge right here how fantastic all of the DC Universe shows have been since the start of their sort of expanded universe, starting with Stephen Amell’s Arrow. Everything that has been put out has been a total knockout and that extends to this series that, I admit, as a comic book fan I was a bit hazy on the character. Cress Williams plays the titular hero whose civilian identity is Jefferson Pierce, a crusading school principal who gets back into action as the original African-American electrical superhero Black Lightning. He hung up the suit and his secret identity years ago, but with a daughter hell-bent on justice and a star student being recruited by a local gang, he’ll be pulled back into the fight as the wanted vigilante and DC legend. Locally shot in Vancouver, as are all of these shows, this is a very entertaining series with fantastic action sequences in every episode. Cruising through this show has been an absolute pleasure.

Mallrats – One of my favorite movies of all time and a film from one of the biggest directorial influences on my life is finally on a big, beautiful special edition as Kevin Smith’s follow-up to his debut film gets its glorious time in the blu-ray spotlight. For those who don’t know, this film gives us a viewing of a day in the life of two teenagers, T.S. and Brodie, as they wander around all day in a local mall while the girls who recently dumped them do the same. The two guys encounter characters like Jay and Silent Bob, 15-year old sex novel author Trish the Dish, 3-D visually challenged Willam (the guy just wants to see the sailboat!) and many others. T.S. and Brodie have decided that they will attempt to win back the hearts of their ex-girlfriends before scumbags like Brodie’s arch-nemesis Shannon Hamilton get to have sex with them in very uncomfortable places, while Jay and Silent Bob attempt to wreck one of their ex-girlfriend’s father’s game show in the meantime. This movie is a total darling and a large number of people, especially in my circle of friends, adore it as much as I do. This is a must-own film.

Television:

Once Upon A Snowman (Disney+) – Have your kids totally driven you nuts with not only the first Frozen movie but the sequel as well? Well, Disney+ has gifted you a twelve-minute reprieve with this Olaf centric little short film that follows the plucky and curious snowman on a new short adventure showing him taking his first steps as he comes to life and searches for his identity in the snowy mountains outside Arendelle, a nice little tack on to the original Frozen movie. Josh Gad reprises the role that shot him to superstardom and, honestly, besides the always loveable Kristen Bell and both her and Idina Menzel’s beautiful singing voices, Olaf is the best part of these movies. Yeah, I said it.

The Mandalorian: Season 2 (DIsney+) – It’s time to relive a historic moment by going back and rewatching the first-ever live-action Star Wars series all based around a character that we fans have always revered, Boba Fett, creating our new anti-hero turned real hero, The Mandalorian or “Mando” for short. Created by Jon Favreau, Disney+ will be releasing an episode a week of the new season featuring the adventures of our lone gunfighter and his adopted son, the child, also known as “Baby Yoda” set in the New Republic.With stars Pedro Pascal, Ming Na, Taika Waititi and Werner Herzog playing main characters in the first season, the ante has been upped with former Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul bad dude Giancarlo Esposito showing up as the villain at the end of last season and WWE superstar Sasha Banks playing another undisclosed character. I think it’s probably obvious that I’m going to say this but I can not wait for all of the episodes to land so I can binge it over and over again.

His House (Netflix) – It’s Halloween week so Netflix is giving it all by releasing this new indie horror flick that garnered fantastic reviews at the many festivals it played at. This British made film follows a refugee couple who make a harrowing escape from war-torn South Sudan but then struggle to adjust to their new life in an English town that has an evil lurking beneath the surface of the floorboards of their new not so happy home. Co-starring former Doctor Who, Matt Smith, this movie has all the slow burn of an instant haunted house classic, broody in a Japanese horror sense but still keeping the gothic nature of traditional ghostly stories with its roots grounded in South African folklore. I was highly entertained by this film throughout, a total sleeper horror hit that will definitely get word of mouth.

Ghosts (Crave) – Yes, it’s Halloween week but we can throw a little comedy in to have some fun too, right? This BBC television produced series takes the haunted house stereotype and tosses in the great comedy we’ve come to love from Yonderland’s Mathew Baynton in this story about Alison and Mike, a cash-strapped young couple struggling to buy their first home who think their prayers are answered when a distant relative bequeathed them a sprawling country estate. The catch is that the old house is haunted by the ghosts of its former inhabitants.Already aired in the United Kingdom and onto its second season, we now get to see for ourselves why this series has become such a notable hit and it really lands at the perfect time.

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

New Releases:

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan – A glorious bright spot in a year of pretty much constant doom and gloom, I have no idea how Sacha Baron Cohen did it but he has gifted us the follow up to his wildly successful first film and given us a renewal on saying things like “very nice” and “my wife” in his insane Kazakh accent. In this follow-up film to the 2006 comedy, this once again centers on the “real-life” adventures of the fictional Kazakh television journalist Borat as he attempts to restore the image of his country that had been so soiled by his first film by taking his daughter on a trip to the United States to find her a husband and hopefully his lost dignity. I have no idea what we can expect for this movie but I feel like the sky and the deepest mankini are really the limit. I’m looking forward to it no matter what.

The Empty Man – Based on the graphic novel from writer Cullen Bunn, this is an adaptation I was looking forward to without even knowing it as I love the book but didn’t know it had been greenlit to be made. Starring James Badge Dale from The Departed and Stephen Root from Newsradio, this is the story of an ex-cop on the trail of a missing girl who comes across a secretive group attempting to summon a terrifying supernatural entity. The book is incredibly stylish and absolutely chilling so I am very excited to see if the debuting director and screenwriter David Prior has done justice to the source material. Honestly, we need a really killer supernatural horror this Halloween, I think we all deserve it to take our minds off the crappiness that is 2020.

His Master’s Voice -If you’re looking for some weird Eastern European tinted conspiracy sci-fi then have I got a movie to tell you about as this new film landed in my inbox and I’m really still trying. to make heads or tails out of it, meaning I’m not even sure if I even liked it but it was… something. In an extreme nutshell, to keep all the twists and turns hidden, the story follows a young man who is searching for his father after he disappears while working on a highly classified project for the United States government that involves aliens. More questions lead to more questions as the final result stretches out farther than his own family and involves a world-ending danger. This movie is absolutely fascinating to look at, with some of the most surprising and crisp cinematography that reminded me a bit of Moorhead and Benson’s work on The Endless. I’m still on the fence whether it’s good or not but it’s worth watching.

Memories Of Murder – The second feature film by Academy Award winner Bong Joon-Ho finally makes it’s North American debut just a mere seventeen years after its release in South Korea, but no big deal, it’s not like I’ve been obsessed with his work since 2006’s The Host. Oh wait, I totally have been! This film, a very personal story, is set in 1986 in the province of Gyunggi, South Korea, following two brutal and stupid local detectives without any technique who are investigating the murder of a young and beautiful woman, the second found dead, raped and tied and gagged with her underwear. Using brutality and torturing the suspects, without any practical results, the investigation picks up steam when a detective from Seoul comes to the country to help and is convinced that a serial-killer is killing the women, proven when a third woman is found dead in the same “modus-operandi”. This movie is intense, so incredibly well plotted and lays the incredible groundwork of the inticracies of why we love Bong’s work. It also has Parasite star Kang-ho Song in a lead role, who is riveting as usual. This is a highly recommended one.

Blu-Ray:

Cut Throat City – Wu-Tang Clan legend the RZA returns behind the camera for this third directorial feature, this film being a heist action thriller taking place in New Orleans after one of the biggest natural disasters in recent memory, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The film is the story of four boyhood friends in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward who return after Hurricane Katrina to find their homes decimated. Out of options with no jobs and no help from FEMA, they reluctantly turn to a local gangster who offers them one shot at turning their situations around by pulling off a dangerous heist in the heart of the city. When the job goes bad, the friends find themselves on the run, hunted by two relentless detectives and a neighbourhood warlord who thinks they stole the heist money. The cast is pretty sizeable with Dope’s Shamiek Moore, Alita: Battle Angel’s Keean Johnson leading the film and T.I., Ethan Hawke, Terrence Howard and Wesley Snipes lending some supporting work but the result is just above middling with the conclusion of the movie not quite meeting the calibre of which it sets up. Still an entertaining watch though.

The Great – Elle Fanning, Nicholas Hoult and The Favourite writer Tony McNamara combine for this new series that is filled from top to bottom with great character work, beautiful set pieces and a brilliantly dark humor that will absolutely ticle you if you liked McNamara’s Yorgos Lanthimos film as much as I did. The show follows a royal woman living in rural Russia during the 18th century who is forced to choose between her own personal happiness and the future of Russia, when she marries an Emperor. I love that this series takes the stuffiness out of the usual period piece and allows each character to breathe with dialogue that feels quick and totally sardonic. With a second season on the horizon, this may be a dark horse here in Canada as it originally aired on Hulu.

The Vanished – Okay, I have a new mystery thriller here but the more I describe it, the worse it sounds honestly. So, the film stars Thomas Jane, who I like, Anne Heche, who I also like, and Jason Patric, another great one, but all three of them have been bogged down with garbage projects for more than a decade and Patric still hasn’t really atoned for Speed 2: Cruise Control. The film is the story of a husband and wife that will stop at nothing to find her missing daughter, who disappeared on a family camping trip and when the police don’t catch any leads, the duo take over, vigilante style. This whole movie feels tired and lame, like a retread of thrillers we’ve seen before time and time again and this film had nothing to it that sparked any excitement at all. It’s really unfortunate as it comes from Peter Facinelli who I really enjoy as an actor but I guess not so much as a writer and director.

No Escape – More horror hits the shelves this week, exactly what you would expect for the lead into Halloween and this one is definitely stylish and totally caught me off guard. Also called Follow Me, the story follows a social media personality who travels with his friends to Moscow to capture new content for his successful VLOG. Being strangers in a strange land doesn’t stop this group from always pushing the limits of their content and catering to a growing audience as they enter a cold world of mystery, excess, and danger but when the lines between real life and social media are blurred, the group must fight to escape and survive. This movie caught me off guard as I wasn’t familiar with writer and director Will Wernick’s debut Escape Room, no the big-budget Sony version but another one, and this movie got me right away. It is also coincidentally released the same week as star Denzel Whittaker’s other film Cut Throat City.

Quiz: Season 1 – This new series on one of the most popular American networks for new original programming comes from Britain and looks into one of the most popular game shows of the last thirty years, how it was created and how it was hacked by its contestants and, the best thing about it, it makes it all into the most insane piece of biting satire since the US made satire ironic. Starring Matthew Macfadyen, Aisling Bea and Michael Sheen in another incredibly chameleon-like performance, this is the story of the creation and rise of the show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? but beyond that, it focuses on Charles Ingram, a former British army major, who caused a major scandal after being caught cheating his way to winning £1 million. After one episode, I can say that this is definitely intriguing enough for me to continue.

NOS4A2: Season 2 – From the mind of writer Joe Hill, the son of horror master Stephen King, comes the creepy second season of this awesome series, bringing vampire lore to a whole new level. Zachary Quinto plays Charlie Manx, an immortal vampire who feeds off the souls of children who finds his ultimate nemesis in a woman with a special ability that could threaten his entire existence. I was already on board with the mere mention of Hill’s name, being that I’m a huge fan of his work including his popular comic Locke & Key, but even cooler is that this all takes place in the Stephen King universe, complete with small references to Maine towns and King-verse happenings such as Salem’s Lot, a movie that still gives people the shivers That floating kid outside the window? Still scary stuff. I’m psyched to see where this series will go in its third season as AMC keeps knocking it out of the park.

Hard Kill – It’s time once again for what movie is Bruce Willis going to phone in this week as yet another one of his direct to home video action flicks strikes the shelves this week, also starring former heartthrob Jesse Metcalfe, directed by filmmaker Matt Eskandari who has already put me through the stinkers of Trauma Center and Survive The Night this year, both starring Willis in a totally listless couple of performances. Heck, Trauma Center only features him at the beginning and the end. This film has Willis playing tech billionaire CEO Donovan Chalmers whose work is so valuable that he must hire mercenaries to protect it and eventually a terrorist group kidnaps his daughter just to get their hands on it. Another quick paycheque for Bruce results in another total dud that is borderline unwatchable and I couldn’t even enjoy former WWE diva Eva Marie in this because it was so terrible.

The Owners – It’s honestly crazy that I’m only learning about this new horror film especially because it stars former Game Of Thrones star Maisie Williams, who I absolutely adore, as well as former Doctor Who Sylvester McCoy in a film that just sounds so deliciously entertaining in a total genre story. The story follows a group of friends in the 1990s who think they found the perfect easy score, an empty house with a safe full of cash, but when the elderly couple that lives there comes home early, the tables are suddenly turned and a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues with the would-be thieves fighting to save themselves from a nightmare they could never have imagined. This film is vicious, violent and gory with some satisfying twists and turns that keep it entertaining and sort of make up for its weaker points, which it definitely has.

House Of Shadows – If you’re not into horror movies then this month must be a real drag for you as we have yet another genre film making its home release debut this week and it’s even another ghostly story to give you the spooky vibes in this later part of October. A British made film with no stars of note, the story follows a woman who visits a mysterious house she has inherited, hoping to learn more about the deaths of her mother and late sister. Haunted by ghosts, she must uncover the truth behind the curse of the house, or become the next victim because the house is definitely hungry for more souls. This movie definitely misses the feel of having a solid budget behind it and in a week that we have the blockbuster version of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting Of Hill House it was for sure noticed. Don’t let that take away any excitement for this because, much like the sleeper scarefest Hell House LLC, this one has it’s thrills and chills aplenty.

The Haunting – Coincidentally, I received this new entry into the Paramount Select collection as I had just been rewatching Mike Flanagan’s incredible Haunting Of Hill House Netflix series which is exactly what this 1999 Jan de Bont ghostly thriller is based on. Starring Liam Neeson, Lily Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen Wilson, the story follows a team of paranormal experts who look into strange occurrences in an ill-fated house, the Hill House. Through the course of the night, they all fight for their lives as the house begins to manifest everything it can to doom them for eternity. I saw this film when it originally landed in theatres and absolutely loved it so I was ecstatic to get this new blu-ray update of it.

Sunrise At Campobello – Getting some serious Warner Archives classics going on this week with this film from 1960 and it gels well with this upcoming election in the United States as it is about one of the most revered presidents in history and one that occupies a space on Mount Rushmore, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The story starts with Roosevelt’s bout with polio at age 39 in 1921, following how his family and especially wife Eleanor coped with his illness. from the moment he was stricken with it while vacationing at Campobello to his triumphant nominating speech for Al Smith’s presidency in 1924. The film focuses on the various influences on his life and his determination to recover, adapted from the award-winning Broadway play of the same name. The film would end up being nominated for four Oscars that year, ultimately losing to Spartacus, Butterfield 8 and The Alamo.

The Plot Against America – In a time of heightened and emboldened racism in the U.S. and, heck, around the world, we get this brand new “what if” historical drama from one of the great creators of television today, HBO. Starring Winona Ryder, Zoe Kazan, John Turturro and more, this series follows an alternate timeline America that lives in a world that saw Roosevelt defeated in the 1940 race for presidency by Charles Lindbergh, a man who has strengthened ties to Nazi Germany. A six-episode limited series, this show has great creators behind the camera with The West Wing’s Thomas Schlamme directing the lion’s share and The Wire’s David Simon and Edward Burns writing it. This could be the best miniseries of 2020 so I’d give it a look.

Steve’s Home Release Geekouts:

Young Sheldon: Season 3 – With the main series of The Big Bang Theory finally being over and done, we still have a piece of the Chuck Lorre created series with this spin-off about the childhood years of Sheldon Cooper, a show that Jim Parsons narrates naturally and has been doing great ratings for CBS for two straight seasons. This show could have been a real bust but a weird thing happened after I watched a few episodes and that was a simple notion that I was enjoying it and Annie Potts plays his “MeeMaw”! Sold! The second season proved that this show is beyond a flash in the pan sophomore hit as it takes that groundwork laid out by the original series and puts it in an almost Wonder Years like filter and now it can continue it’s Sheldon Cooper lore without any new encumbrance or retcon. That and it doesn’t have a laugh track, an instant killer with me.

Undergrads: Season 1 – Growing up in Canada, my formative and later teen years were punctuated by Teletoon’s late-night line up which included Clone High, Mission Hill and this delightful college set animated series that always made me laugh and smile no matter what my day looked like prior. The show was created by Pete Williams and follows the misadventures of a group of childhood friends who keep in touch even while they go to separate colleges, still maintaining a roommate relationship. The heart of the show is Nitz, the most regular of the guys, who learns that there are new experiences and friends to have and meet that will profoundly refashion his friendship with Gimpy, the reclusive computer geek, Rocko the dumb jock and Cal the effeminate ladies man. This show is a forever favourite and my lovely wife scoured the internet until she found me the sealed box set that I’m essentially bragging about here. Also, it should be noted that Williams has a Kickstarter set up to fund a possible movie to wrap up the cliffhanger of this series.

Television:

Long Way Up (AppleTV+) – Thirteen years after their last trip, Long Way Down, best friends Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman reunite for a long-overdue motorcycle trip and as a huge fan of the last two series, both of which I own in my collection, I have been tearing through this new season as fast as I can. This one is a little different as Ewan and Charley decide to travel on electric Harley-Davidsons to make their thirteen thousand mile trip from the tip of Argentina up through Central and South America and Mexico to their final destination in Los Angeles. This is an engrossing docuseries that is made that much more endearing by their beautiful friendship and a real tale of recovery for Charley who suffered two horrendous motorcycle accidents in the years since the last show. This is really feel-good television right here.

On The Rocks (AppleTV+) – Sofia Coppola has returned during this odd year of movie delays with possibly my favourite movie this year and she brought Bill Murray back with her and I couldn’t be happier with it. The film stars Rashida Jones as a young mother who reconnects with her larger-than-life playboy father, played by Murray, and they embark on a mission to see if her workaholic husband, played by Marlon Wayans, is having an affair. The chemistry between Jones and Murray, first displayed in the Netflix Christmas special A Very Murray Christmas, is so palpable that you just want them to star in absolutely everything together. The script is so snappy and fun, The film charms you in every moment and I would be perfectly content in watching this film every day for weeks on end, I loved it that much. This is a true gem of a movie and I highly recommend it.

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman (Netflix) – I’m not going to start this little piece here by slamming Stephen Colbert because I really love what he does but I think we can all easily say that his Late Show is very different than the man who created it all, David Letterman’s Late Show. That said, I really miss having Letterman on the desk as he was a huge piece in my television upbringing. This is why the new Netflix series he has is so phenomenal as it allows the legendary talk show host to explore interviews in a more engrossing fashion and do things he is incredibly good at, just talking to people on a secular human level. This latest batch has a handful of great episodes, kicking it off with Kim Kardashian-West in a surprisingly interesting chat and the great Robert Downey Jr., who is just so massively charming that it’s hard not to have a goofy smile on the whole time. This is truly great talk show stuff and I can’t wait for more.

Rebecca (Netflix) – The trio of director Ben Wheatley, cinematographer Laurie Rose and composer Clint Mansell have collaborated for a second time to make a complete masterpiece of a film again and after doing an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s High Rise, a project that the legendary Stanley Kubrick once said was impossible, they set their sights on this Alfred Hitchcock remake. Starring Lily James, Armie Hammer and Kristen Scott Thomas, this story follows a young newlywed woman who arrives at her husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast and finds herself battling the house’s domineering headmistress as well as the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy lives on in the house long after her death. This movie just pops out of the screen at you from the get-go, a beautifully crafted piece of cinema and with the story and plot twists to match. This might easily be one of my favourite films of the year.

The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix) – Smart kids is the name of the game of this new Netflix original that is based on the works of The Hustler ad Color Of Money novelist Walter Tevis, shepherded to the screen by Nicholas Roeg’s writer Allan Scott and overseen by The Lookout writer Scott Frank who already has the phenomenal western Godless under his belt. Starring a personal favourite, Anya Taylor- Joy, the series is about Beth Harmon, an orphan who is quiet, sullen, and by all appearances unremarkable. That is until she plays her first game of chess and her senses begin to grow sharper, her thinking clearer and, for the first time in her life, she feels herself fully in control. By the age of sixteen, she’s competing for the U.S. Open championship but as Beth hones her skills on the professional circuit, the stakes get higher, her isolation grows more frightening, and the thought of escape becomes all the more tempting. The show has style out the yin yang and with a whip-smart dialogue to match, this may easily become a high brow hit.

New Releases:

Rebecca – The trio of director Ben Wheatley, cinematographer Laurie Rose and composer Clint Mansell have collaborated for a second time to make a complete masterpiece of a film again and after doing an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s High Rise, a project that the legendary Stanley Kubrick once said was impossible, they set their sights on this Alfred Hitchcock remake. Starring Lily James, Armie Hammer and Kristen Scott Thomas, this story follows a young newlywed woman who arrives at her husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast and finds herself battling the house’s domineering headmistress as well as the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy lives on in the house long after her death. This movie just pops out of the screen at you from the get-go, a beautifully crafted piece of cinema and with the story and plot twists to match. This might easily be one of my favorite films of the year.

The Secrets We Keep – Nazis are evil no matter what and we should stomp them out whenever we come across them, no question, no if, and or buts. This is unwavering but what if you were unsure because your trauma may be clouding your judgement. This is the story at the heart of this new thriller starring former Lisbeth Salander Noomi Rapace, Chris Messina and Joel Kinnaman, set in a post-WWII America following a woman rebuilding her life in the suburbs with her husband who kidnaps her neighbor, seeking vengeance for the heinous war crimes she believes he committed against her. The film is well-paced and Rapace is absolutely riveting, wearing every emotion on her sleeve, so palpable with each drag of her character’s cigarette. Pieces of this movie feel a bit far fetched but it’s her conviction that keeps it all grounded.

Love And Monsters – These days, if a film is attached to the name of Brian Duffield I am pretty much on board immediately with his last works being the Babysitter movies and his directorial debut Spontaneous which was just fantastic. This new film has Five Fingers for Marseilles director Michael Matthews behind the camera for his second feature and star Dylan O’Brien in front of it to hopefully show off how great he was in Teen Wolf and not the failings that were the Maze Runner series and the action flick American Assassin. The story is set seven years after the Monsterpocalypse, following Joel, who, along with the rest of humanity, has been living underground ever since giant creatures took control of the land. After reconnecting over the radio with his high school girlfriend Aimee, who is now 80 miles away at a coastal colony, Joel begins to fall for her again and as he realizes that there’s nothing left for him underground, he decides against all logic to venture out to Aimee, despite all the dangerous monsters that stand in his way. The supporting cast also has Michael Rooker, which is an instant sell in my opinion.

Totally Under Control – Just a couple of weeks ago the public was informed that master documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney had been meticulously working on a comprehensive timeline of the coronavirus pandemic and now it is available and it is certainly in-depth. Gathering public health officials in a unique and safe fashion, the discussion of the U.S. government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is brought to light and how the current administration has failed the American people and has led to over two hundred thousand deaths that could have largely been avoided. The frustration is palpable and you can’t help but feel angry and a little bit hopeless watching it, much like you do anytime you see a comment thread about it on social media. The feeling that we are all pretty much screwed seems to be never shakeable.

I Am Greta – To follow up the new Alex Gibney film with this biopic documentary about a young girl making big changes in our fight with climate control was probably a mistake as I really wasn’t emotionally ready for this. The film starts in August of 2018, with Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old student in Sweden starting a school strike for the climate. Her question for adults is very blunt and simple at its heart if you don’t care about her future on earth, why should she care about her future in school? Within months, her strike evolves into a global movement and Greta, a quiet Swedish girl on the autism spectrum, is now a world-famous activist with the team behind Greta following the young activist from her very first day of school striking to her trek across the ocean to speak at the United Nations in New York City. This film gave me a deeply emotional reaction as I look at my own eight-year-old daughter and fear for her future, especially during these very uncertain times. I reiterate again, we all feel hopelessly screwed right now and, as Greta says, the leaders have failed us with no recourse of change.

Clouds – Disney is looking to inspire this week but they’re digging in that well of inspirational stories that really turns me off and we have a double shot of it this week. The film follows seventeen-year-old Zach Sobiech, a fun-loving high school senior with raw musical talent whose world gets turned upside down when he finds out his cancer has spread a few weeks into his senior year, just after asking out his long-time crush, leaving him with a life expectancy of just six months. With limited time, he follows his dream and makes an album, unaware that it will soon be a viral music phenomenon and, you guessed it, a total inspiration. The film is directed by actor turned filmmaker Justin Baldoni who was an audience favorite in the series Jane The Virgin and this film kind of soared above my expectations for it entirely, a story that is heartbreaking, well acted and leaves a lasting effect more than just a good tune.

2 Hearts – The words “inspirational true story” are usually the kiss of death for me in a movie as it usually contains the words “faith-based” somewhere in the descriptor and if you’ve followed this blog you know I absolutely hate those message over substance films. This one has me in the fact that it has Radha Mitchell in it and follows two couples across different decades and different places but with a hidden connection that brings them together through faith and there it is, I’ve already checked out. No matter what, these movies always devolve into a preach fest that yields nothing story-wise and feels like a constant reach for more people to attend church and that ship has sailed for me. That said, it’s weird that this comes from the director of the Chuck Norris action flick Missing in Action 2: The Beginning.

Making Monsters – It’s the Halloween month so let’s continue a bit down the path of horror again, shall we? We haven’t touched much on the subgenre of slasher movies so this film hits that quota quite nicely and, although its low budget, it really does encompass all of the things that started this type of film back with Friday The 13th and Halloween. The very basic story follows a social media prankster who finds his idyllic country weekend with his fiancée turned into the ultimate video prank where the stakes are life and death as the two have to outwit a sadistic killer. Surprisingly the suspense in this movie is really well executed which manages to overcome its small budget look to be one of the more inventive horror movies, especially being pigeonholed as a Canadian film which is still trying to claw out of its stereotypes for a large part of the movie audience.

Blu-Ray:

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie – The fan demanded movie follow up to Breaking Bad is now able to be purchased on a home entertainment format complete with digital sound surround and all the bells and whistles and if you still haven’t gotten around to it, the great thing is that the trailer and synopsis released by both Netflix and AMC are so fantastically ambiguous that there is really no hint to what this movie will be about except that Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman leads it. It should be noted that Badger, Mike, Skinny Pete and Old Joe are the only other characters listed in the cast list so a contained cast means a smaller scope film but that definitely leads to a bunch of uncredited cameos just to blow away the viewer with surprise. Breaking Bad fans, you can now finish up your original series collection and await the final season of Better Call Saul which might just be the superior series.

Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite! – They’re making more of these movies? Yes, two were in theaters to varying successes and now Warner Bros. wants to squeeze a little bit more out of the franchise with this direct to blu-ray sequel. Many out there, including the target demographic, have no clue that these movies exist but to give the quick rundown, cats and dogs are secret agents working in a constant battle with each other and in this film, Gwen the Cat and Roger the Dog have now partnered up due to the Great Truce which has stopped dog and cat hostility for a decade. The long-standing peace is threatened though when a supervillain parrot discovers a way to manipulate wireless frequencies that only dogs and cats can hear, and that parrot is extra villainous because he is voiced by George Lopez. This film is without a doubt just meant for the kids as it is pretty much unbearable to human adults. Most times talking animal movies are just the worst and this is one of those frequent times.

Seized – Yes, I will be the first to admit that direct to video action films are almost all terrible and I just had an example of that last week with The Invincible Dragon but this movie definitely is aiming for that crown too. Starring martial arts expert Scott Adkins and Mario Van Peebles, this follows a former special forces agent who has moved to a quiet beach town to raise his son and leave his past life behind but that’s all thrown out when he is awakened by a phone call from a modulated voice telling him that his son has been kidnapped. He must now wipe out three dangerous crime syndicates using his deadliest skills if he wants to see his son alive again in obvious bloody fashion. It’s such a bummer that Adkins constantly does these mediocre films because I think if he had a great writer and director he could be at the top of the action mountain in no time.

Bad Mothers – Bad Moms with Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell is now a television series? No, not quite. This is a brand new series that is not playing for the comedy at all, instead going the dramatic route via some deep melodrama. The story follows five very modern women juggling the life engrossing issues of love, family, careers, infidelity and eventually murder as they end up getting in their problems way over their heads. When their lives collide following a series of shocking events, the group of women have unexpected support among each other and a bond that might keep them out of jail, given that they can stay out of trouble. I had never heard of this show coming into this week and, although it doesn’t feature any notable stars, it really isn’t half bad if you’re in for a Desperate Housewives without the horrible cheesiness.

Sergeant York – Warner Archive has brought another old classic to the elevated format of blu-ray and this one happens to be my first Gary Cooper movie in my collection. Cooper takes the title role in this somewhat fictionalized account of the life and war service of Alvin York, who went from humble beginnings to being one of the most celebrated American servicemen to fight in World War I. The film follows York having turned to religion when he was struck by lightning during one of his drunken outings, taking this newfound belief very seriously, claiming to be a conscientious objector when receiving his draft notice and when that was refused, he joined the infantry where he served with valor, capturing a large number of Germans and saving the lives of many of his men who were under heavy fire. The film was directed by legendary filmmaker Howard Hawks and ended up winning Cooper an Academy Award as well as one for editing.

Reversal Of Fortune – Based on a novel by Alan Dershowitz, this was always a film that I saw on video store shelves as a kid but never paid it any notice and now as an adult, I’m like “whoa, Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons in a Barbet Schroeder movie?”, so, yeah, things have changed. The film follows actor Ron Silver as Dershowitz himself, a brilliant professor of law who is hired by wealthy socialite Claus von Bulow to attempt to overturn his two convictions for the attempted murder of his extremely wealthy wife. Based on a real story, the film concentrates not on the trial like other legal thrillers, but on the preparatory work that Dershowitz and his students put in as they attempt to disprove the prosecution’s case and achieve the “Reversal of Fortune” that is implied by the title. Irons ended up winning an Oscar for his performance in this film.

Space Ghost & Dino Boy: Complete Series – I’ll be completely honest about this one, when I unwrapped it I thought it was the Adult Swim cartoon for more than a decade ago that put this superhero behind a talk show desk where he got really cantankerous and eventually would execute all of his guest by fire. It was hilarious. This, though, is the original series all of that was taken from, as well as Brak who featured on The Brak Show, although in this series he was one of the villains. This series is simple and classic Hanna Barbera stuff, following the adventures of a space superhero who can become invisible and his sidekicks. It’s been neat reliving all of these episodes that I never knew existed plus it’s an early role for 80s staple actor and National Lampoon alumni Tim Matheson.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Beau Travail – I love bringing all of these Criterion Collection releases to the show as they are the definitive films that should be in all cinephiles’ collections and, a lot of the time, they are a new discovery for people, even myself sometimes. I definitely knew of Claire Denis and had watched her last film, the Robert Pattinson sci-fi High Life, which I loved, so I was very excited about this one. This film focuses on Galoup, an ex-Foreign Legion officer, as he recalls his once glorious life, leading troops in the Gulf of Djibouti. His existence there was happy, strict and regimented but the arrival of a promising young recruit, Sentain, plants the seeds of jealousy in Galoup’s mind and he feels compelled to stop him from coming to the attention of the commandant who he admires, but who ignores him. Ultimately, his jealousy leads to the destruction of both Sentain and himself in an incredible finale that needs to be seen to believe it. Denis’ work is forever inspirational and this film was the one that inspired Greta Gerwig to become a filmmaker so now I am forever in the debut of the French writer and director. Trust me, this film is special.

World Cinema Project, Volume 3 – Another cool thing that Criterion does is their film compilation box sets like the ones that are curated by Martin Scorsese and already in 2020 we got all of his early short films and now we get the third volume of his world cinema project. Scorsese has been curating the World Cinema Project for around thirteen years now and the result has been a plethora of international films from 1934 to 1981 that in some cases his efforts have helped save from the ravages of time and film deterioration. This set features six of these rejuvenated classics with Lucia, After The Curfew, Pixote, Dos Monjes, Soliel O ad Downpour to hopefully give it new life with a new audience. This is for the tool film nerd and to see what inspires a legendary filmmaker like Scorsese is fascinating.

A Dog’s Courage – Last week I was baffled by Well Go USA, a predominantly Asian cinema distributor sending me a western and now I have this animated family film that they sent me. A South Korean made film, this is an animal centric story with a deep emotional core to it as it follows stray dogs who have been abandoned by humans who find “a place without humans” and realize their identities and the meaning of freedom and self-identity. I know, you’re asking how kids can latch on to a story like this but many forget that we had to endure the existential questions that don Bluth’s All Dogs Go To Heaven posed us with at a very young age so I feel lie kids can handle it and the animation is absolutely gorgeous in this so it really is a treat to look at.

Yellowstone: Season 1 & 2 – Kevin Costner takes the lead in this new series that has been created by the Paramount network but really hasn’t landed in Canada yet until now but has a whole bunch of clout behind it because it is damn good both in writing from Hell Or High Water and Sicario’s Taylor Sheridan and a well rounded cast around Costner. The show follows the Dutton family, led by John Dutton played by Costner, who controls the largest contiguous ranch in the United States, under constant attack by those it borders, such as land developers, a nearby Indian reservation and the keepers of America’s first National Park. It is an intense study of a violent world far from media scrutiny, where land grabs make developers billions, politicians are bought and sold by the world’s largest oil and lumber corporations, where drinking water poisoned by fracking wells and unsolved murders are not news. I’m currently immersed near the end of the first season and am really enjoying it, a good series for those who like crime series like Sons Of Anarchy or The Sopranos.

The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection – One of the greatest directors to ever step behind the camera, I have a deep adoration for Alfred Hitchcoc so when this new 4K box set landed on my doorstep, I really freaked out. This one contains the most notable films from his filmography with Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, about a wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder, Vertigo, another Stewart film with him playing a former police detective wrestling with his personal demons and becoming obsessed with a hauntingly beautiful woman, The Birds, well, you know the story on that Tippi Hedren film and Psycho, which actually contains two different cuts of the highly influential horror classic. This is a set made for the deep cinephile and I’m so grateful to own it.

Television:

The Right Stuff (Disney+) – Disney is hoping to bolster their library with this brand new co-production between them and National Geographic, who they own as well, for an informative and engrossing look at space and those who have explored it so far. Combining real life footage and dramatic recreations with actors, this is the story of U.S. fighter pilots who are recruited to test experimental aircraft and rockets to become first Mercury astronauts. This is the TV adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s book, ‘The Right Stuff’ which had been previously adapted as the four time Academy Award winning film of the same name starring Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid and Fred Ward but in a more expanded series approach to give it more depth.

Fear the Walking Dead: Season 6 (AMC) – Let’s face it, at this point Fear is the best zombie show on television as the original incarnation of this series needs a little shot in the ass to get going again. The cast is flying on all cylinders with Lennie James’ Morgan being my absolute favorite at the moment but don’t let that take away from how stellar Alycia Debnam-Carey is on a consistent level. In a ramble of names, this show is always getting the best of the best as Garret Dillahunt, Jenna Elfman and Matt Frewer are still feature roles and the breakout star, Colman Domingo, is still killing it as Victor Strand.

Star Trek Discovery: Season 3 (Crave) – Ten years before Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise, the USS Discovery discovers new worlds and lifeforms as one Starfleet officer learns to understand all things alien in this series that now enters into it’s latest season and I know a lot of Trekkies out there do not like this show but as a fleeting Trek fan myself I really dig it. 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.

The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (Netflix) – If one writer gets me hook, line and sinker everytime he writes a movie or television series, it’s Aaron Sorkin. I’m just addicted to his stories. For his latest film, that he directed as well as wrote, he takes a bite out of Chicago history as well as adding his own spin with sardonic humor and grandiose moments of grandstanding with a phenomenal cast that includes Oscar winners Eddie Redmayne and Mark Rylance, recent Emmy winners Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jeremy Strong as well as Joseph Gordon Levitt, Frank Langella, Sacha Baron Cohen, Michael Keaton and more. Yes, this is a heavyweight. The film is about the fallout after the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago where there were massive demonstrations against the Vietnam War, which was reaching its peak. When a curfew was finally instated, this led to even further protests, eventually leading to a police riot. and following this, seven of the demonstrators, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seale, John Froines, Tom Hayden, Lee Weiner, and David Dellinger, were tried for conspiracy. The meat and potatoes of this film is the trial that followed. This is a big recommendation this week because, though it is heavy on talk and exposition, this could go down as one of the best films this year and when it debuts on Netflix in two weeks it will be the must watch movie, trust me.

A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote (Crave) – I don’t think I’m alone in wanting a new limited series to continue this fantastic White House set drama amongst all the reboots and revivals we’ve been getting in television these days but I will definitely take what I can get. Originally running for seven seasons, including I believe two different presidential runs, starting with Martin Sheen’s President Bartlett, this show returns for a play style table read episode to bring voter awareness for the fastly approaching election as well as fundraise for the Biden and Harris campaign. It’s probably a known fact that many Trump supporters don’t have the intellect for a smart show like this so their proposed boycott of it pretty much means nothing. Yeah, I said it.

New Releases:

Honest Thief – It’s really kind of funny now that after the Taken trilogy had wrapped up, Liam Neeson stated that he was done with the action genre, retired I think was the term he used. Since then, he has made six more of them, including this film here, and five more on the horizon so, contrary to this movie’s title, he isn’t very honest at all. Coming from Ozark producer Mark Williams, this new movie has him playing Tom Carter, nicknamed the In and Out Bandit because of how meticulous of a thief he is, stealing $9 million from small-town banks while managing to keep his identity a secret. After he falls in love with the bubbly Annie, played by Private Practice’s Kate Walsh, Tom decides to make a fresh start by coming clean about his criminal past, only to be double-crossed by two ruthless FBI agents. Neeson action films seem a dime a dozen in the last twenty years with glimmering hopeful spots here and there but I can’t say that this is one of them.

Yellow Rose – This film was a total surprise, one that I had heard no buzz about or one that had any real ad campaign behind it which is kind of a shame because it is an incredible movie. Written and directed by Diane Paragas in her feature narrative debut, this is the story of Rose, an undocumented 17-year-old Filipina, who dreams of one day leaving her small Texas town to pursue her country music dreams. Her world is shattered when her mom suddenly gets picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and, facing this new reality, Rose is forced to flee the scene, leaving behind the only life she knows and embarks on a journey of self-discovery as she searches for a new home in the honky-tonk world of Austin, Texas. This film is beautifully shot and gives each character on screen such a rounded reality that we feel the weight of the situation at all times, most heavily felt with any of the dealings with the Gestapo nature of ICE. This movie has soul and will infuriate you with the immigration practices in today’s America. Highly recommended.

The War With Grandpa – As a general rule now, I don’t get into any movie involving Robert De Niro and the word grandpa because I’m still in a state of trauma from having to go to the press screening for his raunchy comedy Dirty Grandpa which made me severely question his financial state as well. This one will definitely go in a different route than that, a family film that follows a boy thrilled that Grandpa is coming to live with his family until he finds out that Grandpa is moving into his room, forcing him upstairs into the creepy attic. Though he loves his grandpa, he wants his room back and has no choice but to declare war, so, with the help of his friends, he devises outrageous plans to make Grandpa surrender the room but Grandpa is tougher than he looks and rather than give in, Grandpa plans to get even. Oh man, now reading that back, this movie may be no better than the previous movie I mentioned and seeing that it comes from the director of Alvin And The Chipmunks, well, the positivity meter is shrinking.

The Curse Of Audrey Earnshaw – A theme that comes up a few times this week, being the Halloween month, is witchcraft, possession and ghostly curses and I don’t think it’ll slow down until the end of the spooky season. Let’s kick it all off here with this Canadian made film, a period piece about a devout community suffering from a plague which they believe is caused by a beautiful young woman and her mother using the forces of witchcraft, black magic, and possession to decimate crops and livestock. The film features some great Canadian talent like Travelers and Hello Destroyer actor Jared Abrahamson and, a favorite of mine, actor, writer, producer and director Don McKellar and while it has a storyline with so much potential it never feels like it rises to an actually scary level. This movie always feels like it needed that extra nudge that it never got.

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.

Blu-Ray:

The Secret Garden – A classic story from novelist Frances Hodgson Burnett who also wrote A Little Princess, it’s about time we got another theatrical adaptation of this book as the last one was made over twenty-five years ago. Beautifully shot by 45 Years cinematographer Lol Crawley and directed by usual miniseries guy Marc Munden, this is the heartwrenching and equally uplifting tale of Mary Lennox, a spoiled 10-year-old girl of rich parents who grew up in India who, after everyone in her family dies from cholera, is sent to live in Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire with her uncle. There, she discovers that the household’s many secrets and finds a key that leads her to a garden held locked for years by her uncle after the death of his wife, a secret place that she brings to life which rejuvenates her and her bedridden cousin thought to be on his deathbed. This film is very well done, a visual feast every moment that had me captivated while dealing with some deep and dark issues.

Valley Girl – The curse of “why, why, why remake this movie” is upon us with this completely unnecessary redo of Martha Coolidge’s classic 80s teen love story. Adapted by Rachel Lee Goldenberg who recently did the highly recommended Unpregnant, this is a musical version of this classic story of a pair of young lovers from different backgrounds who defy their parents and friends to stay together all set to an 80s new wave soundtrack. Even though the film features Jessica Rothe, who really won me over in the horror sequel Happy Death Day 2U, I felt nothing but bile towards this movie as I am a huge fan of the original and it really misses the charm of Deborah Foreman and Nicolas Cage. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it!

The Tax Collector – Writer and director David Ayer is a filmmaker who started with such promise, penning Training Day for Antoine Fuqua before stepping behind the camera himself. Unfortunately, that has only worked out for him once, the fantastic LAPD thriller End Of Watch and everything else has been less than middling or straight-up bad. His latest film since his big-budget Suicide Squad is this crime thriller, set on the streets of Los Angeles following family man David and his longtime partner, Creeper, played by one of this generation’s greatest actors, Shia LaBeouf, who are “tax collectors” for the crime lord Wizard, meaning they collect his cut from the profits of local gangs’ illicit dealings. When Wizard’s old rival returns to Los Angeles from Mexico to take his turf back the business is upended, and David finds himself desperate to protect what matters more to him than anything else, his family. If Suicide Squad was bad, and it was, then this movie is infinitely worse, suffering from bad directing, a terrible script and the acting of a lead actor who would lose an audition to a cardboard cut out. LeBeouf is the only saving grace in a film that I couldn’t wait to be over.

Eli Roth’s History Of Horror: Season 1 – Who better to breakdown the history of one of the most fan loved and driven genres in film that still to this day doesn’t get the respect it deserves, especially when it comes to awards season than Hostel, Cabin Fever and The Green Inferno filmmaker Eli Roth. Featuring interviews with the who’s who of the horror world including Greg Nicotero, Rob Zombie, Stephen King and John Landis as well as famous fans who have dabbled in it like Quentin Tarantino, Elijah Wood and Jack Black, we get a comprehensive look at what makes this filmmaking so addictive and the fans so ravenous for it. I absolutely loved this entire season and can not wait for more to return to my television screen. Hook it to my veins, Eli.

Yummy – A Shudder original that is now making its way to physical disc, this is a definitely quirky zombie horror film out of Belgium that may end up on a lot of genre fans’ lists this Halloween. A movie with a darkly comedic edge, this is an orgy of blood, violence and fun in which a young couple travel to a shabby Eastern European hospital for plastic surgery. The young woman wants a breast reduction and her mother comes along for yet another face-lift. While wandering through an abandoned ward the boyfriend stumbles upon a young woman, gagged and strapped to an operating table and finds out that she is the result of experimental rejuvenation treatment. He frees her but does not realize he just caused the outbreak of a virus that will change doctors, patients and his mother-in-law into bloodthirsty zombies. This movie is so insane from the get-go and is an unrelenting ninety minutes that will relentlessly poke you until the end. I really loved this one.

The Pale Door – Let’s keep going down the horror path being that it’s the perfect month for it, with a film that does a bit of genre-mixing refreshingly with the good ole’ fashioned western. Fresh off his segment in the great anthology horror film Scare Package, writer and director Aaron B. Koontz spins this story of the Dalton gang who must find shelter in a seemingly uninhabited ghost town after a train robbery goes south. Seeking help for their wounded leader, they are surprised to stumble upon a welcoming brothel in the town’s square but the beautiful women who greet them are actually a coven of witches with very sinister plans for the unsuspecting outlaws. Executive produced by Bubba Ho Tep and Cold In July’s novelist Joe R. Lansdale, this is a flawed little film that entertains but doesn’t entirely make the best use of its trappings. Featuring Magnum P.I.’s Zachary Knighton, veteran actress Melora Walters and Knives Out’s Noah Segan, I was still entertained enough by this film to enjoy it.

The Invincible Dragon – Martial arts films can usually feel like a dime a dozen and we know that the really good ones or the ones passing for really good usually hit theaters so it’s suspect when there’s one that flies under the radar right to blu-ray. This s one of those movies, focusing on an undercover agent with a dragon tattoo named Kowloon who continually helps the police to solve mysterious cases, which made him known as a rising star in the city. However, his impulsive personality drags him into endless troubles as many in the criminal underworld are looking to take him down for good. The most intriguing thing about this film is to see the fight choreography between the star, Jin Zhang from Pacific Rim: Uprising, and former UFC champion Anderson Silva playing the heavyweight villain. The film is also directed by acclaimed filmmaker Fruit Chan who steps outside of his usual films into a new genre.

Trump Card – I really don’t even know why I’m including this documentary, and I really use that term loosely, as this is a film, another loose term, written and directed by an ex-con and lie spreader, Dinesh D’Souza, who hasn’t made a film that has rose over ten percent on Rotten Tomatoes. For his latest piece of garbage that is sure to rile that MAGA base and be shared like a truthful gospel, this is an “expose” of the socialism, corruption and “gangsterization” (not a work but he uses it) that now apparently define the Democratic Party. Whether it is the feared socialism of Joe Biden or the overtly feared socialism of Bernie Sanders, the film desperately tries to reveal what is unique about modern socialism, who is behind it, why its evil, and how all the other idiots can work together with Trump to stop it. This movie is a complete waste of time, skewing facts into their narrative and omitting that which doesn’t work with it. Pure and utter trash.

Roger Waters: Us + Them – One of the greatest theatrical musical presences ever on stage graces us with another mindblowing concert just five years after he performed The Wall in its entirety, another concert movie definitely worth checking out. Roger has certainly not gotten less political as this whole tour was a direct shot at the Trump administration as well as the Putin regime and the Boris Johnson Brexit debacle. I know a lot of friends that had the chance to see this show in person and while I was extremely jealous at the time, and still am, this is the closest we can all get to being there and it is a pretty sweet consolation prize in my opinion. As a long time Pink Floyd fan, one of my first concerts ever, attended at BC Place, this is a beloved addition to any fans collection.

To Your Last Death – One of the great things about reviewing everything that hits blu-ray is to get contacted out of the blue by a company looking to get eyes on their product and that’s what happened here with this violent and gory animated film that I was sent. Featuring the voices of Firefly’s Morena Baccarin, Star Trek legend William Shatner, The Devil’s Rejects’ Bill Moseley and Twin Peaks’ Ray Wise, this is the story of a young woman who takes on her father and a powerful entity known as Gamemaster that ensnares humans into diabolical plots while her species gambles on the outcome to save her siblings. This movie is pretty insane and uses all the tropes of horror and death metal imagery that dominated the nineties to a really satisfying degree. This will definitely not be for everyone, as it heads down some really dark paths for some comedic reasons, but I found myself very engrossed by it.

Happy Halloween Scooby Doo! – How can it be Halloween if you don’t include the iconic Scooby, Shaggy, the rest of the crew and the Mystery Machine? The simple answer is it can not and will not and even better about this new animated film is that Matthew Lillard is in his rightful place as the voice of your favorite animated secret stoner, Shaggy. Being the gang’s favorite holiday as well, filled with fake monsters and candy galore, this one turns sour when the neighborhood pumpkin patch is infected by a toxic ooze, creating high-flying jack-o-lanterns, and a king-sized pumpkin leader squashing everything in its path. Featuring the guest voices of Bill Nye The Science Guy and, a lifelong crush, Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark, this movie is a throwback to all the Scooby Doo cartoons we grew up on collectively as it has been running for decades. The kids will love it too.

Pierrot Le Fou – Criterion Collection is no stranger to the works of Jean Luc Godard as he has a few of them already in the collection but this one is pretty damn important in the Criterion releasing as it was first released on Blu-ray in the U.S. by The Criterion Collection in 2009, however, it was discontinued almost immediately due to them losing the rights to Studio Canal, its previous owners. For a while, it became a collector’s item due to its out of print status, until now where everything has been restored without the possibility of being taken away again. The film follows the title character who escapes his boring society and travels from Paris to the Mediterranean Sea with Marianne, a girl chased by hit-men from Algeria. Together they lead an unorthodox life, always on the run in this entertaining and wholly different classic film.

Drop Dead Gorgeous – A really dark film from the 90s, the first thing that stood out to me when I received this from Warner Archive is how much two of the stars are pretty much Hollywood pariahs with Kirstie Alley being a MAGA hat-wearing Trumper and Denise Richards being a straight out nutcase but this movie definitely had its charm. The film takes place in a small Minnesota town with the mockumentary style of the annual beauty pageant being covered by a TV crew. Former winner Gladys Leeman, played by Alley, wants to make sure her daughter, Denice Richards’ character Becky, follows in her footsteps by doing some dastardly deeds which include explosions, falling lights and trailer fires. As the Leemans are the richest family in town the police are pretty relaxed about it all but, despite everything, her main rival and nice girl Amber Atkins, played by the wonderful Kirsten Dunst, won’t be stopped even though there is more death and disappointment to come. This movie wasn’t well-reviewed when it came out but I enjoyed it then and still enjoy it now.

Star Trek Picard: Season 1 – Everyone was waiting for this return series featuring one of the most popular Star Fleet captains ever and, in my opinion, the best captain as Sir Patrick Stewart slips back into the chair as Jean-Luc Picard for a brand new series. Set 18 years after his last appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis, the show finds him deeply affected by the death of Data from the events of that film as well as by the destruction of Romulus as referenced in the J.J. Abrams reboot which has me slightly confused. Wasn’t that storyline called the “Kelvin” line? Not a big issue to me in the long run as I really enjoyed this whole series, loved the inclusion of Riker and Deanna Troy later in the season and even the new characters of Michelle Hurd’s gruff Raffi Musiker, the rogue pilot Cristóbal Rios, played by Santiago Cabrera and Allison Pill’s Dr. Agnes Jurati are a welcome addition and feel well written. After an exciting first and establishing season, I’m looking forward to what comes next.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:

She Should’a Said “No!” – These old “marijuana-slpoitation” movies from the Reefer Madness era always make me laugh so when Kino Lorber has them up for grabs I always accept them. Made in 1949, this film, also known as Wild Weed, follows a chorus girl who’s career is ruined and her brother is driven to suicide when she starts smoking marijuana because of hysteria, miseducation and fear-mongering. Sorry, I had to throw that last part of the description in because it is all just so ridiculous. It’s funny that the main actress of this film, Lila Leeds, was cast almost as a punishment because she was arrested in 1948 with Robert Mitchum for possession of marijuana, so I guess she’s the cautionary tale. The film was also put together in seven days making it suspect that it was a government initiative to get cannabis out of people’s hands and fear on the rise immediately. Too funny.

Bloodstone – Time to head back to the forgotten vaults of B, C, and D grade movies in the possession of those film-loving maniacs at Arrow Video with this film from Dwight H. Little which may have fallen a tiny bit under the radar, although it does have a sequel. This action-adventure follows an American couple on a business trip to Bangalore, India who are dragged into the theft of a ruby called ‘Bloodstone’. The wife is then kidnapped and the husband teams up with a resourceful taxi driver to free his wife and retrieve the ruby. The film, released in 1988, almost seems to be borrowing that energy from Romancing The Stone and Jewel Of The Nile but miss having the acting caliber of Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny Devito as there’s absolutely no star power to this one at all.

Life Is A Long Quiet River – Let’s get a bit classier with the Arrow Academy side of the Arrow releasing and dig into this French comedy that was released the same year as Bloodstone, although for an entirely different type of audience. From writer and director Étienne Chatiliez in his debut film, this is the story of two babies are switched at birth by a revengeful nurse and are raised in two radically different families. When the mistake is discovered 12 years later, it leads to complications in the lives of both families, one family is affluent with dutiful and contented children while the other family is poor, with rambunctious and delinquent children, often hungry, but with lots of laughter in the house. This is a fascinating film that almost acts as a sociological experiment and how it can all be blown apart by a reveal of lineage.

A Soldier’s Revenge – Well Go USA, usually known for Asian cinema releases, sent me this film and I stared at it a little bt because I definitely was not expecting a western in any parcels from them. Featuring only a small handful of actors I recognized like Jake Busey, AnnaLynne McCord and, a good cowboy staple, Val Kilmer, this is the story of Civil War soldier-turned-bounty-hunter Frank Connor, haunted by wartime horrors, who spends his time post-war polishing off two things, whiskey and fugitives, but when two desperate children arrive on his doorstep and enlist his help to find their missing mother, Frank must face his past to take down the notorious Major Briggs, with whom he has a violent past with. The first thing to be said about this movie is it is way too freaking long, clocking in at almost two and a half hours which feels wildly unnecessary. Will it satisfy western fans? Only on the surface level of seeing the time period as it is a mess of close-ups and strained dialogue and Kilmer certainly doesn’t look like Doc Holliday anymore, maybe more so like his corpse.

Red Shoes And The Seven Dwarfs – Lionsgate sent this animated family film to me which features the voices of Chloe Grace Moretz and Sam Claflin, two bankable stars, and has been highly praised by the Dove society, a film advisory board that gives awards to the “best” family films but I have never even heard of it. Obviously a take on the classic fairy tale Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, this plays things differently as princes who have been turned into dwarfs seek the red shoes of a lady to break the spell, in a parody with a twist. Is it any good? Well, the parents will find it predictable but with some nice looking animation and some recognizable supporting voice work from Gina Gershon, Community’s Jim Rash and the always welcome baritone of Patrick Warburton but the kids will be delighted with it. I will warn everyone upfront that they may have to have a body issue conversation with their kids afterwards as some of the dialogue and themes in this is slightly problematic and I don’t know how that slipped by Dove.

Television:

The Lie (Amazon Prime) – Hot off of her stellar awards season, cleaning up for her lead role in the miniseries The Act, Joey King stars in this new film opposite Peter Sarsgaard as a father and daughter who are on their way to dance camp when they spot the girl’s best friend on the side of the road. Stopping to offer the friend a ride, their good intentions soon result in terrible consequences and the family quickly closes ranks and decides not to tell anybody. Secrets rarely stay secret for long and they soon find themselves faced with an impossible choice that will alter the course of their lives forever. I’m being vague with the details on this for a reason as The Killing creator Veena Sud writes and directs this film, a creator that revels in her reveals and keeping the mysteries close to her chest. This film is intensely engrossing from start to finish.

The Haunting Of Bly Manor (Netflix) – With his first series based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Mike Flanagan proved once again that he is a horror director at the top of his game and the perfect fit for this series that took in many of Netflix subscribers. Now, we head into his next series that will be sure to give you nightmares just like Hill House did for me, shot in Vancouver, this series once again follows Henry Thomas’ character Henry, who hires a young American nanny to care for his orphaned niece and nephew who reside at Bly Manor with the chef Owen, groundskeeper Jamie and housekeeper, Mrs. Grose. Soon after arriving at the Bly estate, she begins to experience strange occurrences and a grim history starts to unravel. This series is full of emotion and atmosphere and it is really neat to see Flanagan pivoting off of Jackson’s classic into this version of The Turning Of The Screw. Also, like the first series, there are so many hidden ghosts to be spotted in this season, one of my favorite things about Hill House.

The Forty-Year Old Version (Netflix) – Right now, with the focus on the Black Lives Matter movement and giving a signal boost to the creations made by people of color being on the forefront it’s really great to see Netflix give it’s platform to a film like this one, written, directed by and starring writer and producer Radha Blank and it’s even better to know that the movie is seriously great and very relatable to women of all colors that hit the forty-year milestone and still feel lost in their own lives. This film follows Blank as a down-on-her-luck New York playwright, who is desperate for a breakthrough before she turns forty after being one of the prominent winners of the top 30 under thirty award a decade earlier. Reinventing herself as a rapper named RadhaMUSPrime, she vacillates between the worlds of hip hop and theater to find her true voice but finds herself trapped in a lie as she has to adjust her playwright voice to get it seen. Through the sighs of everyday comedy, Blank makes this an enriching experience that I believe everyone can take something away from and emerges as a great voice in black cinema that I really hope to see more from. This was a fantastic movie.

The Walking Dead: World Beyond (AMC) – Another Walking Dead spin-off arrives just as the final season of the original series has just been announced and this one has definitely a different vibe to it as it seems to combine the themes of Lord Of The Flies a little bit with the shambling flesh, brain and entrail eating ghouls we are oh so familiar with these days. Featuring Nico Tortorella from Scream 4, this series focuses on the first generation to grow up during the zombie apocalypse, centred around a trio of characters and judging by the trailer it looks suspenseful and will carve a new side in this new zombie lore. If it’s as good as Fear The Walking Dead is I will definitely continue to immerse myself in Robert Kirkman’s imagination.

The Cleansing Hour (Shudder) – Yes, I’m bringing so much horror this week but we have to consider that we are in October and people are clamouring for more of the genre to round out their monthly viewing. This movie had horror critics raving during festivals and has now made its way to the Shudder streaming service at the perfect time. Starring Ryan Guzman and Kyle Gallner, this is about millennial entrepreneurs, Drew and Max, who run a webcast that streams live exorcisms that are, in fact, elaborately staged hoaxes. They get their comeuppance when their latest actress becomes mysteriously possessed by a real demon that holds the crew hostage and, to make matters worse, the possessed victim is Drew’s fiancée, Lane. In front of a rapidly-growing global audience, the demon subjects Max to a series of violent and humiliating challenges meant to punish him for his online charade and, to save the love of his life, Drew discovers that the demon’s sinister motive is not only about revenge, but also to expose the dark secrets he, Max, and Lane have been hiding from one another. This film is brutally effective and a total diamond in the rough as it really has a bumpy start but settles in for some fantastic possession horror that satisfies on all levels.

Mogul Mowgli – Let’s just make it al clear at the get-go. If I see Riz Ahmed’s name attached to a film I immediately become very interested in it because he is one of the best emerging talents of this generation and the projects he picks are always so fascinating. This new film feels very closely connected to Ahmed and his experiences growing up in the United Kingdom dealing with race and culture as a British Pakistani, following him as a rapper on the cusp of his first world tour that is struck down by an illness that threatens to derail his big break. Learning his lessons the hard way, he realizes that the way he was living his life in excess of ego and forgetting the culture of what made him have slowly deteriorated his soul and his being, leading him to this unfortunate fate. Riz’s performance in this film is riveting and gives dramatic focus to the monkey on his back while we observe him like a living fish tank. That last wistfully triumphant moment in this movie will go down as an unforgettable cinematic moment for me this year.

Lapsis – On the outside of this film it just looks like a man laying cable to provide money to help his sick brother but there is something so much bigger at the heart of this sleepy pseudo-science fiction film that has a real headiness to it. The film follows Ray, a delivery man struggling to support himself and his ailing younger brother, who suffers from a crippling narcoleptic disorder that is running rampant across the world. Getting the nudge from a scheming friend, he takes a strange job in a strange new realm of the gig economy laying cable across the wilderness, connecting devices meant to change the technological future of man. As he journeys further into the forest, he comes across Anna, another cabler who has a deeper insight into the company they are employed by and the endgame to their work. This film is deeply subtle and feels like you the viewer must fill in the blanks a bit but to that end, it still feels wildly satisfying at the finish.

Undine – I am here for any collaboration between actress Paula Beer, one of my favorite international actresses in the last ten years and writer and director Christian Petzold, who she did her last film with, Transit, an excellent film that also co-starred this film’s lead, Franz Rogowski from the one-shot thriller Victoria. This film has Beer starring as the title character Undine, who works as a historian lecturing on Berlin’s urban development but when the man she loves leaves her, the ancient myth of her name catches up with her and, to satisfy the fable of which she believes she is based on, she has to kill the man who betrays her and return to the water. This film is fascinating and intimate, possibly my favorite work that Petzold has done, and a story that keeps you guessing until the finale. The third act is layered in a way that only accomplished filmmakers cand pull off and Petzold does it with a flourish that is jawdropping.

Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President – Trying to squeeze in a last couple films, this documentary was on my radar since the announcement of the festival titles as Jimmy Carter is always a president that I had a lot of respect for and one that still continues to do great work through humanitarian and charity causes as well as building houses with his bare hands. The film comes from CNN Films by way of director Mary Wharton  and follows Jimmy Carter and journey from the country town of Plains to being the governor of Georgia to becoming the thirty ninth  U.S. president and one who openly embraced rock ‘n’ roll the whole way. With interviews with Willie Nelson, the surviving members of the Allman Band, Bob Dylan and more, a fascinating portrait of not only a great but stifled president but a fantastic human being is painted. In this time leading up to one of the most important elections in U.S. history, this film was definitely a breath of fresh air.

Siberia – Rounding out this year’s festival with something weird, metaphorical and from the very unique and volatile brain of filmmaker Abel Ferrara through the conduit of Willem Dafoe and I’m still trying to make heads or tails of it. The film had Dafoe as a bartender in the middle of the Siberian wilderness, dishing drinks out to fur drapped inuit, dogsleds containing elders and pregnant women and more, although, none of it is real. Ferrara uses this landscape to traverse the subversive nature of dreams and, from what I can glean from this film, nightmares. The film feels to me like its set on a sort of purgatorial landscape with heaven on one side and the drop off to hell on the other with Dafoe’s character Clint being magnetized to the latter. There were points of this film that reminded me of Von Trier’s The House That Jack Built where you get the slow realization in the subplot that Bruno Ganz is escorting Matt Dillon’s character to the depths of hell. I’m still trying to make a uniform sense of this but it was incredibly jarring at many points and ends with a guttural death metal roar. Fascinating stuff.