Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Toy Story 4 – When it was announced that a new Toy Story was being written, slated for release nine years after the third movie came out, I was a bit skeptical. I personally felt like Toy Story 3 wrapped everything up quite nicely in a beautifully made film but the early reviews for this new adventure are hugely favorable. With the toys now with a new owner named Bonnie, gifted to her by Andy at the end of the last movie, they head on a road trip with a new created pal named Forky who ends up getting lost. This leads Buzz and Woody to go and bring him back to the family and I feel like everyone needs to have tissues handy for this movie.

Child’s Play – I really don’t know how to feel about this remake or reboot as I really enjoyed the direction that this Don Mancini created series was going with the comedy horror angle. Chucky, for me, is one of those iconic horror staples, especially with the voice of Brad Dourif but I’m willing to give this movie a shot, and not just because it was all shot in Vancouver. The “Buddi” doll in this new film is computer programmable, a gift that a mother (Aubrey Plaza) gives her son that gets possessed by an evil entity with the voice of Mark Hamill. That latter part is another reason I’m giving this movie a chance. (Not opening in Hamilton)

Anna – French action director Luc Besson is back with another woman led ass kicker movie. The film stars Sasha Luss, a relatively unknown actress who featured in Besson’s last movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets in a predominantly CGI role, but she looks totally badass in the trailer. She plays the title character, a beautiful and deadly assassin and really that’s all I know about it and with this great action director, well, that’s all you need to know. The rest of the cast is solid too with Helen Mirren, Luke Evans and Cillian Murphy. If you’re looking for more brainless stuff and can’t do horror, this is your ticket. (Not opening in Kamloops or Oshawa)

Blu-Ray:

Us – This is definitely one of my favorite films of the year, right now sitting at number one, writer and director Jordan Peele’s follow up to the amazing, massively popular and Oscar-winning thriller Get Out. The movie is about a black family terrorized by an opposite evil version of them, a family of doppelgangers, and I was hooked from the first trailer I saw and definitely deeper once I saw the opening scene. Peele is starting to build himself the moniker of the modern day mast of suspense and thrills like Alfred Hitchcock, which came in handy with the Vancouver shot reboot of The Twilight Zone. This is the high bar of this year to hurdle over to win my affections and now with the movie on demand and on Blu-ray, I can’t wait to hear people’s takes on its themes.

Wonder Park – Paramount really hoped that this film took off, about an amusement park that comes from the imagination of a wildly creative girl named June but, as she discovers, something she created as a child has become real in the forest near her house when she becomes a preteen. The voice cast features Jennifer Garner, Keenan Thompson, Mila Kunis, Ken Jeong, Matthew Broderick and John Oliver but looks like the lower than the standard fare we are used to from Dreamworks and Pixar. Unfortunately the movie never really had any box office steam and I think parents kind of ignored this film as the trailer is pretty bland.

Hotel Mumbai – Dev Patel stars in this true story film about the terrorist attack on the Taj Hotel in Mumbai focusing on the hotel staff that put their lives on the line to save others. Armie Hammer co-stars in this movie from first time writer and director Anthony Maras, relying heavily on the real transcripts from that horrifying day and the reviews are trending in a good direction. I think it’s fascinating that Patel stars in this AND the Best and Second Marigold Hotel movies. A very different experience, I assure you.

Under The Silver Lake – I have been waiting for this movie to debut ever since it screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival this past year because it is the second film from It Follows director David Robert Mitchell. Doing more of a noir mystery film this time, Andrew Garfield stars as an intelligent loner who becomes infatuated with a woman he sees swimming in the pool at his apartment complex. When she disappears he sets off on an investigation to her whereabouts across the weirdest and more dangerous parts of Los Angeles. The movie seems to be hitting the middle of the road as far as reviews go but its oddness is something that keeps coming up which makes me all that more intrigued. I love the weird stuff.

Run The Race – I now I’m the master of my own destiny but in the want to be fully inclusive of reviewing everything I threw in this blu-ray that Universal sent me and oh boy did I regret it. A faith-based film from producer Tim Tebow, this movie is about football, God and daddy issues, following two athlete brothers, one who has been sidelined due to seizures and the other who is the star quarterback. Right away, the pandering, wooden acting and melodramatic glossiness of the film turned me off and it got considerably worse as the film progressed. Is there a way that producers and filmmakers can make a movie that doesn’t feel like a religious commercial? I am literally begging for a writer and filmmaker to prove me wrong with something that doesn’t feel like it came off the recruitment assembly line because watching these movies is increasingly frustrating. Hail Satan in closing.

Crypto – I hadn’t heard of this financial crime thriller until I saw the new release list but the cast is really interesting, featuring supporting roles from Alexis Bledel, her husband Vincent Kartheiser, Jill Hennessy, Westworld’s Luke Hemsworth and Kurt Russell. The movie follows a young Wall Street banker who is drawn into investigating a tangled web of corruption and fraud in Upstate New York and investigating this movie is a bit perplexing as Richard Roeper seemed to really like it but it doesn’t look like anyone else does. Might be a warning sign.

Modest Heroes – More anime from Shout Factory found it’s way into my mailbox with this new film but this one is a little different as it is an anthology of three original shorts written and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (When Marnie Was There), Yoshiyuki Momose (visual effects on Princess Mononoke) and Akihiko Yamashita (assistant director on Tales from Earthsea). The movie takes full advantage of the short form animation and really delves into some emotional filmmaking, fleshing out a promising future for the latter two new feature anime directors. It exhibits the range of Studio Ponoc but also has a bit of a Twilight Zone flare to it as well, almost like an homage. I’m still a little out of the loop on the anime genre but films like this get me closer and closer to being a fan.

Universal Horror Collection: Volume 1 – This boxset got a little delayed as there may have been some sort of rights battle as it was supposed to be called the Bela Lugosi/Boris Karloff Collection but we finally have it, the four movie collector’s edition that has The Black Cat, The Raven, The Invisible Ray and Black Friday. Lately, with all these cool classic horror films being sent to me, I’ve been able to take a deeper look at the genre’s origins and it’s through the great special features that Shout Factory supplies such as the ones for this boxset like 2K scans of the original film elements, commentaries with film historians and so many featurettes. This is a treasure trove of Edgar Allan Poe and two of the greatest legends to bring horror to the masses.

Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo – This is one of two new releases I received from Kino Lorber Classics that are very different films for me to cover, a blu-ray issuing of some of what they call the “American Theater Films”. This one is a biopic about Galileo Galilei, the seventeenth century Italian who laid the foundations of modern science made himself one of the world’s first telescopes and discovered the moons of Jupiter. This version features a cameo by Sir John Gielgud, all filmed in a day, and the director of the movie Joseph Losey had also directed the original Broadway production of “Galileo”, twenty-eight years previously. Also, a nerd moment, Michael Gough appears in this movie in a major role and he would go on to be Alfred in the first four Batman movies.

Lost In The Stars – Continuing on the “American Theater Films” release path, this film is a musical based on the novel Cry, the Beloved Country starring Brock Peters from To Kill A Mockingbird. He plays Stephen Kumalo, a black South African minister desperately searching through back alleys and the dilapidated bungalows of Johannesburg for his son, Absalom. This is the only film in the American Film Theater series to get a G rating from the MPAA although the subject matter feels a bit tough for a general audience in my opinion.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

An Innocent Man – Remember when Tom Selleck was a leading star that could topline a theatrically released movie? Kino Lorber remembers and has put out this blu-ray edition of the crime thriller from 1989 co-starring the brilliant Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham. Selleck plays a man framed for drug possession by a pair of dirty cops and exacts his revenge after being released from prison in this movie from Bullitt and Breaking Away director Peter Yates. Fun fact about the behind the scenes on this film, actor M.C. Gainey, who audiences may know from Con Air and Django Unchained, was high on cocaine during his audition for the role of Malcolm and still got the role maybe because of his highness.

Unstrung Heroes – Another Kino Lorber Classic, I remember this movie when it was released back in 1995 because it was noted that Seinfeld star Michael Richards was doing a more dramatic role right during the heyday of his hit series. This movie is the feature directorial debut of Oscar winner Diane Keaton and follows a young boy named Steven Lidz who is unhappy with his home life since his mother (Andie MacDowell) got sick and goes and lives with his two crazy Uncles (Richards and John Turturro). There he changes, gets closer to his Uncles and starts to grow into the man he will become but his parents want him home even though he is finally happy and popular. This is a beautiful but ultimately forgotten coming of age film that deserves more eyes on it.

Superstition – Shout Factory has issued this brand new special edition of this creepy witchcraft horror film that features absolutely no one anyone would know. The story is about a witch who is put to death in 1692 but swears vengeance on her persecutors and returns to the present day to punish their descendants. The movie is directed by James W. Roberson, someone more known as a cinematographer for television, and achieved cult status in the United Kingdom though it went by a different name, The Witch. The film was also listed on Greater Manchester Police’s list of films subject to seizure during the UK video nasty scare of the 1980’s, which was just an insanely weird time for horror films.

Television:

Dark: Season 2 (Netflix) – Coming from Germany, the first season of this supernatural based show was released just after the second season of Stranger Things, giving those fans something to tide them over for the long wait for the third season. The story is a family saga set in a German town where the disappearance of two young children exposes the relationships among four families. This is the first German series produced by Netflix and although it is a bit of a slow burn, the payoffs are fantastic and the character development is solid. This is some seriously creepy television that will get some love from the genre fans.

Riviera: Season 2 (Sundance Now) – Available through the Roku, this drama stars Julia Stiles and Lena Olin and comes from master filmmaker Neil Jordan who just astounded me with his new movie Greta. The story is about a woman who discovers her family’s lifestyle has been funded by murder her husband is killed in a yacht explosion, tearing her life apart, and seeks to protect herself and her grieving family. The show is a bit soaked in melodrama but Jordan’s knack for intrigue and thrills keeps you engaged for the whole series.

Yellowstone: Season 2 (Paramount) – If you are a big western fan then you need no more information about this series other than it stars Kevin Costner. For those who need a deeper reason to get immersed in this just know that the show was created by Taylor Sheridan, the mind behind Sicario, Hell Or High Water and Wind River, all incredible films. The show is about a ranching family in Montana who faces off against others looking to encroach on their land, including land developers, an Indian reservation, and representatives of America’s first National Park. The show has a lot of middling reviews but, let’s be fair, so does a lot of Costner’s work.

The Lavander Scare (PBS) – It’s really rare that we get something so interesting on the public broadcast network but this is an interesting one as it combines documentary with some high calibre reenactments through voiceover that includes the cast of Zachary Quinto, Cynthia Nixon, T.R. Knight and narrated by Glenn Close. The film is about some tragic history from when the U.S. was deeply embroiled in the Cold War and President Eisenhower deemed homosexuals to be “security risks” and ordered the immediate firing of any government employee discovered to be gay or lesbian. It triggered a vicious witch hunt that lasted for forty years and ruined thousands of lives but ultimately triggered what would become the modern LGBT rights movement.

Drunk History: Season 6 (Comedy Network) – If you have yet to catch a single episode of this madness from creator Derek Waters, the gist of the premise is that he gets a comedian pal sloppy drunk and then asks them to tell a story from somewhere in history then, to sweeten the pot for us viewers, he gets a cast of famous actors and comedians to reenact the story to hilarious results. I have loved every episode I’ve seen, all available on Crave, and have already been enjoying this new season which includes appearances by Seth Rogen as Victor Frankenstein, Chris Parnell as Carl Sagan and Thomas Lennon as William Randolph Hearst, just to name a few.

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New Releases:

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

Shaft – Speaking of rebooting a franchise, Shaft gets the whole grandfather, dad and son treatment with Richard Roundtree and Samuel L. Jackson reprising their roles as John Shaft I and John Shaft II respectively as they mentor John Shaft Jr., played by Independence Day: Resurgence star Jesse T. Usher. The twist is that Shaft Jr. isn’t a tough guy like his dad and grandpa but a cybersecurity genius and MIT graduate who must use his skills to solve the murder of a close family friend. The film is directed by Barbershop and Fantastic Four director Tim Story and while this movie is more playing to his style I just don’t have a belief that this will be anything beyond a vaguely entertaining film. (Not opening in Kamloops)

The Dead Don’t Die – Jim Jarmusch takes his hilariously deadpan style and applies it to a genre that always needs a bit of a fresh breath, zombie horror. Bringing some of his staple stars including Bill Murray from his film Coffee And Cigarettes, Adam Driver from his last effort Patterson and, of course, Tilda Swinton, Jarmusch crafts a small-town story of a zombie outbreak where the weirdo citizens have to band together to survive. This movie is definitely not going to rope in everyone as horror fans will be possibly put off by the dialogue style and, well, all of this great filmmaker’s movies have a less than mainstream appeal. I’m excited for it. (Not opening in Kamloops or Oshawa)

Late Night – Lots of great praise and reviews are coming in for this Mindy Kaling written comedy that she stars in as well alongside the great Emma Thompson. Thompson plays Katherine Newbury, a late night talk show host who is on the cusp of losing her show due to low ratings. Kaling’s character is a writer brought in a gender equality push by Newbury in an attempt to give a fresh rejuvenation to the show and the two slowly form a bond that might be the ticket to getting ratings back. The film is being lauded for its fresh comedy approach and Mindy Kaling’s storytelling shedding light on diversity in the high entertainment levels. I really hope this movie succeeds as I think it would do great things for how we look at race, gender and popular films. (Not opening in Hamilton or Oshawa)

Echo In The Canyon – Headed by Wallflowers frontman and the son of a legendary musician Jacob Dylan, this movie explore the Los Angeles area of Laurel Canyon in the 1960s, a thriving time of exploration, collaboration and a burgeoning rock and roll style. Through interviews with David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Tom Petty, Michelle Phillips, Roger McGuinn and more, Dylan helps give as an idea of what this time looked like, what we received from it musically and some really great insight into the personal friendships of some of the greatest musicians ever. Adding to that, Dylan and friends like Beck, Cat Power, Fiona Apple and Eric Clapton get together to cover a lot of this great music both live and in the recording studio. The soundtrack is available now and is just fantastic. Go see this movie then go get the album, you won’t regret it. (Only playing in Toronto, Hamilton and Vancouver.)

Halston – This seems to be a consistent thing as every time that I screen a new fashion documentary I say that I don’t really have any sort of invested interest in it yet each time I find myself engrossed in the subject matter. It just happened pretty recently that I watched the fil McQueen, about the late Alexander McQueen, and this one draws a comparison in completely different directions. While McQueen created his art and largely kept his persona subdued, Halston lived his art, flaunted it on his friends like Liza Minnelli and made sure he was the face of his company. Unfortunately, large corporate mergers, ignorant money men and even misappropriation of his name led to constant stress that might have led to his death. An interesting biopic and human interest story. (Only playing in Toronto, Hamilton, Edmonton and Vancouver.)

Blu-Ray:

Captain Marvel – One of the middle pieces along with Ant-Man And The Wasp to tide you over since a large part of the Marvel universe got dusted at the end of Avengers: Infinity War at the hands of Thanos, now we get to see the origin story of a galactic warrior in the comfort of our own home. Battling trolls even before she battles Skrulls in the movie, people were already throwing shade at star Brie Larson but I think she was perfectly suited to play the strongest character in the MCU. I also love that this story takes place in the mid-nineties and has a de-aged Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg plus the villain is played by a great villain actor, Ben Mendelsohn. While this movie is not necessarily the strongest film that we’ve gotten in the ten plus years of Marvel Studios it is certainly an entertaining one.

Five Feet Apart – It feels like I heard about this one a long while back and it’s just making its debut now. Riverdale star Dylan Sprouse and Support The Girls’ Haley Lu Richardson, a favorite of mine, lead this film about two terminally ill teens who fall in love after meeting at the hospital. Give Richarson’s involvement in the film I am immediately drawn to this but it could go down the same path we saw in Josh Green’s adaptation of the popular young adult novel The Fault In Our Stars, a film I was a bit late to find but enjoyed a lot.

Captive State – This movie looked absolutely fascinating and I have to say it was due to smart marketing with its trailers not giving a lot of exposition and doing almost what Cloverfield did with an alien invasion angle. The film takes place in Chicago ten years after it has been infiltrated and taken over by an extraterrestrial force. Now subservient to their new overlords, the film explores the human dynamics of everyday life, politics and the formation of a resistance. This definitely looks my type of movie through in through and I’m was excited about what Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes filmmaker Rupert Wyatt was bringing in this sci-fi mystery and the cast including Vera Farmiga, John Goodman Moonlight’s Ashton Sanders and If Beale Street Could Talk’s Kiki Layne was just icing on the cake. I never received this movie in theaters and finally got to check it out now and was so very disappointed. The film is a narrative mess that seems to meander constantly in its storytelling, almost to a point that I couldn’t tell who the main character was. The effects come across as either unfinished in the landscape shots and alien craft sequences and way too dark in the only instances where we get an actual look at the alien. What a waste.

The Mustang – I’ve enjoyed actor Matthias Schoenaerts work since I first saw him in Left Bank and since he did The Drop I think he’s made a stride into the North American cinema landscape and this film looks like it could further his leading man push. He plays Roman, a violent inmate who tries to find a path out of his rage through participating in an outdoor maintenance program training wild horses. Both Schoenaerts and co-star Bruce Dern are being praised for the film but it really was an unfortunate afterthought during awards season.

T-34 – A World War II tank film from Russia, this was an unexpected movie in my mailbox and good luck reading up on it if you surf onto Rotten Tomatoes because the page doesn’t exist. It’s supposed to but it’s a 404 Gateway error instead. The film follows a group of Russian POWs who are desperately escaping a German prison camp in a salvaged T-34 tank. The movie relies on the brotherhood between these characters and, although there’s no documentary confirmation of a Soviet tank’s escape from the German concentration camp, there was confirmed successful escape of Soviet imprisoned pilots leading by Michael Devyataev on German bomber in February 1945. If you dig World War II movies you will definitely feel this one.

Sinatra In Palm Springs: The Place He Called Home – More music documentaries but this one is focused on possibly the most popular crooners of all time, O’l Blue Eyes. In particular, this movie looks at his connection to Palm Springs, his home for fifty years of his life, a place that he also spent the time of his brief but rocky marriage to actress Ava Gardner. The Rancho Mirage, the name of his home, was what he called “My Heaven” and may even contain the ghost of the Rat Packer if you believe in that sort of thing.

Can’t Stop The Music – The Pride Month releases from Shout Factory continues this week with this big ensemble musical that acts as a biopic on The Village People in a way. With the disco group at the center of attention, the movie also features Bruce Jenner and Steve Guttenberg, the latter playing a disc jockey who gets a career break playing at the local club, Saddle Tramps. After writing a song about his roommate, a retired supermodel, he gathers enough clout to earn a record deal which stars his ladder to disco stardom. Unfortunately, this movie absolutely tanked at the box office and was always paired with the Olivia Newton-John film Xanadu, another critical and financial failure.

Frankenstein Created Woman – Peter Cushing playing Victor Frankenstein in a Hammer horror film. This is all a brilliant recipe to make classic theatrical monster movies but this one comes with a gender twist. This film features a freshly resurrected Dr. Victor Frankenstein who’s first dastardly plan is to transfer the essence of a murdered young man into the body of a woman which prompts an insatiable urge to kill all those around her. Legendary director Martin Scorcese actually lists this movie as one of his favorite in the horror genre and many laud it as one of the best of the Hammer catalogue with its freshness in plot and storytelling. You also win me over with Cushing in the lead. He was amazing.

Jeffrey – The second of the Pride Month movies this week, this dramedy has a pretty great cast with Steven Weber, Michael T. Weiss, Patrick Stewart and Nathan Lane. The movie, released in 1995, is about a gay man living in New York who decides to swear off sex at the height of the AIDS epidemic but immediately meets the man of his dreams afterward. Does he stay true to his commitment or pursue a relationship that could be worthy of giving everything up? Patrick Stewart, who plays the partner of someone in the terminal stage of HIV, read this script on the set of Star Trek: Generations and used the emotion from it to portray a pivotal emotional scene for it. Definitely happy to receive this important movie in the gay community.

Devil’s Kiss – A movie sent to me by Kino Lorber’s Redemption releases, this is the classic Italian “Satan’s minion’s” movie with a professor and a disgraced former countess who band together to use an occult spell to reanimate dead bodies to do their murderous bidding. The movie was made by writer and director Georges Gigo who had a very short career of only four films all revolving around the occult, demons and, well, women and brothels, kind of like a typical Italian man in the 1970s. This movie is full of camp, paint like red blood and lots of nudity, the perfect movie to riff on with a group of friends like you’re doing your own Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Green Card – Remember when American cinema was pushing French legend and plane urinating champion Gerard Depardieu as an A-list star? Well, this is one of the movies that came from that time and it holds up as a sweetheart of a film with Andie MacDowell, directed by one of the great Australian directors Peter Weir. The film has Depardieu as a French man who agrees to a marriage of convenience in order to stay in the United States and, obviously because this is a rom-com, the feelings grow into a real relationship as the story progresses. Fun fact, and totally against the norm of Hollywood, Weir asked MacDowell to gain weight for the movie instead of losing it.

Grave Of The Vampire – Another seventies vampire film from the vaults of Shout Factory, this movie doesn’t really have any stars of note and the lead billed actor only has thirty minutes of screen time but it is a disturbing little b-movie entry. The movie follows the legendary vampire Kroft who descends on a graveyard after a long slumber, attacking a couple, assaulting the woman and impregnating her. The child that comes from this is an imp of a vampire, feeding only on the blood from his now living dead mother. Yes, this movie is all kinds of messed up, I wonder why we ever really heard about it before.

The Manitou – Speaking of weird little horror films, we go back to 1978 for this story of psychics, grotesque body lumps and four hundred-year-old Native American demons. I’m definitely getting weird with the Geek Outs this week but as soon as this one crossed my doorway I knew it’d be fun. For some real-life weirdness, the director of this movie William Girdler was actually killed before the release when his helicopter crashed as he was scouting for his next movie. Unfortunately, the film wasn’t a huge success or memorable but they did hand out barf bags at the premiere. Classy.

Bachman – Definitely one of Canada’s greatest living musicians, Randy Bachman gets the full documentary treatment in this short new film from John Barnard who directed the Sheepdogs doc Have At It in 2012. The focus of this movie is to follow Bachman as he writes his newest song and also take a trip down memory lane featuring rarely seen footage, pictures and archived documents that had been stored in our nation’s capital for decades. This movie has interviews with some of the other greats we have here like Neil Young, Sam Roberts and Buffy Sainte Marie, people from the press like Terry David Mulligan and, a personal favorite also from Winnipeg like Bachman, Chris Jericho. This is a really great week for music documentaries on What The Hell Should I Watch.

The Big Clock – A late arrival I received from Arrow Video, this film noir crime thriller comes from 1948 and features one of Paramount’s most bankable and durable stars Ray Milland, Tarzan’s Jane, Maureen O’Sullivan and Spartacus actor Charles Laughton. The film follows a greedy tycoon who frames an unknown and innocent man for a murder he committed. Unfortunately for the man bent on ruining his life, the falsely accused has enough wherewithal to start investigating the charge himself. Funny enough, Kevin Costner’s “No Way Out” is actually a remake of this film.

Television:

Marvel’s Jessica Jones: Season 3 (Netflix) – The final Marvel series available on Netflix takes its bow with one of my favorites, the tough-willed, super strong and heavy drinking private investigator. Kristen Ritter has really owned this role, an absolute comic fan favorite, giving her a texture onscreen of an embattled woman that has fought her way through memory loss, abuse and post-traumatic stress.I’m really looking forward to how this season with deal with the final resolution of this character and what other Marvel characters it will introduce along the way. Heck, as a comic fan this is what I look forward to with all the shows. It was really a golden Netflix time and now it’s over.

Trinkets: Season 1 (Netflix) – This is kind of my wild card this week because it’s a teen drama so it could really go either way. Brianna Hildebrand who played the angsty Negasonic Teenage Warhead in the Deadpool movies, stars in this series about three girls who meet in Shoplifters Anonymous and become friends. The reason I’m interested in this one is it kind of gives me a Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist vibe, which is fitting as the creators directed Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, based on a book by the same author.

Absentia: Season 2 (Amazon Prime & Showcase) – Canadian actress and former Castle star Stana Kati stars in this crime drama about an FBI agent who is declared dead in absentia, otherwise known as a legal presumption of death, and must fight to reclaim her family, identity and innocence when she finds herself the prime suspect in a string of murders. The show, produced in a co-production with Israel and the US, was a difficult shoot because all ten episodes of the first season were filmed simultaneously based on location. It was filmed like a movie over three and a half months in the middle of winter.

Too Old To Die Young: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – This collaboration between one of my favorite filmmakers ever Nicholas Winding Refn and one of the greatest comic writers to be printed Ed Brubaker has been brewing for a while and I’ve been not so patiently anticipating it. Miles Teller, William Balwin, John Hawkes and Jena Malone star in this new series about a young Los Angeles detective who lives a double life as a vicious hitman. The two parallel existences start to crumble his reality and blur his perception of reality as he falls deeper into violence. This show is not going to be for those with a weak stomach and will most likely find a niche audience.

Los Espookys: Season 1 (HBO) – After Portlandia thoroughly made me laugh my ass off, I’m totally willing to always watch anything Fred Armisen does without a doubt and this weird new comedy is a great example. With Armisen in the lead, the show is about a group of horror fans who turn their love of the genre into a business that’s sole purpose is to provide “scares fro the needy” by travelling to a weird Latin American country where the strange and eerie are just part of the normal everyday life. The show may be a bit too quirky to nail down a regular audience but it could also become a comedy cult classic.

New Releases:

The Secret Life Of Pets 2 – Illumination Entertainment brings out this new sequel, one that isn’t connected to their Despicable Me franchise and all without the problematic Louis CK providing the lead voice, this time around being replaced by one of the good guys, Patton Oswalt. All the other favorites have returned including Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate and Kevin Hart along with newcomers Tiffany Haddish and Harrison Ford, so all the kids should be happy and I actually thought the first movie was pretty fun so I have good expectations for this follow-up. Illumination could be looking at their next monster franchise if all goes well.

Dark Phoenix – I haven’t had any faith in an X-Men movie since Bryan Singer ripped the reigns of the franchise back from director Matthew Vaughn after First Class, which was phenomenal, to make Days Of Future Past which was a film that crumbled under the weight of simply deconstructing it after my viewing. Then came Apocalypse, which was a dismal piece of convenient plot piece garbage and now we have this new film, the end story to this long-running Marvel created story and directed by producer Simon Kinberg, who I think is the reason, along with Singer, that this series took such a nosedive. So, where are my hopes with this movie? About ankle height. Yes, this may be total crap again.

Pavarotti – I’m really hit or miss with the narrative films of Ron Howard but as a documentarian, more importantly, a music documentarian he is making some seriously great movies. After his last one, Eight Days A Week, he focuses on the life and work of opera legend Luciano Pavarotti and I have to admit that my knowledge of and even appreciation for opera is quite low but the passion and joy that flows through the man in archival and rehearsal footage and home movies is almost infectious. Howard also uses Pavarotti’s concert footage in a way that helps tell the story of his work, his creative mind and his personal relationships. This is a great watch for any music lover with a broader mind in their tastes. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

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

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

Wild Nights With Emily – This is without a doubt one of the weirdest approaches to a biopic I’ve ever seen but Molly Shannon plays famed recluse poet Emily Dickenson in this film that hugs the line of being an odd duck hysterical comedy and a life story. First off, that “recluse” stuff seems to be a complete and utter fabrication according to this movie, lies to smear the gifted writer and prevent her works from being published, another false rumor that this movie seeks to dispell. Featuring a brilliant performance on the opposite of Shannon, Amy Seimetz plays Mabel, her nemesis whose only goal is to destroy her reputation through misinformation. This movie is odd, quirky and totally fascinating, something that would pair perfectly with Cynthia Nixon’s portrayal of Dickenson in Terence Davies A Quiet Passion. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Framing John DeLorean – We all known the DeLorean as Back To The Future made it such a huge part of our pop culture that you really need to live under a rock to not know about it but is the rise and fall of the DeLorean Motor Company as common of knowledge? This film is the only film to be made on the man who had a dream and screwed everyone in the process to keep it alive as four different films were optioned but never came to fruition, one produced by DeLorean himself. This documentary takes a fascinating approach of being a linear story told about the rise of an idea, the execution and then the scandalous fall through bad deals and a cocaine bust with re-enactments starring Alec Baldwin. The final result is ambitious and engrossing, such an interesting way of telling a real story. (Only opening in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Barrie)

Blu-Ray:

A Madea Family Funeral – Tyler Perry is moving onto the next phase of his life and in order for him to do that he needs to put a merciful end to him dressing up as an old woman like he was basketball star Larry Johnson playing Grandmama in the nineties, so, naturally you’d have a funeral. You know it’s a really slow week when this film is your big release but here we are. I don’t really expect any sort of deviation from your regular Madea film, I’m just glad we aren’t lampooning horror anymore and that Perry can put his oldest character, as well as the other three he plays in this series, to bed.

Gloria Bell – This is sure to be a great film just based on the track record of Chilean director Sebastian Lelio alone. Winner of last year’s best foreign Oscar for his amazing film A Fantastic Woman and also the man behind the acclaimed drama The Club, it’s really cool to see him continue his rise in the mainstream with his latest, a remake of one of his own. The film follows Julianne Moore as a woman seeking love in the clubs of Los Angeles in her 50s and co-stars the great John Turturro, so that’s two tried and true actor’s actors.

JT LeRoy – Before even really paying attention to what the premise was for this film, I was captivated by the two lead stars Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern, although the name JT Leroy seemed so familiar. It turns out that this soul-wrenching and inspirational writer who turned out to be a total fraud was behind a movie that astounded me years ago, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, the debut of Asia Argento as a filmmaker. Well, this movie is about exactly that, the creation of a false persona to be used in public by the writer behind Leroy, Laura Albert, and the woman that was used to be “his” body, Savannah Knoop, who wrote the book this movie was based on. And yes, they cover the Argento movie with Diane Kruger playing that character in a possibly detrimental way to the real-life person. I found this film absolutely fascinating and it is a damn fine chemistry of performances from Dern and Stewart.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote – After a long twenty-five years of trying to get his white whale, a Don Quixote movie made, one version of it documented in the tragically hilarious documentary Lost In La Mancha, his vision has finally arrived for us. The movie has Adam Driver as an entitled commercial director who returns to the Spanish village he shot a low budget Don Quixote film in only to find his lead star still living the role. As he joins him for an insane adventure, he begins to feel the connection to the land, the story and the life of Quixote that he had long forgotten. I think the biggest problem with the movie is that it comes after a decade and a half of anticipation and its never going to be exactly what you wanted. It feels disjointed and haphazard at times with erratic cuts and seemingly odd plot holes but it exudes Gilliam’s charm and originality as a filmmaker and for that reason alone I celebrate this achievement. He finally did it and I’m proud of him.

The Haunting Of Sharon Tate – This year is going to be a big one when it comes to anything dealing with Charles Manson and Sharon Tate as we’ve already had former Doctor Who Matt Smith play him in Charlie Says and next month we had Margot Robbie taking on the Tate role in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood. The thing to know about this movie in particular right away is that it isn’t good. Hilary Duff plays Tate in this film and, well, she’s just not very good and neither is her co-star Jonathan Bennett. Usual television documentarian Daniel Farrands writes and directs this film, one of his three true crime adaptations and I really wish, for everyone’s sake, that he didn’t.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan: Season 1 – It’s been a movie lifetime of ups and downs for the government agent character of Jack Ryan as he rose to fame as Alec Baldwin, sustained it for a couple of films with Harrison Ford then plummeted with Ben Affleck then Chris Pine. Now, with this Amazon Prime produced series, he’s back on the upswing with John Krasinski in the role. The show is very solid and I’ve always wanted this character to succeed in some fashion and had no idea this would be it. Season two is probably going to be just as great too.

I’ll Take Your Dead – Another horror original from Shout Factory, this movie is also a Canadian one from Ontario writer and director Chad Archibald. The story is about a father and daughter who live in a farmhouse in the county where he disposes of dead bodies from gang-related murders in the nearby city and the daughter Gloria is convinced that some of the victims that have been dropped off are haunting their house. The movie suffers a bit in the script department but the blood, the atmosphere and the general plot keep you on board.

A Star Is Born: Special Encore Edition – A musician helps a young singer and actress find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral in this third remake. This is an excellent movie, punctuated by brilliant performances from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga with great music that will get caught in your head plus pacing and direction that keeps you engrossed, also by Cooper with the eye of master cinematographer Matthew Libatique. There’s such a pent up soul running throughout this film and feel it does real justice to the story, even if it’s one we’ve seen three times before. I know I’ve said all of this before, the only difference with this version of the movie is that all of the performances have been extended, adding another eleven minutes on to the movie.

Mighty Morphin Power Ranger The Movie – I can’t lie, when I opened the package from Shout Factory and saw this staring up at me my childhood screamed in excitement and, yes, I spent money to see this in theaters. The original incarnation of the iconic space ninjas hit the big screen in this mid-nineties hit to take on the dastardly Ivan Ooze and we were all here for it. Whether we were still rabid fans of the show, had a crush on Pink Ranger Amy Jo Johnson or just thought Tommy the Green Ranger was the coolest, this movie had you hooked and Shout Factory knows how to play into that nostalgia so brilliantly. This is one of those “gotta have it” nerd buys for sure.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:

The Iceman Cometh – A classic film released by Kino Lorber, this is a pretty interesting find just based on all the pieces involved. For one, it’s my first Lee Marvin movie in my collection, which is crazy that I don’t own Dirty Dozen or something yet. It was both the final film of The Wild Bunch’s Robert Ryan and The Best Years Of Our Lives actor Frederic March as well as a last minute lead for Marvin who was stepping in for Jason Robards. The movie is an adaptation of a popular Eugene O’Neill play and also has Jeff Bridges in an early role, one he had turned down initially before being berated by his former boss, The Last American Hero director Lamont Johnson.

The Vault – The weirdness in this thriller is off the chain and I absolutely love it. The main overarching story is about a bank robbery but that is merely just the tipping point of the story. The real intrigue comes from WHO’s bank they are robbing and WHAT is contained in the vault. Taryn Manning, Clifton Collins Jr. and James Franco star in The Signal director Dan Bush’s brand new horror mystery that has a trailer that will blow your hair back and the details of the plot are best kept under wraps as this is a story that evolves in some crazy directions. This is a genre mash-up that won’t rope in everyone but for those who want something a little different it will definitely quell that urge.

Brighton Beach Memoirs – Another one of those great entries into the Shout Select series from Shout Factory, this is a special film to fans of stage plays, screenplays and teleplays as this is a loosely autobiographical story from one of the greatest writers in history, Neil Simon. Jonathan Silverman made his onscreen debut as Eugene, a teenager recollecting his upbringing in a tight-knit Jewish family, going through puberty, sexual fantasies and having absolutely no space in a crowded house to call his own. The supporting cast features Blythe Danner and was part of the most productive part of Simon’s career where he made eleven straight films with producer Ray Stark including Biloxi Blues, Murder By Death and The Goodbye Girl.

Warning Sign – With Chernobyl dazzling audiences on HBO and The Hot one just debuting on Nat Geo, I thought it was a perfect time for me to bring this Shout Factory release starring Sam Waterston, Kathleen Quinlan and Yaphet Kotto. The plot follows an outbreak of a virulent bacteria in a secret government laboratory, which seals everyone inside after the security agents act on “protocol one”. Waterston’s character is the nearby town’s sheriff whose wife is locked in the facility and he is on a desperate rampage to get her out. Without giving too much away about this movie, I think it is pretty massively underrated and holds up the paranoia horror genre quite well.

The Grand Duel – A new special edition that I received from Arrow, I was really excited to get my hands on this one for a big reason. The film stars Lee Van Cleef, the legend who was in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly and Escape From New York. Better than just having him in the movie, he’s the hero, a gruff ex-sheriff who throws his hat in with a wrongly convicted man to take on the band of outlaws who framed him. Quick, simple and right to the point in an iconic feeling western storyline. Funny enough, for trivia sake, the music from this film was used by Quentin Tarantino in his Kill Bill movies.

Television:

Pure: Season 2 (Superchannel) – Making it’s shift to a brand new platform on Superchannel, this show is a homegrown series that should be on serious television enthusiasts lists. It’s the story of Noah Funk, a newly-elected Mennonite pastor, who is determined to rid his community of drug traffickers by betraying a fellow Mennonite to the police and Victoria actor Ryan Robbins excels in the lead role, the drawing point for every Breaking Bad fan to jump on it, he’s just that great. Christopher Heyerdahl from Hell On Wheels also features in this as well.

Fear The Walking Dead: Season 5 (AMC) – Let’s face it, at this point Fear is the best zombie show on television as the original incarnation of this series needs a little shot in the ass to get going again. The cast is flying on all cylinders with Lennie James’ Morgan being my absolute favorite at the moment but don’t let that take away from how stellar Alycia Debnam-Carey is on a consistent level. In a ramble of names, this show is always getting the best of the best as Garret Dillahunt, Jenna Elfman and Matt Frewer are still feature roles and the breakout star, Colman Domingo, is still killing it as Victor Strand.

NOS4A2: Season 1 (AMC) – From the mind of writer Joe Hill, the son of horror master Stephen King, comes this brand new series to bring vampire lore to a whole new level. Zachary Quinto plays Charlie Manx, an immortal vampire who feeds off the souls of children who finds his ultimate nemesis in a woman with a special ability that could threaten his entire existence. I’m already on board with the mere mention of Hill’s name, being that I’ve been waiting years for an adaptation of his popular comic Locke & Key, but even cooler is that this all takes place in the Stephen King universe, complete with small references to Maine towns and King-verse happenings. I’m psyched to see where this series will go.

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3 (Bravo) – The hit Margaret Atwood series returns again and will certainly keep it’s perch on top of the pack when it comes to award season because, let’s face it, Elisabeth Moss is just that damn good. My favorite trivia about this show (because you are going to watch it whatever I say) is the actresses have said that the head coverings they wear when they go outside are like blinders, completely cutting off their peripheral vision. The actresses can’t see each other unless they’re looking directly at each other. They have to act largely based on what they can hear. Fascinating.

Luther: Season 5 (BBC America) – I just love that DCI John Luther is a role that Idris Elba will always come back to because, besides The Wire, this role is one of my absolute favorites. The sad thing is that it looks like the four-episode season will be all we see of him in this tortured performance as that’s all they have in the cannon at this point, aside from a possible movie. I’ll take what I can get as this is a show that always delivers.

New Releases:

Rocketman – After Bohemian Rhapsody’s success last year, this Elton John biopic has been hotly anticipated although it is less of a straightforward film than the Queen movie was, instead taking more of a musical route. Taron Egerton stars as Elton with Jamie Bell playing his co-writer Bernie Taupin in a film that has the advanced word of hugging the line of being fantastical and serious in the same beat. It’s interesting to note that Egerton did all of his own singing in the film and they released the soundtrack and it really is quite good. This looks like a movie that will live up to the hype and can’t be tarnished by having a creep director.

Ma – This looks like a great little thriller that reteams Octavia Spencer and The Help director Tate Taylor in a genre movie that is far different then either of them has done, aside from Spencer’s quick scene in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II. In this film the Academy Award winner plays someone only known as Ma, a lonely woman who befriends a group of students, letting them party at her house. Slowly, the kids begin to realize that Ma isn’t quite right and the friendship shifts to murderous obsession. The trailer for this is creepy and effective making me think that this might be a character-driven horror film that may surprise some people.

Godzilla: King Of The Monsters – Five years ago Gareth Edwards rebooted the giant Japanese monster that has headed the longest running franchise in history with Jordan Vogt-Roberts placing the next piece with Kong: Skull Island, a prequel. Now Krampus and Trick r Treat director Michael Dougherty furthers the story with this highly anticipated rumble pitting Godzilla against the most devastating monster in existence King Ghidorah. A massive effects-driven film, this movie is going to blow everyone away from what I’ve read in reviews with each shot being something you could print off the movie screen and display on the wall like art. I am so excited for this.

The Fall Of The American Empire – If you are a Canadian film fan, most notably of the French-Canadian side of cinema, then you should have this movie on your radar as it is the return of writer and director Denys Arcand, the mind behind The Barbarian Invasions and The Decline Of The American Empire. This film continues that same blend of comedy and melodrama with a story about a shy and insecure delivery driver who stumbles upon a robbery in progress and decides to take the large bag of money left at the scene. Two tough Montreal cops and his new mail-order bride serve to complicate his life further, proving that money really might be the route of all evil. I have high hopes for this movie as I think Arcand is a Canadian treasure.

Photograph – A couple of years ago I was introduced to the work of director Ritesh Batra with his British melodrama A Sense Of An Ending, a film that totally caught me off guard with how much I enjoyed it. Now he returns to his native India after over half a decade for this story he wrote as well about a street photographer who convinces a passerby to act as his fiancee in order to get his doting grandmother off his back. In a complex drama about two seemingly lost souls, the two start to develop a connection with each other that is beyond any whirlwind romance and strikes to the core of what makes them individuals. The film is shot beautifully and features two lead actors, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Sanya Malhotra, who consistently serve to make each other more interesting.

Blu-Ray:

Greta – This is fantastic and already totally underrated! Chole Grace Moretz stars as a woman who finds a purse and ID card on the subway and returns it to the owner Greta, played by a favorite of mine Isabelle Huppert. From what I can tell you without hitting the dreaded spoiler territory, Greta is a lonely woman who uses the ploy of returning these lost belongings as a lure from young women into an obsessive trap and I am definitely here for it. Directed by Neil Jordan as well as co-written, the notion that this comes from the mind behind The Crying Game tells you how experienced the man is with blowing your hair back with reveals. Grab this one, you won’t regret it.

Climax – If the name of director Gaspar Noe is familiar to you then you know how prepared you have to be for one of his movies. Whether it’s the first few minutes of Irreversible, that insanely long assault scene in the middle or the last few minutes of Enter The Void, it’s fair to say I’ve been shocked and pushed to the limits by this acclaimed director before and his new film does just that while, at the same time, being one of his more restrained movies. Don’t take that as him going easy on you because he doesn’t. This movie is about a dance group rehearsing in a snowy building when they come to the slow realization that their sangria has been spiked with LSD. As the drug takes hold they descend into a madness that strips away all of their humanity in this hypnotic and dread filled journey all to an incredible soundtrack of beats. Highly recommended but know what you’re getting in to.

Lords Of Chaos – This looks like a movie totally geared to someone like me as it features Norweigan black metal, horror and a bit of truth to it. Coming from Spun director Jonas Akerlund, this film follows an ambitious teen in the early nineties what wants to launch his own special brand of music in Oslo which goes south in a big violent way. Starring Rory Culkin, Brooklyn star Emory Cohen and Val Kilmer’s son Jack, this movie has been getting a lot of love from the horror critics and I’m personally a huge fan of Akerlund’s work, going back to his music video days like The Everlasting Gaze by Smashing Pumpkins and Porcelain by Moby. His art is very striking and engaging.

A Vigilante – Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart is currently in theatres and a must see but you can check her out in the comfort of your home with this crime thriller playing a tough vigilante who helps women escape their abusive domestic partners. This is the feature debut for writer and director Sarah Daggar-Nickson and the trailer has a fantastic look to it that has me hooked in. I feel like the subject matter is so pertinent and it really makes me want this film to be good and fortunately the reviews back that up. This may be the beginning of a bright future for Daggar-Nickson.

Outlander: Season 4 – For years now this Starz adaptation of the popular Diana Gabaldon written series of novels has had a rabid audience and many friends have told me repeatedly to check it out. Well, friends, Sony sent me the fourth season and I have set off on my journey and, you know what? You guys were right, this series rocks. In a nutshell, the show is about a married World War II nurse in 1945 who finds herself transported back to 1743 Scotland which whets my appetite for time travel. Adding to that, the showrunner is Ronald D. Moore who was the guy behind Syfy’s update of Battlestar Galactica, a personal favorite, as well as the weirdo and kind of gross-out sci-fi horror series Helix. Yeah, this is worth your binge time.

Boom! – The first Elizabeth Taylor movie in my collection, Shout Factory released this film as one of the kick-off pieces to their Pride month releases. From 1968, this film features Taylor alongside her two-time husband Richard Burton in a story about the confrontation between a lonely woman who has everything material and a penniless poet who has nothing but the ability to fill this wealthy woman’s needs. Based on a play by Tennessee Williams, the playwright said that this was his favorite adaptation of his work but unfortunately the paying audience thought differently as the movie was a complete bomb.

To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar – I have always adored this movie ever since I first saw it on VHS and it’s all about the beautiful chemistry between stars Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo, all playing way outside their usual roles at the time as glamorous drag queens. This new Shout Select collector’s edition is such a gift to me including a brand new retrospective featurette and deleted scenes because I never had the chance to pick it up on DVD and I think it was pretty bare bones.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

The Witches – Remeber the movie The Witches? No, not the Anjelica Huston nightmare inducer, I’m talking about the 1966 horror film starring Joan Fontaine that was so panned in its release that she quit the business after receiving the disastrous box office results. A novel she shepherded to the big screen, the story has her as a schoolteacher who movies to a small village in England after having a near death experience with the occult in Africa. She soon discovers that she can run but can’t hide as the evil black magic finds its way to terrorize her again. Released through Hammer Films, this is just another great example of Shout Factory shedding light on some interesting horror movies from the past.

Suppose They Gave A War And Nobody Came? – Kino Lorber is bringing their own brand of classics with this comedy satire film with a sizeable cast including Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine and Don Ameche. The movie is about a small town who find themselves in some tense moments with the local army base which has the potential of blowing up into a little skirmish coming to a head with the dance organized by the citizens. The film was made by director Hy Averback, the man behind The Great Bank Robbery and countless episodes of television including M*A*S*H and The Rockford Files and was the final film of Don Ameche until he did Trading Places thirteen years later.

The Greasy Strangler – Mixing a bit of the oddness of a cult film, some horror elements and a serial killer story, this movie is destined to only please those who look for movies with a quirk. Written and directed by Jim Hosking, this movie doesn’t have a single recognizable star but the story is what grabs you, following Ronnie, a guy who runs a disco walking tour with his son. When a client’s striking beauty causes both men to fall for her, the two vie for her affections just as a killer starts making his mark in town. The movie’s production was spearheaded along by writer and director Ben Wheatley and actor Elijah Wood and did pretty well on the festival circuit. Check it out if you want something decidedly weird.

Vengeance: A Love Story – That’s right, I’m bringing you guys another Nicolas Cage movies because that’s what I do when they are available. This one has him playing a cop who helps form a group of protectors to help a single mother exact some justice of those who raped her. The movie, at one point, was actually supposed to be directed by Cage, his first since his only other one, Sonny in 2002. He stepped aside for Johnny Martin, the guy behind the dismally terrible Al Pacino thriller Hangman, one of the worst review movies of that year. I think I would have loved to see Cage direct this personally.

Keoma – I received another Italian spaghetti western and it features the legendary Franco Nero so you know this makes me happy. The film is loosely about a mixed race ex-Union gunfighter who returns to his plague-ridden home to protect it against the racist white side of his family led by a ruthless and bloodthirsty Confederate general. I say loosely because the film really had no script save for a small outline of the story and was mostly improvised on set. This led to some very bad opinions of the final product but getting a look at this almost fifty years later it’s a pretty cool template for a lone hero western movie.

Television:

Good Omens: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – After the success of American Gods, Amazon Prime is doubling down on the Neil Gaiman properties with this much-anticipated adaptation, co-written by Terry Pratchett, of an angel and demon buddy story with two of Britain’s best, Michael Sheen and David Tennant in those respective roles. They team up to save the world from an eleven-year-old anti-christ who may or may not doom existence and a doomsaying witch who may hold the prophecy to shift reality. It all sounds like a ripping good time to me.

When They See Us: Season 1 (Netflix) – Following up the documentary 13th, Ava Duvernay directs this limited Netflix series that chronicles the true story of a notorious case of five black teenagers who were convicted of a rape they did not commit. This was the group branded as The Central Park Five, the same ones that Donald Trump took out the full-page New York Post ad on, infamously calling for their execution. I don’t have to stress how important this series is and as far as Duvernay’s work goes, it will be a great palate cleanser after A Wrinkle In Time.

Swamp Thing: Season 1 (DC Universe) – This is a new DC Comics series that could go one way or the other. The reports from the entertainment sites paint a picture of creative differences that forced the series to be scaled back in the number of episodes produced, giving the notion that we may not see a second series even if the show is great. Personally, I’m excited for this one as I adore the comic, most notably the Alan Moore written saga which I’m hoping this borrows from. Beyond that, the design on Swamp Thing himself is absolutely awesome and I will be watching this whole series just to see the lengths they went through to make this in a practical way.

Always Be My Maybe (Netflix) – Toplined by two of the funniest comedians working today, Randall Park and Ali Wong star in this new Netflix original movie about two childhood friends that realize as adults that they are made for each other. The movie was directed by Fresh Off The Boat executive producer Nahnatchka Khan and has a script that really lets these two stretch their legs comedically. It also has Keanu Reeves in it and was filmed in Delta, British Columbia but you really had me at Keanu as usual.

Deadwood (HBO) – The long, long, long anticipated conclusion to the greatest western series ever made is here as we finally get some closure on the characters of Seth Bullock, Al Swearengen and all the other people in the infamous outlaw town. It’s bittersweet as I really wanted another series instead of a movie but creator David Milch was finally able to get his crowning achievement finished and out to the masses after years of building it up and his recent and tragic diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. This is going to be something truly special and I can not wait.

New Releases:

Aladdin – This movie gives me deep worries as it feels like it moves through a total minefield of things that could tank it in my opinion. Yes, Disney has been making so many of these live-action updates but something about this one feels so sacred, firstly the fact that we all have such reverence for Robin Williams’ performance as the Genie. That aside, I want to believe in this movie because it is directed by Guy Ritchie but his last film King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword was such a horrible mess. I’m so conflicted about this.

Booksmart – We may have one of the best comedies of the year right here as all advanced word I’ve heard about this movie is overwhelmingly positive. Olivia Wilde makes her directorial debut with this story of two academic overachievers who decide to let loose in a big way on the eve of their graduation. Starring Kaitlyn Dever from Justified and the hilarious Beanie Feldstein from Lady Bird and Neighbors 2, this movie looks like the smart girl version of Superbad, which is fitting as Feldstein is the little sister of Jonah Hill. I’m all in for this movie.

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

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

I’m Going To Break Your Heart – This brand new documentary absolutely floored me, especially with my absolute love of Canadian music. The film follows Our Lady Peace’s Raine Maida and his wife Chantal Kreviazuk as they fly to a snowy coastal France village to write their collaborative album together, something they’ve been trying to do for half a decade. Tensions are already a bit high as the two are in a bit of a volatile place in their marriage and the added strain of both of their creative methods cause them to butt heads even more. This movie is gorgeous in look, subject matter and the music that comes from it, playing like a very real version of the Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova movie Once. If you have ever been a fan of either of these Canadian stars then this is a must-see movie.

Blu-ray:

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – The epic trilogy of Hiccup and toothless comes to an end with this film. After discovering each other in the first film and bonding the relationship of dragons and Vikings in the first movie, leading Hiccup to the role of leadership in the second one, this movie brings it all home with Toothless finding that he is not the last of his kind and there is a subterranean world of dragons for him to join. These movies are done beautifully and in feature length, have not depreciated in how entertaining, endearing and full of love they are. I adored this final piece of the story that gave a one-two punch of beautiful visuals and emotional beats that you can never prepare yourself for. Also, the ending of the movie gives such a resonant closure to it that you really feel how special the whole trilogy was.

The Upside – Based on the very popular French film from 2011, this film has Bryan Cranston playing a quadriplegic billionaire who hires Kevin Hart’s character, an unemployed former criminal to be his caregiver. I am definitely on record more than once saying that Kevin Hart’s comedy feels stale but this is the kind of partially dramatic turn that piques my interest as I don’t think he’s ever done this kind of film. I’m also drawn in by the film being helmed by Neil Burger who’s put out great movies like The Illusionist. That being said, unfortunately, the movie bombed badly with reviews dogging it, saying the film is unnecessary with date jokes and cliched moments, none of which appear in the original movie. Cranston isn’t enough to save this one it seems.

Isn’t It Romantic – Rebel Wilson is now in the lead role after playing supporting roles in the Pitch Perfect franchise and the middling hit How To Be Single. This film takes a little of that It’s A Wonderful Life approach but genre specific as Wilson plays a woman disillusioned with the dating life and wakes up in a corny rom-com. Co-starring Liam Hemsworth and Priyanka Chopra, this movie doesn’t have a lot of potential in my opinion, either being mildly chuckle-worthy or absolutely awful and cringe infused. This could be this year’s I Feel Pretty and yes, I’m setting the bar low but there are a few people on my friends list including a noted film critic really liked it. I don’t know, maybe it’s enjoyable. My low bar may be a good thing!

Big Brother – If you’ve been reading my blogs since I’ve started writing them it should be no surprise that I’m a definite fan of martial arts superstar Donnie Yen. The guy is just flawless and even if the movie isn’t great his performance is usually jaw-dropping and worth the time you put into it. Well, for his new film he is shifting the genre a little bit and adding some comedy in a story about a soldier-turned-high school teacher who uses unusual methods to reach to a class of poor students. Adding to that he also finds himself dealing with a greedy entrepreneur and his gang of fighters as well as the government because nothing can be simple, even a run of the mill action movie. Even better news on this movie is that it is really entertaining.

Drunk Parents – After watching the trailer for this new comedy starring Alec Baldwin and Salma Hayek I really find myself baffled by the title. They play two parents who send their daughter off to college just as they enter a severe financial crisis. Their solution is to follow through on a handful of hair brained schemes including renting out their neighbor’s house to a registered sex offender played by Jim Gaffigan. The cast, which includes Joe Manganiello, is impressive enough to garner some interest but the fact that this comes from the producers of the Grown Ups movies loses any positivity I have towards it.

A Dark Place – From Shout Factory’s theatrical pickups, this mystery seems to have everything going for it. Deep, broody and starring Sherlock’s Andrew Scott, the movie follows a local dump truck driver who decides to jump in and play detective when a young boy in his small town goes missing which puts him in the crosshairs of the citizens in the sleepy village, the law enforcement and other people with dark intentions. The movie hit a middle ground in reviews with the majority of critics really enjoying the performance from Scott but plot holes and the straightforward nature of the story bogging it down.

The Seduction – It’s time to get steamy with the Shout Factory special edition of this Morgan Fairchild erotic thriller from the writer and director of the man who would later bring us Puppetmaster and Crawlspace, two classics on the horror fringe. The movie has Fairchild as a popular television news anchor who is being hunted be a menacing stalker and came out during a seemingly endless batch of these type of films including Body Double and Visiting Hours. Honestly, this may have been a lesser one as Fairchild isn’t a great actress.

Earthquake – Before disaster movies became a norm that we would see pretty much yearly since Pierce Brosnan was running from volcanoes and the world was being blown up on Independence Day we had this movie, a star-studded television event that captivated North America in 1974. Led by Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner and George Kennedy and written by The Godfather’s Mario Puzo, this movie also inspired the famous Universal Studios experience ride. The Shout Factory collector’s edition is two discs and features the original television version as well as an alternate cut.

Steve’s Blu-ray Geek Outs:

Born In East L.A. – Being a huge Cheech Marin fan, even at a young age, this movie was an absolute treasure to me and not just for Narin but the hilarious Paul Rodriguez as well. The feature debut of the Cheech and Chong star as a director, this movie is the hysterically funny story of an American born Latino man who is mistakenly deported to Mexico which is probably much less humorous in today’s immigration climate. Even so, this movie will always be a nostalgic classic to me and this Shout Select edition is a treasure.

Ned Kelly – A forgotten Australian remake of a Mick Jagger film that may be equally as forgotten, this movie is an underrated gem of an outlaw story starring Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom and Naomi Watts. Ledger plays the titular character, the head of the Kelly family and an innocent man who was once a war hero, pushed too far by the Victorian government and into a violent lifestyle of crime. Made by director Gregor Jordan, I really enjoyed the movie when it was released but no one seemed to really be digging it. I’m not sure how you couldn’t with the cast it alone.

Terra Formars – I must admit that I knew absolutely nothing about this movie until I received my screener from Arrow Video then I started my research on it. It’s a massive Japanese sci-fi action film about the human race attempting to colonized Mars five hundred years into the future and discovering that it has already been inhabited by a bloodthirsty menace that grew from cockroaches, gaining strength at a rapid speed. As odd as that sounds, the best part of this movie is it was made by mad man director Takeshi Miike who is responsible for such game changers as Audition and Ichi The Killer among many others. This one looks just great, I recommend the trailer.

Lovers And Other Strangers – Kino Classics hooked me up with this ensemble comedy from 1970 that has Bea Arthur, the film debut of Diane Keaton, Cloris Leachman, Ben Stiller’s parents Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara and Holly Genero herself (from Die Hard if you don’t get the reference) and won an Academy Award for best song. The story takes place at a wedding with a happy couple but miserable guests. The groom’s brother is in the midst of a divorce which upsets the deeply Catholic mother whose husband is having an affair with the bride’s older sister. It’s one of those zany convoluted comedy romps but it was really well received when it came out and in my opinion, holds up as one of the better mostly single location films.

The Minion – Being a fan of eighties action movies Dolph Lundgren was always an actor I was willing to give some of my viewing time to but this one definitely didn’t cross my path. This movie tries to be so big and ambitious, about the unearthing of an ancient Celtic skeleton accidentally by New York subway construction that unleashes The Minion on earth. Lundgren plays a warrior monk of the Knight’s Temple who is the only hope of destroying this parasitic beast as it moves from host to host. Want to know why you’ve never heard of it? It was only released theatrically in South Korea, South Africa, Indonesia and Syria. Probably for the best because it isn’t good by any means but it’s definitely fun for mid-nineties action schlock.

Netflix:

What/If: Season 1 – A brand new limited series from the creator of Revenge, this show has a solid cast to lead it including Renee Zellweger, Jane Levy, Dave Annable and Blake Jenner and looks like the perfect convoluted story to get people hooked. It works as an anthology series with each episode tackling a different morality tale but all revolving around the same characters, focusing o the ripple effect that important decisions by these characters have on the world around them. What interests me is that this is the first major television role for Zellweger so something must have really drawn her to the ruthless role she plays.

After Maria – A brand new short documentary getting a massive push on Netflix, this is thirty-five minutes that everyone in the Trump administration should watch. The events take place after the devastation of Hurricane Maria, focusing on a few different families who had their lives destroyed by the storm and then were failed by FEMA and the American government as they cut off aid before anything was rebuilt. This documentary will make you cry both tears of pain for these people as well as rage. Absolutely be aware of this trigger warning.

Alta Mar: Season 1 – A brand new international acquiring from Spain for Netflix, this show has enough going for it to pull in a pretty decent audience I think. The show follows the launching of an ocean liner in the 1940s, with high profile guests travelling from Spain to Brazil. After a series of murders occur just days into the trip two sisters start to discover a disturbing family connection to the events that are unfolding before them. For fans of Agatha Christie and most notably Hercule Poirot this may be something off the beaten path that will intrigue them entirely.

Joy – A brutal new film that was picked up by Netflix, this is the straightforward drama from Nigeria about a woman forced into sex work in order to survive. With an unflinching eye, we see her show the ropes of the trade to a new young recruit, one who is completely unable to come to grips with the nature of what she does as well as her possible fate. This is a powerful film that is out to expose its truth through its main character, painting a horrible world that passes everyone by without notice. This movie could be the best new release on here all week.

Rim Of The World – What’s this? Another end of the world sci-fi action movie? Well, I’m game. For this movie, we combine a little of the Stranger Things element to the mould as the story follows a group of kids whose world is thrown upside down when a massive alien invasion hits the earth and they are humanity’s only hope of surviving due to the satellite key they are entrusted with along the way. The script seems fun, the effects are big and flashy and it comes from the guy behind the gonzo film The Babysitter which you can also see on Netflix. Heck, make it a double bill!

New Releases:

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum – Definitely one of my most anticipated films to be released this year, both movies leading up to this one have been like a gift from the action film gods, bestowing on us the perfect anti-hero story all birthed from the death of his dog. Now in this culminating (I think) piece, the whole world is after John Wick due to his decisions in the second movie and he has to bring in an old friend, Halle Berry’s character, to make it out alive. This movie is going to burn all action movies to the ground and show them how it’s really done. I can not wait.

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

A Dog’s Journey – I’m a bit baffled to why we are getting this sequel as I really don’t think the first movie A Dog’s Purpose or the unconnected canine film A Dog’s Way Home really drummed up enough theatrical interest begging the question why does Sony continue to pump these out? The story of this film is the continuing story of a dog learning about existence and the strength of love through continuous reincarnation, which sounds sweet but only if it wasn’t presented in such a contrived and totally cheesy way. Yes, this will definitely land with the kids but the first one was such a plodding and grating mess of a movie that my bar is set low on this one.

The Biggest Little Farm – This documentary is the start of a really great trend this week, the “feel good” doc because this one is full of good intentions and celebrated outcomes. The film follows the journey of John and Molly Chester, a Los Angeles couple who dream of owning their own sustainable farm, something that seemed like a pipe dream to them. Through a string of circumstances, they decide to put their ideas out into the world and find many financial backers to help get them the land they need, two hundred acres north of the City Of Angels. Now on the farm, a dilapidated space that needs a complete overhaul, the two find themselves in control of the next step. This movie was massively inspirational in a push to follow what drives you and has surprising depths of emotion that seem to bubble up here and there. I found myself enthralled with the Chesters’ story very quickly and was gripped to the end. (Opening in Toronto and Vancouver. Expanding on May 24th across Canada.)

Meeting Gorbachev – Almost the perfect director to take on a one on one look at a former world leader as well as interview him, I’m so happy that this documentary comes from Werner Herzog. Leaving no stone unturned, he takes a deep dive into the life of Mikael Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union and possibly the last decent leader of a country that has been under the fist of Putin for so long that it’s all we know. Deep within this story, we get a fascinating look at just how crazy Russian politics have been since the late seventies as Gorbachev rose through the ranks and also a glimpse of what the general perceptions they had of the western world. I really love the way Herzog tackles his subjects through narration, almost like an alien reasoning with the facts and relating it to you with a thick German accent. (Opening in Toronto and Vancouver. Expanding to Calgary on May 31st.)

JT LeRoy – Before even really paying attention to what the premise was for this film, I was captivated by the two lead stars Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern, although the name JT LeRoy seemed so familiar. It turns out that this soul-wrenching and inspirational writer who turned out to be a total fraud was behind a movie that astounded me years ago, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, the debut of Asia Argento as a filmmaker. Well, this movie is about exactly that, the creation of a false persona to be used in public by the writer behind LeRoy, Laura Albert, and the woman that was used to be “his” body, Savannah Knoop, who wrote the book this movie was based on. And yes, they cover the Argento movie with Diane Kruger playing that character in a possibly detrimental way to the real-life person. I found this film absolutely fascinating and it is a damn fine chemistry of performances from Dern and Stewart. (Opening in Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.)

Ask Dr. Ruth – A beautifully told documentary on the life of a woman that went through incredible hardships to make her journey to the United States to start her life’s work, the story of Doctor Ruth Westheimer is massively inspirational. Dr. Ruth’s work as an educator of the highest level in sexuality and sex has saved millions of lives in bringing knowledge and understanding to an aspect of life that seems so daunting, so confusing and with so much room for misinterpretation. Director Ryan White crafts his documentary by tackling all we know about the iconic doctor with archival footage, her life now at age ninety with a follow along film crew and gorgeous animation to literally illustrate her upbringing and journey to America. This is an astoundingly special documentary of a woman who means so much to modern society. (Opening in Toronto and Vancouver.)

Blu-ray:

Cold Pursuit – About five years ago Stellan Skarsgard starred in a Norwegian film called In Order Of Disappearance, a revenge flick about a respected local plowman and a grieving father who exacts violent retribution on the crinal organization that was responsible for his son’s death. Liam Neeson got a look at it and seemingly ended his action retirement to remake the film with the original director and I really wish they just left it alone. Were the original came off as darkly funny this movie negates that for a more cartoonish approach, right down to Neeson’s performance. Skarsgard had a real broodiness to his performance and Liam decided to bring his Taken attitude into this film. Just watch the Norweigan film, trust me.

Happy Death Day 2U – The fact this sequel exists kind of infuriates me as I absolutely hated the first movie. In sort of a Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls story, the movie was about Tree, a girl that relives her birthday over and over, the day always ends with her murder at the hands of a figure in a baby mask. The new film returns to that trope but looks to be bigger and badder, roping her friends into the equation and even adding a little sci-fi twinge to it. A Lot of my friends loved this first film and are raving about how much an improvement this film was so maybe I’m missing something and should get a little bit more on board with it. I’ve been known to make some movie mistakes before.

Fighting With My Family – Being an absolutely massive wrestling fan it feels like I had been waiting for this film since last Wrestlemania in April because, well, I have since that’s when we got our first trailer. This is the story of Paige, the youngest women’s champion ever in WWE and the daughter of Nick and Saraya Knight a kickass wrestling family out of the UK. When Paige and her brother Zak are offered tryouts for the top company in the world, WWE, they are put to the test in a make or break competition against the others selected. The best thing about this movie is it’s broad appeal as you don’t even have to be a wrestling fan for this story as it’s comedy lands well, the characters are really well fleshed out and the message is totally inspiring. This is also evidence that stars Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden have incredibly bright futures ahead of them.

Apollo 11 – It feels like a long time coming for a story like this to be told on the biggest possible movie screen, the IMAX, so now receiving it on Blu-ray feels way too minimalist to bring this, save for the sound which will still be amazing. A story fifty years in the making, we get the full-scale story of the Apollo 11 mission with archive accounts from Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin plus it features a plethora of never before seen footage. For an immersive space history experience, this film definitely the ticket but I feel like a home video experience would require the biggest screen possible and, even so, you will still struggle to see any of the time clock moments that appear in text on the screen. This is the issue with IMAX to home release.

Triple Threat – As a martial arts movie fan I am one hundred percent behind this movie sight unseen just based on the cast because you have Ong Bak’s Tony Jaa, The Matrix stuntman and choreographer Tiger Chen and The Raid’s Iwo Kwais, so really, how can you go wrong? The story is about a contract taken out on a billionaire’s daughter who is intent on bringing down a major crime syndicate which brings a team of mercenaries into the fold to take on a group of professional assassins and stop them before they kill their target. The plot for the movie may seem contrived but the endless fight scenes are going to make up for that as well as it’s hard R rating.

Never Grow Old – The top line of this action thriller is what really sold this movie to me straight off because it is a western that stars Emile Hirsh and John Cusack, two really great character actors. The story has Hirsh as an Irish undertaker in a small town who has been profiting for years off the rising death tolls due to a bloodthirsty gang of outlaws led by Cusack’s character. As the dead continue to pile up, the undertaker and his family eventually find themselves between the crosshairs, starting a fight between the two sides that may kill everyone. The great news is that the film has some stellar reviews, many praising Cusack’s chilling performance, and no matter how predictable the film gets, it is a well-told story of violence and redemption.

Backdraft 2 – I can’t believe there is a sequel to what I think is the greatest firefighter movie of all time, and yes, I know that the genre is a pretty small niche. No Kurt Russell starring in this or Ron Howard behind the camera but we do get a returning Billy.. sorry, William Baldwin and Donald Sutherland reprising their roles and instead we have Across The Universe’s Joe Anderson in the lead role. This time the Chicago Fire Department has to contend with a ruthless arms dealer who is using arson to cover his tracks and wreak havoc on the city. Definitely don’t expect this movie to be anywhere near its predecessor in quality but the fun thing about the movie is it is far more violence with a nasty penchant for gore. Sounds watchable to me.

Princess Mononoke – Shout Factory and Studio Ghibli teamed up for this absolutely gorgeous and expansive collector’s edition of what I think is that biggest film in Hayao Miyazaki’s catalogue, released over twenty years ago. The film, set in the late Muromachi period, follows a young prince who is seeking the cure for a deadly curse who finds himself in the middle of a giant war between forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. The conflict also introduces him to San, a young woman who was raised by the wolves, instilled with a hatred for humans but with a week spot for this newly discovered prince. The English dub of the film includes voice work from Billy Crudup, Claire Danes and Gillian Anderson and I have to say that the Ghibli movies are pretty much the only time I will accept the dubbed version over the subtitled. This is an iconic classic and I’m super happy to have it.

Steve’s Blu-ray Geek Out:

The Return Of The Vampire – Some more classic horror in a brand new collector’s edition from Shout Factory, this vampire story features possibly the most iconic horror actor of the time, Bela Lugosi, playing two roles in which he was paid $3,500 for in 1943 for four weeks of work. The story is about the unearthing of a vampire’s coffin during the London Blitz who comes to life when the gravedigger unknowingly removes the stake from its heart unleashing an ancient evil on the city. The movie was a massive hit, grossing half a million dollars and only being made for $75,000. Keep in mind that this was the mid-forties as well. That’s huge.

Blood Hunger: The Films Of Jose Larraz – Let’s get down to the brass tacks of this box set because it is essentially nudie flicks with gore and mystery thrown in and, you know what, there is a whole genre based on this, something Troma Entertainment snapped up. This one is from those wonderful people at Arrow Video and explores a filmmaker we never would have heard about in the mainstream. The collection contains three of his movies, his debut Whirlpool about a porno photographer who terrorizes a girl with the help of his aunt, Vampyres about a lesbian vampire couple abducting tourists on an English countryside and The Coming of Sin, a psychedelic love triangle thriller.

Far From Heaven – This movie came out in the time before I was really paying attention to Todd Haynes but now that I’m clued in on his genius I am very happy to receive this film that earned four Oscar nominations, including best actress for Julianne Moore, best cinematography for Edward Lachmann, best score for Elmer Bernstein and Haynes for best original screenplay. The story is set in the 1950s, about a housewife who is in deep marital crisis with her husband’s sexuality in question and enters a relationship with her black groundskeeper in a time of huge racial tensions. This is a movie that deserves a great collector’s edition and Kino Lorber is really bringing it.

Losin’ It – A long and forgotten Tom Cruise movie before the fixing of his original teeth, this movie is basically about a group of teenagers heading to Tijuana in 1965 with one thing on their mind, losing their virginity. Yes, it’s one of those types of movies but assembled around Cruise are a young Jackie Earle Haley and Shelley Long, which has me so interested in it. This is also an early movie from 8 Mile and Wonder Boys filmmaker Curtis Hanson.

Netflix:

It’s Bruno: Season 1 – A web series that has been making some waves, the first series of this adorable show hits a higher platform with a Netflix pick up. The series follows the daily adventures of Hugo and his little canine companion Bruno as they strut around their neighbourhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn. Always getting attention both good and bad, Hugo catches the eye of a new romantic interest who is drawn to him by his adorable dog, creating a distinctive Brooklyn relationship. I really love that Netflix is giving extended life to smaller stories like this and even though it isn’t getting the same sort of ad push, it will still find an audience.

Maria – A brand new Spanish action thriller, the film is about a former Black Rose cartel assassin who has fallen off the grid by faking her own death, changed her name and started a family far away from her past life. When the cartel learns of her betrayal they send every gun for hire they can leading Maria to defend herself and her family against a raging fire that will destroy everything in its path. I really want this movie to be good because the red band trailer is so entertaining but I’m still reeling from how bad Miss Bala was recently.

Nailed It!: Season 3 – Nicole Byers and Jacques Torres are back to judge again with this cooking show that celebrates terrible cooking by rewarding those who just can’t pull off making something beautiful out of fondant. This makes me incredibly happy as I would probably fail harder than the contestants put on this show and I can quietly observe and judge from the safety of my couch. This season includes everything from half-baked doll cakes to delightfully creepy edible clowns so that sounds like a lot of fun to me.

See You Yesterday – This movie looks totally up my alley and I’m really surprised I’ve never heard of it as it comes from producer Spike Lee and the subject matter seems like a great mash of current societal problems and time travel sci-fi. Confused yet? Well, to break it down, the movie follows a trio of smart teens who make a possible breakthrough in time travel technology but decide to put it to the test when one of their older brothers is killed by the police. It’s like a mix of Clockstoppers and Clockers and I really hope I’m the only one to draw that parallel.

The Rain: Season 2 – I know a lot of people have been looking forward to this second season of the Scandinavian made survival thriller ad it looks like the virus horror angle gets deeper in this teen led saga. The show is a post-apocalyptic story that follows the world after a brutal virus decimates the world’s population and focuses on two siblings try to navigate their new reality. The cliffhanger of season one has massive implications in the future of this show so I won’t get into the plotline of the new season as it is heavily in spoiler territory.

New Releases:

Pokemon Detective Pikachu – To be completely honest, Pokemon was really more popular with the generation after me but I still have enough of a knowledge of the massive video and card game franchise to totally nerd out when I saw the trailer for this and especially the Mewtwo reveal in the final preview. Now I feel like I lost a lot of you so I’ll bring you all back with Ryan Reynolds providing the voice for the titular detective as the main human of the film, played by Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s Justice Smith, who is the only person who can actually understand him. Advance reviews on it are solid, some calling it the best video game movie made.

The Hustle – Just looking at the title of this new comedy film you wouldn’t know that it’s a remake with a gender twist but once you get about thirty seconds in you realize “Hey, this is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels!” How did a reimagining of one of my favorite comedies of all time float by me? I don’t know but, as much as I’m not the biggest fan of Anne Hathaway, I’m kind of still her for her pairing with Rebel Wilson in a story of one high-level con artist mentoring a fledgling one and hoping these two can equal the calibre of work Michael Caine and Steve Martin put into it.

Poms – When I initially saw the premise for this new comedy my eyes rolled so hard that I was in danger of losing them from my skull, never to return to my ocular cavities again. Diane Keaton, Jackie Weaver, Pam Grier and more star in this hoping to be an inspirational film about a bunch of retirees who decide to form a cheerleading troupe in their retirement community. There might be a slight chance that this movie has a bit of charm to it, directed at a certain age demographic, but I have yet to find a Diane Keaton film in the last decade that was really worth the time and I highly doubt that this is the film to break that mould. It just looks awful. (Not opening in Hamilton.)

Tolkein – Almost two decades after the Lord Of The Rings became a massive theatrical franchise from Peter Jackson, we get the biopic of the man who’s mind that Middle Earth came from, J.R.R. Tolkien, played in the film by Nicholas Hoult. Not looking into the years where he was exploring the battle for the one ring, this movie focuses on his formative and college years, looking into him finding love and his friendship with an outcast group of art students who would eventually inspire him. The film may be a bit of a dry slog for those uninvested in the story of this popular writer but fans of his will surely eat it up. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops or Oshawa.)

The White Crow – I had no idea of this film’s existence when it was thrown on my doorstep but when I saw Ralph Fiennes name attached to it as director, as well as a small supporting role, I was interested. This marks his third time behind the camera, this film like his last is a biopic, the story focusing on an idealist dancer from the Soviet Union who longs to be an international star. To do this he must turn his back on Kruschev and his country and defect to follow his bright dreams. It all sounds good in theory but the story feels slow and plodding at an over two hour run time and unfortunately, the lead character Rudolf Nureyev is not likeable even in the slightest. Abrasive, arrogant and divisive, this may lend to how well first time actor Oleg Ivenko plays him but the movie just wasn’t for me. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver.)

Blu-ray:

What Men Want – This is a movie that should have never been made. When the Mel Gibson film What Women Want was released late night talk show hosts and comedians made the joke that they should make this movie and it would be five minutes long. Now almost twenty years later we get the real punchline as the studio has pushed through this abomination starring Taraji P. Henson that has a trailer that is one of the most repulsive things I’ve set eyes on this year. I have zero hopes for this movie and it shouldn’t exist at all. I’m adamant on that.

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part – How do you recapture the lightning in a bottle that was the first Lego Movie? I’ve been a fan of the Batman and Ninjago movies that followed but none have been quite as good. The good news is this movie is still really good and while it definitely is not to the calibre of the movie that got this huge ball rolling it will satisfy your craving for all that Lego goodness and the voice cast is too good to pass up with Tiffany Haddish and Stephanie Beatriz joining Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Will Arnett. The morals are all there as are the laughs and instead of Lonely Island providing the music, this time we get the hilarious work of Canadian Jon Lajoie providing the soundtrack.

The Prodigy – Are we about done with creepy kid movies especially after it has been done so much better in the past? Hereditary, I’m definitely looking at you. This movie has Orange Is The New Black’s Taylor Schilling as a mother who is increasingly frightened and disturbed by her son’s increasingly erratic behaviour, suspecting that it is a supernatural possession. This seems to be the wheelhouse of director Nicholas McCarthy but what’s interesting is the film was written by Midnight Meat Train scribe Jeff Buhler who did the Pet Sematary remake last month My hopes for this one are low though.

Arctic – An absolutely harrowing survival drama, this entire film rests on star Mads Mikkelsen’s shoulders as he is pretty much the only actor in it. He plays a man that crashed his airplane in the middle of the frozen arctic. Stranded for weeks, he musters up the courage to try and make his way across the brutal landscape for rescue. The tension of this movie as he moves from one life-threatening situation to the next keeps you wound up from the start with great direction and beautiful cinematography. This is one of those atmospheric adventure films that will play great on a high definition screen with surround sound.

Blaze – Ethan Hawke steps behind the camera for his second feature, a music biopic about a folk-country singer named Blaze Foley, a talent snuffed out before he could make his legacy mark. Hawke presents this story in three ways that co-mingle; the story of his burgeoning love story with the love of his life, his drunken and volatile meandering after the dissolution of that relationship and his bandmates telling the story of their fallen friend, years after his popularity had faded from recent memory. The music feels real and authentic with musician Ben Dickey taking on the role of Foley but his inexperience is really felt in the more dramatic scenes. This is probably the weakest part of the film.

Everybody Knows – Real life couple Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz star in this brand new film from acclaimed director Asghar Farhadi, his much anticipated follow up to the Oscar-winning film The Salesman. The film follows Cruz as the mother of two from Buenos Aires who heads back to her small hometown outside of Madrid for the wedding of her sister. Through a series of unfortunate events, all of her past secrets and motivations for leaving are thrust into the public light. For those who don’t know, Farhadi is a director of serious momentum, making masterpiece after masterpiece, and it seems like this is his first stumble as the word is that no matter how good acting and directing holds in this film, it just doesn’t add up to a satisfying experience.

Steve’s Blu-ray Geekout:

Starman – Another one of the older releases that I begged out of my rep at Shout Factory, this is another golden entry into director John Carpenter’s career but a decidedly different one as it is the only drama he’s ever made. Starring Jeff Bridges in an absolutely iconic role opposite Karen Allen, the film is about an alien visitor who takes the form of a young woman’s deceased husband, asking her to drive him across the county, evading a shadowy government agency the entire time. This is a really special movie as it was a rare instance in which a sci-fi film got an Academy Award nomination for best actor, a role that Bridges studied the movement of birds for to get Starman’s quirks correct.

The Possessed – Arrow keeps the forgotten hits coming with this mystery from 1965 about a stranger who arrives in a small Italian village looking for a woman from his past. He is told be the people of the town that the woman he seeks had years ago committed suicide but late one night he sees someone who looks strikingly like her strolling around the nearby lake. The movie was made by two directors, Luigi Bazzoni who made a previous pick of mine, The Fifth Cord, and Franco Rossellini who would go on to be a producer on films like Gore Vidal’s Caligula, this is a story that feels pretty ripe for remaking.

Dark River – Part of a small package of movies I received from FilmRise, the biggest selling feature to me was that this mystery thriller is led by Luther and The Affair star Ruth Wilson, one of my favorite British actresses. She plays a woman who comes home after a fifteen-year absence to attend the funeral of her father. Her ulterior motive in this reunion with her hometown is to also lay claim to her family farm, which sparks a battle with her estranged brother Joe. Aside from Wilson, the cast will really draw you into this, featuring the great Sean Bean, Game Of Thrones actor Joe Dempsie and Esme Creed-Miles who is currently kicking so much ass as the titular character in the Amazon Prime series Hanna. It’s also a good thing that the movie, however bleak and depressing, is actually really good.

Life In The Doghouse – Part of my double shot this week from FilmRise, this is a definite documentary for the whole family, delivering the cute along with the great morals and inspiration. This is the story of Ron Danta and Danny Robertshaw, two guys who made their passion project of a dog rescue program into a massive success that led them to rescue and adopt over ten thousand dogs. The film also delves into the work they did in New Orleans and the surrounding Louisiana area after the devastation of Hurrican Katrina, which they were awarded the 2008 ASPCA Humanitarian Award. This is your feel-good movie this week.

Netflix:

Easy: Season 3 – I don’t know how this show passed me by for the last two seasons but I’m just catching onto it now as it releases its final season. From creator Joe Swanberg, the guy who did the great indie comedies Drinking Buddies, Happy Christmas and Digging For Fire, comes this series about a bunch of friends in Chicago hilariously navigating the sometimes awful landscape of love, sex, technology and culture. The cast for this is massive featuring Jane Adams, Zazie Beetz, Michael Chernus, Kiersey Clemons, Dave Franco, Marc Maron and Jake Johnson, I’m still kicking myself for being late to this party.

iZombie: Season 5 – Shot in Vancouver, this comic book adaptation has been a success for the CW network for a good while and since partnering up with Netflix and streaming the new episodes as they air has picked them up an even bigger audience. The show is kind of a police procedural about a med student who’s newfound zombie status is an ability that gives her the opportunity to aid in police investigations. Lead actress Rose McIver has really turned some heads with this show and I really liked her co-star Malcolm Goodwin on Breakout Kings.

Jailbirds: Season 1 – With the successes of prison television series like Oz, Orange Is The New Black and Wentworth it was really just a matter of time before the reality behind these stories made the leap to television by cutting out the middle man for a total reality series and honestly Netflix is really the only one that could do it well and without tether. The show was shot in Sacramento County Jail and features both the men and women’s side of the penitentiary with more of a focus on the ladies. I recommend taking a look at the trailer as it is very interesting.

ReMastered: The Lion’s Share – Episode eight of this fascinating docuseries debuts today and this time takes a look at the circumstances around the iconic and classic song “The Lions Sleep Tonight” written by a black South African named Solomon Linda, whose family currently lives in poverty in the slums of Sweto. After his death and with the help of a South African journalist, the family pursues the rights to the song, taking on one of the biggest heavyweights Disney to just get back a semblance of their legacy.

Shéhérazade – A new French film, which is a weakness of mine, this drama is a character piece about a seventeen-year-old freshly out jail and forced to hit the streets of Marseille after being rejected by his mother. The few reviews I can find on this movie rave about the realism of this film as well as its style and emotional depth. This might be an international cinema dark horse right here.