Firestarter – Doing Stephen King adaptation is really dicey at any time because, in this avid reader and huge fan’s mind, they haven’t had the best transition time from page to screen and some of them have gone beyond being disappointing and gone to the depths of being downright awful. This adaptation has the benefit of being one I’ve read but haven’t had the deepest connection with at the time, although the father and daughter bond at the center of it have sentimental value to me now, decades after I initially read it. For those who didn’t get to read this or see the eighties Drew Barrymore film, the story follows parents Andy and Vicky who have been on the run for more than a decade, desperate to hide their daughter Charlie from a shadowy federal agency that wants to harness her unprecedented gift for creating fire into a weapon of mass destruction. Andy has taught Charlie how to defuse her power, which is triggered by anger or pain but, as Charlie turns 11, the fire becomes harder and harder to control. After an incident reveals the family’s location, a mysterious operative is deployed to hunt down the family and seize Charlie once and for all but, of course, she has other plans. The casting looks solid with Zac Efron playing Andy and Indigenous actor Michael Greyeyes as the formidable assassin bearing down on them. Director Keith Thomas gets his shot at this big budget Blumhouse feature, which gives me a lot of excitement because his last film, The Vigil, absolutely blew me away with its stylish chills. Working in more of a sci-fi action sort of story, this could be really interesting.
Senior Year – It looks like Netflix is buying into the vapid and dumb Rebel Wilson market as they have optioned this new high school set romantic comedy, a part of the actresses new push in her career and definitely trying to separate herself a bit from the Fat Amy character of the Pitch Perfect franchise, a role of hers I actually enjoyed. Her performance in Cats however is one of pure nightmares and I really don’t want to talk about it beyond that. Not to be confused with National Lampoon’s Senior Trip, this film follows Ruby, the most popular girl in her high school in 2002. She’s the captain of the cheerleading squad, dating the quarterback, is well on her way to becoming the prom queen and girls want to be her and guys want to be with her. She has it all until she falls off the top of the cheerleading pyramid and goes into a coma. Fast forward twenty years later and Ruby finally wakes up from her coma as a thirty-seven-year-old woman. She goes back to her high school and tries to assume her role as the star of her school and, of course, she is still set on winning the crown as prom queen. Co-starring This Is Us star Justin Hartley and 90s darling Alicia Silverstone, expect nothing out of this movie except cheap laughs and Rebel quips in the styling that got her popular. This movie isn’t one that would have garnered any interest in theaters so it’s probably best that it landed here.
Operation Mincemeat – Usually the British strategic side of World War II isso painfully dull that it takes outside forces to make them enjoyable such as a great cast and a solid director. It’s a good thing that this is exactly what this Netflix released drama has going for it because it has two Mr. Darcys in Colin Firth and Matthew MacFayden, who occupy the lead roles, Kelly Macdonald, Prunella Scales and Jason Isaacs and is directed by Oscar nominated director John Madden. An oddity from World War II, the story follows two intelligence officers who devise a plan to use a corpse and false papers to outwit German troops to protect a massive invasion force from a potential massacre. The story is fascinating in its scope as I really didn’t know anything about this mission and Madden is able to string it all together in a compelling and intriguing way. The acting is top notch and how can it not be with Firth leading the way.
Sneakerella – Leave it to Disney to take a classic fairy tale and revitalize it for a modern generation but not release it in theaters and throw it directly onto ther streaming platform. This really isn’t that surprising of a decision as the film really doesn’t have poster worthy stars to showcase in theater lobbies with Stephen King’s It star Chosen Jacobs in the lead role. The film fully wraps the New York City sneaker scene into this modern fable about an aspirant Queens sneaker designer who gains the confidence to pursue his dream of becoming a professional sneaker designer with the help of his best friend, Sami, and his Fairy Godfather after falling in love with Kira King, the daughter of basketball star. This movie plays out exactly how you think it should, no better, no worse, but is also stuck in the soulless part of the Disney+ vacuum which only plays to absolute audiences and leaves other viewers in the cold. My kid digs this movie to a small degree but I don’t think it has any value to an adult crowd other than its small homages here and there.
This Much I Know To Be True – Nick Cave is an artist that I have had a fascination with ever since I feel like my tastes matured and definitely since I heavily got into film as he has scored some of my absolute favourite films. Cave is the mind behind the hypnotic compositions that accompany films like the Australian western The Proposition and The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford but his documentaries are more intimate, about the man behind the music and, in this case, just the bare bones of his melody. This new documentary explores the creative relationship and songs from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ last two studio albums, “Ghosteen” and “Carnage” as the two with the rest of the Bad Seeds, perform each song in a closed-off studio warehouse complete with intricate lighting at the height of the global pandemic. To see these gifted artists work to a sweating fever and include other artists like Marianne Faithful, who both have collaborated with before, is so fascinating. Cave is an absolutely tragic figure but definitely one of the most musically gifted creative minds and a film like this is a testament to that.
Uncharted – I feel like the rights for this video game property from developer Naughty Dog were optioned by Sony so long ago with multiple stars attached at some point or another but I guess it just took their golden boy Tom Holland’s influence to get the film going finally. Mark Wahlberg had been attached to the lead role for a long time and had director David O. Russell behind the camera but now steps into the supporting role to Holland’s Nathan Drake and Venom director Ruben Fleisher at the helm. The story follows a young version of the street smart character as he is recruited by seasoned treasure hunter Victor “Sully” Sullivan to recover a fortune amassed by Ferdinand Magellan and lost 500 years ago by the House of Moncada. The film has the formidable Antonio Banderas in the lead villain role and is totally an action-packed and fun ride with some really cool-looking sequences and Indiana Jones-style puzzle scenes that had me totally nostalgic for these types of films. The chemistry between Holland and Wahlberg is really great and though there may come a time when we tire of Tom and his leading roles, it’s not here yet.
Marry Me – I’m still sort of baffled by it but apparently, Jennifer Lopez-led romantic comedies are still box office bankable although I think there is about a twenty million dollar step down from her last movie Second Act and this movie, one that was delayed for pandemic reasons. The charm is there as Owen Wilson does a questionable career movie by starring as her romantic lead in this, a reunion between the two Anaconda stars from twenty-five years ago. The film has JLo as music superstar Kat Valdez who is about to get married in a high profile wedding in from of all her fans to fellow star Bastian. when Kat learns, seconds before her vows, that Bastian has been unfaithful, she instead decides to marry Charlie, a school teacher in the crowd holding a “Marry Me” sign while attending the concert with his daughter. The trope here is mismatched worlds colliding and love winning out over everything and it plays out exactly how you would think it would, complete with all the eye-roll-inducing cliches. It all leads me to wonder if these films are on a conveyor belt for from com stars to pick out and even more baffling for me is this movie is based on a graphic novel, a medium always applauded for pulling from. I have been hoisted on my own petard for this terrible film.
Dog – Channing Tatum knows who he is and knows that the women and men will flock to his movies because he oozes sexuality and charm. As gross as it was for me to say ooze there, I know this is the case and I really also enjoy him as an actor but to bring a dog along for your new film in the co-star seat seems a bit like stacking the deck I think. Co-directing this film as well with the Magic Mike franchise writer Reid Carolin, he plays one of two former Army Rangers who are paired against their will on the road trip of a lifetime, the other one just happens to be a Belgian Malinois named Lulu. Together they buckle into a 1984 Ford Bronco and race down the Pacific Coast in hopes of making it to a fellow soldier’s funeral on time while pushing each other’s buttons, breaking a small handful of laws and narrowly avoiding death along the way. It seems crazy to say this but this may easily be one of my favourite movies this year, a film with charm and heart while telling a good character story with real issues at its center. The script is so fresh and funny and Tatum is the perfect guy to lead it. I wanted this film to do way better in theatres but now that it is on Blu-ray and streaming it may get that word of mouth it deserves.
The Cursed – When I was working at a video store I came across an indie film from a young Irish filmmaker named Sean Ellis called Cashback and I’ve been hooked ever since. His movies come across as creepy and fantastical but always play in a different pool of the mystery-thriller genre but for his new film he goes full-on gothic monster horror and it’s pretty awesome. Originally called Eight For Silver, the story is set in rural 19th-century France as a mysterious and possibly supernatural menace threatens a small village causing John McBride, a pathologist, to come to town to investigate the danger and exorcise some of his own demons in the process. The gore is immediately present and the darkness of this almost Lovecraftian levels of despair, this was quickly my type of movie about fifteen minutes in. Not to give any spoilers but there is a scene in this film that was so bold in its heightened horror that it caught me off guard and it reminded me of the great body scares John Carpenter brought to his The Thing remake. This movie will only appeal to a certain part of the horror community but those who are into it will love it immensely.
Clean – Adrien Brody is really wanting to do the antihero tough guy thing it seems as he co-wrote, produced and even did all the original music for this noir urban loner story from Paul Solet, a filmmaker I know mostly from horror. They’ve assembled a nice little ensemble around them too with the stalwart performances of Mykelti Williamson and The RZA to help out. The story follows a garbage man named Clean who is suffering from the relentless memories of a dark past but tries to follow a quiet life of redemption, helping a young girl and her grandmother out, his only connections in the world. He soon finds himself forced to reconcile with the violence of his past when the ties that he had in his past land at his doorstep threatening to burn everything he has left to the ground. This movie really wanted to be cooler than it actually is and it feels like it’s going well until halfway into it. Just before the third act, Brody gets all John Wick in the most ridiculous of ways, the heavy symbolism starts to wane and the botched execution of the script and story starts to shred around the viewer. The vision was there but everything else really fails to fill in.
The Beta Test – Jim Cummings is an indie filmmaker who is consistently on the rise and has given us multiple films already in his short career that have surprised and resonated to equal degrees. I’m still on the high of his last movie, The Wolf Of Snow Hollow, a small-town murder mystery that may or may not have a werewolf in it, so I was totally excited to get this new feature in my eyeballs. Simply put, this is a story of an engaged Hollywood agent who receives a mysterious letter for an anonymous sexual encounter and becomes ensnared in a sinister world of lying, infidelity, and digital data which go to further lengths of self-sabotaging everything in his life, both personal and professional. This is only the surface value of what this film contains, kicking off with one of the most explosively disturbing opening moments of a movie in recent memory. I also have to say that Cummings’ vibrant and manic energy in this film, as he is the star of his films as well, gave me some serious uncomfortable anxiety. I really dug the hell out of this movie.
The Carey Treatment – One of those classic Warner Archive films slipped into the mix this week and it’s always a good time to slip into some golden age Hollywood and this one is just that as it features the formidable James Coburn in a mystery thriller from the early seventies. The film also has him paired with Jennifer O’Neill, a leading actress who starred in some of the best films within a decade of this one and was directed by the usually hysterically funny Blake Edwards. The story follows Coburn as a doctor at a Boston hospital who must investigate the botching of an illegal abortion that kills a 15-year-old girl to clear the name of his colleague. This was such a dicey topic at the time but a hugely relevant thing to talk about now with the dealings in the Roe v Wade case recently. Edwards actually disowned the final film due to constant studio interference. He originally planned to leave the project during production, but after MGM threatened to destroy his career, he finished filming and quit the day production ended.
Kin: Season 1 – As a big fan of Daredevil but the film Stardust first and foremost, I love the work of actor Charlie Cox and really want him to succeed. Secondarily to that, I also really love a great gangster series and that is exactly what his new project is and it co-stars Game Of Thrones and The Wire’s Aidan Gillan, which is so much more fantastic British gangster swagger for me. The show tells the story of a fictional Dublin family embroiled in gangland war and speaks to the enduring unbreakable bonds of blood and family, something that will immediately interest the fans of the British series Peaky Blinders, especially as the run of that show is coming to an end. I’m really loving the slow boil of this show as it opens with the family tragedy that sets the fire of the series in motion and I really can’t wait to see where it goes. Seeing as the Blu-ray is labelled Season 1, I can only assume that more is coming as well.
Steve’s Blu-Ray & DVD Geek Outs:
Where Are You, Jay Bennett? – As an outside fan of Wilco, only really knowing a few tracks, it took me a while to figure out that this was a new documentary about a prominent founding member of the Chicago formed alternative rock band but once I was in the know, I was immediately interested because I love a good music film. The film is the story of Jay Bennett, a legendary musician and recording studio savant, who as a member of Wilco, was a large part of the genius behind their three seminal albums as well as the Mermaid Avenue/Woody Guthrie sessions with Billy Bragg. The film was written and directed by seasoned documentarian Gorman Bechard whose film Pizza: A Love Story had me hooked with an undeniably human story and that approach is how this movie won me over as well. With the utmost commitment from Jay’s family and friends, there is a solid portrait of talent I am just starting to really get and the human being that was being these great creations.
In The Army Now – The trifecta of my Pauly Shore buying spree concludes with this, his third feature film and one I totally think is underrated and doesn’t get brought up as much as the obvious choices in his library. I think this movie excels in the fact that he has Andy Dick, Lori Petty and David Alan Greer to play off of, making him that much more fortified in his comedy. The story follows him and Dick as two misguided youths who join the reserves to make some money for their entrepreneurial dreams. No sooner than they finish basic training, they are called up to do their part to save the free world and sent to a desert in the middle of nowhere, most likely to keep them out of trouble, labelled as the misfits they are. I remember this being such a milestone at the time because they made a big deal of shaving Pauly’s curly locks for the standard military hairdo, cutting the power of the Weasel off at its core. As I said, I still enjoy this movie but everything ages differently from everyone else.
The Good Fight: Season 5 – As a big fan of the series that this show spun off of, The Good Wife starring Julianna Margulies, I have been a fan of this show since it started on the less constrained CBS All Access for two reasons, the carryover star from that show, Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhardt and the always incredible Delroy Lindo. For those out of the loop, this series picks up one year after the events of the final broadcast episode of The Good Wife, where an enormous financial scam has destroyed the reputation of a young lawyer, played by Game Of Thrones’ Rose Leslie, while simultaneously wiping out her mentor and godmother Diane Lockhart’s savings. Forced out of Lockhart and Lee, they join Lucca Quinn at one of Chicago’s preeminent law firms to hopefully rebuild an empire. The show plays heavily on real politics and it may have become exhausting with the consistent anti-Trump message but I think they have now moved a bit past that with the current administration leaving a little bit less vitriol in the writer’s room. That said, Baranski still rules and I’ll watch her in pretty much anything.
Hacks: Season 2 (Crave) – I have been a fan of Iris Behr’s work ever since I discovered her show Svetlana almost by accident and ended up binging every episode of it I could find. For this series, now entering a widely anticipated second season, she teams with Broad City creator Lucia Aniello to tell the story of Deborah Vance, played by the great Jean Smart, a legendary Las Vegas comedian who enters into a very dark and sometimes totally inappropriate mentorship with Josefina, an entitled but totally socially outcast twenty-five-year-old. Josefina is played by actress Rose Abdoo, who was a small supporting player in the long-running Gilmore Girls, but really gets to shine here with some great chemistry with Smart who is truly hitting legendary status along with her what character is really supposed to be. I feel like this was a dark horse for HBO Max when it originally came out but with the awards that Smart earned and the feverish acclaim that critics and audiences alike gave it, the show has risen to be a flagship one for the streaming service I think.
The Kids In The Hall (Prime Video) – The kid that grew up on great Canadian comedy is over the moon right now as the legendary greatest comedy group of all time has resurrected their brand for a brand new series of sketch comedy and I want everyone to tune into it because we need to make sure that they get many more seasons to come. For those who don’t know and AREN’T CANADIAN TO THE FIBRE OF THEIR BEING this sketch series has Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, Scott Thompson and Kevin McDonald rebooting their CBC landmark series and hopefully bringing back some old favourites as well as new perspectives. I don’t want to put expectations on the show but I’ve seen everything they’ve done, gone and seen them live and have been waiting oh so long to see this show realized. I am damn excited about it.
Shoresy (Crave) – Letterkenny is getting a spinoff for the first time and I will stop naysayers right now that are saying they already got one in the animated Little Letterkenny because I don’t think that one counts. What’s really fun about this show is the fact that lead actor Jared Keeso is playing the lead in this too, a character who is actually a long-running in-joke for the full run of Letterkenny. This full realization of something that was a long time coming sees the foul-mouthed, chirp-serving, mother-loving, fan favourite character, Shoresy, join a senior AAA hockey team in Sudbury on a quest to never lose again. With all the explorations that they have already done with this character, especially in the Indigenous league, I’m so excited to see what Keeso and company do with this one and how many of the characters will cross over.