Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blu-Ray & DVD:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve’s Blu-Ray & DVD Geekouts:

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

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

Television:

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

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

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

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

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

New Releases:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blu-Ray:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

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

Television:

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

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

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

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

New Releases:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blu-Ray and DVD:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

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

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

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

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

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

Television:

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

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

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

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

Mr. Inbetween: Season 3 (FX) – A breakout hit from Australia, this show is another great one about a brutal anti-hero that I loved with the very first episode, a show I was turned on to by Drex originally. Created by the show’s star Scott Ryan and directed by Nash Edgerton, the series is a black comedy-drama about Ray, a guy who has to juggle being a father, ex-husband, boyfriend and confidant as well as maintain his employment as an enforcer for hire, dishing out violence to whomever his clients want him to. Scott Ryan is a fascinating actor to watch onscreen in a series that hugs the line between wholly grim and hilarious, sometimes in the same moment. I really think that this show needs to catch on in a Breaking Bad sort of way.

New Releases:

Army Of The Dead – I’m still getting over the last Zack Snyder film that put me in my chair for a sometimes punishing over four hours when this movie arrived on my preview screening and it may have helped my experience this time as I had a low bar set heading in. Featuring a pretty cool cast including Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Garret Dillahunt, Hiroyuki Sanada and Omari Hardwick, the film takes place following a zombie outbreak that has left Las Vegas in ruins and walled off from the rest of the world following a displaced Vegas local and former zombie war hero named Scott Ward who’s now flipping burgers on the outskirts of the town he now calls home that is approached by casino boss Bly Tanaka with the ultimate proposition, to break into the zombie-infested quarantined zone to retrieve $200 million sitting in a vault beneath the strip before the city is nuked by the government in 32 hours. This movie is so equally cool as it is utterly stupid but it still manages to be fully entertaining even if it does still feel like a bloated Snyder film, clocking in at two and a half hours. Snyder also did his own cinematography for it which is mostly good but the foreground and background focus is so weird. I will also say that the CGI replacement of Chris D’Elia with Tig Notaro is flawless.

P!nk: All I Know So Far – I think I’ve said it here time and time again but I love a good music-driven documentary and it honestly doesn’t matter what genre or who the star is, I just love them. This one focuses on the media coined “bad girl of pop music” Alecia Beth Moore, known world wide as P!nk, joining the award-winning performer and musician as she embarks on her record-breaking 2019 “Beautiful Trauma” world tour and welcomes audiences to join her chosen family while trying to balance being a mom, a wife, a boss and a performer. Mixing footage from the road, behind-the-scenes interviews and personal material, this film feels like a deep look into an artist who very much cherishes her privacy and has generally kept it well hidden. With the successes of the Lady Gaga and Katy Perry documentaries, I’m looking forward to this and it comes from The Greatest Showman filmmaker Michael Gracey.

Riders Of Justice – Always, always, always trust in Mads Mikkelsen. This is a tried and true mantra but it is doubly affirmed when this incredible actor does films with writer and director Anders Thomas Jensen who he has already collaborated on Men And Chicken and The Green Butchers, both amazing movies. This new film follows Mads as recently-deployed military man Markus, who is forced to return home to care for his teenage daughter after his wife is killed in a tragic train accident. His grief seemingly unattainable. He finds focus when a survivor of the wrecked train surfaces claiming foul play. Markus begins to suspect his wife was murdered in a conspiracy with a ruthless organized crime group and embarks on a revenge-fueled mission to find those responsible. This film is incredible, filled with dark humour, explosive violence and consistent character building in a story that could have come off contrived. Jensen and Mikkelsen have delivered another instant classic and Mads is for sure the most formidable man on screen these days.

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

Bloodthirsty – I am always so happy when a Canadian film swoops in unannounced and absolutely blows my hair back and I am an immediate champion of said film and will recommend it to everyone. This was the case with this film and it just happens to be in a genre I adore, horror. Sorry, Shane. The story follows Grey, an indie singer whose first album was a smash hit that gets an invitation to work with notorious music producer Vaughn Daniels at his remote studio in the woods. Together with her girlfriend Charlie, they arrive at his mansion and the work begins but Grey is having visions that she is a wolf, and as her work with the emotionally demanding Vaughn deepens, the vegan singer begins to hunger for meat and the hunt. As Grey starts to transform into a werewolf, she begins to find out who she really is and begins to discover the lineage she has but never knew. This film is slick with gore, deeply intriguing with its character development and unrelenting with the twists and turns, I was gripped by it throughout.

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

Stand! – As a film critic I really try hard to not continue or contribute to the stigma and stereotypes of movies in any way and the ones I most vehemently back in this regard is Canadian movies because, let’s face it, we hate on our own homegrown productions unless you are Kim’s Convenience or Schitt’s Creek. That said, this movie damn near broke me and now with how good it was. The movie is basically a Romeo and Juliet-like story set 100 years ago against a backdrop of civil upheaval and a violent general strike that changed Canada’s history following a Ukrainian immigrant who falls for his neighbour, a Jewish suffragette. The film is a collection of bad direction, editing, script and music that it’s hard to take the film in for its entire duration and I haven’t even gotten to the fact that it’s a musical too and a bad one at that. Honestly, this movie lost me hard and fast within the first twenty minutes and never won me back.

The Retreat – This week is just rife with films that present themselves as something completely different than what they are and it’s worked out beautifully so far. Another Canadian-produced horror thriller, this film follows Renee and Valerie, a couple at a crossroads in their relationship, who leave the city to spend the week at a remote cabin with friends but when they arrive, their friends are nowhere to be found. As they stumble through their relationship woes, they discover they are being hunted by a group of militant extremists who are determined to exterminate them in a movie that is exquisitely shot and pulse-pounding for its duration. Tommie-Amber Pirie and Sarah Allen, two actresses I’m very new to, deliver big time with the character building and pure terror that they compound on this great story. I loved this hellish movie and recommend it to like-minded individuals.

Blu-Ray:

Minari – For months I have been hearing the accolades and awards rumble for this new film following a Korean family on the search for the American dream as well as the praise for lead star and former Walking Dead actor Steven Yuen but as far as awards season goes, the Hollywood foreign press already dropped the ball by marginalizing it to just the foreign category and it failed to win him the Best Actor Oscar as well. I have been championing this film in every way because it is a perfect drama in every way. The story is about a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm to carve out their own piece of paradise. The family home changes completely with the arrival of their sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother, which leads to a stand-off relationship with the family’s youngest, David. This movie is a little slice of real people that are constantly engaging and endearing as you become deeper and deeper with your emotional attachment to these characters. I adored this movie and could watch it over and over again.

The Father – Two of the best performances that you will see this year or in the last decade are right here in this new drama that has Academy Award winners Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman as a father and daughter who must cope with the new living arrangement changes coming as he slips further into Alzheimer’s. Refusing all assistance from his daughter as he ages, he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances and starts to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality in a film that puts you into almost a side seat position in the illness as the disorientation washes over you. Having just lost my grandfather, this film hit me so hard emotionally and the final scene, which is one of the most heartbreakingly poignant I have ever seen, totally shattered me. Hopkins did take home the Best Actor Academy Award and I know I was bitching that Steven Yuen didn’t win it but this is a good second runner up in my opinion.

Raya And The Last Dragon – We have definitely been missing the movie theatres, like these top two films this week totally remind you of, but this movie is the biggest reminder of that as I felt throughout my viewing of it how incredible the experience would have been. Originally slated to arrive in theatres this past November, 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.

Tom And Jerry – For the kids of this generation and, well, those born in say the mid-nineties and beyond, this new animation and live-action hybrid may be new to them but as a child of the Saturday morning cartoon generation, I know Tom and Jerry quite well and really grew up on those shows along with my Hanna Barbera. Hopefully, this will work out for the current generation as the two iconic cartoon frenemies hit the big screen for the first time, starring with real human Chloe Grace Moretz in this adaptation that serves as more of an origin story, revealing how Tom and Jerry first meet and form their rivalry. From the outside, this is definitely a family geared story that looks to occupy its demographic of small children but I’m really hoping that it took some of the cues from last year’s Sonic The Hedgehog and gives it some substance to give the long-suffering parents something to cling to.

Willy’s Wonderland – Nicolas Cage has always wanted to give a completely silent horror movie performance but who knew that it would come to fruition in a film that pits him against a squad of Chuck E. Cheese like mascots? Featuring veteran actress Beth Grant in a supporting role, the film has Cage as a nameless drifter who finds himself stranded in a remote town when his car breaks down. Unable to pay for the repairs he needs, he agrees to spend the night cleaning Willy’s Wonderland, an abandoned family fun center but this place of wonder has a dark secret that he is about to discover. He soon finds himself trapped inside Willy’s and locked in an epic battle with the possessed animatronic mascots that roam the halls and to survive, he must fight his way through each of them but unknown to his adversaries, he isn’t locked in there with them, they’re locked in there with him! This movie is purely insane d-grade campiness but I really had fun with every second of it and Nic goes for the throat in his performance which features a crazy scene of him doing a pinball dance scene before his showdown. Yeah, it’s hard to recommend it but I loved it. Take that as you will.

Supernova – Break out the tissues because Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci are here to steal all of your tears and these guys aren’t messing around either. Coming from acclaimed writer and director Harry Macqueen, this is the story of Sam and Tusker, partners of over twenty years, who are travelling across England in their old RV visiting friends, family and places from their past. Since Tusker was diagnosed with early-onset dementia two years ago, their time together is the most important thing they have as the two try to come to grips with his declining health and Sam readies himself to transition their relationship into that of a caregiver which may not be in Tusker’s plans. This film shows just how masterful both Firth and Tucci are at their craft as both men have such textured history as a couple on the screen that leaps out at you within minutes into the film. There’s such a soft touch of emotional beats that send this story cascading into your heart and, honestly, my heart was heavy by the end. This is a beautiful film filled with truth and light and I really loved it deeply.

Son – Creepy horror involving a kid? Oh, are we just ticking all the genre niche boxes for me this week? This one is pretty damn cool as it follows a mother who escaped from a cult as a child and now must face her past when its sinister members break into her home and attempt to steal her eight-year-old son, David, putting the two on the run, pursued by a detective determined to save them both. Starring Andi Matichak and Emile Hirsch, I definitely didn’t expect the emotional depths this film would go to fuel its horror with writer and director Ivan Kavanagh being able to channel all of the relatable elements in this getting a hyper-focus. Fresh to the RLJE Entertainment catalogue for reviews in the last few weeks, this is among my favourite of the films I’ve received.

Drunken Master II – As a huge Jackie Chan fan, a favourite of mine ever since I saw Rumble In The Bronx in theatres and was totally mystified by his combination of incredible martial arts skill, insane stunts and great humour, I kind of fanboyed out when I saw this new blu-ray edition show up on my doorstep. Known to us in Canada as The Legend Of Drunken Master, released sixteen years after the first film, Chan reprises his role as Wong Fei-Hong who, after returning home with his father following a shopping expedition, is unwittingly caught up in the battle between foreigners who wish to export ancient Chinese artifacts and loyalists who don’t want the pieces to leave the country. Good thing Fei-Hong has learned a style of fighting called “Drunken Boxing”, which makes him a dangerous person to cross but, unfortunately, his father is opposed to his engaging in any kind of fighting, let alone drunken boxing and, consequently, Fei-Hong not only has to fight against the foreigners, but he must overcome his father’s antagonism as well. This movie is an incredible classic and is even better on the remastered and reinvigorated blu-ray version. This is a must-own.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House – This is some classic cinema right here as it was toplined by three of the biggest stars of the 1940s, Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Mervyn Douglas. The film follows Grant as an advertising executive named Jim Blandings who counters his wife’s plan to redecorate their New York apartment with a proposal that they move to Connecticut. She agrees and the two are soon conned into buying a house that turns out to be a complete nightmare, a complete money pit. Construction and repair bills accumulate quickly, and Jim worries that their future hangs in the balance unless he can come up with a catchy new jingle that will sell ham. This film is now a beloved classic more than seventy years after its release but, at the time it hit theatres, many critics in 1948 felt that Cary Grant and Myrna Loy were too old to play the naive young couple who don’t know about building a house and it kind of tanked the reviews. I really felt it was charming and fun and I could see a bit of the Tom Hanks comedy The Money Pit in it.

Escape From Fort Bravo – An earlier film from acclaimed and legendary filmmaker John Sturges, this classic western not only has that pedigree working for it but the big stars of William Holden, Eleanor Parker and John Forsythe. The film is set during the American Civil War, with the Union cavalry at Fort Bravo having to put up with two threats, the Confederate prisoners incarcerated at the Fort and rampaging Mescalero Indians. Captain Roper takes a no-nonsense approach to dealing with both groups, to the dismay of his subordinate, Lt. Beecher, but he develops a new interest and distraction when the lovely Carla Forester arrives at the post. Unbeknown to anyone, she is there to arrange the escape of Capt. John Marsh, the senior Confederate officer and, when the two escape, is left to Roper to track them. Interestingly, the movie was planned to be shot in 3D but was eventually filmed in 2D, the first feature to employ spherical Panavision lenses which is crazy to think about as the film was made in 1953.

The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex – This one is a fascinating release this week as it features the legendary Bette Davis, a staunch character actress who went above and beyond for this period piece by shaving two inches off her hairline at the forehead and having her eyebrows removed. She later complained that they never grew back properly and that ever after she had to draw them in with an eyebrow pencil but that’s Hollywood, right? Co-starring Errol Flynn, the film is about Queen Elizabeth and her secret love for the ambitious and courageous Earl of Essex, a man she also distrusts for his desire for power, fearing he will exploit his political influence to her detriment. Though Essex’s popularity soars when he returns victorious from a military campaign in Spain, Elizabeth instead chides him for prosecuting an unprofitable war. While the lover’s quarrel, Sir Walter Raleigh, played by the incredible Vincent Price, schemes to bring about the downfall of Essex. This film was nominated for five Oscars including Best Cinematography and Best Original Score but the set was tumultuous as Davis and Flynn despised each other. This seems to be a common thread with old Hollywood it seems.

The Alienist: Angel Of Darkness – This is an interesting sequel to an adaptation as it continues on a series of books that I adored two decades ago. A period piece of a procedural from writer Caleb Carr, Daniel Bruhl stars as criminal psychologist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, also known as an alienist, who joins forces with a newspaper illustrator Luke Evans to investigate a serial killer in New York during the late 19th century. This encompasses the first series and this new show is the direct carry-on of that storyline and I have to say that they nailed everything great about the books and made a strong series out of it that is intriguing even if you’ve read the books. I’m still making my way through the first series and am loving it. Highly recommended.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Spider-Man: Far From Home – Set after “The Snap” had been reversed and Tony Stark died in the process, this was a big movie to follow Avengers: Endgame and it had to stick its opening and landing just right and, oh baby, did it make me happy. Like a John Hughes love letter wrapped within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this sequel follows our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man as he decides to join his best friends Ned, MJ, and the rest of the gang on a European vacation with his school. However, Peter’s plan to leave super heroics behind for a few weeks is quickly scrapped when he begrudgingly agrees to help Nick Fury uncover the mystery of several elemental creature attacks, creating havoc across the continent. This movie was so awesome, as I’m sure everyone knows by now, and raised the stakes big time for the character, especially with the implications of the ending, plus it introduced one of my favourite Spidey characters, Mysterio. If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this one, I bought it for super cheap at Wal-Mart.

The Yearling – I’m bringing some of the Warner Archive into the Geek Outs this week and it starts with a classic family western featuring the legendary Gregory Peck in what would turn out to be MGM’s most successful film of 1946. The story follows the family of Civil War veteran Penny Baxter, who lives and works on a farm in Florida with his wife, Orry, and their son, Jody. The only surviving child of the family, Jody longs for companionship and unexpectedly finds it in the form of an orphaned fawn and while Penny is supportive of his son’s four-legged friend, Orry is not, leading to heartbreaking conflict. The film, aside from being a big hit, also became a darling at the Academy Awards, earning seven Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Director but ended up only walking away with two, for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction. The film ages beautifully and still hits with all the emotional beats.

Bachelor In Paradise – I feel like just having this title on my write up this week will bring a totally different sort of traffic to my website so I’ll say right here, right now that this is not the reality show that has been obsessed about for years and no roses are given out here. No, this is a Warner Archive title that features the legendary comedy prowess of Bob Hope and the beautiful Lana Turner and follows a bachelor author of sleazy books who moves to a family-oriented subdivision where he becomes an unofficial relationship advisor to unhappy local housewives, to the dismay of their respective husbands who suspect him of sexual misconduct. Yes, it’s probably a film that would have no hope of being made today and that’s not just me making an actor pun. It’s interesting to note that this was Bob Hope’s first film for MGM and it was a total flop, losing the studio $344,000 which would be closer to $3 million by today’s standards.

Television:

Trying: Season 1 (AppleTV+) – The slow burn of AppleTV+ is starting to turn into an actual fire as there are now many great original shows on the service with Ted Lasso being the main draw to get subscribers. This is a low key new MVP to their game in my opinion, with British actor Rafe Spall, a personal favorite, playing one half of a couple sick of trying to conceive and looking to go down the adoption route with their dysfunctional friends, screwball family, and chaotic lives all looking to collaborate and ruin their chances with the adoption board. For me, the shining beacon of this show is Esther Smith, previously seen in the Netflix series Cuckoo, who makes the whole thing feel so real and Imelda Staunton who adds that veteran gravitas. I love a good British series and this one is great.

Special: Season 2 (Netflix) – Adapted from the memoirs of its star Ryan O’Connell and executive produced by The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons, this show should have been a niche breakout hit I think but is still gaining its audience. Playing himself, Ryan is a gay man living with cerebral palsy, two elements of his life that he is very unconfident in. Things change for him when he decides to live his life without a safety net. He moves out of his mother’s house into his own apartment, gets his first real job working for a high-end magazine and, his biggest step puts himself out there in the dating world. This show is adorably character-driven but beyond that, it’s sweetly inspirational and is one of those rare shows that leaves you each time with a warm and happy feeling, something we are sorely missing these days.

1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything (AppleTV+) – Nothing gets me going more than a good music documentary and when you stretch it out to be a series it just becomes that much sweeter. The show, put together by Academy Award-winner Asif Kapadia, takes a look at the tumultuous era of 1971, which was a year of musical innovation and rebirth fueled by the political and cultural upheaval of the time and it all kicks off with the tragedy at Kent State and the writing of Ohio by Neil Young, the hard-hitting and unforgettable song by Crosby Stills Nash and Young. The show also tells the story of Marvin Gaye creating What’s Happening in the thoughts of his brother fighting in Vietnam and John Lennon striking out on his own after The Beatles and his recording of the Imagine album. As a music lover, this film is utterly fascinating and the way it moves hand in hand with politics makes me think of all those trolls screaming “Stick to music!” these days.

Solos (Amazon Prime) – Amazon Prime is hitting my happy button this week with a new seven-part anthology series rooted in science fiction and each following a different character. Starring Uzo Aduba, Constance Wu, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway and many more and directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, Zach Braff and others, this series explores the strange, beautiful, heartbreaking, hilarious, wondrous truths of what it means to be human and spans our present and future, grappling with time travel, A.I. bots, solo trips to the farthest reaches of the universe, scheming smart homes, a mysterious waiting room, near-future fertility treatments and illegal memory transplants, all to illuminate the deeper meaning of human connection. These character-driven stories contend that even during our most seemingly isolated moments, in the most disparate of circumstances, we are all connected through the human experience or at least that’s what all of the previews are telling me. I’m with you guys. I haven’t seen it but damn am I intrigued!

Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. (Disney+) – This is a deep dig for comic fans as M.O.D.O.K., an abbreviation for Mental/Mobile/Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing and an obscure Marvel villain, gets his time to shine in a delightfully weird-looking stop motion animated series. Featuring the voices of Patton Oswalt as the title character himself, Nathan Fillion, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Hader, Jon Hamm and so many more, the show centers around an egomaniacal supervillain with a really big head and a really little body, who struggles to maintain control of his evil organization and his demanding family. I feel like fans of zany shows like Robot Chicken and, really, anything on Adult Swim will immediately gravitate toward this and I hope they do because it looks awesome and I want all the seasons of it that we possibly can. Is that greedy? Scratch that, I don’t want to know the answer.

New Releases:

Spiral – This week is going to be full of me reminiscing or saying “remember when?” so let’s kick it off right with a franchise that was supposed to end after the seventh film, which was a 3D extravaganza, then a soft reboot with the flick, Jigsaw. Now Chris Rock has stepped up as the executive producer and lead star, director Darren Lynn Bousman is back with writer Josh Stolberg and we get a whole new bag of nightmares to start fresh on. This new story focuses on brash detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks who always seems to be working in the shadow of his father, an esteemed police veteran played by Samuel L. Jackson. With his rookie partner in tow, he takes charge of a grisly investigation into murders that are eerily reminiscent of the city’s gruesome past, which we all knownow what’s alluded to there. Unwittingly entrapped in a deepening mystery, Zeke finds himself at the center of the killer’s morbid game as more bodies begin to pile up. These movies all used to operate with a bit of torture porn horror wink but the good news is the reviews piling in right now are really good which has me absolutely pumped to check this out. If theatres ever open up here…

Those Who Wish Me Dead – Remember when it seemed that Angelina Jolie was retiring with her vanity project By The Sea with now ex-husband Brad Pitt being her acting swan song? Well, I guess being a Disney villain like Maleficent or a superhero in the upcoming Eternals for Marvel must have renewed her thirst for the medium because she’s back in this new action thriller from Wind River director Taylor Sheridan and alongside Nicholas Hoult. The story follows a teenaged murder witness who finds himself pursued by twin assassins in the Montana wilderness with a survival expert and smoke jumper played by Jolie who takes on the task of protecting him as a forest fire bears down on them, wiping out everything in its path. Automatically, with the attachment of Sheridan’s name, I’m immediately drawn in because he hasn’t made a flop yet. The film was also shot by Ben Richardson who’s done pretty much everything that Sheridan has been behind the camera for as well as Beasts Of The Southern Wild. This is most likely one of the better films to see this weekend.

The Woman In The Window – With Hanna and The Soloist director Joe Wright at the helm and a massively stacked cast including Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Wyatt Russell and more, this movie easily made its way onto my most anticipated of the week list. Adams plays Anna Fox, an agoraphobic child psychologist who finds herself keeping tabs on the picture-perfect family across the street through the windows of her New York City brownstone. Her life is turned upside down when she inadvertently witnesses a brutal crime that puts her in the center of the mystery. I started to fall out of love with this movie when I started to see how structured like a play it was and the acting started to reflect that too, almost stilted in the delivery. I was also disappointed by the cinematography, which is done by the incredible Bruno Delbonel who’s done amazing work for Jean Pierre Jeunet and the Coens, but this one feels really bland in its scope. I’m sure it comes across in this write-up but I was really let down by this one.

Together Together – Give me more Ed Helms in sleepy little indie comedy-dramas because I loved every moment of this movie. Helms plays a single man who hires a younger woman to become the gestational surrogate for his child and the two come to realize an unexpected relationship develop that will challenge their perceptions of connection, boundaries and the particulars of love and give an almost immediate salve to their loneliness that they both experience. The film is a bold second project for writer and director Nikole Beckwith who makes quite the swerve after her drama thriller Stockholm, Pennsylvania by making such a sweetly told story that explores exactly what it means to be human without feeling contrived for a minute. It’s just what Helms needs to keep his star rising and is a catapult for the immense talent of his co-lead Patti Harrison who gets her first major role here.

The Killing Of Two Lovers – It’s a deep and sadly sombre indie drama that I think is the sleeper gem this week and it’s interesting as it features the lead actor of Clayne Crawford whose last big headline was getting fired from the Lethal Weapon television in an on set bullying scandal. The film follows Crawford as David, an emotionally troubled man who desperately tries to keep his family of six together during a separation from Nikki. Both agreeing to see other people during their break, David struggles to grapple with his wife’s new relationship, bringing him to dark points of obsession and contemplating murder. This film is incredibly well shot, opting to use a sort of 4:3 aspect ratio and with a beautiful blank space approach to the cinematography and a script that doesn’t waste words. As far as brooding character dramas go, this is how you excel at it.

Oxygen – One of my favourite horror filmmakers Alexandre Aja has returned to his home country of France to make his next project but this time he’s basing it more in science fiction but he’s still toying with fear in a big way. At its heart, the film is a survival thriller that tells the story of a young woman who wakes up in a cryogenic pod not knowing who she is or how she ended up there and, even worse, she’s running out of oxygen. In a race against a depleting lifeline, she must get her bearings on her surroundings, her identity and her manner of escape into a world beyond her high-tech cage and it is a harrowing and claustrophobic experience throughout. Those who are more used to Aja’s gory nature, like High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha 3D, may be taken aback by his singular storytelling approach in this but I took it as him expanding his vision and comfort zone and I really enjoyed it. The reveals are so well constructed in it too.

Profile – Wanted and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter director Timur Bekmambetov is back for probably his most understated films of his career but also one that has been shelved for over three years which is crazy for a movie that only took nine days to film. The film follows a British journalist who goes undercover and infiltrates the digital propaganda channels of the so-called Islamic State, which has been mobilizing ever greater numbers of women from Europe, in which her daily Internet contacts with an ISIS recruiter gradually pull her in and push the limits of her investigation and maybe turning her into a conduit for the enemy. This film screened a couple of years back at the Vancouver International Film Festival and pulled in a mixed bag of reviews, some believing that the twists and turns drew them in but others believing it was silly and far-fetched. I haven’t always loved Timur’s work but this one seems inventive and fun.

Finding You – A music-driven romantic drama set on the sprawling coastline of beautiful Ireland? Well, you just netted a huge part of the P.S. I Love You audience without getting to the plot, so, kudos on that. Oddly, the film comes from American writer and director Brian Baugh but it makes sense when you see that it involves strangers in a strange land. The story follows Finley, a talented aspiring violinist, who meets Beckett, a famous young movie star, on the way to her college semester abroad program in a small coastal village in Ireland. An unexpected romance emerges as the heartthrob Beckett leads the uptight Finley on an adventurous reawakening and she emboldens him to take charge of his future until the pressures of his stardom get in the way. The film has a familiar face to Arrow fans as Mia Smoak herself Katharine McNamara leads the film alongside The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina’s Dorian Gray, Jedidiah Goodacre, who is also Canadian. This film will entertain anyone looking for a fluffy little love story but don’t expect good accents.

High Ground – I am and forever will be a sucker for Australian film. There’s something that just draws me in about them, the feeling of being a knowing guest into their style of cinema. This new adventure drama has all the great staples around it, starring Simon Baker using his native accent with veteran actor Jack Thompson in a supporting role in a story about a big part of Australia, the aboriginal population. Set against the stunning landscapes of 1930s Arnhem Land, the film chronicles the life of a young aboriginal man named Gutjuk, who in a bid to save the last of his family teams up with ex-soldier Travis to track down Baywara, the most dangerous warrior in the Territory, who is also his uncle. As Travis and Gutjuk journey through the outback, they begin to earn each other’s trust, but when the truths of Travis’s past actions are suddenly revealed, it is he who becomes the hunted. The film is a stunning narrative that pushes the emotion of the journey at all times and consistently packs the punch of the effect of colonialism on the aboriginal people. This one may not be for everyone but I totally loved it.

Blu-Ray:

The Mauritanian – I picked the perfect time to watch my screener for this drama thriller that is based on the novel from the author and the main focus of this film, Mohamedou Ould Salahi, as it picked up a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress Jodie Foster just before it’s release here in Canada on VOD initially. Coming from acclaimed director Kevin Macdonald, this is the true story of Slahi’s fight for freedom after being detained and imprisoned without charge by the United States government for years. Alone, afraid and yearning to be reconnected with his family, Slahi finds allies in defence attorney Nancy Hollander, played by Foster and her associate Teri Duncan, played by Shailene Woodley who battles the government in a fight for justice that tests their commitment to the law and their client at every turn. Their controversial advocacy, along with evidence uncovered by a formidable military prosecutor, The Benedict Cumberbatch played Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch, uncovers shocking truths and ultimately proves that the Americans have been so shady and callous in their reaction to 9/11, the catalyst for all their actions. The film is brilliantly acted but there is a dry dullness that snakes through it and kind of drags it down in parts.

The Marksman – Liam Neeson can’t escape the action films even though he says he’s retired from them after the Taken trilogy but maybe he just meant he was now shifting to reluctant heroes on their last legs who make their last stands for a multiple choice of reasons. Well, that’s what we’ve got here, as he plays Arizona rancher Jim Hanson, a recluse who simply wants to be left alone as he fends off eviction notices and tries to make a living on an isolated stretch of borderland. It all changes when he witnesses eleven-year-old migrant Miguel fleeing with his mother Rosa from drug cartel assassins led by the ruthless Mauricio. After being caught in a shoot-out, a dying Rosa begs Jim to take her son to safety to her family in Chicago and, defying his cop daughter Sarah, played by Vikings’ Katheryn Winnick, he sneaks Miguel out of the local U.S. Customs and Border Patrol station and together, they hit the road with the group of killers in pursuit. The film is a bland cat and mouse thriller that seems to hit all the cliches that you would expect with the gravelly loner, the defiant kid and the bloodthirsty killers chasing them while killing everyone in their path. Totally yawn-worthy.

Land – Veteran actress and former crush of mine back in the Princess Bride days Robin Wright makes her directorial debut with this emotional drama the puts a grieving woman in the middle of the wilderness in a story not just of personal survival but soul resurrection. Wright stars in the film and playing Edee, a woman living in the aftermath of an unfathomable event and finds herself unable to stay connected to the world she once knew. In the face of that uncertainty, she retreats to the magnificent, but unforgiving, wilds of the Rockies in Wyoming and, inexperienced in how to live off and protect herself from the land, she puts her life in extreme danger. After a local hunter, played beautifully by Demián Bichir, brings her back from the brink of death, she must find a way to live again and open herself up to the continuation of her being. The film starts off rocky in my opinion, giving so much emotion to a character that we haven’t even gotten to know yet and her survival naivete comes off as frustrating but the second and third act comes in to totally elevate that film and give us a really tender one-two dynamic with these characters. Wright sticks her landing as a filmmaker and I’m looking forward to what she has next.

Earwig And The Witch – We’re hitting up some brand new Studio Ghibli produced animation this week which always seems to bring a certain type of class to it and when it sees release in North America they always have a really great English voice cast to it. Featuring Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant, country singer Kacey Musgraves and Legion’s Dan Stevens, this film follows an orphan named Earwig who grew up in the English countryside unknowing of her mother’s magical powers. Her life changes dramatically when a strange couple takes her in and she is forced to live with a selfish witch. As the headstrong young girl sets out to uncover the secrets of her new guardians, she discovers a world of spells and potions and a mysterious song that may be the key to finding the family she has always wanted. This film is dazzling and sweet but it is very apparent that it is a far cry from the movies that established the world-renowned animation company as it lacks that certain polish and the world doesn’t have the same warmth. That said, it’s still very entertaining.

The Seventh Day – Did you think I was going to let Spiral be the sole horror movie I would bring this week? Heck no, especially not when I have Guy Pearce as a demon-fighting priest! He stars in this film as a renowned exorcist who teams up with a rookie priest for his first day of training and as they plunge deeper into hell on earth, the lines between good and evil blur, and their own demons emerge. Did that just sound like the Exorcist version of the movie Training Day? Kind of and, to be honest, that would have been amazing in my opinion. What is instead the result is a great performance from Pearce in a movie that is muddled in its plot and seems to constantly borrow from better films which, in turn, makes it look way worse. If I hadn’t seen any exorcism movie prior I may have been slightly impressed by this one but, alas, I’m well versed in the subgenre.

Pixie – Following her career since the sci-fi thriller The Signal in 2014, I’ve always been drawn to the work of actress Olivia Cooke who has since starred in great movies like Thoroughbreds, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and last year’s Sound Of Metal. Her name toplining this crime comedy thriller is why I was drawn to it and the supporting work from Alec Baldwin and Colm Meaney is just icing on the cake. The film has Cooke as the title character, Pixie Hardy, a woman on a path of vengeance for her mother’s death who attempts a heist that will give her the means to leave her small-town life behind afterwards. When the plan goes horribly wrong, she’s forced to team up with a pair of misfits who are clearly in over their heads and, on the run from a criminal gang of priests and nuns, the trio tries to scheme and swindle anyone they come across. The movie definitely feels like filmmakers Barnaby Thompson and Preston Thompson have watched every heist film and nabbed a little tidbit here and there but at the end of the day, it didn’t matter to me, I just enjoyed it thoroughly from top to bottom. This one definitely feels like a crowd-pleaser of gritty crime comedy fans.

Senior Moment – William Shatner stars in a goofy and slapstick romantic comedy and even with his romantic lead being played by the amazing and hilarious Jean Smart, I couldn’t be less enthused about this wet fart of a movie. Shatner plays a retired NASA test pilot who, after drag racing his vintage convertible around Palm Springs, loses his license and is forced to take public transportation. This ends up working out for him as he meets Caroline and starts to learn to navigate a love life again in a movie that is so horribly “paint by numbers” I began to feel like I had forgotten if I had actually written this one myself. Not even a Christopher Lloyd supporting role as his doting best friend could keep me complacent as I kept checking the runtime like a detention student waiting for the teacher to let him go. There may be a market for this but it certainly isn’t me…

Justice Society: World War II – The DC animated universe gets another beautiful installment with this new “else universes” story that gives Wonder Woman a huge platform to show off the true capabilities of the character and, honestly, the sequences are breathtaking. The story follows The Flash as the Speed Force has him hurtling through time into an alternate timeline after attempting to save Superman from certain death in his own world. In a strange land, he finds himself aligned with the Justice Society, led by the tough-as-nails Princess Diana, in a fight against the powerful Nazi regime during the Second World War. As a comic fan, I loved everything about this movie, Castle’s Stana Katic makes a great Diana and White Collar star Matt Bomer is a fun Barry Allen Flash and the action is hard-hitting and furious. The animated division of DC Comics and Warner Bros. is really the best thing going on that side of the comic book movie wars and it’s awesome to see that tradition is continuing and possibly even getting better and better every time. I highly recommend this killer superhero flick.

Morgue – We’ve got some international horror this week all the way from Paraguay, which is just a little jump away from Uraguay which gave us Evil Dead remake director Fede Alvarez so I’m more than willing to give it a chance. A very self-contained little ghost story, the story is about perpetually down-on-his-luck Diego Martinez who, after a harrowing accident, accepts a gig as a security guard at the local morgue. At first, he thinks he’s landed himself a sweet and lazy gig but as the night wears on, eerie occurrences and the suddenly not-quite-lifeless bodies that inhabit the building leave him to wonder how much otherworldly energy does it take to wake the dead? This film was a gnarly surprise that slowly slid me over to the edge of my seat until I was perched on it for the entire finale. This is my introduction to writer and director Hugo Cardozo and oh boy am I ever interested in whatever he has coming next.

Merrily We Go To Hell – Criterion Collection hits again this week and I totally feel blessed cinematically with another classic film that is completely new to me and another piece of continued celluloid education. Made in 1932 by a woman director, which seems insanely progressive for the time, the film follows drunken newspaperman Jerry Corbett who finally meets and marries the right girl, Joan Prentiss. Unfortunately, their wedded bliss is interrupted when Jerry’s play, a passion project encouraged by Joan, becomes a hit and he hooks up with the wrong woman from his past. Joan decides that the affair is fair play to be devious herself and she picks another man to escort her around to various parties around New York which eventually causes Jerry to sober up and try to regain the love of his life. Very convoluted romantic affairs run through this film but it was only controversial at its time just due to the title being very taboo to put into advertisements and print. It also hindered its chances of being awards recognized. Still a fascinating piece of film history.

Giants And Toys – Arrow Video is digging into their vaults for a classic film release of their own this week as they have unearthed a weirdo Japanese comedy-drama from 1958 for a collector’s edition. The story follows Nishi, an advertising executive for a caramel company that is planning to launch a new product, in fierce competition with two other companies. His boss builds up Kyoko, a vivacious girl with bad teeth, as their mascot who becomes infatuated with Nishi when he is assigned to look after her. Meanwhile, Nishi is trying to extract information about his competitors’ advertising campaigns, from his girlfriend, who works for one rival, and his old college friend, who works for the other rival company. It’s all a convoluted whirl of relationships, corporate backstabbing and a bit of slapstick silliness in just the way that classic Japanese cinema can spin it and keep it on the rails. This will definitely not be for everyone as it for sure lost me here and there. Honestly, I’m still trying to process it a bit.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Irma Vep – This might be a bit too obscure and pretentious for a mainstream crowd to get behind but Criterion keeps hooking me up with these old masterpieces and I really can’t help bringing them here. This film is a fascinating trip to a sci-fi fantasy movie set in France for acclaimed writer and director Olivier Assayas’s very introspective look at the clash of egos on high-end feature film productions. The story follows washed-up French director René Vidal who hopes to turn his career around with an update of “Les Vampires,” a silent-era masterpiece about a notorious ring of thieves, led by crafty female crook Irma Vep. René brings in Chinese star Maggie Cheung, who plays herself in the film, to play Vep, but unexpected roadblocks arise on the set immediately when they find that she doesn’t know French and her character’s criminal ways are starting to rub off on her in a very real way. She is also veraciously being pursued by an obsessive lesbian crew member to make matters worse. Assayas is an absolute genius and this movie is another indication that he has been for over twenty-five years. This is a 1996 gem that demands to be rediscovered and inserted into the genre of on-set folly films.

Television:

Hacks (Crave) – I have been a fan of Iris Behr’s work ever since I discovered her show Svetlana almost by accident and ended up binging every episode of it I could find. For this new series, she teams with Broad City creator Lucia Aniello to tell the story of Deborah Vance, played by the great Jean Smart, a legendary Las Vegas comedian who enters into a very dark and sometimes totally inappropriate mentorship with Josefina, an entitled but totally socially outcast twenty-five-year-old. Josefina is played by actress Rose Abdoo, who was a small supporting player in the long-running Gilmore Girls, but really gets to shine here with some great chemistry with Smart who is truly hitting legendary status along with what her character is supposed to be. I don’t see HBO Max pushing this series greatly but I will say that it is worth checking out.

Castlevania: Season 4 (Netflix) – With one of my favourite comic book creators Warren Ellis as the showrunner behind this anime-style adaptation of an original Nintendo classic, so may early gamers share the deep stakes feeling with this series. The good news is we are four seasons deep in this now and things are going awesome and the horizon is beautiful. Those who have no idea what this show is about follow the aftermath of when Lisa Tepes, beloved wife of Vlad Tepes, or Dracula for the layman, is accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake by an overzealous bishop. Dracula immediately declares war on the people of Wallachia and unleashes an army of murderous demonic creatures from hell. Luckily our main character, Trevor Belmont, last survivor of the Belmont clan, a disgraced family known for hunting all kinds of monsters, is still in town and agrees to take the fight to the lord of vampires. Featuring The Hobbit’s Richard Armitage, Battlestar Galactica’s James Callis and Preacher’s Graham McTavish, this show is all sorts of badass and has me consistently engaged each season which is crazy because anime is a tough sell usually for me.

Love, Death & Robots: Volume 2 (Netflix) – The first season of this gnarly show had me hook, line and sinker as I’m a sucker for a good anthology and this one goes for the jugular whenever it can and I expect more of that from the second volume. The biggest bummer is that instead of eighteen episodes we only get eight this time around but it is still executive produced by the great David Fincher and it is still so mesmerizing to take in. The trailer is frenetic, in your face and totally pulse-pounding, it has me so pumped up for the launch on Friday. This is definitely the binge-worthy gem you’ve been waiting for, stoners!

The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime) – Moonlight director Barry Jenkins is getting deeply historical with his follow up to his James Baldwin adaptation If Beale Street Could Talk and he’s going big by making it a limited miniseries. Starring Joel Edgerton, The Good Place’s William Jackson Harper and newcomers Thuso Mbedu and Chase Dillon, the show chronicles Cora Randall’s desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South after escaping a Georgia plantation for the rumoured Underground Railroad. She quickly discovers it’s no mere metaphor, but an actual railroad full of engineers and conductors, and a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Over the course of her journey, Cora is pursued by Ridgeway, a bounty hunter who is fixated on bringing her back to the plantation she escaped, especially since her mother Mabel is the only one he has never caught. I have such deep respect for Jenkins’s work and seeing that he directed every episode of this I’m really excited to check it out. This is also the last thing of his before he releases the live-action Lion King sequel. Actually, live-action is a relative term here.

Halston (Netflix) – Not too long ago I got to check out the full documentary on fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick and I was pretty fascinated by the story of this very forward thinker that seemed to have an uncanny ability to see trends before they were fully realized. Now Netflix has made a dramatized series with Ewan McGregor in the lead role as the legendary fashion designer as he leverages his single, invented name into a worldwide fashion empire that’s synonymous with luxury, sex, status and fame, literally defining the era he lives in, 1970’s and ’80’s New York. The real battle comes when a hostile takeover forces him to battle for control of his most precious asset, the name Halston itself and all the relationships he built under it. I love everything Ewan does but what really intrigues me is that Rory Culkin plays filmmaker Joel Schumacher in this which fascinates me to no end. I’m excited for this.

New Releases:

Wrath Of Man – The worst thing you can do heading into this new Jason Statham and Guy Ritchie team-up is to watch the trailer which will completely sell a different type of film than you are getting and one totally askew to anything the Snatch filmmaker has made before. The film follows Statham as a new security guard for a cash truck, who surprises his co-workers when he unleashes precision skills during a heist, head-shotting every armed assailant sent to rob the truck. The crew is left wondering who he is and where he came from and eventually, through intricate flashbacks, the marksman’s ultimate motive becomes clear as he takes dramatic and irrevocable steps to settle a score and exact revenge. This movie is blisteringly violent, takes no prisoners and is filled to the brim with tough-guy bravado and I loved every moment of it. Statham just plain rocks in this movie and the cast around him is immense, including CSI guy Holt McCallany, 2000s heartthrob Josh Hartnett, Jeffrey Donovan, Scott Eastwood and more. It’s gritty and brutal but a great two-hour thrill ride.

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

Eat Wheaties! – You can sell me a movie easily by telling me that it features Arrested Development and Veep’s Tony Hale, which this movie does, but it also has Elisha Cuthbert, I, Tonya’s Paul Walter Hauser, Scrubs’ Sarah Chalke and the great Alan Tudyk, so, yeah, I’m all about this one head in. Hale plays Sid Straw, a dude who leads a dull life until he accidentally stalks his famous college friend, Elizabeth Banks, on social media. With each failed attempt to prove he knows her, he rediscovers more of himself and the true meaning of friendship begins to blossom in the strangest places. The strength of this movie resides totally in the players as they all bring the best of their abilities to a story that doesn’t really understand how creepy its premise is, especially in the current celebrity worship climate. Just ask Kylie Jenner, right? Still, I had enough of a fun time with the film to make it work for me.

The Outside Story – I started out my review week with this little film and I’m so happy I did because it is sweet-hearted, warm and thoughtful, putting me in a great mind frame on a Friday night. The film stars Atlanta’s breakout actor Brian Tyree Henry as an introverted editor living a reclusive life in his second-floor apartment, always on deadline and in a constant rut. When he accidentally locks himself out of his building, he’s forced to go into the wilds of the outside and confront the world he’s been avoiding in search of a way back inside. This film was absolutely delightful from beginning to end with a great script filled with awkwardness, anxiety and quirky situations while giving a great message of personal growth, relationship post-traumatic stress, no matter how minute it is, and healing our bonds with others. This was so great to see Henry on this leading level and he does it with such great command. I want to see more leading roles from him for sure.

A Bump Along The Way – I have such a sweet spot in my heart for Irish comedy dramas and with the last one, Dating Amber, still in my brainpan giving me the warm and fuzzies, it was the perfect time for this one to nudge its way in for some love. The film follows You, Me And The Apocalypse actress Bronagh Gallagher as a boozy forty-four-year-old single mother that becomes pregnant from a one-night-stand, much to the shame of her buttoned-up teen daughter, played by Lola Petticrew who starred in the aforementioned Dating Amber too, who is just trying to survive high school with as little trauma as possible. This film is a great story of a close-knit mother and daughter who drift apart due to this small-town scandal and are brought together by finding themselves, finding their voices and pushing back at those who oppress them. This is a beautiful little story about the unbreakable bonds of family with a little Irish seasoning. Loved it.

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

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

Fried Barry – The initial synopsis of this new bizarre sci-fi horror comedy seems straight out of the stratosphere of weirdo cinema so, of course, it’s a great fit for the catalogues of Shudder who constantly give their subscribers a special kind of love. The story follows Barry who is a drug-addled, abusive bastard that, after yet another bender, is abducted by aliens. Barry takes a backseat as an alien visitor assumes control of his body and takes it for a joyride through Cape Town and what follows is an onslaught of drugs, sex and violence as our out-of-this-world tourist enters the weird and wonderful world of humankind. The film is based upon the short film of the same name from writer and director Ryan Kruger, which earned fifty-seven official selections including twelve wins at festivals around the world. There aren’t any recognizable stars but everyone gives it their all in a film that tongue in cheek-ly kind of gives a nod to Fire In The Sky. Get into this one on the ground floor because people will be talking about it.

Monster – This was a late pick up for Netflix as this film has been circulating around on the festival circuit since 2018 but it finally gets the streaming clout now and it has to be because of the now high profile of star Kelvin Harrison Jr. from Luce and It Comes At Night and John David Washington from Tenet, BlackkKlansman and the hit Netflix movie Malcolm & Marie. The film tells the story of Steve Harmon, a seventeen-year-old honour student whose world comes crashing down around him when he is charged with felony murder. We then follow his dramatic journey from a smart, likeable film student from Harlem attending an elite high school through a complex legal battle that could leave him spending the rest of his life in prison, a reality that is a split moment away for many young black Americans. The time is right for this movie to hit, which lands in strong and powerful brush strokes but is a little slim on the details of Steve’s character. That said, this movie nails every emotional beat and makes you feel its sting.

Blu-Ray:

Judas And The Black Messiah – With a cast boasting the fast-rising stars of Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stansfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback and Ashton Sanders, all performers on the road to future Academy Awards in their careers, Kaluuya and Stansfield now already nominated, I was already on board with this new historical drama but it’s the subject matter and importance of its timing that got it’s hooks into me most. The second feature film from writer and director Shaka King, most known for her work on Aidy Bryant’s show Shrill and Wyatt Cenac’s People Of Earth, she goes for the throat in this story that follows FBI informant William O’Neal as he infiltrates the Illinois Black Panther Party and is tasked with keeping tabs on their charismatic leader, Chairman Fred Hampton. A career thief, O’Neal gets lost in the danger of manipulating both his comrades and his handler, Special Agent Roy Mitchell and, as Hampton’s political prowess grows, he also starts falling in love with fellow revolutionary Deborah Johnson. This film is being called electrifying and authentic with performances that leap off the screen. This is definitely one of my favorite films of the first quarter of this year and its urgency pounds like a sledgehammer throughout. I feel like this story is pivotal learning for everyone and an example of how our police forces are used to stifle political and sociological oppositions.

The Little Things – After testing out their new model of release in this pandemic era of big films, Warner Brothers rolled out their next film on their big slate for this year and it starred the money-making and reliable face of one of the greatest actors today, Denzel Washington but it kind of did absolutely nothing in anyone’s memory. . The film comes from director John Lee Hancock, known for the popular Sandra Bullock film The Blind Side and the Ray Kroc story The Founder, who gets dark and gritty here with this crime thriller about a burnt-out Californian deputy sheriff who teams up with a crack LASD detective, played by Oscar-winner Rami Malek, to nab a serial killer. The veteran law man’s nose for the “little things” proves eerily accurate, but his willingness to circumvent the rules embroils his young partner in an existential dilemma. As I said at the top, Denzel always delivers and Malek’s performances are so compelling every time but the feeling that Rami is out of his element as a brash detective is always felt down to the way he carries his gun. It just feels unnatural. The bonus is when Jared Leto comes into the film for his quick serial killer role but the resolution to the whole story is a little less than desired.

The Virtuoso – Hot off of his Best Actor Academy Award win, I popped on this new hitman thriller that features Anthony Hopkins in a supporting role and is led by Star Trek Discovery and Hell On Wheels star Anson Mount. Very brooding and dark in tone, the story follows a lonesome stranger with nerves of steel but recovering from a job gone wrong who must track down and kill a rogue hitman to satisfy an outstanding debt. The only information he’s been given is a time and location where to find his target, 5 pm at a rustic diner in a town on the verge of bankruptcy. When the assassin arrives there are several possible targets, including the county sheriff and he must do more dangerous legwork to find this hitman and accomplish his mission. The story sounds like a winner but the drive of the film only comes in here and there and seems to meander in its emotion and not in a good way but in a contrived and boring sort of way. With how great the cast is, rounding out with Abbie Cornish, Eddie Marsan and Richard Brake, it never feels as close to the calibre of the actors put in it.

Tu Me Manques – It’s not very often that I get to bring foreign indie films to this section of the blog but this week I saw that this Bolivian drama was getting a small release and thought I’d shine a little light on it. On the surface, the story is very simple, following Jorge, a Bolivian man dealing with the death of his son Gabriel, who packs up his life to travel from his ultra-conservative country to New York City in order to confront Gabriel’s boyfriend Sebastian. While the two battle over Jorge’s inability to accept his son, Sebastian channels his grief into a bold new play in honour of his lost love, in which Gabriel’s inner turmoil is transformed into an eye-popping gay fantasia. This film is beautifully done with a beautiful focus on acceptance, growth and renewal against the vibrant backdrop of the queer community. This is a pretty special film that probably won’t get a huge amount of focus until it possibly picks up a streaming service’s attention.

Painkiller – More revenge or vigilante action thriller stories are hitting your television screens this week but, being led by Eddie And The Cruisers star Michael Pare, this is decidedly far less enticing as a Jason Statham and Guy Ritchie action piece unless it’s, I don’t know, 1986? The film follows Pare as a man who begins a campaign to destroy the white-collar criminals behind the opioid epidemic after losing his child to an overdose. As he starts to inflict violence and pain, he realizes that it sort of gives him a soul rebirth and he really starts to relish his anti-hero status more and more. Is the film good though? Definitely and certainly it is not. It feels like a filmmaker wanting to make a Death Wish movie but trying to latch on to something relevant and in your face in the news. That makes it sound a bit exploitative, which it definitely is.

A Ghost Waits – Usually, when I’m talking about new Arrow Video collector’s editions it is about an older forgotten piece of cult cinema or a fabled classic but every now and then they give the initial release to a festival favourite, giving it a pedestal to shine on from a great distributor. This is one of those movies, a brilliantly unique and original combo of horror, humour and soul, this is a low-budget labour of love years in the making from first-time writer and director Adam Stovall and producer and leading star MacLeod Andrews. He plays handyman Jack who, given the job of renovating a neglected rental home, quickly finds out why the tenants keep leaving in droves and that’s because the house is totally haunted. The ghost in question is Muriel, she herself employed in sort of a contract job from beyond the grave to keep the home vacant and, against the odds, Jack and Muriel find they have a lot in common. Having found a kindred spirit in an otherwise lonely existence, they must fight for their newfound affection as pressure mounts for them each to fulfil their career obligations. This film contains a special sort of genius in its writing that is hard to impart here without giving spoilers but just know that you will think about it for weeks afterward once you see it.

Trances – This new Criterion Collection film literally just landed on my doorstep so I’m going above and beyond to bring it to you as quick as I can and, to be honest, I almost couldn’t read what it was called at first. The film is a documentary from Ahmed El Maanouni that puts a visual emphasis on the history and heritage of Moroccan and African music and, in a more focused sense, the soul band called Trances. The film portrays the band performing concerts in Morocco, interspersed with excerpts from interviews with band members about the meaning of each of their songs and music and is one of those gems in international cinema that kind of crosses over into the mainstream subtly. Released in 1981, this story of music and the love for the medium, its creation and the process of a songwriter still hits and resonates today.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

The Furies – A little late arrival in my inbox but a perfect thing to throw at the geek outs this week, Criterion Collection has put together this re-issue of a classic western drama that featured the red hot actress of the 1940s and 50s, Barbara Stanwyck. The film follows cattle baron T.C. Jeffords who rules his sprawling New Mexico ranch with an iron fist, but his authority doesn’t extend to his strong-willed daughter, Vance, who hates and loves her father with equal ferocity. Tensions rise when Vance falls for bad boy Rip Darrow whom T.C. buys off but the family conflict turns violent when T.C. decides to marry Flo Burnett and evict Vance’s childhood friend Juan from his land. Yes, this is a deep film about frontier relationships and the destruction of a powerful family from within that saw Academy Awards recognition for its beautiful cinematography in the days of black and white film. This one has its hold in film history and Criterion definitely knew that.

Godzilla 4K – Now that the whole MonsterVerse has seemingly come to a close with only small murmurs that it will continue in any form, Warner Bros. has put out this brand new 4K revamp of Garth Edwards’ 2014 reboot of the Toho giant lizard and, once again, all of that element is absolutely amazing and the human side is far less so. The film follows Ford Brody, played by Aaron Taylor Johnson, a Navy bomb expert who has just reunited with his family in San Francisco when he is forced to go to Japan to help his estranged father, Joe, played by Bryan Cranston in the quickest of roles. Soon, both men are swept up in an escalating crisis when Godzilla, King of the Monsters, arises from the sea to combat malevolent adversaries that threaten the survival of humanity. The creatures leave colossal destruction in their wake, as they make their way toward their final battleground, the streets and cityscapes of San Francisco. Experiencing this movie in theatres was incredible and constantly caused the hairs to raise on the back of my neck and that feeling does transfer over to this 4K version as well. Definitely worth it for fans to check out.

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice 4K – Let’s get this out of the way once again but in a 4K way because I’m. glutton for punishment. I saw this movie at an IMAX press screening and totally hated it, so much so that I was seething as I came out of the theatre doors and couldn’t even talk to the Warner Bros. rep to give my opinion. That said, in a self-deprecating need to own everything Batman, I somewhat gladly accepted this film into my collection and gave it a rewatch and, yes, it’s still awful but has some really iconic picturesque moments that make you feel like a fan in between all the terrible writing, nonsensical plot, horrible filmmaking and complete character misreads. Of course, there’s the defining horrendous “Martha” moment that should be ridiculed until the end of time but at the end of the day and the end of the rant, this is an impressive watch to behold on a great home entertainment system, especially now in the best way you can possibly watch it that’s not on the big screen. Never take this as praise for Zack Snyder. I would never do that, especially after the bloated Justice League cut of his. He already had enough fanboys worshipping him.

Television:

Mythic Quest: Season 2 (AppleTV+) – Any fans of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia out there are probably already wise to this new series that launched with the AppleTV+ service but I was definitely late to the game and after a full binge of both seasons I am here to tell you it is must-see stuff. Starring Rob McElhenney and created alongside Charlie Day and gifted writer Megan Ganz, the show follows a team of video game developers as they navigate the challenges of running a popular video game. This show is hysterically funny and devolves into a chaos of tech jargon, clashing egos, insane ideas and more with a great recurring cast including Community’s Danny Pudi and an Academy Award-winning heavyweight in F. Murray Abraham and also has guest stars like Jake Johnson, Palm Springs star Cristin Milioti and even recent Best Actor Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins. This is some can’t miss comedy right here for everyone to jump into.

The Sons Of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness (Netflix) – What? You haven’t had enough serial killer-centric documentary series yet? Or are you just blowing through them at a record rate? Well, this week I’ve got what you need to get through the weekend, satisfy your blood lust and maybe give you some takeaway facts too. Coming from Joshua Zeman, the brilliant mind behind the creepy as hell documentary Cropsey, this four-episode series brings you into the hunt for the “Son of Sam” which captivated the world in the late 1970s but this one goes far deeper because, while the arrest and conviction of David Berkowitz brought the nightmare to an end for many New Yorkers, for journalist and author Maury Terry, the real mystery was just beginning. Convinced Berkowitz had not acted alone, he would go on to spend decades attempting to prove that the web of darkness behind the murders went deeper than anyone imagined and his pursuit of that elusive truth would eventually cost him everything. Zeman draws on archival news footage, conversations with the people closest to the investigation and Terry’s own words and case files to tell a cautionary tale of a man who went down a rabbit hole and never came out and it’s utterly fascinating in all the darkest ways. I know what’s going to be widely debated everywhere come Saturday, so you better binge fast!

Jupiter’s Legacy (Netflix) – Being a huge fan of comic book writer Mark Millar, I was following this original comic that this series is based on issue to issue so when it was announced that this was going to be made in an episodic format for Netflix I lost my mind with excitement. Coming from the man who brought us Kick-Ass, The Kingsmen and much more, this series follows the world’s first generation of superheroes who, after nearly a century of keeping mankind safe, must look to their children to continue the legacy. Of course, tensions rise as the young superheroes, hungry to prove their worth, struggle to live up to their parents’ legendary public reputations and exacting personal standards driving some of them to tragic depths that may challenge their bonds and allegiances. I’ve been chewing through this show ever since I got access to it and I’m loving it. Josh Duhamel is so well at as the patriarch or Superman of the group and Leslie Bibb and Ben Daniels deliver some veteran supporting work. I hope this catches on because, with the success of the first season of Invincible, I want as many adult superhero properties as I can get.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch (Disney+) – Rabid fans of Star Wars cartoons The Clone Wars and Rebels have been rigidly awaiting the launch of this new continuing series from mastermind Dave Filoni, the guy who also helped Jon Favreau with The Mandolorian, and it’s here now and everyone should be happy because it is gloriously awesome after the first two awesome episodes I saw. The series follows the elite and experimental clones of the Bad Batch, who were first introduced in The Clone Wars, as they find their way in a rapidly changing galaxy in the immediate aftermath of the war. Members of Bad Batch, a unique squad of clones who vary genetically from their brothers in the Clone Army, each possess a singular exceptional skill that makes them extraordinarily effective soldiers and a formidable crew that must forge their path alone as the Empire rises and the Republic is forced underground, forming the new Rebel Alliance. This show pulls deep into the geekiness of Star Wars in all the best ways and will immediately become my anticipated shows of the week with the void that Invincible and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier’s finales have left.

The Cafe (BritBox) – Everyone has a justified love affair with actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge and her series Fleabag, which she wrote completely herself and if you haven’t had the pleasure, it’s simply a must. That said, many people, including myself, had never heard of the ensemble comedy The Cafe that she starred in a decade ago and now the lovely BritBox people have made it available here. The story is simple, a sitcom that follows three young and hip generationals who run a coffee shop together. Simple, simple, easy peasy. The script is what makes this show and the gifted cast that delivers it, pretty much unknown except for Waller-Bridge, makes it all shine. This is going to be a blind watch for a lot of people but it may gain it popularity and as of what I see on IMDB, it hasn’t been officially cancelled yet.

Starting things a little bit different and Vancouver focused this week, as the Crazy8s Film Gala returns, an eight-day filmmaking challenge created in 1999 that provides funding and support to emerging filmmakers to help them produce a short film. So far, one hundred and twenty-seven films have been produced by the not-for-profit the runs the gala, the Crazy8s Film Society, including many by close friends and acquaintances of mine.

I’ve had the opportunity to check out a few of this year’s entries and there are some tasty little genre pieces that I think could blow a few people’s hairs back. Crumbs follows a kid dealing with his father’s death who starts to manifest a dark clown when his oppressors become too much, Mom Vs. Machine follows the mother of a rabid and obsessed gamer who must band together to take over a monster of his own 3D creation and iDorothy follows a widower who implants his dead wife’s consciousness to a new synthetic form but also her deepest secrets as well.

Tickets are $15 each and include both the screening and afterparty events which all kick off on Saturday, May 1st at crazy8s.film/.

New Releases:

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse – Amazon Prime is drawing on some of its pre-existing subscribers with this new action thriller as it will automatically nab the fans of their Tom Clancy series Jack Ryan which has people thirsty for more after the second season and it will rope in those who love Michael B. Jordan from his villain performance in Black Panther, his starring role in the Creed movies or all of those women and men who are just plain thirsty for him and his body. Written by Sicario and Yellowstone’s Taylor Sheridan, this film is about an elite Navy SEAL who uncovers an international conspiracy when a squad of Russian soldiers kills his family in retaliation for his role in a top-secret operation. Pursuing the assassins at all costs and joining forces with a fellow SEAL and a shadowy CIA agent (Jamie Bell), his actions unwittingly expose a covert plot that threatens to engulf the U.S. and Russia in an all-out war and torn between personal honour and loyalty to his country, he must fight his enemies ‘without remorse’ if he hopes to avert disaster and reveal the powerful figures behind the conspiracy. The action is awesome, the performances are solid and I really hope this is just the beginning of the adaptations of this Clancy character.

The Mitchells vs. The Machines – It’s been a rough theatrical ride for this new animated film produced by Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the guys who brought us such gems like Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, The LEGO Movie and so much more. Bouncing around release dates and being retitled from Connected to this a couple of times over, the pandemic made a release pretty much impossible but now we get it and it was totally worth it. The film is an action comedy about an ordinary family who finds themselves in the middle of their biggest family challenge yet, saving the world from the robot apocalypse. It all starts when creative outsider Katie Mitchell is accepted into the film school of her dreams and is eager to leave home and find “her people,” when her nature-loving dad insists on having the whole family drive her to school and bond during one last totally-not-awkward-or-forced road trip. But just when the trip can’t get any worse, the family suddenly finds itself in the middle of the robot uprising. Everything from smartphones, to Roombas, to evil Furbys are employed to capture every human on the planet. Now it’s up to the Mitchells, including upbeat mom Linda, quirky little brother Aaron, their squishy pug, Monchi, and two friendly, but simple-minded robots to save humanity in one of the consistently funny and delightful family films I have watched this year. This would have played so well on the big screen and the message is so universal and heartful that I came so close to rolling a tear over it. Maybe I should stop playing Harry Chapin’s Cats In The Cradle on repeat.

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

Things Heard & Seen – As far as director and genre pairings go, this is easily one of the odder projects I’ve seen lately as filmmaker duo Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini are known for quirky comedy-dramas like American Splendor and The Nanny Diaries but now head in for some ghostly horror. Starring Amanda Seyfried and James Norton, the story follows Catherine Clare, an artist who reluctantly trades life in 1980s Manhattan for a remote home in the tiny hamlet of Chosen, New York, after her husband George (James Norton) lands a job teaching art history at a small Hudson Valley college. Even as she does her best to transform the old dairy farm into a place where young daughter Franny will be happy, she increasingly finds herself isolated and alone. She soon comes to sense sinister darkness lurking both in the walls of the ramshackle property and in her marriage to George as his true nature begins to rear its head and his past quickly catches up with him. This film has a great look to start and plays all the ghostly happenings with a great subtlety that is reminiscent of The Conjuring movies but by the time it gets to the third at reveals it throws it out the window in favour of complete camp and ruins everything in the process. I’m so disappointed because I was totally on board with this for the majority.

The Virtuoso – Hot off of his Best Actor Academy Award win, I popped on this new hitman thriller that features Anthony Hopkins in a supporting role and is led by Star Trek Discovery and Hell On Wheels star Anson Mount. Very brooding and dark in tone, the story follows a lonesome stranger with nerves of steel but recovering from a job gone wrong who must track down and kill a rogue hitman to satisfy an outstanding debt. The only information he’s been given is a time and location where to find his target, 5 pm at a rustic diner in a town on the verge of bankruptcy. When the assassin arrives there are several possible targets, including the county sheriff and he must do more dangerous legwork to find this hitman and accomplish his mission. The story sounds like a winner but the drive of the film only comes in here and there and seems to meander in its emotion and not in a good way but in a contrived and boring sort of way. With how great the cast is, rounding out with Abbie Cornish, Eddie Marsan and Richard Brake, it never feels as close to the calibre of the actors put in it.

Willy’s Wonderland – Nicolas Cage has always wanted to give a completely silent horror movie performance but who knew that it would come to fruition in a film that pits him against a squad of Chuck E. Cheese like mascots? Featuring veteran actress Beth Grant in a supporting role, the film has Cage as a nameless drifter who finds himself stranded in a remote town when his car breaks down. Unable to pay for the repairs he needs, he agrees to spend the night cleaning Willy’s Wonderland, an abandoned family fun center but this place of wonder has a dark secret that he is about to discover. He soon finds himself trapped inside Willy’s and locked in an epic battle with the possessed animatronic mascots that roam the halls and to survive, he must fight his way through each of them but unknown to his adversaries, he isn’t locked in there with them, they’re locked in there with him! This movie is purely insane d-grade campiness but I really had fun with every second of it and Nic goes for the throat in his performance which features a crazy scene of him doing a pinball dance scene before his showdown. Yeah, it’s hard to recommend it but I loved it. Take that as you will.

Golden Arm – Betsy Sordaro is probably not a name you know but she has appeared in pretty much every beloved show you have watched in the last decade and always makes a memorable mark and delivers a hilarious line that will have you rolling on the floor. Having been in shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Superstore and Another Period recently, she gets her own film to shine in this new comedy about a tough lady trucker who ropes her nice girl baker but wimpy best friend into taking her spot at the Women’s Arm Wrestling Championship, she must trade whisks for barbells as she trains to face off with the reigning champ for a chance at newfound badassery and the grand prize. The dialogue is brash and rough but absolutely hilarious as Sordaro and co-star Mary Holland, who just appeared in Amazon Prime’s Happiest Season, have incredible onscreen chemistry together. The story structure isn’t anything that will come off immediately as original but this training montage of a film still has charm working very well for it.

SpiderMable – We’re hitting up the department of inspirational and sweet-hearted documentaries this week with this adorable little film that is sure to delight the whole family. This is the real-life journey of a selfless six-year-old cancer patient named Mable and her desire to help others even while she is in the battle of her life. Being a true-to-life superhero, the documentary follows this cancer-fighter who lives out her dream of fighting crime with her hero Spider-Man and is then thrust into the realm of celebrity after her wish day becomes a viral sensation, much like the Batkid in San Francisco years before. Mable must learn to manage her newfound popularity and harness her power in an attempt to give back to the community that is helping her survive. This movie is a total tearjerker that doesn’t play around with your emotions for a second but also opens the doorway to discussions about child sickness, mortality but also perseverance which really is a good thing in the end.

Blu-Ray:

Quick Change – It may seem weird but I feel I’ve been waiting for a home release version of this forgotten Bill Murray comedy that he had so much invested in as the only film he ever produced and one that he was a co-director on. Murray plays Grimm, a burnt-out New Yorker that has devised an ingenious plan to escape the city he hates so much by dressing as a clown, robbing a Manhattan bank and cleverly escapes disguised as a hostage along with his accomplices, girlfriend Phyllis, played by Geena Davis, and best friend Loomis, in a career-best performance from Randy Quaid. However, whilst robbing the bank was comparatively straight-forward and easy, the getaway quickly turns into a nightmare, as the relatively simple act of getting to the airport to catch a flight becomes a tangled ordeal of obstructions, including confused road workers, conmen, mobsters, bureaucratic bus-drivers and a cabbie who doesn’t speak a word of English, all the while Rotzinger, the equally world-weary but relentless Chief of Police, is doggedly on their tail, played brilliantly by the legendary Jason Robards. I could wax poetically for days about this absolute treasure of 1990 film but I implore you to go out and grab it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

Another Thin Man – It’s odd to look at the era of the late 1930s and think that they were just as sequel crazy as we are now but this Thin Man franchise was one that audiences frothed at the mouth for and begged for more, detective mysteries with a comedic edge led by the on-screen power couple of William Powell and Myrna Loy. In this follow-up, the Charles are back in New York with Asta and a new arrival in their family, the little Nicky Jr. They are invited by Colonel MacFey to spend the weekend at his house in Long Island as he desperately wants Charles to help him out as it seems he has been receiving threats from Phil Church, a very shady character. When McFey is shockingly killed, Church seems to be the obvious suspect but Nick suspects there is something far more complicated going on with McFey’s housekeeper, daughter and various hangers-on all having an interest in seeking the old man’s demise. The eighth of fourteen films pairing William Powell and Myrna Loy, Powell persevered through multiple personal tragedies to make this movie, including the unexpected death of his fiancée, Jean Harlow difficult battle with colon cancer that required colon bypass surgery and new radiation treatments. That’s powerful stuff there.

Donnie Darko 4K – One of my favourite movies of all time gets the full 4K treatment this week as Arrow has taken a great interest in the debut work from the fantastic Richard Kelly and a film that definitely captured the imagination of my generation, really put Jake Gyllenhaal on the map and still is discovered by more and more people every day. The film follows troubled teenager Donnie Darko who escapes death when a jet engine crashes in his bedroom for those who are new to this title, only because he follows a giant bunny leading him outside. The bunny, called Frank, tells him that the world will end in twenty-eight days and as the final date comes closer and closer, Donnie is drawn into an alarming series of events that may or may not be a product of growing insanity. This movie hits incredible themes and also revels in its 1980s setting and surrealism with a great cast around Gyllenhaal including his sister Maggie, Patrick Swayze and Drew Barrymore whose production company also produced it. This is an absolute masterpiece in every way.

Masculin Feminin – I have to give it to the Criterion Collection releases for giving me an education in some of the greatest filmmakers ever with each new release they send me and one storyteller that I’m woefully uneducated in is French new wave director Jean Luc Goddard. Yes, I had seen Breathless and Alphaville but I had recently discovered Pierrot Le Fou at its Criterion release a few months back and I get a crash course with this film now. The film follows Paul, a young idealist trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life who takes a job interviewing people for a marketing research firm. He moves in with aspiring pop singer, Madeleine, and their affair often involves her two sexy roommates but wedges drive into their relationships through their psyches and obsessions. Through a series of fifteen unrelated vignettes we see Paul is disillusioned by the growing commercialism in society, while Madeleine just wants to be successful in a Godard film that is consistently included on best of all time lists and is even part of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” book.

Steve’s Blu-Ray and DVD Geekouts:

Goodfellas – Coming off of Academy Award weekend, it’s a great time to relive this film that itself got six Oscar nominations, including one for the legendary Martin Scorsese in a notch in his career that many fans believe to be his best. Adapted from the book by Nicholas Pileggi, the film is the story of Irish-Italian American, Henry Hill, and how he lives day-to-day life as a member of the Mafia. Based on a true story, the plot revolves around Henry and his two unstable friends Jimmy and Tommy as they gradually climb the ladder from petty crime to violent murders which include some of the most iconic scenes of all time and most, still, quotable dialogue ever that still gets used and netted Joe Pesci the Oscar. Funny, even with all of his amazing lines and running his mouth in this movie, and many others, he had the shortest Academy Award acceptance speech, only saying “My privilege, thank you.” What a guy, to keep the broadcast on the tracks like that!

History Is Made At Night – Throwing some new Criterion into my Geek Outs this week as this title was a bit of a late arrival but it is such a pivotal part of the evolution of romantic dramas. In this film from two-time Academy Award-winning director Frank Borzage, the story follows a wealthy American woman who meets a charming Parisian head waiter and they quickly fall in love. However, the woman’s estranged husband blackmails her into returning to America with him and her new beau follows her trail to New York, where, after months of searching, he finds her again and they reaffirm their love. They board a ship headed back to France, but her insanely jealous husband compels the captain to steer the ship into dangerous waters, where it will almost certainly collide with icebergs and be destroyed which is, you guessed it, the Titanic. It’s interesting because this film also mentions the Hindenburg and its successful voyage as this film actually predates the catastrophic accident that the blimp would be known for. Fascinating cinema that moves in tandem with history.

Super Mario Bros. – As a kid, I awaited a big-screen version of one of my favourite video games of all time Super Mario Brothers and Touchstone, one of the studios under the umbrella of Disney, had obtained the rights to make it and my excitement couldn’t be contained. What came out, though, was one of the weirdest bastardizations of an original property in the 90s and a film that obviously reeked of producers screaming at each other and a ramshackle vision that prompted its stars to drink. That said, it’s an odd sort of classical lovable failure. Starring Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo and a maniacal Dennis Hopper, the story follows Mario and Luigi, two wacky plumbers who undertake a daring quest to save a princess in Dinohattan, a hidden world where the inhabitants evolved from dinosaurs. The pipe fitting brothers face deadly challenges from a diabolical lizard king and must battle giant reptilian goombas, outwit misfit thugs, and undermine a sinister scheme to take over the world in a movie that I’ve crash coursed my young daughter through as a big Mario fan and she was like what the heck was this? Yes, it doesn’t hold up at all but it’s a great nostalgia trip through a weird time in our lives.

Uncertainty – I bought this DVD on a whim of picking up all of Joseph Gordon Levitt’s works and, sadly, this film isn’t streaming anywhere. Co-starring Lynn Collins and Olivia Thirlby, this is a young couple’s race against existence as they flip a coin on the Brooklyn bridge to determine the paths their lives take that day, which just happens to be the Fourth of July. The green path takes them to Brooklyn where they spend a quiet day with Kate’s family, coming to a better understanding of their status as a couple and the yellow path takes them to Manhattan where they are being chased by a gunman and are in the center of a dangerous crime ring involving large amounts of money. What does the future hold for Kate and Bobby and what is the right path for them to continue? The story is really inventive and pushes itself to unpredictable places, really showing the strength of filmmaking duo Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s imagination. These two have been quietly making stellar films and still have not yet risen to notoriety. Hopefully soon.

Cheech & Chong’s Hey Watch This – This one was a total stoner impulse buy as I own everything that Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong have produced together as the cannabis smoking duo Cheech and Chong except this compilation documentary that followed along with their reunion, highlighting the stand-up and music on their “Light Up America” tour. This one is really simple as it shows the two comedy legends reunite and rehearse some of their classic bits which hadn’t been performed in decades as well as the opening act, Tommy’s wife Shelby who is extremely funny herself. As a guy that spent the money to go see the live show when it hit the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver, this is like the tour program in a video visual form and I kind of love it just the same. This is for the deep Cheech and Chong fans only, I think.

Television:

Headspace Guide To Sleep (Netflix) – From Headspace, the same guys that gave you a guide to meditation comes this new series of eighteen-minute episodes to help you get the sleep your body, mind and spirit needs. Not only is this just about obtaining your sleep but learning how to sleep better with their methodology and each episode unpacks misconceptions, offers friendly tips and concludes with a guided wind-down that is designed to get you down for a good night’s sleep. That’s the simple cut and dry of these shows and, honestly, Netflix is destined to make a killing by employing all of these Headspace properties to the streaming service because they are all helpful and totally money. They help me out in my day to day and can help you too. I’m not a paid Netflix spokesperson, I feel the need to tell you that now.

Yasuke (Netflix) – I’m not usually an anime guy as I’ve pointed out numerous times before in this blog but the fact that Academy Award nominee Lakeith Stansfield, who appears for his second time on this list, is the lead voice in this new Netflix produced series makes my will and resolve all rubber and I’m bought in before the first episode. The series is set in a war-torn feudal Japan filled with mechs and magic, with Lakeith playing the greatest ronin ever known, Yasuke, who struggles to maintain a peaceful existence after a past life of violence. His wishes are shattered when a local village becomes the center of social upheaval between warring daimyo and he must take up his sword again and transport a mysterious child who is the target of dark forces and bloodthirsty warlords. The animation of the show is absolutely breathtaking, created by Lesean Thomas who previously brought the blaxploitation spoof, Black Dynamite, to the animated screen. So far, so good in this new action-driven and decidedly bloody series and I’m eating it all up like a delicious four-course meal.

In Search of Darkness: Part II (Shudder) – Two of my favourite genres are getting mashed together again with this continuation of an amazing horror documentary that we got last year and by now as a regular reader you have to know my love of film docs at this point. To give a rehashing of the last film, this is definitely a more focused approach as the film is an exploration of ’80s horror movies through the perspective of the actors, directors, producers and SFX craftspeople who made them and their impact on contemporary cinema. The who’s who of interview subjects for this movie is absolutely insane, featuring master directors like John Carpenter, Larry Cohen, Sean S. Cunningham and Joe Dante, stars like Tom Atkins, Doug Bradley, Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton and cult goddesses like Diana Prince all sharing their unique horror stories. By the time that you’ve ingested all four hours of the first film and, yes, another four hours for this one, well, you should be an expert, right?

Grace (BritBox) – I have an unrequited love for British television but, even more so, I have crazy love for their procedurals more than I do for the American counterpart as they seem to do something a bit different as their characters are more dynamic in how they are affected from case to case and the stakes feel far bigger. This one has a favourite of mine in the lead role with former Life On Mars star and Doctor Who ultimate villain John Simm playing Brighton-based Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, a hard-working police officer who has given his life to the job. This mini-series, Dead Simple, opens with Grace running inquiries into long-forgotten cold cases with little or no prospect of success. Fixated by the disappearance of his wife, Sandy, which haunts his thoughts, his unorthodox police methods have come under scrutiny once again, and Grace is walking a career tightrope, risking being moved from the job he loves most. With so much at stake, his colleague Detective Sergeant Glenn Branson knows he has more to give and asks him for help with a case to hopefully get Grace on the right path again. The show comes from Russell Lewis who has had huge success in the United Kingdom with shows like Endeavor and Murphy’s Law so I think it is all in good hands.

The Mosquito Coast (AppleTV+) – Remember the Harrison Ford film of the same name from Aussie master filmmaker Peter Weir with Helen Mirren about a guy trying to pursue the nature dream with his family? Well, much like Amazon Prime did with Weir’s Picnic At Hanging Rock, AppleTV+ has adapted this movie into series form with Justin Theroux in the lead, Melissa George co-starring and a plethora of directors helming episodes like Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes Rupert Wyatt and Game Of Thrones guy Jeremy Podeswa. The series is a gripping adventure and layered character drama following the dangerous journey of a radical idealist and brilliant inventor, Allie Fox, who uproots his family for Mexico when they suddenly find themselves on the run from the US government. The tension of the show is constantly on its sleeve and Theroux brings that same great energy he had with HBO’s The Leftovers to this, which isn’t the same calibre but is still damn good.

New Releases:

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

Stowaway – This one was a late addition to my timeline and I started kicking myself immediately because it has the incredible Toni Collette in space with Anna Kendrick. How could I not know about this? The film comes from writer and director Joe Penna, who astounded with his last feature Arctic with Mads Mikkelsen, the story follows a three-person crew on a mission to Mars who faces an impossible choice when an unplanned passenger jeopardizes the lives of everyone on board. Penna has such great and subtle ways of expressing terror and despair through cinematic tone so I am really excited to see what he can do with a slick budget and a deep space thriller. It should also be noted that Penna shoots all of the films himself, without a director of photography and his writing partner, Ryan Morrison, actually edits the films as well so the attention to detail in the storytelling is top to bottom impeccable.

Tiny Tim: King For A Day – With the first haunting trills of “Tiptoe Through The Tulips” you are reintroduced to the falsetto sounds of the legendary Tiny Tim, a guy who could be played by a de-aged Tim Burton in a biopic, surely. Where is this story going to lead you? Into completely unexpected and damaged places in my opinion. This documentary is the story of the outcast Herbert Khaury’s rise to stardom as Tiny Tim in the ultimate fairytale but so seemingly is his downfall. Either considered a freak or a genius, Tiny Tim left no one unaffected as over forty-five million Americans tuned in to watch his first wedding on the Carson Show and his queer personality has been celebrated by the likes of Bob Dylan and later Johnny Depp. There were plans and hopes that Tiny Tim would be a lasting star, not only a novelty act but one man acted to sabotage these plans and that was Tiny Tim himself. A haunting human portrait, this movie felt like an introduction of a character to me in many ways but with each diary entry, red by Weird Al Yankovic, the curtain pulled to reveal some disturbing things crawling behind it.

Brothers By Blood – With the two toplined stars of this gritty crime drama being The Killing’s Joel Kinnaman and The Drop’s Matthias Schoenaerts, I was definitely hooked into this just based on them alone. The film follows Schoenaerts’ character who is tormented by the memory of helplessly watching as his little sister is killed by a neighbor’s reckless driving when he was eight years old. Now, thirty years later, he still wrestles with the guilt he feels over his sister’s death and his father’s vengeance that came after. As he tries to distance himself from the criminal family business, his cousin, Michael, played by Kinnaman, becomes more powerful in the hierarchy. Bonded by blood, neither man can escape violence as they are dragged further into a chilling cycle of betrayal and retribution in a film that sounds like a great set up but has no emotion behind it’s bludgeoning violence, no message to be told or no moral to glean. People the may like a straight forward crime story may dig this but I wanted substance.

The Marijuana Conspiracy – A Canadian made film dealing with cannabis released during the week of our celebration of this wonderful plant. Honestly, you almost caught me singing “Oh Canada” there but the celebration and de-stigmafication of the plant by putting it in more mediums is definitely helpful to me. This drama features great Canadian actress Julia Sarah Stone and is set in 1972 following five young women who become part of a radical experiment that studies the effects of marijuana on females. Despite the agendas of the government, they use their unique strengths and friendship to overcome adversity and to glean some truth out of the very devicive test they’ve been brought in for. The final result is sort of a middling mishmash of not fully realized ideas but the cast is so phenomenal and the bond between the crew shines on the screen. This was an enjoyable film to get into while ignoring the lopsidedness of the bigger story arcs.

Boys From County Hell – This is a combination of the best of things for me as it has Irish brogues and blood curdling horror colliding for a pretty effective and chilling storytelling. Coming from Chris Baugh, the writer and director of the fantastically gritty revenge thriller Bad Day For The Cut, the film follows the strange events that unfold in Six Mile Hill, a sleepy Irish town that claims to have been traveled by the famed author Bram Stoker, when construction on a new road disrupts the alleged grave of Abhartach, a legendary Irish vampire said to have inspired Dracula. Deadly forces terrorize the work crew led by Francie Moffat and his son Eugene, a free-spirited young man who prefers pints to pickaxes and they’re forced to fight to survive the night while exposing the true horror that resides in the town’s local myth. This movie is absolutely gnarly in every way and satisfies all of you vampire horror needs while bringing a fresh attitude and original ideas along the way. I love the British Isles and their cinema, it’s always such a breath of new air.

Blu-Ray:

Crisis – It was only a matter of time before the opioid crisis was tackled in some shape or form, making Steven Soderbergh seem that much more prolific when you realize that he adapted the miniseries Traffik in 2000. Hell, he did Contagion ten years ago. Man, maybe we should be listening to him exclusively! This story is broken down into three stories about the world of opioids which collide: a drug trafficker arranges a multi-cartel Fentanyl smuggling operation between Canada and the U.S., an architect recovering from an OxyContin addiction tracks down the truth behind her son’s involvement with narcotics, and a university professor battles unexpected revelations about his research employer, a drug company with deep government influence bringing a new “non-addictive” painkiller to market. The cast is eclectic, featuring Oscar-winner Gary Oldman, the Wasp herself Evangeline Lilly and the possible cannibal Armie Hammer but as interesting as the story starts it completely falls apart in the end and becomes predictable and formulaic. This movie could have been special but will ultimately get lost in the shuffle.

The Mortuary Collection – This movie is the ultimate hidden treat for any horror fan as it totally snuck up on me as an ignored Shudder original film but, once I got slipped the blu-ray here by RJL Entertainment, I was pretty much onboard from the reveal of star Clancy Brown as the creepy mortician. Coming from writer and director Ryan Spindell in, insanely, just his first film, this is an anthology movie, my favorite kind of horror, set in the town of Raven’s End following a troubled teen girl who decides to hideout in a decrepit old mortuary where the definitely murderous undertaker chronicles the strange history of the town through a series of twisted tales, each more twisted and disturbing than the previous, all leading up to her own story in the record books. This movie is so brilliantly written with incredible gore effects and an insane imagination that seems to have no ceiling. I loved this movie.

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

The Violent Heart – There’s a lot of secrets contained in this high school mystery thriller with some Shakespearian tropes to it but it attaches itself interestingly to many current thematic issues even if it does get a bit grandiose in it’s scope. The film stars Jovan Adepo from HBO’s Watchman limited series and has him playing twenty four year old Daniel, a man trying to recover emotionally from the murder of his siter fifteen years earlier and finds himself falling for Cassie, an outgoing high school senior which starts to increase the darkness he’s been trying to keep contained. This film is ambitious in it’s scope but the paper thin characters and development always serve to bog it down as you really don’t have any investment in them so why would you care what happens to them? I felt the need to know what was going to happen next but it was more of a completionist thing for me rather than a finality to the story.

Switchblade Sisters – Arrow Video reaches back into the history of grindhouse movies for their new collector’s edition of a film that inspired many current filmmakers including Quentin Tarantino most famously who pulled elements of Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and Death Proof from this. The film plays on the themes of exploitation films, following the “Dagger Debs”, a gang of snarling girls, with Maggie being their newest member. Lace, the ever tooth-gritting leader, befriends her but soon has doubts as it seems Lace’s man, Dominic, head of the “Silver Daggers” has intentions for the recruit. Lace struggles to keep control of the Debs, and a handle on Dominic, as they face off against the rival gang of pushers lead by Crabs. Yes, this is like The Warriors but with women and still holds up as a classic action film that screams with the era’s flavour. Arrow does their magic again with the picture restoration and retrospective featurettes, churning out another absolute gem of a blu-ray.

Each Dawn I Die – This week Warner Archive is doing a pretty awesome reissue of an old James Cagney classic crime noir story from the late thirties and what was allegedly the favourite film of former Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin. Weird, right? The story follows investigative reporter Frank Ross who finds evidence of corruption against a powerful politician, Jesse Hanley, who is a candidate for Governor in the elections. Hanley sends his gangsters to catch Frank and frame him by knocking him out, soaking him with whiskey and then putting him in a car on a collision course with another car, subsequently killing the driver and two passengers. Frank can not prove that he is innocent and is sentenced to twenty years of hard labour in Rocky Point Prison. His only hope is the newspaper that tries to find evidence of Frank’s innocence while he befriends the gangster Stacey that was sentenced to 199 years for protection. A lot of convoluted and nefarious deals are made as Frank gets deeper into a quagmire of trouble, even while incarcerated. This is some classic noir with Cagney showing what he was best at.

Annie Get Your Gun – This is one of those classic titles that you’ve always heard the title of but was unsure of what it exactly was besides being a western or maybe that was just me. This biographical comedy musical was nominated for three Academy Awards, winning one for Best Score, and, despite its popularity, it was unavailable in any form from 1973 until 2000 due to legal tangling between Irving Berlin, the music’s writer and composer and MGM, which later became Turner Entertainment and then Warner Bros. It was finally re-released on DVD in 2000 after the 1998 Broadway revival of the stage show with Bernadette Peters renewed interest in seeing this film again and now lands on a pristine blu-ray. The film is a story very loosely based on the love story of Annie Oakley and Frank Butler who meet at a shooting match. Annie then joins him in Colonel Cody’s Wild West Show and they tour the world together, performing before Royalty as well as the public at large. It’s a classic that definitely has its mark on the genre for years to follow.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Dark Web Cicada 3301 – With the amount of hold that computers, technology and the internet have on us, it’s surprising that there aren’t more techno-thrillers out there to scare us silly and make us uber cautious next time we log in to any of our social media apps. This film has the idea and it comes from former Aquaman on Smallville and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Alan Ritchson who makes his debut writing and directing this cautionary tale and I was pretty surprised by it. It follows hacker Connor, his best friend Avi and a cunning librarian who find themselves over their heads when they are forced to compete in a sophisticated dark web secret society’s global recruitment game. Is it a murder club, a fight club or the Illuminati that has capture all the kid’s imaginations? The film does a solid job of being a techno-thriller but like others that have come before it, once the tech is outdated, so are the thrills.

The Toll – “He has a horror film in his Geek-Outs this week!” exclaims Shane Hewitt. Yes, Shane, apologies but I got this new C-grade thriller and I felt the need to bring it to the masses. This is a little Canadian-made chiller that follows a woman named Cami who orders a taxi service to take her to her father’s country home. Hoping for a quiet and uneventful ride everything gets imploded when a wrong turn by Spencer, her chatty driver, results in the car stalling on a dark and remote road and after several threatening and inexplicable occurrences, they both realize they are being watched by an unseen presence, one that sees them as trespassers and is ready to take it out on them in blood. The film comes from writer and director Michael Nader who makes his feature debut here after the great HeadCount a couple of years ago and manages to make a tight eighty-minute horror story that doesn’t mess around with its pacing at all. As a genre fan, I felt engaged with the twists and turns at all times but it didn’t make me feel safe about ride-sharing at all. There has to be a downfall.

Death Has Blue Eyes – Those guys at Arrow Video always make interesting choices when it comes to their deep dive collector’s editions and a lot of the times, for me, they are of movies that are brand new discoveries to me, just like this one. Made in 1976, this is a Greek made action thriller with a hidden sci-fi edge, following a Greek gigolo, Ches, and his American friend, Bob, who are commended to protect a mysterious girl, Christina, and her mother, Geraldine, from a gang of killers. When they get abducted by the gangsters, they found out they have been fighting on the wrong side and that Geraldine is not the mother of Christina, but an East-German agent and medium. The young girl has very strong telepathic powers that her abductor planned to use for the assassination of very important Soviet diplomat. Sounds wild right? Well. it definitely is and was the debut of filmmaker Nico Mastorakis who became an international icon in his own way, showcasing outlaw and outcast action stories. He’s a guy who’s work I’d love to take a deeper look at.

Television:

Life In Color With David Attenborough (Netflix) – Who doesn’t love a good David Attenborough narrated nature series, right? If you said “not me” then I’m ignoring you because this space is only for nature lovers right now and I don’t want that sort of negativity. Anyways, with his new show, David travels the world from the rainforests of Costa Rica to the snowy Scottish Highlands to reveal the extraordinary and never-before-seen ways animals use color. Using revolutionary camera technology created specifically for this series, viewers will experience how colors invisible to the human eye play a vital role in animal interactions. From the seemingly magical ultraviolet signals on a butterfly’s wings to the surprising yet crucial purpose behind a Bengal tiger’s stripes, a hidden world of color is waiting to be discovered and each episode is a glorious treasure trove of new imagery which is crazy if you’ve been following all of his works for decades. One thing that it also made very apparent is how much older David is getting. I don’t think I could bear nature shows without his sultry tones.

Shadow And Bone (Netflix) – Let’s head into a new world of fantasy, one that may catch the attention of Game Of Thrones fans and the like but in a less bloody and violent sort of way. Adapted from the Leigh Bardugo written book of the same name, the first of the Grisha trilogy, the series drops you in a war-torn world where lowly soldier and orphan Alina Starkov has just unleashed an extraordinary power that could be the key to setting her country free. With the monstrous threat of the Shadow Fold looming, Alina is torn from everything she knows to train as part of an elite army of magical soldiers known as Grisha. But as she struggles to hone her power, she finds that allies and enemies can be one and the same and that nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. There are dangerous forces at play, including a crew of charismatic criminals, and it will take more than magic to survive. The show has a really great look to it and some solid production value that keeps the fantastical story driven and not waiting on how cheesy it looks. I’m unsure if it will command a broad audience but so far so good and I hope to see the other books adapted too.

Secrets Of The Whales (Disney+) – I must be spoiling all of you nature lovers out there because now I have a new National Geographic docuseries here to gush about and it is a deeply majestic journey into the world of the deep. Too grandiose? Narrated by Sigourney Weaver and filmed over three years in 24 locations, this new series plunges viewers within the epicenter of whale culture to experience the extraordinary communication skills and intricate social structures of five different whale species: orcas, humpbacks, belugas, narwhals and sperm whales in what results as a revealing of life and love from their perspective. This show was absolutely captivating in every way and totally engaged me ad my family for each fascinating episode, a definite must see for any family.

Confronting A Serial Killer (Crave) – Hell yes, more serial killer documentary shows for your crime depraved heart sitting at home on the couch bored. This series tells the story of the unprecedented relationship between acclaimed author and journalist Jillian Lauren and the most prolific serial killer in American history, Sam Little, and her race against time to identify his victims before it’s too late. In some of the deepest investigative journaling that the geniuses at HBO could muster, the great Joe Berlinger, who has already given us documentaries of Ted Bundy, the Cecil Hotel and Murder Among The Mormons recently, does it again with another engrossing and astonishing examination into a grizzly path of slayings by Sam Little. Man, that filmmaker’s mind must be so messed up from looking at all of this.

Mare Of Easttown (Crave) – HBO does limited series stuff so well and one of the shows I really liked from years ago was Mildred Pierce which featured Kate Winslett. Well, they’ve pulled her in again for a brand new show and if the first episode may be something to gauge the rest of the show on we might have ourselves the best new show of 2021 here. She plays Mare Sheehan, a small-town Pennsylvania detective who investigates a local murder as life crumbles around her. The series is an exploration into the dark side of a close community and an authentic examination of how family and past tragedies can define our present while showing a care and fully rounded dimension of each person that doesn’t seem to be present in other shows like this. Maybe it’s that the show comes from Craig Zobel who has had such a storied film career in the “human behaviour” department with Compliance, Z For Zachariah and the blood dripping satire of The Hunt.

New Releases:

Boss Level – From the outside this movie looks like unoriginal crap, again recycling the “Groundhog Day” style time parabol tropes that have appeared a lot in the last decade and, yes, I can’t fault anyone for feeling that but with the combination of these elements, lead star Frank Grillo, director Joe Carnahan and the no holds barred action style, I kind of loved it. Grillo plays former special forces agent Roy Pulver who is trapped in a time loop that constantly repeats the day of his murder, each day uncovering more and more clues about a secret government project that could unlock the mystery behind his untimely death. In a race against the clock, Pulver must hunt down Colonel Ventor, played with a subtle wink by Mel Gibson, the powerful head of the government program, while outrunning skilled ruthless assassins determined to keep him from the truth in order to break out of the loop, save his family and live once again for tomorrow. This movie is violent and excessive but manages to deliver as a fun and wild ride if you don’t try to over analyse the science behind it.

The Seventh Day – This week has a bit of an exorcism theme with this movie and the blu-ray released retrospective of The Exorcist but this movie has Guy Pearce as a demon fighting priest so that’s cool, right? He stars as a renowned exorcist who teams up with a rookie priest for his first day of training and as they plunge deeper into hell on earth, the lines between good and evil blur, and their own demons emerge. Did that just sound like the Exorcist version of the movie Training Day? Kind of and, to be honest, that would have been amazing in my opinion. What is instead the result is a great performance from Pearce in a movie that is muddled in it’s plot and seems to constantly borrow from better films which, in turn, makes it look way worse. If I hadn’t seen any exorcism movie prior I may have been slightly impressed by this one but, alas, I’m well versed in the subgenre.

In The Earth – Writer and director Ben Wheatley is on fire as he has been since he debuted but more recently he had a remake of a Hitchcock film, Rebecca, for Netflix and now he has this small, self contained little pandemic made thriller and the psychedelia of the whole thing may turn people off but I thought it was brilliant. This mysterious film hits really close to home, taking place in a world that desperately searches for a cure to a disastrous virus, following a scientist and park scout who venture deep in the forest for a routine equipment run. Through the night, their journey becomes a terrifying voyage through the heart of darkness as the forest comes to life around them and a stranger they come across who may be more dangerous than he is helpful. The film stars usual British comedy guys Joel Fry and Reece Shearsmith and is an incredible meditation on both paranoia and blind hopefulness and the emotional horror that can result from it. The score is also done by the genius composer, Clint Mansell, and adds a thick level of atmosphere that helps drive the dread. I really loved this one but I adore the weird stuff, so take that as it is.

The Good Traitor – This week we get some pre World War II drama in a freedom fighter story about rebellion and the cost of standing up against a rising evil regime. Starring Ulrich Thomsen, Burn Gorman and Ross McCall, the film is set in 1940 when Denmark is invaded by Nazi Germany with demands for immediate and unconditional surrender. The government quickly surrenders after a few hours and begins cooperating with the Nazis but on the other side of the Atlantic is Denmark’s ambassador to the United States of America, a daredevil and a man of the world, Henrik Kauffmann, who is willing to put everything on the line. Refusing to follow the German directives, he engineers a rebellious plan to defeat Hitler and give the Danish people their freedom back. The reality of this story is absolutely fascinating and even when the narrative style dries out the intrigue contained within, the consistent reminder that this is a true story keeps everything mostly afloat. That said, Thomsen absolutely owns his performance as Kauffmann, the main reason to check this out.

The Violent Heart – There’s a lot of secrets contained in this high school mystery thriller with some Shakespearian tropes to it but it attaches itself interestingly to many current thematic issues even if it does get a bit grandiose in it’s scope. The film stars Jovan Adepo from HBO’s Watchman limited series and has him playing twenty four year old Daniel, a man trying to recover emotionally from the murder of his siter fifteen years earlier and finds himself falling for Cassie, an outgoing high school senior which starts to increase the darkness he’s been trying to keep contained. This film is ambitious in it’s scope but the paper thin characters and development always serve to bog it down as you really don’t have any investment in them so why would you care what happens to them? I felt the need to know what was going to happen next but it was more of a completionist thing for me rather than a finality to the story.

Arlo The Alligator Boy – Just before I put this new animated Netflix produced movie on for my kid I thought, “oh man, this better not be dreadful. I can’t take an awful kid’s movie right now” and I thought my fears were coming true when my daughter said “it’s a musical, I think”. She then informed me that it was good so far and, really, I kind of started enjoying it myself. The story is so cute and precocious and follows a young humanoid alligator who travels to the big city in hopes of reuniting with his estranged father while meeting a colorful cast of characters along the way, building up friendships with all of them. The film features a pretty good supporting cast of voices around the debuting Michael J. Woodard like Brett Gelman, Tony Hale, Red Hot Chili Peppers bass player Flea, Jennifer Coolidge, Annie Potts and Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness and is a solid family outing with a good message and songs that won’t make you want to tear your ears off. That’s a win.

The Banishing – Shane is going to be glad that he’s off this week as I have a new Shudder original horror to talk about this week and it has early festival buzz and now some of my go to genre critics are praising it as well so I feel like we’re in good hands here. Starring Jessica Brown Finlay and Sean Harris and directed by Black Death’s Christopher Smith, The Banishing tells the story of the most haunted house in England. Set in 1930s England, the film follows Linus, his wife Marianne and their daughter Adelaide move into town, where the patriarch has been posted as the new reverend. Tasked by the Church to renew the villagers’ faith which has been lost after the disappearance of the previous reverend’s family who lived in the very same mysterious manor where Linus and his family have settled into, he too starts to experience strange events like ghostly voices, dark figures dressed as monks, mysterious totems and his daughter’s behaviour starts becoming stranger by the day. It soon becomes clear that a malicious entity seeks to possess Adelaide and that the Church is hiding a terrible secret and may be even forcing it to happen. This movie gets under your skin and uses the very atmosphere around it to fuel the horror. Be warned, this film may stick with you for days and may make you avoid mirrors for a bit.

Blu-Ray:

Leap Of Faith: William Friedkin On The Exorcist – One of the greatest horror films of all time and a movie that always appears at number one on the list of things that have scared people for life, The Exorcist, gets a full on retrospective from the only one who can give the full details about the story’s move from a book to screenplay and the construction and philosophy of the actual film, director William Friedkin. This may come across a bit dry to a casual viewer but, as a guy who just loves documentaries on film, I ate every second of this movie up. Having previously stepped into the shower for his exhaustive study of Psycho’s famous shower scene with 78/52 and boarded the Nostromo for the far reaches of space in Memory: The Origins of Alien, acclaimed documentarian Alexandre O. Philippe turns his attention to another landmark of genre cinema, framed around an epic six-day interview with the legendary director. The assembled analysis is not just an in-depth musing on one of the most influential and widely acclaimed horror movies of all time but also an enlightening and intimate portrait of Friedkin’s creative process as he passionately discusses his influences, from his religious upbringing to Caravaggio and interrogating the obsessions he has returned to throughout his filmmaking career. This film is always insightful, awe inspiring at times and often disarmingly candid, such a great companion piece to a true masterpiece.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Defending Your Life – Albert Brooks has a long line of genius both in from of and behind the camera that I feel has been forgotten in a large way as he hasn’t done a film himself since that sort of forgotten about Looking For Comedy In The Muslim World was released sixteen years ago but it’s a good thing that Criterion is her to celebrate his greatness. In one of my favourite of his ventures, he stars alongside Meryl Streep as Daniel Miller, a man who finds himself in Judgment City after being killed in a car crash in a waiting area for the newly deceased. While there, one must prove in a courtroom-style process that he successfully overcame his fears but in the process Daniel meets Julia in an afterlife comedy club and falls in love with her. Julia seems to have what it takes to move to the ‘next stage’ of existence, but Daniel’s worried he’ll be sent back and, in turn, lose the one person he loves so much. This is thoroughly a great film that plays on the afterlife with such wit and charm that you keep a smile on your face for the entire duration. I’m a big fan of this movie.

Cosmoball – I guess the Russians must have seen James Caan’s Rollerball or something because they have dipped into the sci-fi future sports field with this new fantasy action film. Featuring some dazzling special effects but a pretty muddled storyline, the film depicts a life on earth that is desolate and in despair after a brutal intergalactic war decimates most of our world which is then brightened only by the dangerous, high-flying sport Cosmoball, the lifeblood of the new way but no one knows that at each match the four gifted humans are really fighting furiously to ensure the survival of humankind. Honestly, beyond it’s gaffes, which are definitely present, I found myself really enjoying this film and got into the action on an almost Tron Legacy like level but the frenetic pace of Russian films does sort of make that stakes feel not as urgent and it does get in the way of good character development.

Television:

Wahl Street (Crave) – How did Mark Whalberg rise so quickly as a star? It really is colossal how he moved from Marky Mark And The Funky Bunch and a Calvin Klein model to the villain in the Reese Witherspoon thriller Fear and that opened the floodgates as he was a top billed blockbuster star by 2000. This new documentary series explores what Wahlberg has done with that massive rise in fortune in his modern life as the show’s focus is a candid look at the business pursuits of the mega star and his personal life in the midst of the global pandemic as he manages his growing business ventures against his rigorous film schedule. I know we all feel a COVID-19 pandemic fatigue but things like this really fascinate me and it’s so interesting to see the on the fly adjustments that the industry I love have had to make. I’m really intrigued to see where the series goes after episode one which starts as the pandemic is a looming threat and hasn’t yet hit the United States in the brutal way that we all lived through.

The Nevers (Crave) – This new HBO series already leaves a bad taste in my mouth as it was shepherded to the television screen by the former nerd messiah and current Hollywood parian Joss Whedon and episode one has the markings of him all over it which, up until Justice League, wasn’t a bad thing. Hell, we used to celebrate it! How times have changed. The series is set during the last years of Queen Victoria’s reign in a London is beset by the “touched” a group of people, mostly women, who suddenly manifest abnormal abilities, some of them charming but some are very disturbing. Among them are Amalia True, a mysterious, quick-fisted widow, and Penance Adair, a brilliant young inventor. They are the champions of this new underclass, making a home for the Touched, while fighting the forces of every malevolent force that crosses their path to make room for those whom history as we know has no place. I will say that I have hopes that the show will improve as the acting is great and the production value is stellar but the world building is sluggish, disjointed and kind of nonsensical in moments.

The Circle: Season 2 (Netflix) – A total Netflix reality show addiction is returning to rope people in and, I can’t lie, I was totally hooked by the original series. Now, I know nothing about any new changes or anything about the new contestants but I do know what the first season was all about as I watched every single episode. In a nutshell, the contestants live in an apartment building showcasing the infamous circle on the outside. They are literal neighbours but never meet face to face and only communicate through a social media app called “The Circle.” They can create a profile as themselves or make up a fake persona to play as and they regularly rank the other players based on their impressions through social media interactions with the top rated players becoming influencers who get to block, or eliminate a player, until ultimately a winner is crowned. Written out like that, it all seems so hopelessly dumb, which it is, but holy hell is it an addicting watch. I hate reality shows until you plunk this in front of me. I’m angering the television gods right now, I know it.

Big Shot (Disney+) – Disney+ and their original shows must have a real love for sports because, besides the revival of The Mighty Ducks and the new High School Musical series, they have put the Full House heartthrob John Stamos in the lead of this new series that has me comparing it to the subplot of the show Episodes. Those who know that great show get the reference. Stamos stars as a hothead men’s basketball coach who gets ousted from the NCAA and must take a job at an all-girls high school. He soon learns that teenage girls are more than just wins and losses and, shockingly, they require empathy and vulnerability, something our main coach has no training for. By learning how to connect with his players, predictably, he starts to grow into the person he’s always hoped to be and the girls learn to take themselves more seriously, finding their footing both on and off the court, surging to become a winning squad. Like The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, this really wasn’t made for adults and plays into the family programming that the Disney Channel is known for. Take the knowledge when getting into this but also know that Stamos is still as dreamy as he always was.

Kate & Koji (BritBox) – This is going to tap a bit into my love for British television, which is deep and varied as I was raised on it but it has to seep into my weekly reviews at some point. This one has big British acting credibility as Brenda Blethyn leads the show, a two time Academy Award nominated actress, playing a working-class woman who runs an old-fashioned café in a neglected British seaside town who develops a strong and sometimes volatile friendship with an asylum-seeking African doctor played by the great Jimmy Akingbola who Arrowverse fans may know as Baron Reiter. Personally, I just enjoyed the hell out of his work on the Brit series In The Long Run which he featured in alongside Bill Bailey and Idris Elba, who actually created that show. He’s not only dreamy and a special effect looking human specimen but he’s a gifted creator too! Some people have all the luck. Or talent.

New Releases:

Nomadland – For months I have been sitting on this review and the hype is evident as this film has already picked up Golden Globes for Best Picture and Best Director for Chloe Zhao and has six Academy Award nominations and is a heavy favorite to win all of those categories. Starring the incredible Frances McDormand, the film follows Fern, a woman dealing with the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, who packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. This film is a fascinating look at a real society of people who now find themselves disenfranchised to the American dream or even an affordable home and Zhao uses some real nomads peppered into this story for a hard hitting effect. The stories told in this movie were enlightening and a bit of stark modern reality contained in one of the most beautiful pieces of cinema this year.

Voyagers – With a hot esthetic, the sleek blackness of space and a neon glow, Limitless and The Illusionist filmmaker Neil Burger returns with a great cast and a creepy sci-fi mystery to baffle everyone with again. Starring Colin Farrell, Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp, Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead and Game Of Thrones alum Isaac Hempstead Wright, the film is set in the near future and chronicles the odyssey of thirty young men and women who are sent deep into space on a multi-generational mission in search of a new home. The mission descends into madness, as the crew reverts to its most primal state, not knowing if the real threat they face is what’s outside the ship or who they’re becoming inside it and it hits all the right buttons for me. The creeping paranoia of this film is so deliciously infective that I must have had a weird grin on my face the whole time. The Neil Burger I enjoy has fully returned in this movie, a huge improvement from The Upside. And Allegiant for that matter.

Thunder Force – With an exasperated groan and much against my will I clicked watch on the newest offering from Melissa McCarthy and her writer and director husband Ben Falcone who have gifted us the cinematic presents of Tammy, The Boss, Life Of The Party and Super Intelligence. Spoiler alert, all of those were terrible and the bar was low going into this one. Co-starring Octavia Spencer and Bobby Cannavale, the story follows scientist Emily Stanton who accidentally imbues her estranged best-friend with incredible abilities in an experiment meant to give superpowers to regular people in a world terrorized by super-villains. The two women must become the first superhero team, naming themselves Thunder Force, to battle the super-powered Miscreants and save Chicago from the clutches of The King. With a couple jokes here and there that land, I call this movie spaghetti funny as it takes five pieces and throws them against the wall to see what sticks and, usually, one of them does. This movie will make you facepalm on a level of “okay, the joke is over and didn’t land” and has painful levels of bad CGI but isn’t an overall waste of an hour and forty minutes.

Moffie – This movie out of South Africa is getting a huge amount of buzz from both the festival circuit as well as the LGBTQ+ community and, I will warn you now, it’s not for the faint of heart and hits levels of real brutality that I wasn’t ready for. The film follows the story of Nicholas van der Swart who, from a very young age, realized he is different but, try as he may, he cannot live up to the macho image expected of him by his family, by his heritage. So, at the age of 19 he is conscripted into the South African army and finds his every sensibility offended by a system close to its demise, and yet still in full force. Set during the South African border war against communism, this is a harsh tale about the emotional and physical suffering endured by countless young men, brilliantly put together by writer and director Oliver Hermanus who adapted this from André Carl van der Merwe’s book of the same name which actually is a derogatory Afrikaans term for a gay man. This movie is like a cold slap to the face and never relents until the credits hit.

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

Quo Vadis, Aida? – Well, if you want to know how my weekend was, it will definitely contain the anecdote about how this movie kicked my ass emotionally on a Saturday night. Nothing will prepare you for the sorrow of this now Academy Award nominated film from Serbia, set in a time of horrible atrocities in the mid nineties. The story follows Aida, a translator for the United Nations in the small town of Srebrenica which has just been taken over by the Serbian army. Her family is among the thousands of citizens looking for shelter in the UN camp and, as an insider to the negotiations, Aida has access to crucial information that she needs to interpret that she can hopefully maneuver into being a bargaining chip to help protect her loved ones. This movie is powerful, constantly moving and always embedded with an urgency that’s quick to follow with despair. As it is every year, it’s a tight race in the Oscars foreign category but this one deserves eyes on it.

Night In Paradise – Hell yes, some new South Korean cinema is hitting Netflix this week and, better than that, it is written and directed by Park Hoon-jung who started his career out writing the cat and mouse serial killer thriller I Saw The Devil, a movie I consider one of the greatest of all time. The story follows a wronged mobster with a target on his back hiding out in Jeju Island following a brutal tragedy who connects with a woman who has her own demons. This film is beautifully shot and moves at such a great pace that it keeps you engaged with these characters throughout. This movie plays with a blend of emotion and old school gangster noir that operates brilliantly and never lets the story get muddled. I loved this movie but I am, as you know, totally biased.

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

Pandemic – Oh great, just what we need. A pandemic themed thriller that definitely cashed in on the opportunity to change its name from the originally titled Alone to something with a current hotness. Starring Teen Wolf’s Tyler Posey and Canadian legend Donald Sutherland, the story follows Aiden who barricades himself inside his apartment when an outbreak hits and starts rationing food in his complex which is overrun by the infected, known as “Screamers”, and with the world rapidly falling apart into chaos, he is left completely alone fighting for his life. We could relate, right? Unfortunately, everything about this movie screams mediocre. Posey is half assed in this one, the effects are borderline terrible and, for a story that could play up the urgency and isolation that we all feel, it’s more content on going down a long beaten path in a tired genre. It’s pretty sad and a complete waste of time, even for a horror guy like myself.

Underplayed – Bud Light produced a film? And it’s about the party scene of DJs? Yes, but it’s not as vapid as you would be led to believe as this documentary goes straight for the issues and takes a direct route to get under your skin and drive home the message of inequality and inequity in the constant fight to get women an equal share in, heck, any industry. Featuring an artist I absolutely adore, Australian’s entrancing Alison Wonderland, this documentary was filmed over the summer festival season and presents a portrait of the current status of the gender, ethnic, and sexuality equality issues in dance music. The story and issues are through the lens of the female pioneers, next-generation artists and industry leaders who are championing the change and inspiring a more diverse pool of role models for future generations. This film has a big message to it, the pulse pounding reflection of the festival scene to power it and some really great music to keep your head in the game. I really dug this movie a lot.

Sugar Daddy – This week seems to be filled with little films that are far off the beaten path and this is another one of those but it benefits from having the great gravitas of distinguished Canadian actor Colm Feore to give it some immediate weight. The film stars Letterkenny’s Kelly McCormack, who also wrote it as well, and has her playing Darren, a young talented musician who dreams of making music like nobody has before but she’s hopelessly broke. Desperate for cash, she signs up to a paid-dating website, throwing herself down a dark path that shapes her music with it and adds some serious substance to her experience whether she wants it or not. McCormack delivers such a special performance in this film that I think will catch on with word of mouth, a story that navigates the hopeful dreamer and plunges it into the reality of gender politics and harsh life lessons. It doesn’t always play to it’s strengths but when the iron is hot it strikes with a blinding fire.

Amundsen: The Great Explorer – Straight out of Norway comes this explorer story based on the life and facts of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first man to arrive on the South Pole. With the only recognizable actress being The World To Come’s Katherine Waterston who is pretty fleeting in it, the draw to the film is the expansive beauty and haunting quality of the Arctic through methodical pacing and panoramic shots that punctuate it throughout. Is it enough to keep the whole thing afloat, so to speak? Yes and no, because, as the expedition progresses, the actual historical action is very interesting but the execution of it in a filmmaking setting is poorly done and suffers from some amateurish post production. I feel like people who are able to look through these gaffs will be rewarded with a story that is not well known but it was hard for me to get beyond these issues.

Senior Moment – William Shatner stars in a goofy and slapstick romantic comedy and even with his romantic lead being played by the amazing and hilarious Jean Smart, I couldn’t be less enthused about this wet fart of a movie. Shatner plays a retired NASA test pilot who, after drag racing his vintage convertible around Palm Springs, loses his license and is forced to take public transportation. This ends up working out for him as he meets Caroline and starts to learn to navigate a love life again in a movie that is so horribly “paint by numbers” I began to feel like I had forgotten if I had actually written this one myself. Not even a Christopher Lloyd supporting role as his doting best friend could keep me complacent as I kept checking the runtime like a detention student waiting for the teacher to let him go. There may be a market for this but it certainly isn’t me.

Blu-Ray:

Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar – Comedy audiences have been demanding a sequel to the massive hit Bridesmaids ever since it was released ten years ago this year and it’s probably what was expected when it was announced that writers and star Kristen Wiig and Anne Mumelo had a new project together. Heck, maybe they intended for it to be a follow-up, but it isn’t and instead Wiig teams with Mumelo on screen as two very different characters. This is the story of best friends Barb and Star, who leave their small Midwestern town for the first time to go on vacation in Vista Del Mar, Florida, where they soon find themselves tangled up in adventure, love, and a villain’s evil plot to kill everyone in town. This duo both on and off-screen work absolute magic as they once again create hilarious and memorable characters, this time wackier than those of Bridesmaids, but still grounded with a sense of being real people.

Shadow In The Cloud – I thought this one would be a movie with the utmost potential but all of that was quickly erased when I saw that it was partially written by the bottom-feeding troll that is Max Landis, for me one of the worst interview subjects I have ever had. Not to go into detail but the dude is awful. The movie does sound pretty cool, as it stars Chloe Grace Moretz as a female pilot with top-secret cargo talks her way on board a bomber plane about to take-off on a stormy night during World War II. The crass all-male crew reluctantly agrees, but their suspicions about her identity and the mysterious cargo quickly grow. Then a shadow appears in the clouds that may be the incoming Japanese fleet or it could be caused by some other sinister stowaway on the plane. The end result isn’t something I disliked but instead was a pulpy little horror film that would fit in an elseworlds World War, like the actioner Overlord. It feels like two separate movies thrown together at times but the unevenness of that is handled deftly by Moretz who is bringing her A-game here. It’s worth your time on a slow New Year’s Day, for sure.

The Reckoning – Neil Marshall is a horror filmmaker that I have enjoyed for years now. Starting with Dog Soldiers and moving to The Descent, Doomsday and Centurion, he had a killer four movie start and did stellar episodes of both Game Of Thrones and Westworld but then helmed the horribly realised remake of Hellboy that I would love to expunge from my memory forever. Now he follows that up with this witchcraft film that masquerades as horror but is an action film under that. The film follows Grace Haverstock, a woman who, after losing her husband during the Great Plague, is unjustly accused of being a witch and placed in the custody of England’s most ruthless witch-hunter, Judge Moorcroft. Forced to endure physical and emotional torture while steadfastly maintaining her innocence, Grace faces her own inner demons as the devil himself starts to work his way into her mind and turning her into the very thing that she is accused of being. This movie is horribly crafted, terribly edited and features effects that feel almost unfinished in many instances. I don’t want to have such a negative feeling about Neil’s future projects but ouch.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Outs:

The World of Wong Kar Wai – Criterion Collection is giving an incredible gift of cinema here with a boxed set of all of the incredible works of writer and director Wong Kar Wai. So what’s in here? There’s seven movies so let’s go through it. As Tears Go By, a mid-level gangster named Wah who falls in love with his beautiful cousin, but must also continue to protect his volatile partner-in-crime and friend, Fly. Days of Being Wild, about Yuddy, a handsome Hong Kong lothario, who seduces and dumps women without compunction but when he charms and then abandons a shy shop girl named Su Li-zhen, he sets in motion a chain of events that climax in unforeseen self-discovery and shocking violence. Chungking Express, following two melancholy Hong Kong policemen that fall in love, one with a mysterious female underworld figure, the other with a beautiful and ethereal server at a late-night restaurant he frequents. Fallen Angels, a Hong Kong-set crime drama that follows the lives of a hitman, hoping to get out of the business, and his elusive female partner. Happy Together, about a couple who take a trip to Argentina but both men find their lives drifting apart in opposite directions. In the Mood for Love, about two neighbors, a woman and a man, who form a strong bond after both suspect extramarital activities of their spouses but agree to keep their bond platonic so as not to commit similar wrongs. Lastly, there’s 2046, about several women who enter a science fiction author’s life over the course of a few years, after the author has lost the woman he considers his one true love. The set also includes The Hand, a short that appeared in the erotic compelation Eros with Steven Soderbergh. This is another awesome set from Criterion.

The Ten Commandments 4K – We’re getting biblical this week, just after the Easter weekend so it’s kind of fitting, as classic Hollywood is showcased in this new box set that has both the original film made in 1923 and the more popular remake starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Edward G. Robinson and Vincent Price made in 1956, put into the glorious format of 4K. I feel like most people have seen some iteration of this movie, maybe on television, but this film has been completely restored to high definition levels and the remake features commentary by a biographer of the film, Katherine Orrison. A showcasing of the golden age of Hollywood, this was definitely a cool movie to receive.

Television:

Them (Amazon Prime) – I only caught the trailer for this new limited series just a few weeks ago but it quickly catapulted to the top of the most anticipated list just with the words “produced by Lena Waithe” who brought us The Chi, wrote Queen & Slim and now gets some horror under her nails. Simply put, this is a limited anthology series that explores terror in America. The first season is the 1950s-set “Covenant” which centers around a black family who move from North Carolina to an all-white Los Angeles neighborhood during the period known as The Great Migration. The family’s idyllic home becomes ground zero where malevolent forces, next door and otherworldly, threaten to taunt, ravage and destroy them. I highly recommend getting the trailer into your brain which features some increasingly unsettling imagery that gives it all an American Horror Story edge with an even darker epicenter. That last shot of it still haunts me and is my driving force in seeing this show as soon as possible.

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

This Is A Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist (Netflix) – It’s time again for some more true crime to hit Netflix and satiate those who love a crazy story involing high crimes, betrayels and maybe even murder. You are all a sick bunch but I find myself part of that crew as well and we seem to be keeping this side of the streaming service pumping. This limited series follows the events around March 18, 1990 when thirteen works of art were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Guards admitted two men posing as police officers responding to a disturbance call who then tied the guards up and looted the museum. Legendary works by Rembrandt, Vermeer and others worth over half a billion dollars today were stolen and this show chronicles the leads, dead ends, lucky breaks and speculations that characterized the investigation of this still unsolved mystery and it’s pretty well done and fascinating. This one will probably capture a lot of imaginations.

Kung Fu (The CW) – It’s been a long time since David Carradine roamed the streets of Western America as Shaolin Monk Kwai Chang Caine in the original series Kung Fu, which ran from 1972 to 1975, a movie in 1986, then rebooted in 1993 to run for another four seasons. Well, The CW, who are no strangers to rebooting popular shows, have put this classic martial arts serial in the crosshairs for a gender swapped update. Starring Legacies actress Olivia Liang, she plays a young Chinese-American woman named Nicky Chen who, after a quarter-life crisis, decides to drop out of college and go on a life-changing journey to an isolated monastery in China. She returns home to find her hometown overrun with crime and corruption and vows to use her martial arts skills and Shaolin values to protect her community and bring criminals to justice while searching for the assassin who killed her Shaolin mentor and is now targeting her. Much like the Walker, Texas Ranger reboot, this show plays in the corny sandbox but it still has all of those nods to the original that will make you smile and remember Caine and how he was here to help us.

Birdgirl (Adult Swim) – Speaking of reboots and updated sequel series, Adult Swim is jumping into the game with a follow up to one of my favorite cartoon shows of all time, Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law, a series I still quote daily to a frustrating degree for my wife, I’m sure. This new show follows our titular character Judy Ken Sebben, also known as the great Birdgirl, who has to find a way to maintain her work and superhero life balance after being named CEO of the world’s largest and most nonsensical corporation, Sebben & Sebben. The hysterically funny Paget Brewster voices our hero and I expect many of the former cast members to make an appearance and I hope it catches on as we got four glorious seasons of the original show and a Harvey Birdman: Attorney General special. There is a market and total thirst for it!