Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

Movies:

Extra Ordinary – Take the quirky attitudes of both new Academy Award winner Taika Waititi and combine it with the sombre middle American weird comedy of a Jared and Jerusha Hess movie like Napoleon Dynamite and ad a splash of British bumbling charm and you have this new horror-comedy. The film has unknown actress Maeve Higgins as a medium that has given up talking to ghosts because of the role she thinks she played in her father’s death. Now begged back into the job by a man who has a daughter that is being supernaturally groomed to be a sacrifice to the devil for a burnt-out rock star looking for a comeback. Aside from Higgins, the film also has Barry Ward in a comedic role, a weird movie after his Loach movies and the hilarious Will Forte as the villainous rock star. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie, a gut bustlingly hilarious story that will keep you laughing until the hysterical final moment.

The Painter And The Thief – This movie blew my mind completely, an unexpected genius piece of cinema that combines the reality of a documentary with the emotional narrative of two yearning inner psyches. The film follows a young Czech painter named Barbora Kysilkova who paints in a beautiful photorealistic style whose work is stolen by two addicts. Feeling devastated to her soul and unable to recover what she has lost, she approaches one of the culprits in court and demands to paint him. What results is a journey that changes both of their lives and bonds their lives together in a repair of their souls. This movie was an astounding watch and a beautiful look at the goodness in humans and how we can be the guiding light to those in need in dark times. This was exactly the movie I needed right now. Highly recommended.

The Trip To Greece – I just spent my whole long weekend going on trips with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they tour restaurants and wineries in this Michael Winterbottom series that goes from England to Italy to Spain and now finally to Greece for what looks to be the final one. In one of the most consistent franchises ever made, in my opinion, Coogan and Brydon’s friendly rivalry of constant impressions, arguments of career stature and even who knows more about the places they are visiting is always so hysterically funny that I revisit it to see parts that I had missed because I’m laughing so hard. These are two of the funniest actors on the planet and I will continuously be doing Michael Caine, Mick Jagger and Roger Moore impressions because of it. I also really hope they keep making more.

The Photograph – This movie, although heavily under-marketed, is a total sleeper that is going to pass people by and not just due to the red hot appeal of its stars, Issa Rae and Lakeith Stansfield because both actors making all the right moves at the moment. The film is a romantic drama 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 but this film connects in every way with rich characters, a touching love story from both time periods and beautiful shot after shot from cinematographer Mark Schwartzbard who lensed the Aziz Ansari series Master Of None. I had no idea when I put on this blu-ray that I would be watching one of my favorite films of 2020 but here we are.

Arkansas – Usually known from comedic roles, Clark Duke makes his feature directorial debut with this modern noir story that he wrote as well, adapted from a book by John Brandon. It stars Liam Hemsworth and Duke as two smugglers working for a mysterious Arkansas based kingpin named Frog that they’ve never met. When their in-between is killed after being followed home, the two are thrown into the crosshairs of their boss as the errors stack up. Both Hemsworth and Duke are fantastic in this movie and Vince Vaughn carries the other half of the film as Frog as well as some great supporting work from Josh Brolin’s daughter, Eden. I really liked this film and I’m looking forward to what’s next from Clark Duke.

Tigers Are Not Afraid (Shudder) – This movie has a couple of things working against it coming out of the gate. Firstly, this is an independent film so if you want it to hit the big time it needs to have that word darling attached to it. That’s not going to happen because the second deterrent from that additive title is that this s a horror film as well. Hopefully, Guillermo del Toro calling this Issa Lopez written and directed movie one of his favorites of the last year can help because I found this movie to be incredibly special. The film is a dark tale about a gang of five children trying to survive the horrific violence of the cartels, led in a way by a girl who can see the ghosts created every day by the drug war, spirits looking for vengeance. Lopez’s style breathes right off of the screen and sort of reminds me of the earlier del Toro film The Devil’s Backbone, signifying that she has a huge future ahead of her.

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 initial excitement came from the fact that the big bad is played by one of my favorites of all time, Jim Carrey, and he honestly does almost steal the entire show. I initially thought that this movie was going to be garbage but I had a hell of a lot of fun with it, the references to the classic pieces of the videogame are all there and the love for this character and the world it comes from is all there. I really hope that this leads to a full-on franchise because me and my family would definitely be interested in more, especially after that stinger at the end.

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind (Crave) – Natasha Gregson Wagner takes it on herself to set the record straight with this beautiful portrait of her mother complete with interviews with all of the remaining family including her biological father Richard Gregson, who has now since passed away and the father who raised her, Robert Wagner. What results from this film is an intimate look at a one of a kind and special talent that we may never see the likes of again. Natalie Wood was powerful, driven and always willing to stand up for herself in every way, push forward women’s rights in the industry in every facet she could. This type of documentary is an easy sell with me but I think everyone should check it out, it’s phenomenal.

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 final result is absolutely fantastic. 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. This movie is awesome, thrilling, unpredictable and always able to get under your skin by simply panning over to an “empty” side of the room. Whannell is quickly rising up the ranks of must-see filmmakers and it is so deserved.

Lost Transmissions – Simon Pegg and Juno Temple lead this new drama from writer and director Katharine O’Brien in her first feature film and she really knocks it out of the park with a great script, exquisitely shot with powerful performances, especially from Pegg who’s final five minutes of this movie shakes the earth and left me slack-jawed. The film follows a young singer and songwriter named Hannah who strikes up a friendship with Theo Ross an acclaimed producer who wants to help bring her music to the next level. She quickly learns that he suffers from severe schizophrenia when he goes off his medication and ends up having to be committed by his group of friends. All of this shakes Hannah’salready medicated and shaky psyche as some of Theo’s delusions start to make sense to her. This film is incredible and woefully under talked about, a pretty damning look at mental care in the US against a backdrop of a grey looking Los Angeles. This is a must-see.

Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn – The DC Cinematic Universe continues on its upswing with this new film that washes the taste of Suicide Squad out of your mouth like an extra-strong Listerine as this is the second kick at the can for Margot Robbie’s version of Harley Quinn, now shedding the shackles of the abusive Jared Leto Joker and looking to be a force for good alongside the rest of the Birds Of Prey. Who are they? Well, we have the supersonic ass-kicker of Black Canary, played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Huntress, an assassin played by Ramona Flowers herself Mary Elizabeth Winstead and the iconic Rosie Perez playing Gotham City detective Renee Montoya, a comic favorite. Together they take of Ewan McGregor’s villain character who is definitely having an insanely good time playing this bad guy. The movie is brash, R-rated but a fund vibrant style that encompasses the whole run time, shot by one of the best cinematographers in Hollywood today, Matthew Libatique, who did Black Swan and A Star Is Born, nominated for an Oscar for both.

Television:

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (Netflix) – I am pretty sure that even though its series is pretty unpredictable in its scope I can figure out what doesn’t happen at the end and that’s Jeffrey Epstein killing himself. All jokes aside though, this show is like a disgusting pile of sludge that you can’t help but paw through as it goes deep into the allegations against him with first-hand witness accounts and episode one gets that pesky question of “why are these ladies only coming forward now?” out of the way with the simple fact that they were bullied and threatened into not saying anything. There will be a lot of gasping, angry shouts and slack jaws in disbelief as this limited series goes through every piece of Epstein’s disturbing sexual proclivities in excruciating detail. This is a can’t miss documentary series.

Dead To Me: Season 2 (Netflix) – Two of my favorite actresses lead this dark comedy as one of my childhood crushes, Christina Applegate, plays a recently widowed woman who meets a new friend, played by Linda Cardellini, at the grief support group, not knowing that she is the one responsible for her husband’s death. This series is so well written and while this new season takes it in a crazy different direction in some senses but doesn’t quite hit that level that Weeds did where it became completely unbelievable and kind of ruins some of the characters in the process. The show was created by Liz Feldman who made the short-lived Elisha Cuthbert sitcom One Big Happy but has really hit her stride with this show and the deeply sardonic and mean character for Applegate is so perfect. I love this show.

Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill (Netflix) – One of the greatest living comedians on the planet is back with this new hour-long stand up set and I don’t know what it is about Jerry but I’ve always been a fan, dating back to his book Seinlanguage which I read three times when it came out. Not a huge accomplishment as it’s pretty short. This new special digs into the mundane nature of life as he always does, the fervour of going out just to want to go home, the annoying nature of friends and the headache to make new ones and the fact that dads are embued with the same natural instincts as mothers. Seinfeld proves that even now he can get the laughs and is still the measuring bar of stand up comedy and will be for years to come.

Trial By Media (Netflix) – Another new true-crime documentary arrives on Netflix to steal our attention from everything and this one has a bit of a twist to it as it focuses on a new subject each episode. The show is about the modern media-driven world since the debut of the “court television” introduced to us with the O.J. Simpson trial in which now real courtroom dramas have increasingly been transformed into a form of entertainment. The series reflects on some of the most dramatic and memorable trials in recent history like the Rod Blagojevich trial, the subway vigilante and the murder committed after a crush reveal episode of Jenny Jones. This show is fascinating and totally jaw-dropping in some instances. I only really meant to watch the first episode to get a feel for it for review but ended up doing all six episodes in one sitting. It’s highly addictive.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend (Netflix) – One of my favorite insane comedies returns for what I’m assuming is a final special but this one has a little twist as it is an interactive journey, one of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories like Black Mirror did with Bandersnatch. For this special, Kimmy is now engaged to a member of the British Royal family, played by Daniel Radcliffe, but the wedding is in trouble as Kimmy is still legally married to her former captor, the Reverend played hilariously by Jon Hamm. The choices can sometimes lead you to a dead-end in this but unlike the Black Mirror episode that just rolls credits, this one will bring you back to the choices screen for a second stab at it, almost like this one was made for beginners. I’m okay with that as I really wanted to see all of the outcomes as I absolutely love this show. A fun and funny ride to distract you from the outside world for a bit.

I Know This Much Is True (Crave) – Mark Ruffalo extends his dramatic reach in this brand new HBO produced limited series playing twins in this true story adapted by Blue Valentine filmmaker Derek Cianfrance. Based on a book by Wally Lamb, this is the story of Dominick Birdsey recounts his troubled relationship with Thomas, his paranoid schizophrenic brother, and his efforts to get him released from an asylum and after one episode I’m hooked. Ruffalo is incredible in both of these roles and to see the treatment of those suffering from mental issues around 1990 is horrendous and the knowledge that not much has changed is absolutely depressing. If there was one theme to emerge from the blog this week it has to be that we are failing our citizens every day in horribly damaging ways. We want people to speak up yet do almost nothing for them when they do.

Creepshow: Season 1 (Shudder) – With my love of anthology horror being large as well as my adoration of the first two Creepshow movies, you best believe I have more than a little love for this brand new series of disturbing horror stories led by The Walking Dead showrunner and gore specialist Greg Nicotero. First off, the list of directors on this show is insane, including David Bruckner, one of the guys behind another anthology film Southbound, for four episodes, Tales From The Darkside: The Movie director John Harrison for two episodes, the incredible new talent of Roxanne Benjamin, Makeup master Tom Savini and more and then the cast, holy crap. There’s a mix of older stars and new as we get people like Adrienne Barbeau, Tobin Bell and Jeffrey Coms as well as rappers Big Boi and Kid Cudi and fan favorites like David Arquette and Dana Gould. The first episode is a great jumping-off point with a Stephen King short story adaptation, reaching back to his book Skeleton Crew.

Patton Oswalt: I Love Everything (Netflix) – One of my favorite voices on Twitter has unleashed his newest special on the mighty Netflix and it is as funny and sweet as the person delivering it. Patton gets deep into his own life and existence, especially with him recently turning fifty and all the pitfalls that it brings with it. He also digs into the fact he found happiness with his new wife Meredith Salinger after the sudden of his wife a few years back, stressing that there is a light at the end of a horrible tragedy. While stand up comedy specials and comedians usually hug onto pain, pet peeves and disagreements, Patton’s show feels like such a breath of fresh air and positivity in a time that I think we need it the most.

Stargirl: Season 1 (The CW) – The latest new series from the DC Universe online streaming service is a bit of a left-field character for the average comic fan but it has so many good things going for it in for me not to get optimistic. The show is about a teenage girl named Courtney Whitmore who discovers the cosmic staff and becomes the inspiration for a new generation of superheroes who eventually become the Justice Society Of America and the potential for this series is so big just knowing that Arrowverse creator Greg Berlanti and comic legend Geoff Johns are the showrunners for this. With the DC Universe really needing something to keep it afloat, their television department could really do some cool things for them in the way that they can finally obtain that Marvel Studios like prestige they’ve been wanting for so long.

Snowpiercer (Netflix) – Adapted from Academy Award winner Bong Joon-Ho’s mind-boggling sci-fi thriller, his English language debut, I would usually start my write up on this by saying how disappointing it is that Americans have to pounce on popular foreign properties but this one is different. With Bong on board as executive producer along with fellow Korean film master Park Chan Wook and horror director Scott Derrickson, this show has the immediate source material love and care I wanted for it and it shines, especially with Blindspotting’s Daveed Diggs as the lead, one of the best actors working today. For those who don’t know, the show is a post-fall of humanity story about a divided remainder of people, either the poor or the elite, that live on a train that constantly zooms around the frozen landscape of Earth. With Jennifer Connolly playing the opposition in this show, it can only get better. The show will be updated weekly by Netflix but two episodes are available now.

New On VOD:

A White, White Day – Scandanavian films are always such a mystery to star it seems and always puts me on a rollercoaster of “what the hell is going on?” until it settles down and then I’m almost always blown away by what I’ve seen. This new film comes from Iceland and follows a small-town cop grieving after his wife plunges through a barricade off of the highway in a thick fog and dies. Through his grief, he gets the sneaking suspicion that a man he plays soccer with had an affair with his wife and becomes consumed with finding out the truth. The main character is a powder keg ready to explode at any wrong thing said to him and is massively unlikeable until, really, the final moments of the movie but the ride getting there escalates out of control in shocking fashion and it’s so intriguing to watch. Who knew that these countries would produce such incredible cinema?

A Perfect Plan – The Canadian Film Festival rolls on, continuing to showcase a new slate of films to audiences on Superchannel during this pandemic and this one delves into the mystery genre for a heist film. The film has that whole Saw vibe to it initially as it follows four notorious thieves wake up in a fortified warehouse and are forced by a cunning master thief to plan and commit an extraordinary diamond heist. The film has a total 90s staple in William Forsythe playing one of the ageing thieves put into this life or death situation as well as former 24 actor and creator and host of The Great Canadian Food Show, Carolo Rota as the villain but it all feels under-produced, predictable and very badly paced at times which makes this film a slog to get through rather than being intriguing in any way.

Raising the Dead: Re-Examining Night of the Living Dead – In a short little documentary created for the Hollywood Suite channels here in Canada, this film examines one of the most iconic horror movies of all time, a huge moment for creature features as writer and director George A. Romero created possibly the most used and beloved movie monsters ever, the zombie, although they are never called that in the film. Compiled from interviews with the surviving cast or crew members film historians and critics and archived chats with Romero himself who passed away in 2017. The film is very short and feels a bit “bare bones” when it comes to exploring much outside of this one film of Romero’s because it would have been nice to see footage of any of the other “Dead” movies he made in contrast to the original. I was kind of left wanting more to this.

Inheritance – Mystery is at the center of this brand new film from director Vaughn Stein who’s last venture, the neon gangster noir Terminal, boasted a great cast including Margot Robbie and one of the stars of this movie, Simon Pegg, but was kind of an incoherent mess. Doing away with the metaphorical driven story, this film follows Lily Collins as a successful and driven lawyer who’s life is thrown into chaos when her father dies and leaves her a very unusual inheritance. For spoiler reasons, I won’t get deeper into that plot but I have to say that Stein improved vastly from his last film but still lacks that third act polish which definitely hurts this movie as I felt it almost completely changed from mystery to suspense in that transition. I was largely entertained by this film in the end though.

Queen Of The Morning Calm – This is a contained little Toronto centric story about a Korean mother and her young daughter in desperate times in their life. Struggling to pay the rent and forever attached to an erratically violent and forever roaming partner, Debra has to turn to strip at the local club as well as performing other sexual tasks to make ends meet, something that is causing her daughter Mona to lash out at everyone around her. When a gaff in child care gets Debra fired from her job she must set out to find a real way to bring money in for her little family as well as rekindle the bond that she has lost with her daughter. Writer and director Gloria Kim crafts an intimate character study that really connects on a human level with some beautiful natural light shots throughout. I really liked this film.

The High Note – The cast is intriguing with this new music-driven comedy-drama which features Tracy Ellis Ross in her first big-screen lead role which was, unfortunately, shoved to video on demand during this awful pandemic. She plays Grace Davis, an ageing megastar who has left doing new music behind a few years back but is sort of just relying on greatest hits compilations and anniversary concerts as her bread and butter. Dakota Johnson plays her assistant who yearns to one day be a producer and Grace being her main target if she is willing. I would be into this underdog rising/comeback story if it didn’t feel so glossy and cheesy at almost every turn. It’s weird that a bigger production film like A Star Is Born can have an almost raw quality while this movie can avoid being contrived at every turn. Pretty disappointing.

Dreamland – Bruce McDonald, one of Canada’s most eclectic filmmakers, returns with a new mind-twisting cinematic journey, reteaming with the writer of his insane zombie feature Pontypool, Tony Burgess, as well as the lead from that film, Stephen McHattie. The story follows a contract killer who is hired to bring the severed finger of a drug-addled jazz musician as the wedding present from a vicious crime lord at one of the weirdest weddings I have ever seen on film. Featuring a supporting cast including Juliette Lewis and Henry Rollins, McDonald’s movie isn’t grounded in any sense of reality at all, giving you the distinct feeling that this whole story takes place on some sort of dreamscape that makes any rules total superfluous. This, in turn, makes the movie really tough to get into and aside from a few scenes it feels pretty forgettable. At first, I thought we were getting a sort of Lynchian film from a Canadian master but he never rises to that level, unfortunately.

Blu-Ray:

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 final result is absolutely fantastic. 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. This movie is awesome, thrilling, unpredictable and always able to get under your skin by simply panning over to an “empty” side of the room. Whannell is quickly rising up the ranks of must-see filmmakers and it is so deserved.

Cruel Peter: The Boy – I seem to have the bad luck of having to review all of these “Boy” related movies all in the same two week period but here we go again but, thankfully, we don’t have a creepy doll, there is no sequel, at least not yet there isn’t, and the writer/director isn’t changing his own history within the story. The film is about a horrendous and murderous little bully who is buried alive and returns as a malevolent spirit over a hundred years later after being released by an earthquake. Some good ghostly jump scares aren’t enough to make up for a terrible script and just generally bad acting from everyone involved. I feel like my ocular cavities got a serious work out by how much I rolled my eyes during this movie, a film that descends into all the supernatural tropes we’re bored of.

Wildlife – Paul Dano makes his directorial debut with this film he adapted with his girlfriend Zoe Kazan from a book by Richard Ford, given just one stipulation by the author for an onscreen version. He replied to Dano’s request by saying “I am grateful to you for your interest in my book, but I should also say this in hopes of actually encouraging you. My book is my book, your picture, were you to make it, is your picture. Your movie maker’s fidelity to my novel is of no great concern to me. Establish your own values, means, goal. Leave the book behind so it doesn’t get in the way.” Dano made this his own, crafting a story about a splintering family in the 60s that features incredible performances from young actor Ed Oxenbould as well as Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal. This is a beautifully shot film that has infinite patience to let an actor’s silence tell volumes. How this wasn’t looked at for Academy Awards is one of the biggest mysteries to me right now. A well-deserved Criterion edition.

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson And The Band – 2019 was such an incredible year for music documentaries and retrospectives and it continued here with this look at the legendary Robbie Robertson and the group he led, The Band. Yes, if you’ve seen Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz you are very familiar with their work but instead of a focused concert, this tells the story of a group that went from backing up Bob Dylan to become one of the most influential groups of its era with a catalogue of songs that are so beautifully written by a group of songwriters with unfathomable cohesion. With both me and my wife being huge fans of The Band, this movie was incredibly special to us.

Escape From L.A. – Look, it’s not the best movie by any capacity but to get another collector’s edition of a film directed by the Master Of Horror John Carpenter and it features one of my favorite badass characters of all time, Snake Plissken, well, this is just a steal for a guy like me. The story follows Snake as he is coerced again by the United States government to do some world-saving merc work by recovering a doomsday device that is in Los Angeles, now a floating penal colony for the riff-raff of the country. The movie is definitely cheesy and very rough around the edges but little things shine through like Kurt Russell’s gruff character work, Steve Buscemi chewing the scenery and a great scene with Bruce Cambell as the torturous “Surgeon General”. I guess I have a bit of a soft spot in my heart for this one.

The Deer Hunter – One of my favorite movies of all time gets the full $K restoration treatment by those great people at Shout Factory with this Michael Cimino Vietnam War classic, a film that will always be regarded as his best and one that gave us a depiction of Russian Roulette on screen. For those unfamiliar with this film, it is a pretty raw look at the ways that the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War traumatized and disrupts the lives of people in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania. The cast is incredible in this film with Robert Deniro in the lead and Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep and John Cazale in supporting roles, this being the final film for Cazale who succumbed to cancer. The movie would go on to win five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, a landmark film of the 1970s and one I feel like I’ve purchased on every medium. Well worth my money.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Hudson River Massacre – From the spaghetti western sets of Italy in the 1960s comes this frontier film that takes place in Canada? Yes, I’m just as confused as you are and it obviously wasn’t any sort of hit because I’m pretty much as new to this movie as most of you are now just reading it. Also titled Canadian Wilderness, this film follows Victor, the chief of the fur hunters rebels, as he kidnaps Ann from the ruthless landowner as a bartering tool to get more for his people from those who have it all. The film doesn’t have any recognizable stars or a director I’ve heard of but tries to use some real Canadian history as the character Leo Linoux sort of echoes the historic Louis Riel who led hundreds of Catholic Francophone Métis, supported by Cree fighters in the North-West Rebellion. It’s rough but if you like classic settler stories it’s pretty solid.

The Great Escape – This is easily one of the greatest prison escape movies of all time but it also has the distinct genre crossover of being a World War II movie as well but with everything working so beautifully in it, cast, direction, cinematography and production, it is definitely on the list of greatest films ever made. A great escape it is, and for those who don’t know of this movie, it follows a group of allied prisoners of war who plan for several hundred of their fellow cellmates to escape from a German camp during World War II. The cast is so big with Steve McQueen in one of his best roles ever alongside Sir Richard Attenborough, James Garner, James Coburn, Charles Bronson and more in a movie that is entertaining every time I watch it. Deservedly so, this movie is a brand new addition to the Criterion Collection with a gorgeous new transfer.

The Road To Mother – Delving into some Kazakh cinema from almost five years ago, Kino Lorber has given this war-torn drama a full North American platform with this new Blu-ray release. Directed by filmmaker Akan Satayev, this is the story of several generations of a Kazakh family from the 1930s to the present day, tracing the most momentous events in the history of Kazakhstan through war and separation all through their eyes and the determination of the clan to remain united. The film in a large degree comes off as a bit of a history lesson, almost like the story would rather teach more than emote at times but when the impact is felt on our characters, the direction is flawless in driving their singular messages home. This was the official submission of Kazakhstan for the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category of the 90th Academy Awards in 2018, two years after it was completed, but ultimately didn’t get the nomination and lost to A Fantastic Woman, a film I adored.

Television:

Snowpiercer (Netflix) – Adapted from Academy Award winner Bong Joon-Ho’s mind-boggling sci-fi thriller, his English language debut, I would usually start my write up on this by saying how disappointing it is that Americans have to pounce on popular foreign properties but this one is different. With Bong on board as executive producer along with fellow Korean film master Park Chan Wook and horror director Scott Derrickson, this show has the immediate source material love and care I wanted for it and it shines, especially with Blindspotting’s Daveed Diggs as the lead, one of the best actors working today. For those who don’t know, the show is a post-fall of humanity story about a divided remainder of people, either the poor or the elite, that live on a train that constantly zooms around the frozen landscape of Earth. With Jennifer Connolly playing the opposition in this show, it can only get better. The show will be updated weekly by Netflix but two episodes are available now.

Hannah Gadsby: Douglas (Netflix) – Australian comedian and creator of the hit show Please Like Me returns to Netflix for her second comedy special and if you’ve never seen her stand up or seen a meme made out of one of her jokes, you’re in store for a very different style of comedy as she provides what I call the “tickle and slap” of her trade and I know I’m definitely not her demographic. She even says so in this special. In a show simply named after her dog, Hannah shares her latest takes on popularity, identity, language, feminism and even a massively uncomfortable exchange at the dog park which pitted her in an age-old battle with the patriarchy. Those without an open mind will feel like Gadsby is lecturing, another trait she is aware of, but what I say was the comedy of frustration through a woman that takes no prisoners. This is a polarizing special, no doubt, but it’s well done.

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (Netflix) – I am pretty sure that even though its series is pretty unpredictable in its scope I can figure out what doesn’t happen at the end and that’s Jeffrey Epstein killing himself. All jokes aside though, this show is like a disgusting pile of sludge that you can’t help but paw through as it goes deep into the allegations against him with first-hand witness accounts and episode one gets that pesky question of “why are these ladies only coming forward now?” out of the way with the simple fact that they were bullied and threatened into not saying anything. There will be a lot of gasping, angry shouts and slack jaws in disbelief as this limited series goes through every piece of Epstein’s disturbing sexual proclivities in excruciating detail. This is a can’t miss documentary series.

Ramy: Season 2 (Crave) – Now that Ramy Yousef is on the map as a Golden Globe winner for Best Actor in a comedy series maybe this really funny and real feeling series will pick up the audience clout it deserves with the release of its sophomore season. Ramy plays himself in this show, a resident of New Jersey and the son of Egyptian migrants who begins a spiritual journey that is divided between his Muslim community, God, and his friends who see endless possibilities for him in love, life and a burgeoning career. This show has almost a sort of Curb Your Enthusiasm quality to it but still manages to stay true to its reality and prove its point in the absurdity of what we know and what we think we know about Muslims. I started with episode one of this series just on the weekend and found myself crashing through all ten episodes. Seriously, Friday can’t come fast enough for me to see one of my new favorite current shows.

Space Force (Netflix) – When King Karen down there in the United States announced that the next American conquest would be space, The Office showrunner and Steve Carrell were quick to make a declaration of their own, that they would be making their own series called Space Force. Well, episode one is a bit rough and not to the caliber of Daniels’ Amazon Prime series Upload but has a lot of promise as it follows Carrell as General Mark R. Naird, the man put in charge of the program by the Twitterer In Chief and, yes, the Twitter joke is used quite often at the President’s expense. Co-starring John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz and Lisa Kudrow, the show has promise if it can keep on the rails and not fall too hard into the Trump lampooning. It was very bittersweet to see an appearance from the late Fred Willard as Carrell’s father. It brought a tear to my eye with both sentimentality and comedy because he is hysterical in his one scene.

New On VOD:

The Roads Not Taken – Javier Bardem and Elle Fanning star in this new drama from The Party and Ginger And Rosa writer and director Sally Potter that tells a personal story that is a sort of composite story of her own experiences. The story follows a day in the life of Leo, played by Bardem, who’s chaotic mind is making it hard for him to live his day to day in New York City which causes his daughter Molly (Fanning) to constantly be by his side, guiding him through existence, sacrificing her own for his. Leo is also caught up in scenarios that could have been, which haunt him and start to cause behaviour in his own reality. The film is interesting on the outset but fails to go anywhere within the construct of a real story and it began to frustrate me. By the end of the film, I felt nothing was accomplished besides great performances, especially from Bardem, and I’m sure some deep catharsis for the filmmaker.

Body Cam – When this was sent to me, a direct to video horror movie, I have to admit, I didn’t look at it as anything that would interest me at all because the cover looks so B-grade but I found myself mildly surprised. The film stars iconic R&B star, Mary J. Blige, as a Los Angeles police officer who finds herself in a bad position as the department is being scrutinized for some of the citizen deaths which have been questionable. When an unseen force starts to kill some of her fellow officers she takes it upon herself to investigate why these are happening. The scares are here, with some pretty effective jump ones, but I was really disappointed with how light they were on actually showing anything on screen and the mystery thread of the film was pretty predictable. That said, it was way better than I was expecting.

The Trip To Greece – I just spent my whole long weekend going on trips with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they tour restaurants and wineries in this Michael Winterbottom series that goes from England to Italy to Spain and now finally to Greece for what looks to be the final one. In one of the most consistent franchises ever made, in my opinion, Coogan and Brydon’s friendly rivalry of constant impressions, arguments of career stature and even who knows more about the places they are visiting is always so hysterically funny that I revisit it to see parts that I had missed because I’m laughing so hard. These are two of the funniest actors on the planet and I will continuously be doing Michael Caine, Mick Jagger and Roger Moore impressions because of it. I also really hope they keep making more.

Military Wives – Coming from the director of The Full Monty, this film has all sorts of great uplifting British feeling in it and it all starts with the odd couple at its heart, the prim and proper character played by Kristen Scott Thomas and the more free-thinking but frazzled one played by Sharon Horgan. The two are the organizers for a group of army wives looking for an outlet when their spouses are sent to Afghanistan for their tour of duty in the form of a choir. When the group gets selected to perform at the Royal Albert Hall in London, the pressure rises and tempers flare as both ladies try to lead the group while also dealing with issues at home. I felt the warm heart of this movie constantly, a cheerful “alls well that ends well” story that honestly feels like a cozy cinematic hug that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Painter And The Thief – This movie blew my mind completely, an unexpected genius piece of cinema that combines the reality of a documentary with the emotional narrative of two yearning inner psyches. The film follows a young Czech painter named Barbora Kysilkova who paints in a beautiful photorealistic style whose work is stolen by two addicts. Feeling devastated to her soul and unable to recover what she has lost, she approaches one of the culprits in court and demands to paint him. What results is a journey that changes both of their lives and bonds their lives together in a repair of their souls. This movie was an astounding watch and a beautiful look at the goodness in humans and how we can be the guiding light to those in need in dark times. This was exactly the movie I needed right now. Highly recommended.

Alone Across The Arctic – This is a movie that seriously makes you look at yourself and say “what are you doing with your life?” because compared to writer and adventurer Adam Shoalts, I really feel pretty inadequate. Part of the Canadian Film Festival that will be airing on the Superchannels, this is the documentation of Adam’s solo journey of an estimated four thousand kilometre journey across the Canadian Arctic by canoe and on foot and, although we don’t feel the peril of say Free Solo or the like, we do get the urgency of the timeline of Adam’s trip as he gets more and more grizzled looking and a bit thinner. The film comes off as a beautiful look at a landscape that many will never see, untouched by the machines of man or the grip of industrialization, it’s actually a really calming film in many ways.

Blu-Ray:

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 initial excitement came from the fact that the big bad is played by one of my favorites of all time, Jim Carrey, and he honestly does almost steal the entire show. I initially thought that this movie was going to be garbage but I had a hell of a lot of fun with it, the references to the classic pieces of the videogame are all there and the love for this character and the world it comes from is all there. I really hope that this leads to a full-on franchise because me and my family would definitely be interested in more, especially after that stinger at the end.

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. This movie is really funny and has some great world-building, as Pixar needs a new franchise to put its hat on, and the heart of this story is displayed prominently on its sleeve. The whole family is going to love this movie and it definitely needs a rewatch for all of the “easter eggs” to be found.

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.

Emma. – This may be the first time I’ve looked at one of these movies and thought “I want to see that” so 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 every shot of the film is absolutely exquisite, a thing I kept marvelling at. Honestly, this might be the best looking film to come out this year so far. Joy also totally owns this film but the rest of the supporting cast gets their time to shine and it’s always a treat to get a Bill Nighy performance.

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. This movie is definitely full of emotion which pushes through the very formulaic feeling main plot and themes of redemption with Affleck putting his whole soul ion display as the driving force and damaged heart of the story. I also really enjoyed the supporting work from stand up comedian Al Madrigal as the assistant coach in this, an actor that has been excelling in these dramatic roles.

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, Lauren Cohen, we get Katie Holmes playing the mother of a young boy who moves into a house near the Heelshire Mansion from the first film 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. I did a back to back viewing of both Boy movies and it’s frustrating to note that Bell changes the events of his previous film to fit the new narrative of this movie and, oh god, why do these movies exist? Truly the bottom of the barrel when it comes to mainstream horror.

Color Out Of Space – This movie is a sweet cinema story just in its mere existence as it is the return of director and screenwriter Richard Stanley in a narrative feature role since he was fired from The Island Of Doctor Moreau by Paramount in 1996. Even better, the movie is an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation led by a Nicolas Cage performance that is completely unhinged from the get-go. The movie follows a family whose world is thrown into chaos when a meteor crashes on their farm, emitting a sinister purple hue and changing the world around them. This movie is unsettling and awe-inspiring with its look and execution, Stanley getting right back into that unique style he exhibited with Hardware and Dust Devil. This movie is definitely not for everyone but if you loved Cage in Mandy as I did, you will love this movie.

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War – Little did I know when I was watching this newest piece of the DC Comics animated universe that it was meant to be the final installment of these movies which kind of makes me sad but, let’s face it, we’ve had a hell of a run. This film starts you out in a quagmire of problems as the entire Justice League has been decimated by Darkseid and his army of Apokolips and those who haven’t been outright murdered on-screen in surprisingly bloody fashion have been turned into mindless slaves by their conqueror. It is now up to a powerless Superman to convince a drunken John Constantine to take up a fight in the battle and he is voiced by the great Matt Ryan, who I believe should always play his role going forward because he’s damn good, no offence, Keanu. My only issue with this movie, definitely not a kid’s one, be warned, is that the animation seemed a little lesser than it usually is, almost like they had rushed it. That said the action is great, the story is surprising and, oh boy, is the ending ever bleak with only a hint of hope.

Promare – It’s time for another engaging adventure of Steve tries to understand and access anime as a total outsider. The title is long and I’m working on it but this new film is pretty dazzling to look at but even in that vein I had some issues. The story is a pretty massive expanse of world-building and character building, some things which led to a lot of my confusion about the plot but to put it all in a simple sentence the film is mainly about a futuristic firefighting mecha service that is created to protect the world from a separate race that has fire powers that will burn up the entire Earth. The animation is a crazy blend of a 2D style along with a polygon centric style that gives all the action scenes this crazy vibrant quality but at times lets the voices talk over an almost static unmoving picture that feels kind of lazy. In the end I feel no closer to understanding this medium, although I was entertained by it here and there.

Top Gun – This has to be at the top of Tom Cruise’s greatest films of all time, right? I remember as a kid being totally obsessed with this movie, Tom as the bad boy fighter pilot Maverick always butting heads with his rival the Iceman all to the sunbleached beat of a Kenny Loggins soundtrack. Then, when it all gets sensual under a cool blue filter for some love with Kelly McGillis we get the iconic tones of Berlin and the track Take My Breath Away, oh man, the memories. Well, with the sequel Top Gun: Maverick in the chamber and ready to fire, it is the perfect time for this 4K version to hit shelves and it is truly beautiful and the film has never sounded or looked better.

Days Of Thunder – The middle of the Tom Cruise trifecta this week, Cruise took a ride on the Nascar circuit for this exhilarating racing film which reteamed him with Top Gun director Tony Scott, a movie that Cruise himself wrote the story for which was then written for the screen by legendary writer Robert Towne, you know, the guy who did Chinatown and Shampoo. Again, Tom Cruise got to play the slick hotshot with a cocky smile, this time with his then-wife Nicole Kidman playing the love interest, a personal favorite, Robert Duvall as his pit boss and a stellar supporting cast including Michael Rooker, John C. Reilly, Cary Elwes and even a role for coked-up producer Don Simpson to join in the fun. Again, with that 4K restoration, the windows will be rattling like crazy for this beautiful transfer and you will be swept back to the adrenaline speed of the year 1990 for this killer flick.

War Of The Worlds – This has to be one of Steven Spielberg’s most bleak films he has ever made but I still hail it as a low key favorite of mine in his filmography. It’s a big deal to take on a story of this historical magnitude, given the stature of the H.G. Wells story that was shepherded to the radio airwaves and later movie screen by Orson Welles but Spielberg was the most fitting person to do it. The scenes of destruction as Tom Cruise and his kids, played by Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin, desperately try to make to away from the mass genocide perpetrated by the alien invaders will always stick in my mind seeing it in theaters and hearing the low blast of the sirens and the visuals of victim’s clothes sailing on a wind of dust that used to be humans. This film is a truly incredible achievement and to have it now on the best way to see it, this brand new 4K edition is truly awesome. Watch it again and tell me how fantastic the bits between Cruise and Tim Robbins are. Chef’s kiss to that scene.

Dance, Girl, Dance – I am over the moon to have received a brand new Criterion Collection edition as the warehouse for distribution has been closed for months due to COVID-19 and I feel myself waiting at the window for packages from them like a wartime wife waiting for her husband to come home. What I received is an absolute classic, going back to 1940 for a comedy musical with Maureen O’Hara and Lucille Ball, a film that led to the two becoming inseparable friends while shooting this film and they remained lifelong friends until Ball’s death in 1989. Lucille also met Desi Arnaz while making this film about an unemployed dance who takes up burlesque to pay the bills. I’m kind of a stranger to a lot of these classic movies but this one feels like a very pivotal piece of 1940s cinema and Criterion has made a beautiful edition out of it.

Creepshow: Season 1 – With my love of anthology horror being large as well as my adoration of the first two Creepshow movies, you best believe I have more than a little love for this brand new series of disturbing horror stories led by The Walking Dead showrunner and gore specialist Greg Nicotero. First off, the list of directors on this show is insane, including David Bruckner, one of the guys behind another anthology film Southbound, for four episodes, Tales From The Darkside: The Movie director John Harrison for two episodes, the incredible new talent of Roxanne Benjamin, Makeup master Tom Savini and more and then the cast, holy crap. There’s a mix of older stars and new as we get people like Adrienne Barbeau, Tobin Bell and Jeffrey Coms as well as rappers Big Boi and Kid Cudi and fan favorites like David Arquette and Dana Gould. The first episode is a great jumping-off point with a Stephen King short story adaptation, reaching back to his book Skeleton Crew.

The Loud House Season 2 Volume 2: Absolute Madness – More crazy Nickelodeon cartoons for your children to feast their eyes on but is it going to drive you nuts as a parent? Well, let’s look at the voices and creators so we can have some sort of latching on point for this show about Lincoln Loud, an eleven-year-old boy who lives with ten sisters and with the help of his friend Clyde finds new ways to survive in such a large family every day. Any voices you would know? Well, Batman The Animated Series’ Grey Griffin features in it as well as Bender himself, Joh Dimaggio but aside from quick guest spots by Wayne Brady, Phil Lamarr and the late and so great Fred Willard, that’s about it. The show was created by Chris Savino, a long time writer on The Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Laboratory, so you can see where this show is aimed at.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Me And You And Everyone We Know – Back when I was a video store employee I came across this debut feature from writer, director and actress Miranda July and I totally fell in love with it. Co-starring the always underrated John Hawkes, this film is about a lonely shoe salesman and an eccentric performance artist who strikes up an unorthodox relationship, finding a connection on a higher level than who they are in society’s eyes. This film is a deep drama about the simple condition of being human and trying to find your place in it and Criterion has the same love that I do for it as it is one of the newest pieces in the collection and deservedly so. This movie is captivating and a beautifully shot first film from an incredibly gifted filmmaker in the independent world of cinema.

Television:

Homecoming: Season 2 (Amazon Prime) – Oh man, this show is so weird on so many levels and just watching the first episode of the first season will discombobulate you to what this show is about but it is led by the superpower of Julia Roberts who also produces it. The show, for at least the first season, follows Heidi (Julia Roberts) who works at Homecoming, a facility helping soldiers transition to civilian life. The story also splinters into years later as she has started a new life in a small coastal town working as a waitress when the Department of Defense questions why she left Homecoming and Heidi starts to realize there’s a whole other story behind the one she’s been telling herself. This one is so strange in its mysterious scope, insane acrobats in tracking shots and the shifting of its aspect ratio making it one of the most intriguing mainstream television show on the streaming services right now.

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

Stargirl: Season 1 (The CW) – The latest new series from the DC Universe online streaming service is a bit of a left-field character for the average comic fan but it has so many good things going for it in for me not to get optimistic. The show is about a teenage girl named Courtney Whitmore who discovers the cosmic staff and becomes the inspiration for a new generation of superheroes who eventually become the Justice Society Of America and the potential for this series is so big just knowing that Arrowverse creator Greg Berlanti and comic legend Geoff Johns are the showrunners for this. With the DC Universe really needing something to keep it afloat, their television department could really do some cool things for them in the way that they can finally obtain that Marvel Studios like prestige they’ve been wanting for so long.

Patton Oswalt: I Love Everything (Netflix) – One of my favorite voices on Twitter has unleashed his newest special on the mighty Netflix and it is as funny and sweet as the person delivering it. Patton gets deep into his own life and existence, especially with him recently turning fifty and all the pitfalls that it brings with it. He also digs into the fact he found happiness with his new wife Meredith Salinger after the sudden of his wife a few years back, stressing that there is a light at the end of a horrible tragedy. While stand up comedy specials and comedians usually hug onto pain, pet peeves and disagreements, Patton’s show feels like such a breath of fresh air and positivity in a time that I think we need it the most.

The 100: Season 7 (The CW) – Shot in the beautiful forests of British Columbia for seven fantastic seasons, this post-apocalyptic and completely unpredictable adventure action series draws to a close and I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed it’s run ever since that explosive first season. There is already a prequel series planned to go ahead next year but this has definitely been a rise in notoriety for showrunner and creator Jason Rothenberg who is undoubtedly on The CW’s fast track to make any series he wants along with the Arrowverse’s Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim. I feel lie The CW doesn’t get a lot of the praise it should as more of the successful shows are seen on this network and the burnt-out procedurals that seem like a carbon copy of all those that have come before it air on networks like CBS and ABC. Is the CW the only one taking chances besides cable and streaming services?

New on VOD:

Capone – It’s been awhile since we’ve heard the name Josh Trank, the director of the now infamously bad last Fantastic Four movie, a project that he was fired from during post production and was hacked to pieces by producers. Now, almost five years later he is back with this biopic about the most notorious gangster of all time Al Capone. Tom Hardy takes the lead role, which sweetens the deal considerably, focusing on the crime boss at forty seven years old, fresh off a ten year stint in jail and reflecting on his life as his memories start to slip away from him. The initial reviews of the movie are really not grat but I’m really into a good Hardy character piece but I have been horrible duped before with these factors. I’m looking directly at you Cray Brothers biopic, Legend.

Scoob! – Another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Warner Bros. made the choice to move this animated reboot of a beloved franchise to VOD for the kids, just like Universal was forced to with Trolls: World Tour. The good news is that Universal managed to get Trolls to $100 million in three weeks in this method and now WB is hoping for the same with a movie that has a pretty endearing trailer and delves a bit into the origin stories of the Mystery Machine occupants, how they met and of course how the bond between Shaggy and Scooby-Doo started. My biggest disappointment is that Matthew Lillard isn’t doing to voice of Shaggy, my favorite to ever do the role but instead, they went with Will Forte who I really do love. I have good hopes for this movie and it looks to bring so many Hanna Barbera cameos which has the cartoon nerd in me very excited.

Red Rover – Canadian movies can be very hit or miss but for the most part, this character-driven dramatic piece worked for me. Starring Kristian Bruun from Orphan Black and last year’s breakout horror hit Ready Or Not, this film follows a man who hasn’t a shred of anything to keep him going. His girlfriend left him for the unemployed Aussie that lives in the suite above him in the house him and his ex own together, his job constantly works him to the bone under the threat of being made redundant and he is spiralling into mass depression when a mysterious girl turns his attention to the Red Rover project, one that will have his rocketed to Mars to help develop the planet for human survival. With a new potential lease on life, he starts to come out of his shell and live again. I enjoyed this movie for the most part with Bruun giving a good “every modern man” performance that is totally relatable but the last ten minutes became so massively formulaic that it dispelled any originality.

Porno – With all the movies that are debuting on VOD right now there seems to be a myriad of different titles making their debut of various genres and calibres but the horror side has been fun and this one probably will make it onto my favorites of 2020 list. The story is about a Christian run movie theater in the mid-nineties who’s employees stumble upon a secret passageway that reveals that the theater used to be an X-rated venue years before. Hidden in the discovered room is a film reel that unleashes a succubus looking to create world domination through blood and severed genitals. This movie is absolutely insane, a bit tongue in cheek with the satire and contains one gory scene that will haunt me for the rest of my days. This is a bold debut for director Keola Racela and I really can’t wait for what is next from him.

Blu-Ray:

Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn – The DC Cinematic Universe continues on its upswing with this new film that washes the taste of Suicide Squad out of your mouth like an extra-strong Listerine as this is the second kick at the can for Margot Robbie’s version of Harley Quinn, now shedding the shackles of the abusive Jared Leto Joker and looking to be a force for good alongside the rest of the Birds Of Prey. Who are they? Well, we have the supersonic ass-kicker of Black Canary, played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Huntress, an assassin played by Ramona Flowers herself Mary Elizabeth Winstead and the iconic Rosie Perez playing Gotham City detective Renee Montoya, a comic favorite. Together they take of Ewan McGregor’s villain character who is definitely having an insanely good time playing this bad guy. The movie is brash, R-rated but a fund vibrant style that encompasses the whole run time, shot by one of the best cinematographers in Hollywood today, Matthew Libatique, who did Black Swan and A Star Is Born, nominated for an Oscar for both.

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 named Buck that changed his life in the wilderness of the Yukon. Director Chris Sanders, the creator of Lilo & Stitch, the big screen herald of How To Train Your Dragon and a wizard of animation helmed this film and decided to go te full CGI route with the animals of the movie and while this looks weirdly unsettling in the trailer I felt myself get over this fact very quickly and actually get drawn into the character of Buck who I felt life and soul come off of palpably. I fully expected to hate this movie but in the end, I really enjoyed it and the third act emotional beat pretty much crushed me so thanks a lot you sappy dog movie!

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 it is just plain weird to go into this wheelhouse having seen many episodes of the show. The initial feeling was high as a genre fan and especially because the park is now run by an evil Michael Pena and I kind of love that but what immediately kills 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. Usually, I’m a big celebration of the projects that Blumhouse picks, the chances they take and the franchises they have revived but this is a comedically bad miss that devolves into twist upon twist which serves to turn the whole thing into nonsensical mush. They even have the audacity to tease a sequel. For shame!

The Photograph – This movie, although heavily under-marketed, is a total sleeper that is going to pass people by and not just due to the red hot appeal of its stars, Issa Rae and Lakeith Stansfield because both actors making all the right moves at the moment. The film is a romantic drama 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 but this film connects in every way with rich characters, a touching love story from both time periods and beautiful shot after shot from cinematographer Mark Schwartzbard who lensed the Aziz Ansari series Master Of None. I had no idea when I put on this blu-ray that I would be watching one of my favorite films of 2020 but here we are.

The Traitor – A brand new sprawling look into the Cosanostra and Corleone mafia families, writer and director Marco Bellocchio has no time or patience to lower you into this story but instead throws you in at breakneck speed as person after person is murdered in brutal fashion all in the introduction of our main character Tommaso Buscetta, played brilliantly by veteran Italian actor Pierfrancesco Favino. His performance is the driving force of a film that feels erratic in its execution, making the whole story feel very scattered in its storytelling. That said, when Buscetta is giving his testimony against the family that is trying to kill him, it gets tense and very interesting.

Lost Transmissions – Simon Pegg and Juno Temple lead this new drama from writer and director Katharine O’Brien in her first feature film and she really knocks it out of the park with a great script, exquisitely shot with powerful performances, especially from Pegg who’s final five minutes of this movie shakes the earth and left me slack-jawed. The film follows a young singer and songwriter named Hannah who strikes up a friendship with Theo Ross an acclaimed producer who wants to help bring her music to the next level. She quickly learns that he suffers from severe schizophrenia when he goes off his medication and ends up having to be committed by his group of friends. All of this shakes Hannah’salready medicated and shaky psyche as some of Theo’s delusions start to make sense to her. This film is incredible and woefully under talked about, a pretty damning look at mental care in the US against a backdrop of a grey looking Los Angeles. This is a must-see.

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.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Lifeline/Clyfford Still – Some documentaries are made to be skewed to their own respective audiences and this new artist’s portrait is definitely one of those. Focused on the man at the center of a massive portfolio of work, this film looks at American impressionist artist Clyfford Still, a creator that was often linked with another troubled artist, Jackson Pollock, who he had an often volatile friendship with but that seemed to be both of these men’s appeal. Through this film, it’s interesting to see that all of his work had the same piece that ran through it, a single line that connects all of his pieces ad the construction of this movie actually serves to make sense of impressionist work in an almost educational way. I honestly felt like it was a bit of an Art 101 and I was on board for it.

Army Of Shadows – Newly released on a beautiful Criterion Collection with a brand new restored picture, this is a brilliantly executed story of the French Resistance fighting back against the Nazi regime in World War II. The film is adapted from Belle De Jour author Joseph Kessel’s book of the same name by acclaimed filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville who is no stranger to the Criterion Collection as he is featured a few times there and this movie has an astounding Metacritic score of 99 which is pretty much unheard of these days. With tracking shots that blow the mind and tension so thick that a samurai sword couldn’t cut it, there is so much to unpack with this film that may be one of the greatest wartime spy movies ever made.

The Grand Budapest Hotel – This might be Wes Anderson’s crowning achievement at this point, which I say because we have The French Dispatch on the horizon which looks incredible. This film that was the winner of four Oscars in the technical departments for make-up, production design, costumes and music is now available in a beautiful Criterion Collection, as all Anderson’s films eventually do, and is a must-see if you haven’t already. Ralph Fiennes plays the lead in an amazing ensemble about the overachieving concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel who is the lead suspect in the death of the hotel’s owner. This movie is hysterically funny and beautifully shot in only the way a Wes Anderson film could be. What a movie this is!

Television:

Trial By Media (Netflix) – Another new true-crime documentary arrives on Netflix to steal our attention from everything and this one has a bit of a twist to it as it focuses on a new subject each episode. The show is about the modern media-driven world since the debut of the “court television” introduced to us with the O.J. Simpson trial in which now real courtroom dramas have increasingly been transformed into a form of entertainment. The series reflects on some of the most dramatic and memorable trials in recent history like the Rod Blagojevich trial, the subway vigilante and the murder committed after a crush reveal episode of Jenny Jones. This show is fascinating and totally jaw-dropping in some instances. I only really meant to watch the first episode to get a feel for it for review but ended up doing all six episodes in one sitting. It’s highly addictive.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend (Netflix) – One of my favorite insane comedies returns for what I’m assuming is a final special but this one has a little twist as it is an interactive journey, one of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories like Black Mirror did with Bandersnatch. For this special, Kimmy is now engaged to a member of the British Royal family, played by Daniel Radcliffe, but the wedding is in trouble as Kimmy is still legally married to her former captor, the Reverend played hilariously by Jon Hamm. The choices can sometimes lead you to a dead-end in this but unlike the Black Mirror episode that just rolls credits, this one will bring you back to the choices screen for a second stab at it, almost like this one was made for beginners. I’m okay with that as I really wanted to see all of the outcomes as I absolutely love this show. A fun and funny ride to distract you from the outside world for a bit.

A Confession (Britbox) – The British seem to have a real penchant for making deeply enthraling but wholly depressing crime procedurals and now a new one rolls out with Sherlock and The Office star Martin Freeman and Harry Potter actress Imelda Staunton. Told in multiple storylines that all intersect at one point or another, the series follows Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher mainly, who intends on catching a killer of a missing woman, even if that may cost him his career and reputation as a close colleague is being investigated by internal affairs as well. Given the moodiness and lack of levity in this show, this will only appeal to those Criminal Minds type fans or regular British programming buffs but I really like the wide scope of this procedural as well as the attention to character detail. Hopefully, it earns a second series as it is only six episodes long but each show runs an hour.

I Know This Much Is True (Crave) – Mark Ruffalo extends his dramatic reach in this brand new HBO produced limited series playing twins in this true story adapted by Blue Valentine filmmaker Derek Cianfrance. Based on a book by Wally Lamb, this is the story of Dominick Birdsey recounts his troubled relationship with Thomas, his paranoid schizophrenic brother, and his efforts to get him released from an asylum and after one episode I’m hooked. Ruffalo is incredible in both of these roles and to see the treatment of those suffering from mental issues around 1990 is horrendous and the knowledge that not much has changed is absolutely depressing. If there was one theme to emerge from the blog this week it has to be that we are failing our citizens every day in horribly damaging ways. We want people to speak up yet do almost nothing for them when they do.

The Wrong Missy (Netflix) – That big Adam Sandler and Happy Madison Netflix deal has paid off for his buddy David Spade as this new comedy puts him in the lead role alongside the very funny and totally goofy Lauren Lapkus. Spade plays Tim, a recently single career-driven guy, who goes on a blind date with Missy, the date from hell. After he escapes that he meets Melissa by chance at the airport, the girl of his dreams and when a work retreat comes up to a tropical island he decides to invite her. Of course, he has been texting the wrong woman the whole time and the wrong “Missy” gets invited and supposed hilarity ensues. The film has a smattering of laughs in it but largely relies on slapstick, gross-out and the lowest of brows in humor to get it’s point across. I love Lauren Lapkus but this feels beneath her quite a bit.

New On VOD:

Extra Ordinary – Take the quirky attitudes of both new Academy Award winner Taika Waititi and combine it with the sombre middle American weird comedy of a Jared and Jerusha Hess movie like Napoleon Dynamite and ad a splash of British bumbling charm and you have this new horror-comedy. The film has unknown actress Maeve Higgins as a medium that has given up talking to ghosts because of the role she thinks she played in her father’s death. Now begged back into the job by a man who has a daughter that is being supernaturally groomed to be a sacrifice to the devil for a burnt-out rock star looking for a comeback. Aside from Higgins, the film also has Barry Ward in a comedic role, a weird movie after his Loach movies and the hilarious Will Forte as the villainous rock star. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie, a gut bustlingly hilarious story that will keep you laughing until the hysterical final moment.

Robert The Bruce – Twenty five years after Angus MacFayden played the character that screwed over Willaim Wallace in Braveheart, he is back to reprise the role in a film about the events that followed that betrayal, one that the actor wrote himself twelve years earlier. The immediate question is why did MacFayden at fifty-six years of age decide that he should jump back into that role, playing Robert The Bruce at age of thirty-two? It honestly doesn’t make a lot of sense and takes away from this quasi spinoff of the Academy Award-winning Braveheart. That said, the film is gorgeous looking throughout, taking advantage of the picturesque Scottish landscape and the mists in every moment, I just wish the surrounding film was more engaging. A story about this era should definitely not feel this painfully dull at times.

Blue Story – A gritty new tale of gangland violence comes from the United Kingdom with this feature film that is based on a series of YouTube videos from a creator named Rapman. Now in the huge leap to a major Paramount production, he writes and directs the feature version about two young friends who become rivals in an escalating street war that is killing off both sides with malice. Rapman himself jumps in as the narrator, always talking in rap rhymes which works well in some instances and comes off as corny in others. All in all, the film is a well-done gangster warfare story but just with that British edge that makes it a little hard to understand in some parts but as a genre entry goes I think a lot of people will enjoy it.

Spaceship Earth – Remember the Biosphere 2, an Earth system science research facility that was constructed to created to conduct a two-year experiment meant to demonstrate the viability of closed ecological systems to support and maintain human life in Outer Space? Sealed in for the experiment in 1991, the way most of my generation learned about this was the comedy BioDome starring Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin, but, as flawed as the initial experiment was, this was supposed to be a direct representation of how we could live on other planets if need be and more than twenty-five years afterwards that need has sped up exponentially. This film is fascinating in its approach, pulling from hours of footage, and the reveal on what happened to the facility after is almost some Scooby Doo villain type insanity that connects the Trump administration to this mess. The last ten minutes of this movie is pretty infuriating.

Lancaster Skies – Going from the war movie I had to watch last week which supported from a lame script, shoddy production value and a scowling bad boy lead who just looks slimy, I was trepidatious about this new World War II movie but also thought “well, how bad can it be?” I can’t say that this film was worse but it lacked almost all of the action of the before mentioned film. This is the story of Douglas, a broken, solitary, Spitfire Ace, who must overcome his past to lead a Lancaster bomber crew in the pivotal aerial war over Berlin, in 1944 but the guy has zero people skills whatsoever and has a hard time bonding with any of his men and is an absolute disaster with the woman on the base who has an obvious infatuation with him. This movie is really only bookended with war scenes and is instead about the off-time between the men of this crew which is not what I expected with this title. The skies are pretty much a metaphor besides a couple of scenes and it comes off as more a British melodrama more than anything. A bit dull for a casual viewer.

Blu-Ray:

Bloodshot – Sony and Valiant Comics kicked off their own cinematic universe with this new violent action film with a character that I honestly think was 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 the inexperience shows through with a project that could have carved its own path but instead kowtows to the cliches we expect from the star. Being this is the last movie I saw in theaters, I’m so disappointed that the studio who rather play everything safe than to produce a new franchise of worth.

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 and the love of his life 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 and this doesn’t change that at all. For a true story, this movie still feels completely contrived and massively predictable with all logic thrown to the wind just to make the narrative fit into their box. It’s disappointing and massively boring.

Gretel & Hansel – In the dark niches of mystery and horror actor turned director Osgood Perkins has been making waves with stylishly done films like The Blackcoat’s Daughter and with this film, just his third feature, he may hit more of a mainstream level with how wide this release was and he’s doing it with a classic Grimm fairy tale. The story is kind of what you remember it to be, a young girl and her little brother who live in a distant countryside long ago are forced from their home lured in a desperate search of food and work to a cottage in the woods that may be the end of both of them. The film stars It’s Sophia Lillis and The Borg Queen herself Alice Krige as the formidable villain of this film and one who absolutely owns her performance in every way, the delicious little extra that keeps the atmosphere of the story heightened. I really enjoyed this movie visually as it is an absolute feast in every way with a rich art direction and production design that is totally awe-inspiring, The script is a bit threadbare but on the level of being an arthouse horror it succeeds.

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.

Arkansas – Usually known from comedic roles, Clark Duke makes his feature directorial debut with this modern noir story that he wrote as well, adapted from a book by John Brandon. It stars Liam Hemsworth and Duke as two smugglers working for a mysterious Arkansas based kingpin named Frog that they’ve never met. When their in-between is killed after being followed home, the two are thrown into the crosshairs of their boss as the errors stack up. Both Hemsworth and Duke are fantastic in this movie and Vince Vaughn carries the other half of the film as Frog as well as some great supporting work from Josh Brolin’s daughter, Eden. I really liked this film and I’m looking forward to what’s next from Clark Duke.

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.

Tigers Are Not Afraid – This movie has a couple of things working against it coming out of the gate. Firstly, this is an independent film so if you want it to hit the big time it needs to have that word darling attached to it. That’s not going to happen because the second deterrent from that additive title is that this s a horror film as well. Hopefully, Guillermo del Toro calling this Issa Lopez written and directed movie one of his favorites of the last year can help because I found this movie to be incredibly special. The film is a dark tale about a gang of five children trying to survive the horrific violence of the cartels, led in a way by a girl who can see the ghosts created every day by the drug war, spirits looking for vengeance. Lopez’s style breathes right off of the screen and sort of reminds me of the earlier del Toro film The Devil’s Backbone, signifying that she has a huge future ahead of her.

The Jack In The Box – Looks like we’re getting a double dose of low budget British filmmaking as this dumb creature feature is available this week, an hour and a half of a slightly cool premise that farts its way to a murky finish. In “forbidden object” form, this is about a jack in the box that is dug up and given to a local museum where the clown that is contained in the box starts to kill people and bringing them back to the box as a collection that will unleash its freedom to kill untethered. Besides the cool design of the clown creature, this movie is a bust with totally lazy blood and gore and some really terrible looking CG in the third act. Also, the clown’s creepiness is only effective as long as they don’t have him appear on the screen for long periods of time which happens in the middle of the second act.

In Search Of Kundun – More than twenty years after its completion, this documentary brings us back to the production of Martin Scorsese’s film Kundun, a passion projected he made about the Dhali Lama, a movie that was done in complete cooperation with the spiritual leader using his own family members. This movie is fascinating as it gives the viewer a deeper look into how Scorses constructs his movies but also about the spiritual connection that he held with the Lama and how fervent the need to make this film was in the acclaimed filmmaker’s soul. It also shows that he never has that cliched dictator’s spirit while making a movie and, even in the face of a production collapse he is calm as a cucumber. This is a fascinating look at belief working side by side with cinema and I also saw glimpses of his need to make his future passion project Silence hidden in there too.

Ray Donovan: Season 7 – One of the coolest men on television, Liev Schreiber, is back for another season of his hit Showtime series and, admittedly, being so embroiled in watching all the movies I can, this show slipped by me but I have finished a couple of seasons since I received season 6. The story follows Ray, a professional “fixer” who is employed by the who’s who of Los Angeles in secret. The problem is his own family, played by Eddie Marsan, Dash Mihok and the legendary Jon Voight, create even more problems than he can deal with given his extra workload. The new season has Ray deep in therapy, trying to repair the damages he has made, still living in New York City but he has to revert back to the old Ray Donovan to deal with a bit of his father Mickey’s past. This show is one of the best on television and still, is sitting in the middle of Showtime’s ratings.

Gunsmoke: The Final Season – The final season of this, at the time, record-breaking series is now my collection, one that’s totally full of western stories including marshalls, outlaws, damsels in distress and the gloriously dusty town of Dodge City. For those who don’t know about the show, this is the story of Marshall Matt Dillon and his town, the aforementioned 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 of the run and all of the original characters and actors had moved on from the series leaving actor James Arness and his sidekick Festus on their own. 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.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

The Virgin Suicides – This is one of the most interesting films to come out of the year 2000 as it was the launching of the directorial career of the second generation of Coppolas with Sofia making her debut. A beautiful film shot by one of the best, Edward Lachman, it was based on the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides and follows a group of male friends who become obsessed with five mysterious sisters who are sheltered by their strict, religious parents in suburban Detroit in the mid-1970s. For a first feature film, Coppola commands this story with such an overarching presence that you know the lineage of her family flowed through her strongly even five minutes into it. This one exists in the Criterion Collection for a good reason. Find this one on Hoopla and Popcornflix.

Kingdom Of Heaven – Ridley Scott is a director that has gotten a pretty bad rap for films since Gladiator in 2000, aside from The Martian, and I know because I’m one of the guys that said them. This movie is a bit of an anomaly in that time period as the original theatrical cut of this movie is a pretty confusing mess that feels like it should have been longer. News flash, it was longer and later Scott released the director’s cut of this Orlando Bloom Crusades story an I think it is one of the greatest epics of the 2000s era. Beautiful cinematography from Ridley’s main guy John Mathieson, incredible production design and career performances from the cast, especially Edward Norton’s masked and Brando like portrayal makes this film absolutely can’t miss.

Adult Beginners – A lot of people seemed to sleep on that style of comedy not so lovingly referred to as “mumblecore” but a guy like me absolutely lived for it. One of these movies that got swept under the rug was this little indie film from Sofia Coppola’s producer Ross Katz (how about that connection?) in his feature debut, a story about a self-involved businessman on the brink of bankruptcy who tries to rekindle the relationship he has lost with his sister and his nephew. The movie stars Nick Kroll and Rose Byrne in the lead roles who give performances that are but hilarious and totally grounded to life, a total gem of a movie that just this week celebrates its fifth birthday. You can find this one right now on the Crave subscription.

Exit Through The Gift Shop – One of the most interesting, enigmatic but wholly influential artists of the modern era has to be Banksy as it feels everyone gets interested when a new art “installation” pops up or he does something to provoke the media that seems very gullible to his tricks. Ten years ago he took it upon himself to jump into the fray of documentary filmmaking by doing his story himself or something kind of like that. This is the story of how an eccentric French shop-keeper and amateur film-maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner. The film contains footage of Banksy, Shephard Fairey, Invader and many of the world’s most infamous graffiti artists at work in pieces that will consistently make your jaw drop. I love this movie and you can find it on Amazon Prime, Tubi and Sundance TV.

Please Give – Writer and director Nicole Holofcener is one of those special voices in independent cinema that I always take note of whether she is just writing a film or doing both like this great little movie that definitely doesn’t get talked about enough. Her films are always deep stories about the human condition and sometimes how much we can be that old oil and water adage and this film is very indicative of that. Starring Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt and Rebecca Hall, this film is about a husband and wife who butt heads with the granddaughters of the elderly woman who lives in the apartment the couple owns in New York City and is so brilliantly acted through Holofcener’s script and shot by Yaron Orbach who did Sing Street for John Carney. You can find it on the Criterion Channel right now.

Television:

Becoming (Netflix) – An incredible and inspirational story about one of the greatest first ladies of all time, get ready to fall in love with Michelle Obama all over again. Those who are still on the Obama train, like me, or who have already ravenously read her book Becoming will absolutely love every second of this movie that documents her 2019 tour to promote the book as well as going through her life leading to Barack, the ups and downs of the presidential campaign, the backlash of the media against her and, of course, everything about being the first lady. Beyond that, this is an interesting look at a woman that managed to keep her own identity intact and separate from the shadow of her husband, one that raised her daughters in an empowering way and the feeling of relinquishing their home at the end of Obama’s term. As a portrait of someone I highly respect, this was a fantastic movie.

The Eddy (Netflix) – I think it’s pretty apparent that Whiplash and La La Land writer and director Damien Chazelle loves jazz as it has been the basis of most of his career, save the Neil Armstrong biopic he did with Ryan Gosling a couple of years ago. Now he heads to Netflix to produce this eight-part series which he directed two of the episodes about a jazz club in Paris and a struggling musician that has to take the establishment on his shoulders after a tragedy befalls the previous owner. Ironically, the show stars Andre Holland, an actor from Moonlight, the film that was part of the Best Picture curfuffle from a few years back with La La Land. The show is grittily real, almost looking a bit like a docudrama at times and has a bit of a slow burn to it so it may take a few episodes to find it’s stride with you.

Dead To Me: Season 2 (Netflix) – Two of my favorite actresses lead this dark comedy as one of my childhood crushes, Christina Applegate, plays a recently widowed woman who meets a new friend, played by Linda Cardellini, at the grief support group, not knowing that she is the one responsible for her husband’s death. This series is so well written and while this new season takes it in a crazy different direction in some senses but doesn’t quite hit that level that Weeds did where it became completely unbelievable and kind of ruins some of the characters in the process. The show was created by Liz Feldman who made the short-lived Elisha Cuthbert sitcom One Big Happy but has really hit her stride with this show and the deeply sardonic and mean character for Applegate is so perfect. I love this show.

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind (Crave) – Natasha Gregson Wagner takes it on herself to set the record straight with this beautiful portrait of her mother complete with interviews with all of the remaining family including her biological father Richard Gregson, who has now since passed away and the father who raised her, Robert Wagner. What results from this film is an intimate look at a one of a kind and special talent that we may never see the likes of again. Natalie Wood was powerful, driven and always willing to stand up for herself in every way, push forward women’s rights in the industry in every facet she could. This type of documentary is an easy sell with me but I think everyone should check it out, it’s phenomenal.

Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill (Netflix) – One of the greatest living comedians on the planet is back with this new hour-long stand up set and I don’t know what it is about Jerry but I’ve always been a fan, dating back to his book Seinlanguage which I read three times when it came out. Not a huge accomplishment as it’s pretty short. This new special digs into the mundane nature of life as he always does, the fervour of going out just to want to go home, the annoying nature of friends and the headache to make new ones and the fact that dads are embued with the same natural instincts as mothers. Seinfeld proves that even now he can get the laughs and is still the measuring bar of stand up comedy and will be for years to come.

As heard on The J’Lyn Nye Show on 630 CHED in Edmonton, here’s a breakdown of the things to get you through at least the weekend!

Movies:

Tigertail (Netflix) – Parks and Recreation producer and Master Of None co-creator Alan Yang makes his feature directorial debut with this movie that he wrote as well. Starring Vancouver based actor Tzi Ma, this movie moves through the life of Grover, a Taiwanese born American citizen who is going through the motions of grieving for his recently deceased mother, the template for the man he became, a former factory worker who achieved the immigrant’s dream. This lineage has been passed onto his daughter, a life long overachiever who now wants to follow her heart more than what is expected of her. The performances in this film are powerfully felt through how muted they are in what they aren’t saying and Tzi Ma shoulders the majority of it beautifully. Also, as a Twin Peaks fan, it was an incredible treat to see Joan Chen in this movie.

Blood Quantum – Soaked in blood and dripping with style, writer and director Jeff Barnaby follows up his astoundingly great Indigenous film Rhymes For Young Ghouls with this zombie horror that feels familiar only in the basics of its mechanics. The film takes place outside the isolated Mi’gMaq reserve of Red Crow when the dead start to rise, observed first as a gutted salmon resurrects. Soon everything spirals out of control leading the survivors to isolate in an impenetrable structure made from scraps that are barely holding together as arguments for leadership rage on. The story feels a little disjointed here ad there but I loved the execution of the plot points and the gore is beautifully slick. I’m excited to see what Barnaby does next as he is a great filmmaking voice in the indigenous community that has a real chance to leap to the mainstream.

The Willoughbys (Netflix) – An animated film without the backing of a huge company like Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks or Illumination, I hadn’t heard of this movie until it landed o my pre-screening row on the Netflix bar and I have to say that I was completely blown away by it. Featuring a great voice cast including Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Terry Crews and Ricky Gervais, this movie follows the Willoughby children, a quartet of kids that are convinced they’d be better off raising themselves and hatch a sneaky plan to send their selfish parents on vacation or death, whatever comes first. This is a movie that hilariously hugs the line fo being darkly comedic and a sweetheart story that is bursting with rainbows. So many moments had me laughing so hard and the fact that Gervais narrates as the neighborhood cat is just the cherry on this sundae.

Little Women – Louise May Alcott’s book is an iconic story that has been read to many and adapted a few times as well, three times in the last twenty-five years to be precise, including this one. So, why is Greta Gerwig’s version of this story so important? It’s because Gerwig seems to encapsulate the consistent marginalization and generic rut of the female species and show it as the handcuffing of personal growth, free-thinking and creation that it really is. Featuring a stellar cast including Saorise Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet and Tracy Letts, this feels like the definitive screen version of the story, a beautifully created piece of cinema that shows the growth of Greta as a filmmaker between Lady Bird to now while her cast brings such life to a wonderful script, in one of my favorite ensembles from last year.

Circus Of Books (Netflix) – Yes, I’m bringing a documentary yet again this time but the subject matter on this one is so interesting I couldn’t resist. Produced by Ryan Murphy, this is the story of Karen and Barry Mason who, in 1976 Los Angeles, had fallen on hard times and were looking for a way to support their young family. They answered an ad in the Los Angeles Times for Larry Flynt who was seeking distributors for Hustler Magazine which led to their becoming fully immersed in the LGBT community as they took over a local store, Circus of Books. A decade after that they had become the biggest distributors of gay porn in the US and the community grew immensely for years after that. This documentary is a sweet human interest story that has a great message to it and some loveable people at the center. This is one of my favorite releases this week.

Extraction (Netflix) – Chris Hemsworth leads this film that was produced from Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame filmmaker’s The Russo Brothers limited comic series Ciudad, a phenomenal book. Led by new director Sam Hargraves, this is the story of a black market mercenary named Tyler Rake who is employed to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord in an extraction that is definitely a suicide mission. This movie is pulse-pounding action from start to finish with bloody violence, bullets flying, explosions booming and fight scenes that will quicken your heart rate. This movie kicks ass almost constantly and I loved every second. If you dig movies like John Wick, you will love the hell out of this one.

Underwater – Being buried in the first month of the year, any horror or action movie is usually something the studios want to bury as they’re generally not very good and that’s what happened to this one. Hell, we didn’t even get it here in Penticton. The story is about a crew of aquatic researchers who have a desperate struggle to get to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory but, worse than that, something has been released from the cracks underwater that starts to pick them off one by one. So, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, it’s got Kristen Stewart in it and, yes, I’m a big fan of her post-Twilight work, hate me for it if you want.  The movie was directed by William Eubanks who made the awesome sci-fi thriller The Signal, a film I stumbled upon and absolutely fell in love with and this movie is satisfying on the level of “Hey, I’d love to see a sort of mash-up between The Abyss and Alien” which it kind of ends up being. The creature design looks really cool and I will take scowling KStew in a tough as nails survival film any day. Enjoy this one for what it is.

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project – This is a fascinating documentary about a driven obsession with information through the visual media of televised news. Marion Stokes was an activist being groomed to become a communist leader in America who decided that her crusade would be to expose the truth of unfiltered media in what could be assembled into a comprehensive library of documented history. With everything that is currently going on in America and the media, this movie is an engrossing look at the path that led us to this point with Stokes herself making some very bold predictions of the future back in the 1970s that are chillingly coming to fruition today. A great movie for documentary fans.

Bad Boys For Life – It’s been seventeen years since we last saw Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s characters of Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett and after so much teasing and collapses of this third film it is now finally here without Michael Bay behind the camera and even though this is pretty much the only franchise I have love for some “Beyhem” in, this movie still worked the same with fresh blood behind the camera. This film teases the two cops’ “last ride” as they confront their ageing into different roles of law enforcement and the creation of their own squad which gets put to the immediate test with the emergence of a new enemy, Armando Armas, the vicious leader of a Miami drug cartel. This is the big-budget debut of the directing duo of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah and they bring that same frenetic action bombastic craziness we have come to expect every time Lowrey and Burnett take on a case. If you liked the previous movies you will definitely like this one.

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

Television:

Chris D’Elia: No Pain (Netflix) – One of my favorite stand up comedians of the last decade returns with a brand new set that I seriously can’t miss and will chase away your quarantine blues. This show, recorded in Indianapolis, Indiana, has D’Elia coming to grips with the notion that improving as a stand-up comedian is making him a worse human being in public, his vendetta against a mall baby and the fact that he had too much of a good upbringing to capitalize on any hardships for comedy. D’Elia’s comedy always feels so directly relatable which is one of the main reasons I always laugh to the point of hurting myself every time I watch one of his sets. So, I guess the title is a lie because there will be some pain.

The Innocence Files (Netflix) – True crimes docuseries have been the hotness everyone has been raving about on Netflix for a few years now and although it doesn’t have the trashy allure of Tiger King, I really feel like this series should be on peoples radars. Told in three hour-long episodes, this series details the personal stories behind eight cases of wrongful convictions that the Innocence Project and organizations within the Innocence Network have worked to highlight and overturn. The set up to this show is brilliant, as the first episode covers the wrongful conviction of two black Mississippi residents who are thrown into life sentences on the shakiest of evidence. This show with have you shaking your head in disbelief over how the justice system can be so flawed that basic logic has been thrown out the window in favor of opinion. Riveting stuff.

Hollywood (Netflix) – Ryan Murphy seems to have the stranglehold on Netflix during this whole pandemic as we get no only the two documentaries over the last couple weeks but this brand new scripted series that brings us to the golden era of post World War II Hollywood. The movie focuses on a bunch of aspiring actors, actresses, writers and directors who are desperate to make their big break into the industry at any cost to their soul. The show features a great young cast including American Crime Story’s Darren Criss, Spider-Man Homecoming’s Laura Harrier and Ready Or Not’s breakout star Samara Weaving as well as veterans like Holland Taylor and Dylan McDermott who is no stranger to Murphy’s world. Racy and always pushing the envelope, this series has the stuff to make it big, see, it’s gonna be a star!

What We Do In The Shadows: Season 2 (FX) – Following up a hilarious movie with the first season of a heavily anticipated series that delivered on all levels, we have been not so patiently waiting for the return of our favorite vampire roommates. Created by the star of the original film, Jemaine Clement, this show follows a different cast, led by the brilliant Kayvon Novak and one of my favorite current British comedic actors Matt Berry, the story simply follows three vampires and their night lives living on Staten Island, their home for a century. This is by far one of the most clever new comedies on television and their return is so welcome at this crazy and unpredictable time.

Looking For Alaska – Teen dramas usually skate a fine line between being annoying or cheesy and totally sappy but it seems that author John Green has the adolescent voice hammered down because, in my opinion, the previous adaptations of his work, The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns, are pretty damn good. Now, in a longer series format for Hulu, his first book Looking For Alaska gets the adaptation treatment, following a guy named Miles who has enrolled in a private school in the woods called Culver Creek Academy, a decision that will change his life and hopefully give him a deeper perspective on life. Not a popular kid at his previous school, Miles immediately strikes up a friendship with his roommate known as “The Colonel” who then introduces him to Alaska Young, the girl of his dreams. This young cast, including rising star Charlie Plummer and new faces like Kristine Forseth and Denny Love, give this show a charisma that intrigues me and characters I felt like I immediately cared about and that has to be due to it being shepherded to the screen by The OC’s Josh Schwartz.

Middleditch & Schwartz (Netflix) – Capturing three nights of their North American tour, this show gives you the brilliance of comedic actors Thomas Middleditch, a native of Nelson, British Columbia, and Ben Schwartz as they do hour-long shows completely made up on the spot with just a few suggestions from the audience. With the kick-off episode entitled Parking Lot Wedding, the pure brilliance of these two is fully on display as I was laughing my butt off from beginning to end. The callbacks, memory gaffs and motions to the audience all combine to hopefully elevate the hilarious improv that these two pull off. I definitely want more episodes added as three doesn’t feel anywhere close to enough.

After Life: Season 2 (Netflix) – Whenever I hear the name Ricky Gervais I am automatically interested, especially in series form, as this is the man who brought us The Office, Extras and Derek, plus the countless other things he has been a part of. This series might be my favorite he has ever done as it comes from deep in the heart and soul but sheds away the humanity of saying whatever the hell you want to people and, although it looks like it will play on some heavier themes like his last one, I think it has broad appeal. The series follows a man that goes from Mr. Nice Guy to social terror with a don’t give a shit attitude when his wife dies. A good cast around Gervais with The Strain’s David Bradley playing his father, It’s All Gone Pete Tong’s Paul Kaye as his therapist and his Extras co-star Ashley Jensen as his father’s caretaker.

Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels (Crave) – A pretty sizeable fan base is very excited to get the spinoff to the popular Showtime series that started back in 2014 and ran for three seasons. While the original series followed explorer Sir Malcolm Murray, American gunslinger Ethan Chandler, scientist Victor Frankenstein and medium Vanessa Ives as they combated supernatural threats in Victorian London, this series goes ahead in time to a late 1930s Los Angeles at a time that city expansion was aggressive and pushing out the Latino community and the rise of the Nazi ideals were taking hold in the city. The kick is that an evil and godly entity is responsible for pushing the weaker-minded humans into furthering the agenda of the destruction of humanity. The show stars Game Of Thrones alum Natalie Dormer, Nathan Lane and It Follows and Don’t Breathe actor Daniel Zovatto and I loved episode one. Looking forward to what’s next.

Upload: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – After the mind-twisting darkness of Devs, Amazon Prime is going for a lighter approach to the online gaming world with this new sci-fi series from Greg Daniels, the creator of the American version of The Office and Parks And Recreation. Starring Robbie Amell, this ten-episode series follows a man who gets to electronically pick the new world he inhabits after his untimely death. This is a show that has been long in development for Daniels as he started writing it right after the series finale for The Office. I’ve been seeing trailers for this everywhere for months and I really hope it is as good as it looks.

Betty: Season 1 (Crave) – A couple of years ago I fell in love with a little New York shot indie story from writer and director Crystal Moselle called Skate Kitchen about a teenager new to the area that falls in with a group of skater girls. It’s really great that HBO feels the same way I do, if not more, as they have produced, with Moselle directing, a new six-episode series putting us right back into the skatepark and I am very excited for possibly the most underrated shows of 2020 that will hopefully get some eyes on the original film.

New On VOD:

Blood Quantum – Soaked in blood and dripping with style, writer and director Jeff Barnaby follows up his astoundingly great Indigenous film Rhymes For Young Ghouls with this zombie horror that feels familiar only in the basics of its mechanics. The film takes place outside the isolated Mi’gMaq reserve of Red Crow when the dead start to rise, observed first as a gutted salmon resurrects. Soon everything spirals out of control leading the survivors to isolate in an impenetrable structure made from scraps that are barely holding together as arguments for leadership rage on. The story feels a little disjointed here ad there but I loved the execution of the plot points and the gore is beautifully slick. I’m excited to see what Barnaby does next as he is a great filmmaking voice in the indigenous community that has a real chance to leap to the mainstream.

Nose To Tail – This movie seems to be playing into the kind of movies I generally like as it all takes place in a five-star restaurant during a make or break night for the head chef. Aaron Abrams from Hannibal and Closet Monster plays Daniel, a pill and alcohol-fueled chef and restaurant owner who is as abusive to all of those around him as he is to himself, but, like most of these guys, is driven by his ego to a fault. As I said, this is totally my type of movie but the lead character is so immediately unlikeable and the snowball effect on that is far too quick to recover from because it really doesn’t get any better. I feel like the point of this movie is to see Daniel go down in a big ball of flames and feel justified in doing so. It just didn’t work for me.

Enemy Lines – I’m always a sucker for a World War II film and when any of them get pushed my way for release I will generally check them out but this movie raised red flags right away. A story about a crack team of allied commandos sent on a deadly mission behind enemy lines to extract a rocket scientist from the hands of the Nazis, the film should check all the boxes of a great war film but the fact that it stars Ed Westwick, an actor who after sexual assault accusations is low on the employability list made me work and for good reason because it isn’t good at all. The plot feels easy and almost paint by numbers with our heroes easily skirting through any problem up until our third act where it all hits the fan and the effects are some of the worst I have ever seen and I watch Canadian films regularly. Do not be duped by this movie on your VOD screen, it’s not even worth ten minutes of your time.

Tammy’s Always Dying – Felicity Huffman is an actress that has been getting a lot of publicity over the last year or so and it is not in a good way at all but instead wrapped up in that whole university admissions scandal. The whole debacle even stopped her from promoting this new movie, one that needed the star’s help due to the low budget of it. Huffman plays the alcohol addled mother of a woman who is the direct result of being raised by someone like that, quick to anger, constantly making bad decisions and on a slope to personal ruin. Even through all of this, she is there to save her mother from jumping to her death every month like clockwork. I will say right here that for me Huffman’s over the top performance is what soured this movie for me and made me feel distant from it starting with her opening moment on screen. It feels like she’s in a play on the subject when everyone else is in a more grounded drama and I couldn’t shake that notion. That said, this is quite the debut in the director’s chair for former Power Rangers star Amy Jo Johnson and I look forward to what she does next.

Blu-Ray:

The Rhythm Section – Ryan Reynolds can’t be the only ass-kicker of his family as his wife Blake Lively makes her leap to the action genre. Yes, I know we already saw her take on a shark in the thriller The Shallows but this film sees her in hand to hand combat and firing a gun and looking a bit less awkward than I expected for the former Gossip Girl. In the film, she plays a woman looking for revenge after her family is murdered during a terrorist plot. Kind of leaning into that cliche a bit, she arms her self up and goes into training to destroy those who took her loved ones but the film looks a bit grittier than your standard Taken film and it has Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown to do some heavy lifting as well. This film, produced by James Bond executive Barbara Broccoli, tried to carve a new niche of female-led action films for itself but failed to pull it off as the pacing really dogs this movie constantly and felt a little half baked at times.

Guns Akimbo – After seeing his debut film Deathgasm at the Vancouver International Film Festival a few years ago, I’ve been waiting for the bigger budget and more notable cast led follow up from New Zealand director Jason Lei Howden and this hits the spot in the genre of loud, brash and bloody action films. Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving star in the darkly comedic story of a tech employee who must throw caution to the wind when he wakes up after trolling the dark web with guns fixed to his hands and bloodthirsty killers looking to kill him while trying to save his ex-girlfriend from the same people who put him in this situation. Unfortunately, Howden killed all momentum for this movie by using the film’s twitter account to publicly attack female critics who gave it low marks. Brutal.

I Wish I Knew – A new documentary from the director of last year’s beautiful Chinese gangster flick Ash Is Purest White, filmmaker Zhangke Jia gives an intimate vision of Shanghai and its history but most importantly the voices of those who know it deeply, have never left or have tried to escape it and those whose journeys brought them back to it. This film, with a serene and calm demeanour, portrays a city that has been founded on industry and on the backs of its workers but has also captured the imaginations of the local storytellers, filmmakers and actors as well as the international community like acclaimed director Michaelangelo Antonioni who went there to make a documentary in the 1970s but seemed to glorify that which the residents thought set their culture back. This documentary may feel too sombre at times and may bore those who need more flash.

Spongebob SquarePants: Bikini Bottom Bash – When this brand new compilation of episodes hit my mailbox from my friends at Paramount I looked at it and said “sure, why not?” because, for those who don’t know, I love Spongebob Squarepants and actually own a lot of it already, a show which I consider, along with being a successful kids show, a really great source of stoner viewing. With this grouping of five episodes, we get classic stories like Spongebob’s birthday party, the hilarious beach party episode “Sun Bleached”, the Slumber Party and more. This is great for the kids and just as good for the immature big kids like me.

Steve’s DVD Geekout:

Criminal Minds: The Final Season – After fourteen seasons on the air and a couple of spinoffs that were pretty great but didn’t rope in that targeted market, one of the creepiest police procedurals finally came to an end with the ten-episode finale season. Led by their stalwart leading man Joe Mantegna and featuring the consistent nerd heartthrob of Matthew Gray Gubler, this show always flushed out a character study week to week of some of the most depraved and evil serial killers that the writer’s room could come up with, whether they were figments of these people’s imaginations or inspired by a real case. The final season was really interesting though as it involved our cast more directly into the story like an evil genius targeted the squad themselves. I got into this way late and am just binging it all now on CBS All Access and, well, I should have joined this party before. It’s a procedural that consistently works! Imagine that!

Television:

Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels (Crave) – A pretty sizeable fan base is very excited to get the spinoff to the popular Showtime series that started back in 2014 and ran for three seasons. While the original series followed explorer Sir Malcolm Murray, American gunslinger Ethan Chandler, scientist Victor Frankenstein and medium Vanessa Ives as they combated supernatural threats in Victorian London, this series goes ahead in time to a late 1930s Los Angeles at a time that city expansion was aggressive and pushing out the Latino community and the rise of the Nazi ideals were taking hold in the city. The kick is that an evil and godly entity is responsible for pushing the weaker-minded humans into furthering the agenda of the destruction of humanity. The show stars Game Of Thrones alum Natalie Dormer, Nathan Lane and It Follows and Don’t Breathe actor Daniel Zovatto and I loved episode one. Looking forward to what’s next.

Upload: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – After the mind-twisting darkness of Devs, Amazon Prime is going for a lighter approach to the online gaming world with this new sci-fi series from Greg Daniels, the creator of the American version of The Office and Parks And Recreation. Starring Robbie Amell, this ten-episode series follows a man who gets to electronically pick the new world he inhabits after his untimely death. This is a show that has been long in development for Daniels as he started writing it right after the series finale for The Office. I’ve been seeing trailers for this everywhere for months and I really hope it is as good as it looks.

Murder To Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story (Netflix) – After all of the true-crime documentaries I have been watching about horrible people who don’t get what they deserve, wrongfully convicted people and inmates that have been used and abused by the system, it was pretty refreshing to actually get into a story of redemption, even if the execution of the whole thing lends to the viewer being manipulated. The story of Cyntoia Brown is anything but simple, convicted as an adult at the age of sixteen for the first-degree murder of a man she alleges had picked her up hours earlier in a Nashville parking lot intending to pay for sex. Given a life sentence that would see her released somewhere within her sixties, Cyntoia begins a journey to improve her condition, change her life and hopefully earn herself a chance of clemency or parole. My biggest issue with this movie is that the interviews feel framed to only give the feelings that the filmmaker intends rather than leaving the onus on the viewer which I think is best in these films. I don’t need this and a swell of music to blur the lines, we have enough of that on Twitter every day.

Betty: Season 1 (Crave) – A couple of years ago I fell in love with a little New York shot indie story from writer and director Crystal Moselle called Skate Kitchen about a teenager new to the area that falls in with a group of skater girls. It’s really great that HBO feels the same way I do, if not more, as they have produced, with Moselle directing, a new six-episode series putting us right back into the skatepark and I am very excited for possibly the most underrated shows of 2020 that will hopefully get some eyes on the original film.

Hollywood (Netflix) – Ryan Murphy seems to have the stranglehold on Netflix during this whole pandemic as we get no only the two documentaries over the last couple weeks but this brand new scripted series that brings us to the golden era of post World War II Hollywood. The movie focuses on a bunch of aspiring actors, actresses, writers and directors who are desperate to make their big break into the industry at any cost to their soul. The show features a great young cast including American Crime Story’s Darren Criss, Spider-Man Homecoming’s Laura Harrier and Ready Or Not’s breakout star Samara Weaving as well as veterans like Holland Taylor and Dylan McDermott who is no stranger to Murphy’s world. Racy and always pushing the envelope, this series has the stuff to make it big, see, it’s gonna be a star!