Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New On VOD:

Vivarium – This movie is totally something geared to my twisted likes as it feels like one of those nightmare Twilight Zone episodes and I ate up every second of it. Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg star as Gemma and Tom, a sweetheart couple looking to purchase their first home together. Stepping into a condo sales store, they have a very unsettling meeting with a salesman who implores them to get in their car to follow him to the neighborhood itself. Guided into a disturbingly uniform community that looks like it was designed on a computer, the salesman disappears, abandoning them in a maze of condos they can’t leave and that’s just the setup. Poots’ performance in this film is astounding as she starts to crumble with the reality around her and the direction from Lorcan Finnegan is fantastically striking all the way up until the end. This may be a total niche movie but I thoroughly loved it.

Blu-Ray:

1917 – A Golden Globe winner for Best Picture and Best Director, we finally get the chance to check out this World War I epic from director Sam Mendes in the comfort of our own homes, shot by one of the greatest cinematographers ever to get behind the camera, Roger Deakins. The story follows two young British soldiers who are given an impossible mission to deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men, including one of the soldiers’ brothers, from walking straight into a bloodbath. The film is comprised of two single-take shots, put together with invisible and seamless cuts much like Birdman was, and, although it is early in the year, this is one of my favorite films of 2020 and one of the greatest war films of all time. This was totally warranted for it’s Best Picture Oscar nomination, although I’m convinced that the right film won.

The Song Of Names – With two names like Tim Roth and Clive Owen leading the film, this melodrama should be an absolute home run and pairing with The Red Violin filmmaker Francois Gerard and Game Of Thrones cinematographer David Franco just makes that pot sweeter. The film is about an Englishman who finds himself obsessed with finding the whereabouts of a violin virtuoso that was adopted into his family at a young age. Based on a novel by Norman Lebrecht, the story starts out very interesting, following the two boys in World War II London during the blitzkriegs of Nazi Germany but the interest seems to falter as the film continues to a lackluster ending. As much as I love both of these actors, the performances were so understated that it left nothing for me to actually care about.

The Grudge – We are now in the cycle of horror where we try out the Japanese waif ghosts again and if you remember, this didn’t work out too well when Paramount tried to reboot The Ring with Rings, a limp and frightening nudge to a story audiences had largely forgotten about. This movie does have so bright points to it as director Nicolas Pesce is behind this as well as the screenwriter and with original films like The Eyes Of My Mother and Piercing on his belt, this would be the first movie of his to fail the genre if it’s bad. I love the cast in this, which includes John Cho, Lin Shaye, Demien Bichir and Andrea Riseborough but being the only movie dumped on the first release date of 2020 feels suspect.

Clemency – Coming out in theaters just a week after the death row drama Just Mercy, this film featured two blistering lead performances that will leave you breathless by the end credits. The story has Alfre Woodard as the warden of a prison that carries out death sentences for inmates, each one taking a little piece of her soul as she dutifully does her jobs. Still reeling from the last one, a procedure that went wrong causing the inmate to spasm brutally until his death, the lead up to her next execution causes her emotions to rise and her life to slowly deteriorate. On the other side of that is that inmate in question, played with incredible nuance by Aldis Hodge, a man who hasn’t let the imminence of his death hit him yet, still deep in a well of hope that his life will be spared. While it lacks some of the pomp that Just Mercy has, the movie’s stillness is its strength. This movie is worth checking out just for the powerhouse performances alone.

The Wizard – One of the absolute childhood staples, this is a movie that is very special to me and, judging by the massive volume of likes and comments that my post got when I received it, a lot more people feel the same way. Fred Savage stars as the older brother of an autistic savant with the knack for video games who run away from home and hitchhike across America with the help of a girl they meet to compete in the ultimate video game championship. Co-starring Beau Bridges and Christian Slater as their father and older brother hot on their heels, this movie is iconic and not just because it was the first place we ever saw Super Mario 3 and the Power Glove. This movie holds up to multiple viewings and is perfect to watch with the family.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

The Climbers – Some more exhilarating adventure and action from Well Go USA is on my geek outs this week with this brand new film that features House Of Flying Daggers star Ziyi Zhang. The film follows four members of an expedition to the summit of Mount Everest as a part of the China Everest Climbing Commando unit. As the climb becomes more and more difficult, the four must contend with deadly force winds, plummeting temperatures and the depletion of physical energy as they struggle to survive. The film comes from filmmaker Daniel Li, directing this film under his Chinese name Rengang Li, who has great movies like Black Mask and Three Kingdoms, which are both highly recommended martial arts movies.

Television:

Ozark: Season 3 (Netflix) – This is definitely a hugely anticipated new season, especially now during the lockdown, and it returns with one of the most explosive and fast-paced episodes yet. In case you haven’t dug into the show yet, Jason Bateman plays Marty Byrde, a financial advisor in Chicago who is unknowingly been fudging numbers for the cartel, something his business partner hasn’t clued him in on until the finality of being murdered in from of him by the leader of this deadly group. A quick thinker under pressure Marty is able to convince him to spare his life by moving to the remote Ozarks to clean millions for his new boss, presenting an all-new set of problems for him, his wife who is played by the great Laura Linney and his two kids. The show is so phenomenally well done and Bateman himself directs a handful of episodes. Highly recommended if you have immersed yourself in it yet.

Unorthodox (Netflix) – Between last week’s release of Feel Good and this it seems like I keep picking up on Netflix’s lesbian programming as this is another story of a young gay woman but if a far different context and genre. Shira Haas plays Esther Shapiro, a young ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman who flees her arranged marriage and religious community to start a new life abroad in the United States. Little does she know that her estranged fiance and a gruff investigator from the Hasidic leaders are hot on her tail to drag her back to be wed. This show tells Esther’s story in two parts, the introduction and courtship of her arranged husband as well as her current awakening to the new feelings she can freely explore and it is so fascinating. Haas has an ability to be wanton, yearning and reserved all in the same breath and it is a sheer joy to watch. She is worth checking it out for alone.

Daniel Isn’t Real (Shudder) – Coming from director Adam Egypt Mortimer, the filmmaker who did the highly entertaining “New Year’s Eve” segment of the anthology film Holidays, this movie is one I’m hearing some great buzz about. Based on a novel of the same name, this film is about a troubled college freshman who suffers a violent family trauma and brings back his childhood imaginary friend Daniel as a coping mechanism. The film stars Halloween and Blockers actor Miles Robbins as the lead character, Patrick Schwarzenegger as the title character and the great Sasha Lane in a supporting role and is just the kind of genre film that intrigues me greatly. The movie is described as a slick mind twist of a thriller that is well pieced together and totally stylish.

Dark Side Of The Ring: Season 2 (Vice/YouTube) – Vice continues their look into an industry that I have a deep love for, and always have, professional wrestling. Beyond that, this season focuses on a log misunderstood and tragic happening in the mid 2000s, the murder-suicide of Chris Benoit and his family. Narrated by close friend Chris Jericho, widely regarded as the greatest of all time, this series will dispel the rumors and myths that have been attributed to this case as well as shine a light on the possible causes of Benoit’s psychosis that leg to this horrifying act. I’m so happy to see this available on YouTube and am deep in the binge already myself. Totally recommended even if you aren’t a wrestling fan.

Devs (FX) – Coming from the mind of one of the greatest science fiction writers via grounded and real science, Alex Garland running a limited series is really going to turn some heads and from what I’ve seen so far this could be one of the best shows we get this year. The series centers around Lily, a computer engineer who starts an investigation into the secretive development department within her employer when her boyfriend, a fellow employee, disappears. The lead star, Sonoya Mizuno, isn’t exactly a household name, aside from some great work on Cary Fukanaga’s Netflix show Maniac but the mystery of Nick Offerman’s character as the CEO Forest should have everyone watching this.

New to VOD:

Canadian Strain – Using the backdrop of the recent cannabis legalization in Canada, this comedy capitalizes on the confusion over the rollout of this new freedom as well as the endless red tape that the existing stores were wrapped up in. Starring Letterkenny actress Jess Salgueiro, this film follows a cannabis grower and distributor that finds herself in a lawless panic when the decision is made that government stores are to be the method of sales and the already existing stores are to be prohibited. The film centers more on the characters spiral down as she tries to maintain her morals at the same time as keeping herself from destitution and I felt that it let down the general theme that it started out with, the government marginalizing the citizens of the country again but this time in an industry that they have no idea about. It took the bite out of this movie and it’s unfortunate.

Blu-Ray:

Jumanji: The Next Level – The fans cried foul when it was announced that The Rock would be rebooting Jumanji but the end result turned out to be a pretty entertaining movie with the great continued chemistry between The Rock and Kevin Hart. Now the whole cast has returned including Karen Gillan and Jack Black for the Next Level in which Danny DeVito and Danny Glover have now inhabited the bodies of Rock and Hart and it works again as a totally action-packed and funny adventure. All the characters are able to bring something a little different to their performances, being inhabited by different “players” throughout the movie and Rock and Hart get some really great moments of emotional dialogue that actually work really well. I had middling expectations for this movie that were definitely cleared.

Black Christmas – Blumhouse is making a pretty nice little horror niche for itself by picking up older properties and rejuvenating them, sometimes with bad results, but sometimes they come out great. This is one that is close to my heart as the original 1974 movie is a Canadian classic from the legendary director Bob Clark, who also made A Christmas Story (wrap your head around that) and it was already botched in remake land in 2006. This movie though, I really don’t know how I feel. It is a massive departure from the original story and the first trailer released for it seems to give it all away, so much so that I am refusing to summarize it in this write-up. Just watch it below to see what I’m talking about.

Richard Jewell – Clint Eastwood continues his real-life story adaptations with this film about a security guard that saved thousands of lives at the 1994 Atlanta Olympics from a bomb who is then smeared by the press claiming he was the terrorist who planted it. I really like that Paul Walter Hauser, a standout in I Tonya and Blackkklansman, finally getting a lead role in this film, although billed last on the poster but Clint hasn’t been on a real hot streak with his films recently this movie suffers from that even if it has Sam Rockwell and Kathy Bates in it and the performances are phenomenal. Eastwood paints this story in such a stark black and white that you feel his right-wing bias with every clunky piece in the message of this film. That coupled with the serious character assassination of journalist Kathy Scruggs was a real issue for me.

The Courier – There’s a brand new direct to video action film available this week and even though Bruce Willis is nowhere to be found sleepwalking through this it is still most likely garbage. Starring Olga Kurylenko, a star recently diagnosed with COVID-19, and Gary Oldman, this is a simple plot following a courier in London who discovers that one of the packages she’s transporting is a bomb. Playing the bad guy and sporting a killer eye patch, Oldman is probably the biggest draw to this film but it all just looks so hoky ad I’m not even including anything from Zackary Adler’s back catalogue.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Mind Games – A pretty unknown little thriller from the late eighties, this b-grade film gets the full Blu-Ray treatment with this beautiful new collector’s edition from MVD Visual. Starring Empire Records own Rex Manning, Maxwell Caulfield, this is a film about a frustrated wife who takes their son camping only to be terrorized by a hitchhiker they helped along the way. The film was directed by Bob Yari, who is now a prominent film producer with his own studio making movies like the Best Picture winner Crash and The Illusionist, this being the first of two movies he had made personally, the second one made in 2015. Caulfield is uber-creepy in this movie and coming off of Grease 2, that was probably the most unsettling part.

Warriors Of The Nation – More Asian martial arts from Well Go USA, an absolute treasure trove of great action films. There are no internationally known actor in this film and the director hasn’t made anything that made any box office marks outside of China but the story is pretty interesting but definitely a bit convoluted at times, centred around the White Lotus Society, a religious and political movement that rose up in the 1330s. If you love movies like the Jet Li series Once Upon A Time In China then these movies are definitely your movie jam this weekend. I know I love ancient Chinese films like this unless they’re done by Americans. I’m looking at you, Matt Damon.

Television:

Feel Good: Season 1 (Netflix) – In a lighter way but heavier on the addiction side, this new series reminds me a bit of Fleabag but without that great Phoebe Waller-Bridge edge. The show is about stand up comedian Mae Martin, a Canadian transplant now living in London. When a regular audience member asks her out on a date, Mae finds herself on a whirlwind romance with the girl of her dreams until the crushing reality of her addiction problem comes to light. This show is definitely a sardonically funny show about damaged people and really revels in it in a great way. I hadn’t heard of Martin before this show but now I’m pretty keen on checking out a full set.

Self Made: Inspired By The Life Of Madam C.J. Walker (Netflix) – Octavia Spencer and Tiffany Haddish star in this brand new limited series that tells the story of a trailblazing African American woman who rose up from nothing to become the entrepreneur known as Madam C.J. Walker who built a haircare empire that made her America’s first female self-made millionaire. The cast looks great around these two including Blair Underwood and Carmen Ejogo but I do find it weird that Spencer is playing Haddish’s mother in this as the two are only seven years apart.

Tiger King (Netflix) – This is one of those too crazy to be true stories but I will let you know right now, it’s all true and I know someone who knows someone that knows this guy. I know! Crazy! This is a docuseries about a gonzo rivalry between big cat eccentrics that takes a dark turn when Joe Exotic, a controversial animal park boss with a glorious blond mullet that would make Hulk Hogan and Dog The Bounty Hunter shake in their boots, is caught in a murder-for-hire plot. This show will make you slackjawed in amazement that people like this actually exist. I felt myself giggling and laughing throughout this bat shit show and I feel like it will really catch on with people. I highly recommend it!

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

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

New Releases:

My Spy – Dave Bautista’s career must be going in a good direction as he has hit the point of his action hero career where he does the obligatory family film just as all the greats have before him, most notably The Rock and John Cena recently. For this film, he plays a CIA agent that has angered the higher-ups with his shoot first and ask dead bodies questions afterwards approach and has one last chance to prove himself. It all goes awry when he is found out by a mischievous nine-year-old girl while he is investigating her family. This movie was originally supposed to be released in the summer of last year but after Bautista’s film, Stuber disappointed at the box office this one was shelved until a better time. Coming from comedy director Peter Segal, I want to believe that this ill be entertaining but the studio worries are a bit contagious. (Not opening in Hamilton)

Bloodshot – Sony and Valiant Comics kick off their own cinematic universe with this new violent action film with a character that I honestly think is tailor-made for lead star Vin Diesel. The Fast And Furious action-heavy stars as Ray Garrison, a marine that is resurrected as part of a secret black ops program with nanobots in his blood that repair him as he is shot, stabbed, contused and everything else. In short, the dude is now totally invincible but was he brought back for good or to dispatch those who get in the way of the shadowy organization that created him? The film is the feature debut for visual effects supervisor Dave Wilson and hopefully it’s a good enough start for Valiant to expand on their cinematic universe as there are some really cool characters to be made into a big studio franchise. I’ve been a fan of this comic company for a while so I’m already on board.

The Hunt – The movie that got the right all riled up before anyone had ever seen a single frame of it finally gets its release day after getting removed in September of last year and the ad campaign seems to be taking advantage of that as its tagline is “The Most Talked About Movie of the Year is One That No One’s Actually Seen”. Perfect. The movie stars GLOW’s Betty Gilpin, Blockers’ Ike Barinholtz and a slimed down Ethan Suplee in a story about twelve strangers who wake up bound and gagged in a clearing, the fodder for a manhunt in which the rich elite will kill each of them for sport. Kind of like a big version of the Ice-T action flick Surviving The Game from the mid-nineties, Compliance director Craig Zobel’s latest seemed to tickle the offended nature of the Fox News crowd and I doubted that we’d ever see it. Well, the advance word is very good so I’m pretty ramped up for this now, barring another uprising. (Not opening in Kamloops)

I Still Believe – We made it into March before getting the first weepy romance of the year but this film has the double distinction of being a faith-based inspirational movie as well. Starring Riverdale’s leading man K.J. Apa and Tomorrowland’s Britt Robertson, this is the true story of Christian music star Jeremy Camp Melissa Lynn Henning-Camp, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer shortly before they married. I never have anything great to say about these Christian studio releases as none of them have been any good and seem to be more driven in getting the message across than to make a good movie. I expect this to be the same. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops or Oshawa)

First Cow – Writer and director Kelly Reichardt continues her deeply somber character tales with this frontier western film that is an absolute arrival of lead star John Magaro. The film opens with Alia Shawkat unearthing two skeletons in modern days while out walking her dog before we get into the real story. The main plot follows a former cook turned fur trapper in the settler days of Oregon and trade that he’s always felt on the outside of, hated by his peers. This changes when he finds friendship with a Chinese immigrant and the two collaborate on a successful business. Beautifully shot and punctuated by two fantastic performances, this is definitely on the shortlist of my favorite films this year. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Wendy – Writer and director Benh Zeitlin was a fresh new name that blew onto the scene in 2012 with his film Beasts Of The Southern Wild about a bayou girl named Hushpuppy which put his name on a shortlist of the best new voices in cinema. Now, eight years later, we get his sophomore film which is quite a mountain to climb in subject matter as it involves an iconic story, Peter Pan. Told from the point of view of the studious Wendy, this film is the story you know but with a narrative slant to it. This is the debut of young actress Devin France, continuing Zeitlin’s trend of using non-actors in his main roles. I loved Beasts so I’m excited to see the imagination of this new film. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Hope Gap – A twice nominated writer for his work on Gladiator and Shadowlands, William Nicholson sits in the director’s chair as well for this powerhouse drama involving the complications of family. The story follows a couple’s visit with their son which takes a sad turn when the father tells him he plans on leaving his mother and with Bill Nighy and Annette Bening playing those roles you know this movie has so much depth of character. Based on a play he wrote himself, Nicholson describes this film as mid-point between “Brief Encounter” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ which is such an intriguing way to frame it. For me, it was just great to see Nighy and Bening on screen together. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

The Whistlers – This slow-burn crime mystery from Frace felt like it was taking a really long time to reveal it’s hand and even now as I sit down to give my thoughts on it I’m unsure if it ever did. The film is from multiple points of view but the main thread follows Christi, a French policeman who finds himself on both sides of the law and under constant surveillance by his own people. Looking for an exit to the subterfuge, he pairs with a femme fatale named Gilda for a high stakes heist that employs a new method of communication, a complex whistling code. Beautifully shot, this film is a weaving story of corruption, treachery and deception that culminates in a final scene that is gorgeous but open-ended. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Beanpole – One thing that will always be evident from every frame of this film is that it is very much a Russian movie in every way, a country’s history infused into every frame at a time of sorrow and recovery. Taking place after World War II in a bombed-out Leningrad, this film follows two women who fought in the war and now return home to try and resume their pre-conflict lives, both working in the local hospital still dealing with casualties. Each woman has their very person damage, the towering Iya, who has debilitating trances due to the concussive blasts she faced during the war and Masha grieves the death of her son and is compelled to fill the void he left. Both actresses, Viktoria Miroshnichenko and Vasilisa Perelygina give incredible performances in this colorful but bleak film, their first-ever roles on film. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Brotherhood – Lots of Canadiana hitting theaters in a limited release this Friday including this film that is both an inspiring character drama and a survival film wrapped up in the same story. Starring former WB Network heartthrob Brendan Fehr and hard-working local actor Brendan Fletcher (a tale of two Brendans?) this film has the two playing camp leaders at the Long Point Camp in the summer of 1926, charged with giving a band of teenagers the adventure of their lives. While out the lake in the night, a freak storm capsizes their canoe and forces all of them to fend for their lives in the middle of the water with no indication of where the shore is. This film is a story of heroism against an unknown backdrop and the ultimate sacrifice that a lot of these men had to make. The movie never shakes that low-fi Canadian feel but the story shines through poignantly with a stellar performance from Fletcher. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Red Snow – The debut film from indigenous writer and director Marie Clements, this is a film that moves side by side with a tragic love story and a harrowing tale of survival in a foreign land. The story follows a Gwich’in-Canadian soldier named Dylan Nadazeau who is captured by Taliban soldiers during an ambush that kills the rest of his squad. Defiant from a young age Dylan regresses in his mind to the romance he had with a girl when he was sixteen years old to find the answers he needs to spiritually rise above his situation. The cinematography of this film is flighty and full of metaphor which makes some of the narrative movement a little ethereal but I feel Asivak Koostachin’s performance as the adult Dylan drives the film as the character opens up to the viewer and the final moment of the movie is so triumphant and redeeming. This is a special movie for the indigenous community and I highly recommend it. (Only opening in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Bombshell – Charlize Theron is at the top of her game and almost completely unrecognizable in this new film that tells the story of the fall of Roger Ailes from the mantle of Fox News for sexual harassment. Leading a stellar cast including Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie and John Lithgow, Theron is an absolute powerhouse in her performance, punctuating a story that I think we all paid attention to pretty closely. The only issue I had with this movie is that it never went any deeper than information we already knew about this scandal, other than punching up some dialogue to pad out the plot. In the end, I didn’t feel like I learned anything, I just saw a glossy treatment of a scandal.

Spies In Disguise – Will Smith has had a run of really bad box office failures over the years and Gemini Man and this animated feature definitely did not help matters. In this film he plays a super spy whose skills are put to the test when a nerdy tech agent accidentally transforms him into a pigeon and the two have to work together to deal with a global threat. Smith is great in this, his first animated role since A Shark Tale fifteen years earlier, and his chemistry is really great with co-star Tom Holland, which seems to be the norm so maybe Holland is just a great actor? All of that aside though, the film feels a bit bland like it’s missing something to truly set itself apart from the other animated movies which feels like a bit of a blow to Blue Sky, the makers, who have always delivered solid work.

Charlie’s Angels – On the outside, this movie feels like a bit of an impending disaster because we’ve had two feature films already made from this 80s television property and, if you’ve given them a rewatch recently, they’re kind of glossy and dumb, they only surviving thing that has any marginal coolness being the Destiny’s Child song. This new film has promise when you look deeper as Elizabeth Banks is on board to direct as well as play Bosely, a bit of a fan favorite from directing the last couple of Pitch Perfect movies. The winning piece of this for me is that Kristen Stewart being one of the angels, as I am a huge fan of her work, post Twilight of course. This might be hit or miss.

Trauma Center – It feels like the time of getting excited for a Bruce Willis was so long ago as the at one-time A-list action star has found himself the selling point of totally lackluster action thrillers for almost a decade now, a new direction that has seen him phone in performances for just as long. This one is no different as it has him playing a cop who is protecting an injured young woman who witnessed the murder of his partner. To hide her he nonsensically houses her in an inexplicably abandoned hospital which these bad guys find immediately. This movie hasn’t a shred of brains to it whatsoever and the acting is absolutely painful. Probably one of the worst movies of this year.

A Quiet Place – Just a week ahead of the release of the sequel, Paramount released this mondo steelbook of the 4K version of this film that is an integral piece of the best horror in 2018. Directed by John Krasinski who stars as well opposite his wife Emily Blunt in the story of a family living in a world that has been invaded by monsters that kill based on sound. This film is a masterpiece of tension and creating deep fear in the absence of sound, something that I had rarely if ever experienced before, a mostly silent theater. This edition doesn’t feature anything different other than the format but the packaging is awesome.

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

Masked And Anonymous – Bob Dylan has only made the crossover into acting a few times but the final one was seventeen years ago in this film that was the debut as a director for Borat filmmaker Larry Charles. The story, written by Dylan under the name of Sergei Petrov, has him playing Jack Fate, a singer whose career has gone on a downward spiral forcing him to make a comeback to the performance stage for a benefit concert. A heavy cast surrounds this legendary singer and songwriter including Jeff Bridges, Penelope Cruz, John Goodman and Jessica Lange plus the Shout Factory blu-ray features an all-new interview with Charles and a making-of featurette. The film didn’t score great reviews at the time of release but I think it’s aged nicely.

The Affair: The Final Season – With the first couple of seasons earning huge critical acclaim and earning the stars Maura Tierney, Dominic West and Ruth Wilson award nominations and even a win in Tierney’s case, this show seemed to end it’s run with a bit of a whimper rather than a fanfare finish. For those who don’t know, the show is a multi-angle told story about a struggling novelist and a young waitress who strike up an extramarital relationship that promises to forever change the course of their lives and that’s just the opening of the first season. Murder, other affairs and years have passed since then and many had thought this would have come to a close sooner. The selling point on this season for me is the inclusion of new cast member Anna Paquin who always makes things much more watchable.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Dragonheart: Vengeance – Universal seems to love dragging all of their properties out of the archives, dusting them off and sending them on an all-new direct to blu-ray adventure because we get another nineties film getting an update but without the lead stars of Dennis Quaid and the very retired Sean Connery. The fourth film to be made after the hit original, this film follows Lukas, a young farmer whose family is killed by savage raiders in the countryside who sets out on an epic quest for revenge forming an unlikely trio with a mercenary named Darius and a dragon voiced by Helena Bonham Carter, the reason for me to have any interest in this movie. Let’s face it, these never turn out to be any good but with the memories I have of this franchise, I just want to believe in it.

Museo – Toplined by Gael Garcia Bernal, this is a film I hadn’t heard of until it was sent to me but based on the accolades it has received alone I really feel like I should have. Winner of the Silver Bear for screenplay and nominated for the Golden Bear for Best Picture at the Berlin Film Festival, this is the true story of the biggest heist in Mexican history, the looting of its sacred Anthropology Museum orchestrated by a couple of veterinary school dropouts. The reviews on this movie are really stellar and critics as director and co-writer Alonso Ruiz Palacios is now being touted as a filmmaker on the rise even though the film didn’t even get anywhere near a wide release.

A Little Romance – I really love receiving all of these Warner Archive classic movies as it’s quickly putting me in the know on great golden age Hollywood films that have otherwise flown under my radar and this one is a special one as it stars the legendary Sir Laurence Olivier, one of the towering shadows during that era. This film, made in 1979, stars a young Diane Lane in her debut as a teenager living in Paris who meets and falls in love with a dreamy Frenchman played by Thelonious Bernard, an actor with only this film to his credit. The film was made be bigger than life filmmaker George Roy Hill who had The Sting, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid and Slapshot under his belt by this point. It should also be noted that this is an Oscar-winning movie, picking up a statue for Best Original Score.

Television:

Lost Girls (Netflix) – Getting their indie movie slate rolling for 2020, this new offering has a great cast leading it with Thomasin McKenzie, fresh off a fantastic performance in Jojo Rabbit, Academy Award nominee Amy Ryan and Gabriel Byrne. Ryan plays the mother of a girl recently reported missing who, frustrated by the lack of police activity on the case, drives her own investigation into the gated Long Island community where her daughter was last seen which leads to discoveries in a series of cold cases involving sex workers. This is the narrative debut for director Liz Garbus, who is usually a documentary filmmaker, responsible for films like What Happened, Miss Simone? and Bobby Fischer Against the World but this is a ground shattering movie to kick off this facet of her career.

The Pale Horse (Amazon Prime) – Featuring British stalwart veteran actor Rufus Sewell, this new Prime original miniseries has the added fun of being adapted from an Agatha Christie novel. The story follows a dying woman who gives her last confession to a Catholic priest, but along with her confession, she gives him a list of names and a terrible secret but before he can take action he is struck dead in the fog. As the police begin to investigate, headed by Sewell’s character Mark Easterbrook, a young hero played by the great Kaya Scodelerio begins to piece together evidence that sets him upon a converging path. For those fans of Midsommer Murders and the like, this will definitely appeal to them.

Kingdom: Season 2 (Netflix) – Many times Drex and I have talked about the zombie genre and how it consistently needs that fresh breath to keep it from decaying. I mean, let’s face it, even The Walking Dead is nearing the end of its popularity. The freshness is what makes this new series so great as its taking that zombie stuff and throwing it back to the medieval Joseon period in Korea. Adapted from a webcomic, the adaptation was put together by the acclaimed director of Tunnel and is right up my alley of South Korean film. Those who were all over Train To Busan, this is an easy binge for you.

Marc Maron: End Times Fun (Netflix) – Spare yourself the hysteria of a COVID-19 obsessed outside world and instead dig into this brand new stand up from one of the best neurosis driven comics working today, Marc Maron, who also happens to be one of my favorite podcasters too. This set is so funny as Maron relates how he is only popular with one out of three people, he takes aim at the Trump Administration so MAGAts need not apply and even has a spiritual moment for Mike Pence at the end that you will not forget. Check it out, it’s highly worth it.

Dirty Money: Season 2 (Netflix) – Master documentarian Alex Gibney’s executive produced docuseries returns for another series of episodes that will raise your blood pressure and have you screaming at your television before directing angry tweets at big businesses. Just me? I doubt it. This series takes aim at corporate frauds that are designed to milk excessive amounts of money out of the general public and largely the lower class. Season one took on scandals like Volkswagen’s “clean” diesel and the gross empire of payday loan companies and this is just the tip of the iceberg. This is an important series to binge through, trust me.

New Releases:

Onward – Disney and Pixar are back with their next most likely award-nominated feature, pairing the very likeable duo of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt in the lead roles. Set in a world where fantasy elements like orcs, gnomes, unicorns and other mythical creatures exist in a modern world, this story follows two brothers who find a mysterious magical staff that belonged to their late father. After a spell cast through the staff resurrects the bottom half of Dad, they must embark on an adventure to find the real magic still remaining on the world to bring their family back together. The trailer is really funny for this and I’m really hoping for some great world-building as Pixar needs a new franchise to put t’s hat on. I have good feelings about this movie.

The Way Back – Ben Affleck definitely felt some catharsis in this new drama, directed by the director of one of his last movie The Accountant, the very capable Gavin O’Connor. Affleck plays a former high school basketball star who’s life has deteriorated from alcoholism and bad choices who finds his redemption in returning to his former school to coach the current team, one with potential but no winning push to it. The trailer for this movie is big and full of emotion, giving me the feeling that Affleck put his whole soul into this portrayal so for this reason alone I am looking forward to it. The script comes from writer Brad Ingelsby and if the dialogue is anything close to his work on Out Of The Furnace we could have something special here. (Not opening in Hamilton)

Run This Town – when the walking disaster known as Rob Ford was running for mayor, and then subsequently became mayor, his story, especially that of his arrest and then basic dismissal of his crimes so he can keep running the city was a major story internationally we knew this would be made into a movie. Guess what? It’s here and Homeland star Damian Lewis plays the juicy role in an almost chameleon-like fashion from and center in this investigative journalism story seen through the eyes of young staffers at city hall and a local newspaper just as the 2013 political scandal was emerging. The film features The Politician’s Ben Platt, Vampire Diaries’ Nina Dobrev and veteran actor Scott Speedman in the debut film from writer and director Ricky Tollman who seems almost completely inexperienced. Kind of gives me hope for a future in the film industry myself. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Sorry We Missed You – Being a huge fan of Ken Loach’s since I saw The Wind That Shakes The Barley in my video store days, his films have come to be the ones I love forward to most at the festival and this one didn’t disappoint and refused to let me leave without shedding some tears. The film is about a lower-class family living in Newcastle and struggling to get back to a position of being able to buy a home. The father has just got a new job as a parcel delivery service, but one you have to buy into, causing them to sell his wife’s car that she uses for her job as a home care nurse. As the two parents struggle in their fourteen to sixteen-hour workdays, their kids suffer as their older son begins to lash out as a vandal. Loach always gets to the heart of the everyman’s plight against the system and it’s always heartbreaking. (Opening in Toronto, Hamilton, Calgary and Vancouver. Opens in Edmonton on March 13th)

Lie Exposed – Always for a low budget and aimed at giving this art form a higher platform to get noticed on, stage play adaptations can be a tricky transition as they can either work or show you how different the two mediums really are. Coming from writer and actor Jeff Kober, who costars in this film in a largely silent performance, this story follows a recovering alcoholic who is given a devastating diagnosis that causes her to leave her longtime husband for a Los Angeles photographer and relapse into her addiction. Upon returning home to the aftermath of her choices, she and her husband put together a photography show that gives their close friends an introspection into their own lives that could make or break their relationships. Produced and starring actress Leslie Hope, this movie really is a showcase of her immense skill but kind of leaves everything else a bit cold o the lighted stage. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Emma. – I guess it’s time to revisit some Jane Austen and maybe get the Gwyneth Paltrow version off our palate while also showing some of those nineties kids where Clueless came from. One of my favorites, Anya Taylor Joy plays the lead in this film, an intrusively nosey and selfish socialite who prides herself on being the matchmaker for all of her friends for better or worse. I feel like a lot of us already know this story so any other description moves into redundancy rather than spoilers so I will instead mention that this is the feature debut of director Autumn De Wilde, known previously for her work on music videos for Florence + The Machine, The Raconteurs and Beck so the look of this movie feels very fresh and new again the history of the story. I have hopes for this movie. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops or Oshawa)

Greed – Writer and director Michael Winterbottom brings another facet of his biting satire with this new film that puts his usual leading star Steve Coogan in a handbag looking tan with some bright white veneers as the patriarch of a ridiculously rich and powerful family. Showcasing all the awful qualities of vapidly bullheaded billionaires and the effects of money, Winterbottom gives this movie a scattered feel that all meet up in the end but the journey feels very disjointed along the way. Infusing the movie with the refugee crisis and the evils of sweatshops in Middle Eastern countries and underpaid workers, making a comedy that feels like a little tickle with a hell of a slap. That said, the third act of this movie was so unpredictable that I couldn’t believe it was happening. (Only opening in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver)

True Fiction – Isolated horror stories are something that always seems to strike like a hot iron of paranoia and delirium and we get not one but two this week with this film and the one that follows on the list. Actress Sara Garcia plays Avery, a struggling writer who is given the job interview of a lifetime, to be the assistant to acclaimed but reclusive writer Caleb Conrad, a master of his genre that no one has ever seen before. Driven to a snowy cottage and relieved of her phone, Avery finds out very quickly that she is at the center of Caleb’s new book in a sinister experiment to see how she will finish the story and it would all have been so awesome if the plotting and execution of this movie didn’t feel so horribly dumb. As the paranoid premise constantly flip flops in who the viewer is to believe the “crazy person” is the logic rapidly is thrown out the window culminating in a very ho-hum ending. I expected more. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

The Lodge – It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz to follow up their incredible debut horror thriller Goodnight Mommy and did they ever come through with their first English language film, a movie that can now be included in the “holiday horror” pantheon, as it does take place just before Christmas. The story follows two kids and their soon to be stepmother who find themselves snowed in at a remote holiday lodge. As the days pass, she finds herself more and more paranoid as strange things start to transpire and the evenings get more and more sleepless, drudging up things in her mind of her tumultuous and brutal past as part of a cult run by her father. Riley Keough’s performance in this film is absolutely riveting, perching you on the edge of your seat throughout. This isn’t your most conventional horror story but it will definitely leave a mark. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Queen & Slim – This film came out of nowhere, gathered some great buzz along the way and then was totally forgotten during award season, an absolute tragedy. Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya and newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith lead this drama about a black man and woman who find themselves on the run together after a deadly incident when they are pulled over by the police. The director of Beyonce’s Lemonade video Melina Matsoukas makes her feature debut with this movie and it’s shot by Tat Radcliffe who did Yann Demange’s ’71 as well as Pride the same year and everything about this film works in a breathtaking fashion. Kaluuya and Turner-Smith have a chemistry that burns up every frame they’re in as we gradually see these characters come together in a connection that culminates in out of the most beautiful love scenes I have seen in a long time. I love that grain and shade that Mantzoukas infuses throughout this film, a total feast of cinema. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Dark Waters – Mark Ruffalo has a knack for picking the hard-hitting movies about important stories and acts of horrendous injustices, especially being somewhat of an activist himself, and this film plays right into the same things that he stands up against. The masterful director of Carol and Far From Heaven Todd Haynes helms this story of a corporate defense attorney who takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company that in turn exposes a lengthy history of pollution. An interesting connection with Ruffalo’s involvement is that along with being another attempted kick at an Oscar this is the second film he has been in that relates to the DuPont family after Foxcatcher which got him nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

Playmobil: The Movie – When Lego came together (get it?) to create a massive blockbuster film and multiple spin-offs it seemed to have shot a flare into the studio sky saying that all of the toy properties were now possibly lucrative for big-screen adventures. That said, I’m really thinking this one is a dud as it takes a toy meant for a much younger audience and crafts a story that may go over the target market’s head. The plot that they’ve made is basically a James Bond-esque spy actioner that has a cocky secret agent, voiced by Daniel Radcliffe, who takes it upon himself to rescue two kids from the multiple dimensions of Playmobil’s world. Lots of supporting cast in here including Anya Taylor-Joy, Jim Gaffigan, Meghan Trainor and Adam Lambert but the trailer leaves me with little interest and the movie was yanked from theaters after only a week. Ouch.

Ne Zha – An animated film from China, this film’s style is the biggest saving grace because it is absolutely gorgeous and, at times, comes off like a more well rounded Dragonball Z animation. Unfortunately, the story is a bit of a ho hum, been there done that as it follows a young boy infused with the powers of a demigod a birth that must fight the demons that attack his land even though the people he is protecting fear him as much as the dangers around them. Really, the best part for me about this was the action sequences.

Kansas City – Some more cinema from the classier side, Arrow Academy, this movie definitely isn’t as old and classic as the films I usually get from this distributor as it is a sort of forgotten Robert Altman crime story from 1996 set to a jazz beat. Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, Harry Belafonte, Dermot Mulroney and Steve Buscemi, this film follows a pair of kidnappings that expose the complex power dynamics within the corrupt and unpredictable workings of 1930s Kansas City. The biggest acclaim this film got at its time of release was a nomination for the Palme D’or at Cannes but it has all the great tropes of this master filmmaker, including beautiful long crane shots, a pinpoint focused score and beautiful cinematography, this one done by Oliver Stapleton, fresh off working with Stephen Frears on The Van.

Steve’s Blu-Ray and DVD Geekout:

Insidious – James Wan is now one of the top names when it comes to horror, the creator of the Saw series and now the whole Conjuring universe is under his eye. This movie came before we were freaked out by The Conjuring, a massive hit coming at a time when Wan was failing a bit with his last two efforts, Ded Silence and Death Sentence. The story is very simple, a family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further and the movie is infused with creepiness, jump scares that fit the plot and story and moments of horror that will live with the viewers forever. I’d like to think that it was the repairing with writer Leigh Whannell that rejuvenated Wan’s filmmaking but he wrote Dead Silence as well, a movie I really like. Maybe I just want to celebrate Whannell more because Invisible Man was so amazing.

This Is The End – One of the greatest satire comedies ever made in my opinion, this movie takes pretty much everyone you’ve ever loved that worked for Judd Apatow and a few others and throws those actors into a global apocalypse playing themselves. There really is nothing better than that. Our main group of Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride all find themselves partying at James Franco’s house when holes in the earth start opening up and people start falling to their deaths in hell leading this sextet on a mission of survival as the last stragglers on Earth. I saw this movie twice in theaters so I definitely had to pic this blu-ray up which features commentary, alternate lines and a gag reel which is gold from these guys.

16 Bars – An inspirational documentary that attempts to take a bad situation and make something good and artful out of it, this film is a look into some very human stories locked away in the prison system of the United States, Virginia to be exact. The movie follows a rehabilitation program that encourages inmates to write and record original music with the help of Grammy award-winner Todd “Speech” Thomas of the group Arrested Development, a hip hop outfit that I definitely listened to a lot in the 90s. I mean you’re probably humming Everyday People in your head right now. Films like this really get the emotions going and the fact that it runs against something so creative as hip hop is very intriguing to me as well.

The Point – A story that seems just as psychedelic as the time it comes from, this animated film is a brainchild from mind of Academy Award winner Fred Wolf, a guy that had his hands in the making of the Flintstones, as well as songs and a story tread written by Grammy Award-winning artist Harry Nilsson. This little film also has the added fun of being narrated by one of the greatest drummers of all time, Ringo Starr, who also was, if you remember, a conductor on Shining Time Station. So, he did way more for the kids than you ever thought. It’s kind of hard to break down the story of this film other than saying it’s about the land of the Point. Why is it the land of the Point? Well, because everything comes to a point in this land and that’s just how it was animated so smoke a joint and get to the Point! This vague write up was brought to you by cannabis.

Television:

Taylor Tomlinson: Quarter Life Crisis (Netflix) – A comedienne I had never heard of before getting the advance screener for her special, I warmed up to Taylor’s comedy pretty quick as she becomes the most relatable twenty-five-year-old I’ve seen in this format and, even better, she made me feel a lot better about ageing even if, again wat she says, I don’t have it figured out in my thirties either. It’s easy to believe that this Southern California born and raised stand up has been doing this for almost a decade as she seems to glide around the stage and handle herself with a veteran’s ease which, as the viewer, gets us way more into a new comic. Apparently, I should have watched Last Comic Standing because from what I hear she killed on that.

Spenser Confidential (Netflix) – Another big bad action movie original for Netflix as this one stars Mark Wahlberg and also features a bad guy role for Post Malone, his first acting role and probably the beginning of more to come as his popularity rises. Heck, I think even at this moment he still has six to ten songs on the Billboard Top 100, which is crazy. Coming from Wahlberg’s usual collaborative director Peter Berg, this movie follows ex-cop Spenser as he teams up with his roommate Hawk, played by Winston Duke from Us, as they investigate the brutal murder of two Boston police officers. This movie was written by Brian Helgeland, who has written such gems as Man On Fire and L.A. Confidential but has made such stinkers like The Order and Legend, so all bets are kind of off but hopefully, this isn’t like 6 Underground which was so disappointing on so many levels even with the involvement of a charismatic lead star.

Dave: Season 1 (FXX) – Comedic rapper Lil Dicky gets his own series with this show that is produced by Scooter Braun. who is probably not high up on the likeability chain right now, but also Kevin Hart and Greg Mottola who also directs all eight episodes of the show. Co-created by Curb Your Enthusiasm writer Jeff Schaffer, the show follows a mid-twenties suburbanite whose neurosis has convinced him that he is going to become one of the greatest rappers of all time, a totally misguided journey. Those who know Lil Dicky’s work, like his song he did with Chris Brown called Freaky Friday, will be into this and as much as I hate Brown that song is damn catchy. Why did I put it on this list? Well, I guess I’m just kind of interested in Little Dicky and what he’s going to do next.

Dispatches From Elsewhere (AMC) – AMC seems to keep making interesting strides in all the shows that they put on their network as all of them seem to be original ideas aside from any of The Walking Dead spin-offs and this one is testing all new waters as it seems to play at an odd competition-style setting within a scripted series. The show follows four people who have a nagging feeling that there’s something missing in their lives when they stumble onto a mysterious program called “Dispatches From Elsewhere” which gives them challenges to open their eyes to the possibility of something beyond this world. Featuring Andre Benjamin and Sally Feild, this series may seem too flighty and mysterious for a mainstream audience to get behind so it may be a gamble but those that are looking for something to expand their mind in an intriguing narrative I would say continue with this show that just started on Sunday.

Breeders: Season 1 (FX) – One of my favorite British comedic actors, Martin Freeman, once known as the original “Jim from The Office” Tim, gets his own American network show to hopefully raise his awareness internationally better than the unmediated on Hobbit trilogy. Freeman pairs with actress Daisy Haggard as the parents of two kids who try to keep their sanity ad love life intact against the constant barrage of their children. This darkly comedic series is almost like holding a mirror up to any parent’s plight and is infinitely relatable immediately. Created by Freeman, Veep’s Simon Blackwell and The Lab Rats’ Chris Addison, I really hope this show connects with the audience as I’m really liking it so far and want additional seasons.

New Releases:

The Invisible Man – The Dark Universe from Universal Pictures may have died a dismal death after the failure of Tom Cruise’s The Mummy but from the ashes of that mess this property was floated over to Blumhouse and they put filmmaker Leigh Whannell, one-half of the minds behind Saw, at the helm of it and the advance reviews are really great for it. Elisabeth Moss stars as the survivor of an abusive relationship who believes the news of her ex’s suicide is a hoax and this is reinforced when she realizes that she is being hunted by an unseen force. The trailer for this movie is awesome and I am so excited to see this movie as Whannell rises up the ranks of must-see filmmakers.

Disappearance At Clifton Hill – When it comes to creepy mysteries and the creation of atmosphere, a lot of these films owe a lot to David Lynch and Mark Frost for the simple fact that Twin Peaks exists as a template. This new film, a Canadian production and one set in the Great White North, plays with these elements, following a troubled woman who returns home to the Niagara Falls area after the death of her mother. This trip home comes with a lot of baggage as she is haunted by a kidnapping she witnessed as a child that has cast a shadow on her whole life. Lead actress Tuppence Middleton holds this film on her shoulder as she digs into a decades-old abduction while dealing with her own damage and it really works as a sleepy little amateur sleuth film with some great cinematography. It also has David Cronenberg in a rare on-screen role which delighted me. (Only opening in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver)

The Jesus Rolls – John Turturro got the rights to make a spin-off story of his character Jesus Quintana from the Coen Brothers but it is explicitly known that they do not consider this movie a direct and official piece of the Lebowski “universe” and, honestly, after watching it that’s really for the best. Written, directed, produced and starring Turturro, this movie follows “The Jesus” after he is released from prison again and looks to start up a sort of prison release program with his cohort, played by Bobby Cannavale. All this movie does is show how thin Jesus is as a character and really drive home the thought that we don’t need a Lebowski sequel. In all of this mess though it is so great to see French actress Audrey Tautou. I adore her. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Frozen II – The long-awaited sequel to the animated blockbuster from 2013 came and went and, although it did good money box office wise, it failed to be the monster that its predecessor was and it didn’t have as big of a hit song as “Let It Go”. That said, I liked it more than the first. This follow up has Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven leaving Arendelle to travel to an ancient, autumn-bound forest in an enchanted land in order to find the origin of Elsa’s powers, the key to saving their kingdom. The great news for parents who weren’t dragged to the movie yet is that it is a pretty entertaining story which is great because I really don’t think there was the intention to make a sequel after the first one. I also found myself enjoying Olaf a hell of a lot more in this one, so I guess that’s a win for Josh Gad, but it’s kind of weird that he has a very puberty like storyline.

Knives Out – This was one of my favorite movies of last year, coming from a director that makes the most original films when he’s making his own films. Yes, I’m talking about Rian Johnson who’s last outing, The Last Jedi, has fanboys in a decisive tizzy, some people condemning him as the worst filmmaker ever and others who know his merits and appreciate the film for what it is. To me, his other three films Brick, The Brothers Bloom and Looper are damn near perfect films and this new mystery, pulling inspiration from classics like Murder By Death and the Agatha Christie books, is another home run from one of my favorite directors currently. The cast isn’t too shabby either, featuring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette and way more, all giving incredible performances but its all about Ana De Armas who steals the whole film and solidifies her star power.

The Hunt For Red October – The first Tom Clancy film to be made, this was our introduction to CIA analyst Jack Ryan, this version being a young and dashing Alec Baldwin, as he is trusted with the investigation of a Russian submarine captain played by Sean Connery who violates orders and sanctions, cruising into American waters. Is he there as a threat or as a defector? This movie is iconic with great performances from both Baldwin and Connery as well as supporting work from heavyweights Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones and more. This brand new steel book has a beautiful new transfer of the film as well as retrospective featurettes that praise this John McTiernan classic, an originator of a war literary phenomenon.

Manon – A brand new blu-ray from the classier side of Arrow, the Arrow Academy collection, this is an adaptation of Abbe Prevost’s classic French novel ‘Manon Lescaut’ from legendary French filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot, a director known for his unflinching visions. This film updates the story, originally set in the 1700s, to a post-World War II France following a former French Resistance activist who rescues Manon from villagers who want to lynch her for collaborating with the Nazis. Moving to Paris, their relationship quickly turns stormy after they get involved in profiteering, prostitution and murder. Made in 1949, the film had been largely censored in Europe only for political subject matter and now is shown in its entirety for the first time since the original elements had been discovered.

One Missed Call – Arrow Video is bringing more of that international horror to the home entertainment systems with this trilogy of films and, yes, you might recognize the title from a terrible American film that was the adaptation of these movies. A Japanese made ghost story, these movies kind of a play on that Ringu element of J-horror as it is about people who mysteriously start receiving voicemail messages from their future selves that are foretelling their deaths. Look, as dumb as that premise is, the Japanese can always somehow make these hokey premises work in their favors and this trilogy, although a deep dive for more mainstream horror fans, satisfy on that level alone. I will disclose that I realy have only seen the first movie so far so I can’t really vouch for the whole thing. Yet.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:

Dredd – Forget that Sylvester Stallone piece of crap from the mid-nineties, this is the real deal right here. Karl Urban plays the title character, a badass law enforcement official living in a world where he is the judge, jury and executioner, presiding over the mass violence that is Mega City One. An awesome hero and a formidable villain in the form of Lena Headey are just the tip of the iceberg in how great this movie is, a non-stop action thrill ride from start to finish with constant gory violence and sequences you will rewind and play over and over again. On top of that, Urban never takes off the helmet once and this is the first time we got writer Alex Garland behind the camera, although it was uncredited.

Elysium – South Africa transplant to Vancouver writer and director Neill Blomkamp had a massive hill to climb after the huge success of District 9 and it was to keep that ball rolling with a film of equal or greater value and, let’s face it, this is something of an impossibility. That said, I still really dig this movie even though it is a bit uneven, a futuristic story about a former car thief who is exposed to a deadly toxin and goes on a suicide mission to take down the widening class system in a doomed 2154. The effects in this film are awesome, as is the bloody and violent action scenes, and Matt Damon is fantastic as is his antagonist counterpart Sharlto Copley who plays the bloodthirsty cannibal mercenary Kruger. This movie is great, even if Jodie Foster is doing the weirdest accent of her career.

Fast Five – The Fast And Furious saga has devolved into one of those franchises where it is so ridiculous and out there but you come back to it every time but this installment was released in a time where I feel the car-centric series was on a bit of life support. Vin Diesel returned for the last movie but, let’s face it, the film was pretty bland. Well, insert the Viagra that is The Rock as the perceived antagonist of this movie, Hobbs, an Under Armor sponsored part of black ops law enforcement bent on taking down our heroes. The movies get bigger and crazier but this was a part of the series where I feel like my interest reenlisted for the madness and I’ve still been on board ever since.

Goon – A hockey-related comedy film that has really great character work as well as a totally dirty mind and mouth? Yeah, you know I’m totally in the fan club for a movie like this and it’s written by a good Canadian kid named Jay Baruchel, who I had the pleasure of interviewing when he was promoting the sequel, which he wrote, directed and co-starred in. This is a total sweetheart of a movie about a good guy named Doug Glatt who uses his hard head and harder fists to nab himself a role as the on-ice enforcer for the local hockey club, the Halifax Highlanders. For fans of films like Slapshot or those looking for a far grown up Mighty Ducks, this movie is satisfying on all levels and the king of cool Liev Schrieber definitely retains his title with this role.

Spider-Man: Homecoming – This movie is incredibly special to us comic book fans as it is the first Spidey movie to be made with the cooperation of Marvel Studios as Sony finally relented on the iron grip they had on this character and let him play in the sandbox we all know and love, pairing him with Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark just to make us all fanboy out. The movie skips the unnecessary origin story and instead follows Peter Parker as he balances his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens with his superhero alter-ego Spider-Man, and finds himself on the trail of a new menace prowling the skies of New York City in the form of a scenery chewing Michael Keaton who shows exactly why we adore him with every moment on screen. I’m so happy to have this on Blu-Ray now and, friends, if you haven’t, you should pick it up too.

Television:

The Walking Dead: Season 10 (AMC) – One of the most popular television shows of all time resumes it’s season and as a huge fan of the comic book I am ashamed to admit that I have completely fallen behind on this show. What I do know about it is that we are right in the midst of the Whisperers side of the story, one which I know very well as I have just finished that part of the book. I know that Samantha Morton is playing Alpha, which is perfect casting, and the business that goes down between her and Negan is fascinating to say the least. Just when we think the shelf life of this show is up, they bring an element that makes it can’t miss.

Queen Sono: Season 1 (Netflix) – A new series from the African division of Netflix, this new series looks badass and pretty groundbreaking not only for African television but for women’s roles as it features lead actress Kate Liquorish as a secret agent working for the national security of her country as well as trying to keep her personal life quiet and away from her career. With just a quick six-episode run, this series seems like just a taste of what African television has to offer an international streaming service like Netflix and from what I’ve seen of this show, I really hope it just snowballs and we get much more.

Altered Carbon: Season 2 (Netflix) – After the mindblowing and heavily R-rated first season of this Vancouver shot dark cyberpunk sci-fi I wasn’t sure if we would see more because, let’s face it, the show looks uber expensive and the casting of Joel Kinnaman seemed pricey as well as the actor is more and more high profile all the time. Well, he’s out now as lead character Takeshi Kovacs and his essence has been “resleeved” as Anthony Mackie, another actor that commands attention. For those who don’t know, this show is set in a future where consciousness is digitized and stored following a prisoner who returns to life in a new body and must solve a mind-bending murder to win his freedom and that’s just the main plotline of the first season. Needless to say, shit gets crazy.

I Am Not Okay With This: Season 1 (Netflix) – It Chapter 1 and 2 stars Sophia Lillis and Wyatt Oleff reunite for this new teen series that has the actress playing a teenaged outcast trying to navigate her life of high school cliques, two-faced friends, potential love interests and a complex family life. Things spiral even more for her when she realizes that she isn’t just dealing with the pitfalls of puberty changing her body but she also has new and unexplained powers to contend with. Coming from the producers of Stranger Things, I dug into this series right away because the angsty nature of the writing really appealed to me and I love creator Jonathan Entwistle’s previous work, The End Of The Fucking World.

Better Call Saul: Season 5 (AMC) – Ravenous fans have been waiting for this new season, the penultimate season in this spin-off of one of the greatest shows in modern television history, Breaking Bad. Maybe the slight letdown of the pretty flavorless Breaking Bad movie El Camino made the fever pitch ramp up for this show but it seems like lead star Bob Odenkirk might be busier than ever, doing that Cranston thing and having another rejuvenation in his career as a highly sought after actor, causing him to say “let’s end this”. All I know is Vince Gilligan ended Breaking Bad with such and iconic bang that I see Saul having somewhat of a similar exit but don’t fret, we’re still a little while away from that.

New Releases:

Brahms: The Boy II – How we have a sequel to a horror movie that, as far as I know, totally bombed in theaters is beyond me but here we are. Without the star of the first movie, Luren Cohen, we get Katie Holmes playing the mother of a young boy who moves into the Heelshire Mansion with her husband where her son discovers a creepy little boy doll who becomes his new friends, communicating to his on a ghostly level. The film was directed by the director of the first film William Brent Bell but it must also be noted that this same guy who did The Devil Inside one of the worst cop-out ending horror films I have ever seen in my life. This storyteller has yet to impress me on an original idea movie yet and I’m doubting that this one will change my mind.

The Call Of The Wild – Harrison Ford is the ultimate draw to this story based on the iconic frontier story of the same name, written by Jack London, a film that has been made many times before in 1935, 1972, 1997 and as a series in 2000. The story is one of friendship and survival with frontiersman John Thornton and a sled dog that changed his life in the wilderness of the Yukon. I would be totally into this movie, as I really enjoyed the Disney+ movie Togo a lot, but the fact that this is a totally obvious CGI created dog is kind of a cinematic turn-off. It doesn’t matter to me that director Chris Sanders is the creator of Lilo & Stitch, the big screen herald of How To Train Your Dragon and a wizard of animation, this dog is still very unsettling to me. Just check out the trailer to see what I’m talking about.

Ordinary Love – Liam Neeson and the always great Leslie Manville star in this romantic drama, from little known directing duo Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn, and it looks to be a movie that is destined to get your tears out of you in a quick fashion. The story follows a middle-aged couple in the midst of the wife’s breast cancer diagnosis which shines a light on their relationship as they are faced with the challenges that lie ahead and the prospect of what might happen if or when she passes away. This movie encompasses the tough reality of planning for tragedy and has Manville giving a performance which should again put the spotlight on a career actress who is constantly forgotten during award season, well, unless she does a Paul Thomas Anderson movie that is. With stellar reviews, this movie is a diamond in the rough this week. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Terra Willy – An animated import from France, it’s a wonder if the creators of this movie had paid attention to any of the children’s television shows and movies that had been released in North America in the last ten years because there are some striking similarities to this film, that is also known as Astro Kid. The story follows a kid named Willy that lives on a space travelling research center, just like the Disney Junior show Miles From Tomorrowland. When an asteroid field destroys the ship, Willy and his parents are separated into two different escape pods and Willy’s lands on an uncharted planet, the pod containing a droid to help him survive. The movie is bright and vibrant for the kids but I always take issue with dubbing on foreign films as it feels like I am missing something. This movie passed before my eyes with zero excitement so I don’t expect it to become a hit. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Jojo Rabbit – I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand how Taika Waititi is able to be such a deeply adorable man, even when he plays Adolf Hitler, but here we are. This is the story of a young boy growing up in Nazi Germany, enrolled in the Hitler Youth program, with designs on becoming the fuhrer’s best friend. All of young Jojo’s ego and courage comes from his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, played by the aforementioned Waititi in the most hilarious way possible. To truly enjoy this movie you really have to throw away any offended feelings you have because the film is the height of pure satire. That in mind, the performances from everyone are so top-notch, which includes Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell and Leave No Trace standout Thomasin McKenzie and now that this has won Taika an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay you certainly have to call this a must-see now.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood – Tom Hanks secured himself an easy Academy Award nomination by playing the most wholesome man to speak kids from the television set ever, Fred Rogers. This film follows the long friendship between Rogers and journalist Tom Junod, played by The Americans’ Matthew Rhys, a jaded magazine writer who was assigned to do a character piece on the PBS host. As his friendship with Rogers broadens, he overcomes his skepticism and starts to learn about empathy, kindness, and decency from America’s most impassioned children’s entertainer ever. I think this movie is an easy slam dunk for great films and I love that it is directed by Marielle Heller who made the great movies The Diary Of A Teenage Girl and Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a filmmaker who improves with every film she does. I want to point out that this is largely Rhys’ film to carry and, yes, Hanks is the support role in this movie and there are moments that are completely uncanny between him and the real Fred Rogers. This is a gem of a movie that will have you openly crying.

Midway – One the outside, this movie looks like a slam dunk, a World War II fighter pilot story about the infamous Battle Of Midway with Woody Harrelson, Patrick Wilson and Dennis Quaid anchoring a good cast of young stars. When you look closely at this movie you will notice the name Roland Emmerich attached to this as director, a filmmaker who hasn’t made a hit film since The Day After Tomorrow fifteen years ago and that movie wasn’t very good and this one follows suit because the guy couldn’t make believable human contact for the life of him. The film capitalizes on what Emmerich does best, engaging and dazzling looking special effects, so the dogfight scenes of fighter pilots diving and tailing their enemy is exhilarating but everything in between serves to drag it down constantly. I will say that Woody Harrelson was perfectly cast in his role, looking very much like Chester W. Nimitz but it was a total bust.

21 Bridges – Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman reteams with the minds behind the last two epic Avengers films, The Russo Brothers, who act in the producer capacity for this new police action thriller. Boseman plays an NYPD detective, the son of a slain police officer, who now dedicates his life to tracking down cop killers when two killers start a police war that starts to take over the entire city. Co-starring Taylor Kitsch, If Beale Street Could Talk’s Stephan James and Sienna Miller, this is exactly as cookie-cutter as it looks with every character delivering tired dialogue that you’ve heard before, playing up the machismo from every angle. The movie could be interesting but it gets so lost in trying to be tough and gritty that it falls into a predictable rut that even its attempt at a big reveal can’t help it out of. It also features a terrible performance from Sienna Miller who hams it up to an awful degree.

Another Day Of Life – War journalism is a level of bravery, resolve and strong constitution that few people have and that even fewer can maintain without cracking up. This animated film I was sent by Shout Factory give you an almost crash course into the hell of a war-torn country, in this case, Angola, the gripping story of a three-month-long journey that renowned Polish reporter Ryszard Kapuscinski took across the country, ravaged by a war in which the front lines shifted into a brand new horror from one day to the next. The film itself is an astounding achievement, blending a computer animation and the freedoms there with documentary beats that show the real people involved, giving their first-hand accounts of their encounters with Kapuscinski. This is a very special film that took these filmmakers a decade to make.

The Twilight Zone: Season 1 – It seems like everything that Jordan Peele has touched in genre storytelling has turned to gold so why not take the iconic Rod Serling serial series that creeped out the generations before and give it a bold kick in the ass on CBS’s All Access streaming services. There are some redone gems in here, like “Terror At 30,000 Feet” with Adam Scott stepping in for Shatner and one of my best friends ever Katie Findlay co-starring, as well as some brand new mystery like the phenomenal premiere “The Comedian” with Kumail Nanjani, an episode that got him nominated for an Emmy. Friends, this box set is a home run and it allows you to watch each episode in black and white. How cool is that?

Avatar The Last Airbender: Complete Series – It feels like only six months ago I received the complete series of Avatar The Last Airbender which was released on Blu-ray back in June and now I double up with a gorgeous steelbook version of the complete set, without the accompanying Legend Of Korra. This is a massively popular anime series produced with the help of Nickelodeon that had both the fan support behind it from the beginning as well as some big critical acclaim. We just won’t speak of the M. Night Shyamalan garbage that was derived from it.

Antonio Gaudi – I am completely nerding out about this arrival because it is the first review copy I have received from the Criterion Collection, which is a very prestigious releasing company that just focuses on the greatest pieces of cinema, pressing editions that are the definitive versions of these films. My first entry as press for this company is this documentary made by Japanese New Wave director Hiroshi Teshigahara, who was nominated for an Oscar in 1964 for Woman in the Dunes. This film is about its title subject, a Catalan architect, ceramist, and sculptor with Teshigahara’s camera taking the viewer over, under, around, and into buildings and a park designed by the great Antonio Gaudi.

Deadly Manor – More Arrow Video means more unheard of horror for you to check out. This B-grade find came out in 1990 from writer and director Jose Larraz, a name that has gotten more than a few mentions in the history of this blog, in a story about a group of teenagers who take refuge in an old, deserted mansion. Of course, the members of the group start turning up dead and the teenagers realize that they’re not alone in the mansion as a homicidal maniac is satiating his blood lust just like Larraz likes to show off. This is going to satisfy the horror fans who love to take a look into the hidden gems of the 80s and early 90s but those who aren’t genre embedded will fail to see the appeal of this one whatsoever.

Steve’s Blu-Ray and DVD Geek Out:

Betty: They Say I’m Different – Controversial, totally original but ultimately forgotten, this documentary is about Betty Davis, an American funk and soul singer that arrived in the 70s with so much promise to break boundaries for women with her daring personality, iconic fashion and outrageous funk music. A close friend of Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, she wrote songs for some of the biggest acts of the time and then married wild man musician Miles Davis, influencing his change of genre as well. She was soon banned and boycotted, but still went on to become the first black woman to perform, write and manage herself. but suddenly at the top of her game, she just vanished. This is a great look into an artist that has been described as “Madonna before Madonna, Prince before Prince” by Miles Davis himself.

House By The Cemetary – From those weirdos at Blue Underground releasing I have received another classic horror film from one of the great Italian fright makers, Lucio Fulci. Released in 1981, this film is about a New England home that is forever tainted by a series of murders and, unknown to the new inhabitants of the home, there is a gruesome secret that is the catalyst for everything hiding in the basement. This is the third part of Lucio Fulci’s “Gates Of Hell” trilogy also including City of the Living Dead from 1980 and The Beyond which was also made in 1981, utilizing some of the same locations and sets. The cutting for the VHS of the film was erratic and confusing, ruining the cohesion of the plot but with this new Blu-Ray the sequencing has been corrected and you can now watch this madness how it was intended.

About Time – A romantic comedy that feels like it has been largely forgotten, save for the few fans like myself that continually champion it, this movie is so much more than just your standard love story and also is the touching tale of the bond between a father and son. The film stars Domnhall Gleeson, Bill Nighy and Rachel McAdams and is about a man who on his twenty-first birthday finds out that he has the inherited power of being able to time travel to change the direction of his life for romantic reasons, family reasons and even some superficial ones. Written and directed by the immensely talented Richard Curtis, this might be my favorite rom-com of all time. I adore this movie.

Django Unchained – With Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood finishing off its award season run with a Best Supporting Actor win at the Oscars, I picked up Quentin’s first foray into westerns for myself and, coincidentally the first time he worked with Leonardo DiCaprio. For those who don’t know about this movie, the story follows a freed slave who sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner with the help of a German bounty hunter posing as a dentist. Jamie Foxx is badass, DiCaprio is so much fun and Christoph Waltz won an Academy Award for this movie in addition to Tarantino’s Screenplay win. The best thing about watching this movie now is that you can doubleheader it with the next movie this great auteur did, The Hateful Eight.

Penelope – With Natalie Wood’s name trending recently on Twitter after the death o Kirk Douglas for dastardly reasons, it’s really neat that I received this movie that puts the gifted actress that was stolen from us in the main spotlight. Part of the “She’s Entertainment” series of films, this is a comedy about a flighty, bored, kleptomaniac wife of a banker who robs her husband’s bank of sixty thousand dollars and goes on the lam. The film was made in 1966 by Love Story director Arthur Hiller but was the final straw for Wood and Warner Bros., as she was very unhappy with her multi-year contract and bought herself out of it for $175,000, and fired her staff of agents, managers and lawyers. She didn’t make another film for 3 years which would be Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice which kicked off another four-year hiatus until The Candidate.

Television:

Hunters: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – Jordan Peele executive produces this new show that has a secret group of people who are dedicated to hunting down Nazi war criminals in the seventies and I am so very excited to check it out, something I have been waiting for ever since I saw the first trailer. The cast is phenomenal, led by the Academy Award-winning Al Pacino and featuring Fury’s Logan Lerman, Lena Olin, How I Met Your Mother’s Josh Radnor and more, this might be that new Amazon series that catches fire like Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or Jack Ryan. Don’t quote me on this but the show looks awesome enough to hook a large audience.

The Last Thing He Wanted (Netflix) – Ben Affleck and Anne Hathaway topline this new feature film from Dee Rees, the critically acclaimed director of Mudbound, a political thriller about a veteran D.C. journalist who loses the focus of her own story when a favor for her father thrusts her from byline to unwitting subject in the very story she’s trying to break. The word from the festival circuit is that Rees dropped the ball a little bit with this film but the supporting cast of Willem Dafoe, Toby Jones and Rosie Perez, who was recently awesome in the Birds Of Prey movie, has me still very much interested in checking this out.

Star Wars The Clone Wars: Season 7 (Disney+) – It was never known how completely inclusive the new Disney+ service was going to be to the pre-existing shows under the umbrella of the “House Of Mouse” what with all the reboots and reimagines we have gotten or that were announced so far which is hat makes getting a new season of Clone Wars that much more exciting. Now, thanks to these wonderful producers, definitely including the great Dave Filioni, we get some closure on the early war stories of Anakin Skywalker and his padawan apprentice Ahsoka Tano who very quickly became one of my favorite characters in the Star Wars universe. Yeah, I’m definitely ready for this.

Gentefied: Season 1 (Netflix) – A new half-hour comedy-drama, this series comes from showrunner Marvin Lemus and is based on his internet series of the same name about three cousins who band together to keep their Grandfather’s popular Boyle Heights taco shop in business as the neighborhood becomes more gentrified. The cast is all unknown to me other than the grandfather who is played by Joaquín Cosio from the Del Toro FX series The Strain and Wilmer Valderrama who plays the building owner. The show is well written and original and it looks like Lemus capitalized on the much higher budget from Netflix because this show looks great.

Babies (Netflix) – A brand new Netflix produced series that explores one of life’s biggest mysteries, human babies. In a huge docu-experiment, this series follows fifteen babies from birth through to their first birthday and the science in how much an infant’s body and mind transform in that time sitting, eating, crawling, eventually talking and walking. So basically the cute will be overwhelming and you’re going to cry a lot especially with the amount of crying you will see on screen. I only meant to just watch the first episode of this and ended up being engrossed in three straight.

New Releases:

Sonic The Hedgehog – After a delay in release to repair a horrendous looking lead character with teeth and muscle structure that will give you nightmares, we finally get to see this video game adaptation that is hotly anticipated for a rabid fanbase. For those who have lived under a rock for decades, Sonic is a speedy blue hedgehog with a cocky attitude who, in this film, befriends a small-town police officer played by James Marsden to join him in a battle against an evil genius, the villainous Dr. Ivo Robotnik who wants to do experiments on it. My excitement comes from the fact that the big bad is played by one of my favorites of all time, Jim Carrey, who I hear is the best part of the movie. I initially thought that this movie was going to be garbage but from what I’m hearing now, this might be the movie that definitively ends the video game to movie curse. This could be a “gamechanger.” Sorry, I couldn’t help it.

Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island – Talk about a massive genre shift as the classic series Fantasy Island starring Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaize gets a Blumhouse horror makeover and as much as I’m weirded out by this, having seen many episodes of the show, I’m strangely attracted to this film as a genre fan and especially because the park is now run by an evil Michael Pena and I kind of love that. What doesn’t excite me about this movie is it comes from director Jeff Wadlow who as yet to make a movie that doesn’t fall apart like dried playdough. He bobbled a great potential franchise with a lackluster Kickass 2 and his last horror film Truth Or Dare is a ridiculous mess of bad filmmaking. Maybe he can right his own ship with an idea that feels so off the wall that it could only come from the twisted factory of Blumhouse.

The Photograph – This movie, although heavily under-marketed, could be a sleeper of a hit just due to the red hot appeal of its stars, Issa Rae and Lakeith Stansfield, both actors making all the right moves at the moment. The film is a romantic drama, fitting for a Valentine’s Day opening, about the estranged daughter of a famous photographer who falls in love with the journalist assigned to cover her late mother. The film comes from writer and director Stella Meghie who earned some critical acclaim with her features The Weekend in 2018 but faltered in her last studio feature Everything, Everything so hopefully, with some proven star power, she can make a mainstream feature that connects. I love both of these actors so I’m really excited to see this one. (Not opening in Kamloops or Oshawa)

Downhill – The penchant for Americans to remake absolutely perfect foreign films is a trend that frustrates me to no end and this one is no different as they are redoing one of my favorite films of 2014, Ruben Ostlund’s Force Majeure. This is a double edge to this one as it has the always fantastic Julia Louis Dreyfuss but it also has the extremely hit and miss Will Ferrell in a story that really doesn’t need outlandish comedy as it is all about subtlety. The movie is about the turmoil driven into a marriage when a family is put in danger of a potential avalanche and the father’s flee instinct is too overwhelming and he temporarily abandons them. The original is amazing and highly recommended as I don’t think it could ever be reproduced. Prove me wrong, The Way, Way Back directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops or Oshawa)

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire – I really wish I had seen this movie at the Vancouver International Film Festival or at least before the end of the year as it definitely would have made my “Best of 2019” list because this movie is an absolutely astounding film and has a final scene that will resonate with me cinematically for the rest of my life. The film takes place at the end of the eighteenth century and follows Marianne, a painter employed to do a portrait of the daughter of a rich aristocrat. As the sessions go on, the two women fall in love with each other, a forbidden secret that could destroy both of their lives. Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel are incredible together in this film, a clinic in how just one glance can say volumes. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Ford v Ferrari – This new biopic should definitely be at the top of your list to buy because it is another tour-de-force performance from Christian Bale as well as another incredible piece of cinema from director James Mangold, a true story of a seemingly impossible task put in the hands of two real-life larger than life characters. Matt Damon plays American car designer Carroll Shelby with Bale starring as driver Ken Miles, the two employed in an uphill battle of corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford that could challenge and beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. This movie is crammed with charisma, has a smart and snappy script with the cast to deliver it and definitely is a total crowd-pleaser. You missed out on the big screen and even bigger IMAX experience but don’t let it pass you by now on your home entertainment sound surround.

Roma – Coming off this year’s Academy Awards, it’s a great time to look at last year’s big winner in the international department now that it hits Criterion Collection this week. Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron digs deep with this slice of Mexico City life in the early 1970s following Cleo, a housekeeper for a couple and their four children. Her employer’s marriage starts to crumble at the same time Cleo is forced with a life changer, making the two women’s bond closer and closer. Cuaron’s autobiographical connection to this film adds to the heart of it combining with the technical brilliance in its construction and cinematography. I spent many a moment slack-jawed over beautiful dolly shots, framing and use of reflection. This one is very special.

First Love – A head turner any time he makes a film, writer and director Takashi Miike returns with a movie that is not just satisfying his large fan base but is getting huge acclaim from the cinema world in general. In his heightened vision of a Yakuza run Tokyo, Miike crafts the story of a young boxer and a call girl who get caught up in a drug-smuggling scheme over the course of one night. The movie digs into the type of stories we love from Miike, brutal antihero led tales with blood streaking every scene and it’s very cool to see people who usually aren’t into this genre picking it up and giving the filmmaker another renewal in his popularity. Maybe this will lead to an uptick in the viewings of Ichi The Killer or Sukiyaki Western Django, although I highly doubt it on that second totally underrated gem.

My Bloody Valentine – One of the greatest Canadian slasher films ever gets a beautiful new collector’s edition from Shout Factory and I’m so happy to add this movie to my collection alongside the original DVD I have and the 3D remake from 2009. The movie is a simple horror plot structure, taking place in a small mining town where decades-old folk tale surrounding a deranged murderer killing those who celebrate Valentine’s Day turns out to be an actual factual legend when a group defies the killer’s order and people start turning up dead. I love this movie, one that Quentin Tarantino considers the greatest slasher of all time, a classic horror with some iconic shots that I hold in the all-time greats list.

Gunsmoke: Season 18 & 19 – More Gunsmoke has made its way into my collection, one that’s fattening up with old western classics by the month it seems. For those who don’t know about the show, this is the story of Marshall Matt Dillon and his town Dodge City one that he governs and keeps safe from all the lawless townfolk and bandits that roll through. This series ran for a total of 20 Seasons so we are at the penultimate seasons of it and a lot of the original characters and actors had moved on from the series, including Miss Kitty who starts her bow out in season nineteen. Still, this is a great show to go through for nostalgic reasons and see how episodic serial television was done in its first golden age.

Shutter Island – A massively underrated Martin Scorsese team up with Leonardo DiCaprio, this Dennis Lehane adaptation didn’t really get the love it deserved when it came out and I was definitely included in the detractors at the time, a feeling I regret now having let it resonate for ten years and after a recent viewing. The story follows a U.S. Marshal and his partner who are investigating the disappearance of a murderer that escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane on a remote island and that’s just the bare bones of this total mind twist of a film that frustrated me in theaters but is actually really genius especially when it comes to the end game of it. The movie also features a stellar supporting cast including Mark Ruffalo, Sir Ben Kingsley and Michelle Williams.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

High Strung Free Dance – A dance movie from Steve on his Geek Outs list? Yes, I didn’t think this would be anything I was interested in but the movie is very visually engaging and the sheer muscle talent is mind-boggling even if the acting isn’t really up to the same level. The movie, a follow up to High Strung, a film lampooned in great fashion by the fantastic podcast How Did This Get Made?, this one follows a young dance choreographer hoping that the big break he just gave to two fledgling dancers will pay off but things get complicated when the two fall in love. The glossiness of the story and acting maybe a little bit of a turn off here but, as I stated earlier, the performances are pretty great.

Television:

Narcos Mexico: Season 2 (Netflix) – Continuing the spin-off of the massively popular Netflix series, Narcos, this show continues to document the rise of the Guadalajara Cartel as an American DEA agent learns the danger of targeting narcos in Mexico. Starring Michael Pena and Diego Luna with narration from Scoot McNairy, this show has more than enough star power to keep me engaged and I’m really excited to see where this show is going, especially with the chaos and tension of season one’s finale. Hopefully, the momentum keeps up, which feels like an easy bet as neither this nor the original series really has had a lull point. Get ready for the binge, everybody!

Kidding: Season 2 (Showtime) – This show is absolutely amazing and definitely my favorite series in the last year. Jim Carrey stars as Mr. Pickles, a Mr. Rogers like character in every way. Has loveable puppets, beautiful and catchy songs and a way to really speak to children. Jeff, the man who portrays Mr. Pickles, is the main face of a multimillion-dollar brand, a father grieving the tragic death of his son and a husband dealing with the separation from his wife. The reunion with Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind filmmaker Michel Gondry is brilliant on all levels as this series hits emotionally with humor and that incredible artistic flair we love from this acclaimed auteur. This is must-see television and season two has taken so long to get here that when I saw it on the calendar I actually exclaimed out loud.

3 From Hell (Shudder) – I have to admit, as much as I wanted a sequel to The Devil’s Rejects and House Of 1000 Corpses, the chronicling of the murderous Firefly family the greatest creation of rocker turned filmmaker Rob Zombie, I didn’t feel the need for another piece of the story or the avenue for it because, spoiler alert, they all died at the end of the last one. That said, I am totally in for more bloody mayhem with Otis, Captain Spaulding and Baby especially because this kind of looks like Zombie’s take on a pulpy Oliver Stone Natural Born Killers approach and there’s even courtroom scenes in this. The trailer is nuts and I’m so intrigued.

Mustang (Criterion Channel) – One of the greatest international films from the last decade, this is a movie that is begging to be seen and heard. Guaranteed to drain every tear out of your body, as it did a friend of mine who I brought to the original screening, this is the story of five orphaned Turkish girls who are sold off in marriage by their guardians. This is a beautiful and heartbreaking film of sisterhood and the destruction of innocence, a movie that will leave its mark on you like a belt lashing. This movie was nominated for an Oscar but ultimately lost to Son Of Saul in a year of incredibly tough competition. The release was bobbled badly here in Canada so this is a great opportunity to check it out.

Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (Netflix) – I have made it no secret that I adore everything Aardman puts out. Just like Laika Studios, their films have an original charm to them that I love on a consistent level and I know that extends to my kids as well because every time I put on one of the movies they are immediately captivated. One of the favorites is Shaun The Sheep, the television series being a big hit and that last movie is absolutely adorable. Now we get the return to the big screen of Shaun and his farm friends, this time the gang encountering an alien with amazing powers who crash-lands at their home and pushes everyone to go on a mission to shepherd the intergalactic visitor home before a sinister organization can capture her. This is exactly everything the trailer sets it up to be, nothing more, nothing less, but damn it looks enjoyable.