Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

The Upside – Based on the very popular French film from 2011, this film has Bryan Cranston playing a quadriplegic billionaire who hires Kevin Hart’s character, an unemployed former criminal to be his caregiver. I am definitely on record more than once saying that Kevin Hart’s comedy feels stale but this is the kind of partially dramatic turn that piques my interest as I don’t think he’s ever done this kind of film. I’m also drawn in by the film being helmed by Neil Burger who’s put out great movies like The Illusionist. (Not playing in Hamilton or Oshawa)

A Dog’s Way Home – Anytime I see a new dog related movie I feel a little bit worried that I’m going to step in a big old pile of canine crap because it’s really hard to get one of these stories that work without sickening amounts of sappiness, bad acting and animal frolicking B roll. This may just mean I’m still angry since Ken Marino’s Dog Days. Anyways, this film doesn’t look any better than the Dennis Quaid movie A Dog’s Purpose, a film that was so bland but still gets a sequel that is currently filming. I guess there’s a market for this but don’t watch the trailer because it is essentially the entire film condensed. (Not playing in Hamilton)

Replicas – Sci-fi with Keanu Reeves? I’m sold. Will it be good? Actually, it might be cool as it comes from Jeffery Nachmenoff who’s only other directed film is the fantastic thriller Traitor starring Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce. This is a futuristic film about a scientist who learns a costly lesson when he becomes obsessed with bringing his family back after a deadly accident. The story for the film was developed by Reeves himself, alongside his frequent collaborator Stephen Hamel who he also made Henry’s Crime, Siberia and the upcoming Rally Car. This may be just that popcorn fluff science fiction to start your year. (Not playing in Kamloops or Barrie)

Vox Lux – This film almost looks like the story of a Lady Gaga style pop singer, played by Natalie Portman in a performance that is getting some notoriety with critics. The film is written and directed by actor Brady Corbet who, in his second feature, is hitting some grand scale filmmaking here with some absolutely gorgeous art direction and visuals. This looks like a movie right up my alley and the first look of it kind of reminds me of the late nineties film Velvet Goldmine. (only opening in Toronto)

Blu-Ray:

Venom – The best terrible movie of the year, I really adore this mess of a Marvel origin film and it all has to be attributed to Tom Hardy. Cancelling out Sam Raimi’s crack at the character in Spider-Man 3, we enter a world where, confusingly, there is no Spidey and just Venom. Can this character even make it without the inclusion of the web crawler? I guess so as we really don’t miss him as this movie hurtles through its plot at a sometimes nonsensical pace. How this movie manages to work and be totally entertaining will be a forever mystery to me but believe me, it does.

What They Had – A film listed on my honorable mentions of 2018, this movie is a drama with a little life comedy to it. Hilary Swank plays an uptight woman who goes home to Chicago after her dementia-suffering mother (Blythe Danner) starts to decline further, putting a strain on her father (Robert Forster). Given that she has the power of attorney, her exasperated brother (Michael Shannon), the one who stayed behind to hold the family together, tries to convince her to use her position to have her mother and father put in a home. The acting is so incredible in this film and first-time writer-director Elizabeth Chomko crafts an endearing and wholly relatable story that I think is a must see.

Hell Fest – Every year little film trends surface and disappear without notice and one of them happened in 2018 horror and it is serial killers at theme parks. The first was a low budget slasher called Blood Fest and then the big studio and decidedly less critically loved Hell Fest came out. The story is simple, a bunch of kids descend on an amusement park only to be picked off one by one due to a masked maniac on the loose. To me and this is nerdy but the saving grace of this movie could come from the fact that Gregory Plotkin made this movie and while, yes he made Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension he also EDITED Get Out. That’s a win, right?

When Harry Met Sally – Remember the iconic moment of Meg Ryan faking an orgasm in the middle of a New York City diner? Can you believe it was thirty years ago? Rob Reiner directed this Nora Ephron written treasure about two best friends who fear that sex would change their whole dynamic. Punctuated by brilliant performances from Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, this is a benchmark in romantic comedies, one that in many ways has never been surpassed and now you can relive it with Shout Factory’s anniversary edition packed with special features.

Netflix:

Friends From College: Season 2 – This Netflix comedy makes its sophomore debut, an ensemble featuring Fred Savage, Keegan Michael Key and Cobie Smulders. The show is about a group of Harvard classmates now reconnecting as they enter their forties and, this season, looking to put their past behind them in celebration of a big wedding. Created by Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s Nicholas Stoller and Francesca Delbanco.

ReMastered: Massacre at the Stadium – Episode four rolls out for this docuseries focusing on conspiracies within music, this one looking at the murder of Chilean protest singer Victor Jara. The case was closed, incarcerating a member of Augusto Pinochet’s army. That man was sent to live in exile and, wrongly accused, now is looking for exoneration. This series has been awesome since it started and has become hotly anticipated each month.

Sex Education: Season 1 – A new British comedy series, this stars Gillian Anderson and Asa Butterfield about the teenage son of a sex therapist who decides to use the smarts he’s learned from her to run his own “practice” in his high school with the help of the edgy girl in his class. The show looks like it has a fun script which could be the saving grace is this coming of age horny teen romp series.

The Last Laugh – Hot of the Golden Globes win for The Kominsky Method, Netflix is doubling down on old guys with this road trip comedy starring Chevy Chase and Richard Dreyfuss. Chase plays a comedy agent who coaxes one of his old clients from decades ago on a comedy tour believing that he still has the potential to be a star. While I’m on the fence with Chevy, being that he’s a legend but also a world-class piece of shit, I’m really excited to see Dreyfuss in this as I’ve always been a big fan of his. Also, the film was written and directed by Greg Pritikin who made Dummy with Adrien Brody.

Titans: Season 1 – DC and Warner Bros can’t seem to get their movies to work, aside from Wonder Woman and Aquaman, but their television division is doing just fine and this new series adds another win to that total. The debut show of their online component, this is the darker themed adaptation of the Teen Titans, led by Robin and featuring Cyborg, Starfire and Beast Boy. It also is the lead in for the upcoming Doom Patrol, another great looking series. We may be seeing some really great comic work with classic characters.

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New releases:

Escape Room – The next film from horror director Adam Robitel, who made The Taking of Deborah Logan, a really great possession movie, comes this Saw mystery style horror film based on the very popular fad that has been going on for years. The cast looks good, including Daredevil’s Deborah Ann Woll and Tyler Labine but there has been a precedence set where the first studio release of the year usually is a horror film and it is usually absolutely terrible. I want to believe this could be a cool flick but the curse is very real. January is the month movies come to die.

On The Basis Of Sex – The Oscar-bait movie is definitely this one, following Ruth Bader Ginsberg and her struggle against her own peer equality to fight for equal rights culminating in her first fight in the Supreme Court. This film is punctuated by great performances from Felicity Jones as RBG and Armie Hammer as her husband Martin but it feels like the script and the direction where what kept this one from connecting with me. The Hollywood gloss was felt over and over, giving it a whimsical and very formulaic feeling. I may be on the minority thumbs down side of this but I just wanted more, especially after the stellar RBG documentary earlier this year. (Opening in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver)

Blu-ray:

Night School – Now, I’m definitely not really all that excited by a new Kevin Hart movie but the simple fact that this has Tiffany Haddish in it has me intrigued to watch this as she is one of my favorite newcomers to comedy. The movie has Hart playing a man desperate to get his GED to take advantage of a new business opportunity. He joins a night school with a bunch of oddballs taught by Haddish’s character and I’m sure a lot of Kevin Hart mugging occurs. I know it feels like I’m ripping on him in a more focused manner but the guy has a cookie cutter in comedy already. I’m very on the fence with this one.

Bad Times At El Royale – This one was high on my list of anticipated films in 2018 as it’s Drew Goddard’s follow up to the incredible Cabin In The Woods. Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, John Hamm and Chris Hemsworth star in this deeply twist-filled mystery set in 1969 at a Lake Tahoe hotel which is on the dividing line between Nevada and California. A hotel that was once a prestigious and beautiful landmark, it is now rundown, seedy and off the beaten path meaning that anyone coming there did not mean well. This movie has so many game-changing moments that keep you on the edge of your seat throughout, I had so much fun with it.

A.X.L. – In a “where the hell did this movie come from?” sort of way, this is a family film about a teen and his robot dog, you know, that age-old story. The reason this one is most likely new to you is that there was zero ad campaign for it and it played in limited theaters from probably two weeks tops. Starring Colony’s Alex Neustaedter and Becky G, the Yellow Ranger from the recent Power Rangers movie, I wouldn’t actively recommend this to anyone unless they wanted to occupy a few preteens for an hour and a half.

Netflix:

Lionheart – A feature film from Nigeria, this drama is about the headstrong daughter of a business CEO who has to hold his company together after he takes ill. When her father decides to bring her uncle to run the place, she must fight against the male-driven world and country to correct the mistakes the men are too naive to see. The film did well on the festival market, including TIFF, and the one review I’ve found for it calls it uplifting without the cheese factor.

A Quiet Place – Capitalizing on all of those subscribers who were let down by Bird Box by adding a creature feature film that John Krasinski absolutely nailed in every single way, this is a Netflix apology that we can immediately accept. On my top ten of best movies of the year, this is not only one of the most original horror films of recent years but it operates with the most limited of sound and dialogue making it pretty groundbreaking.

A Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 3 – The time for this Vancouver made adaptation of the Lemony Snicket series is coming to an end as the third season marks the final one. I was always a big fan of the original movie with Jim Carrey and was pretty skeptical when it was announced that Netflix had commisioned a series. Neil Patrick Harris is perfect as Count Olaf though and the series was able to expand on the large ground the books had provided, doing it the ultimate justice. It’s great to see this series come to its natural conclusion.

Across The Universe – This is a very special film to me and my Beatles obsessed family but this is such a love letter to the fab four from Julie Taymor, an incredibly visual director who gets the feel and atmosphere of their legendary music in a story that feels very familiar to the fans. This is without a doubt a total comfort film with a soundtrack that’s great on its own. This is also another sneaky way to get me loving a musical.

Adrift – I didn’t get to check out this true story survival drama in theaters and I kind of wish I had because director Baltasar Kormakur and legendary cinematographer Robert Richardson infuse this film with great atmosphere. The film is about Tami Oldham and her fiance Richard Sharp who are stranded in the middle of the ocean on a destroyed yacht after a massive hurricane. The film is gripping with great performances from Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin.

As heard on The Shift with Drex, I gave a little rundown of the films you can look out for between now and March.

Thriller

Glass (January 18) – Who knew that after the phenomenal Unbreakable in 2000 we’d have to wait almost two decades for the real follow up, during which M. Night Shyamalan entered a dark period of awful filmmaking. Well, he’s back in a big way, entering this film on a string of two great films, the last one Split totally threw us for a swerve when it was connected to the Unbreakable universe.


Cold Pursuit (February 8) – When Liam Neeson said he was retired from the action game it certainly didn’t mean that he was done taking revenge, which is evident with this new icy thriller. This film is a remake of the Stellan Skarsgard Norwegian movie In Order Of Disappearance, one I really enjoyed that plays a little like a Coen brothers movie. This could be a big sleeper hit for Neeson.

Family

The Kid Who Would Be King (January 25) – If you aren’t familiar with the name Joe Cornish then you should be educated because he’s one of the most inventive writer/directors right now. Previously he wrote Ant-Man and The Adventures Of Tin-Tin but the directing is the interesting part, with him being responsible for the incredible sci-fi action Attack The Block, a must see. This time he wades further into the family genre with this modern telling of the King Arthur and the Round Table when a bullied kid finds Excaliber embedded in stone at a construction site. This movie looks fun and totally charming.

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (February 8) – Following up on the massive success of the first LEGO Movie and the subsequent hits of the spinoffs LEGO Batman and LEGO Ninjago, it feels like we’ve been waiting patiently for this one. Directors Chris Lord and Phil Miller have stepped aside but still provide the screenplay so you know the same comedic timing will be there along with a great returning cast including Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett and Alison Brie. Adding to that excitement is Tiffany Haddish, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz and yes, Aquaman is voiced by Jason Momoa. That’s a win.

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (February 22) – It felt like we weren’t ever going to get the third and final installment of this wildly popular Dreamworks animation franchise that even spawned at Netflix series. Just from the trailer alone, I can tell that we are going to get some closure as Toothless and Hiccup discovers a “Lightfury”, the opposite to the “Nightfury” and a possible soulmate for our hero dragon. It also appears emotions will be on high with Hiccup’s father passing on, leaving him to take his rightful leader mantle. Yes, prepare for so many emotions.

Dumbo (March 29) – Speaking of emotions on high, the simple story of this circus elephant has made the world weepy since 1941 so, in the continuing effort of Disney’s live actioning of their animation library, Tim Burton takes a crack at this classic. Now, I’m definitely not a fan of his work over the last fifteen years or so but Burton’s inclusion of his classic mainstays like Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito has me very intrigued and everything I’m seeing in the trailers look like he has put his usual tropes aside to pay homage to everything we remember and love about the original film.

Sci-Fi

Alita: Battle Angel (February 14) – With the right to the graphic novel belonging to James Cameron for a long time, it’s about time we finally got this movie, now produced by the Terminator filmmaker with Robert Rodriguez directing. Delayed from the fourth quarter of 2018 to now to fix up some CGI issues, the trailer has me really excited and the effects look brilliant, especially the ethereal huge eyes given to Rosa Salazar’s Alita. Add a villain played by Mahershala Ali and Christoph Waltz as her discoverer and mentor and I think you get a really fascinating sci-fi action adventure. It’s also really great to see Rodriguez back it the director’s chair.

Captive State (March 29) – This is definitely a sci-fi thriller that is benefiting from the notion that in a trailer less is more. After the first teaser trailer, I was incredibly interested because they hit me with that sort of “what’s going on?” appeal like the Cloverfield movies did. It depicts a world that is under some sort of one government, a sort of Orwellian Big Brother utopia with crime and disobedience eradicated but why? It appears that we are all operating under a shadowy alien takeover and the new updated trailer depicts it as such but no real info is given beyond that. The film comes from Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes director Rupert Wyatt, looking to make up for the stumble he took remaking The Gambler.

Comedy

Fighting With My Family (February 14) – Now this one may just be for me but The Rock produced and co-stars in this biopic about British WWE wrestler Paige and her emergence into the massive wrestling promotion and the adversity that pushed her to get there. Coming from a real wrestling family, I’m really excited to see how this story will be told and one of my favorite breakthrough actresses of last year, Lady MacBeth’s Florence Pugh, stars in the lead. Also being the American feature directing debut of Stephen Merchant, I feel like the comedy aspect will be on point.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? (March 22) – I always have been and always will be interested in what director and writer Richard Linklater is up to and this one is no different, featuring two actresses that haven’t worked with him before, Cate Blanchett and Kristen Wiig. Blanchett plays a troubled mother who goes missing, forcing her fifteen-year-old daughter to go on a search for her and uncovering all her secrets along the way. Based on a novel by Maria Semple, this screenplay reteams him with his co-writers on Me And Orson Welles, a well done but largely forgotten about film in his filmography.

The Beach Bum (March 22) – For a long time we’ve been waiting for most times controversial filmmaker Harmony Korine’s next film after the fantastic Spring Breakers and now we have it. Continuing his trend of depicting characters who are really on the fringe of society, this film has Matthew McConaughey diving back into that deep method work playing a rebel stoner named Moondog. I highly recommend people Google this one for a look at McConaughey’s wardrobe for this one as well as his co-star Zac Efron, who is rocking some great hair along with some sweet razored sideburns. It should also be known that Snoop Dogg stars in this as a character named Lingerie and Martin Lawrence who is listed as “Captain Wack”. I love oddball stuff like this so it’s high on my list, no pun intended.

Superhero

Captain Marvel (March 8) – Looking for your Marvel fix, seeing as it’s been a long time since Ant-Man and The Wasp and even longer since Avengers: Infinity War? Well, it hasn’t been THAT long but you get my point, the whole MCU is in crazy disarray and we need closure. It’s great that the next and hugely pivotal piece arrives soon in the form of Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers, also known as Captain Marvel. Being a huge fan of the comic character, I don’t think any of the uninitiated are ready for how powerful of a hero this is and just how important she is to the battle against Thanos. This ladies and gentleman will be a total gamechanger. Get excited immediately.

Horror

Us (March 15) – When it comes to the most anticipated of 2019 the conversation cannot be finished without talking about the next film from Academy Award winner Jordan Peele’s mind, his follow up to the massive phenomenon Get Out. The trailer for this, given on Christmas Day, is terrifying on it own, showing a vacationing family who has to battle the scariest thing any of us would ever think of, an evil replica of themselves. Starring Oscar winner Lupita N’Yongo, even the first trailer for this shows just how effective Peele is as a filmmaker and is proof that he is now a mainstay in this genre. I can’t wait for this movie and I’m sure it will be in my top ten for 2019.

New Releases:

Holmes & Watson (Out Christmas Day) – For a long time we comedy fans have been waiting for a follow up to Stepbrothers or Talladega Nights just to get Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly on screen again as some of our favorite characters. So instead we get them playing versions of the greatest detectives of all time Sherlock Holmes and John Watson? Yes, it’s quite confusing to me as well as I don’t think anyone really wanted a more absurd and slapstick version of Without A Clue but here we are. I want to have even the slightest hope for this movie but the trailer is just god awful. I don’t even think I cracked a smile.

Vice (Out Christmas Day) – Let me start this one out by saying that if Christian Bale doesn’t get every award for best actor this coming awards season then it is all a sham. His portrayal of Dick Cheney is so chameleon-like that it’s hard to believe this is a scripted film. Don’t let my praise of Bale’s work sell anyone else short as the entire cast is brilliant in their respective roles, the finest ensemble of 2018. Written and directed by Adam McKay, the anger and frustration of nearly twenty years of political exhaustion is felt in every frame of this movie and it is glorious. The narrative chances this movie takes pay off in every way and makes this your must-see movie to end the year. (Not opening in Hamilton or Kamloops)

If Beale Street Could Talk (Out Christmas Day) – This is the long-anticipated film from Moonlight director Barry Jenkins adapted from the novel by James Baldwin. The story follows Tish Rivers, a twenty-year-old black woman living in 1970s Harlem who must fight to get her wrongly accused fiance out of jail, all while pregnant with their child. The performances in this film are beautiful and understated, the two main leads Stephan James and KiKi Layne putting themselves on the fast track to critical acclaim. The notable performance here is Regina King as Tish’s mother, who makes it a personal crusade to free the father of her grandchild. Jenkins shows his knowledgeable command of making pure and driven cinema with the most gorgeous of shot framing. It’s hard to believe that this is just his third feature film. Barry Jenkins is a very special filmmaker who deserves to be celebrated and this might be his year. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

White Boy Rick – This true story from the mid 80s stars Matthew McConaughey sporting a pretty solid mullet. Playing Richard Wershe Sr., a gun enthusiast who makes his living in the resale market, this film is predominantly about his son, Ricky Jr., a teen who let his ambition curtail his life as he started selling the guns to local Detroit gangs. Soon the FBI would nab him and push him deeper into the life by having him sell crack cocaine. It would be something that would set up the biggest downfall of his life. The film is great for those who like these “Blow” and “Donnie Brasco” type movies but I felt it was missing a little something.

Netflix:

A Twelve-Year Night – A foreign film that comes to Netflix from Uruguay, this is a political biopic thriller about three men jailed in 1973 who, even incarcerated, defied the government who put them there in any way they could. They were put into solitary confinement where they started to be a representation of the downtrodden people of the country, raising their message and political clout. This looks fascinating from the trailer and could be a hidden gem.

You: Season 1 – A brand new Netflix produced thriller series from popular television creator Greg Berlanti and the minds behind Riverdale, this show has Gossip Girl actor Penn Badgley as a bookstore owner who manipulates the woman of his dreams into falling in love with him.

Avengers: Infinity War – It’s almost like Netflix wanted to thank their subscribers and give back by adding the greatest blockbuster moment of the year to their catalogue with this culmination of ten years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thanos is the man in control of this film that indelibly changes the whole trajectory of the stories to follow with some of our favorite superheroes. Heck, after this move we don’t even know where any of the individual franchises lie anymore although we do know there are some being filmed right now. In any case, relive this one over and over again.

Room – Looking to let loose some of those leftover tears from 2018 before the end of it? Well, Lenny Abrahamson has what ails you and through participation from Netflix, we can now watch the emotional story of Ma and Jack, a mother and son trapped in a shed with only a sliver of a window to let the light in from the outside world. Captured by a kidnapper while pregnant, Ma knows that there is an escape in the world beyond but to Jack, it’s all he’s ever known and his entire reality is just in that small room. Brie Larson won Best Actress for this movie and young Jacob Tremblay got robbed of a supporting nod but it’s no better time than now to watch this for the first time or to get acclimated with it. It’s truly unforgettable.

Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski – Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, this is the fascinating story of a long lost Polish artist whose work was progressive, striking and unlike anyone else. With most of his work destroyed, lost or hoarded by the artist himself, many thought the pieces were gone but he actually lived in Los Angeles, California the whole time. The film goes through archives of videotape with Stanislav Szukalski to explore his art, his ego and his effect on the world. This trailer is fascinating and I bet the documentary is too.

New Releases:

Mary Poppins Returns (Opened Wednesday) – Who would have thought that we’d see a sequel to one of the most iconic Disney films of all time and for a new actress to take on one of the most recognizable characters ever but here it is. The charm is all here as director Rob Marshall has crafted a movie that has exactly the feel of the original, down to atmosphere, sets and set pieces. In all honesty, it may be too close to the 1964 original to forge it’s own identity really but Emily Blunt knocks this performance out of the park, the kids don’t come off as incredibly annoying and Lin Manuel Miranda is totally charming and even rings his own terrible Dick Van Dyke like British accent. And yes, we get a Hamilton rap influenced scene.

Aquaman – We have gotten to the point that we sigh and roll our eyes when it comes to any announcement of a DC universe film, no matter how much we can say that Wonder Woman was a solid piece of it. Now with this movie, we have to battle that popular opinion along with the long-standing stigma that Aquaman is a lame superhero. As a fan of the character, I’m really happy to see that the film is getting pretty favourable reviews, which I believe comes with the allure that actor Jason Momoa brings to the role as well as the creative control director James Wan was granted. Either way, I’m super excited to see this one as is my little one.

Bumblebee – Again, just like the DC comics issue, the Transformer series has gotten to the point of “oh god, why another one” as, since the release of the first live-action film, this franchise has depreciated in value one by one until the point that it feels like Mark Wahlberg is starring alongside the clanging of pots and pans. Luckily this new prequel looks to smooth things over thanks to the mind of Kubo And The Two Strings filmmaker Travis Knight who takes on of the more loveable characters and pairs him with the great talents of Hailee Steinfeld. Lo and behold, this movie is getting some excellent reviews and is removing the spins and tinnitus that Michael Bay has been giving to you for over a decade. As a long-suffering Transformers fan, I am delighted by this news and totally willing to give into my daughter’s demands to see the movie.

Second Act – A movie where we have to take Jennifer Lopez as a downtrodden department store employee, this is the story of a woman who looks for more out of her career then is thrust into the world of big business after a massively embellished resume catapults her to financial stardom. Yeah, this movie is not one I personally would be running out to see but there still exists a large niche that made Maid In Manhattan a hit so I believe there is still room for Jennifer Lopez box office. It is pretty cool to see her real-life best friend Leah Remini starring in this one as, you guessed it, her bestie.

Welcome To Marwen – When I first saw the trailer for this movie I was totally intrigued by this story of a photographer who was brutally assaulted by a group of skinheads and new tells his storys through realistic dolls and created sets that come to life through the magic of the Robert Zemeckis computer animation company Imagemovers. The use of the Foo Fighters song Learning To Fly I thought was a miss play and, through no fault of the song, made me lose interest a bit. Steve Carell, I think, is up to the task of moving past bad marketing and the rest of the cast, including Leslie Mann and Janelle Monae, has enough allure to make me hope for a great film. Plus that CG looks amazing as always.

Ben Is Back – Whoever is managing actor Lucas Hedges career is seriously as gifted as this young star is because he is making all the right moves in Hollywood. Look at his resume and you’ll see. This time around he plays a young man returning home from rehab to his loving mother played by Julia Roberts. His addiction and actions before going away caused a deep rift between mother and son but, wanting to make up for his past, he ends up falling back down the path which almost destroyed him to get final closure. I’m not usually a big Julia Roberts fan but the story of this film has me very interested as well as the always stellar work Hedges brings to his performances.

The Favourite – Director Yorgos Lanthimos returns to astound after The Killing Of A Sacred Deer and The Lobster, this time directing a film that he had no hand in writing at all. The movie has The Crown actress Olivia Colman playing Queen Anne, frail and descending into madness during the 18th century. Her closest friend, played by Rachel Weisz, dotes on her constantly and handles the business portion of her rule but things are put to the test when a new servant arrives in the form of Oscar winner Emma Stone and a jealous battle ensues. This film is absolutely amazing, like a dark comedy version of Stanley Kubrick’s Bary Lyndon, and deserves all the accolades it is getting. All three women are incredible, Colman hopefully will break through to the A-list after the clout from this one. This is my new number one for 2018.

Shoplifters – Acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda returns with another slice of life in Japa but this time from a very different part of the societal ladder. The film follows a group of criminals stealing and grifting to put minimal food in their bellies and, although they’re not really related, together they form a family of sorts. Koreeda once again crafts an incredible mosaic of characters, this time on a path that will never turn out well for any of them. The focus of the film, young Shota, a boy who was discovered as a baby in an abandoned car, moves from childhood innocence to the harsh realities of the world quicker than he should and the result is heartbreaking. The emotional depths this story plums is beautiful and it’s an incredible send-off for actress Kirin Kiki who passed away a few months ago.

Mirai Of The Future – Let’s get this bit of information about me out of the way; aside from a few select films, I am not really an anime fan. I won’t go out of my way to watch them but if it has the awards clout that this one does I will definitely sit down and give it a go. Nominated for a Golden Globe, this film follows four-year-old Kun, a little boy whose world is shaken up when his parents bring home his newborn sister Mirai, causing him to act out in anger especially when he’s feeling the lack of usual focus from mom and dad. Whenever Kun ventures out into the garden he is exposed to a magical world where anything could happen, including his grown-up sister Mirai coming to him and guiding his decisions to shape their family’s path. This movie is impressive with its message, a perfect film to show any child that is about to experience a new addition to their family. At the same time, for me, the film still has many of the things that pull me out of the film, most dealing with the grandioseness in emotions, something indicative of the genre. Even still, I could see around these issues and I think this is one of the 2018 notable movies.

Blu-Ray:

The Predator – This movie makes me incredibly sad because it once again pits the filmmakers again the producers and studio and we all know who comes out on top in that battle. Director and writer Shane Black teams with long missed Monster Squad guy Fred Dekker for a Predator film that feels full of action, gore and references to the original film but is devoid of a real soul, has huge pieces that feel disconnected and obvious blanks in creating a bigger picture. This one screams foul about a vision that was taken away.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls – The one thing that kept throwing me off about this family genre horror film was the simple fact that it came from torture porn guy Eli Roth but, through the producer guidance of Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment, we get a fun gothic style haunted mansion movie with Jack Black being his kooky self and Cate Blanchett chewing the scenery in a delightful performance. This movie totally surprised me and I found myself really liking it almost immediately. Adding Kyle Maclachlan as the villain just makes it all infinitely more awesome.

A Simple Favor – Paul Feig’s follow up to the mulch fanboy maligned Ghostbusters remake, the ad campaign on this film is what really caused the total intrigue as we really had no idea what it was all about. The movie has Anna Kendrick playing a single mom who strikes up a friendship with a socialite mom who has kids at the same school, Blake Lively touching on a bit of that Gossip Girl experience. A little while into their friendship Lively goes missing, throwing Kendrick into a mysterious web of secrets. This has to be one of those sleeper films because when it came out the reviews were good and audiences really took to it. All of this is enough to get me, plus it has Henry Golding who was really great in Crazy Rich Asians.

Assassination Nation – This movie is an insane and hyper-real satire on our social media obsessed world, as a hacker preys on a small town by fabricating rumors, exposing secrets and destroying lives in the small town of Salem. When all the exposure gets to a fever pitch, the town falls into a chaos of violence pitting the four main characters in a battle for their lives. This movie is driven by the performances from these young ladies, Odessa Young, Abra, Suki Waterhouse and Hari Neff, and the quick cut and harsh filters of filmmaker Sam Levinson, son of Academy Award winner Barry, to go with his unflinching and brutal script. This one will only really appeal to a certain niche but it will hit them like a bullet. I loved this one.

Life Itself – Guaranteed to be going for your emotions, This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman moves to the big screen with this new drama starring Oscar Isaac. Continuing with what looks like his trademark style, Fogelman crafts a story of a young couple’s journey to a family as they fall in love, get married and have their first child. Obviously, there is far more to it than that and, while the Tomatometer is dismally low for this movie, the audience rating is very favorable. This means that if you want something to tide you over until the next episode of This Is Us then you have just found it.

Fahrenheit 11/9 – It upsets me that this movie didn’t get as much attention as it should have because it really is Michael Moore at his angriest. The documentary filmmaker looks at the Trump era we are currently living in and gives us a timeline of how the hell we even got here in the first place and everything in between. He covers Parkland, the pushing aside of Bernie Sanders for Hilary Clinton and, for a large portion of the film, goes home to Flint, Michigan where they have been living without clean water for over five years. This documentary will educate, infuriate and push you to look at what you can do and how you can add your voice. This is an important one.

Little Women – No, this isn’t the Greta Gerwig remake of this classic story that I’m waiting for with bated breath but a modern telling of the film starring Lea Thompson in the matriarch role. With this wholesome and pretty well-known story as the basis, you would expect nothing less but a well fleshed out film, especially since we haven’t seen a feature-length telling of this story since the early nineties. Unfortunately, the film falls into the category of underdeveloped direction, one dimensional Hallmark movie level characterizations and a totally weak continuity altogether. Forget this one ever existed folks and wait for the real thing in 2019.

The Jerk – One of the greatest Steve Martin films of all time is forty this year and gets the whole anniversary edition treatment from Shout Factory. For those who don’t know, the movie has Martin playing a bumbling idiot who stumbles from adventure to adventure in St. Louis almost by mistake every time. I adored this film since the moment I saw it and to get this new edition is such a treat. The new update includes a brand new 2K transfer of the film, a conversation with Steve Martin and director Carl Reiner and more. Any fan is going to want this one immediately.

Our Cartoon President: Season 1 – Coming from Stephen Colbert and the writing staff of The Late Show, this animated series brings you into the insanity of the White House at least from a lampooning point of view and, as far as the caricatures of each member of the Trump family and administration goes, is absolutely spot on. The issue comes with the relentlessness of the writing sometimes and the one trick pony nature of digging at one point fruitlessly. With so many little nuggets to dig at within this circus I really expected more from Colbert and company. I have a feeling that Comedy Central’s own version, The President Show, may have the edge plus it was developed and released first.

Howard Lovecraft And The Kingdom Of Madness – This one is a film I’m totally excited to receive for a purely personal reason as one of my best friends is part of the voice cast. The third movie in the trilogy of young Howard Lovecraft, the Necronomicon and all the creatures hidden within with the voices of Christopher Plummer, Mark Hamill, Re-Animator’s Jeffrey Combs and Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard.

Elizabeth Harvest – This one comes from Shout Factory, a movie I had previously never heard of. The plot has Mad Max: Fury Road’s Abby Lee playing a woman newly wed to her scientist husband. Once she moves into his lavish mansion she begins to find out he harbours some well-guarded secrets. Directed by Sebastian Gutierrez, this one leaves me with a bit of trepidation as I’ve never connected with his previous work like Women In Trouble.

In Harm’s Way – Emile Hirsh stars in this film that look’s to be a loose remake of an old John Wayne movie, at least in the basic story. It follows a pilot named Jack Turner who crashes near the Chinese province of Zhejiang during the U.S. retaliation for Pearl Harbor in the 1940s. There, he falls in love with a Chinese widow who risks her life to hide him from government officials. I have to say that I’m really appreciating Hirsh as he matures into a seasoned actor and pairing with two time Palme d’Or winning director Bille August is a great move. Those who are into the sweeping romance drama will take to this one.

Netflix:

Bird Box – This movie looks absolutely fascinating and is getting a massive push from Netflix right now. Starring Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich, this is a post-apocalyptic film reminiscent of A Quiet Place but instead, the main drive of the creature element is through vision making the characters blindfold themselves for survival. This film comes from Suzanne Bier, the director of The Night Manager, and was written by the guy behind Arrival and looks incredibly intense from the trailer. I’m looking forward to digging into this one over the holiday weekend.

3Below: Tales of Arcadia: Season 1 – Master visionary Guillermo del Toro doubles down on his Netflix kids shows by following up Trollhunters with this sci-fi adventures about three aliens trying to assimilate into human life to study and research it. That sounds a lot like the plot of 3rd Rock From The Sun, doesn’t it? I’m really liking the voice cast for this one which includes Netflix mainstay Uzo Aduba, Glenn Close, Nick Frost, Hayley Atwell, Kelsey Grammer and many many more. If Del Toro’s precedence says anything, I expect this one to get picked up for a second season pretty quickly.

Derry Girls: Season 1 – A brand new series out of the United Kingdom centring on four teen girls attending Catholic school in the nineties. Yes, I was sold on this show just from the mere description. The trailer has me wanting to check it out more with the dedication to the time period with great music and the girls getting into issues way over their head. I may be totally biased when it comes to British programming but I also may have stumbled onto a real sleeper hit.

Diablero: Season 1 – Ready for more international television from Netflix? Well, this one comes from Mexico and has a feel that will make Supernatural fans feel right at home. The series follows a demon hunter, a priest and a woman who has the ability to be a vessel for demons as they band together to save the world from invading dark and destructive forces. The show looks incredibly stylish and with Netflix, you know the rules are thrown out the windows. This one could be a lot of fun.

Perfume: Season 1 – This new French series has to be connected to the 2006 Tom Twyker film Perfume: Story Of A Murderer as this is a mystery series about a serial killer who is killing women and distilling them into a perfume. The film takes place in 18th century France, while this series is set in the present day as if the killer was inspired by the murderer all those years ago. I really loved that film so any connection to it really intrigues me and the trailer looks really solid, even if it is lacking that gorgeous style Twyker brought to his feature version.

New Releases:

Once Upon A Deadpool (Opens Wednesday) – No, this isn’t a third Deadpool movie technically because it’s a re-edit of the R rated sequel to bring it down to a PG13 for the holiday season. Oh, and it also has a Princess Bride-like main subplot that has Deadpool reading the story to a bed snuggled Fred Savage, just like in the classic Rob Reiner film. What can we expect from this one? I think that is a tough question because Ryan Reynolds always delivers with this character, aside from the Wolverine: Origins debacle, and I’ve loved everything so far, including the incredible ad campaign of both movies. (Not opening in Kamloops or Oshawa)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – If you’ve seen any trailers for this movie you know how astoundingly original the animation looks in this one and how comic book really it feels. That said, this is shaping up to be the greatest Spider-Man film ever made, bringing all the different comic iterations of the web-slinger. How is this possible? Well, it’s something called the Spider-verse, something well established in the comics but maybe a little tough for non-fans to get a grip on. What I can say is that this might be the best family film of the year, one that will have everyone coming out of the theater with wide-eyed wonder and excitement. This is one of those must-sees.

The Mule – Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this film about a ninety-year-old war vet who has an insanely dangerous way to make money: trafficking cocaine for a Mexican cartel. The trailer looks intense and nerve-racking with Bradley Cooper and Laurence Fishburne playing the DEA agents looking for the prominent mule in the area, putting Eastwood’s character in a precarious balance between the law and the brutal enforcers that the cartel employs. Oddly enough, Warner isn’t shipping this one around for award season and isn’t even prescreening it which is never a good sign. (Not opening in Hamilton or Kamloops)

Mortal Engines – Peter Jackson steps on board to produce this epic film, one that the trailer almost acts as he directed. The film is about a dystopian future where humanity has mobilized their cities by mounting them on to giant wheeled vehicles to keep them moving at all times. The idea is totally inventive and absolutely intriguing but everything I’ve seen about this movie makes it look like a giant mess to me. To much uncanny CGI, making the actors look awkward against it, but I really want to believe in Peter Jackson’s control on this even though The Hobbit trilogy was a bit of a mess itself.

Mary Queen Of Scots – Saorise Ronan and Margot Robbie will not only battle for the united kingdom but probably awards as well this year in this film about the warring cousins Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I. Coming from first time director Josie Rourke, this movie is going to be all about the powerful performances of these two incredible actresses but, for me, it’s all about art direction and costume design, two categories that I’m sure will clean up at the Oscars. This will probably be a bit dull for some audiences but I loved the Cate Blanchett Elizabeth movies so I’m excited about this one. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

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

Blu-ray:

The Equalizer 2 – Denzel Washington reprises his role of Robert McCall from four years ago, one made famous by Edward Woodward on television, in his first ever sequel. Teaming again with director Antoine Fuqua, this story gets personal with McCall avenging the murder of one of his closest friends, something that he feels he brought directly to her doorstep. I enjoyed the first movie with some minor gripes but this one feels a bit stale and almost unnecessary story wise. A rare misfire with an actor who has enough gravitas to make pretty much anything work.

Peppermint – Jennifer Garner rechannels her Alias and Elektra experience for this revenge action thriller, playing a mother and wife who wreaks bloody vengeance after her husband and daughter are gunned down. The reviews on this film are definitely not good so you kind of going into this one with a very low bar. Hopefully, the saving grace of this movie could be it’s action scenes as the director is responsible for Taken and District 13. Being an action guy I have some invested interest in that.

Colette – Keira Knightley gives a solid performance and is the ultimate draw in this biopic about Gabrielle Sidonie Colette, a writer who made a mark in Paris by creating a bestselling series of books but the pen name was that of her husband. As her husband was celebrated for her talents, Colette began to discover who she was emotionally and sexually, eventually pushing her to fight for the ownership of her art. The film is driven fully by the strength of Knightley’s fire but unfortunately hasn’t really been proven memorable this award season.

Smallfoot – I really wish I had gotten the chance to check out this adorable little film in theatres because it’s fun and actually has some really nice original musical and, yes, I still hate musicals. Channing Tatum voices Migo, a yeti, the next in line to be an important part of the yeti society, ringing the gong to signal the morning. After a misfire in a gong ringing practice run, Migo comes across a human being, or smallfoot, whose existence would go against everything the yeti folk believe in. The combination of a great cast with a pretty funny script makes this one a winner, although so of the more overarching themes seem very heavy handed.

Lizzie – The story of Lizzie Borden and what may have happened in the time leading up to the brutal murder of her parents, this one has been done a few times already. Stepping into that lead role is Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart playing the housekeeper Bridget Sullivan opposite her and, while the acting from the two is good, the movie feels a bit dull coming off as a period drama more than a thriller.

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero – In a low key animated feature, this is the true story of a stray dog who ended up joining the allied forces along with his new owner in World War I. Although it’s kind of a direct to video type deal, only receiving an extremely limited run, this movie has some notables in it’s cast including Logan Lerman, Helena Bonham Carter and Gerard Depardieu. Even with that being the case, this one most likely won’t stick around in your brain long.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation – This is the fourth “Chainsaw” film ever and was the film debut for Renee Zellweger as well as an early role of Matthew McConaughey. Is this movie any good? Well, in terms of the original series, no, it’s probably the worst one. Now, f you compare it to some of the more recent sequels then it ages like a fine wine and Shout Factory has such a great respect for all these horror films. The special features are always solid too, this one including all new retrospectives, behind the scenes, interviews and both theatrical and director’s cuts.

Nathan For You: Complete Series – This box set is a goldmine of hilariously awkward moments through comedian Nathan Fielder’s need to help your business. I’m totally late to this party but I laughed my ass off and found myself plunging through the first season very quickly. As Nathan makes his pitches for odd things at businesses or has a job interview with a kindergartener in an earbud feeding him answers I found myself increasingly fascinated with this show.

Instinct: Season 1 – Based on a James Patterson book called Murder Games, Alan Cumming stars in this procedural about a former CIA paramilitary officer, novelist and current university prof Dr. Dylan Reinhart who is brought back to law enforcement when a serial killer starts using his works as a sort of playbook of murder. Although it uses the usual tropes of these kinds of shows to play more of a long con, the fundamentals of liking it are still based on if you’re able to find enough interest in Cumming as a lead star. I genuinely enjoy him but I feel he had so much more as a supporting player in The Good Wife. I’m definitely not in the bag after the first episode.

Steve’s Blu-ray Geek Out:

Candyman – Shout Factory released his gothic Clive Barker horror film that freaked the hell out of a young Steve. Tony Todd made himself unforgettable in the title role, a character that would cause any horror fan to think about him anytime they saw a mirror. Presented in a two-disc set with a theatrical and unrated cut, the special features are deep with three separate commentary tracks over a brand new restored picture, so many production featurettes, retrospectives and interviews, it’s a treasure trove if you love this movie. This film garnered a bit of a fan following but only did three movies, a bit reserved by usual horror standards. That said, it is getting the reboot treatment but it is produced by Jordan Peele.

Urban Legend – A movie that came out near the end of the nineties slasher run, who knew that this film had a future Oscar winner in it with Jared Leto? Well, to be honest, the movie isn’t amazing but Aussie director Jamie Blanks has a lot of style to his films and the layout of this story is original and I like the look of the killer in the parka. Again gifting horror fans, Shout Factory jam packs more special features in this two-disc collector’s edition like two audio commentaries, a whole bunch of cast and crew interviews and new never before seen behind the scenes footage.

Urban Legend: Final Cut – Producers tried to follow the success of Urban Legends with this sequel which just pulls up short in every way. The cast was largely unproven, usual Bryan Singer editor and composer John Ottman was making his feature directorial debut and the fencing mask has nothing on the parka. I will give this film that some of the kills are nice and the blu-ray has commentary with Ottman, deleted scenes and interviews including Rebecca Gayheart from the first movie.

Special VOD:

The House That Jack Built – Lars Von Trier is in a league of his own. He is uncompromising, wholly self-indulgent and is fully willing to cross any line morally, ethically and existentially. This is definitely true with this new film which has Matt Dillon playing a serial killer exploring the five pivotal murders or incidents in his killing spree that makes the legacy of his legend. This is a movie that will push you as a viewer with things I have never seen done before and a lot I wouldn’t care to see again, Still, this is one of those memorable cinematic pieces for 2018 and a film I will never shake for the rest of my life.

Netflix:

Roma – You might as well get on seeing this one now because it is going to get some large buzz as awards season builds after New Year’s. Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron is back 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.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Midwinter’s Tale – It’s only been a few weeks since the first season of this show debuted on Netflix but now we get a Christmas special to tide over those who have quickly made their way through all the episodes and are salivating for more. To be honest, I haven’t even got started on the series so I may try to catch up with it in time for a Christmas viewing of this special.

Cuckoo: Season 4 – This series is an odd one, commissioned by the BBC and starring Andy Samberg before he was unable to return to film the show due to a massive slate of projects and was replaced by Taylor Lautner, which is bizarre casting in my opinion. The show is about a British family who must welcome their new son in law from hell, played by Samberg/Lautner, an American “free spirit”. I really liked the first season but haven’t seen Lautner’s take on the character.

Fuller House: Season 4 – This is basically on here as a plea to the audience because I have no idea why this show is still being made. Is the nostalgia that prolonged or is this show’s appeal beyond just that? Is this show good? Let me know. That said, this show would probably have more appeal to me with John Stamos, Dave Colier and Bob Sagat as the leading guys again but I only really like the original for kitsch value and the childhood staple it was.

The Fix – Being a huge fan of British panel talk shows, this series hosted by Jimmy Carr is totally up my alley. Featuring guests like Ron Funches, D.L. Hughley and Fortune Feimster, they band together to solve world issues like conservative politics, gender pay gaps and, the best one, social media. This will be a really easy binge for me but will it survive? Talk shows do not have a good Netflix track record.

New Releases:

Anna And The Apocalypse – It’s like this movie was made to get me immediately into the theater for both a musical and a Christmas movie, two genres that don’t have a high success rate with me. How do they do this? A zombie Christmas movie. Absolutely brilliant. Basically, a group of friends living in a small town in England have to survive a zombie outbreak during the holiday season and I feel like instant classic ensues. You see more of this genre-bending could go a long way to grabbing yourself some new fans against their will. (Only opening in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver)

Border – This Swedish thriller is both wholly disturbing and totally engrossing at the same time. It follows a woman born with a condition that makes her look almost like a caveperson but gives her the ability to sniff out fear on people, a skill that makes her customs job a very easy one. When she comes face to face with a man the same as her she is thrown into a fast education of what she really is. Coming from the mind that created Let The Right One in, remade as Let Me In, this movie is dark in its nature but is mainly a story about self-discovery and realization. That said, this one is going to be a really tough sell for a casual viewer. (Only opening in Vancouver)

Hospitality – Emmanuelle Chiriqui stars in this very straightforward character-driven film about a bed and breakfast owner whose latest guest is a blast from the past that throws her quiet life with her mentally challenged son into upheaval. The cast is just five people including Chiriqui but the movie is simple and entertaining enough and it was a nerd moment for me to see Entourage’s Sloane with True Blood’s Sam Merlotte. (Only opening in Toronto)

Love Jacked – In a story that feels like a tedious retread of a bad sitcom, our main character gets engaged against her overbearing father’s wishes then said fiance cheats on her so she’s forced to bring the man she meets at a diner to pose as the groom to be. Did this get spiced up with any fresh dialogue or any sort of originality? Nope, just a waste of your hour and a half. (Only opening in Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver)

Nothing Like A Dame – Dames Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins have been tea friends decades upon decades but it took Notting Hill director Roger Michell to say “hey, can we come and film your conversation?” for me to become re-enamored with these four legendary actresses. Some may find this one a bit dry, the film just being exactly what it sells itself as, an afternoon of prompted stories, but to hear the shared insight and connections with these ladies careers was so fascinating. (Only opening in Vancouver)

Finding Big Country – Made right here in Vancouver by Grizzlies super fan Kathleen Jayme, this is a beautiful little tribute documentary short is about her search for her idol Bryant “Big Country” Reeves who pretty much just disappeared once he retired due to injury. The film starts by showing something pretty disturbing as a twenty plus year lower mainland resident; the city has forgotten about their former NBA team the Vancouver Grizzlies. Heck, they don’t even exist in the B.C. hall of fame! This is where Jayme comes in to save the day and it’s sweet and inspiring to investigate this person that had such influence on her life. Definitely a feel-good movie. (Only opening in Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Mission Impossible: Fallout – When Tom Cruise steps out to make a Mission Impossible film you know that it’s going to be full force, mind-blowing and one of the most exciting cinematic experiences that you will come across. This is certainly true of this movie, the second film in the series for Rogue Nation director Christopher McQuarrie, and when Cruise teams with this guy they are absolutely unstoppable. Henry Cavill and his problematic moustache are new to the franchise and I have to say that the bathroom fight scene pitting Cruise and Cavill against an enemy operative is definitely the cinematic fight of the year and maybe the decade.

The Nun – It seems that the only thing Warner Bros can make work when it comes to cinematic universes is The Conjuring one headed by James Wan. This, the fifth of the connected films goes back the furthest to 1952 and the events around a Romanian monastery that brought us this demonic nu that first terrorized audiences in The Conjuring 2. The performances are solid in this film, Demian Bechir the biggest draw as the priest haunted by a failed exorcism and the cinematography is gorgeous, done by Alejandre Aja’s usual guy Maxime Alexandre. The story is where this lets you down, predictable and pretty paint by numbers, although director Corin Hardy has piqued my interest with his style.

The Happytime Murders – It’s about damn time we got something a bit more adult involving Muppets and by “bit more” I mean let’s get R-rated with them. It was a bumpy ride for the Brian Henson film, getting sued by Sesame Street along the way, but the film looks funny, following a murder mystery from the point of view of two cops, one puppet and one a human with a transplanted puppet organ, Together they are trying to stop a serial puppet killer before the body count rises too much. The reviews are atrocious, unfortunately, saying that the originality is there but they fail to fully go for it, always content with the easy jokes. For me, this looks like a Melissa McCarty movie I can fully get behind.

Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word – This documentary is proof to not judge a film by its cover as, on the outside, this looks like a faith-based doc about the Pope Francis and his journey to the Vatican. On one hand is sort of is but German new wave legend Wim Wenders and Pope Francis himself instead use this platform as a plea for world unification for a purpose; the protection and preservation of the earth, the protection and safe harbour of those displaced and war-stricken immigrants and to disarm those who would chose to use these mass weapons to crush the weak for personal or monetary gain. By the end of this film, I have to say that I was won over and I am by no means a religious person.

God Bless The Broken Road – Oh boy, there’s something about these faith-based films that feel so manipulative to an outside audience and this one fits that mould to a tee. The film follows a military wife who falls on hard times after her husband is killed in combat and must rely on her faith to get her through. Honestly, if you are a believer of the themes in this one it will hit with you but as a majority audience, I feel these films have no real tethering point.

What Keeps You Alive – A film that will fly completely under the radar, this looks like one of those can’t miss sleeper hits. Jackie and Jules are heading up into the mountains to celebrate their one year wedding anniversary. Once there, Jackie turns on Jules and proceeds to hunt her down in the backwoods, turning their secluded romantic getaway into a brutal fight against each other for survival. The trailer for this will knock you on your ass, I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

Operation Finale – A group of agents led by Oscar Isaac take down a high ranking SS official Adolf Eichmann, plated by Sir Ben Kingsley. Sounds solid, right? This movie was slated for a North America wide release until it was pulled for some reason in August and landed on Netflix a couple months back. The special features are a little non-existant so besides the Blu-ray disc hi-def you might as well go the Netflix route.

Elliot The Littlest Reindeer – Of course with the holiday season now in full swing we get a rush of Christmas animated films ad this one is Canada’s entry. Usual documentarian Jennifer Westcott wrote and directed this film that pushes away any limits of the Santa Claus mythos to forge something new as a miniature horse competes in a sort of Olympiad to secure himself on Santa’s reindeer team. This is where I feel that the big Hollywood and the international studio made animated films have made it hard for the little guy to get traction as this movie feels second best in every way and is kind of a slog to get through. The kids may certainly enjoy it but the adults will be missing the opportunity to start scrolling through anything on their phones to avoid it.

McQueen – The tragic story of fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen, this is a documentary of a powerful creative life that was cut way too short. I’ve taken in fashion documentaries before which don’t really engage me at all but the beauty of this film had me absolutely fascinated and wishing I had seen it on a screen at least bigger than my laptop. The work McQueen was creating was on an astonishing level of artistry that becomes the measuring point of what’s to follow.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

The Crown: Season 2 – I know. The subject matter of the Queen and the words geek out seem like oil and water but you’ll have to hear me out on this one because the “geekery” arises from the Blu-ray itself. Now, this, as many people know, is available on Netflix but what you don’t get is a thorough look at the scandals of the time in the Royal Family as well as a watch along “tea time” trivia track that plays with each episode. I think stuff like this is so cool.

Dances With Wolves – Shout Factory gave me a beautiful gift this week with the three-disc steelbook of possibly the greatest western of modern cinema, one that just recently had its twenty-eighth anniversary. Complete with a theatrical cut and an extended cut with commentary from director and star Kevin Costner, you can go deep into the story of Lieutenant John Dunbar, a movie that won seven Academy Awards. I’m also convinced that James Cameron borrowed some of this for Avatar.

Single White Female – This Barbet Schroeder thriller is a benchmark classic and one that will always be referenced by people who are using classified ads to find a roommate. It’s a terrifying story of obsession that I’m so surprised no studio has optioned it for a remake yet. Bridget Fonda faces off with a psycho Jennifer Jason Leigh in a role that may be one of the high points for both actresses twenty six years ago and that stiletto to the eye is still a total cringe moment.

Netflix:

Dogs of Berlin – An new cop drama from Germany, this series looks stylish and, from the trailer, is infused with some dark humor as well. The story has two detectives at the precipice of a race war after the murder of a top football star falls on their doorstep. Again Netflix brings more international viewing that will hopefully garner some interest in North America.

Dumplin’ – This one stars Jenifer Aniston and the star of the fantastic indie comedy Patti Cakes, Danielle Macdonald, this is a film about the daughter of a former beauty queen and the face of the towns local beauty pageant who is affectionately called Dumplin’ by her distracted mother. In order to get some attention from her mom, she enters the yearly contest in a story that may play out exactly as you think but with some charm as both these women are very funny. Directed by The Proposal’s Anne Fletcher, the movie features a lot of Dolly Parton songs as well as a new single.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle – Another adaptation of the Jungle Book is here but you’re not going to hear the Bare Necessities with this considerably darker adaptation from director Rudyard Kipling. A solid voice cast is featured in this, with Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch and more, but the CGI in this trailer just was not working for me. I really want to love Serkis as a director but between Breathe and what I’m seeing with this one he has a way to go yet.

Pine Gap – A counter-terrorism drama from Australia? Yeah, I’m a little skeptical of this one as the trailer is just horrendous for it but what if this is one of the next pickups for American television and you’re just getting on the ground floor for it right here? It may be a hard sell but this series comes from the people behind the Aussie crime series Underbelly which is a really great discovery I made a few years back.

ReMastered: Who Killed Jam Master Jay? – A member of possibly the greatest rap group of all time and one that seemed to transcend the genre into its own legacy category, why was it all marred by such tragedy? This continuing docuseries breaks down the evidence around the murder of Jam Master Jay and explore the conspiracy around a botched police investigation, the tampering and removal of evidence and the blind eye turned on the man who helped bring Run DMC to the masses.