Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Bullet Train – As far as fun action flicks go, I have been looking forward to this new high-octane thriller ever since I saw the trailer because it stars a game-looking Brad Pitt who appears to be having the time of his life and it’s directed by David Leitch who hasn’t made a disappointing film yet in my opinion. It also has a killer supporting cast in it, pun intended, as they all appear to be playing dangerous assassins. Pitt plays Ladybug, an unlucky assassin determined to do his job peacefully after one too many gigs gone off the rails. Fate, however, may have other plans, as Ladybug’s latest mission puts him on a collision course with lethal adversaries from around the globe-all with connected, yet conflicting, objectives-on the world’s fastest train, that’s right, the bullet train. That aforementioned killer cast? It features Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Bad Bunny and Sandra Bullock in a film that looks snappy with its script and bone-crushing with its action. Based on a Japanese manga that grew a following with North American readers, this might be a lowkey hit if it’s as good as it appears to be.

Prey – When it was announced that Disney+ through their Star division would start to do accompanying movies and shows based around some of the Fox-created properties that they had inherited in the merger, the internet came at it with bloodthirsty anger. I chose to give it time and see what products would come from this and got immediately excited when I saw that there would be a Predator-related story and it would be done by 10 Cloverfield Lane’s Dan Trachtenberg. The film is a way back prequel to the original Arnie-led film in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago following Naru, a skilled female warrior who fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth. This movie is awesome from the cool title card on, featuring awesome Predator hunting and fight scenes with great blood and gore and a hero that we can really get behind. I loved every second of this new film and really found myself enamoured by the representation of it too. I hope everyone loves it so that this new Disney+ venture gains more steam.

Thirteen Lives – It was really a matter of time before the brave and intense rescue mission of the 2018 Tham Luang cave expedition that had a junior football team and their coach trapped there for eighteen days was adapted as a feature film. Personally, I would say to just check out the documentary The Rescue from Free Solo directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi because this version comes from Ron Howard whose last film Hillbilly Elegy left me as a seething pile of rage for glorifying the known douchebag J.D. Vance. The cast is what has me more interested than anything, as it features Viggo Mortensen, fresh off of a great Cronenberg movie, Colin Farrell, fresh off of his chameleon performance in The Batman and Joel Edgerton, fresh off of Obi-Wan, all three actors who are always a great selling feature. I do balk at the fact that there is an almost two-and-a-half-hour run time for the film but hopefully, Howard was able to reinterpret the incredible intensity that Chin and Vasarhelyi were able to capture in The Rescue.

Easter Sunday – Jo Koy is one of those phenomenal stand-up comedy talents that has been doing great work for years now but is only kind of known to the niche audience that gets deep in that scene or has watched a lot of Chelsea Lately when it was on the air. Now he’s about to hit a whole new medium as he has a brand new comedy feature that he gets to lead and it’s under the proven comedy chops of director Jay Chandrasekhar, a Broken Lizard member responsible for both Super Troopers movies, Club Dread, Beerfest and more. Based on Koy’s own experiences with his family, he stars as a man returning home for an Easter celebration with his riotous, bickering, eating, drinking, laughing and loving family, in this love letter to his Filipino-American community. The supporting cast is great, with Silicon Valley’s Jimmy O’ Yang, former teen Canadian legend Carly Pope, the hysterical Eugene Cordero, Lou Diamond Phillips and Tiffany Haddish, I have really great thoughts headed into this one and it’s refreshing to see a stand-up comedian’s first movie not helmed by Judd Apatow. This isn’t a knock on Judd but his films have a certain formula to them and this one looks like it avoids that.

Luck – AppleTV+ is playing their animated feature card for this summer with this new adorable-looking film from an animation filmmaker who has only really gotten to explore the direct-to-video market. Given this could also be considered a direct-to-video type of release, being relegated to a streaming service drop, there is something a little different with these, as explored by Disney+’s releases of Pixar’s Soul, Luca and Turning Red and by Netflix’s recent and awesome The Sea Beast, this can be considered, in my mind, a theatrical release. The film follows the story of Sam Greenfield, the unluckiest person in the world who suddenly finds herself in the never-before-seen Land of Luck where she must unite with the magical creatures there to turn her luck around. Being a huge Edgar Wright and Spaced fan since the beginning, being Shaun Of The Dead for me, I was delighted to see that Simon Pegg was one of the main stars in this and it gives me more incentive to watch it as I’m always looking for something to watch with the family. I feel like this one, although low-key in the advertisements, could be a little niche hit for family viewers who have subscribed to AppleTV+, a kind of low percentage streaming service unless you are addicted to Ted Lasso like I am.

Mr. Malcolm’s List – I don’t think it’s a far stretch of belief for me to tell you that I’m not really a Jane Austen genre fan at all, as they generally come off really predictable and totally stuffy while it does its thing. Something that can sway me into watching it is a good cast or notable actors in the cast and that’s what this film did with this by having Slumdog Millionaire’s Frieda Pinto, The Haunting of Hill House’s Oliver Jackson Cohen and British actress Zawa Ashton. While not directly Austen, it can be said that the story derives from some Austen tropes as the story follows a spoiled woman looking to win the heart of the most sought-after suitor in town, Mr. Malcolm. When she fails to meet an item on his list of requirements for a bride, she enacts a plot of revenge and convinces her friend to play the role of his ideal match. OF course, love and hijinx ensue and people end up in matches that weren’t perceived at the beginning of the story in a very Jane Austen fashion but the performances are so good that I was able to look past the things that would generally make my eyes roll. If that isn’t an inkling of a good review then I don’t know where I went wrong.

What Josiah Saw – Shudder has been releasing fantastic original films continuously without much fanfare but I will always be here to give the niche streaming service its flowers and it deserves it with this new release this week again. The film has a killer Terminator connection as it features one-time John Connor actor Nick Stahl as well as T-1000 actor Robert Patrick in a slow boil thriller that just drips with character build and atmosphere. The story follows Josiah and his youngest son, Thomas, all that remains of an estranged family that everyone in their small town knows about, residing in the haunted Graham Farm on Willow Road. After experiencing terrifying visions from beyond, Josiah decides they must change their ways to right a great wrong but, being away for over two decades, Eli and Mary, Josiah’s eldest children, are enticed to sell the property and reunite at the old farmhouse in hopes of closing this haunting chapter of their lives for good. This looks like a fascinating film of the sometimes real horror of family bonds and the haunting of past secrets and misdeeds that boil over the surface to destroy souls forever. The film is being praised for its brutal and unflinching nature and could be the introduction of a great new voice in horror with director Vincent Grashaw who impressed critics and audiences alike with his previous drama, And Then I Go.

Resurrection – This new horror drama got a soft release last week which flew outside of my radar for some reason but I get to bring it this week as it expands to more theatres and that satiates my fear of missing out big time. The film features lead performances from Rebecca Hall, who starred in a favourite of mine last year, The Night House, and Tim Roth, who featured in a film I loved this year, Sundown, so we’re already on a good track. Hall plays Margaret, a capable, disciplined, and successful woman whose life is in impeccable order. This is all thrown into disarray with the arrival of Roth’s character David, a man returning to Margaret’s life with all of the horrors of her path. The film is sitting at a Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes right now, with big praise for Hall’s leading performance that captivates and makes up for any unevenness that shows up in the story and script. Reviews like this make me excited, still, for a voice like writer and director Andrew Semans who only has two features to his credit including this one with his last film being released ten years before. For the record, that one, Nancy, Please, got stellar reviews as well.

Blu-Ray:

Cow – It was only just around a year ago that audiences were treated to the black and white feature documentary Gunda, which was a day in the life of a farm pig just after her babies had sadly been taken away. Now we get a whole lifetime with one cow from the point of view of a filmmaker who has always been gifted with capturing pure unfiltered life, Andrea Arnold. Having given us great films like Fish Tank and American Honey, she goes through farm life in this documentary that follows a calf from birth to the ultimate end in a shocking moment before the credits. This isn’t to act as a spoiler at all as all is just business and the circle of life on the farm but as a city boy myself still trying to get a foothold in the small town and, more to the point, the daily farm doings, it still caught me way off guard. This film is slow, dialogue-free and a hard sell for any casual viewer but I think the end result is very interesting even if you question why you’re there periodically during the film.

White Elephant – There has to only be a handful left of the films that Bruce Wills and his team used to pad up his bank account before his recently announced illness caused retirement and as much as I’d like to celebrate the one-time fan favourite, I’ll be happy when they are done. That said, this isn’t even his movie to lead as it hovers somewhere between Olga Kurylenko’s cop character and Michael Rooker’s violent former marine turned hitman but Willis is still present in a third billed sort of way. The story follows Gabriel Tancredi, an ex-marine turned mob enforcer (Michael Rooker), who is ordered by his ruthless mob boss (Bruce Willis) to eliminate any and all threats when an assassination attempt is witnessed by two cops. With an eager underling out to prove himself, rival gangs making moves and a rising body count, every step Tancredi makes threatens lives and it gets deeper when he starts to have a crisis of conscience. This movie has a plot going for it but finds itself riddled with holes by almost the mid mark of it, some that are absolutely insurmountable. I could watch Rooker in anything all day long but the whole thing is dragged down even more by bad fight choreography, terrible digital blood ad bullet wounds and the sad realization that Willis is losing what he has left in front of us on screen in a bad production. Time to rip the bandaid off, I think.

Steve‘s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:

The Book Of Eli – THis movie is actually a bittersweet one for me and I had to purchase it on blu-ray as it is the last film as a directing unit for Allen and Albert Hughes, collectively known as the Hughes Brothers, responsible for the films Menace II Society, Dead Presidents, American Pimp and the adaptation of Alan Moore’s Jack The Ripper graphic novel From Hell. I remember seeing this one in theatres, loving the casting of Denzel Washington and the counterpart of Gary Oldman, a casting that Denzel was responsible for. The story is set thirty years after nuclear war turned the world into a wasteland, following a lone warrior named Eli, played by Denzel, who marches across the ruined landscape, carrying hope for humanity’s redemption. Only one other man (Gary Oldman) understands the power of what he carries and he is determined to take it for himself. A peaceful man at his core, Eli risks death to protect his precious cargo, for he must fulfill his destiny to help restore mankind. This movie is exquisitely shot by Spider-Man and Forrest Gump cinematographer Don Burgess and just pops on the high-definition screen. I also really enjoyed the performance from co-star Mila Kunis, probably one of her best in my opinion.

DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow: Season 7 – Another piece of the setting sun on the Arrowverse within the DC Comics television universe comes to a close here and I regard this series as the goofy and fantastical heart contained within. The series is a great ensemble that features some of my favourite characters both in the comics and the series depiction of them like The Atom, Firestorm, Hawkman and Hawkgirl and even Constantine who was rescued from the cancellation of his own series. Loosely, from the beginning, the show had Doctor Who’s Arthur Darville as time-travelling rogue Rip Hunter who is tasked to recruit a rag-tag team of heroes and villains to help prevent an apocalypse that could impact not only Earth but all of time itself. Of course, the kicker is that he has grabbed the supes that would cause less than minor time ripples with their absence which adds a fun underdog quality to the show that I still think remains in place. This show is so much fun and a nice breather from the darkness of a couple of the included shows in this universe and I’m kind of glad that it got such a long run to play around with its weirdness, something that is totally rare in regular network television.

Television:

Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 (Netflix) – As a MuchMusic generation kid, I remember being glued to the screen in 1999 watching as one of the biggest music festivals I had ever known was television worldwide. It was all meant to be good, peaceful and loving, a representation of what the generation before us got to experience and a chance for us to break off a piece for ourselves. This is definitely not what happened. Instead, the audience was driven mad and aggressive under a hot sun, water was overpriced and damn near unobtainable and the worst of the worst dudes started to circle women and other men itching for violence. It was all a powder keg that exploded the second night of the festival and caused it all to be burned down on the third night. This docuseries takes you back, following the timeline of the weekend as well as bringing you back to the development times, budget cuts and corporate greed that ultimately served to create the mess that was to come. This series was so fascinating and, though I know a lot of what happened, it was pretty insane to sort of renew my interest in it.

Industry: Season 2 (Crave) – The theme of this week’s television section of the blog should be “shows that I’m late to the game on” but this one should be considered for everyone because I had never even heard of it until my PR person at Crave included it in their monthly releases email. It should be an easy sell for a larger audience because for me it plays like Euphoria meets high-stakes finance and trading but it even goes beyond that as a series about young people losing their souls with money that isn’t theirs. The series follows graduates from all walks of life who compete for a limited number of available full-time employment opportunities at Pierpoint, a top investment bank in London. The graduates include Harper Stern, a Black upstate New York native who uproots her life in pursuit of success, despite having lied about the university she attended, Hari Dhar, a state-school graduate and child of Hindi-speaking immigrants, Augustus “Gus” Sackey, a gay Black British graduate of Eton and Oxford, Robert Spearing, a white working-class Oxford graduate who is eager to please, and Yasmin Kara-Hanani, a privileged, well-connected child of Lebanese parents with an underachieving, drug-addled boyfriend.The show comes from a couple of new and unproven showrunners with Mickey Down and Konrad Kay but the directorial heavyweights in Showtime, AppleTV+ HBO’s roster are present with Lena Dunham even doing the pilot. I was hooked very early by this series and I think it takes one or two for that to happen. 

The Bear (Disney+) – A few weeks after it’s release on American television, we finally get the first two episodes of what critics and audiences are calling the best debut series of 2022 in Canada and I couldn’t be more excited. The series stars former Shameless star Jeremy Allen White and it’s really funny that the actor can’t escape shows set in Chicago as this one takes place in the Windy City as well. The series follows White as Carmy, a brilliant young chef from the fine-dining world who is forced to return home to run his family sandwich shop, the Original Beef of Chicagoland, after a heartbreaking death in his family. A world away from what he’s used to, Carmy must balance the soul-crushing reality of trading in Michelin star restaurants for the small business’ kitchen filled with strong-willed and recalcitrant staff and his strained familial relationships, all while grappling with the impact of his brother’s suicide. From the symbolism of the first scene to the chaos of the first lunch rush in episode one, I was so onboard, looking at an authentic vision of a well known and established world for many. Just seeing so many career chefs and kitchen workers praise this show got my appetite for it running and I say, as a layman, this show doesn’t disappoint and has amazing potential.

The Sandman (Netflix) – This show isn’t even out yet and it’s getting immediate hatred from comic book gatekeepers and Netflix production haters alike but I would like to point out that the subject matter is already heady with deep lore so it would have been divisive anyways. I would liken it to The Witcher which felt like it was dripping with an already established and fully built world right from the beginning but at least The Sandman tries a bit of back story with its first episode. Based on the popular Vertigo comic from creator Neil Gaiman, the story follows a wizard attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life and traps her younger brother Dream instead for leverage. Fearful for his safety, the wizard kept him imprisoned in a glass bottle for decades until his grand escape a century later. After his emancipation, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power and to restore his once powerful and beautiful kingdom. I have to say that this show looks gorgeous, the cross-pollination of Warner Bros. DC Comics television division and Netflix has made a giant of a potential mountain. I love Gaiman’s writing style and have been impressed with the page-to-screen transition of it so far.

The Outlaws: Season 2 (Prime Video) – This is a British produced little gem from out of nowhere that I feel upset that I’m just learning about it now, especially because it stars and comes from the mind of The Office, Extras and Hello Ladies creator Stephen Merchant and it has Darren Boyd and the legendary Christopher Walken in the cast as well. I have to think that the direct initial comparisons to Misfits had me biting for it but there’s no superpowers to be had in this one, just questionable decisions. The show is a multi character mosaic that follows seven strangers from different walks of life forced together to complete a community payback sentence in Bristol. When the actions of one of the community service workers puts a huge duffel bag of cash in front of them, they must band together to protect against the real owners of the small fortune to save their lives as well as their loved ones. This show is so awesomely written and so well put together with each character being immediately interesting and intriguing. I feel a deep binge for this show coming on as I prepare for the brand new season.

Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head: Season 1 (Paramount+) – The renewal of this nineties classic comedy was given with the recent Paramount+ movie Beavis And Butthead Do The Universe, a hilarious new adventure that brought the horny television-watching slackers to the present day and now creator Mike Judge can give them a modern age series like, well, some of us wanted. Yes, the iconic animated duo are back and dumber than ever to resume their duties to confound common sense, torment each other, and showcase some of the dumbest comedy imaginable. My personal grievances is that instead of watching music videos, the duo will be making fun of viral YouTube videos but maybe my anger comes at the fact that we really don’t have a music video station like what MTV or MuchMusic used to be. My rage is all so misdirected, much like these two. Damn, we are so alike.

New Releases:

DC League Of Super-Pets – Just months before he’s set to take the stage in the long gestated debut of Black Adam, The Rock is giving back to the kids through DC Comics properties and is dragging his buddy Kevin Hart along for the ride. These are some deep cuts to put on the big screen but Dwayne is kind of the best choice to voice the dog of Superman, Krypto, which is probably the only one that your comic layman will know off the bat, no pun intended. The story of the film follows Krypto as he forms a team of shelter pets who were given superpowers when the Justice League are captured by Lex Luthor. On that squad is a hound named Ace, who becomes super-strong, a pig named PB, who can grow to giant size, a turtle named Merton, who becomes super-fast, and a squirrel named Chip, who gains electric powers. See, Chip is another one I know from the comics as he is an actual Green Lantern Corps member but it is obviously being played in a different way here. I’m also giddy at the fact that this film has Keanu Reeves voicing Batman which really works on so many levels. John Wick is now Batman in some sort of way.

Vengeance – A long-time writer for The Office as well as a cast member, B.J. Novak is such a gifted creator so I’m honestly surprised that it’s taken so long to get to his first directed feature but it looks fantastic. This new comedy also hits a little close to home as Novak plays a podcaster in it, which really shows how far the medium has come along. The film follows a radio host from New York City who attempts to solve the murder of a girl he hooked up with for a forgettable evening and travels down south to investigate the circumstances of her death and discover what happened to her. The cast formed around Novak is impressive with Boyd Holbrook, Ashton Kutcher and Issa Rae to name a few and the trailer is hysterically funny, lampooning a lot of the southern opinions and beliefs which are so very close to the truth. The film is getting a lot of good attention from critics so I’m predicting a sleeper hit and hopefully more films from this phenomenal writer.

Honor Society – Having just finished the latest season of Stranger Things, when I saw this new high school teen comedy that featured Gaten Matarazzo, I was immediately geared to watch it because I just adore Dustin. This one isn’t his leading film though, that heavy lifting belongs to The Nice Guys and MCU Spider-Man movie actress Angourice Rice who has always been impressive to me with everything she’s done. She plays Honor, an overachieving teen whose sole focus is getting into Harvard. Willing to do whatever it takes, she concocts a plan to take down her top three competitors, until things take a turn when she unexpectedly falls for her biggest competition and ends up improving the lives of her competition immensely, giving herself a change of heart in the process. The young cast is so good and charming in this movie that it sometimes makes up for the failings of the script or the bland and one-note cardboard cutouts that all of the adults seem to be. I feel like it borrows a lot from more successful movies and hit television shows, with a heavy leaning into Glee at one point, but the movie largely works and I do like that they kept some swearing and crudeness in it for texture. Nothing that will blow you away but an enjoyable hour and a half.

My Old School – I’ve been a fan of Alan Cumming since I saw him as the tech geek bad guy in the first Pierce Brosnan-led James Bond film Goldeneye, a charming, boisterous and flamboyant Scotsman that brightens every project he’s in. What I didn’t expect for him was a smartly informative and touching documentary slash drama that would totally warm my heart. The film is set in 1993 and follows sixteen-year-old Brandon Lee enrolled at Bearsden Academy, a secondary school in a well-to-do suburb of Glasgow, Scotland and the events that followed over the next two years. Oh, and the twist is that Cumming plays the teenage Brandon as well. Crazy, right? You don’t even know the half of it and I want to keep spoilers to a minimum on that but I will say that Cumming’s performance, as usual, is the glowing part that keeps it all going. The film is a thought-provoking story that involves home school, a “fish out of water into a new pond” feeling, the grieving process and so much more that was totally unexpected. Again and again, I found myself actually saying “wow” out loud and I consider that some high praise.

The Reef: Stalked – As a horror fan, I’ve got a real soft spot for monster movies, especially sort of reality based monsters like wild animals and because of my affinity for Steven Spielberg’s Jaws for as long as I can remember loving movies, sharks are a major selling point. Well, this week Shudder is getting into the game with an at-sea horror thriller and the poster for it is amazing, I recommend finding that one alone. The film is a quasi-sequel to the 2010 thriller The Reef and follows a woman named Nic, her younger sister and two friends who seek solace through a Pacific island kayaking adventure after her sister’s murder. Hours into the trip the women are stalked by a shark and must band together, face their fears and save each other. I’m very aware of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0nCxBQiQLMthe hit-and-miss nature of these types of films, looking directly at the sequel for 47 Meters Down, but sometimes these movies pull through like the terror in the film Open Water or Blake Lively taking on a toothy monster in The Shallows. For these reasons, I will always give a movie like this a shot and I’m still sold over the great poster. Seriously, it’s a frameable one.

Blu-Ray:

Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness – The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first film of 2022 rolls out this week onto the 4k and blu-ray format and it definitely will play in more of the story that will affect this current phase of the expanded Marvel story and what’s to come because it once again, after Spider-Man: No Way Home, plays with the ever-growing multiverse and the consequences of that film. I was initially bummed that the director of the first film, Scott Derrickson, stepped away from this project but I think they put it in great hands with the incredible Sam Raimi. To put this in a spoiler-free nutshell, the synopsis is that Doctor Stephen Strange has cast a forbidden spell that opened the doorway to the multiverse, including alternate versions of himself, whose threat to humanity is too great for the combined forces of Strange, Wong, and Wanda Maximoff leading them to gather a few more helpful combatants like the debuting America Chavez, a comic character that was really neat to see in live-action form. I definitely have some issues that left a sour taste in my mouth on this film with it;s creative and plot decisions but there are completely unpredictable storylines in the film and the universe or multiple ones that Strange exists in are so visually fascinating and rife with those trademark Sam Raimi camera beats. It’s hard to talk about this movie without giving deeply spoiler moments but I will say that this was only slightly above average for me but there are still a lot of things I enjoyed about it.

The Lost City – Sandra Bullock has a good penchant for picking good co-stars to feature in her comedies which is a genre she fits in best because, well, Sandy is always charming. I feel like her characters are always just a millimetre away from the true lady. While the movies aren’t exactly ones that stick in your memory, like The Proposal with Ryan Reynolds, they are always entertaining at the time and I expect the same from this new film with Channing Tatum in the co-pilot seat. Bullock plays an adventure romance writer who is kidnapped by a young and ruthless treasure hunter played by Daniel Radcliffe. This prompts the cover model of her books to prove that he is a real-life hero to her and heads into the jungle to rescue her. The trailers for this honestly look pretty funny, relying on the two stars’ onscreen chemistry and proven acting chops to get the audience a satisfying film that will remind us of the Michel Douglas and Kathleen Turner film Romancing The Stone and the sequel Jewel Of The Nile. Also, I have to mention that Brad Pitt is in this too and looks hilarious in a long hair action hero spoof role.

The Duke – An easy way to get a great true story British comedy-drama out there is to cast some total heavyweights in the lead and that’s exactly what director Roger Michell did in what sadly would be his final film as he passed away in 2021. These lead roles were given to the great character actor Jim Broadbent and the amazing Dame Helen Mirren and, really, they carry the whole thing on their back. The story takes place in 1961, following sixty-year-old Kempton Bunton who has stolen Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London. He sent ransom notes saying that he would return the painting on condition that the government invested more in care for the elderly, notably the licences that the government charges all of them just for the simple pleasure of watching the BBC. What happened next became the stuff of legend and is an uplifting true story about a good man who set out to change the world and managed to save his marriage. Broadbent just shines in every scene he’s in and the dynamic in which he plays off of Mirren makes you wish that they had done more movies together. I love these films about the inspiring everyman and Michell framed such a great story of exactly that as his final gift to us in film. It’s sad that he never lived to see the release of this because, judging from the other reviews too, he would have been really proud.

Green Lantern: Beware My Power – A brand new DC animated story hits blu-ray and high definition this week and as a lifelong comic book fan, I have to give it some of the spotlight. This is also a property that Warner Bros. has had more than a little trouble with in live-action form because we all remember the Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern film, but in an animated form, they do pretty well. The film features the upcoming Black Adam star Aldis Hodge as John Stewart, a former marine dealing with severe PTSD who is given the power of the Lantern Corps and thrust into the middle of a galactic war. New to his powers and responsibility, he must learn everything on the fly as he teams with Green Arrow and Hawkgirl to save the remnants of Thanagar, restore Oa and save the universe at the same time. This film, clocking in at less than ninety minutes, has some incredible action sequences but definitely skimps on the depth or a good and memorable script, something that is starting to fail these films in the last couple of years. I’m not getting bored of them but I’m hoping that some of the writing improves in the future.

That Dirty Black Bag: Season 1 – It’s fitting that I’m finishing up my second round of the AMC series Preacher, starring Dominic Cooper, a fantastical series about the battle between, well, not too good and ultimate evil in a sometimes dusty and western setting, because this show has Cooper doing some real western this time and playing the bad guy too. Something that really makes me laugh about this show is, Cooper included, most of the cast of the show is from the British Isles, like lead actor Douglas Booth and Game Of Thrones alum Aiden Gillan. The series is a story told over eight long days that describes the encounter and clash between two men, McCoy, an apparently incorruptible sheriff with a dark past, and Red Bill, a dirty, taciturn bounty killer trapped in a desire for vengeance that cannot be fulfilled. The dirty black bag that the title alludes to also happens to be full of the heads of Red’s bounties which is such a cool additional element for me. This show is so badass, a heightened western story with no white knights, just black hats doing everything just to survive, for a daughter or out of bloody vengeance. The stoic nature of the cast, the explosions of violence and the unpredictability of the story consistently keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end. I had only fleetingly heard of this show but I think it should get a lot more attention.

The Gilded Age: Season 1 – There has definitely been a void existing in the last few years that Downton Abbey has been off the air and the movies, although very welcome and successful, really weren’t enough to satisfy those fan appetites. Creator Julian Fellowes felt that collective pain it seems and has teamed with the powerhouse of HBO to give a new story set in the late 1800s but this time it is across the pond in the supposed “Land of Opportunity”. This new series follows the wide-eyed young niece of a conservative family who embarks on a mission to prove the doubts about her enterprising abilities and infiltrate the wealthy neighbouring clan dominated by ruthless railroad tycoon George Russell, his rakish son, Larry, and his ambitious wife, Bertha. The cast is fantastic, featuring veterans like Cynthia Nixon and Christine Baranski, a young talent like Tassia Farmiga and one of my favourite character actresses today, Carrie Coon. After inhaling the first episode, I was so impressed by the layered setup of each character and the establishment of hierarchies and how they can crumble over the course of the series. The only hope now is that it has the longevity of Downton and the power of Gosford Park.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Ip Man: The Awakening – Being a sucker for martial arts films, there is more of a draw to these Ip Man movies for me is that they are based on the man who taught Bruce Lee everything he knows, arguably the greatest to do it on a Hollywood level. That said, the quality of the films has dipped a bit since original star Donnie Yen left the franchise and even he had some questionable entries, like the one with Mike Tyson that only seemed to be playing up to the big fight between them. I try to go into this one with more faith and always they look good on the Blu-ray format, hence my posting of it right here. We go for a young Ip Man who, while visiting Hong Kong, intervenes in a kidnapping attempt, unintentionally igniting a turf war with a ruthless human trafficking ring. In retaliation, the gang kidnaps one of Ip Man’s close friends, leaving him with no choice but to challenge the group’s notoriously brutal boxing champion head-on. If you like some good fight sequences then this might be right up your alley but take it in the same vein as you would have with a Chuck Norris film in the eighties or a Best Of The Best sequel in the nineties. Cool fights and action but not much of an actual film in between. Still very cool on the high-definition side of everything.

Television:

City On A Hill: Season 3 (Crave) – Kevin Bacon is absolutely fascinating in this Boston law enforcement series with a dirty cop edge from the same guys who put the spotlight on Baltimore in Homicide: Life On The Street. Bacon plays Jackie Rohr, a sleazy and corrupt FBI agent who reminisces about the more abusive times in policing when you could knock around perps and witnesses. He latches on to the new assistant D.A. with an axe to grind, the two looking to make a difference in a city they both want to see excel. The show suffers here and there with some of the tough-guy bravado writing that harkens back to a different era of television but when this show hits its stride it is a totally effective and engaging show. The second season fully solidified Rohr as one of my favourite anti-heroes on television currently and Aldis Hodge, who plays ADA DeCourcy Ward, is about to have a hell of a 2022 with him playing Hawkman in the upcoming Black Adam with The Rock but hopefully, that impending rise won’t cut this show’s run short because it is so fantastic. Chuck MacLean is a hell of a creator and I still can’t believe this is his debut in the medium.

The Most Hated Man On The Internet (Netflix) – The seedy and disgusting existence of revenge porn is front and center in this new fascinating Netflix docuseries that introduced me to the knowledge of an evil human being named Hunter Moore who I feel better off not knowing about. Being the father of two daughters, a story like this hits me deep in my heart and the show was unrelenting in that and I may have yelled at my television screen a few times. This series is from the point of view of the mother of one of the victims who decided to stand up to Moore, the self-proclaimed “professional life ruiner,” after photos of her naked daughter were posted online and once that was dealt with, she took it upon herself to help the others who had been humiliated by the website. This show is another bombshell of horrifying ways that the internet has been used to exploit and destroy the reputations of innocent women through illegal measures and computer hacking. As infuriating as it is a cautionary tale for those sick bastards out there looking to do the same thing.

Paper Girls (Prime Video) – After the sad cancellation of the adaptation of Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra’s landmark graphic novel Y The Last Man I was really hoping that networks or streaming services hadn’t soured on his work. Now one of my favourites of his works has gotten the series treatment and when I started reading Paper Girls, I knew it was destined for a live-action version. Definitely playing for that Stranger Things crossover crowd, the series is set a few hours after Halloween night in 1988 and follows four twelve-year-old girls who have to face a dangerous mission that has them trapped in a complicated conflict where they will travel in time to save the world. The main cast is young and fresh but it also has some stellar actors jumping in for supporting roles like a podcast friend of mine, Nate Corddry, and comedian Ali Wong, as well as being the first show led by Toy Story 4 writer Stephany Folsom. I have really good thoughts about this series having read the comic books thoroughly so I hope that it catches on with the broader audience.

Harley Quinn: Season 3 (Crave) – Kaley Cuoco has to be the most successful of the former Big Bang Theory cast members as she secured an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination for her HBO Max series The Flight Attendant’s first season and may earn another one for the current season too. She also has the added benefit of this animated and crudely adult DC Comics series that airs on the same streaming service and it is easily one of my current favourite shows. She is the title voice, a crazy character we all are familiar with, now striking out on her own without her longtime beau, the homicidal clown, The Joker. With her best friend, the Daria like Poison Ivy, voiced by Lake Bell, she has assembled her own team of misfits, which includes King Shark, voiced by Ron Funches, Clayface, done by Alan Tudyk who does multiple voices throughout the show run, and Tony Hale as Dr. Psycho. This show never fails to make me laugh hard and I love all of the DC in-jokes as well as its over-the-top and often brutal and gory violence. It’s like they went into my mind and pulled out exactly what kind of show I wanted to see as a comic fan! Perfect!

New Releases:

Nope – I know I generally say these things week to week but this is one of my most anticipated films of 2022, the return of Jordan Peele with his third feature film and one that had been very secretive with its story up until the last few weeks. The trailer that first dropped was so ambiguous but intriguing, giving me all sorts of room to speculate on what kind of terror Jordan was delivering this time. Even if you look up a synopsis anywhere, the write-ups are all so secretive as well only saying that the film follows caretakers at a California black-owned horse ranch who encounter a mysterious force that affects human and animal behaviour. My theories on the title seem to be validated as I think it’s an anacronym for Not Of Planet Earth because there are clearly flying saucers in the new ad but beyond that, Peeleis an incredible filmmaker, he reteams with Get Out actor and Academy Award winner Daniel Kaluuya and has a solid cast around him with Keke Palmer, Steven Yuen and veteran Michael Wincott. Needless to say, I’m so damn excited for this movie.

The Gray Man – Captain America is back under the direction of his many-time directors Anthony and Joe Russo but this time he’s playing the bad guy and Ryan Gosling gets the protagonist role in this highly expensive-looking Netflix action thriller epic. Lots of inflammatory statements are being made about the war between theaters and streaming by the filmmakers but I’m going to skirt that just to talk about the anticipation for the film itself which looks like the kind of action flicks that I’ve loved for decades. The film follows Sierra Six, the CIA’s most skilled operative whose true identity is known to none who accidentally uncovers dark agency secrets leading a psychopathic former colleague to put a bounty on his head which sets off a global manhunt by international assassins. I know people are steaming mad about the bloated budget of a seemingly brainless action film but these are the movies that got me into theaters big time and, unfortunately in my small market town of Penticton, I have to rely on my own home theater to get my bombastic experience but I am really looking forward to it.

This Is GWAR – One of the coolest heavy metal acts in the last four decades finally gets their flowers with this biopic documentary and the only thing that upsets me about it is that original creator, singer and banner frontman Oederus Orungus or Dave Brockie was not alive to see the film come together. Having seen GWAR live and been bathed in the blood and viscera of their stage show, I will say that there is no other show like it so I’m happy to see a documentary that illustrates the process of that and maybe give some insight to the people who have heard of the insanity of their performances but never seen it first hand. The film is a deep dive into the powerful story of the most iconic heavy metal, art collective and monster band in the universe, as told by the humans who have fought to keep it alive for over thirty years, even through the shocking and tragic death of the mind behind it all. The effect the band has had on pop culture, horror fans and even popular movies like Empire Records is all so fascinating to re-immerse myself in and I loved every second of it. To see Ethan Embry talk about it all these years later is really cool as well.

The Day The Music Died: The Story Of Don McLean’s American Pie – We aren’t done with the music documentaries this week as Paramount+ is throwing a new one into the ring and it seems fascinating and based around an iconic piece of music because I feel, no matter what age you are, you know the song American Pie. The song held the record for almost 50 years for being the longest song to reach number one before Taylor Swift’s All To Well recently beat that, has been covered famously by Madonna and John Mayer and was a plot point feature in the recent films Black Widow and Finch. The song seems to be forever relevant and much like the Lenord Cohen Documentary Hallelujah did last week, this film looks at the career of singer and songwriter Don McLean’s career through the prism of his most lasting hit and magnum opus. I think the song’s basis, the “day music died”, referring to the death of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper in a tragic plane crash, is a fascinating event to extrapolate from and I think it kind of gets lost a bit in the enjoyment of the song for generations. To hear it all from MacLean’s point of view has me very intrigued.

Fire Of Love – I had no idea what I was getting into when I put my screener on for this new documentary, probably something dry when I saw the logo for National Geographic pop up on the screen. I definitely wasn’t prepared for the love story of two odd and pretty opposite ducks who just happen to share the same passion for magma bubbling under the earth and then exploding all over the world, a long metaphor for volcanoes which also plays into their little romance brilliantly. Narrated by actress and filmmaker Miranda July, this is the story of intrepid scientists and lovers Katia and Maurice Krafft who died in a volcanic explosion doing the very thing that brought them together: unravelling the mysteries of volcanoes by capturing the most explosive imagery ever recorded. Using all of their hours and hours of footage from expeditions around the world, the film paints a vivid portrait of a pragmatic and mousy individual in Katia and a boisterous and witty showman in Maurice which made quite a compelling coupling that the French media adored. With mesmerizing shots of lava flows, violent geysers and exploding volcanos, I was so hooked into the imagery and the human connection of it all felt secondary until I really started to like these two. The tragic end of that is exactly that and I definitely dreaded it once I got halfway.

Blu-Ray:

The Bad Guys – Based on a series of best-selling kids’ books, I knew nothing about this new Dreamworks animated movie but my daughter seems to know everything so when it comes to the subject of this new film I will just defer to being a fan of the voice casting in this. Led by an always charming Sam Rockwell, this film also has Marc Maron, Awkwafina, Richard Ayoade, Craig Robinson, Anthony Ramos, Zazie Beetz and many more, which would make a great adult comedy so why wouldn’t that work in a kid’s flick? The story follows notorious criminals Mr. Wolf, Mr. Snake, Mr. Piranha, Mr. Shark and Ms. Tarantula who are finally caught after a lifetime of legendary heists. To avoid a prison sentence, the animal outlaws must pull off their most challenging con yet, becoming model citizens. Under the tutelage of their mentor, Professor Marmalade, the dubious gang sets out to fool the world that they’re turning good. The animation style looks very cool and original, playing on a noir style almost with a dynamic shading to it which now looks confusing as I’m writing this but it really gives it a unique style. I’m sure that Dreamworks is hoping that this strikes with the reader fan base and, in a post-pandemic release, did better than expected so I think it’s entirely possible that we could see more adventures and heists with this crew.

The Northman – Following his incredible films the VVitch and The Lighthouse, this new feature film from writer and director Robert Eggers was easily one of my most anticipated films of 2022. The atmosphere and the approach to the subject matter are always one of a kind from Eggers and the simple fact that he is tackling the Viking era with this film and a cast that is familiar to him and some outstanding new additions were enough to get my anticipation to a fever pitch. The story follows Prince Amleth, played by Alexander Skarsgaard, who is on the verge of becoming a man when his father is brutally murdered by his uncle, who kidnaps the boy’s mother. Two decades later, Amleth is now a Viking who’s on a mission to save his mother, kill his uncle and avenge his father in a viscerally violent art film that commands with the styling of the time period but also operates with an underlying tone of an eighties revenge action flick. With a cast around Skarsgard featuring Anya Taylor Joy, Willem Dafoe, Ethan Hawke, Claes Bang and even Bjork, this is one hell of an experience that is viscerally violent, beautifully shot throughout and gives Skarsgard infinite room for character development. I was also so deeply fascinated with the spiritual core to the story that beats along with it like a lifeline headed to an abrupt end. This one is a treasured Blu-ray release that I will watch over and over again.

The Bob’s Burgers Movie – It’s been fifteen years since The Simpsons made their one and only big leap onto the big screen for a movie I adored but, albeit less successful in comparison but just as good if not better, in my opinion, Bob’s Burgers made their silver screen debut a lot quicker. This is exactly what all the fans have been waiting for, featuring the voices of stalwart voice-over actors H. Jon Benjamin, Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal, Dan Mintz and John Roberts. The story has the Belchers trying to save the restaurant from closing as a sinkhole forms in front of it, unearthing a murdered carny in the process. The kids try to solve the mystery which puts the owner of their neighborhood, Calvin Fishoeder behind bars, an act that could save their family’s restaurant. To many non-fans, this movie might come off as a big glossy version of a television episode but as a fan, I loved that it opened up the world of the Belchers and their neighborhood in a bigger way than the series ever could and it also is able to subvert itself to be a fun whodunnit along the way. Many may feel that this is not a movie for them but if you love side-splitting laughs, why would you pass on this one?

Drive My Car -With Academy Awards nominations, which notched a win for Best Foreign, and critical acclaim from so many renowned film reviewers worldwide, the bar was set pretty high for this Japanese drama. This is no flinching matter for writer and director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, who not only netted the Best Foreign Oscar award but the Best Adapted Screenplay nomination as well, which puts him in the arena against favourites like Jane Campion, Denis Villeneuve and Maggie Gyllenhaal but I don’t think he’s worried because his film is that good. The story follows Yusuke Kafuku, a renowned stage actor and director, who receives an offer to direct a production of Uncle Vanya at a theatre festival in Hiroshima just shortly after the tragic passing of his wife. There, he meets Misaki Watari, a taciturn young woman assigned by the festival to chauffeur him in his beloved red Saab 900. As the production’s premiere approaches, tensions mount among the cast and crew, not least between Yusuke and Koshi Takatsuki, a handsome TV star who shares an unwelcome connection with Yusuke’s late wife. Forced to confront painful truths raised from his past, Yusuke begins, with the help of his driver, to face the haunting mysteries his wife left behind. This film is made with such rich performances and a beautiful scope that reminded me of the serene qualities of a Hikaru Korreda film, a dramatic director who prefers stories about quiet solitude. I don’t want to give too much of this movie away but it is a real crowd-pleaser that will be remembered long afterwards and goes down avenues of grief and processing it through art.

Dual – With just three films under his belt now, Riley Stearns has risen to be one of my favorite filmmakers and a creative mind I follow on social media for nuggets about what he’s going to tackle next. He’s made subversive and intriguing stories about many sociological issues like religious and cult indoctrination in his thriller Faults, toxic masculinity in his dark comedy The Art Of Self Defense and now takes on a whole new set of issues in a movie he made in the midst of the COVID lockdown. The film stars Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Karen Gillan as a woman who opts for a cloning procedure after she receives a terminal diagnosis but when she recovers her attempts to have her clone decommissioned fail, leading to a court-mandated duel to the death. The concept of this film is incredible and opens with a duel between a man and his clone that totally sets the tone. The film is a bit of a character-building slow burn but once the gears lock in, you are in for one hell of a ride and a biting dialogue that made me chuckle darkly multiple times.

Minamata – Now that the whole Amber Heard and Johnny Depp trial is over, the fallout has occurred, Depp has moved on to record an album and Heard is… well.. we don’t know but we can start to move on, right? I hope we can because I feel like this movie definitely needs people to see it and Johnny is a big reason why I enjoyed it. Based on a true story, Depp plays war photographer W. Eugene Smith who travels back to Japan, a company that already put him into a life-ruining bender from his experiences, where he documents the devastating effect of mercury poisoning in coastal communities. This movie is very much a people versus the establishment type of story and draws you in so deeply with the injustices forced upon the people in the surrounding areas and their families for generations to come. Beautifully shot at all times, the story is so deeply compelling and, although extremely cantankerous for a good portion of the film, Depp gives Smith a really interesting depth that you want to see through. I was totally surprised and blown away by this film.

Reno 911! The Hunt For QAnon – Sometimes you need a vapid, mostly improved and dumb comedy to give you some good belly laughs and Reno 911 has been a dependable go-to for that for me since 2003. The cast is always great, led by creator and star Thomas Lennon’s Lieutenant Jim Dangle and the supporting cast of co-creator Robert Ben Garant, Cedric Yarbrough, Niecy Nash, Carlos Alazaqui, Mary Birdsong, Kerry Kenney and Wendi McLendon-Covey. She has since become a pretty big star since the show’s start. This full-length movie follows the deputies of the Reno Sheriff’s Department as they hunt for Q, the one behind all the QAnon conspiracies and infiltrate a QAnon convention booked on a not-so-luxury cruise at sea. I know this movie is not going to be a lot of people’s thing so the litmus test is if you enjoyed the run of the series as well as the first feature-length film, Reno 911!: Miami then I can’t see you not enjoying this. It’s kind of like the South Park Paramount+ movies in keeping consistent in what you saw before it. I adore these guys and hope they keep making more because the possibilities are kind of endless.

Good Burger – It may be a totally generational thing but Kenan and Kel’s leap to the big screen in this goofy little Nickelodeon comedy from 1997 hit cult status somewhere in the last fifteen years and, thanks to Twitter, I see it brought up very often. It’s ridiculous and slapstick fueled but it has some really bold and funny performances from our lead actors, Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell and I’d have to say that it probably served as a pretty good Saturday Night Live audition tape as well. The story follows a dim-witted teenager and his new coworker trying to save the old burger joint they work for from failing after the opening of a brand new burger restaurant across the street, which’s planning to put them out of business. For me, I remember this film fondly as the first time I ever saw Linda Cardellini, pre Freaks And Geeks, but upon receiving this glorious steelbook anniversary edition, I threw it on and found myself laughing harder than I did the first time I saw it. Did the aging of it help my enjoyment? Possibly but it might be me getting over my jaded teenage years and getting out of my own way to enjoy something new. Now I’m with that age group that says this film is an absolute classic.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Raya And The Last Dragon – I recently picked this one up on blu-ray at Walmart for fifteen dollars for the express purpose of geeking out on it here so let’s run that old review back. This movie was released at a time when I definitely had been missing the movie theatres and sadly this film would have played beautifully on that silver giant screen. Originally slated to arrive in theatres as a pre-Christmas, November release, this dazzling Disney film follows a lone warrior named Raya whose mission is to track down the last dragon to finally stop the Druun, sinister monsters that turns all life to stone and have broken apart humanity into different tribes who hide to keep their pieces of an ancient dragon artifact that keeps the enemy at bay. The only chance for a future lies in the unification of all these pieces that will restore the balance of the world. Featuring an all Asian cast including Star Wars star Kelly Marie Tran and the hilarious Awkwafina, I loved every moment of this film and so did my family, a breath of fresh air in the Disney animated films that fell like another piece in their iconic original stories that could stand shoulder to shoulder with movies like Aladdin and The Lion King.

Television:

Primal: Season 2 (Adult Swim) – One of the greatest creators in the game, Genndy Tartokovsky is back with the second season of another incredible epic that he can put alongside Samurai Jack and beam with pride. A decidedly violent tale, this series follows a caveman at the dawn of evolution as he forms an unlikely friendship with an almost extinct dinosaur. Again, without a single word of dialogue, the series is a painting come to life, relying solely on music and graphic imagery to tell the story of two unlikely allies as they navigate through a treacherous world and, after bonding over unfortunate tragedies, they seem to become each other’s only hope of survival against a common enemy. The show is mind-meltingly beautiful in a way that Tartokovsky has the utmost command over and The emotional resonance of even the first episode had me bursting into tears with how heavily it was handled and the fact that it relies on just visuals without any dialogue. I think he has released yet another masterpiece that will be celebrated for years to come, just like the legend of Samurai Jack and each episode resonates with me so much. I can’t wait for these new episodes.

New Releases:

Where The Crawdads Sing – There’s something about this new drama mystery that has me absolutely disinterested and I have to say it stems from the pretty lacklustre trailer that I saw in theatres for it. Maybe it is also the fact that this ad screened before a showing of Lightyear in front of a bunch of kids, including my own, and I thought it was a bit inappropriate. The film is based on the popular novel by Delia Owens and follows a woman who raised herself in the marshes of the deep South that becomes a suspect in the murder of a man she was once involved with. The selling point for me is that it stars the breakout leading actress of the recent dark comedy thriller Fresh, Daisy Edgar Jones. Still, beyond that, I’m really unfamiliar with director Olivia Newman’s work and not a lot else in the film really draws me in. Who knows, it may surprise me and it does feature a new song by Taylor Swift.

Paws Of Fury: The Legend Of Hank – Probably looking to be crushed under the box office weight of Gru and his Minions, I can’t say the outlook is great for this new animated feature that seems to be borrowing just a little bit from Kung Fu Panda but I’m willing to give it a chance. I probably hinge it all on the fact that Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World star and Canadian treasure Michael Cera is the voice of our titular character but that certainly doesn’t mean it will be good. Even so, Cera lends his vocal talents to Hank, a loveable dog with a head full of dreams about becoming a samurai, who sets off in search of his destiny, to be trained by a martial arts master named Jimbo. The cast around Cera is really solid, including the legendary and identifiable voices of Samuel L. Jackson, Mel Brooks, George Takei and Ricky Gervais but the animation definitely looks a bit subpar in comparison to any Pixar film for sure but even week against an Illumination Entertainment film like its current duelling foe, Minions: The Rise Of Gru. I have to say that for adults the jury is still out on this but I have no doubt that the kids will love it.

Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris – I love Lesley Manville and have for a very long time, an incredible character actress that steals the films that she’s in, usually as a supporting character. She almost stole Phantom Thread from Daniel Day-Lewis and more recently became the memorable adversary in the Kevin Costner and Diane Lane thriller Let Him Go but now she gets the very deserving leading role in this new comedy-drama. She plays the title character, a widowed cleaning lady in 1950s London who falls madly in love with a couture Dior dress and decides that she must have one of her own, sending her on a whirlwind trip to the heart of fashion in Paris, France. The film comes from writer and director Anthony Fabian who gives this film such a whimsical look with cinematography for Felix Wiedemann that just pops off the screen. This will definitely be a hit with the older generation and the Downton Abbey fans but I hope it goes broader and puts Manville in the minds of a mainstream audience.

Tammy’s Always Dying – Felicity Huffman seems to be persona non grata after her legal troubles and subsequent prison sentence that she’s since served but can she make a film that redeems her for moviegoers or, in this instance, regular movie streamers? Well, it’s in the hands of a Power Ranger and most notably the Pink Ranger as Amy Jo Johnson helms this in her second feature film and the advanced buzz behind it is solid making a really well-received filmmaker to date, a feat that is sometimes hard to pull off. The film features Canadian actress Anastasia Phillips as Catherine, a young woman forced to care for her embarrassing alcoholic mother, who decides to flee her life of poverty and appear on a sleazy talk show after her mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Phillips is an unproven lead for me but it’s Huffman’s stalwart performance that gives this film its drive, coupled with an outstanding supporting performance from Clark Johnson who led Amy’s last feature film. This is definitely an actor’s film and it relies on all of these performances to make up for the story’s shortcomings.

Don’t Make Me Go – When I saw this one pop up as coming soon to Prime Video, I geeked out a fair bit because I had the privilege of meeting filmmaker Hannah Marks in an ill-fated interview with showrunner and writer Max Landis who had her tag along to the interview. Needless to say, I was more interested in talking to her as the disastrous meeting with Landis continued, have loved the last two films she put out and am really excited to get my eyeballs on this one, especially because it stars JohnCho, fresh off the sadly cancelled Cowboy Bebop adaptation on Netflix. The film follows Cho as a single father who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and takes her on a road trip to find the mother who abandoned her years before while simultaneously trying to teach her everything she might need over the rest of her life. The heart of this movie just swells in the trailer and Cho has been in some of the best low-key indie films, with Koganada’s Columbus being a giant on that mountain of great work. The film was penned by This Is Us writer Vera Herbert so you know it will have a deep well of emotional depth to it and it was shot by Jaron Presant who did The Rock’s video game adaptation Rampage, not a big selling feature, but he also did the mockumentary horror Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon, making his inclusion a big win in my department.

Persuasion – Jane Austen is definitely not my strong suit or a preferred adaptation for me at all, yet I always find myself watching them for review and, aside from Joe Wright’s Pride And Prejudice or Whit Stillman’s Love And Friendship, none of them have managed to convert me to an Austenite. They always seem to have a draw with great casting and this new one, Last adapted fifteen years ago with Sally Hawkins, has Dakota Johnson in the leading role and I’m a newly minted fan of hers. The story is about Anne Elliot, a nonconforming woman with modern sensibilities who lives with her snobby family that is on the brink of bankruptcy. When Fredrick Wentworth, the dashing man she once sent away, crashes back into her life, she must choose between putting the past behind her or listening to her heart when it comes to second chances. Well, the results are not good for this film despite a great performance from Dakota and, for me, a lot of it is due to the fatigue of this kind of Austen story. The film seems like a mish-mash of actual lines from the novels and a modernizing and pandering that doesn’t cohese at all. It all comes across as a drab and dry romantic comedy that brings nothing new to the table besides a pretty face.

Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey – I feel like I’ve seen so many documentaries on legendary and dark Canadian crooner Leonard Cohen but to be honest I’ve never really been bored in them because his life and influence is so fascinating. I also think it is because I’m getting older that I can relate more to his music, his headspace and his plight but there is a certain quality to seeing Cohen with such joy as he performs the songs if front of an audience and ending each one with a sly smile that transcends age and love for the genre. This documentary is more focused than all of its predecessors as it explores the life of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen as seen through the prism of his internationally renowned hymn, Hallelujah. It digs into all of the artists that have covered it since, like Brandi Carlile, U2’s Bono, Eric Church and even John Cale and Rufus Wainwright who had duelling versions of the song, vying to be in the Dreamworks animated film Shrek in a pivotal sequence. What really got me was the focus on Jeff Buckley’s version which appeared on his one and only album Grace and catapulted the artist to the top of the charts after his tragic drowning in the Mississippi River. I really love a good music documentary but more than that I love a deeply human story and this one is about connection through writers that transcends multiple decades and genres and explores the same voice in different filters. There is no denying Hallelujah’s effect on pop culture and music as even my ten-year-old daughter knows the song.

Blu-Ray:

The Beatles: Get Back – Master filmmaker Peter Jackson is known for a plethora of reasons in the film world. At first, he was an originator in schlock horror, making splatter films in New Zealand for years. Then he was the Tolkein guy, adapting both the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and The Hobbit and also did a great job of King Kong in my opinion. Finally, he pivoted to documentary filmmaking with a hell of a World War I film called They Shall Not Grow Old. Now he’s made a Beatles fan like me overjoyed with this three-part docu-series that follows the Fab Four as they regroup to record and rehearse fourteen new songs that would become the album Let It Be and prepare for their unforgettable rooftop concert at London’s Savile Row, their first live performance in two years. As a person that holds this group so close to his heart, as does the rest of my family, this series is so special and it’s jaw-dropping to see this footage restored to look like it was recorded yesterday. I’m grateful to Jackson and his team and I feel like other Beatles fans will be as well.

Montana Story – A generational talent like young actress Haley Lu Richardson is a one-of-a-kind talent and while other actresses of her generation are getting their well-deserved flowers, like Florence Pugh, Hailee Steinfeld and more, she hasn’t risen to that level quite yet. Again and again, turning in performance after performance like in Koganada’s Columbus, which I mentioned earlier, Edge Of Seventeen and, recently, the hot button film Unpregnant, she is consistently underrated and this new drama falls into that category too. Co-starring It’s Owen Teague, the story follows two estranged siblings who return home to the sprawling ranch they once knew and loved, in the process confronting a deep and bitter family legacy against a mythic and majestic American backdrop. I think it’s my love for Yellowstone that has stoked my thirst for ranch set dramas but even still, this movie has a great brooding script that leaps off the screen thanks to two powerful performances. I’m surprised that the word of mouth on this film isn’t louder as it is one of the better films I’ve seen this year.

The Twin – Shudder releases are generally a mixed bag of low-budget, foreign releases and classic revamps but this one hits the higher profile because it stars Teresa Palmer, who is the lead star in a Prime Video and Shudder co-produced show, A Discovery Of Witches. Well, Tez is heading back to a supernatural-infused story again but this one plays into family lineage in a decidedly creepier way. This film opens during the aftermath of a tragic accident that claimed the life of one of their twins, with parents Rachel and Anthony relocating to the other side of the world with their surviving son. What begins as a time of healing in the quiet Scandinavian countryside soon takes an ominous turn when Rachel begins to unravel the torturous truth about her son and confronts the malicious forces that are trying to take hold of him. The initial reviews on this film are really strong with a great sense of mystery and atmosphere enveloping it to make it an edge-of-your-seat nailbiter. There’s something about emotional fol horror that always lands with me and this film seems to have it written all over.

Rugrats: Season 1 Volume 1 – This one made me really happy to receive because I had already been given the complete series of the original series, one that I grew up watching for sure, and makes my collection of nostalgia and newly rebooted memories complete. Well, not totally compiled as I am missing the series All Grown Up from 2003 until 2008 but I’m not going to let that harsh my Nickelodeon buzz because there is a lot of good stuff here. This new reboot fleshes the animation out a lot more with a 3D computer-generated animation but all of the goodness of Tommy, Chuckie, and the Rugrats crew is still present with the best o the best in the voice cast including Bart Simspon herself, Nancy Cartwright, E.G Daily from the Powerpuff Girls and, on of the all-time greats, Inspector Gadget’s Cree Summer. This was a fun watch for an adult reminiscing about his past and watching the animation of a group of imaginative toddlers as well as a really cool thing to get the younger kids interested in. This is my conduit to being able to show the original series to my daughter. Can’t wait.

Star Trek Lower Decks: Season 2 – The second season of the animated and comedic version of Star Trek is now available to own and it comes at the perfect time as lead voice actor Jack Quaid is riding the tidal wave of the third season of the Prime Video series The Boys and anything he touches seems to be gold at the moment. I’m looking directly at my copy of Scream from this year as I say that. For those uninitiated into the “Final Space” -ing of Star Trek that this show is, the series is about the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships, the U.S.S. Cerritos, following them as they keep up with their duties, often while the ship is being rocked by a multitude of sci-fi anomalies. The supporting cast with Quaidis great, including Jerry O’Connell, Space Force’s Tawny Newsome, Loki’s Eugene Cordero and fellow podcaster Paul Scheer, and I’ve really enjoyed my dive through the series and I’m looking forward to the forthcoming season three. It lacks a little of the consistency of the heavyweights like South Park but it is still a solid show with some great Trek references always.

Batwoman: Season 3 – I’d been waiting a long time for a live-action onscreen version of Kate Kane aka Batwoman to be made and finally we got it and I thought the casting of Ruby Rose is kind of incredible as she already invoked many of the character traits right out the door. Then, only a year later, Rose departed the role and left the producers scrambling for their unpredicted new direction and for rightful reasons according to everything that Rosepostedon her Instagram. For those not in the know, Kane was inspired by Batman to use her resources to fight crime in Gotham as well under the moniker of Batwoman, but is a woman of Jewish descent and is also a lesbian, something that was a hard pill to swallow for the mainstream. Now the new actress that has stepped in is Javicia Leslie, star of the cancelled series God Friended Me, as Ryan Wilder who steps into the cowl in Kate’s absence. With all of the problems I outlined at the start, it’s a wonder that this show was only shown the cancellation door at the end of this season because the bad blood, bad press and producer overreaches are all so public now. Hopefully, we can see this character in a better way down the line but this one felt doomed very quickly.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Monty Python: Not The Messiah – When I saw this blu-ray for cheap I just had to snap it up in my attempt to have everything Monty Python related but I will give a warning straight away before this entry as it is the Python crew but without John Cleese. To be fair though, this was more of an Eric Idle side project that Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones jumped on the ride for and it all has to do with the success of Spamalot, a musical that rose from the bones of Monty Python And The Holy Grail. To be to the point, what this is is a comic oratorio inspired by Life of Brian this time around and filmed at its only European performance at the Royal Albert Hall in October 2009 to celebrate forty years of Monty Python. No touring, no reproductions or recreations, just one night only, one and done. Idle is such a gifted songwriter and it is all on display here and to see the charm and wit of Palin, the added oomph of Jones, may he rest in peace, and the devilish smile and demeanour of Gilliam, just makes this purchase all the more necessary in my opinion. I love it.

Giant 4K – When the name James Dean gets brought up it is usually just in praise of his performance in Rebel Without A Cause and because of that everything else gets overshadowed, like this western from 1956 that featured him alongside the Hollywood power couple of Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. You would think it would have had more clout to it as well generationally as legendary director George Stevens, the man behind Shane and A Place In The Sun just to name a couple, won his second Academy Award for the film. The film is a sprawling epic covering the life of a Texas cattle rancher and his family and associates, an ambitious Texas-style scale saga that traces the rising and falling fortunes of two generations of Texans. It is rumoured that while making this film Rock Hudson and James Dean did not get along, although later rumours would suggest that Dean had rejected a pass from Hudson, with most sources reporting that each had little respect for the other’s approach to acting, and Hudson resented what he considered Dean’s unprofessional behaviour, a trait that would follow Dean to his death which happened late in production. It should be noted that none of the issues involved Taylor, who had a notoriety for being difficult over her career but I really wonder through what kind of a lens these stories were told using.

Television:

Tuca & Bertie: Season 3 (Adult Swim) – There’s not much I can preface this little blurb with except the disclaimer being that this show is incredibly weird and comes from the mind of a main writer on Bojack Horseman but definitely isn’t the same. That said, if you hated Bojack or didn’t get far enough into that series to see the diamonds lodged in its writing then this one is definitely not for you. Featuring the voices of Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong, the show is simply about a free-spirited toucan named Tuca and a self-doubting song thrush named Bertie who are best friends and birds who guide each other through life’s ups and downs, with Bertie being a little more pragmatic but a push over and Tuca being problematically self-centred. With both of the previous seasons already streaming on Netflix to give you a taste of what it’s all about, this show may be a hard sell as it really likes to go off on tangents quite a lot but I am enamoured with the bold chances it seems to love taking. If you’re a fan of either of these ladies, who both have so many great comedy specials, I recommend this to you and you only.

South Park: The Streaming Wars Part 2 (Paramount+) – With the reach of Paramount+ the minds behind South Park, notably Trey Parker and his muse Matt Stone, were able to rework a deal that put them as an exclusive on the streaming service and without the vague censorship of Comedy Central. Being over twenty seasons deep in the series, the enthusiasm must wane in making episodic seasons so they signed a multi-movie deal which gives them the ability to make these epic stories as they did with the Pandemic Special, the Vaccination Special, the two After COVID movies and the first part of this Streaming Wars story. The first part had Cartman locking horns with his mom in a battle of wills, something I’m sure she’s used to over the years, while an epic conflict unfolds and threatens South Park’s very existence. This second film picks up in the aftermath of that conflict, resulting in a catastrophic drought that has taken over the Colorado town. Look, if you haven’t been sold on this show from when it came out in the late nineties, then nothing I say here will get you on board but I know there are many out there that will stream this immediately which is ironic.

The Rehearsal (Crave) – Canadian comedian Nathan Fielder is a national treasure who hasn’t totally hit the big time but I feel if people just gave his show Nathan For You a chance, he would be a household name. Well, it’s been a while since that “man on the street” style Comedy Central show and now HBO has wisened up to his genius because they’ve given him the platform for this new also unscripted scripted series. As in his other show, Nathan likes to give back and this explores the lengths he will go to reduce the uncertainties of everyday life. With a construction crew, a legion of actors, and seemingly unlimited resources, Fielder allows ordinary people to prepare for life’s biggest moments by “rehearsing” them in carefully crafted simulations of his own design. Hysterically funny and always cringe-inducing with his irreverence, Fielder has another bonafide hit on his hands and I really hope to see more because if this is a one-and-done show, I will be so disappointed. I say it again, this dude is a national treasure.

What We Do In The Shadows: Season 4 (FX) – Following up yet another fantastic season that capitalizes again and again on great story foundations and characters, we have been not so patiently waiting for the return of our favourite vampire roommates. Created by the star of the original film, Jemaine Clement, this show follows a different cast than people who have only seen the movie are used to, led by the brilliant Kayvon Novak and one of my favourite current British comedic actors Matt Berry. The story simply follows three vampires and their night lives living on Staten Island, their home for a century in, by far, one of the most clever new comedies on television and their return is so welcome at this depressing end of the summer season that has us all feeling that step into autumn ennui. The stand-out always for me is Colin, a seemingly human “Daywalker” that is an “energy vampire” something so hilariously relatable and I can’t get enough of it. This isn’t to undersell anyone else in this show as it is one of the best cast comedies on television today.

Resident Evil (Netflix) – The road has been rocky for everything Resident Evil as the Milla Jovovich series, for however campy and entertaining it always felt like a sci-fi riff that never understood the game and while Welcome To Raccoon City got everything right in look, atmosphere and casting it failed in everything else that makes a movie work. For this reason, I headed into this series adaptation of the popular video game series with a serious chip on my shoulder. The series operated as its own thing and takes place nearly three decades after the discovery of the T-virus and after an outbreak reveals the Umbrella Corporation’s dark secrets. Following the daughter of company man Albert Wesker, we are taken through her story of survival in a barren wasteland overrun by zombies and also back to the origins of Earth’s final days through flashbacks. The Wire and John Wick’s Lance Reddick plays Wesker and does it with that amazing gravitas he brings to all of his roles and, to my amazement, I’m really loving this series and I hope that it gets an additional season. No spoilers but there is room for it to happen.

New Releases:

Thor: Love And Thunder – After the hilarious work that writer, director and co-star Taika Waititi did with the last Thor movie Ragnarok, I have been really excited to see the next installment and it is already getting stellar reviews. The perfect addition to the Thor character was Taika’s silly approach to it which gave the God Of Thunder a douche bro vulnerability that Chris Hemsworth plays so well. This new film finds Thor in his retirement which is quickly ended when a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher emerges and seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie, Korg and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster, who, to Thor’s surprise, inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they embark upon a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late. The comedy is evident in the trailer, as is the mind-bending gorgeous cinematography and we see colourful new worlds, bold new characters and, from what I hear, the clear direction of where the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going afterwards. I’m really excited about this movie and think it will exceed expectations.

The Sea Beast – Netflix has been pulling in a lot of big studio animated features since the beginning of the pandemic and that trend isn’t going away since we have seemingly emerged from the isolations as this was definitely meant for the big screen but gets its streaming debut instead. The production comes from good stock as the creators of it have been behind great Disney animated features like Big Hero 6 and Moana but that might set the bar a little high for this new adventure. The film follows a little girl who stows away on the ship of a legendary sea monster hunter as they launch an epic journey into uncharted waters to make history by capturing the biggest sea creatures unknown to man. The film looks incredible and impeccably animated with a solid voice cast including The Boys’ Karl Urban, Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens and Chernobyl’s Jared Harris. ‘m a sucker for some high seas adventures and since we are never getting any Pirates of The Caribbean movies again, this will have to tide me over, pun intended I guess.

Apples – Coming from writer and director Christos Nikou, a Greek filmmaker who had some experience working under the wing of acclaimed The Favorite, The Lobster and The Killing Of A Sacred Deer writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos, I had my expectations for this new movie nestled in the bar I had set for one of my favourite idiosyncratic storytellers today. I couldn’t be further from the mark because I believe that the debut work of Nikou as a feature filmmaker lies more closely to the works of Ingmar Bergman than a film like Dogtooth or Alps. The story is set amidst a worldwide pandemic that causes sudden amnesia, following middle-aged Aris who finds himself enrolled in a recovery program designed to help unclaimed patients build new identities. The film has such deep things to say about identity and being lost in a sea of questions when you are stripped of that. The lead actor, Aris Servetalis, gives a charming but almost blank performance that allows the viewer to try and fill in the blanks more than the story will give but it all still feels oddly rewarding in the end. Anything pandemic related automatically comes with a warning label but this film manages to hold that feeling and not make it cheap or exploitative.

Blu-Ray:

Ambulance – Looking to blow things up in the biggest ways possible with the story usually being a secondary motion, Michael Bay is back on the scene with this new action thriller that snagged my attention because of the lead stars of Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul Mateen III who are always incredible on screen. I used to be into the “Bay-hem” of this action pioneer but have been dulled down by too many Transformers films and the cacophonous noise of his style but I will say that the low bar worked out in my favour. The film follows two desperate men who pair for the biggest bank heist in Los Angeles history with a take of $32 million. Of course, things go wrong and they hijack an ambulance with a wounded cop clinging to life and an ace EMT on board, played by Baby Driver’s Eiza Gonzalez. With it being a Michael Bay film, besides explosions, it is full of insane camera twirling, sunkissed shots of the Los Angeles cityscape and more of his trademarks but it also has some incredible drone shots that keep you speeding alongside the action of the film, almost feeling like you are a part of it. I also really liked how character-driven Bay made this movie, something that isn’t usually his forte but he pulls it off here quite nicely. The movie also happens to be a remake of a 2005 thriller out of Denmark as was Gyllenhaal’s previous film, The Guilty, which is fantastic and on Netflix right now.

Everything Everywhere All At Once – After the insanity and soulful beauty that was Swiss Army Man, a must-see film for any arthouse fan, I’d been waiting for the next collaboration between the two-headed creation team which is Daniels. Always idiosyncratic and entirely on their own path, the films that they created separately have been wildly original as well so they are seemingly on a constant hot streak in my opinion. For their new mind-bender, they’ve enlisted Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Lee Curtis and former child star Ke Huy Quan for this story about an aging Chinese immigrant who is swept up in an insane adventure, where she alone can save the world by exploring other universes connecting with the lives she could have led. Yes, it might be reminiscent of the sci-fi action flick The One with Jet Li from the early 2000s but Daniels gives this story a whole new spin and one that is also deeply rooted in the family culture of the Chinese and their chasing of the American dream on all levels. The film is jaw-droppingly mesmerizing in its scope and consistently finds a way to surprise the audience with twists and turns that you will never see coming. I had deep emotional reactions to this movie and fell in love with it immediately. This is still my number one for 2022 and with so many great films this year, that is saying a lot!

Memory – We’re going from the highs of multiverse bending martial arts epics to this new geriatric action flick and don’t worry, Liam Neeson, the star, calls them that too. The only good thing heading into this is that it was directed by Martin Campbell who is usually very reliable given that he’s also done some kick-ass Bond movies. Co-starring the beautiful Monica Bellucci in a villain role, the story follows Neeson as Alex Lewis, an expert assassin with a reputation for discreet precision who is caught in a moral quagmire, refusing to complete a job that violates his code. Quickly, he must hunt down and kill the people who hired him before they and FBI agent Vincent Serra, played by Memento’s Guy Pearce, find him first. Alex also suffers from a rapidly deteriorating memory as he tries to piece together what is real and what isn’t. Again, because Neeson seems to bring the exact same energy to everything, this movie starts out on a high note and gets dulled down as it progresses. He has really carved out his own niche with these movies but are they really drawing the audience levels to sustain them?

Zero Contact – Anthony Hopkins seems to be stretching out his direct-to-video legs these days as I feel like his Anson Mount-led thriller, The Virtuoso was just a few short months ago and now we have this sci-fi thriller which definitely didn’t have any theatrical push to it. The film has the added Canadian bonus of having Aleks Paunovic co-star in his, fresh off his villain role in Marvel’s Hawkeye, but, like I mentioned above with Apples, it plays in a sandbox of trigger warnings that we might not be ready for. Produced in seventeen different countries virtually during the 2020 global pandemic, the film follows five characters based all over the world, connected only by their devotion to the late founder and tech titan Finley Hart, played by Hopkins. Forced to work together, their goal is to shut down Hart’s most secret invention, a machine that is either the solution to mankind’s problems or the end of life on earth. The premise is interesting but sadly nothing is done with it as I try to figure out if anything actually happens in this movie. We get roped into the Zoom generation as it has been coined over the last couple of years but this comes off as just dull or a conference call at your place of work rather than a high-tech thriller, which is what it is trying to be. Sadly, this film is just easy pay cheques made in the comfort of a home and a sort of vapid piece of fluff that could make less of an impression.

Monstrous – After the first hit season of the Showtime series Yellowjackets, lead actress Christina Ricci, an actress I’ve had a crush on for decades, is back on top in a big way. This new Shudder-produced film won’t make waves as big as that series did but it might get some more eyeballs on it than it would have before. The story centers on Ricci as a traumatized woman fleeing from her abusive ex-husband with her seven-year-old son but in their new, remote sanctuary they find they have a bigger, more terrifying monster to deal with. Ricci’s performance is fantastic but the constraints of this PG-rated monster movie often bog it down and at times it feels really dull and lifeless. It might be due to its mislead as a creature feature when it wallows more in the psychological horror of the situation but it’s interestingly shot in a very dreamlike way and has its goodness that shines through from time to time.

Okja – Bong Joon Ho has been catapulted to the top of cinema choices since his film Parasite astounded audiences and did a pretty good pull during awards seasons but there have been films of his that were easier accessible than Parasite was and some were as close as Netflix. Debuting almost five years ago on the streaming service, the film has now earned its way to a Criterion Collection release and it really earned it with a great biting satire and a warm heart that beats underneath it. The film follows young Mija, a girl who has been a caretaker and constant companion to Okja, a massive animal and an even bigger friend, for ten years at her home in the mountains of South Korea. Everything changes when family-owned, multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation takes Okja for themselves and transports her to New York, where an image-obsessed and self-promoting CEO has big plans for Mija’s dearest friend. With no particular plan but single-minded in intent, Mija sets out on a rescue mission in a film that is impeccably shot, as are all of Bong’s films but features such idiosyncratic performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano and Tilda Swinton in a dual role. Gyllenhaal was the standout for me, playing a Jack Hanna-like on-screen zoologist and off-screen douchebag who is prone to ego and alcohol-driven temper tantrums. This movie was an absolute delight to watch for me but I doubt it is everyone else’s cup of tea.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:

Transformers – Remember when Michael Bay brought his bombastic form of self-coined “Bayhem” to the Hasbro toy and cartoon battle between Autobots and Decepticons to the big screen? Well, that was fifteen years ago this week and it’s a great reminder of how great this film franchise started but also a stark memory of how hard it’s fallen and all with Bay at the helm. The film is pretty simple, an ancient struggle between two Cybertronian races, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, who come to battle on Earth, with a clue to the ultimate power being held by a teenager, the fun Sam Witwicky, played perfectly by Shia LeBeouf. This is also the first time we saw the lovely Megan Fox and Bay knew how to shoot her in the perfect sun-kissed way, like a Ford or GM ad because he has discovered that ability to commercialize cinema and make it bombastically entertaining, perfecting this staple as his own art. It’s a really long-winded way of saying this movie holds up.

Men In Black & Men In Black II – It’s a big week for this Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith-led sci-fi comedy as they hit the milestones of twenty-five years and twenty years respectively and I think both films still hold up pretty well. Barry Sonnenfeld is the other Tim Burton, in my opinion, a filmmaker with an idiosyncratic direction to him which is evident in both of his Addams Family movies as well as these two installments, an edge that is missing from the third film but these two are still great. The first film follows a police officer who joins a secret organization that polices and monitors extraterrestrial interactions on Earth while the second film picks up with that officer, now named Agent Jay, being sent to find Agent Kay and restore his memory which was erased at the end of part one after the re-appearance of a case from Kay’s past. If you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing both of these great sci-fi adventures, this is the perfect week to do it.

The Amazing Spider-Man & Spider-Man: Homecoming – I’m combining Spider-Man anniversaries this week as it is ten years since Andrew Garfield did the Peter Parker slash Spider-Man thing for the first time and it is also the five-year mark of when Tom Holland got his first solo movie. As many reservations as I have about Amazing Spider-Man, I really love Garfield’s iteration of the character even if the film isn’t great on the other hand, Holland’s movies all rock without question. I will say that the solo Sony-produced Spider-Man films didn’t have the leverage of having the Marvel Cinematic Universe backing it as it does now but there are some solid scenes in it and even if we weren’t celebrating them this week, they would both still be very worth rewatching. Maybe not Amazing Spider-Man 2 though, I have a really hard time defending that movie at all.

Television:

Boo, Bitch (Netflix) – With the third season of Never Have I Ever bringing the series to an end in mid-August, I know I’m going to be in need of some Netflix high school melodrama with an edge and hopefully, this show will fill that void. The only known star I see in it is Lana Condor who played a pretty solid Jubilee in a terrible X-Men movie but it was enough to give me some hope. The show has her playing one-half of two senior best friends make a last-ditch attempt to be seen, attending their first house party and even getting the attention of the dream boy in school. Things get supernatural when one of them becomes a ghost, she’ll need to really live her best life and make her life amendments while she can. This series has some good snark to it but is lacking that voice that Mindy Kaling has given Never Have I Ever and as much as I loved creator Lauren Iungerich’s other series, the MTV comedy Awkward, this show doesn’t strike as hot as that one did in the first few episodes. Even still, I’m more than willing to give it a full-season chance.

Black Bird (AppleTV+) – Based on true events crime stories have an appeal that will never go away because the sickness of a killer’s mind will never fail to intrigue audiences but with so many out there, it is sometimes hard to settle on one that garners enough attention for a full series run. This one got my interest very quickly with the casting of Rocketman’s Taron Egerton and BlackkKlansman standout Paul Walter Hauser who puts on that chameleon-like ability to slip into the skin of a real psychopath. The story follows Egerton as Jimmy Keene, a conman who is sentenced to ten years in a minimum-security prison that cuts a deal with the FBI to befriend a suspected serial killer. Keene has to elicit a confession from Larry Hall, played by Hauser, to find the bodies of as many as eighteen women from his murder spree. For me, I’m just glad that we are not watching yet another Ted Bundy story or an iteration of a serial killer’s story that we already know implicitly. Even better than that, this show is actually fantastic, really well written by the mind behind The Town, Mystic River, Shutter Island and more, Dennis Lehane, and it comes from a memoir I hear is just phenomenal. This may be a slow-burn word-of-mouth show for AppleTV+ that could get a big following behind it.

New Releases:

Minions: The Rise Of Gru – The kids are all most likely chomping at the bit for this new entry into this really popular animated franchise from Illumination Entertainment and there are probably parents out there that are bracing for the visual nails on the chalkboard that these films are for them. I am on the more positive side of the fence for the Minions although I will say that the first of their spin-off films was a bit pointless but now they’ve brought Steve Carrell’s Gru back into the mix for his origin story. The film follows Gru, growing up in the seventies, idolizing his favourite supervillain group, the Vicious 6, his inspiration for evil. Gru hatches a plan to become evil enough to join them and, luckily, he gets some mayhem-making back-up from his loyal followers, the Minions, Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and Otto, a new Minion sporting braces and a desperate need to please. Together they deploy their skills as they and Gru build their first lair, experiment with their first weapons, and pull off their first missions. The expectations for this film are kind of the same as every other film that we’ve gotten after the first one because they all deliver on somewhat the same level. All I know is there is a repeat of the constant nonsense these little guys spew from my kid for at least four weeks afterwards.

The Forgiven – There’s something about the McDonough brothers, Martin and John Michael, that sets them apart from other filmmakers and the odd thing, unlike the Coens, the Farrellys, the Safdies and others, they never make their films together but they still have a distinct feeling about them. The definition line for the McDonough’s is fantastic dialogue with incredible casts and that is what is evident here with this drama that seems as elusive in its tone as is the truth of its characters. The story takes place over a weekend in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco and explores the reverberations of a random accident on the lives of both the local Muslims and Western visitors to a house party in a grand villa and the ramifications but sociological and psychological that happens to our main man, Ralph Fiennes in the result. This film has two main threads of reluctant redemption and excessive classism that makes it a heavy narrative with a lot of food for thought. I can’t say it would be broadly compelling but as a fan of great character-driven work on an ensemble level, I really liked this one.

Dual – With just three films under his belt now, Riley Stearns has risen to be one of my favourite filmmakers and a creative mind I follow on social media for nuggets about what he’s going to tackle next. He’s made subversive and intriguing stories about many sociological issues like religious and cult indoctrination in his thriller Faults, toxic masculinity in his dark comedy The Art Of Self Defense and now takes on a whole new set of issues in a movie he made in the midst of the COVID lockdown. The film stars Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Karen Gillan as a woman who opts for a cloning procedure after she receives a terminal diagnosis but when she recovers her attempts to have her clone decommissioned fail, leading to a court-mandated duel to the death. The concept of this film is incredible and opens with a duel between a man and his clone that totally sets the tone. The film is a bit of a character building slow burn but once the gears lock in, you are in for one hell of a ride and a biting dialogue that made me chuckle darkly multiple times.

Marcel The Shell With Shoes On – If there has ever been a palate cleanser of great design and scope, it really has to be this new wondrously imaginative feature film that blends stunning stop motion with the “reality” of a documentary feel. The movie is based on a popular web series created by Dean Fleischer-Camp and voiced by his wife at the time, Jenny Slate, I feel robbed that I didn’t know about this series earlier but I feel fulfilled now in having seen the big-screen version. The story follows our title character, an adorable one-inch-tall shell who ekes out a colourful existence with his grandmother Connie and their pet lint, Alan. Once part of a sprawling community of shells, they now live alone as the sole survivors of a mysterious tragedy. But when a documentary filmmaker discovers them amongst the clutter of his Airbnb, the short film he posts online brings Marcel millions of passionate fans, as well as unprecedented dangers and new hope at finding his long-lost family. This movie is heartwarming at all times and deals with some heavy subject matter in parts, like the ending of relationships, Separation and even the death of a loved one or family member, but does it through the prism of precious naivete that comes off so beautifully. It was refreshing to see an animated film without a goal other than giving its simple story and not aiming for a franchise or toy sales. Marcel is exceptional, perfect and utterly must-see.

Blu-Ray:

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore – I headed into this second sequel in the spinoff prequel of the Harry Potter franchise with a few mixed emotions. The first Fantastic Beasts film I found to be really fun with some great characters and storytelling but the second film, The Crimes Of Grindelwald, felt way too much at once being shoved into a single movie which grew tedious as the story moved on. Now we return to the world of wizarding with Dumbledore, played by Jude Law, at its head. With the knowledge that Grindelwald, now played by the great Mads Mikkelsen, is intent on seizing control of both sides of the world, both magic and ordinary, Albus must enlist Magizoologist Newt Scamander to lead an intrepid team of wizards, witches and one brave Muggle baker on a dangerous mission, where they encounter old and new beasts and clash with Grindelwald’s growing legion of followers. The good thing is we get a little more of a return to what made the first movie so entertaining and they don’t feel like they cram in and rush little storylines that come to fruition later but it sadly never meets up to the magic of the original Potter films and likely never will in the prequel setting. As much as I love Mads, he didn’t seem to equal what Johnny Depp had already brought to the role and I feel like Ezra Miller is so problematic in real life that it is really hard to watch him on screen now.

Firestarter – Making a Stephen King adaptation is really dicey at any time because, in this avid reader and huge fan’s mind, they haven’t had the best transition time from page to screen and some of them have gone beyond being disappointing and gone to the depths of being downright awful. This adaptation has the benefit of being one I’ve read but haven’t had the deepest connection with at the time, although the father and daughter bond at the center of it has sentimental value to me now, decades after I initially read it. For those who didn’t get to read this or see the eighties Drew Barrymore film, the story follows parents Andy and Vicky who have been on the run for more than a decade, desperate to hide their daughter Charlie from a shadowy federal agency that wants to harness her unprecedented gift for creating fire into a weapon of mass destruction. Andy has taught Charlie how to defuse her power, which is triggered by anger or pain but, as Charlie turns 11, the fire becomes harder and harder to control. After an incident reveals the family’s location, a mysterious operative is deployed to hunt down the family and seize Charlie once and for all but, of course, she has other plans. The was promising, with Zac Efron playing Andy and Indigenous actor Michael Greyeyes as the formidable assassin bearing down on them and director Keith Thomas gets his shot at this big-budget Blumhouse feature after his outstanding debut, The Vigil but sadly it all amounts to mediocrity. This film seems to completely throw away its subject material early on and gives us characters that are confusing in their motivation and bland in their delivery all leading to a finale that is a complete mess that rings hollow and totally bland. This film was an utter waste of time.

The Worst Person In The World – A Best Foreign Academy Award nominee that now has a beautiful new Criterion Collection edition, when one of my studio publicist contacts emailed me about this new well-received drama I jumped at the chance to watch it, and the next masterpiece from writer and director Joachim Trier who has not only not mad a sub-par film but has yet to make one that was any less than amazing. All over film Twitter, people had been going crazy for this movie and I can say that I agree with them and furthermore call it a must-see for 2022. The film is a modern dramedy about the quest for love and meaning in contemporary Oslo, chronicling four years in the life of Julie, a young woman who navigates the troubled waters of her love life and struggles to find her career path, leading her to take a realistic look at who she really is and make decisions that could paint her to others as a horrendous human being. Lead actress Renate Reinsve is absolutely electric in this movie, giving her journey resonance and purpose, putting us on an odyssey of finding her perfect center which includes a mind-bending mushroom hallucination that could be one of my favourite scenes I’ve seen this year. This is a special movie and, damn the subtitles, people need to watch it.

Mothering Sunday – If you’re in the mood for some post-World War I British romance then this is a damn good week for you because this film ticks all the boxes plus it features Colin Firth and Olivia Coman in supporting roles which is the setup to an actor’s dream showcase. The film also features actress Odessa Young in the lead role, looking for some redemption after The Stand, opposite Josh O’Connor who swept television award shows recently for his portrayal of Prince Charles in the Netflix series The Crown. The story follows a maid living in England after the war who secretly plans to meet with the man she loves before he leaves to marry another woman in a clash of familial relationships and societal politics. This film is driven by fantastic performances that are subdued and seemingly bubble just under the surface. Aside from the few episodes, I saw of the Prime Video series Hanna that director Eva Husson had directed, I wasn’t familiar with her work until this movie and was totally blown away by how studious her craft was alongside Moffie cinematographer Jamie Ramsey. This film won’t have a lot of mainstream buzz around it but it is definitely worth the watch.

See For Me – As far as thrillers go, it feels like the blind girl dealing with intruding assailants trope mostly belongs to the Terence Young film Wait Till Dark with Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin but this Canadian film is making a run at being in that conversation. Starring the actually visually impaired Skyler Davenport in her feature film debut and directed by Randall Okita in the follow-up to his first narrative film, the movie has flares of originality that caught me off guard. The story follows Davenport as Sophie, a blind former skier who is cat-sitting in a secluded mansion when three thieves invade for the hidden safe. Sophie’s only defence is army veteran Kelly, who is her remote visual aid consultant, who helps her defend against the invaders and survive until the police arrive. The film has its narrative gaffs here and there but still manages to make a compelling thriller that uses the character’s disability as a trapping that we can really get behind in a situation like this and root for her survival. Okita gives the film an excellent sound design and does some great camera angles that I found fascinating.

Boomerang – It seems like all of Eddie Murphy’s heyday era films are getting their blu-ray update releases recently and I was pleasantly surprised to see this one in my mailbox, a solid film from Reginald Hudlin that features an early performance from Halle Berry. The film is also noteworthy for being unique as it was the most expensive movie with an all-Black cast and production crew for its time in 1992, costing $40 million to make and making $130 million at the box office, which was rare for an all-Black cast and crew film. The film was a from com that follows a successful executive and rampant womanizer who finds his lifestyle choices have turned back on him when his new female boss turns out to be an even bigger deviant than he is. The film was lambasted by critics at the time and got slammed with bad reviews but watching it now it exhibits all the tropes of Murphy as a film star that we loved and has such a fun side to it. The film doesn’t feel like we have to take it all that seriously and more wants to play on the gender angle which works for the most part.

The First Wives Club – It was a big get in the mid-nineties to have Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton in the same film billed at the top for a large part of moviegoers, a woman-led comedy with some star power. The same billing would most likely not garner the same attention today but at its time it had everything going for it plus it had the stalwart filmmaker Hugh Wilson coming off of Guarding Tess to guide it in the right direction. The story follows three wives of husbands who they have helped climb the ladder of success that have been dumped for newer, curvier models. The trio decides to use their pain as motivation to destroy their exes and come up with a cleverly devious plan to hit them where it really hurts, in the wallet. The film was fun and a hit at its time and from what I’ve read, the cast wanted to make a sequel to it but the studio considered the success of the movie a fluke and balked at doing more. What I will say that the lasting effect of the film was is it introduced us to the great Timothy Olyphant who make his debut in the comedy.

Scooby-Doo And Guess Who?: Season 2 – Scooby-Doo got some reinvention in this new series but with some of the tested and true pieces sticking around with Matthew Lillard continuing to be the best Shaggy ever since Casey Kasem retired, and Grey Griffin and Frank Welker keeping up their duties as Fred and Daphne and a perfectly cast Kate Micucci voicing Velma. The show has a different guest star every week which ranges from Batman himself, voiced by the best Batman Kevin Conroy, Sia, Weird Al Yankovic and even the late Alex Trebek in the first season and this season goes way out there with Axl Rose, Kacey Musgraves, Macklemore and more. This is a great new revival of classic characters and the love for the source material shows.

Television:

Only Murders In The Building: Season 2 (Disney+) – Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez return for the second season of their series that debuted on Disney+ through the Star side of things last year and became one of the most talked-about shows on the entire streaming service. The series is also produced by the stars and I will say that it’s really not hard to immediately adore it. The story follows three strangers who share an obsession with true crime and suddenly find themselves wrapped up in one. When a grisly death occurs inside their exclusive Upper West Side apartment building, the trio suspects murder and employs their precise knowledge of true crime to investigate the truth. Perhaps even more explosive are the lies they tell one another. Soon, the endangered trio comes to realize a killer might be living among them as they race to decipher the mounting clues before they possibly become victims themselves. The anticipation for this second season has been large, especially on my Twitter feed as a lot of the people I follow are huge fans of it and there is some great guest casting coming up in it but I’m not going to even start to give spoilers on that.

Westworld: Season 4 (Crave) – It’s been over two years since we’ve seen anything from this incredible mysterious show that emanated from a 70s Michael Crichton movie and now it is back with an almost unexpected new offering and to be honest, if I had known it was coming I would have had it on my list for the most anticipated releases of the year. The favourites are all back including Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores, Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard and Thandie Newton’s Maeve and takes place seven years after the outside the park world of season 3’s events but what is this season about? Well, showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan are keeping everything secretive but what we do know is that the story will head back to the park and that just adds to the intrigue for me.

Stranger Things 4: Volume 2 (Netflix) – We have the second half of the fourth part of this Netflix series event and after the things that we saw in the first four episodes I am chomping at the bit to dig in and they didn’t even give me the courtesy of an advance screener! The audacity! For those who haven’t caught up with this season yet, Eleven and Will live in sunny California and are not fitting in well but in Hawkins, a new evil called Vecna is dispatching kids Nightmare On Elm Street style and the only ones who can save everyone is the only people in town that have gone through this before. I can’t even say where my expectations lie because the creators The Duffer brothers annihilate them every time. Hell, they’ve even created a new character per season that becomes my fresh new favourite every time. Get ready because this will set up the final season as well.

New Releases:

Elvis – I have to be honest, I am not the biggest fan of the works of filmmaker Baz Luhrmann but the more I saw the trailers for this new biopic of the original King Of Rock n Roll the more interested in it I became. It isn’t for Tom Hanks either, who kind of looks and sounds bizarre in it, but Once Upon A Time In Hollywood actor Austin Butler who takes on this infinitely iconic role and is seemingly doing a great job of it. The film takes on the story from top to bottom, from his childhood in Tupelo, Mississippi to his rise to stardom starting in Memphis, Tennessee and his conquering of Las Vegas, Nevada, as Elvis Presley becomes the first rock ‘n roll star and changes the world with his music. The look of the film is absolutely gorgeous, something that Luhrmann always has going for him, but I also put that in the hands of Mulan cinematographer Mandy Walker who worked on his last movie Australia as well. I have a lot of hope for this movie and for it to attach a rocket to Butler’s career as he is earning great acclaim for his performance.

The Black Phone – Another pandemic rescheduled film, this new horror from writer and director Scott Derrickson has been on my most anticipated movies list for a long time, ever since I saw the trailer, and it has to be because of the uber-creepy performance from a masked Ethan Hawke. It also is because Derrickson is a master of scaring you out of your seat, as is evident in one of the scariest films of all time, his chiller Sinister. The story follows a thirteen-year-old boy who is abducted by a child killer and locked in a soundproof basement with only a broken phone in the corner on which he starts receiving calls from the killer’s previous victims. I can tell that Derrickson and co-writer Robert Cargill have cooked up something special and wildly original to kick off some great summer horror, a niche in the genre that is sometimes pretty hit or miss. I think this movie is going to mess with people and word of mouth will be pretty big.

The Man From Toronto – This had so much potential out of the gate, an action-comedy about mistaken identity with Kevin Hart and Jason Statham directed by Patrick Hughes, the guy behind fun action films like Red Hill, Expendables 3 and The Hitman’s Bodyguard. Due to scheduling issues, Statham had to drop out and Woody Harrelson stepped in which isn’t a downgrade in my opinion so everything is looking good. The story which I nutshelled at the beginning follows the results of a case of mistaken identity that arises after a screw-up sales consultant and the world’s deadliest assassin, known only as The Man from Toronto, run into each other at an AirBnB holiday rental. This movie starts with that promise I described and then quickly pulls into a nose dive as things get worse and worse. The CGI and effects are horrible, the script is lame and wastes both actors’ talents featuring lines I know I’ve heard in better movies and the only saving grace is some well-done action scenes. If only I could care about those because everything in between screams bad Netflix action and it’s evident why Sony Pictures offloaded this dud to a streaming service. An utter waste of time.

Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe – It’s been a long time coming for another installment in the saga of two of the biggest slackers of the nineties and an animated gem out of the MTV generation. That’s right, I’m. a huge Beavis and Butthead fan and it’s been too long since their last series, which was eleven years ago, or their last and only movie, which was over twenty-five years ago. Now, after a “creative” judge sentences them to space camp, a black hole sends our adolescent heroes twenty-four years into the modern future where the duo misuse Iphones, embark on a quest to score and become targets of the Deep State. Yes, I feel like, as a fan, this is exactly what I want and creator Mike Judge always seems to hit with the great satire and comedy coupled with the love and reverence for the characters that got him here, thirty years later after their debut on Liquid Television. I’m watching this day one on Paramount+ and can not wait.

Drive My Car – With Academy Awards nominations, which notched a win for Best Foreign, and critical acclaim from so many renowned film reviewers around the world, the bar was set pretty high for this Japanese drama. This is no flinching matter for writer and director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, who not only netted the Best Foreign Oscar award but the Best Adapted Screenplay nomination as well, which puts him in the arena against favourites like Jane Campion, Denis Villeneuve and Maggie Gyllenhaal but I don’t think he’s worried because his film is that good. The story follows Yusuke Kafuku, a renowned stage actor and director, who receives an offer to direct a production of Uncle Vanya at a theatre festival in Hiroshima just shortly after the tragic passing of his wife. There, he meets Misaki Watari, a taciturn young woman assigned by the festival to chauffeur him in his beloved red Saab 900. As the production’s premiere approaches, tensions mount among the cast and crew, not least between Yusuke and Koshi Takatsuki, a handsome TV star who shares an unwelcome connection to Yusuke’s late wife. Forced to confront painful truths raised from his past, Yusuke begins, with the help of his driver, to face the haunting mysteries his wife left behind. This film is made with such rich performances and a beautiful scope that reminded me of the serene qualities of a Hikaru Korreda film, a dramatic director who prefers stories about quiet solitude. I don’t want to give too much of this movie away but it is a real crowd-pleaser that will be remembered long afterwards and goes down avenues of grief and processing it through art.

Rise – After Adam Sandler’s Hustle a couple of weeks ago, I’m totally ready for more basketball movies and this one just happens to be directly based on a true story which gives it that added boost. I’m not too familiar with a lot of players in the NBA right now but I would have to be under a rock to not know who Giannis Antetokounmpo is, especially after he won the NBA championship last year with the Milwaukee Bucks. This is his origin story, following the parents of Giannis and his two brothers as they emigrate from Nigeria to Greece for a chance at a better life for their family, working hard to provide for their children, while the reality of deportation from a difficult citizenship system threatens the dreams for their future. When an opportunity arises, the Antetokounmpo brothers take their frustrations to the public basketball courts and although they have no experience in the sport, they realize they are naturally gifted ball players. With the help of a talent agent, the trio decides to pursue careers in the NBA. This movie looks like a feel-good story of an underdog family fighting against poverty and adversity to achieve a dream and it looks like it could transcend the interest in baseball just to be a solid based on a true story drama.

Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story – Nothing is better than a solid music documentary even if I’m not exactly into the genre in question but I think the fact that “jazz” is in the title is a bit misleading as it really encompasses many different styles into one show. The movie also brings something that is special to me in many different settings, the festival feel, atmosphere and ability to bring people together. This documentary not only captures the signature annual music and cultural event that has been called America’s greatest festival in all of its beauty and glory but also delves deep into the rich culture of The Big Easy. New Orleans is a destination for me as I’ve seen so much of it through film and television many times and this film just compounds how much I need to go there. The music and the culture, yes, but, oh my god, the food looks incredible and the documentary definitely focuses on that a little bit as it is a big part of the celebration as well.

Slash/Back – I love that Indigenous stories or films written, produced and starring the community are getting a bigger platform because it’s about damn time these films stopped getting marginalized and, let’s face it, they can help elevate the mediocre name that Canadian films have had as a stereotype for decades. What was even better about this new and fantastical sci-fi adventure is that the early buzz and festival reactions to it were really positive. The story follows Maika and her ragtag friends who discover an alien invasion in their tiny arctic hamlet and decide that it’s up to them to save the day. Utilizing their makeshift weapons and horror movie knowledge, the aliens will soon realize you don’t mess with girls from Pang. For me, the biggest takeaway from this film was the emerging voice of writer and director Nyla Innuksuk who brims with originality in her storytelling. I really hope that this debut feature is just the tip of the iceberg and we get to see more from her in the coming years. This movie pays beautiful homages to the classic alien invasion films that obviously inspired it but does it in unique ways that keep you excited for what’s next. I loved this one and hope it gets to shine on a wider audience level.

Blu-Ray:

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent – Being a huge Nicolas Cage fan, which is no secret to any regular readers of my work, this seems like the ultimate goal for this legend to hit at least once in his career, playing an ultra version of himself. Add to that the added charm of starring The Mandalorian himself, Pedro Pascal, which gives this comedy even more of a draw and it becomes even more must-see for 2022. In the film, he plays a cash-strapped Nicolas Cage who agrees to make a paid appearance at a billionaire super fan’s birthday party but is really an informant for the CIA since the billionaire fan is a drug kingpin and he is forced to live up to his own legend, channelling his most iconic and beloved on-screen characters in order to save himself and his loved ones. The onscreen chemistry between Cage and Pascal is absolutely beautiful and incredibly charming and the addition of Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz as the CIA agents in question adds so much more to the hilarity as well. I had a huge bar set for this movie to clear and it soared so high above it that I forgot any of my expectations and just had a hell of a time. Getting meta with Nic Cage has never been so much fun and I can’t wait to watch this again and again, one of my new favorite comedies.

Cinderella – With the flash mob stunt that was pulled in Los Angeles by James Corden, this fairy tale remake was already skating on thin ice for me as, c’mon, you guys know that Corden is the friggin’ worst, right? Anyways, I really love what Kenneth Branagh did with the Disney live-action version of the story so I feel like this one is highly unnecessary and a musical as well and with the heavyweight that is also coming on blu-ray in that department, this one doesn’t have a chance. This remake stars Camila Cabello, Billy Porter and Idina Menzel and opts to take a modern take on the traditional story you grew up with, even down to the fairy godmother who Porter plays as Fab G. Yeah, I don’t like any of it either but I’m sure this one will find an audience and become a pretty sizeable hit and we’ll all still regret that horrible PR traffic stunt.

After Yang – Colin Farrell has had a hell of a year so far, not only playing The Penguin in, as of now, one of the biggest films of 2022 but also co-starring in this critically-lauded drama. The film was made by writer and director Kogonada in his follow-up to the phenomenal Columbus from almost five years ago and features Jodie Turner-Smith who blew me away in Queen & Slim last year. The film is set in a near-future where humans are dependent on androids to do their bidding and one family’s struggle with questions of love, connection, and loss after their A.I. helper unexpectedly breaks down. Kogonada plumbs some incredible depths of human emotion in his last film so I’m really excited to see what he does with this sci-fi twinged setting and I really love sombre Colin Farrell’s character work as in the Yorgos Lanthimos films The Killing Of A Sacred Deer and The Lobster. This might be a low-key best film of 2022 I think.

You Are Not My Mother – There is something about British, Irish, Scottish or Welsh-made films that automatically makes me gravitate towards them but the horror side of things really gets my attention because they are always so incredibly crafted. Last year had the Welsh mind twister Censor and the British chiller Caveat and it’s right in between those great films where this simple and slightly monstrous horror tells its compelling tale. Not featuring any cast members that are known on a global scale, this film is set in a North Dublin housing estate where a young teen named Char’s mother goes missing. When she returns Char is determined to uncover the truth of her disappearance and unearth the dark secrets of her family as she starts to see weird behaviours in her mother that she has never seen before and her grandmother seems both wary and knowledgable about the whole situation. This film is immensely satisfying in its incredible atmosphere that draws you in deeper and deeper into the mystery that surrounds Char and her family with subtle little flashes of pure terror that will get under your skin. What I love about horror is it can be made for relatively nothing and still be effective with every frame, as this film shows off with class.

The Cellar – Yes, I’m a huge horror fan so it doesn’t take a lot to get me into a new fright flick but I also have had a deep love for Elisha Cuthbert but not during the Popular Mechanics For Kids time because that would be creepy. No, my crush is on Kim Bauer in the Keifer Sutherland series 24 but a brunette Elisha takes the lead in this new thriller and I’m so intrigued. She plays Keira Woods, a mother whose daughter mysteriously vanishes in the cellar of their new house. She soon discovers there is an ancient and powerful entity controlling their home that she will have to face or risk losing her family’s souls forever. Oh yeah, haunted house films get me all the time but my issue is that this film never seems to get to a place beyond middling in any facet. The script feels limp, the acting watered down and the scares are almost nonexistent due to its been there done that nature. Usually, these Shudder originals deliver but this one felt like a floater in the end.

Aquaman: King Of Atlantis – Aquaman seems to be in the news for all of the wrong reasons with the Amber Heard and Mera conversation being on everyone’s lip so it figures that this silly little animated version just slipped under the radar. The animation style may rub many adult viewers the wrong way as it is geared to the more simple ways of doing it but with shows like Steven Universe and Adventure Time being the rage, well, the kids are into it and it can be as crazy as it wants to be. The story follows Aquaman just as he finally becomes king of Atlantis, but he has a lot of learning to do and thankfully, his advisors Vulko, a scholar, and Mera, a water-wielding warrior, are there to give him a hand. Cooper Andrews takes the lead role, an unknown to many people, but veteran comedian Thomas Lennon plays Vulko and, a great casting choice, Community’s Gillian Jacobs takes the role of Mera which kind of makes me want to see her in the live-action role as well. You know it would be a better choice than Heard but at this point that isn’t a hard sell.

The Patrick Star Show: Season 1 Volume 1 – As big as a Spongebob fan I am, I really have a soft spot for his good buddy Patrick Star and, honestly, it’s high time that this underwater madness got some sort of a spin-off, especially after multiple movies. The dim-witted starfish is honestly the perfect candidate for the show too because who wants to follow around the dour and depressing Squidward Tentacles? The Nickelodeon series is pretty simple at its core, following Patrick who still lives at home with his parents, a helpful sister and a grandparent he can’t seem to remember from day to day but neither can the rest of the family. I’m willing to let it slide that Patrick is no longer living next to Spongebob under a rock because apparently we’ve retconned that but I do love that they play in Patrick’s imagination and he has his own talk show through that. Yes, I know this is all geared at the kids but I am thankful that I love it just as much as they do and that’s probably more telling that I’m a stoner.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Blade Runner – One of the greatest sci-fi stories of all time hit the four-decade mark this week and I just had to bring it as I think it is still to this day Ridley Scott’s crowning achievement. Through multiple cuts, writer and director theories and audience conspiracy, this movie has managed to keep relevant for forty years and we even got a long-anticipated sequel from Denis Villeneuve that I love more than the original. For those who need to get a quick education on this Philip K. Dick brilliance, the film follows Harrison Ford as Deckard, a blade runner who must pursue and terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space and have returned to Earth to find their creator. Ford is great in this but it’s Rutger Hauer who steals the show as the enigmatic Roy Batty, the replicant leader as well as a soulful philosopher who sees the mark of a new life on an old world and hopes to capitalize from it. The effects, the cinematography, the script, performances and studious direction all combine to make one of the most perfect moments in science fiction film history and I raise my glass to an absolute masterpiece.

Television:

The Umbrella Academy: Season 3 (Netflix) – This show has to be one of the most difficult to reform after the transition of one of its main characters and it is at a time where they are just sort of figuring out the power and depth of said person. Yes, it is now widely known that Elliot Page is the actor going forward but it also leaves the big question of what happens to their character, Vanya Hargreaves, a huge part of the main superhero family at the center of this show. The show as we know it has the crew back in their own timeline after a brief visit to the sixties in season two but the reality has changed and the man who put the group together, Reginald Hargreaves, has opted to adopt seven different miraculous babies instead with an all-new result. I love this show so much, one of Netflix’s greatest assets and a series that is so reverent and celebratory of the Gerard and Mikey Way-created comic series. The feel and drive of it have never faltered and it still manages to completely surprise me as it tries to carve its own path. This is a welcome return and I highly recommend getting into or back into it.

Wellington Paranormal: Season 3 (The CW) – As a big fan of everything that Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi and their insane New Zealander comedy stylings, I have been waiting for this series to hit North American television screens as it has finished its entire run in its native country. Following on the heels of the phenomenal What We Do In The Shadows, the series follows Sergeant Ruawai Maaka of the Wellington Police who enlists the aid of Officers Minogue and O’Leary to tackle paranormal events in New Zealand’s capital city. In a police reality show style, the third season of this series follows these kiwi cops as they investigate cases such as the demon possession of a teenager, a noise complaint at a haunted house and a blood bank robbery in a completely irreverent comedic fashion. Seriously, New Zealand might be the funniest country on the planet and I’m pretty sold on that opinion. Prove me wrong, other countries!

Man vs. Bee (Netflix) – Rowan Atkinson is one of the best physical comedy actors of any generation and all you need to do is point to the many adventures of Mr. Bean, both on television and in the movies, for evidence. I have to assume, for this reason, it was a no-brainer for Netflix to pick up his new no-dialogue adventure even if he wasn’t playing the Austin Mini driving oddball. Again, we have a really simple premise, with Rowan playing a man who finds himself at war with a bee while housesitting a luxurious mansion. I can only imagine the hijinx that ensues with the brilliance contained in the head of Atkinson but how far can this be stretched out? I had initially thought this was a movie but it is a series apparently. Luckily, they are just fifteen-minute episodes but I hope that doesn’t overstay its welcome either.

New Releases:

Lightyear – The amount of promise that this new Pixar film has amassed since it was announced is very interesting because I didn’t really see the appeal when the idea was first proposed but this cast alone has got me going. Chris Evans is taking over the iconic role from Tim Allen, a replacement I’m more than fine with but it also has the added boost of Nope’s Keke Palmer and the great Taika Waititi to join him on his brand new adventure. This is a prequel adventure that follows the real and non-toy Buzz as he is marooned while spending years attempting to return home and encounters an army of ruthless robots commanded by his arch-nemesis Zurg who are attempting to steal his fuel source. Being a Pixar film, I do have an ascertained level of expectation for this movie but, given its source material, it has to be delivered through a canon of predetermined things around this character to be fully satisfying. This could be polarizing but I’m looking forward to it.

Spiderhead – Top Gun Maverick director Joseph Kosinski didn’t even have time to do a victory lap over the success of his long-anticipated Tom Cruise sequel before Netflix rolled out his newest movie but that is just the pitfalls of being in a “post-pandemic” existence. For this new thriller, he got to bring along Miles Teller for a familiar face in his works as well as work with the uber-talented Christ Hemsworth just a month before Thor: Love And Thunder hits theatres. The story is set in a near-future where convicts are offered the chance to volunteer as medical subjects to shorten their sentences. One such subject for a new drug capable of generating feelings of love begins questioning the reality of his emotions and the motivation of the man in charge of the whole facility. Teller gets the main role in this film as Hemsworth dons a role that is rare for him, the shady scientist with cold calculations who might be a villain and for how interesting the switch in the archetype is, the interest of this movie never rises above a dull hum. The cinematography is great and the style is present but the story consistently falls into familiar ruts and the engagement never seems to arrive. Even by the last moments, I felt disappointed in the fact that for all of the talents of everyone involved, it all came across so mid-grade.

The Phantom Of The Open – This is a lucky week for character acting because we get not just one Mark Rylance-led film but two and it all kicks off with this based on a true story underdog tale and it features all of the Oscar-winning actor’s best qualities. Charm is the name of the game in this one as it also has the immeasurably great Sally Hawkins as Rylance’s wife in the film so the points it automatically earns are off the charts. The film has Rylance playing Maurice Flitcroft, a dreamer and unrelenting optimist, who managed to gain entry to The British Open Golf Championship Qualifying in 1976 and subsequently shot the worst round in Open history, becoming a folk hero in the process. Based on a novel by author Scott Murray, written by Paddington 2’s Simon Farnaby and directed by the immensely talented actor turned filmmaker Craig Roberts, this film is so endearingly funny and all has the brimming heart of its star and co-lead to rub off on all the other elements of the film. I loved the cinematography of it, done by Eternal Beauty’s Kit Fraser, which gives the whimsy of Flitcroft’s wonderful imagination in some really key scenes. The best part is that you don’t need to be a golf fan or even a casual viewer to really sink your teeth into it. The film feels broad in its appeal and I think it will spread through word of mouth.

Brian And Charles – Every now and then there is a festival darling that, despite the studio’s best efforts, just squeaks by without any notice due to not featuring a big star, a notable director or a sizeable budget. That’s exactly what this little British film tried to do but luckily I was sent a trailer for it months ago and have been eagerly waiting for its release. The film follows Brian, a man in a deep depression after a notably bad winter who wallows in the anxiety of loneliness until he finds the one thing to bring him out of it and that is building himself a robot companion. This comedy has such great word of mouth behind it with people calling its brand of deadpan brilliant which has me even more excited to check it out. I also really enjoy David Earl’s work from his roles in some of Ricky Gervais’ shows like After Life and Derek.

Jerry And Marge Go Large – Just looking at the poster, with lead actors Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening sitting on the back of a pickup truck, I knew I was going to be into this movie no matter what it turned out to be because I love both of these stars. Upon a deeper dig, I found this was a comedy that happens to be based on a true story and I was even more elated because both of these great talents work so well in comedic settings. The film is the real story of retiree Jerry Selbee, who discovers a mathematical loophole in the Massachusetts lottery and, with the help of his wife, Marge, wins millions and uses the money to revive their small Michigan town. Very inspirational and totally sweet-hearted at its core, it has the added charm of being directed by David Frankel who has given some solid offerings like The Devil Wears Prada and Marley And Me. On the other hand, this is his follow-up to Collateral Beauty which had an amazing cast but the worst follow-through of a good concept I have seen in a while. I’m trying not to let that hang over this one though.

Father Of The Bride – It’s an odd shift to go from a couple of Steve Martin-led comedy films that were beloved by its audience to the not usually comedy-associated star of Andy Garcia but that is exactly what HBO has done for their new remake of a nineties favourite. They’re also making the gamble of putting it in the hands of director Gary Alazraki in his English language debut but I think this is just part of the Latinx spin that this story is getting and dealing with big families and big weddings, well, it works well. The film is fairly simple as its predecessor, following a father’s coming to grips with his daughter’s upcoming wedding through the prism of multiple relationships within a big, sprawling Cuban-American clan. I didn’t space on the fact that classic actor Spencer Tracy originally starred in this story in 1950 and this is the style of film that I think we are getting this time around, rather than any of the physicality and excessiveness that comes with a Steve Martin film. That said, I think those expecting that sort of movie will be disappointed.

Cha Cha Real Smooth – With only two feature films under his belt including this one it may be a little early to call writer, director and actor Connor Raiff one of my current favourite filmmakers but following up the brilliant comedy-drama Shithouse with this even better offering has me speaking in hyperbole about the guy. Raiff has such a great command of deeply humanly flawed dramas with a comedic twist that after his microbudget debut he has managed to get Dakota Johnson and Leslie Mann in this one and it pays off beautifully. Raiff plays 22-year-old Andrew, a guy fresh out of college and without a clear life path going forward who is stuck back at home with his family in New Jersey. If there’s one thing that belongs on his nonexistent résumé, it’s how to get a party started, and this lands him the perfect job of motivational dancing at the bar and bat mitzvahs for his younger brother’s classmates. When Andrew befriends a local mom, Domino, and her daughter, Lola, he finally discovers a future he wants and his meandering in life days might come to a close if he makes the right moves. Raiff’s script is so snappy and funny that I found myself laughing so hard with each sarcastic and sardonic delivery, which elevated Dakota Johnson’s performance as well, an actress who seems to get immensely better and better in each performance I see from her. Much like Coda did for it last year, I think this is a slow-burn film for AppleTV+ which will constantly be pushed by word of mouth. I consider it equally as special.

Blu-Ray & DVD:

Morbius – I had definite worries about this new piece of the Sony Pictures part of the Marvel cinematic universe and it wasn’t just because of the length of time it took for it to finally be released, all pandemic related but from the lacklustre trailers that seem totally corny and uninspired, the shoehorning of Michael Keaton’s Spider-Man: Homecoming character into said preview and the list goes on and on. Well, my worries were half right as the film is corny, uninspired and totally forgettable but that isn’t to say it’s a bad movie just a film that completely fails to elevate itself to any degree. The story follows the brilliant biochemist as he tries to cure himself of a rare blood disease but he inadvertently infects himself with a form of vampirism instead. This movie is a special kind of dumb in the fact that Sony thought it was a smart idea to release the film to bomb a second time after they were led to believe that the internet was a huge fan, meaning that someone at the studio had a hard time reading sarcasm. This isn’t a film that will gain cult status in ten years or will be remembered fondly. The sad fact is that aside from the microcosm of 2022, Morbius is destined to float away in a sea of mediocre comic book movies.

The Outfit – My second opportunity to praise Mark Rylance is here and I revel in it because he is an Academy Award winner who always gives his best in every film he does but a lot of people still don’t know who he is or know his face but not his name. Well, he might get some eyes on him now as he’s in this brand new crime thriller that has a broad genre appeal with him front and center and the target of some pretty bad guys. The story has him as Leonard, a master English tailor who’s ended up in Chicago and operates a corner tailor shop with his assistant, played by the great Zoey Deutch, where he makes beautiful clothes for the only people around who can afford them, a family of vicious gangsters. One night, two killers, played by Dylan O’Brien and Johnny Flynn, knock on his door in need of a favour and Leonard is thrust onto the board in a deadly game of deception and murder as a result. This film is the debut as a director for writer Graham Moore who won an Academy Award for his screenplay for The Imitation Game not to sound like a cliche when it comes to a film about a tailor but the look is so slick and stylish and that is all thanks to cinematographer Dick Pope who has done incredible work in his career, especially his films with Edgar Wright. The film is a satisfying journey of plot twists and motivation reveals, although it seems to float under the mark f better films of its ilk. Rylance still is mesmerizing to watch on-screen though and elevates anyone that is in the scene with him.

Father Stu – With the news that Mark Wahlberg may soon be retiring from mainstream Hollywood filmmaking and focusing only on faith-based stories like this one, it adds all that much more disappointment to covering this one which was already at a low with the casting of Mel Gibson. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, n good storytelling has come out of the faith-based market ever and I have suffered through too many of them. This one follows the life of Father Stuart Long, played by Wahlberg, a boxer-turned-priest who inspired countless people during his journey from self-destruction to redemption. Everything about the trailer for this movie feels like a pandering message-driven story that once again focuses on delivering the ideals over being an actually entertaining movie. I don’t need to be preached at about faith and belief but that is all these films seem to do. Seriously, how many people are being converted to Christianity or catholicism during an outing to the movies? Just give it up already.

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

Benedetta – One thing that has remained the same for pretty much his entire career, you can always count on filmmaker Paul Verhoeven to be a really horny storyteller. Much like David Cronenberg’s entry into cinema this year, these storytellers have a certain writhing sexuality that has been a part of their oeuvre as long as we’ve been watching them and at over eighty years old now we know that Paul is going to go out on a shield shaped like a naked woman. For this new film, he brings some religious controversy as he is telling the story of a 17th-century nun in Italy who suffers from disturbing religious and erotic visions. She is assisted by a companion who she saves from abuse and slavery, and the relationship between the two women develops into a romantic love affair that invokes a blasphemy that could lead to both their demise. It can be easily said that there is not a single dull moment to be had in this film which has everything sexual, sexually violent and just plain violent to be had and it’s all gorgeously shot. I do think that he could seriously benefit by having a single woman in the creative process but at this stage, a leopard is definitely not going to change his spots and what has worked for decades will continue to set him apart from other filmmakers.

Off Season – Trying to find information about this movie before I popped in the blu-ray was like trying to find the map to the Ark de Covenant so I was forced to go on what the studio and Shudder’s own PR people have said about it rather than get a Rotten Tomatoes or Letterbox’d pre-review.That said, I’m more grateful to have gone in pretty much blind because this film is all about atmosphere and ambiguity. Like all great mystery thrillers, this movie is largely about lineage and dormant family bonds as it follows Tenn and his relentless search for his father which takes him back to his childhood town only to find a community gripped by fear. As he travels deeper into the bitter winter wilderness of the town he uncovers a dreadful secret buried long ago and, even worse, he has dragged his unknowing significant other into the mess. Brimming with fog and greyness, this film languishes on being a head trip, starting out with a chilling monologue from character actress Melora Walters which ends with a tortured scream that plays over the beginning credits. This sets up quite the ride but if you don’t like a flighty arthouse horror it may just sail right by you.

The Clock – Warner Archive slides into the new releases this week with another Judy Garland film out of its vaults and now is the plotting on the timeline of the troubled star of when this was made in her storied career. The film was made and released in the mid-forties which was six years after her landmark performance in The Wizard Of Oz so this was very much in her heyday. The film was a modern one that was set during a 48-hour leave at a Pennsylvania station where a soldier meets a girl accidentally and spends his leave with her, eventually falling in love with the lovely New Yorker. Looking at Garland at the time, it wasn’t hard to imagine why she was so sought after and eventually overworked, as she had all the qualities that just popped on the screen. This was also during her romance with Vincente Minnelli who would make way for Liza to be born just a year later.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Outs:

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial – One of my first major cinematic moments in memory has to come from this Steven Spielberg family sci-fi classic that gave me serious envy of finding an alien in my backyard. I feel like many kids of my generation and beyond had a love for this movie and for many of us it also may have been the point where we started to love watching films and even making them. For those who have been under a rock for forty years, the story follows an alien who is stranded on Earth but discovered and befriended by a ten-year-old boy named Elliott. Bringing him into his suburban California house, Elliott introduces E.T., as he is dubbed, to his brother, Michael, and sister, Gertie, and they decide to keep his existence a secret. Soon, however, he falls ill, resulting in government intervention and a dire situation for both him and Elliott. I remember that last part devastated me as he went all white like an old dog turd in the backyard. This movie is so special in so many ways and I have had so many deep discussions with friends on its resonance so it is really cool to celebrate its fortieth anniversary this week.

Predator – Speaking of really cool anniversaries, I couldn’t resist bringing this landmark action sci-fi flick on the week of its thirty-fifth birthday as it is another film that shaped my love of movies undoubtedly. As a kid of the eighties, action films were high up on my list and there were few bigger than the great Arnold Schwarzenegger and this one is still possibly one of his best. Obviously, a classic that a majority of people show know but this film follows a team of special force ops, led by a tough but fair soldier, Major “Dutch” Schaefer, who are ordered to assist CIA man, Colonel Al Dillon, on a rescue mission for potential survivors of a Helicopter downed over remote South American jungle. Not long after they land, Dutch and his team discover that they have been sent in under false pretenses but this deception turns out to be the least of their worries when they find themselves being methodically hunted by something not of this world. The movie still holds up with the action and monster-building elements even if the dialogue is clunky and has been more related to the iconic catchphrases that Arnie utters throughout it. This is the kind of film that I will watch the duration of as soon as it pops up on television as well as being an action thriller that informed many of our favourites to come afterwards. Sad that Jean Claude Van Damme quit his role as the Predator itself because it could have been a collaboration long before he and Arnie crossed paths in The Expendables 2.

The Witches Of Eastwick – Imagine assembling a cast like this now for a seemingly unbankable film about three newly anointed witches taking on the devil. I don’t think it would get the go-ahead from a big studio nor would they pitch stars like Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfieffer for it. Well, we lucked out thirty-five years ago and they even gave it to the Mad Max creator George Miller to direct, even if it followed the flop that was Beyond Thunderdome. This movie is a beloved classic, much better than the celebrated Practical Magic, that followed three single women in a picturesque village who have their wishes granted, at a cost when a mysterious and flamboyant man arrives in their lives with the intent of turning it all upside down in a lurid affair. The performances from each person in this powerhouse cast are so good and, although I’m not usually a fan, Cher is really the standout alongside Jack who gives his iconic best as Daryl Van Horne. I know they did a television version of this story but I think it would be fun to have an updated kick at this story again.

Television:

God’s Favorite Idiot (Netflix) – The combination of writer, director and supporting comedy actor Ben Falcone and his wife, actress and comedian Melissa McCarthy, has yet to yield anything of substance and usually causes me great frustration in the review department. With dogs like Tammy, The Boss, Life Of The Party and more unfortunate messes, the fact that Netflix has now given them the space to roam around in series form isn’t that inspiring but here we go anyways. Falcone takes the lead this time, playing mid-level Tech support employee Clark Thompson who finds love with co-worker Amily Luck, played by McCarthy, but at exactly the same time he becomes the unwitting messenger of God which includes the trappings of roller skating, a lake of fire and an impending apocalypse. I really love Melissa and want this to work out but once you’ve been burned by horrendous comedy, an affliction that these two suffer from, it’s hard to renew your investment. Will I still give it a chance though? Yeah, most likely. I’m a foolish sucker.

The Old Man (FX) – As soon as I saw that Jeff Bridges was doing his first television series and it was on FX I knew I was immediately on board and couldn’t wait. The trailers were simple and knew that all we needed to see was The Dude as an old modern cowboy with a gun and it would totally nab viewers. Bridges stars as Dan Chase, a former CIA officer living off the grid, who finds himself on the run from law enforcement who want to bring him in for past jobs that have been revealed. When Chase proves to be more difficult to apprehend than the authorities expected, a highly trained special ops contractor is sent to pursue him as well. This is totally my kind of show and it comes from the creative team behind Black Sails, which is a far different style of show granted, but it made a hell of an impact on screen no matter what the genre was. I hope this one is a big hit as it would be great for Bridges to have beaten cancer for.

New Releases:

Jurassic World Dominion – My feelings are really mixed on what is said to be the conclusion of the Jurassic Park slash World franchise as the last movie left me cold with bad writing, nonsensical plot decisions and totally dumb characters but this film is fully bringing Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum back into the fold and I really am excited about that. These legacy sequels have been hit or miss but with director Colin Trevorrow out of movie jail and back at the helm of it, this might be great. The film takes place four years after the destruction of Isla Nublar and dinosaurs now live and hunt alongside humans all over the world. This fragile balance will reshape the future and determine, once and for all, whether human beings are to remain the apex predators on a planet they now share with history’s most fearsome creatures in a new era. The trailers are fun and exhilarating and a lot of that frontier landscape is right in my backyard here in the Okanagan area as it was filmed in the surrounding areas of Kamloops which star Chris Pratt fell in love with. It’s hard not to set a bar on how good this will be but after Fallen Kingdom they have the benefit of the bar being a good notch lower.

Hustle – I hope it is widely known that Adam Sandler is a fantastic actor when he picks the roles that command more presence. He’s proved this with films like Punch Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, Spanglish and more recently with the pulse-pounding Safdie film Uncut Gems. That said, when he signed his Netflix deal I expected more of the Grown-Ups and Hubie Halloween side of the comedy actor but I wasn’t expecting this new one. Sandler plays a washed-up basketball scout for the Philadelphia 76ers who discovers a phenomenal street ball player while in Spain and sees the prospect as his opportunity to get back into the NBA. The film is brimming with heart and charm brought to the center of it by Sandler’s capable performance that has little nuances of the real Sandman and the giant stature of real NBA star Juancho Hernangomez as the prospect Bo Cruz. Under the steady direction of We The Animals filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar the movie manages to be so infectious that it is able to vault over the more formulaic pieces of the story.

Blu-Ray:

The Contractor – I will fully admit that just Chris Pine alone is not enough to sell a movie for me but when you put Ben Foster in the same film it will pique my interest just because of their chemistry in Hell Or High Water. Even so, on the surface, this movie looks pretty damn formulaic and, for the most part, it is but it still manages to be entertaining. The film has Pine as a discharged U.S. Special Forces sergeant named James Harper who risks everything for his family when he joins a private contracting organization that his military friend has been doing jobs for. The film also has the great Keifer Sutherland and Community’s Gillian Jacobs but everyone takes a back seat as Pine is the driving force of the story and does a dutiful job of keeping it firmly on his soldiers. This isn’t a gamechanger by any standards but it does keep you engaged for the whole duration which is a lot to ask sometimes.

Compartment Number 6 – Conversational movies are a really hard sell to most mainstream audiences at best but when it is a foreign film with a whole bunch of subtitles, it can be worse. I’m a guy who cut his teeth on films like Singles and Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy so when a film like this comes out it feels like it is directly in my wheelhouse. The film follows a young Finnish woman who escapes an enigmatic love affair in Moscow by boarding a train to the Arctic port of Murmansk. Forced to share the long ride and a tiny sleeping car with a Russian miner, the unexpected encounter leads the occupants of Compartment number six to face the truth about their own yearning for human connection and the real feelings of loneliness that have clouded them for longer than they can remember. The fascinating thing about this film is the archetypes which it deals with because, in a focused European way, they seem cliched but this is only on the surface. Laura is an introvert yearning to be a bubbly and outgoing person which could cure her ennui while Ljoha is a brash Russian who replaces anger with vulnerability but also has a soft spot for love stories like Titanic. Most won’t have the patience to see the glow within this movie but those who can will feel totally rewarded.

Catch The Fair One – At a quick breakneck speed, this less than an hour and a half of intense redemption got me hooked right away and I knew absolutely nothing about it when I pressed play. It feels like I’m jumping into descriptors on this film early but that is to sell how out of nowhere great this movie was and how compelling its newcomer lead star is, Kali Reis, who also wrote the story. The story follows a former champion indigenous boxer battling her demons of addiction and family estrangement that embarks on the fight of her life when she goes in search of her missing sister, to bring her home to her mother and earn some sort of redemption. The grit of this movie shakes off in every scene as Reis’s portrayal feels real and the inexperience of her character drives the inexperience and, above all, the reckless abandon of her objective. The violence is explosive but the emotion is just as palpable leading to a third act that delivers an ending that will sit with you for more than a moment.

Steve’s Blu-Ray & DVD Geek-Out:

Poltergeist – This is one of the classic ghost stories on film, a movie released forty years ago this week that will always have a place in many people’s hearts but will also always be a cautionary tale in filmmaking as it has so many dark clouds over it. First off, there’s always the debate on whether Tobe Hooper directed this as he is credited or if producer Steven Spielberg did the heavy lifting and the second one is the use of real human skeletons which may have cursed not just this movie but the subsequent sequels to come. It’s really fascinating to dig into. The film follows the Freelings, a young family who is visited by ghosts in their home. At first, the ghosts appear friendly, moving objects around the house to the amusement of everyone but then they turn nasty and start to terrorize the family before they focus on the youngest daughter, one who has an astral connection with them. This movie oozes style and the effects were groundbreaking at the time. It also illustrates how different a tie it was when it was released as the film would have probably gotten an R-rating these days just for the bathroom mirror scene with Marty alone.

Con Air – If a Nicolas Cage movie is going to hit a milestone anniversary, you know I’m going to try and talk about it on The Shift this is arguably one of the audience favourites of his filmography and it definitely has to do with it being a high octane action thrill ride from start to finish. The cast is another heavyweight that keeps this on the top of the action pile with John Malkovich, John Cusack, Steve Buscemi and so many more with dialogue I still bring up all the time. For those who haven’t seen this, the adventure of an incarcerated Cameron Poe, it follows the newly-paroled ex-con and former U.S. Ranger as he is trapped in a prisoner-transport plane when the passengers seize control. Insane action sequences and the Bruckheimer flair make the almost two hours of this epic fly by. If you haven’t seen this or it’s been a while, no time is better than now to refresh your action muscle.

Harry And The Hendersons – This is a neat reach back here as this family classic is celebrating its thirty fifth anniversary this week and it was a big film in my house during my childhood and to see it pop up again just warms my heart. It was I think the first time I had seen anything with John Lithgow in it to my knowledge which is a big deal because he has since become one of my favourite character actors. For those who haven’t had the sweetheart privilege of seeing this gem, it follows the Hendersons, a family returning home from a family trip who hits something on the road in the forest. At first, they fear it was a man, but when they examine his “body”, they find he’s a “bigfoot”. They think he’s dead, so they decide to take him home. As you guessed, he isn’t dead. Far from being the ferocious monster they fear him to be, he’s a friendly giant. In their attempts to keep him a secret, they have to hide him from the authorities and a man who has made his goal in life to catch a “bigfoot”. This movie is so much fun and still plays so well with the big goofy bigfoot being a live practical effect, something that probably wouldn’t be in a big studio feature film these days. I love when family films were kind of bonkers like this one is and it was a lot of fun to relive it.

Television:

Ms. Marvel (Disney+) – After the heavy mythological, spiritual and emotional barrage that Moon Knight was the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues on a television path with something decidedly lighter, more fun and colourful and with a new young Canadian star in the lead. Yes, Canadian raised actress Iman Vellani gets the plum role of Kamala Khan in this six episode series and just judging from the first two episodes she has all the charm and charisma to handle it. The series is directly tied to the Captain Marvel movie and the upcoming sequel and follows the New Jersey raised Khan as she discovers the newly found polymorphous powers that infuse her through an old family heirloom. Those who have played the recent Avengers video game or are current with the Marvel comics know the Marvel fangirl that Kamala is so it’s really cool to see everything done so spot on, some of the first in the MCU storytelling to not seemingly have some sort of deviation. It could all go to hell in the next four episodes but I really liked the first two and can’t wait for more.

Under The Banner Of Heaven (Disney+) – It’s a big week television wise for Disney and the second piece comes with this Hulu produced miniseries that comes from true story writer Jon Krakauer and I will say that I was hooked almost immediately. I will admit that the lead star Andrew Garfield made this series a can’t miss for me but it’s the story at the heart that really kept me situated and engaged. Garfield plays a devout Mormon detective in Salt Lake City whose faith is tested as he investigates the brutal murder of a mother and her baby which is seemingly connected to an esteemed Utah family’s spiral into Latter Day Saints fundamentalism and their distrust in the government. The cast around him is deep with Hell Or High Water’s Gil Birmingham playing his partner and Billy Howle, Rory Culkin, Wyatt Russell and Sam Worthington playing members of the family in question. The series is brilliantly shot, delving into backstories of not just the family and Garfield’s faith but into the origins of the Mormon faith and the actions of their founder, Joseph Smith. This is not a faith based show that I can see but even if it is it seems to operate with a freeness that doesn’t try to drive home a message like a spike to the forehead.

New Releases:

Crimes Of The Future – Cronenberg is back in a big bad way and I really can’t contain my excitement because, from who I’m hearing, he is back to his body horror ways and just judging by the trailer it’s going to mess people up. Of course, my guy Viggo is in the film as well but the Canadian auteur also has Kristen Stewart and Lea Seydoux on board for it and, living in a small town, I’m really upset that I will most likely not get it here in our theatres. The film takes place in a future reality where the human species adapts to a synthetic environment and their bodies undergo new transformations and mutations. With his partner Caprice, Saul Tenser, a celebrity performance artist, publicly showcases the metamorphosis of his organs in avant-garde performances and Timlin, an investigator from the National Organ Registry, obsessively tracks their movements. This is when a mysterious group is revealed with an intent to use Saul’s notoriety to shed light on the next phase of human evolution. Yes, this one is deliciously disturbing sounding and totally up my all as a ravenous fan of all of David Cronenberg’s work. I hear that during screenings, both test and at the Cannes Film Festival, viewers were having a pretty adverse reaction to the movie which makes me even more intrigued.

Hollywood Stargirl – Disney has another cute direct-to-the-streaming-service release this week to join Sneakerella from a few weeks ago and this one has the bonus of starring the great Judy Greer and the legendary Uma Thurman which gives it a leg up on that fairy tale inspired modern take. Even better, this is the first big studio movie for writer and director Julia Hart who hasn’t disappointed yet, giving us bold films like Miss Stevens, Fast Color and I’m Not Your Woman. Unknown to me before watching it, this is a sequel to Hart’s film Stargirl and follows Grace Vanderwaal as the titular character, a silver-voiced teenager whose simple acts of kindness work magic in the lives of others. The story follows her journey out of Mica, Arizona when her mother Ana (Judy Greer) is hired as the costume designer for a movie, relocating them to L.A., where Stargirl quickly becomes involved with an eclectic assortment of characters. This is a great film to sit and watch with the family as all the corniness of it will resonate as a more heartfelt aura and may let your cynicism bleed away. Hart has a gift for great storytelling and I doubt that would diminish in this setting and hopefully, it gets more eyes on her work.

Fire Island – Romcoms have always been an incredibly heterosexual dominated genre in the popular zeitgeist which is something that needed to change in our modern and progressive age so the fact that Disney+ is releasing this in the face of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” aftermath is, in my opinion, absolutely applauded. It also capitalizes on the rising star of comedian Joel Kim Booster who wrote this film and Kim Kardashian’s favourite Saturday Night Night Live cast member Bowen Yang makes it that much more charming. The film is simple in its initial premise, following a pair of best friends who set out to have a legendary week-long summer vacation with the help of cheap rosé and a group of eclectic friends. The movie is so well written and borrows a lot from classic Jane Austen stories, which is great because the film starts with a paraphrased quote from the woman herself. It connects the dots in some of the usual romantic conventions but the fact that is so out and proud makes it that much more refreshing and with a well-written and naturally funny character’s to boot.

The Righteous – Canadian actor Mark O’Brien is not just spending some time creeping people out just on the screen in this new horror thriller but is also taking on the added duties of writing and directing this and it reunites him with his father in the brilliant comedy horror Ready Or Not, Henry Czerny, a totally Canadian legend. This has some great substance and atmosphere to it as well as the horror is being derived from faith and belief and the abandonment of it. The film is beautifully shot in black and white and tells the story of Frederic (Czerny) a grieving man struggling with his faith, who helps an injured young man, Aaron Smith (O’Brien) who stumbles onto his property one night, claiming to be lost in the woods. Frederic and his wife (another Canadian veteran, Mimi Kuzyk) invite the man to stay for the night, but Frederic soon begins to have doubts about this enigmatic stranger’s story and his motives for being there. When Aaron asks Frederic to commit an unspeakable deed, it becomes clear that the man is not who he seems, and has been sent to test the very limits of Frederic’s existence. O’Brien’s writing has this ability to get under your skin and live at the back of your mind as you try to gleen what of Aaron’s stories and ideals are true, when is a mislead or trap and just what Frederic takes from this as Czerny’s performance boils deep under the surface. I really loved this one but it does play a lot like a slow boil arthouse film.

Interceptor – With the follow-up to his badass Netflix film Extraction on the horizon to be released, Chris Hemsworth’s wife Elsa Pataky is getting in the game now with this new action-adventure from one of the guys behind the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise. Honestly, for me, these Netflix action flicks generally become enjoyable if not forgettable sometimes and this looks just like that, a quick high octane morse that doesn’t overstay its welcome. The film follows Pataky as an Army captain who must use her years of tactical training and military expertise when a simultaneous coordinated attack threatens the remote missile interceptor station she is in command of. Co-starring Luke Bracey, the unfortunate star of the Point Break remake from half a decade ago, this movie probably won’t go any deeper than the surface value you see in the trailer but Netflix is usually here to save us from boredom and this looks anything but dull and looks to have some fantastic action sequences. Maybe it will surprise us and Elsa can have her own franchise alongside Chris.

Blu-Ray:

Big Gold Brick – With the cast boasted in this new weirdo crime fantasy I was really heading into it expecting what the title suggested, a big gold brick. Led by Brooklyn’s Emory Cohen and co-starring Andy Garcia, Megan Fox, Lucy Hale and even Oscar Isaac, the expectations climbed every time I read someone new on the cast list. The film recounts the story of fledgling writer Samuel Liston and his experiences with Floyd Deveraux, the enigmatic, middle-aged father of two who enlists Samuel to write his biography. The circumstances that lead up to this arrangement in the first place are quite astonishing, as Floyd basically runs Samuel over on a dark night,-and efforts to write the biography are quickly stymied by ensuing chaos as Floyd was already into some bad business that will quickly end the two’s newfound partnership. As high as my expectations were, it was never ready for this mess of a movie that was badly written from the start and features an almost nonsensical performance from Cohen that grated on my nerves every time he spoke. This brings me to Oscar who is utilized for a five-minute scene that goes absolutely nowhere. I appreciate where these filmmakers were coming from but they failed in every conceivable way.

Row 19 – Terror in the airplanes, that’s what we need right now just as we’re thinking of planning vacations and destination getaways now that we are seemingly emerging from this pandemic, right? Well, the Russians are. definitely not messing around and are bringing some frenetic action horror to the sky with some totally supernatural thrills. The story follows a young female doctor with a 6-year-old daughter who is on a night flight caught in a terrible storm. In a half-empty cabin, she faces unexplained deaths of her fellow passengers, loses her grip on reality and relives the worst nightmare from her childhood in an execution that plays to the strength of the ADD style of Russian filmmaking. Taking cues from Night Watch and Day Watch’s Timur Bekmambetov kind of movie-making, the inconsistencies in the plotting are evident but when it all gets rolling you care less and less. In the end, I was entertained with a good horror thrill ride but I recommend doing it with subtitles, the best way to watch a foreign film.

The Untouchables 4K – There’s no denying that Brian De Palma made one of the greatest gangster films of all time with his film Scarface in the early eighties but he also did it for a second time in the mid-eighties by showing both sides of the lawless and law enforcing with this Elliot Ness versus Al Capone masterpiece. Now in glorious 4K, this incredible film just pops off the screen and instantly renewed my love for it as well as shining a spotlight on one of De Palma’s crowning achievements. For those who haven’t seen it, the story follows federal agent Ness during the era of Prohibition in the United States as he sets out to stop ruthless Chicago gangster Al Capone and, because of rampant corruption, assembles a small, hand-picked team to help him. The cast in this film is awesome, with Kevin Costner and Robert De Niro taking the heavy lead roles and Sean Connery and Andy Garcia in really great supporting roles. The movie was nominated for four very deserving Academy Awards and Connery ended up winning his, beating out films like Broadcast News and Moonstruck. This is one of those must-see movies for any cinema lover.

Lucifer: Season 5 – The show that the fans keep having the ability to revive enters what I thought was going to be the finale for it, was split into two parts to prolong the magic, pardon the on the nose pun, and now is available to finish expanding your collection on DVD. The show has since been given a sixth season after it performed so well on Netflix with an all-new vigour following this season which focuses on Lucifer’s lineage, his past and those close around him getting the truth of what he has revealed to them. There is also a killer guest spot of 24’s Dennis Haysbert showing up as, wait for it, God himself and, yes, I’m so behind President David Palmer portraying the thing that makes people do the stupidest things when people use it to embolden their stances on politics and human and ethical rights. Okay, dialling back the ire here, but I will conclude by saying that this series has made lead actor Tom Ellis a bankable star and I’m more than happy to get more of him in this great role.

Steve’s Blu-Ray & DVD Geek-Outs:

Beverly Hills Cop II 4K – I know I already brought the first film in this landmark action-comedy trilogy, with the third film being a totally admitted flop, but it’s beautiful to see these movies that shaped my love for film get the update to 4K now. These were really the superstar making films in Eddie Murphy’s career and those who listen to The Shift know that we have a lot of love for Axel Foley, which hasn’t diminished for me at all. This sequel follows Foley as he returns to Beverly Hills to help Taggart and Rosewood investigate Chief Bogomil’s near-fatal shooting and the series of “alphabet crimes” associated with it. Taking over for director Martin Brest, this film is crammed full of everything we love about Tony Scott’s filmmaking as he was fresh off of the fighter pilot iconic scope of Top Gun. Murphy is at the top of his game and Judge Reinhold and John Ashton will always be widely underrated as his straight-laced police companions. This movie is still special and it really pops in this new format too.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 4K – John Wayne is a name that’s special on my dad’s side of the family as I have an uncle who idolizes The Duke and even named his first son after him, my cousin John Wayne Stebbing. I will say that my interest in Wayne is small, except for his work in True Grit and Rooster Cogburn but I know that this classic, co-starring Jimmy Stewart, is one of the benchmarks in his long and revered career. The film follows Stewart as Senator Stoddard who returns to a western town for the funeral of an old friend, John Doniphon, and tells the story of his origins. Flashing back, we learn Doniphon saved Stoddard, then a lawyer, when he was roughed up by a crew of outlaws terrorizing the town, led by Liberty Valance, played by the stalwart Lee Marvin. As the territory’s safety hung in the balance, Doniphon and Stoddard, two of the only people standing up to him, proved to be very important, but different, foes to Valance in a western story that really is a cornerstone in the genre. Getting this 4K transfer of this Oscar-nominated giant is really special and opened up my eyes to another great Wayne performance in the company of legends.

Succession: Season 3 – This was a series I was certainly very late to the game on but after the audience and critic buzz as well as the awards acclaim that it was evident that I needed to change that and I crash coursed it before this season was released. It follows the Roy family who controls one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world and their lives as they start to make power moves in the hopes that their ageing father begins to step back from the company. The. series stars Brian Cox as the patriarch of the Roys as well as Kieran Culkin, Nicholas Braun and Jeremy Strong but the standout for me is Hiam Abass as Cox’s wife who constantly delivers knockout performance after performance. This is a winner for sure and the more people talk about it the more “watercooler talk” that it will be and those who aren’t on board will relive the things they went through when they didn’t watch Lost, Game Of Thrones or Breaking Bad. You snooze, you lose.

The Batman – This was the first highly anticipated release of the year for me as I’m sure it was for a lot of Batman fans out there and I dare say it squashed the conversation of Robert Pattinson only being a sparkly vampire for good. Yes, there was a lot of anger at the casting of the Tenet and Good Times star but I knew he was going to absolutely crush it as a younger Bruce Wayne and Caped Crusader and he really did. The film follows Batman as he is forced to investigate the city’s hidden corruption and question his family’s involvement when the Riddler, a sadistic serial killer, begins murdering key political figures in Gotham. The film is directed by Matt Reeves who has a perfect filmmaking record which includes Planet Of The Apes sequels and a remake of an incredible Swedish vampire masterpiece so I really have the utmost respect for him as a storyteller and he brings the batman character into a story style that should have been utilized from the beginning, the detective noir. Reeves approached this story almost like David Fincher did with Zodiac and it pays off beautifully with great character work, incredible cinematography and an unforgettable time in about the year three mark of Batman’s story. This is a “best of 2022” without a doubt.

Doom Patrol: Season 3 – After a killer first season and a killer sophomore season that kept the momentum going and added even more fun to the mix, I know people are chomping at the bit for this new season of a show that not only gives White Collar’s Matt Bomer a cool role but also gave some new life to 90s star Brendan Fraser who is continuing to get that redemption he deserves. For those who are uninitiated to this DC Comics world, it is a re-imagining of one of DC’s most beloved groups of outcast superheroes: Robotman, Negative Man, Elasti-Girl and Crazy Jane, led by modern-day mad scientist Dr. Niles Caulder, also known as The Chief. The series is tied to the cinematic universe by the common character of Cyborg so it’s neat to see exactly where all these stories meet up. Another great show to get into you eyeballs this week.

Television:

Floor Is Lava: Season 2 (Netflix) – Netflix has a plethora of crazy reality shows with ridiculous premises but I have to say this is one of the top echelon of weird-ass ones and it definitely has to do with it being a take on an elementary playground game. The series follows teams as they compete to navigate rooms flooded with lava by leaping from chairs, hanging from curtains and swinging from chandeliers. Obviously, it isn’t real lava and the production of the series is turned up to eleven to make it look like lava but the sad thing is that no matter how much I wanted to hate this show, I felt strangely compelled to press play on each and every episode which was a lot because I hadn’t seen the first season before this one arrived. Stupid and vapid, this show has a compulsory drive to it that is undeniable.

Physical: Season 2 (AppleTV+) – All you had to tell me to sell me on this series is that Rose Byrne is in it and it takes place in the eighties. Hell, if I didn’t have an AppleTV+ account already, I’d get it for sure. Look at this streaming service go! The second season of this series follows Byrne as Sheila Rubin, a quietly tortured, seemingly dutiful housewife supporting her smart but controversial husband’s bid for state assembly but behind closed doors, she has her own darkly funny take on life she rarely lets the world see. She’s also battling a complex set of personal demons relating to her self-image which come to a head when she finds release through the unlikeliest source in the world of aerobics. At first, hooked on the exercise itself, Sheila’s real road to empowerment comes when she discovers a way to merge this newfound passion with the burgeoning technology of videotape to start a revolutionary business. I do feel that this show comes with more than a couple of caveats and trigger warnings as Sheila doesn’t hold back with her vitriol for one second and that almost immediately makes her sort of a villainous character in some degrees but it may be all in how you interpret it. The series is biting and fresh and I hope this second installment can showcase its longevity.

The Boys: Season 3 (Prime Video) – One of my current favourite shows based on one of my favourite comic books of all time is returning and bigger, badder, bolder and more offensive than ever and I can’t wait to get my eyes on every gory moment. Coming from the mind of Irish hand grenade writer Garth Ennis through the conduit of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the sky is no limit as this show is sure to stir controversy with everyone who hasn’t seen it. The basis of the story follows a group of vigilantes who set out to take down corrupt superheroes who abuse their superpowers after varying tragedies and bring them together for a shared goal of revenge. Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Laz Alonso, Antony Starr and many more round out a pitch-perfect cast of a comic series that I enjoyed over the years while creating an original path. That isn’t to say that it isn’t directly putting stuff off the page to the screen as we finally get Herogasm this season, the island retreat of sex and debauchery for all of the “superheroes.” This one is going to leave a mark, people.

The Orville: New Horizons (Disney+) – Seth MacFarlane is a creator that I really loved at the beginning of his run with Family Guy but as the series progressed and American Dad, The Cleveland Show and his Ted movies rolled around, he had started to lose his appeal with me. When it was announced that he was doing a Star Trek-like series my eyeroll may have been audible for blocks because, as much as I love sci-fi, it gave me zero interest and I never gave it a chance. Set 400 years in the future, the show follows the adventures of the Orville, a not-so-top-of-the-line exploratory ship in Earth’s interstellar fleet. Facing cosmic challenges from without and within, MacFarlane plays the newly minted captain of a crew of oddballs and after just a few episodes I’m really starting to see how this show survived to a third season now and has been wrapped in the Disney+ umbrella. The series is really funny in a way that feels fresh compared to the projects Seth has released before, the cast is filled with a bevy of solid character actors and there’s a self-referential beat to it that I’m enjoying a lot. If you haven’t seen it yet and like your sci-fi and a few laughs, this is recommended.

Pistol (Disney+) – When it comes to the story of the creation and wild years of a young Steve Jones, Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten and Glen Matlock, collectively known as the Sex Pistols, there can’t be a more apropos filmmaker to guide that journey than Trainspotting director Danny Boyle. From the opening moments of episode one and Cooky stealing the microphone and amps of David Bowie from the Hammersmith Odeon, his style is all over this and it fits. The show is based on Jones’ memoir Lonely Boy and written for the screen by Craig Pearce, the guy behind pretty much all of Baz Luhrmann’s movies, and is the story of a band of spotty, noisy, working-class kids with “no future” who shook the boring, corrupt Establishment to its core, threatened to bring down the government and changed music and culture forever. The show isn’t getting stellar reviews but I’m really enjoying it so far, just based on the music history I’m seeing in it with the inclusions of future Pretenders frontwoman Chrissy Hynde and the badass legend of Siouxie Sioux. This definitely has a niche audience it is playing to and some people are going to get it and some people aren’t.