Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New On VOD:

Random Acts Of Violence – Canadian star Jay Baruchel returns to his seat behind the camera for his second film after the sequel to the hockey comedy Goon, Goon: The Last Of The Enforcers but this unrelenting and visceral horror film has been in gestation for almost a decade before finally being made. Based on a graphic novel by acclaimed creators Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, the story follows Todd, a comic writer struggling to finish his magnum opus who goes on a book tour and is subsequently followed by a sadistic murderer who is reenacting all of the kills from his book. This movie is balls to the wall and unrelenting in its brutality in an ethereal way that makes you question the reality of these characters. This movie is not for everyone and gives a grindhouse-style that would make the originators of the genre very proud. I loved every moment of this madness but it plays totally into my weirdo proclivities.

Arab Blues – With Jim Jarmusch’s sleeper drama Paterson, I absolutely fell head over heels for the actress playing Adam Driver’s wife in the film, Golshifteh Farahani, a total free spirit character in it that I couldn’t get enough of. Since then she has popped up in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the Netflix action Extraction and the killer French zombie flick The Night Eats The World but with this one she gets a solo chance to shine. Farahani plays Selma, a Tunisian woman who has spent the last four years in Paris and now returns home with the goal of opening her own psychiatry office in her homeland. The problem is that her work isn’t well regarded in Tunisia, as it gets marginalized, misunderstood and even put under scrutiny by the local law officials. Farahani is fantastic in this movie, endearing and driven in her performance. As far as a character film goes, this movie is excellent.

Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison – Comedic actor Romany Malco get this time behind the camera in his debut feature, one that he wrote as well. The veteran actor you have seen in Weeds, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and, yes, even The Love Guru crafts this original story about an ex convict on parole who is dead set on becoming a world renowned motivational speaker and changing the masses’ lives. Co-starring the always funny Regina Hall, this film is a light bit of fun and a good first film for Malco who financed this film without any major studio or industry backing by raising $206,046 from fans and supporters through his PrisonLogic indie go-go campaign, which is a massively impressive feat on it’s own.

The Last Porno Show – Writer and director Kire Paputts returns with his second feature film and it’s a massive departure from his previous work, the adventure film with an edge, The Rainbow Kid. For this new film he surrounds it with the taboo, the dying industry of the porno theaters, lost standing establishments that are falling into dereliction. The story focuses on Wayne, a struggling actor who inherits a downtown X-rated theater from his estranged father, a place where he spent his childhood among all of the nudity on screen and the masturbating audience which has made him the damaged adult he is now. Paputts crafts an interesting character film that speaks to the crushing inevitability of predestination and the weight that our family history can lay on us which makes the resolution of this movie so triumphant.

Primal – Ok, I’ve got some brand new Nicolas Cage this week so get ready for something a bit gonzo, probably a bit bad but definitely something that will entertain the hell out of you. Cage plays Frank, a big-game hunter for zoos who has booked passage on a Latin American shipping freighter with a fresh haul of exotic and deadly animals from the Amazon, including a rare white Jaguar and, of course, a political assassin being extradited to the U.S in secret. Two days into the journey, the assassin escapes and releases the captive animals, throwing the ship into chaos and Frank to be the only one who can save them from this mess. Look, if you get into the whole Metacritic or Rotten Tomato search, you won’t like what you find but those of us who love every crazy thing this man does are totally on board.

Blu-Ray:

You Should Have Left – Let’s face it, besides Friday The 13th, A Stir Of Echoes and arguably Hollow Man, Kevin Bacon’s horror run hasn’t been memorable but neither has that of his co-star for this film, Amanda Seyfried. They take another kick at the can for this horror mystery about a screenwriter who travels to a remote house in Wales with his family so that he can write the sequel to his big hit film. Settling in, he begins to regret his decision after suffering from a severe case of writer’s block which starts to mess with his psyche. The film comes from writer and director David Koepp who isn’t a stranger to horror films about writer’s block as he adapted Stephen King’s Secret Window over a decade ago with Johnny Depp. This trailer has atmosphere so I’m interested.

The Outsider – Now with it’s single Primetime Emmy nomination for Best Actor Jason Bateman, it’s the perfect time for this creepy limited series to land on blu-ray to get everyone exposed to the latest terrifying story from the mind of the master of horror Stephen King. The show begins with a seemingly straightforward investigation into the gruesome murder of a young boy but when an unexplained supernatural force edges its way into the case, it leads a seasoned cop and an unorthodox investigator to question everything they believe in. The show is filled with little nods to the King universe that stretches across all of his work and it is a great companion piece to the series Castle Rock which just released its second season on blu-ray last week.

Strange But True – Featuring a cast comprised of Oscar-nominated Amy Ryan, up and comers Nick Robinson and Margaret Qualley and the veterans Greg Kinnear, Blythe Danner and Brian Cox, this movie should be an easy knockout hit. The film centers around the fallout when a woman surprises the family of her deceased boyfriend by telling them she’s pregnant with his child years after his death. The film plays with some interesting elements, trying to be a mystery thriller but holding back on the thrills. It all starts building in a great direction but it completely loses its identity with the third act and doesn’t regain its composure before a pretty lacklustre ending.

Gundala – On first glance I totally thought that this was going to be another anime that would fly right over my head but giving the synopsis a look I realised that it is really an Indonesian superhero film and with that country producing both of The Raid movies, well, my interest is piqued. As it turns out, Gundala is actually indonesia’s own version of Superman, a comic book superhero beloved by everyone and he and his alter ego Sancaka enter the cinematic universe to battle the wicked Pengkor and his diabolical squad of orphan assassins. Seems like a totally barebones storyline but, honestly, most of the North American made superhero origin films have been sometimes based on less. Knowing the films of this country, expect insane action sequences and the effects were done by the same company that did Daredevil, Watchmen, Supergirl, The Hunger Games, Star Trek, and Iron Man so have some faith in well rounded VFX.

Les Miserables – Taking the broader strokes of the famous book by Victor Hugo and omitting all of the Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway musical numbers, this is a stark look at one of the rougher areas of Paris following a new officer in the Anti-Crime Brigade of Montfermeil. In a very Training Day-esque ride-along, he finds that his new partners act with a brash above the law attitude and a public that is on the cusp of an irredeemable boiling point. This movie is an incredible film from writer and director Ladj Ly in his feature debut and left me in stunned silence for a while afterwards. The final moments of this movie will live in my mind, probably until I put it down on my year-end list in December, it is that powerful. This is some real must-see cinema and a film that just lost out on Best Foreign at the Golden Globes to Parasite.

Hawaii Five-O: The Final Season – All long-running series must come to an end and, as far as new series reboots of old classic shows go, I’d have to say that Steve McGarrett, Danno and company had a solid run heading into this final season, which would be number eleven, especially after two cast members left the show due to pay inequality and managed to get beyond that controversy for another couple of years. Adding in Ian Anthony Dale and Michelle Borth, this last season has some of that same police procedural stuff you’re used to but in a tropical setting, like bombings, kidnappings, murder and such but it also brings pirates to spice it up. The show also features in some crossover with CBS’s other reboot series Magnum P.I., bringing Jay Hernandez into the mix because they’re both on the same island. Also, to keep with the theme, all of the episodes have names that are unpronounceable.

NCIS: Season 17 – Holy crap, Season seventeen now and it’s still a juggernaut for the old folks with no sign of slowing down? In this spin-off of J.A.G., as you all must know after almost twenty years of episodic television, Mark Harmon plays Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, the leader of the Major Case Response Team in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and rocks possibly the worst haircut in television. This season focuses on the teams search for a deadly terrorist only known as Sahar who has been murdering marines at random and even orchestrated an attack at the Arlington National Cemetary. This season the show reaches back into it’s past and brings back actress Cote de Pablo as fan-favorite character Ziva David who had left the show in 2013.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:

Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits – When Criterion announced this new box set my jaw hit the floor because, as it is always the case with this amazing company, they are definitely not messing around when it comes to the definitive pieces in the career of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, a genius of his craft who was taken from us far too soon. This set is incredible as it includes all the hits with The Big Boss, Fist Of Fury, The Way Of The Dragon, the most successful film of his career, Enter The Dragon and his final film, which was unfinished when he died, Game Of Death. For any martial arts aficionado, like myself, this is a must-own and a perfect addition to any collection as the picture has been fully restored and the Lee estate has contributed so much to Criterion to give all of the special features the most well-rounded attention you will see from any Bruce Lee box set. I’m still geeking out over this one.

The Lady Eve – More Criterion this week as it kind of is an embarrassment of riches in my email inbox. For those who don’t know this film or its value to cinema as a whole, this film stars Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda in a story about a trio of classy card sharks who targets the socially awkward heir to brewery millions for his money, until one of them, of course, falls in love with her mark. The film wasn’t as valued at the time, only earning one Academy Award nomination for the screenplay, but created a bond between Stanwyck, Fonda and the director, Preston Sturges, who were the top stars in Hollywood at the time. The special features of this Blu-ray are packed full of Golden Age Hollywood stuff including an intro from filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, multiple video essays and even a radio adaptation featuring Barbara Stanwyck, Ray Milland, and Charles Coburn, hosted by filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille. I feel like I’m still getting a crash course in classic film and this one helps my education.

Selena – The film that put Jennifer Lopez on the map besides being a Fly Girl for the comedy sketch series In Living Color is now old enough to be a part of the Warner Archive collection, a biopic on the tragic short life of mega pop star Selena Quintanilla, a Texas-born Tejano singer who rose from cult status to performing at the Astrodome, as well as having chart-topping albums on the Latin music charts. The film was written and directed by Gregory Nava and reunited a large cast from his previous film My Family, including JLo herself. Interestingly, Lopez was very method early in her career as she actually lived with Selena Quintanilla-Perez’s family to prepare for her role. The finished product is a damn good music film and a horrifying reminder of some of the pitfalls of fame and how there can literally be a target on your back.

Sunday In New York – More from the Warner Archive’s new editions lands on my list this week and this particular film has a lot of Hollywood crammed into it, coming out in the early sixties. The film stars Cliff Robertson, Rod Taylor and an absolutely stunning Jane Fonda as the virginal Eileen Tyler, a young woman who leaves Albany to visit her airline pilot brother in New York but a chance encounter with a man on a city bus threatens to derail her upcoming marriage to her boyfriend Russ. Yes, the corruption of the innocent by the Big Apple is on display in this film but upon its release, the movie was only being celebrated for its music and not for the stars, which is unfortunate because Fonda is absolutely mesmerizing in it. I’m such a huge fan of Hanoi Jane and this movie is a pure pleasure to own.

America As Seen By A Frenchman – Want to go even earlier into the sixties? Well, the classier side of one of my favorite distributors, Arrow’s Arrow Academy banner, is releasing this 1960s classic with Jean Cocteau, a documentary that seems pretty self-explanatory. The movie is a travelogue that follows Cocteau on a trip from San Francisco to New York City with stops in Texas and beyond where, over the course of 18 months, he went from Disneyland to a prison license plate factory, capturing parades and stunt shows and even had time to drop by a striptease class. All of the film is era-specific Americana and both illustrates how the world has changed and how other things indelibly stay the same. The film comes from director François Reichenbach who famously made F Is For Fake with the legendary Orson Welles.

Television:

Muppets Now (Disney+) – The Muppets are coming back and I couldn’t be more excited, being a lifelong fan of this Jim Henson creation, some of my first television memories being the original Muppet Show, which needs to be all uploaded to Disney+ as well. Well, this is the series leading to a new series following Scooter as he rushes to deliver the episodes, navigating obstacles, distractions and complications that the rest of the Muppet gang throws at him. Honestly, at this point, it could just be a Zoom call with all of the Muppets and I would probably be ecstatic with it but I’m pretty excited that Walter, the Muppet created for the more recent reboot movie, is a featured player in this one and if features guest stars Like Linda Cardellini, Aubrey Plaza and Danny Trejo. This one is going to be fun.

The Umbrella Academy: Season 2 (Netflix) – This Netflix original based on the comic series from My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way hit with their first season and grabbed views immediately with it’s sort of Addams Family crossed Charles Xavier’s School For The Gifted from X-Men charm. Starring a very cool cast of Ellen Page, Misfits’ Robert Sheehan, Colm Feore and even Mary J. Blige, season one was a fantastic jumping point of character origins and fleshing out what the focus was of the series and now, with season two, we can really get down to business. With this and the second season of The Boys landing at the end of August, it really feels like an embarrassment of riches for us adult comic fans in the really crappy year of 2020. At least we have something to live for, right?

Red Dwarf: The Promised Land (BritBox) – This BBC produced science-fiction comedy has had its audience built into the zeitgeist for over thirty years now and I know a bunch of die-hards who latch on to everything about this series. The revival series have popped up here and there but this particular one is a series which brings back Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewelyn and Norman Lovett to their beloved characters of Rimmer, Lister, Cat, Kryton and Holly for a new and possibly final adventure. Focusing on some of Cat’s lineage, the posse meet three cat clerics who worship Lister as their God. Lister vows to help them as they’re being hunted by a new villain named Rodon, the ruthless feral cat leader who has vowed to wipe out all cats who worship anyone but him. If you love Dwarf and aren’t a smeghead then you want to get on this movie as soon as possible.

In Search Of Darkness (Shudder) – Two of my favorite genres are getting mashed together with this new film as we get a horror documentary and by now as a regular reader you have to know my love of film docs at this point. This is definitely a more focused approach as the film is an exploration of ’80s horror movies through the perspective of the actors, directors, producers and SFX craftspeople who made them and their impact on contemporary cinema. The who’s who of interview subjects for this movie is absolutely insane, featuring master directors like John Carpenter, Larry Cohen, Sean S. Cunningham and Joe Dante, stars like Tom Atkins, Doug Bradley, Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton and cult goddesses like Diana Prince all sharing their unique horror stories. I’m all about this movie this week, my main selection aside from Jay’s movie.

The Weight Of Gold (Crave) – It’s documentary time again this week and we’re hitting the sports side of things to get a look at some of the superhuman athletes who put their body and minds with all the soul they can muster to earn gold at the Olympics for their respective countries. Produced by HBO, known for making the absolute best in documentaries, the film takes a deeper look into what the gold does to the mental health of stars like Apollo Ohno, Michael Phelps and Shaun White after the glitz and glamour have been forgotten when the games end and the torch is extinguished. I love human psyche films like that and it just goes to show you that you can have all the strength in the world but the mind and be brittle underneath that exterior.

New To VOD:

The Outpost – Right from the get-go this brand new war movie feels like it has some lineage to it as it has Clint Eastwood’s son Scott in a lead role, Mel Gibson’s son Milo, Mick Jagger’s son James, Richard Attenborough’s grandson Will and Alan Alda’s grandson Scott Alda-Coffey in supporting roles who all look so much like their famous parents and grandparents. Beyond that, this is an intense and grittily realistic Afghan war story from Rod Lurie, the guy who had the balls to remake Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. Also starring Orlando Bloom and Caleb Landry-Jones, this is the story of a small team of U.S. soldiers who battle against hundreds of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan from a base nestled into the bottom of a massive mountain. For the entire duration of this movie, you feel like you’re being piggybacked by the characters you follow and it’s tragic we didn’t get to experience this in theaters. Optimize your home theater, this one is worth it.

Ash – For me, this movie hits very close to where I’m living now and bases itself around a real fear to the central Okanagan and British Columbia as a whole, the ugly annual summer wildfires. This story follows a journalist local to Peachland who has been monitoring a wildfire that is slowly moving its way to the town. Just as his work is being noticed he is accused and charged with a horrific crime that turns the entire town against him and renders his work to be nothing more than a warning shouted to deaf ears. Coming from writer and director Andrew Huculiak, his second film after the incredible debut Violent, this movie is personal as the main character is based on the father of a childhood friend he had when growing up in Kelowna. Tim Guinee, the lead of this movie, gives such an incredible performance that I think it elevates this to one of the best dramas of the year and should get award recognition.

White Lie – Former Hannibal star and friend of mine, Kacey Rohl leads this new dark drama about a college-age cancer patient n the midst of a fundraising campaign that may have more falsehoods in her story than she can keep together as the deadline for a huge government grant lies a mere week away. The film is brilliantly crafted and strings you alone in intrigue as Rohl’s character makes decisions devoid of morals to keep her secret hidden and those who have supported her, including a supportive girlfriend, in the dark. It was so weird watching my friend play a character that I despised within fifteen minutes and I spent a good majority of the film relishing her discovery and social demise. I feel like I need to give Kacey a hug now but holy hell, what a performance. Award-worthy stuff.

A Perfect Plan – Originally airing as part of the Canadian Film Festival on Superchannel during this pandemic, 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.

Blu-Ray:

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 and, although it’s much more fun to enjoy these on the big screen the word of mouth with families was goo and WB is hoping for a fresh new franchise out of a storied classic and this one 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 to get all of that origin story stuff out of the way. My biggest disappointment is that Matthew Lillard isn’t doing the voice of Shaggy, my favorite to ever do the role but instead, they went with Will Forte who I really do love. The movie is pretty fun and as a kid that grew up on every Saturday morning cartoon, this film brings so many Hanna Barbera cameos which had the cartoon nerd in me pretty satisfied.

Marriage Story – One of my favorite filmmakers ever, writer and director Noah Baumbach is here to break your heart this time rather than make you laugh awkwardly. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver star in this film that puts you inside of a marriage that is slowly breaking and heading towards divorce and all of the tragic pitfalls in between and both are absolutely incredible in their roles with Laura Dern stealing the show in all of her scenes. There’s one scene in particular between Johansson and Dern that blew me away with its realism and Scarjo wears her emotion on her sleeve. This is the perfect place for this Netflix film to land in a home entertainment aspect, in the hands of the greatest publishing company ever, Criterion. This is like a gift from the cinema gods.

Survive The Night -Uh oh, here comes Bruce Willis limping along with another direct to blu-ray feature to phone in his acting skills again on and not only that, he’s also brought former One Tree Hill star Chad Michael Murray with him. This action thriller follows a disgraced doctor and his family who are held hostage at their home by criminals on the run after a robbery-gone-wrong requires them to seek immediate medical attention. The film comes from director Matt Eskandari whose last outing with Willis, Trauma Center, was so horrible that I still have nightmares from my viewing of it. Be warned, this one is not any better at all.

Resistance – Jesse Eisenberg seems to be featuring a lot during this COVID-19 pandemic times, first with the paranoid mind twister Vivarium and now this film, a World War II biopic In Bruges actress Clemence Poesy. The film centers around the story of a group of Jewish Boy Scouts who worked with the French Resistance to save the lives of ten thousand orphans during World War II and is the real story of Marcel Marceau’s days of heroism. The film comes from writer and director Jonathan Jakubowicz, whose only other film I know of is Sequestro Express and the Roberto Duran biopic Hands Of Stone but this is a pretty gripping story that will have you engaged throughout. It also had veteran actor Ed Harris playing General George S. Patton and that really blew my mind.

The Room – Olga Kurylenko has had her share of direct to video duds, especially that last action film with Gary Oldman, The Courier. Still trying to shed the stink of that one. This new movie definitely isn’t the remake of a Tommy Wiseau classic but is a horror story about a newlywed couple who buy an isolated house to raise a family in. While moving, they discover a strange room that grants them an unlimited number of material wishes and since Olga’s character has had two miscarriages, of course, they want a child which leads to dastardly happenings obviously. The movie comes from director Christian Volckman who made the awesome animated feature Renaissance and this one is actually pretty effective if you can get past its pretty weak script. I really wish these films wouldn’t lean into the jump scares as much, it feels tacky now.

You Don’t Nomi – Definitely regarded at the time as one of the worst movies of all time, Showgirls is a film that lives in infamy as it took then sweet as pie Saved By The Bell actress Elizabeth Berkley and put her in the role of Nomi, a rural girl looking to make her mark on the Las Vegas strip as an exotic dance and, let’s face it, the movie is batshit insane and director Paul Verhoeven and writer Joe Ezterhaus should hold the blame for that. This documentary is about the deep cult adoration that developed over time for this movie as well as it’s Hollywood history at the time of its release. As a movie fan, this movie astounded me but as a viewer who snuck into this movie at the age of thirteen, it feels like a full-circle moment.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 10 – Larry David is back to make awkward and uncomfortable moments and to walk away relatively unscathed and, for this, we love him, a definite American treasure. This season has much of the same sort of hijinx you would expect like Larry going head to head against a coffee bar, bringing the wrong date to a destination wedding and more things that he has to make amends for eventually, you know, in his own way. This season has one of my favorite Curb episodes though with Larry using the MAGA hat to get out of social situations and road rage. This season is better than pretty, pretty pretttttttyyyyyyyyy good, trust me.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

War Of The Worlds – Criterion is rocking this week in my blog as I’m not only bringing the new release of Noah Baumbach’s latest genius but this classic sci-fi tale that is iconic and hopefully not an H.G. Wells written cautionary tale. Yes, I’m that paranoid deep down. This version is definitely not the 2005 Spielberg and Tom Cruise epic, which is, again, an awesome flick, but instead from 1953, a time where sci-fi could still scare the pants off of you with the unknown. The plot is very simple, a small town in California is attacked by Martians, beginning a worldwide invasion, and Arsenic And Old Lace director Byron Haskin really knocked this one out of the park for a film of this time. The movie won an Oscar for best special effects.

Proximity – When it comes to the original new content that they distribute the Shout Factory owned offshoot Shout Studios can definitely be hit or miss sometimes and this new sci-fi flick lands itself somewhere in the in-between. Featuring no one you’ve seen before and directed by no one you’ve ever heard of, this film follows a young NASA scientist who is abducted by aliens and returned to Earth. When no one believes his story he becomes obsessed with finding proof which leads him on a journey of discovery and hopefully to a bridge between humankind and these advanced visitors. The movie kind of plays like a wannabe Spielberg in a lot of ways which pulls away from any originality that it could have had. This writer and director Eric Demeusy shows a lot of promise but he needs to move away from his safety net of well-used tropes to discover something new.

Rachel And The Stranger – Getting some of that classic Hollywood in my geek-outs this week thanks to those lovely people at Warner Archive and, even better, this one has two legendary heavyweights in William Holden and Robert Mitchum. The film is led by Loretta Young as the title character, an indentured servant who marries her farmer boss after his wife passes away. The new relationship is put to the test when an old friend of her new husband shows up on their doorstep and a love triangle starts to develop. The film was made by director Norman Foster who had made The Loretta Young Show with the star for half a decade and knows how to shoot her scenes beautifully and the film became one of RKO’s biggest hits of 1948, earning $395,000.00. An interesting film in the history of Hollywood, for sure.

Reflections In A Golden Eye – This is totally Hollywood class as it features two of the most famous stars of all time, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando, sharing the screen in a bizarre tale of sex, betrayal, and perversion at a military post from one of the most famous filmmakers in classic film, John Huston. Another absolute gift from the vaults of the Warner Archive, this is the story of a U.S. Army Major and his wife trapped in an unsatisfying marriage who decide to spice up their lives with multiple torrid affairs, all under each other’s watchful eyes. The film was originally released in a version in which all scenes were suffused with the color gold and one object in each scene (such as a rose) appeared normally colored. This was done in reference to the houseboy’s statement regarding the golden peacock in a drawing that he shows to Alison: he states that the world is just a reflection in the eye of the golden peacock. However, that version puzzled audiences so it was withdrawn and a normal color version released. This new blu-ray includes both versions, a film that really blew me away. Between this and Dodsworth I’m on a marriage wrecking roll!

Bloodtide – Time for some of that weird and schlocky cinema from those searchers at Arrow Video that have an infinite penchant for the weird. This new collector’s edition takes us back to the early eighties for A James Earl Jones film I guarantee you’ve never heard of, a crazy little succubus story. The film follows Jones as an adventurer hunting for treasure in Greece who, of course, accidentally frees a monster that forces local villagers to sacrifice virgins to abate her murderous thirst for chaos. Co-starring the legendary Jose Ferrer, this movie was originally supposed to be led by hot rising star Jeff Bridges who was unable to do it due to scheduling and it was recast with the formidable voice of Darth Vader. A pretty cool but totally campy flick.

Television:

Jack Whitehall: I’m Only Joking (Netflix) – It’s a week of pretty solid stand up specials this week and I have to admit that I’m not super familiar with Jack Whitehall outside of his show and subsequent movie to follow for Bad Eduction and his “what the heck is he doing there?” involvement with All Elite Wrestling. I definitely find myself a fan with this show where Whitehall talks about bombing in front of Prince Charles, crazy fad diets and his father Michael’s newfound fame on their reality show Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father. Whitehall is the perfect blend of proper British comedy, physical bits and insane personal anecdotes which endeared me to him immediately. Now I have to watch his series with his dad.

The Alienist: Angel Of Darkness (Netflix) – This is an interesting sequel to an adaptation as it continues on a series of books that I adored two decades ago. A period piece or of procedural from writer Caleb Carr, Daniel Bruhl stars as criminal psychologist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, who is also known as an alienist, that joins forces with a newspaper illustrator played by Luke Evans to investigate a serial killer in New York during the late 19th century. This encompasses the first series and this new show is the direct carry on of that storyline and I have to say that they nailed everything great about the books and made a strong series out of it that is intriguing even if you’ve read the books. I’m still making my way through the first series and am loving it. Highly recommended.

Tacoma FD: Season 2 (Crave) – A couple of the guys from Broken Lizard, also known as the maniacs who brought you two Super Troopers movies, Club Dread, Beerfest and more, have quietly been doing a show on the American channel TruTV that probably a lot of Canadians haven’t even heard of. Starring Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme, this show has the guys playing firefighters who, when not faced with the immediate danger of burning alive in a horrible fire, find painstaking ways to stave off boredom in their town. As Hefferman and Lemme both serve as the creators and showrunners of this show you can expect that same style that got them so popular in the first place to resonate through every episode. Definitely not for everyone but they have already kind of built their niche anyways.

Radioactive (Amazon Prime) – How has the brave story of Madame Marie Curie, the discoverer of plutonium which was both a life changer and a life ender for her, not told in a biopic yet? Well, thanks to Amazon Prime and Persepolis director Marjane Satrapi, we do have a screen representation of this amazing woman, played by Academy Award nominee Rosamund Pike. This film is a close look at the woman dubbed a pioneer, a rebel and a genius and her relationship with her husband Pierre, played by Control’s Sam Riley, and chronicles her rise to discovery. I love the trailer for this movie and I really hope the full film is a great film about an important woman because the last at-bat for this, Kasi Lemmon’s Harriet, did not hit the mark for me at all.

Jim Gaffigan: The Pale Tourist (Amazon Prime) – We started with a stand-up comedy on this week’s television look and we’ll end with one from one of the best and he also happens to be a completely clean material comic with no swearing. Yes, Jim Gaffigan has made a career out of family values, being pale and salad with bacon and now he brings his new form of hilarity in two different specials where he travels the world, experiences meeting people, eating the food, and learning a bit about the history of each country and transforming it into a stand-up set of all-new material and perform it for locals and expatriates, before heading on to another destination and doing it all over again. It’s a fascinating new way to approach comedy and I kind of hope that Gaffigan continues this style because I’m loving what I’m seeing so far.

New on VOD:

Abe – Aside from Jon Favreau’s fantastic and endearing foodie film Chef finding a great movie about cooking seems to be like sifting through a needle in a haystack, I say because I’m unable to find a suitable food metaphor. This movie was close to having me believe that we had another diamond in the rough and it stars one of the charismatic young actors from Stranger Things, Noah Schepp. He plays the title character Abe, a twelve-year-old with a love for cooking and a solid Instagram and YouTube following of fans and haters both. He is also the child of an Israeli Jewish mother and a Palestinian father which, even emigrated to the melting pot of the New York City area, feels a bit far fetched, doesn’t it? Hoping to bring his two battling sides of his family together with a meal that features foods from both cultures and really the film had me until its third act where it devolves into a contrived “all’s well that ends well” ending that felt far too easy for my liking. We almost had it, another great cooking film. Oh well, back to Chef we go.

Working Man – A very interesting and fitting story to tell in 2020, this film hinges on the shut down of industry and factories and its effect on small-town America and Canada for that matter. Starring veteran actor Peter Gerety, this movie follows an older factory worker who continues going to his former job every day, despite the shutdown that a factory closure causes in a small Rust Belt town. His peculiar decision has a profound effect on the whole community, though his actions yield an outcome that no one ever expected and I have to say that Gerety’s performance is phenomenal, a true showcasing of his years in the industry. Also, as a debut film from writer and director Robert Jury, this is simply outstanding.

Target Number One – Any 90s heartthrob fans out there have been probably wondering where Josh Hartnett has been outside of his work on the Showtime series Penny Dreadful. Well, here he is, starring in a brand new thriller playing a Canadian as well. He leads the film as a journalist investigating the circumstances surrounding the suspicious arrest of a heroin addict imprisoned in a Thai jail, so kind of like that Kate Beckingsale film Brokedown Palace but based on a true story. The movie is written and directed by Daniel Roby who made the fascinating drama sci-fi A Breath Away last and features Burnaby’s own Amanda Crew, stand up comedian turned dramatic actor Jim Gaffigan and Canadian legend Stephen McHattie. I found the film engaging and really telling when it comes to the treatment of westerners in eastern judicial systems, a reality that Canada has been faced with for years.

Blu-Ray:

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.

Enter The Fat Dragon – Usually, when I get a release from Well Go USA that stars Donnie Yen I am immediately onboard and excited to watch it but when the email rolled in for this new blu-ray I was trepidation to say the least because this incredible martial artist in a fat suit doesn’t inspire confidence no matter how great he is. Yen plays a former star police officer busted down to a desk jockey who is assigned to a case of escorting a criminal to Japan while dealing with relationship problems and his enormous change in appearance as a result of being dumped. The film is corny and brainless from the start and has odd tonal shifts throughout and a penchant for using English language music that doesn’t fit with the scenes. This was an absolute slog to get through and I don’t recommend it for anyone.

Nothing Stays The Same: The Story Of The Saxon Pub – The music scene is an iconic piece of what makes Austin, Texas such a tourist trap but in a rapidly developing climate that sees an increasing demand for condos to be built that no one can afford many of the venues have closed their doors never to reopen. The Saxon Pub is one of those last venues standing, a place with three decades of live music history and through the lens of this we see the challenges faced by musicians and music venues in one of the fastest-growing and most popular cities in the country. The film is a bit bare-bones and is driven by a grassroots blues sound and maybe a bit bland for most viewers but I found the struggle really interestingly illustrated in this.

Clueless – One of the most iconic films out of the mid-nineties, it still is a surprise for people to find out that this movie is actually based on the Jane Austen book Emma so all of those people that say her books are stuffy, boring and have no merit in modern times, including me, well, we just have to eat a giant pile of crow. Now we get this 25th Anniversary edition and for those who let this gem pass them by, the story follows Cher, shallow, rich, socially successful and at the top of her Beverly Hills high school’s pecking scale. Seeing herself as a matchmaker, Cher first coaxes two teachers into dating each other and soon inserts herself into the love lives of her friends through manipulation and arranged encounters. This movie is a total classic, featuring Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Donald Faison, Jeremy Sisto and, of course, Paul Rudd. The film also proved director Amy Heckerling to be a proven high school storyteller in two different decades, also having directed Fast Times At Ridgemont High.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

The Prince – Looking for a gritty prison drama to check out? Well, be warned, this is a different one than you are used to entirely. An international film from Argentina, this is a ’70s-set homoerotic prison drama based on a low-circulated pulp novel which was actually banned in a few regions, following the sexual, often-violent and eventually murderous experiences of a twenty-something narcissist named Jaime. The thing that struck me the most in this movie between the masterfully lit nude scenes that punctuate it throughout is that it could seamlessly move from brutal violence to tender emotion almost turning on a dime. The film comes off a bit predictable at times but still is really shocking at other times and is a definite niche film that probably won’t make it far outside of the gay cinema crowd.

Tokyo Olympiad – Criterion once again brings the pivotal filmmaking with this feature from 1965 in which director Kon Ichikawa examines the beauty and rich drama on display at the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo, creating a record of observations that range from the expansive to the intimate. The Olympic Organizing Board was looking for a commercial representation of the Olympics, including glorifying winners and the Japanese contestants and was disappointed with Ichikawa’s vision, which humanized the games instead. The uncut version was subsequently never publicly screened but now lands on this beautiful edition, painstakingly restored for the Blu-ray release. It’s also included among the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, edited by Steven Schneider.

Dodsworth – Warner Archive strikes again with another classic released from their vaults and onto a high definition blu-ray release, going way back to 1936 for this Walter Huston led film, a Canadian born legend and the father of auteur John Huston, grandfather of Tony Huston, Anjelica Huston and Danny Huston and the line goes on from there even. This film has him playing a retired auto manufacturer who takes his wife on a long-planned European vacation only to find that they want very different things from life, splintering their marriage. The film would be nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director for William Wyler and Huston himself along with supporting star Maria Ouspenskaya but only ended up winning for art direction. The film is meticulously made and its painstaking attention to detail still lingers in viewing it today.

The Mad Fox – Going for the classier side of Arrow releasing this week with a new title in their Arrow Academy collection, a special edition of a fantasy drama out of Japan in the early sixties, one that may have gotten confused as it has two different titles, this one and Love, Thy Name Be Sorrow. The film is a sprawling story told over the time of the reign of the Emperor Suzaku and follows the various mishaps happen after a strange white rainbow in appearance in the sky over Kyoto causing the Emperor to order a famous astronomer, Yasunori, to consult a certain Chinese book of secrets to calm the fear of the people. The film gets deep into folktale and lore, a style of Japanese film that has seemed to go away since the sixties and seventies. The film has gone largely ignored since it’s release and only got international exposure in 2005 when it had a special screening in the section “International Forum of New Cinema” at the Berlin International Film Festival and was listed as one of “75 Hidden Gems: The Great Films Time Forgot” in the August 2007 issue of Sight & Sound Magazine. Some hidden Japanese cinema that is an indelible piece of their culture.

Television:

30 Rock Reunion Episode (NBC) – Months after Parks And Recreation did its own fundraising stuck at home episode, which was phenomenal, 30 Rock is coming back to do the same thing and, as it’s one of my favorite shows ever, I am immediately on board and I really hope it doesn’t ignite my need for more. For those who weren’t clued in to the seven-season run of this series, it follows Liz Lemon, the head writer of a female-led Saturday Night Live type variety show whose life is thrown into chaos when a new studio head is put in charge and a problematic star is forced on her. This show consistently won Emmys and Golden Globes every year it was on and still is infinitely quoted by me to this day. I can’t wait to see recurring jokes from the show make their return. My body is ready.

Cursed (Netflix) – Someone needs to grab Frank Miller by the shoulders, sit him down and tell him his style of direct filmmaking sucks and has since he laughably tried to adapt Will Eisner’s The Spirit. Over a decade later and literally nothing has improved as this medieval knights and witches fantasy story feels like a garbled mess almost immediately. Led by 13 Reasons Why star Katharine Langford, the story follows her as a teenage sorceress named Nimue who encounters a young Arthur on his quest to find a powerful and ancient sword which is, of course, Excalibur, a tale that we know painfully well. The effects in this feels subpar, the storytelling can’t seem to pick a linear path and the transitions between scenes are goofy, cartoonish and totally distracting. I can’t say this will earn a second season and you’re better off watching Warrior Nun.

Father Soldier Son (Netflix) – If you’re looking for a new documentary to devastate and astound you then this film should be on your list as it definitely did the trick for me but fortunately not in the way that brutal story Dear Zachary did and at the end of this it feels like a clash of ideals as well. This film is the story of Sgt. First Class Brian Eisch, the father of two boys in Wisconsin, who is critically wounded in Afghanistan and is forced to have his leg amputated and must adjust to his new life as a disabled vet. A man that lives to serve the U.S. Army, Brian’s relationship begins to feel a strain with his two boys and they all must reconcile the feelings before it destroys the family. The film has twists I can’t even begin to describe but made me feel how disturbing the unfettered belief and adoration of the military the Americans have attached to the troops and how it really is a meat grinder that takes you in and spits you out a shell of who you were.

Secret Society Of Second Born Royals (Disney+) – Look, I know a lot of this Disney+ original programming is geared especially for the kids and, in a slow week like this one, sometimes they rise to the top, just for something to talk about. This is one of those releases, a fantasy action series set in a far off future, following one girl’s adventures at a top-secret training program for a new class of second-born royals tasked with saving the world. The show has my interest because it has former Marvel’s Daredevil ex-flame Elektra herself, Elodie Yung in a prominent role and it looks like a production that Disney actually put some solid money into. Does that mean it will be good? Hell no, it could be awful but will the kids enjoy it? Most likely and that’s the one that counts if we’re being honest about it.

Absentia: Season 3 (Amazon Prime) – For the entire run of the ABC series Castle I watched the show for Nathan Fillion because I’m an uber-nerd who will follow that man anywhere but along the way, Canadian co-lead Stana Katic really grew on me so when it came to this new series I was in it from the beginning. She doesn’t stray far from law enforcement, playing an FBI agent who, after being declared dead in absentia, must reclaim her family, identity and innocence but immediately finds herself as the prime suspect in a string of murders. I really loved the first season and, full disclosure, I’m only in the second season so I’m keeping the plot description super limited to keep myself clear of any spoilers. I hold true to being clear of spoiler territory always, not just for you but myself too. We all should do our part there.

New On VOD:

Greyhound – One really disappointing thing that feels very selfish of me to say as a movie fan is that COVID-19 robbed us of seeing a possibly incredible new World War II film on the big screen as it was intended. Tom Hanks takes the lead in this film that was produced by Playtone, responsible for the HBO limited series Band Of Brothers and The Pacific, playing an inexperienced U.S. Navy captain who must lead an Allied convoy being stalked by Nazi U-boat wolfpacks. The trailer looks so intense for it but it feels like we are being duped into subscribing to AppleTV+ just to get this movie amongst a kind of weak library. To be honest, though, this is Tom Hanks and I’ll buy it anyway, I have everything else.

Palm Springs – I’m a big enough fanboy for anything Andy Samberg does that I am ready to leap on board with everything he does and the good news is that this film got a hell of a lot of buzz from this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Oh man, remember those? Anyways, the film follows Samberg as the carefree Nyles and a reluctant maid of honor named Sarah, played by Fargo’s Cristin Milioti, have a chance encounter at a Palm Springs wedding but things get complicated as they are unable to escape the venue, themselves, or each other as the day keeps repeating in a totally Groundhog Day sort of way. This film is the debut of Max Barbakow as a director who has now become sort of a hot commodity so hopefully, this one takes off for him even under the VOD release banner, which in the United States landed it on Hulu. I have definite high hopes for it.

Guest Of Honour – At the end of the 90s it looked like Canadian director Atom Egoyan was poised to be one of the greatest talent exports, a filmmaker who made provocative and engaging works like Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter, Felicia’s Journey and Where The Truth Lies but that’s where the hot streak seemed to end and I’ve found myself let down by every entry into his resume since. In this new film, he centers on the damaged relationship between a father and daughter, the former played by David Thewlis, a food inspector who finds himself more and more preoccupied with his daughter’s incarceration for a sexual assault that she turned herself in for without the victim’s request. The story is muddled from the beginning in its plot order which makes the whole thing come off as frustratingly messy which sort of compounds the issue of Thewlis’s character being totally unlikeable and hard to engage with. Another half baked entry from Egoyan makes me really question why I give him a chance continuously but I’ve resigned to the fact that I will probably look forward to his next movie as well. I’m a glutton for Canadian cinema punishment.

Fisherman’s Friends – These small town British comedy-dramas keep hitting me in that sweet spot because, just like Military Wives just a few months ago, this movie slowly rose on me as a total sweetheart of a movie and I found myself hooked by the end which is ironic because it is about fishermen. The movie is based on a true story about ten fishermen from Cornwall who are sought after by a big city music producer who is visiting the town with his producer buddies. When they leave him there as a joke, he starts to fall in love with the land, the people and the daughter of one of the fishermen who heads a singing group that specialize in traditional sea shanties. The cast is phenomenal in this movie including Daniel Mays, Tuppence Middleton and a hell of a performance from James Purefoy who drops his usual villain act to bring out this great curmudgeon character. This is a heartwarming movie guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Tainted – It’s time to get gritty with this new drama thriller that stars Lord OF The Rings star John Rhys Davies, Resident Evil’s Shawn Roberts in a low budget but bleakly entertaining Canadian made film. The story follows an ex-con named Lance with ties to the Russian mob and the Aryan brotherhood, played by Immortals Alan Van Strang, who attempts to live a quiet life after spending fifteen years in prison. This is all disrupted when members of the Russian mafia recruit him to complete one last assignment to earn his freedom, not satisfied with him just walking away. The last mission goes awry as he finds himself in a bloody retaliation that impacts everyone who crosses his path and may lead to his own violent demise. The biggest issue with this movie is its tendency to get lost in brooding moments and slowing the pace of it considerably but for a lower Canadian production it holds up pretty well.

Volition – Let’s continue down the Canadian filmmaking path a little more but we’re going to change gears into a different genre, hitting up some sci-fi this time. This movie won’t have any actors you will completely recognize, outside of Aleks Paunovic, currently starring in Snowpiercer and John Cassini, known for the Canadian shows Blackstone and Continuum, but the originality of the story keeps you going. The film is about a man who is afflicted with clairvoyance and tries to change his fate when a series of events leads to a vision of his own imminent murder. There are some great twists that the main character’s powers facilitate and I have to hand it to the direction and cinematography because they work in tandem to make this film feel dynamic.

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

White Riot – As soon as I put this movie on I was immediately taken in by how relevant the subject matter of this documentary was and how important it was for people to see. The film is about the Rock Against Racism movement that was started in the Soho section of London, England in the mid-seventies by Red Saunders prompted by Eric Clapton’s endorsement and involvement with the National Front, a far-right, fascist political party that was aggressively racist and anti-immigration. This movie was incredibly eye-opening for me, as a fan of Clapton’s music, giving some incredible insight into this viewpoint that was and is a large part of the beliefs in the United Kingdom. I will say that my love for The Clash grew immensely as they and the Tony Robinson Band were a large part of the movement. This is definitely a must-see documentary for political and musical reasons. Now I need to reconcile my Slow Hand feelings.

From The Vine – We truly are feeling the Canadian mark on cinema this week on video on demand but this one has a bit of the Italian flavour to it, especially because it’s about wine. The film stars the man lovingly known as Joey Pants, Joe Pantoliano, who you may know from the Bad Boys movies, The Matrix or the nuisance of a cousin in The Sopranos but this is a decidedly less violent role for him as he plays a downtrodden man who experiences an ethical crisis and travels back to his hometown in rural Italy to recalibrate his moral compass. Of course, there he finds new purpose in reviving his grandfather’s old vineyard, offering the small town of Acerenza a sustainable future, and reconnecting with his estranged family in the process. The film has an inspirational sweetheart quality to it but feels woefully under directed to a large degree which makes if feel lesser than it could be. That said, Pantoliano is great and I’d love to see him in more lead roles.

Relic – Something in the subgenre of horror that deals with psychological warfare seems to really speak to me, like Ari Aster’s films Hereditary and Midsommar and immediately grabs me, I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s straight-up relating to the character’s plight, I’m not sure. This one had e quickly, following a daughter, mother and grandmother who are haunted by a manifestation of dementia that consumes their family’s home. Starring Emily Mortimer and Bella Heathcote from The Neon Demon, this is an amazing film that probably no one will hear of or see but is the incredible debut of filmmaker Natalie Erika James who makes it look like a veteran put this movie together. As a new female voice in horror, I sincerely can not wait to see what’s next for her.

Blu-Ray:

Trolls World Tour – One of the release casualties of COVID-19, this animated sequel got the “direct into you home for the kids” treatment, almost like Universal is now giving back to the base demographic in these tough times, and actually made them some bank in the process. I fully expected there to be another Justin Timberlake song like “Can’t Stop The Feeling” for the kids to dance all over the living room but nothing that annoying came from it and as a rock and metal guy myself I kind of love that the villains for this movie are the “Rock n Roll Trolls” bent on obtaining all of the magical musical strings to make everything rock forever. It doesn’t seem like a problem to me but in this world, it would mean the destruction of everything, whatever. A great voice cast in this one includes the returning Anna Kendrick along with JT, Ron Funches and Kunaal Nayar as well as the additions of Rachel Bloom, Sam Rockwell, Ozzy Osbourne and more. The film is fluffy but fun and maybe tolerable for at least a couple spins in the blu-ray player.

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

Blood And Money – We’re probably entering into some “why the hell are we talking about this?” territory but, well, this is where my job gets a little tiresome. Tom Berenger, a name I feel like we haven’t seen in prominence since the 90s, stars in the lead role of this thriller about a retired veteran hunting in Northern Maine who stumbles across a dead woman and a large sum of money. Pulling on some of that Coen style money thrillers, this film was the feature debut for writer and director John Barr and unfortunately, his inexperience shows in a sloppy script and bad execution that muddies a pretty solid performance from Berenger. I’d love to see more of this classic 80s and 90s actor but, seriously, can we get him better work and one that isn’t a Sniper direct to video sequel?

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 whose 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.

Inferno Of Torture – More weirdness from Arrow Video this week as this new collector’s edition reaches out to Japan at the end of the sixties geisha exploitation film. The story follows a highly sought after geisha due to her illustrated body that comes from the fierce competition between to warring tattoo artists. The film comes from acclaimed filmmaker Teruo Ishii, whose movies An Outlaw and Yakuza Law still get brought up in the conversations of the great tentpoles in Asian cinema, the latter released the same year as this one. Be warned that this movie is a real indicator of its title and has some gory and uncomfortable watch for sure and It’s best I keep my descriptors of it to a minimum.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight – Looks like I’m bringing more informative documentaries this week to keep everyone informed and to be honest I really didn’t know who this man was but I definitely felt the message that was given in the title as I was definitely informed of Milton Glaser’s ability to delight. The film profiles Milton Glaser, America’s foremost graphic designer who made the iconic “I Heart N.Y.” logo among many others, as well as was a teacher and humanitarian. Interviews with Glaser are put together to take you through a rough chronology of his life, starting with his study at the New York High School of Music and Art and at Cooper Union, a seminal stay in Italy, his marriage, and his various partnerships like founding Push Pin Studios and “New York” magazine as well as designing Grand Union supermarkets, and working with “The Nation.” This movie feels very heady creatively and seems ungrounded at times but is engaging when your head isn’t spinning with information. A good film for the creative type.

The Stalking Moon – Thanks to those great people at Warner Archive I find myself swimming in great classic westerns and this one is a brand new gem in my collection as it features one of the Hollywood greats, Gregory Peck. In the film he plays a sympathetic retired army scout who takes-in a white woman and her half-Apache son, not knowing that the boy’s father, a murderous renegade Apache, is after them. The film co-stars Eva Marie Saint as the woman in question and a young and fresh faced Robert Forster as the villain which was a huge selling point for me as one of my favorite all-time actors. This is a thoroughly fantastic film and is the reteaming of Peck and his To Kill A Mockingbird director Robert Mulligan.

Jaws – The first blockbuster ever made and possibly one of the most beloved and accessible monster horror films ever made, I feel like everyone has a soft spot for this movie. Steven Spielberg adapted the Peter Benchley novel in beautiful fashion with Roy Schieder taking the role of Chief Brody, a law enforcement official that sees himself pitted between a scared town and the town officials looking to ignore a bloodthirsty shark and reopen their town to tourists anyways, something that feels crazily reminiscent of how everything just opened up in this pandemic. This is one of the greatest movies ever and the 4K transfer for it is gorgeous as are all of the retrospective featurettes that will keep movie lovers busy for hours. I feel truly blessed to own it.

Dream Demon – Yes, there is more camp in my piece this week as this brand new release comes from the rising king (or queen) of B-movies, cult status films and forgotten gems and this time we are delving into the dream world in a movie that I think missed the opportunity for the smashy title of “Dreamon”. Catchy, right? Anyways, the film follows a woman about to be married who begins having terrifyingly vivid dreams about demons but when she wakes, however, the demons are realized to be real and begin to commit gruesome murders so in a way this is the cautionary tale of wedlock told through a Ghoulies lense and it works in such a weird way. The film was made by Harley Cokeliss who’s previous entry into the zeitgeist was a movie called Black Moon Rising with Tommy Lee Jones and written by the Master Of Horror, John Carpenter.

Television:

Jim Jefferies: Intolerant (Netflix) – We’re digging into a little bit of Australian comedy this week, albeit Jim has been a landed American for a while now so this is more tethered to his new citizenship rather than being a strange man in a strange land. To be bold in my delivery of what this stand up special is I’ll kind of bullet point it for you and say that this is about Jim’s lactose intolerance, how it interfered on a date he was on and the need to put himself on a countdown to when he shit himself. little messed up, right? Well, it’s all funny as along the way Jim digs into generational differences, his own bad habits and the shifting boundaries in comedy and how to navigate what you said in the past to how you can improve in the future. Irreverent and hysterically funny, it makes me miss his show a lot.

Stateless (Netflix) – I’ve been stewing on this one for a bit as I received all of these episodes more than a month ago and it is here to probably be a giant streaming hit this weekend. Starring former Chuck star Yvonne Strahovski and Suicide Squad actor Jai Courtney, this thriller is based on a true story and follows a woman who has just escaped a cult, a refugee fleeing with his family, a father trapped in a dead-end job, and a bureaucrat on the verge of a national scandal who find their lives intertwined when they are imprisoned in an immigration detention centre. The show was created by Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett, Nowhere Boys producer Tony Ayres and Jack Irish creator Elise McCredie and is a damn good watch that is thoroughly addicting and also so very relevant to our times. This is a big recommendation from me this week.

Expecting Amy (Crave) – Remember when Amy Schumer seemed to disappear during the height of her popularity and after a successful third season of her show? Well, we all know now that Amy shut herself away from everyone with her husband and had a baby but what we didn’t know is that it was all documented. For this short three-episode limited HBO Max series, we get the full behind-the-scenes treatment as Schumer goes through an extraordinarily difficult pregnancy while touring to prepare for a stand-up special and as a big fan of her stand up, Inside Amy Schumer and the film Trainwreck, I have been looking forward to this. I’ll say it now though, the less said about Snatched and I Feel Pretty the better because those ones sucked real bad.

The Old Guard (Netflix) – Charlize Theron s stepping back into the action genre and not only that she is leading a film based on a graphic novel from one of the best comic writers working today, Greg Rucka who also made Stumptown, now a hit series with Cobie Smulders and Lazarus, which is coming soon to television screens to blow everyone’s minds. The film has Theron playing the leader of an ancient sect of immortal assassins who are suddenly exposed and must now fight to keep their identity a secret just as an unexpected new member is discovered. The film is from Love & Basketball director Gina Prince-Bythewood in her first action film and she really rocks this one with insane action sequences that will drop jaws like crazy as they’re breaking them at the same time. I’m not the only one raving about this movie, the reviews are in and they’re good.

Close Enough (Crave) – Ever since HBO Max has launched in the United States they have been releasing series after series of new show revivals, original programming and bold narrative choices for all ages but this new animated series might be my most anticipated new shows of the summer for this new platform. Coming from the creators of Regular Show, a Cartoon Network original from J.G. Quintel, this is a decidedly more adult-oriented series about a couple trying to face various challenges in their daily lives while trying to cope with their changes from 20s to 30s. Quintel takes the lead role, just as he did with his previous series but this also has Jason Mantzoukas who just might be my favorite current comedian, podcaster and writer. I have big hopes that this show is just as great as the trailer would lead you to believe it is. I think we have the low rumblings of a hit here.

New To VOD:

Hamilton – The massive hit Broadway musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda has now made its way to the Disney+ streaming service for all of us who either will never be able to afford to head to New York City to see the real thing or only have a fleet interest in it, like me, but I do know the magnitude of this moment. The production follows the real life of one of America’s foremost founding fathers and first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton in that Miranda style that now feels almost iconic with Moana becoming the hit it was and the upcoming In The Heights which will definitely spread his stardust. This version of Hamilton was filmed live on Broadway from the Richard Rodgers Theatre with the original Broadway cast.

American Woman – An insane situation out of the mid-seventies was definitely the Patty Hearst kidnapping which saw her take the side of her militant kidnappers and, in a way, join them in their freedom fight versus the government against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. In her debut film, former Mad Men writer Semi Chellas attempts to recreate what happened behind closed doors during this ordeal with this story that was inspired by those events but tells it with changed names but as so much tension wrapped in every scene that it feels real enough to make your stomach churn. Downsizing star Hong Chau plays Jenny, a political activist brought in by the kidnappers to care for the Patty of this film, renamed Pauline and played by fantastic Canadian actress Sarah Gadon, and the two form a quick bond. Is Jenny being used or is this a real relationship between the two. Beautifully shot and punctuated by great performances from the cast including a powder keg of one from John Gallagher Jr.

Blu-Ray:

Buffaloed – If you haven’t experienced the brilliance of actress Zoey Deutch yet then this is the crash course of her that you need to get into your brain immediately because it is a beautiful showcasing of her work. Playing a sort of dirtbag version of The Wolf Of Wall Street in a way, the film follows Deutch as Peg, a scheming Buffalo resident looking to make her fortune on quick scams and finds it in the shady business of debt collecting. After working for and being screwed over by the big wolf in the game named Wizz, played by Jai Courtney, who becomes her nemesis. The film is brilliantly written, darkly funny and spotlights a huge industry of greed in America and the constant plight of debt among 71 million Americans. I loved this movie so much, possibly my favorite this week.

Last Moment Of Clarity – With star Samara Weaving on a hot streak after Ready Or Not, her fun performance in Guns Akimbo and recently the Netflix series Hollywood, this movie had me hooked with the mere mention of her name. I wish that feeling lasted. The film follows a man living as a drifter in Paris three years after witnessing the murder of his fiancée who’s reality is thrown to the wind when he sees an actress who looks a lot like his dead love in a movie at the local theater. The premise of this movie sounds interesting but unfortunately, it is so slow and boring that it fails to engage you and the lead up to the finale and the last climactic scenes themselves have so many logic gaffs and plot holes that it all lands with a dull thud when the credits hit. Adding to that whole mess, lead star Zach Avery couldn’t buy himself a shred of charisma if he was the richest man in the world. A huge disappointment.

Force Of Nature – I definitely can’t say that actor Mel Gibson is on a list of marketable stars right now and hasn’t been for a while so it really makes a lot of sense that this new heist film is one that flew under everyone’s radar and just now is making itself known as it lands its home release. The story follows a gang of thieves who plan a heist during a hurricane and immediately encounter problems when a cop tries to force everyone in the building to evacuate. A very simple story and a pretty solid cast around Gibson including Emile Hirsh and Kate Bosworth punctuate a movie that will only stick in your memory for the amount of time it is on screen in all honesty. The whole thing feels so ridiculous in its scope and it doesn’t even have the inkling to be at least a little fun or have any sort of levity to it whatsoever. I didn’t regret watching this movie but I definitely didn’t see the point in investing an hour and a half into it.

Come And See – Criterion coming again this week with the hard-hitting features they are known for picking up, this one coming from Belarus which, at the time of its release in 1985, was part of the Soviet Union. The story follows a young boy who joins the Soviet resistance movement against ruthless German forces after finding an old rifle and experiences the horrors of World War II. I had been hearing about this film for years as it has been appearing on lists of great international cinema from a bunch of acclaimed directors like Edgar Wright and after seeing it, yes, this is the real deal but it is definitely not for the faint of heart. You’ve been warned.

Street Survivors: The True Story Of The Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash – I feel like I just watched a documentary recently about the tragic plane crash that killed Lynyrd Skynyrd’s iconic frontman Ronnie Van Zant among others but this takes that same story in more of a re-enactment route but with a little more professionalism than that bare-bones previous film did. This biopic recreates the story about the ill-fated flight through the eyes of former Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle, who is the narrator as well, who not only survived the plane crash that claimed the life of the band’s founder and the others, but who also risked his life to pull the remaining survivors out of the plane wreckage before staggering towards the nearest farmhouse in rural Louisiana to seek help. The story is an unforgettable piece of rock n’ roll’s tragic history and seems to have a hyper-focus on it right now. This movie won’t win any sort of awards but the story will fascinate music fans.

Evil: Season 1 – Coming from the television power couple of Robert and Michelle King who were responsible for the hit shows The Good Wife and it’s CBS All Access spinoff The Good Fight, this new thriller takes them down the very different path of law, murder and demonic possession. I know, they totally swerved you with that last description and it’s exactly what I thought when I got this boxset. Starring Westworld’s Katja Herbers, Luke Cage’s Mike Colter and former Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi, the series is about a skeptical clinical psychologist who joins a priest-in-training and a blue-collar contractor as they investigate supposed miracles, demonic possession, and other extraordinary occurrences to see if there’s a scientific explanation or if something truly supernatural is at work. I put on my own skeptical hat with the first episode and found myself gripped by this really unpredictable show that takes you in som unfathomable directions. Can’t wait to continue through the set.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Victor And Victoria – You might be thinking “oh, Victor/Victoria”, that Julie Andrews movie she did with Blake Edwards, right?” but mostly your mind is that shrugging emoji. I totally get you but this is not that movie but it’s what that one was based on. The story follows an aspiring singer named Susanne who takes over for a terrible actor at a small cabaret in Berlin where he works as a woman impersonator which ends up getting her discovered. The catch is that everyone believes that she is a man. This film is interesting because it was made by a German filmmaker before World War II and is largely an LGBTQ+ friendly movie in a lot of ways, very ahead of its time. Nice to see it get some spotlight during Pride month.

Inside Daisy Clover – About a month and a half ago I checked out the HBO documentary on Natalie Wood made by her daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner and I immediately became fascinated with her filmography and the role choices she made and it stems a lot from this film, one that her influence got a young actor named Robert Redford cast in. C-starring Christopher Plummer, the story follows the title character Daisy Clover, a 15-year-old Tomboy who dreams of being a Hollywood star who, after auditioning for producer Raymond Swan of Swan Studios, becomes the toast of Hollywood. Daisy must then come to terms with her newfound fame and the 1930’s Hollywood star treatment. The film would be nominated for three Academy Awards, including one for Ruth Gordon in the first sweet spot of her career. This is a classic Hollywood flick with an inward look.

The Mystery Of The Wax Museum – Going back for some more classics this week with one of the iconic King Kong starlet Fay Wray and the kick-off to a story that would get remade twice over the next seventy-five years. The film follows a reporter who is drawn to a wax museum and a sinister sculptor after a series of disappearances of both people and corpses and is actually a pretty creepy film for its time and must have been terrifying for audiences back in the early thirties. The film had a life beyond being remade as a main shot of the monster lifting up the sheet in the morgue was, along with many other Warner Bros. films of the early 1930s, incorporated into the opening credits of their 1974 musical Mame.

Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark – As a youngster growing up with a fascination for horror I had a healthy obsession with late-night chiller theatre host Elvira, played by Cassandra Peterson, and this movie definitely was in my list of favorites with the buxom goth getting her first big-screen adventure. For those who have never experienced Elvira in her glory, buckle up, because she is in a fight for her ancestral home in a small town, battling an evil uncle and trying not to get burned at the stake by angry townspeople. Sure it’s campy, insane and definitely politically incorrect but I love every moment of it. Hell, it’s part of who I am now at this point.

Television:

Big Dogs (Amazon Prime) – You have to love a television series that has the courage to try and pull off an alternate reality and that’s exactly what this new series does, led by a cast that you recognize their faces but can’t seem to place their names. The show is an alternate reality of New York City where businesses are shuttered, crime is rampant and black markets thrive. Drugs are run via taxis and NYPD detectives use taxis for undercover teams trying to rein in the chaos and this series looks too interesting to pass up. Created by newcomer Adam Dunn, Amazon has trusted him with a pretty pricey looking production and I’m interested to see how it pans out.

Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix) – As soon as the first tones of the theme song hit for this new series revival spearheaded by Stranger Things producer Shawn Levy and I was transported back to the nineties when I would sit on the floor of my parent’s rec room and watch the original series hosted and narrated by Robert Stack. Now, given that Stack has been dead for about seventeen years, certain changes had to be made but it all works so well because, let’s face it, weird stuff hasn’t stopped happening just because this show has been off the air. I really hope it takes off again with all the Netflix true-crime buffs and we get more seasons because this series is just as addicting as it was when it was first released. The theme still gives me chills.

Hanna: Season 2 (Amazon Prime) – The movie this series is based on holds a special place in my heart as my wife and I sort of got our daughter’s name from it but this series is all sorts of kick-ass and does a solid job of recreating the brilliance that Joe Wright started on the big screen and expands it in series form. Saorise Ronan and Cate Blanchett don’t feature, instead making way for new series star Esme Creed-Miles as the title character, an extraordinary young girl raised in the forest and trained to kill by her CIA operative father, and evading the relentless pursuit of an off-book CIA agent as she tries to unearth the truth behind who she is. My favorite thing about this new show is it reteams The Killing stars Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman who I absolutely adore in every way. This show is awesome and if you’ve already done all the Jack Ryan and Bosch then this should be the next in your queue.

Warrior Nun (Netflix) – This show has possibly one of the most off-putting names for just a casual Netflix bigger but for a comic book fan like myself or maybe an avid anime fan the possibilities could be somewhat endless. starring a new face by the name of Alba Baptista, this action-heavy series follows a young woman who wakes up with a divine artifact in her back and gets caught in a war between the forces of Heaven and Hell which is the simplest but most effective way to describe this. Campy, violent and with a healthy side of ridiculous imagination, this show could strike a chord with fans of The Witcher as they await a new season and with character names like Shotgun Mary I was pretty into this show right away although I concede that it definitely is not for everyone.

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark (Crave) – More HBO goodness has arrived this week and, again, something a bit off the beaten path and one that will hopefully get a little boost from word of mouth. Very relevant due to the current court case going on right now, this limited mini-series is the gripping examination of the unsolved crimes of the Golden State Killer who terrorized California in the 1970s and 1980s, a case that will hopefully see resolution very soon and maybe a second series could be made of that. The series is narrated by Academy Award nominee Amy Ryan and features incredible first-hand testimonies from witnesses like Michelle McNamara and will get true crime buffs hooked immediately. This is highly recommended.

New To VOD:

Irresistible – John Stewart channels some of his justified rage into his second directed feature film but unlike the last true story drama he made last time he is playing into the comedy satire with hopefully better results. Starring Steve Carrell and Rose Byrne, the film focuses on a Democratic political strategist who works the campaign for a retired veteran’s bid for mayor of a small right-wing Wisconsin town. After the Democratic National Committee’s top strategist Gary (Steve Carell) sees a video of a retired Marine colonel (Chris Cooper) standing up for the rights of his town’s undocumented workers, Gary believes he has found the key to winning back the Heartland. However, the Republican National Committee counters him by sending in his brilliant nemesis Faith (Rose Byrne) and a local race quickly becomes a fight for the soul of America. This movie has the potential to be one of the funniest movies of the year in a subject that really needs it right now.

Hammer – Bubbling under the surface for years, Will Patton is an actor that is constantly the best supporting piece in his movies, from The Postman to Gone In 60 Seconds to Armageddon and in this new indie thriller he really gets the chance to shine. Co-starring Ready Or Not’s Mark O’Brien, Patton plays a father who faces a personal crisis when he discovers his estranged son fleeing a botched drug deal. Feeling the need to save him, the two men embark on a violent odyssey that reinvests them into each others lives. The film is getting fantastic reviews and will hopefully put writer and director Christian Sparkes on the map of up and coming filmmakers.

Exit Plan – It feels like it’s been forever since Game Of Thrones ended, making it a long time since we saw the disappointing end to the character arc of Jamie Lannister but now Nikolaj Coster Waldau takes the lead in this new mystery, alongside a British favorite, Shaun Of The Dead’s Kate Ashfield, and Tuva Novotny who I really liked in Alex Garland’s Annihilation. Jamie… sorry, Nikolaj plays Max, a guy in the midst of an existential crisis who is looking to solve a cold case and checks into the clandestine Hotel Aurora, impressively enigmatic and secretive facility that specializes in elaborate assisted suicide fantasies. His investigation uncovers a disturbing truth that forces Max to question the very nature of life, death and his own perception of reality, so thus a movie that I am all about. The movie comes from Lars Von Trier protege Jonas Alexander Arnby who’s last film When Animals Dream was a brilliant little bit of body horror. This one is going to be awesome.

Blu-Ray:

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

The Postcard Killings – You would think that with the red hot appeal of Negan from The Walking Dead that a Jeffrey Dean Morgan movie would get some top representation but I really didn’t hear about this new mystery until a few weeks ago. The film follows Morgan as a New York detective investigating the death of his daughter who was murdered while on her honeymoon in London. He recruits the help of a Scandinavian journalist, played by The Good Wife actress Cush Jumbo, as other couples throughout Europe suffer a similar fate at the hands of a bloodthirsty killer. The film comes from Academy Award winner Danis Tanovic who made the incredible No Man’s Land in 2001 so I hope this is great too.

The Legion – Judging this movie by it’s cover, something we are implicitly warned not to do with books, I’m a bit worried that it might be absolute crap as it top bills Mickey Rourke and Bai Ling who don’t appear on the cover. A swords and blood movie set against a fall of Rome landscape, the story centers around Noreno, played by newcomer Lee Partridge, a half-Roman who is entrusted with the mission of crossing the snowy mountains of Armenia with Parthian patrols hot on his tail to seek help for his slowly dying men. Both Rourke and Ling have made horrendous movie choices and financial decisions in their past so I’m thinking this one might be a dud.

South Park: Season 23 – One thing I get excited for still after over twenty years is South Park because I feel like the show has never missed a beat. This season is similar to the new direction in the show that has been going on for probably five years now, featuring continuing elements and a recurring storyline, most the way through, lampooning ICE detention centers, the 2019 film Joker, media censorship in China, the anti-vaccine movement, plant-based food, the Trump Administration, transgenderism in athletics, and the competition between traditional cable television and media streaming. South Park is still unabashedly South Park and I love it.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Outs:

An Unmarried Woman – A brand new Criterion edition landed on shelves a few weeks ago and I had to get my eyes on it because these editions are the ultimate presentation of some of the greatest cinema out there. This film comes from acclaimed writer and director Paul Mazursky and follows a wealthy woman from Manhattan’s Upper East Side who struggles to deal with her new identity and her sexuality after her husband of sixteen years leaves her for a younger woman. The film, released in the late 70s, would get Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress for Dame Jill Clayburgh who astounds in her performance and Mazursky himself for best original screenplay. This is well worth checking out.

The Queen – With Pride month more than halfway through, Kino Lorber releases the first hi-definition version of this classic documentary from the late sixties that definitely was taboo at the time of filming and it’s original theatrical release. The film is a behind the scenes look at a national drag queen contest in New York City and includes the rehearsals leading up to the contest, the conversations in the dressing room and the jealousies that emerge before and after the competition. Audiences had no idea how to receive the film on release but with this new edition hopefully, it will get the exposure it deserves.

Desolation Center – More documentaries to throw your eyeballs at this week because I guess it looks like I’m trying to educate you but this one was too interesting to pass up. This film is the story of a group of 1980s punk artists in Southern California who started organizing and playing desert shows that later inspired Burning Man, Coachella, and Lollapalooza, three major festivals now that bring in fans from all over the world and have taken on their own legends in the decades since. The film features interviews and rare performance footage of Sonic Youth, Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Redd Kross, Einstürzende Neubauten, Survival Research Laboratories, Savage Republic, Swans and more, the ultimate watch for music and movie lovers.

Sweet Bird Of Youth – This movie is kind of the culmination of two immense talents at a great time as it puts Paul Newman in the lead role of a Tennessee Williams written movie, one of the greats and the high bar for stage stories. Newman plays a drifter named Chance Wayne who returns to his hometown after many years of trying to make it in the movies. Travelling with him is a faded film star he picked up along the way, Alexandra Del Lago, played by Geraldine Page, and while trying to get her help to make a screen test, he also finds the time to meet his former girlfriend Heavenly, the daughter of the local politician Tom ‘Boss’ Finley, who was the reason he had to flee town all those years ago. The movie went on to win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Ed Begley Sr., one of three nominations, all for acting.

Sixteen Candles – An absolute John Hughes classic in every way featuring iconic performances from Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall and Michael Schoeffling, this is a beautiful new collector’s edition from Arrow Video. For those who don’t know, this is about Samantha Baker’s sweet sixteen disaster. Her high school crush doesn’t know she’s alive, her parents forget her birthday and she suffers every humiliation possible through the course of one day. Will things turn around for Sam? Will this turn out to be the best birthday ever? Oh, and also, why the hell haven’t you seen this movie yet if you haven’t?

Television:

Eric Andre: Legalize Everything (Netflix) – IT’s stand up comedy time again this week with the insane reverence of Eric Andre, who is, let’s face it, a really acquired taste and is not going to spark anyones interest over forty. This special hilariously starts with Andre impersonating a police officer on the street in front of the theater, drinking and smoking cannabis to throw everyone off and then heads inside for some straight up insanity in New Orleans, tackling flawed fast-food icons, the wonders of autofill and the bizarre choice for the “Cops” theme song because, really, isn’t it a weird song? Why would Inner Circle allow it to be used? Just one of the many questions we should ask ourselves.

Adventure Time: Distant Lands: Season 1 (Crave) – Almost two years after the ending of the original series, a fan favorite that drew a crowd of all ages, we get more adventures with Finn The Human, Jake The Dog and all of their friends but with a little bit of a twist. The new show is more hyper focused on the side stories of characters like BMO, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen on their own solo exploits doing heroic things. I’m being vague but I now this will also become a massive success with the fan base because Pendleton Ward has always delivered, including the new series The Midnight Gospel on Netflix with Duncan Trussell.

Search Party: Season 3 (Crave) – I’m going to be honest on this one, I had never heard of it at all and I’m kind of disappointed by that as I’ve been a fan of the lead, Alia Shawkat, ever since I saw Arrested Development over a decade and a half ago. Created by Fort Tilden’s Sarah-Violet Bliss and The State’s Michael Showalter, the series is a single-camera dark comedy about four self-absorbed twenty-somethings who become entangled in an ominous mystery when a former college acquaintance suddenly disappears. Created for the HBO Max service, I think this is the first we get to see this show in Canada now.

The Twilight Zone: Season 2 (CBS All Access) – It seems like everything that Jordan Peele has touched in genre storytelling has turned to gold so why not take the iconic Rod Serling serial series that creeped out the generations before and give it a bold kick in the ass on CBS’s All Access streaming services. I’m unsure if original series classics like “Terror At 30,000 Feet” like the first season but I know that it will include filmmakers like The Endless directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, Gretel & Hansel’s Osgood Perkins and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’s Ana Lily Amirpour so you know the atmosphere will be incredible and the star line up includes Joel McHale, Topher Grace, Christopher Meloni and Damon Wayans Jr. I’m really looking forward to this one.

Doom Patrol: Season 2 (Crave) – After a killer first season I know people are chomping at the bit for this new season of a show that not only gives White Collar’s Matt Bomer a really cool role but also gave some new life to 90s star Brendan Fraser who gets that redemption he really deserves. For those who are uninitiated to this DC Comics world, it is a re-imagining of one of DC’s most beloved group of outcast superheroes: Robotman, Negative Man, Elasti-Girl and Crazy Jane, led by modern-day mad scientist Dr. Niles Caulder, also known as The Chief. The series is tied to the cinematic universe by the common character of Cyborg so it’s neat to see exactly where all these stories meet up. Another great show to look forward to this week.

New on VOD:

Greyhound – One really disappointing thing that feels very selfish of me to say as a movie fan is that COVID-19 robbed us of seeing a possibly incredible new World War II film on the big screen as it was intended. Tom Hanks takes the lead in this film that was produced by Playtone, responsible for the HBO limited series Band Of Brothers and The Pacific, playing an inexperienced U.S. Navy captain who must lead an Allied convoy being stalked by Nazi U-boat wolfpacks. The trailer looks so intense for it but it feels like we are being duped into subscribing to AppleTV+ just to get this movie amongst a kind of weak library. To be honest though, this is Tom Hanks and I’ll buy it anyways, I have everything else.

You Should Have Left – Let’s face it, besides Friday The 13th, A Stir Of Echoes and arguably Hollow Man, Kevin Bacon’s horror run hasn’t been memorable but neither has that of his co-star for this film, Amanda Seyfried. They take another kick at the can for this horror mystery about a screenwriter who travels to a remote house in Wales with his family so that he can write the sequel to his big hit film. Settling in, he begins to regret his decision after suffering from a severe case of writer’s block which starts to mess with his psyche. The film comes from writer and director David Koepp who isn’t a stranger to horror films about writer’s block as he adapted Stephen King’s Secret Window over a decade ago with Johnny Depp. This trailer has atmosphere so I’m interested.

Mr. Jones – In the current world climate of journalists being under attack almost constantly for whistleblowing and calling out atrocities, this film is a stark reminder that this is not a new battle and it has been going on for close to a hundred years or more. Happy Valley star James Norton plays the title character, Garet Jones, an Australian born journalist living in Europe in the early 1930s who had just been granted an interview with a rising German leader named Adolf Hitler. Alarmed by his plans of conquest, Jone heads into the Soviet Union to hopefully bolster an opposition with strength but quickly finds himself in their crosshairs as well after uncovering secrets about the hollodor under Stalin’s brutal regime. The film is a hard hitting story of atrocities and how they burn a hole in your soul and the lengths one man will go through to open the eyes of those who need to see it. Very well done and beautifully shot.

You Don’t Nomi – Definitely regarded at the time as one of the worst movies of all time, Showgirls is a film that lives in infamy as it took then sweet as pie Saved By The Bell actress Elizabeth Berkley and put her in the role of Nomi, a rural girl looking to make her mark on the Las Vegas strip as an exotic dance and, let’s face it, the movie is batshit insane and director Paul Verhoeven and writer Joe Ezterhaus should hold the blame for that. This documentary is about the deep cult adoration that developed over time for this movie as well as it’s Hollywood history at the time of it’s release. As a movie fan, this movie astounded me but as a viewer who snuck into this movie at the age of thirteen, it feels like a full circle moment.

Blu-Ray:

Impractical Jokers The Movie – After seven seasons of hijinx on TruTV in the United States, Bryan Quinn, Sal Vulcano, James Murray and Joe Gatto make their leapto the big screen for a the largest money road trip movie that their network and producers at Funny Or Die can afford. Trying to give the main thread of this film so semblance of a plot, the story starts with the guys recreating their “meeting” at a Paula Abdul concert in the mid nineties on Staten Island. Now, in present day, the guys hear of a Paula Abdul show in Miami and know their fate is to crash it again. The guys pack into Q’s old Caprice and road trip down while having an outrageous prank competition the whole time. This movie was hilarious from start to finish and as a guy who has never watched the show I really think this made me a fan.

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

LEGO DC: Shazam! Magic and Monsters – Look, if you need to calm the kids down and have them shut up and stare at the television screen for about an hour and a half, you really can’t go wrong with throwing on a Lego movie and as good as the theatrical ones are, like the kick off blockbuster, it’s sequel and the Batman and Ninjago spinoffs, the original films they have been making direct to video are still pretty entertaining, even if they don’t have the big star draw that the big screen ones do. This new one continues the Magic and Monsters line of stories and follows boy hero Shazam who is offered a membership in the Justice League, Reluctant about it his decision is rushed along when his rivals, the Monster Society, put the League in peril he’s the only one who can save them. As I said, the kids will love it and it might be entertaining enough that you the parent won’t want a lobotomy. That’s a win/win right there.

The Quarry – This movie was a surprise out of nowhere as I had never heard of it yet it has always accomplished Michael Shannon starring in it, one of my favorites, and one of the most underrated actors today, Shea Whigham who has astounded in television shows like Boardwalk Empire as well as big movies like The Wolf Of Wall Street and The Silver Linings Playbook. This film has Whigham as a drifter who murders a traveling pastor and assumes his role as the new man of faith in their town. Curious about his demeanor then suspicious of his validity, Michael Shannon plays the town sheriff who rapidly closes in on his real identity as the body of his victim is just waiting to be found. Both men deliver in this film as usual. The plot moves in what feels like three separate motions but the meet up is explosive and writer and director Scott Teems has such a great command of it.

Friday The 13th – Alongside Halloween which was released just a couple years before it, this film is one of the biggest heavyweights in horror and spawned one of the most popular subgenres within that, the slasher film. We all know this story by now, right? Counsellors return to open the summer spot of Camp Crystal Lake which was closed due to a horrific tragedy when a young deformed boy named Jason Voorhees drowned due to negligence. One by one, each teen is picked off by a vicious killer in all sorts of inventive ways and the reveal of who is behind it is still pretty iconic because it’s not who you think. Heck, the wrong answer got Drew Barrymore killed in Scream. Now celebrating it’s fortieth anniversary, this new edition comes in a beautifully crafted steelbook and I have a real love for those. That said, if you already picked up the full blu-ray collection, you already have this disc.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Sound! Euphonium: The Movie – Our Promise: A Brand New Day – More anime? Yes, I guess I’m a glutton for the punishment of language barriers, genre confusions and wacky storylines because not only have I roped myself into another anime adventure but this title feels like it came out of a crazy person’s fever dream. This movie is the follow up to a 2015 film and is the continued adventures of Kumiko Oumae and her classmates as they enter their second year of school after she found her drive in life, recovering from being apathetic to everything and everyone. I have to say that this one flew right over my head and not just because I haven’t seen the first film I’m an anime newbie but because the drama side of this medium just doesn’t work for me as it feels painfully overdramatic. Maybe this is where I’m finding my footing with this animation style, in identifying what I don’t like.

The Blackout: Invasion Earth – When Shout Factory picks up something for distribution it can be a myriad of productions, either an IFC Midnight horror movie from North America, home produced films from their Scream Factory and films like this, a Russian sci-fi looking for world wide distribution which can be good or bad. This one lands somewhere in the middle because it is ambitious, plays on that love for Call Of Duty but also plays on that Halo video game type lore that draws people in. The only thing is the film feels bloated and long to the point of boredom and lost me pretty quickly in, even if the story is pretty cool, taking place in a rapidly destroyed Eastern Europe, obviously. It’s interesting to note that Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda wrote a song for this foreign production.

Action Of The Tiger – Going back to 1957 with this new blu-ray reissue from Warner Archive and, although he doesn’t appear on the cover or in top billing at all, this is a big film for now legendary and retired actor Sean Connery who met director Terence Young on this movie and the two went on to make Doctor No afterwards, kicking of one of the greatest and longest running franchises of all time. The film Carson, played by Van Jonson, an American contraband runner who is approached by Tracy, a French woman who wants him to help rescue her brother from Albania where he is being held as a political prisoner. The female lead, Martine Carol, said that this film would have been more impressive if Connery had replaced Johnson who was criticized for being totally wooden in this performance. It all seemed to work out anyways in the legendary Scotsman’s favor.

Tin Cup – Kevin Costner did the baseball thing multiple times but this golf film still gets listed on a lot of lists of favorite sports movies and it’s no wonder why as Costner is once again led director Ron Shelton who made Bull Durham with him eight years prior and hit box office gold with it. This film, for those who don’t remember, has Costner playing a washed up and a bit unhinged pro golfer who is pushed to try and qualify for the U.S. Open by his new girlfriend, played by the wonderful Rene Russo. This movie might actually be one of my favorite Costner comedies because I absolutely love his character in this as it’s really hard to not fall in love with Roy McAvoy. I would even be more than okay with a sequel to this as he gets ready to move into the senior’s division. Hey, why not, right?

The Vinyl Revival – With the sales of vinyl surging in the last decade or so, it seems that we have entered a new great age of music collecting and, as a collector myself, I couldn’t be happier. Coming from director Pip Piper, who has an awesome name and outlined rapid rise of record shops in the 1960’s, 70s and 80’s in the film Last Shop Standing eight years ago, this documentary gives a deeper inside to why this medium which was once considered passe by mainstream music buyers has now hit a different echelon and expanded the empire. The film features interviews with Graham Jones, Phil Selway and Adrian Utley and is a fascinating watch, if not a little under produced.

Television:

Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn (Crave) – Just last year we were given the documentary Where’s My Roy Cohn about lawyer Roy Cohn and his rise to prominence and the evil he devended, possibly perpotrated and forced others to. Hell, he even gave his whole playbook to Donald Trump who is using it right at this very moment. Needless to say, the guy makes my blood boil just thinking about him and the good thing is the way he went out of this life is kind of fitting. I’m ranting so let’s move on. This new documentary is a telling of Roy Cohn’s story again but through the lens of an HBO filter as it also includes the creation of the Tony Award winning stage production of Angels In America which Cohn is a central character in. Al Pacino went on to play him in the HBO adaptation of that and it went on to win five Golden Globes. Another needless thing to say, this looks fantastic.

Wasp Network (Netflix) – This movie definitely caught my eye with hotter than lava actress Ana De Armas leading the way, a must see talent after her work in Blade Runner 2049 and Knives Out, and I know this will be a redemption for Edgar Ramirez just a week after the truly awful The Last Days Of American Crime. This film comes from one of my favorite filmmakers Olivier Assayas and, while I’m disappointed with the lack of Kristen Stewart after Clouds Of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper, this looks like another masterpiece. Based on true events, this film follows the story of five Cuban political prisoners who had been imprisoned by the United States since the late 1990s on charges of espionage and murder. The supporting cast of this movie features Penelope Cruz Narcos own Escobar, Wagner Moura and Gael Garcia Bernal and was shot by two different cinematographers, the usual Assayas guy Yorick Le Saux and Denis Lenoir who shot Mia Hansen-Love’s incredibly beautiful party film, Eden.

Love, Victor: Season 1 (Crave) – I don’t think anyone knew how big the teen comedy Love, Simon starring Nick Robinson would be when it came out but it sort of blew up and now we get this spinoff series that definitely went through a myriad of changes in it’s journey. While the original movie followed Simon, the keeper of everyone’s secrets including his own big one, this changes gears and focuses on Victor, a new student at Creekwood High School on his own journey of self-discovery, facing challenges at home, adjusting to a new city, and struggling with his sexual orientation. Grabbing hold of the LGBTQ+ banner and flying with it, I really hope the heart and soul of the film survives in this new medium because I felt it was truly special. Hoping for the best on this one.

Dads (AppleTV+) – Directed by actress turned filmmaker Bryce Dallas Howard who has already astounded with her episode of The Mandolrian, this new documentary is being released at the best time as we head into the Father’s Day weekend. Of course utilizing the help of her own father, the accomplished filmmaker Ron Howard, this film explores the contemporary concept of fatherhood through anecdotes and wisdom from famous funnymen such as Will Smith, Jimmy Fallon, Neil Patrick Harris, and more. Combined with stories of non-celebrity dads from different parts of the world like Brazil, Japan and the United States, we get a glimpse at how modern parenting is creating new models of patriarchy. It’s funny, heartwarming, and gives many moments for introspection of our own parenting.

7500 (Amazon Prime) – A movie that flew under my radar before this week, pun I guess intended because it takes place on a plane, but I’m really happy I got a tailwind of it because it has Joseph Gordon Levitt in it which I feel like I’ve been lacking in movies for a little bit. He plays the pilot of an airliner that is hijacked by terrorists and 7500 is the airline code for this kind of incident. This is a pretty much one location thriller that has Levitt’s character battling for control of the cockpit, barring the door for anyone’s entry and the trailer looks very intense. The film comes from writer and director Patrick Vollrath, who was actually nominated for an Oscar four years ago for Best Short Film, makes his feature film debut here as well as his first English language movie.

New On VOD:

Hazy Little Thing – A very contained little story about a damaged author, we see these films rise up in the independent market across the world but it’s all in how you make it stand out from the others. This film follows Billie, a writer who is floating on the instant success she earned from her first book, absorbing the undulations she gets on social media, obsessed with her follower and like counts. Behind on her next book and feeling the despair of it, she gets blackout drunk one evening and ends up making a suicide attempt post which causes all of her friends to gather around her in a sort of celebration party for her. The enjoyment of this film lies in if you can relate to Billie’s plight or get inside her mental status as the film plays everything on its sleeve and gives you little insight into her lashing out at the people who love her. This is an interesting story of the validity of cries for help and how to help someone who is obtuse to recovery.

Becky – When comedic actors make the leap from their comfort zone into a dramatic role it is usually pretty shocking but I have to say that nothing caught me off guard more than to see King Of Queens star and Adam Sandler buddy Kevin James playing a an escaped white supremacist prisoner with a swastika tattooed on the back of his head. This brand new gory thriller follows a father and his troubled daughter as he brings her up to a remote cabin to drop the news that he is remarrying. This is interrupted by James and his three other escapees as they terrorize the family for something their leader has left behind there. The daughter, Becky, having run out to the woods after her dad’s talk, now must devise a plan to survive and save her family. This movie is brash and ugly in a great survival thriller way and James does a great job being brutally menacing. It may be predictable in parts but the blood and guts of this movie are truly awesome and another great entry for Cooties directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion.

2040 – Had I watched this in a not so chaotic time, this documentary would have come off incredibly effective and forward-thinking but given the state of the world where hope feels like a bit of a dwindling commodity I couldn’t shake the pipedream feeling. Writer and director Damon Gameau takes center stage in this, the father of a four year old daughter and, like us all, e is concerned for the future she will inherit and sets out on a mission to find practical solutions to environmental concerns to improve our planet and shift them into the mainstream. The second component of this film comes with Gameau, through some sweet looking CGI, gives us a look at the future world of 2040 with these new solutions implemented and, oh man, I really want to live there. Is it just the sign of the time that I let this wash over me with a bittersweet “that’s nice but could never happen”? I want to believe in Gameau’s vision because it has room for everyone, I just feel I watched this at the total wrong time.

Clapboard Jungle – The unbearable pitfalls of getting your passion project made in the modern independent cinema world is on display here from filmmaker Justin McConnell as he documents his journey of getting his and co-writer Serena Whitney’s adaptation of the novel Mark Of Kane off the ground and into production. As we go through the endless battles, festival crawls and pitch meetings, O’Connell matches this up with interviews with some of the greatest current and past filmmakers like Guillermo Del Toro, Paul Schraeder and Richard Stanley talking about the evolution of the cinema landscape, the restrictions of the studio system and teachings that got them through their most creatively difficult times. For any fledgling filmmaker or hopeful, myself included, this was a fascinating watch and it even features Vancouver’s own Gigi Saul Guererro and Raynor Shima from Luchagore Productions.

Judy & Punch – Some more great Australian cinema is now out and I swear that debuting writer and director Mirrah Foulkes and The Nightingale filmmaker Jennifer Kent may have had a little discussion as both of their films involve the brutal killings of an infant, although Foulkes handled hers with almost a Monty Python-like flair. The story follows puppeteers Judy and Punch who are trying to resurrect their marionette show on the brink of their town being under an anarchic mob rule that sees citizens stoned and hung daily for various “witchcraft” doings. Punch’s drunken belligerence and violence goes too far one night and ends us destroying their family and leaving Judy for dead, setting her off on a murderous plan of revenge. This movie is incredible, exquisitely directed with quirky cinematography that Terry Gilliam would be proud of. The highlight of this film is Justified actor Damon Herriman who gives so much depth to the villainous Punch character. This is one of the year’s best, for sure.

Parasite (Black and White Edition) – I know I’ve talked about this so many times since my coverage of this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, a masterpiece of Korean cinema from one of the masters, Bong Joon-Ho and if you really haven’t gotten around to it yet you are missing out. In his return to all Korean film, which is now a multiple Academy Award winner, he tells the story of a family of con artists who grift their way into a rich family’s lives as a chauffeur, housekeeper, tutor and personal assistant respectively. They think they’ve hit the big time until the former housekeeper shows them a deep secret that she’s been hiding in their employer’s house that blows everyone’s situation up. Joon-Ho crafts another incredible totem in cinema history, a movie that’s filled with twists, incredible cinematography and the amazing ability to tell stories within a story. He never relents in showing that he is not only one of the greatest Korean storytellers today but one of the best in cinema today. This new version of the film pulls all of the color out into the classics of black and white and it works incredibly well, almost like it was made for this format like Mad Max: Fury Road was with the “Black and Chrome” edition.

Blu-Ray:

Watchmen – One of the greatest graphic novels of all time and the most interesting and real feeling superhero story I’ve ever read gets a live-action television sequel told by HBO and Lost creator Damon Lindelof and I think this is not only the best superhero television show ever made, but it may also be one of my favorite HBO series ever made. The cast is great, featuring Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Tim Blake Nelson and Aquaman breakout star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, this series is set decades after the events in Alan Moore’s landmark graphic novel with the atmosphere being set by the incredible score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Seriously, after the first episode’s opening scene, recreating on the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma massacre that is so chillingly apropos right now, you will be absolutely hooked.

Rogue Warfare: The Hunt – I can’t believe I subjected myself to more in this Call Of Duty reliant action series but as a critic, we submit ourselves to brutal eye torture just so you, our faithful readers, don’t have to subject yourself to it. We pay for your penance. Not asking for a medal of honor, just an observation but the good thing is this one is a bit of an improvement, only because our characters have now been established. The plot is simple, a group of the military elite who represent the best of the best from the U.S., Russia, UK, China and France join forces to fight an elite underground terrorist network led by a black-clad Muslim stereotype who represents the worst of western culture’s nightmares. Continuing off the cliffhanger of the last movie, this one has team leader Daniel, played by Will Yun Lee, as the prisoner of war for our villain and the team coming to his rescue. The action is really the best thing about this movie once again but some of it feels a little inconsistent as CG is used for muzzle flashes and blood squibs but almost sparingly as they don’t always appear and it’s a bit distracting.

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.

Urban Cowboy – After Welcome Back, Kotter, Grease and Saturday Night Fever, I think it was this movie that cemented John Travolta’s first time around as a megastar, playing a young country boy who gets his life lessons in love and public interaction when he moves to Houston and starts going to a nightclub named Gilley’s after he finishes work at the oil refinery. The film was nominated for two Golden Globes, both for Debra Winger, one being a breakout star award that isn’t given out, but everyone is so great in this film and the debut of Ray Villalobos who did 9 To 5 the same year and went on to do Risky Business, American Me and Romy And Michelle’s High School Reunion. This forty-year anniversary edition is stacked with special features and a new transfer of the film.

Star Trek: Short Treks – This is a fascinating box set I didn’t even know existed but it is a companion piece to this all-new CBS All Access produced Star Trek universe that was kicked off with Discovery. Bridging the gap in character backstories, between episode interstitials or background character tales, this set is a group of nine short films that feature fan-favorite characters like Rainn Wilson’s Harry Mudd, the most famous Vulcan ever, Spock and even Captain Christopher Pike who is getting his own spinoff series as well, which was recently announced. For a guy that already has both seasons of Discovery, the three J.J. Abrams movies and the Picard collection already and very recently, this one fits nicely into that collection. Now I’m just waiting on season one of Picard to hit blu-ray!

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

The Good Place: The Complete Series – One of my favorite comedy of recent years, Brooklyn Nine-Nine creator Michael Shur hit another level as showrunner by making a whole new series that will live in the glow of fandoms like Community, Friends or even Seinfeld, it is just that damn good. For those who don’t know about it, the series is about Eleanor Shellstrop, a recently deceased woman that finds herself in the cushy heaven-like landscape of The Good Place but the catch is that this place isn’t anything like it seems and the man who runs it, Michael, is hiding the truth behind his goofy smile. The writing is incredible in this show but made so much better by a brilliant cast of Kristen Bell, Ted Danson and Jameela Jamil as well as new faces like William Jackson Harper, Manny Jacinto and Darcy Carden. If you have yet to give this show a chance then what the fork are you waiting for?

Mortal Kombat: Scorpion’s Revenge – Mortal Kombat is a video game property near and dear to my heart ever since I would stand around for hours on end plunking quarters into the arcade machine. We got a live-action movie from Paul W.S. Anderson that hasn’t aged well but I still have a soft spot for, a terrible sequel and a kick as web series. Now Warner Bros. animation has put together this film that gives a full on telling of the franchise fandom’s favorite character Scorpion and how he was cursed with his powers. The movie has Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter voicing Sonya Blade and Joel McHale as the cocky superstar Johnny Cage, which is perfect casting, and, you know what? This movie actually kicks ass in a lot of ways and looks beautiful in its 4K glory. I would love more Mortal Kombat stories like this if anyone’s listening!

Forbidden Fruit Vol. 4: Marihuana / Narcotic – Now a bit into the Kino Lorber restored entries for this collection, these are two entries that define the term exploitation and fear-mongering when it came to drugs in America. The first film is called Marihuana: A Weed Rooted In Hell, which automatically is very telling in its title misspelling of marijuana and follows the downward trajectory of a high school girl who dabbles in cannabis and laughably becomes a hardened, heroin-addicted criminal, who inadvertently kidnaps her own child whom she had given up for adoption. Yes, this crap is wild but the second film Narcotic claims to be a true story and follows a physician whose personal journey leads him through opium dens, carnival tents, sex-crazed drug parties, skid-row brothels, and eventually the halls of madness. This is a fascinating look into how we reacted to drugs as a society in the mid-thirties compared to now in our own minds.

Forbidden Fruit Vol. 5: Tomorrow’s Children / Child Bride – Some more of those exploration films from the mid-1930s with this second Kino Lorber release but with a different focus and all the fear you’d come to expect from these hysterical folks that want to protect their citizens through misinformation. Sound familiar? The first film, Tomorrow’s Children, is a look into eugenics, following a young woman from a family of genetic predisposed problems who is ordered by the court to be sterilized. The second piece, Child Bride, follows a headstrong schoolteacher as she tries to halt the practice of child marriage in a backwoods community before it claims another innocent victim which is the definite glaring film I can get behind because that reality is totally disturbing. One out of four isn’t bad, right? No, wait, it is. Nevermind!

Television:

13 Reasons Why: The Final Season (Netflix) – Netflix’s breakout teen mystery is closing their books with this final season of a pretty well written and intriguing series. I always thought that this show would be kind of a standalone series, especially after the first season which followed Clay Jensen, a high schooler living in the aftermath of the suicide of his classmate Hannah Baker who is drawn into a web of intrigue when he is left a series of tapes that Hannah recorded before she died. The show has a neo-noir quality to it and purposefully leaves the audience in the dark for many moments of “aha!” type narrative and, I have to admit, it’s very addicting. Dylan Minnette gives Clay that introverted quality that I kind of related to and Katherine Langford is definitely the breakout star of the series, she’s fantastic.

Quiz (AMC) – This new series on one of the most popular American networks for new original programming comes from Britain and looks into one of the most popular game shows of the last thirty years, how it was created and how it was hacked by its contestants and, the best thing about it, it makes it all into the most insane piece of biting satire since the US made satire ironic. Starring Matthew Macfadyen, Aisling Bea and Michael Sheen in another incredibly chameleon-like performance, this is the story of the creation and rise of the show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? but beyond that it focuses on Charles Ingram, a former British army major, who caused a major scandal after being caught cheating his way to winning £1 million. After one episode, I can say that this is definitely intriguing enough or me to continue.

Laurel Canyon (Crave) – Coming on the heels of the phenomenal documentaries Echo In The Canyon and David Crosby: Remember My Name, which are both must-see films, this new two-part documentary takes it all deeper into the part of Los Angeles that became the hotbed for the development of folk, rock, soul and even pop in the sixties. With a laser focus on the bands that were first established in the area, so far episode one has featured The Byrds, The Mamas And The Papas, who made their way from New York City to find their special brand of music, The Doors and, a new band to me, Love who is responsible for the origins of a lot of different sounds from the area. The interview style and storytelling refreshingly not talking-head style and instead is used as voiceover using pictures and archive videos to tell the visual story. This could possibly be my favorite docuseries this year, a happily “untrashy” show to wash that Joe Exotic out of the genre.

The Last Days Of American Crime (Netflix) – I’m really excited for this new crime thriller set in a not too distant future that pits criminals against a police state thirsty government and, hey, wait, isn’t this story a little too painfully relevant too? The film is directed by Luc Besson protege and frenetic action movie director Olivier Megaton who not only has a sweet name but also directed the underrated Columbiana before taking over the Taken franchise and has some killer stars in it like the always great Edgar Martinez, former Boardwalk Empire star Michael Pitt and one of my favorite interview subjects ever, Sharlto Copley. I know that this probably hits really close to home right now bu the trailer is so captivating and I really want to see if this film is as well-executed as it looks given that it’s based on a graphic novel by a favorite of mine, Rick Remender, who also had the awesome Deadly Class adapted as well and unfortunately cancelled on SYFY.

Shirley (Crave) – With director and showrunner Mike Flanagan reentering Shirley Jackson’s harrowing and emotional horror novel The Haunting Of Hill House back into the Netflix trap of pop culture, and well done might I say too, this film is a biopic about the woman behind the pen. Starring the red hot Elisabeth Moss in the title role, this film follows the writer as she tried to find inspiration in a couple played by Logan Lerman and Odessa Young that she and her husband Stanley Hyman brought in to help support. Opposite Moss in this film as the husband is character actor Michael Stuhlbarg who knocks it out of the park every time, even if the film itself isn’t very good, meaning that this could possibly be an amazing film that might get swept under the rug of being released on Hulu originally. It also comes from director Josephine Decker who astounded critics with her last movies, Madeliene’s Madeliene. This could be fantastic.

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.