Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Antebellum – Even before the pandemic hit and movie release dates were scattered, I was really looking forward to this new thriller. The film stars Janelle Monae in her first leading role, another piece to a great period in the actress and singer has been having with her involvement in Hidden Figures as well as her great album, Dirty Computer, which was co-produced by Prince before his death. This film has Monae as successful author Veronica Henley who finds herself trapped in a horrifying reality of being deep in a Confederate owned and run plantation in the Civil War era that oddly forces her to confront the past, present and future. Without going too deep into reveals, the story is fascinating and engrossing until the first twist happens and you find yourself questioning how they can resolve it. Once the explanation is revealed I basically tossed this whole film out the window as a totally unsatisfying movie that was supposed to be a project of such promise for Monae. So disappointing.

The Nest – If you would have told me twenty years ago that Jude Law would become an actor that would immediately make a film anticipated for me I would have called you a dirty liar because, honestly, I was never a fan of his earlier work but things have changed big time. In this new film he plays Rory, an ambitious entrepreneur and former commodities broker who persuades his American wife, Allison, played by Gone Girl’s Carrie Coon, and their children to leave the comforts of suburban America and return to his native England during the 1980s. Sensing opportunity, Rory rejoins his former firm and leases a centuries-old country manor, with grounds for Allison’s horses and plans to build a stable but soon the promise of a lucrative new beginning starts to unravel and the couple have to face the unwelcome truths lying beneath the surface of their marriage. Law’s performance is absolutely knockout in this film and his chemistry with Coon is so palpable. Directed and written by Sean Durkin, this is the much anticipated follow up to his only other feature film Martha Marcy May Marlene and it delivers in a big way.

Blackbird – There’s something about a really great ensemble cast that gets me excited for a movie and, while I have been duped before, I’m still a total sucker for it. This one lands in that category as it features Susan Sarandon and Sam Neill as Lily and Paul who summon their loved ones to their beach house for one final gathering after Lily decides to end her long battle with ALS on her own terms. The couple plans a loving weekend complete with holiday traditions but the mood becomes strained when unresolved issues surface between Lily and her daughters Jennifer and Anna, played by Kate Winslett and Mia Wasikowska. Also starring usual comedic actor Rainn Wilson, veteran actress Lindsay Duncan and former The Killing star Bex Taylor-Klaus, the film feels like a sensitive drama with some real backbone to it as the characters never feel like cardboard cutouts and I’d have to credit that to the years of experience from the adept cast as well as the stalwart direction from the always accomplished Roger Michell.

H Is For Happiness – In the mirk that is 2020 and all the horrible events in the world seemingly transpiring at once to drive down our spirits, it’d be really great for something to come along and raise our spirits and that is what this new Australian film is aiming to do. Based on the award-winning book My Life As An Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg, this is the genuinely heart-warming and unflinchingly honest story of one twelve-year-old with boundless optimism and a unique view of the world who is inspired by the strange new boy at school and determined to mend her broken family and spark happiness in their lives. Aside from veteran actors Miriam Margolyes and Richard Roxburgh, you won’t recognize many in this film but comes off as pure pander free joy and sweetness although it sometimes goes for that feeling rather than narrative cohesion.

Radioactive – 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.

Alive – For two weeks in a row now there have been horror movies released called Alive and unlike last week’s South Korean zombie film that debuted on Netflix, this one doesn’t have the hashtag in front of it. The story follows a severely injured man and woman who awake in an abandoned sanitarium with massive memory loss only to discover that a sadistic caretaker holds the keys to their freedom and the horrific answers as to their real identity. The small cast is made up of all unknowns except for the antagonist, played with menace by Braveheart actor Angus Macfayden and I was surprised by how effective the film is with its tension and smart gore. This one is a hidden little gem of a movie.

Blu-Ray:

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 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.

Weathering With You – Oh yay, some more anime to either leave me aloof, confused or just completely out of the loop. The story follows Hodaka who, during the summer of his high school freshman year, runs away from his remote island home to Tokyo, and quickly finds himself pushed to his financial and personal limits. The weather is unusually gloomy and rainy every day, which is seemingly an indicator of his future, he lives his days in isolation but finally finds work as a writer for a mysterious occult magazine. Then one day, Hodaka meets Hina on a busy street corner, a bright and strong-willed girl who possesses a strange ability, the power to stop the rain and clear the sky. I actually feel like I finally understand one of these films and really appreciated this beautifully animated and emotionally rich movie that has a broader appeal than the medium would suggest. I’m not saying that this is a film that will convert the masses but it certainly got a hold of me.

Tommaso – Abel Ferrera may be more known for being a total nutcase, making pervasive films like Ms. 45, The Driller Killer and Bad Lieutenant, giving Christopher Walken one of his best performances in King Of New York or even threatening to murder Werner Herzog over his remake of the aforementioned Bad Lieutenant but he also has been making seriously thoughtful films with one of the best actors on the planet, Willem Dafoe. This one is no different and close to the filmmaker as Dafoe plays opposite the director’s own wife and daughter as a Ferrara-like American artist living in Rome in this improvised drama of doubt and disconnection, shot in a self-reflective documentary style. The film definitely comes off as a sort of cathartic little vanity project but is driven by the soul of Dafoe who is almost anchored to the camera throughout. This one is for the art film fans for sure.

Flying Leathernecks – This is a classic film that I know my John Wayne obsessed uncle is probably well versed on as he did name my cousin after the Duke. Co-starring Robert Ryan, Wayne plays Major Daniel Kirby, a strict military man who takes command of a squadron of Marine fliers just before they are about to go into combat. While the men are well-meaning, he finds them undisciplined and prone to always finding excuses to do what is easy rather than what is necessary, the root of the problem being the second in command, Capt. Carl ‘Griff’ Griffin, played by Ryan, the best flier in the group but a poor commander who is not prepared for the difficult decision that all commanders have to make according to Kirby which could put men in harm’s way knowing that they may be killed. This is a rare great performance from Wayne alongside Ryan and the aerial footage is pretty impressive for the time it was made.

Stephen King 5-Movie Collection – For any Stephen King fan this is going to be a must-own in my opinion as it is a pretty solid collection of some of his better adaptations, along with one of the latest adaptations which actually is a remake as well with the original included in this set too. The five-film set includes two films that had previously been released in special editions, the television miniseries of The Stand and the 1989 version of Pet Sematary as well as the remake from last year, the Corey Haim and Gary Busey led werewolf classic Silver Bullet and, a personal favorite, David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone featuring one of my favorite Christopher Walken performances ever. This is just a treasure trove of greatness right here.

Succession: Season 2 – I used to be so in tune with whatever HBO was releasing because everything had such a stellar quality to it that it was all can’t miss television so the fact that this one has flown outside of my radar is a bit sad. It follows the Roy family who controls one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world and their lives as they start to make power moves in the hopes that their ageing father begins to step back from the company. It stars Brian Cox as the patriarch of the Roys as well as Kieran Culkin, Nicholas Braun and Jeremy Strong but the standout for me is Hiam Abass as Cox’s wife who constantly delivers knockout performance after performance. This is a winner for sure.

Mom: Season 7 – After seven seasons of this popular CBS series, I finally got my hands on my first box set of it and it happens to be the final season that the star, Anna Faris, will appear on as she exits to possibly do something else with her life. For those who don’t know about the show, it follows Faris as single mom Christy who has her hands full with two children, Violet and Roscoe, and maintaining newfound sobriety, when her passive-aggressive, recovering-alcoholic mother re-enters the picture, played by the brilliant Allison Janney, brimming with criticisms about Christy’s life. As the daughter works to be the best mother she can and to overcome mistakes she made, she must also navigate dysfunctional relationships with romantic interests, and with her irresponsible ex-husband, Baxter, played by Breaking Bad’s fan favorite, Badger, Matt Jones. Season seven has Christy just having finished her law degree and pursuing her dream of becoming a lawyer, while her mom attempts to have a healthy romantic relationship with her new husband, Adam, played by the wonderful William Fichtner. It’s really pretty standard sitcom stuff so if you’re in that crowd of fans, you’ll probably enjoy it but, you know, start at the beginning.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Sunset Boulevard – When it comes to classic Hollywood films this movie is undeniably a top pick as it has become absolutely iconic in stature, story and even the line “Mr. Deville, I’m ready for my close up.” which is just scraping the surface of the film’s allure. The film follows screenwriter Joe Gillis, desperate for cash, who has a chance meeting with a faded silent film star. Norma Desmond, living in her crumbling Sunset Boulevard mansion with only her butler to keep her company. She has become a sad demented recluse convinced that the outside world is clamouring for her dramatic return and, enticing him with the prospect of script work, she puts him up in her mansion and he dangerously becomes more involved and entangled in her life. Celebrating seventy years this year, it might be a great time to get knowledgeable or renewed with this lion of a film that has been beautifully restored for this release.

Midsommar: Director’s Cut – My favorite film of last year has been given a new life with this rare and limited edition from the studio A24 itself and it is now a prized piece of my collection. The sophomore film from Hereditary director Ari Aster, the story is about a couple who travels to Sweden to visit a secluded town’s fabled mid-summer festival and what was thought to be an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult. Florence Pugh delivers an incredible performance as the girlfriend, Dani, who is suffering from severe post-traumatic stress from the murder-suicide of her entire family and is afflicted with an aloof and gaslighting boyfriend, played by Jack Reynor. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I will say no more, go watch it. Those who have seen it and love it, well, you probably missed out on this edition which is glorious.

Girl Crazy – I’ve got another throwback movie this week, another pairing of the golden on-screen couple of the bygone era of Hollywood, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Rooney stars as rich kid Danny Churchill, a guy with a taste for wine, women and song, but not for higher education so his father ships him to an all-male college out West where there’s not supposed to be a female for miles. Before Danny even arrives, he lays eyes on the dean’s granddaughter, Ginger Gray played by JudyGarland, who is more interested in keeping the financially strapped college open than falling for Danny’s bag of girl nabbing tricks. The film is actually based on a Broadway play and Garland’s character was named for the original star, Ginger Rogers, and is definitely a vision from a bygone era.

His Dark Materials: Season 1 – I’m going to say something controversial here and reveal that I really like the Chris Weitz made Golden Compass film from 2007 which was the first kick at the Phillip Pullman written series of books and I really wanted to see more. It’s a damn great thing that HBO and BBC joined forced to do a faithful adaptation of these books and cast Dafne Keen, who astounded audiences alongside Hugh Jackman in Logan, as the lead character of Lyra. The potential of this series is limited and while being compared to Game Of Thrones is becoming a bit tiresome, the comparison feels a little more real with this one as the book series is popular and perfect for this style of adaptation.

The Etruscan Sun – I’m doubling up on the Brian Cox projects this week although, unlike the previously talked about HBO series that landed him a Golden Globe, this was a film that I had really never heard of. Cox is Rory MacNeil, a rugged old Scotsman who reluctantly leaves his beloved isolated Hebridean island for San Francisco to seek medical treatment. Moving in with his estranged son, Rory starts to feel a transformation come over his life through a newly found love for his baby grandson. Cox once again proves why he has been the diamond in the rough for decades now, shelling out another great performance in a film that has a likeable streak just from the sentimentality that Israeli directors Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun bring to the tone of it.

Television:

The Devil All The Time (Netflix) – Following the release of Charlie Kaufman’s latest a couple of weeks ago, this is another one that is swinging for the awards fences and the performances may just be good enough to get them there. Directed and written by Christine filmmaker Antonio Campos, the film is set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, following a cast of compelling and bizarre characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. There’s Willard Russell, a tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific, who can’t save his beautiful wife, Charlotte, from an agonizing death by cancer no matter how much sacrificial blood he pours on his “prayer log.” There’s Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial killers, who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. There’s the spider-handling preacher Roy and his disabled virtuoso-guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore, running from the law. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard and Charlotte’s orphaned son, who grows up to be a good but also violent man in his own right. Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson deliver blisteringly brilliant turns in a film that is brutally as violent as the nature of all those around Arvin, though we feel like he is warranted mostly. A hard film to digest but an excellent one.

We Are Who We Are (Crave) – Any time I see Luca Guadagnino’s name attached to anything I am immediately onboard and adding to the mix that the show was co-created with The First King writer Francesca Manieri and stars It and Shazam’s Jack Dylan Grazer makes it another great HBO series already. The show follows two American teenagers who come of age while living on an American military base in Italy, exploring themes of friendship, first love, burgeoning identity as well as all the messy exhilaration and anguish of being a teenager, just on foreign soil. One of the things that excite me most about this is the cinematographers which has Force Majeure and The Square’s Fredrik Wenzel on the majority as well as Luca’s A Bigger Splash shooter, Yorick Le Saux.

Challenger: The Final Flight (Netflix) – We’re going back to space this week but we don’t have Hilary Swank in tow this time and it’s a true story that rocked the world and definitely shook America as a national tragedy. From executive producer JJ Abrams, this four-part docuseries delves into the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster, unpacking an indelible moment for a generation of Americans with engineers, officials and the crew members’ families providing their perspective on the tragedy and its aftermath. The series is really fascinating as it first takes you to the day that changed everything for NASA and put the crosshairs of blame squarely on their shoulders then goes back to the high profile diversity hire of the “class” of 1978 to start the ball rolling to its catastrophic end. Another great true story docu series from Netflix.

The Third Day (Crave) – It’s a twofer this week with HBO entries which we get on the Crave streaming service here in Canada, and it marks a second one for star Jude Law who also has The Young Pope running, a fantastic show from creator Paolo Sorrentino. This one is a devilish little mystery as it chronicles the individual journeys of a man and woman who arrive on a mysterious island at different times. The story is told over six episodes in two distinct halves, “Summer” sees Sam, Jude Law’s character, a man drawn to the island off the British coast and encountering a group of islanders set on preserving their traditions at any cost. “Winter” follows Helen, played by current Ms. Moneypenny Naomie Harris, a strong-willed outsider who comes to the island seeking answers, but whose arrival precipitates a fractious battle to decide its fate. The third episode is a supposed live event that takes place between the episodes in which I would think the final resolution would be unveiled. It’s weird, but I am totally intrigued, and it comes from one of the minds behind the mystery series Utopia.

Ratched (Netflix) – So, it looks like mega-producer Ryan Murphy and brand new showrunner Evan Romansky have dreamed up one of the most unlikely prequel stories with this series that gives us a look at the younger years of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest villain, Nurse Ratched, played to Academy Award-winning perfection by Louise Fletcher. Starring Murphy’s greatest asset Sarah Paulson in the title role, this is a suspenseful drama series set in 1947, following Mildred Ratched as she arrives in Northern California to seek employment at a leading psychiatric hospital where new and unsettling experiments have begun on the human mind. On a secret mission, Mildred presents herself as the perfect image of what a dedicated nurse should be, but the wheels are always turning and as she begins to infiltrate the mental health care system and those within it, feeding growing darkness that has long been lying with, revealing that true monsters are made, not born. As much hate as the show got immediately on Twitter, I feel like this is another hit for Murphy and people will eventually come around to it. The stellar casting around Paulson is also awesome, including Vincent D’Onofrio, Sharon Stone, Cynthia Nixon and more.

New Releases:

Mulan – With every new Disney animated classic adaptation, I feel a little more trepidation and not because the movies are bad but because they seem to lack the heart and soul of the original films. The pandemic has robbed us of getting the chance to see this new version of Mulan on the big screen and it really is a robbery because this is an incredible film to behold and it’s a total gamechanger for these movies. Directed by Whale Rider filmmaker Niki Caro and shot by the eye behind Baz Luhrman’s Australian, cinematographer Mandy Walker, this movie is vibrant and leaps off the screen at you, a breathtaking experience at all times. The casting is impeccable, featuring an amazing cast including Tzi Ma, Rosalind Chao, Pei Pei Cheung, Jason Scott Lee and Jet Li, gathered around an incredible lead in Yifei Liu who shoulders the load of this lead character amazingly, this may be one of the best films of the year. I adored it thoroughly.

Measure For Measure – As soon as I saw Hugo Weaving’s name appear as the lead of this film I had a feeling that I would be in for a little bit of a treat and when you put in perspective that this is a Shakespeare adaptation, well, the excitement rises a bit more. Written and directed by sophomore director Paul Ireland, the film takes a look at the lives of the inhabitants of a housing commission tower whose paths cross after a shocking event occurs on their front doorstep and, taking a modern approach to this story originally written in the 1600s, this movie reminded me a little bit of the J.G. Ballard book High Rise, which was recently adapted by one of my favorite filmmakers, Ben Wheatley. A lot of the comedic elements of the original play are toned down to reflect the drama more and it definitely pays off with the performances which are worth checking out alone.

Odd Man Rush – With playoff hockey still going during the first week of September, it really doesn’t feel that out of place now to have this new hockey film hitting theaters and with Letterkenny’s resident hockey player Dylan Playfair taking a main role in the film, this all feels very comfortable. The second film from director Doug Dearth, following up his football movie Underdogs, and based on a book by Bill Keenan, the story follows a Harvard hockey player who is sent to Sweden’s minor leagues where his new relationship with the girl at the local market forces him to confront the reality of his childhood NHL dream and if it’s really something he wants anymore. The film is definitely brimming with a lot of heart but not much behind it in smarts, cohesive writing or even a story worthy of occupying your time for even it’s short runtime of an hour and twenty-five minutes.

Parallel Minds – It’s time for some Canadian sci-fi this week featuring Greg Bryk, an actor that some may from the Jason Momoa series Frontier or as the bad guy from the Stephen and Robbie Amell movie Code 8, another very cool sci-fi movie but that’s really the extent of the star power. The film is set in the near future, about a technology firm called Red-Eye which is on the verge of developing a revolutionary contact lens that records human sight to replicate memories but when the company’s lead researcher is murdered a detective and researcher are drawn into searching deeper to apprehend an elusive digital shapeshifter that is possibly responsible for it. The film dials up the world-building and it was really cool to see Victoria born NXT wrestler Chelsea Green feature in it but it just didn’t have enough to keep me going in it.

Feels Good Man – This is a brand new documentary that is destined to make your blood boil as it definitely worked it’s magic on me, just like anything that has to do with the cult of Donald Trump and his far right-wing warriors that seem to appropriate so much good into their murky depths of evil. The film follows artist Matt Furie, the creator of the comic character Pepe the Frog, who begins an uphill battle to take back his iconic cartoon image from those who used it for their own purposes, effectively trying to kill his darling to avoid him being used as a white supremacy symbol. This movie is a horror story set in our harsh reality that seems to be getting worse.

Blu-Ray:

Ava – I know it’s 2020, the year of the weirdest and worst things happening with dull hopes for any normalcy beyond it, but I keep trying to wrap my head around not knowing a single thing about the existence of an action film starring Jessica Chastain, John Malkovich, Common and Colin Farrell but here we are. Chastain, not usually an action star, plays Ava, a deadly assassin who works for a black ops organization, travelling the globe specializing in high profile hits. When a job goes dangerously wrong she is forced to fight for her own survival as is usually the case when it comes to pretty bland, direct to video action flicks which is, unfortunately, exactly what this is. For how great the cast is in this movie, it feels like you can almost see them take and cash their cheques on screen and it’s hard to believe that this film comes from an accomplished filmmaker like The Help’s Tate Taylor as he too gives no substance to this film, falling further after the disappointment that was the thriller, Ma.

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 really didn’t get a lot of critical love during its VOD release but I actually enjoyed the heck out of it beyond its flaws, which it definitely has a few of them. Carell is so great in this and Byrne proves why she is one of the best comedic actresses working today. She’s such a treat.

Z – Oh no! Got some more creepy kid horror incoming and a lot of people have probably already seen this one as it’s been on the Shudder streaming service for a couple of months now and is a definite audience favorite. the second feature from Still/Born writer and director Brandon Christensen. The film follows a couple whose eight-year-old son Joshua develops an imaginary friend named Z, which they brush off as cute but they soon realize just how wrong they are. Z becomes a terrible influence on Josh and their innocent son turns into someone they barely recognize and it’s only when the mom, played by the wholly likeable Keegan Connor Tracy, starts uncovering her own past and she learns that Josh’s new friend Z, may not be so imaginary after all. I really loved this movie, a horror hit from out of nowhere, totally recommended.

Spooky House – Now, this is one of the weirder films that has crossed my doorway as the packaging would make you believe that this is a brand new movie but it is actually one from almost twenty years ago and finding any information on it is next to impossible. Featuring Sir Ben Kingsley and Canadian horror goddess Katharine Isabelle, right around the time she did Ginger Snaps, the story follows the Great Zamboni, a mysterious and reclusive magician, and his pet jaguar Shadow who reside in the Spooky House, an old mansion that’s rigged with magic tricks and hidden chambers. Young orphan Max unsuccessfully attempts to befriend Zamboni but after a trio of teenage bullies who work for the town’s eccentric crime queen Boss chase Max and his friends into the Spooky House on Halloween, Zamboni is forced to partner with Max to keep his true powers under wraps from the public eye. Corny and definitely meant for the kids, I could see within minutes why this movie had been buried for so long.

Magnum P.I.: Season 2 – Against all my beliefs that they could work, CBS has managed to reboot a handful of their classic line up from decades ago and has made them work. Hawaii Five-O has just ended their run, making it into the double digits in seasons, MacGyver has been sort of a runaway hit and this show has done good numbers for them as well and even crossed over with the first show I mentioned, palling around with McGarrett and Dann-O. Not sporting the Selleck mustache for this, Jay Hernandez steps into the role of Thomas Magnum with a gender switch for his sidekick Higgins in Ready Player One’s Perdita Weeks as it follows the ex-Navy SEAL as he returns from Afghanistan to use his military skills to become a private investigator in Hawaii. It’s your basic procedural, as you would expect it, and Hernandez kind of makes the show his own. I see it getting another few seasons as it’s doing well in the demographic.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Godzilla – Last week I brought the newly released giant box set of Gamera, a cherished Japanese kaiju but this week I bring you the original city destroyer, Godzilla himself in his very first appearance which is part of a beautiful Criterion edition that even features a pop-up section in the packaging that delights the childishness inside of me. The story for this classic Toho masterpiece is very simple at its core, an origin story if you will, about an American nuclear weapons test which results in the creation of a seemingly unstoppable, dinosaur-like beast. This Criterion set includes this film and the reworked version, retitled Godzilla: King Of The Monsters, not to be confused with the more recent franchise version with Kyle Chandler released last year. This is one of those great genre films, and it’s a must-own for any monster movie fan.

Legion Of Super Heroes: Complete Series – In my movie collection I am proud to own a lot of the animated properties that Warner Bros. and DC Comics has collaborated on over the years, including Batman: The Animated Series, the Adventures Of Superman, The Batman, Batman Beyond and all of the animated movie collection but, I’ll be honest, I really didn’t know about this one. Spanning two seasons, this is the adventures of a young Clark Kent, as Superman, during his time with a team of teenage superheroes when he is sent into the far future. The series was originally developed because of Cartoon Network’s desire to have a Superman-centric series to coincide with the movie Superman Returns in 2006 but ultimately passed on it when it was ready to go. The show was then picked up by the now-defunct Kids! WB which kind of spelt it’s doom, a very unfortunate thing because the show is pretty damn cool.

Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection – As a kid one of my first crushes, along with Princess Leia, Princess Buttercup from The Princess Bride and, later Jennifer Connolly from Career Opportunities, Lynda Carter was always on that list as her portrayal of Wonder Woman or Princess Diana of Themyscira was always something that put hearts in my eyes. Now my childhood love has come to my adult life as this new set is the definitive collection of everything she did as the character long before Gal Gadot got to play her on the big screen. The show is definitely dated and is totally cheesy but the iconic nature of it really shines through and it totally broke ground and should have strengthened female-led programming. Heck, Lynda should have been a cameo in Wonder Woman.

Phantom Of The Opera – To add to my already sizable collection of classic Universal monster movies that I have received from Shout Factory, my buddy Rob offered me this blu-ray and I honestly couldn’t pass it up, especially with star Claude Rains in it, doing his iconic thing. The one thing that makes me love this version so much more is, although it is set in an opera, this isn’t a musical and is more of the straight forward horror it’s supposed to be but, of course, one of that time period. The story is the same, an acid-scarred composer rises from the Paris sewers to boost his favorite opera understudy’s career in dastardly and sort of evil ways but it managed to make twists in that source material that was new and different, the inspiration for Andrew Lloyd Weber to take this idea and do his thing with it.

Requiem For A Dream – One of my favorite movies of all time, I picked this film up multiple times but have never owned it on blu-ray until now. A dark and depressing film that delves into the sorrow of addiction, this was my first dip into the world of Darren Aronofsky as I didn’t see Pi until after this film and what a showcase of performances from Jared Leto, Jennifer Connolly, Ellen Burstyn and Marlon Wayans, Burstyn earning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for it. Based on the novel by Herbert Selby Jr., this is the drug-induced stories of four Coney Island people whose lives are tragically and irreparably shattered when their addictions run deep. This is one of those perfect movies where the cast, script and direction meet up with incredible cinematography from now two time Academy Award nominee Matthew Libatique and music from the ground shaking Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet in possibly my favorite score ever. This movie is amazing and majorly recommended by me.

Television:

Raised By Wolves (Crave) – A brand new series produced by Ridley Scott for HBO Max, this new sci-fi show has massive intrigue surrounding it and I have a Westworld feeling that it may really catch on through word of mouth. The show stars Vikings former leading man Travis Fimmel and takes place on a mysterious plant where androids are tasked with raising human children. Created by The Red Road’s showrunner Aaron Guzikowski, this ten-episode series has an incredible imagination and stunning imagery to it, from what I’ve read, and gives a fascinating look into the scope of artificial intelligence against the backdrop of religion. All of the reviews are praising it but say that there are a few drag points a handful of episodes in.

The Boys: Season 2 (Amazon Prime) – My favorite comic book ever is now a hit television series brought to life by good Vancouver guys Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the same two that brought Preacher to us coincidentally from the same author, and now it returns for another season to push the boundaries even more. Thanks to the sick and twisted mind of Garth Ennis we have a story that is not about the superheroes but a superpowered group put together to keep the massive egos and lust for fun in absolute check. This show is totally over the top with insane violence, crude language and tons of nudity and will probably offend more than a few people, so a lot like Preacher and the second season is fantastic, just like the first is. Binge all of it as soon as possible.

Away (Netflix) – Netflix is taking us to space with this brand new series starring Hilary Swank and Josh Charles from former Penny Dreadful writer Andrew Hinderaker and featuring a handful of solid directors on each episode like The Last Samurai’s Edward Zwick who kicks everything off with the pilot and Bronwyn Hughes, Jet Wilkinson and Charlotte Brändström, who have all done so much great television work. The show has Swank as an American astronaut who struggles with leaving her husband and daughter behind to embark on a dangerous mission with an international space crew and finds herself at the center of a mutiny almost immediately. The first episode sets up some great intrigue and the production level of the show is pretty big budget. As I continue the series myself, I really hope that it hangs on to its strengths.

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things (Netflix) – People just cruising through Netflix looking for something, anything to watch are going to get seriously duped by the synopsis new film from idiosyncratic and utterly brilliant writer and director Charlie Kaufman who returns after his stop motion animated masterpiece, Anomalisa. Simply stated, the film is about a young woman, full of misgivings, travels with her new boyfriend to his parents’ secluded farm and upon arriving, she comes to question everything she thought she knew about him, and herself. I shit you not, that is the description and it sets you up for a mind-bending journey into what might be the most debated film of the year and definitely one of my absolute favorites of 2020. The whole cast, including Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette and David Thewlis are incredible and, for the love of God, someone give Toni a frickin’ Oscar already!

Earth To Ned (Disney+) – Since Disney has linked up with National Geographic, which is an understatement as Disney owns them, it has produced fascinating, and informative series and movies and this one takes that idea of discovery with a little twist thrown in and a producer credit for “The King Of The World” James Cameron. Your conduit into this show is Ned, a blue-skinned alien and his lieutenant Cornelius, who were sent to scout Earth for an eventual invasion but instead became obsessed with our popular culture and now, they host a talk show about it. Disney+, as much as people like to hate on it, is a real treasure trove of things for the whole family to enjoy and the addition of this new series is just proof of the longevity it can have.

New Releases:

Tenet – This is the movie that it feels like the pandemic was robbing us of most as Christopher Nolan returns with another mind-bender of a film that looks very akin to one of his previous masterpieces, Inception. With Blackklansman star John David Washington leading a stellar cast including Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Kenneth Brannagh and Michael Caine, not much is really known about the central plot is that if follows our protagonist armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world who journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real-time. This description is a whole thing to unlock on its own and if you’ve seen the trailer you know the intense intricacies that it only gives you a taste of. My belief is the best way to enter this movie is without really any knowledge at all and let the brilliance wash over you.

The New Mutants – I was starting to get to the point that I thought this movie was a big deep state lie or something that I had made up in my mind as it was supposed to come out years ago and now finally its hitting theaters with little notice almost like Disney is just trying to show this Fox property off a ledge. A spin-off of the X-Men, the film follows five young mutants, just discovering their abilities while held in a secret facility against their will, who fight to escape their past sins and save themselves and features a great cast of then-rising stars who are now very established with Game Of Thrones actress Maisie Williams, Stranger Things actor Charlie Heaton and The Witch’s Anya Taylor Joy. I’m also really excited to see the genre bend director Josh Boone has done with this film as it is definitely a horror film with superpowered characters and a shift for him as a filmmaker, the guy behind The Fault In Our Stars. It’s also a great precursor heading into his next project, the long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand.

Bill & Ted Face The Music – Being a pretty much lifelong fan of the two Bill and Ted movies we’ve received so far I am more than overjoyed that we finally get a full trilogy of the continued time travel stories Bill S. Preston and Ted “Theodore” Logan, Esquire, though it is with a twinge of sadness that George Carlin is no longer here to play their guide, Rufus. Now, over thirty years after the original movie, the two would-be rockers from San Dimas, California find themselves as middle-aged dads still trying to crank out a hit song and fulfill their destiny, once told they’d save the universe. This movie seems like a pass off for the daughters played by Ready Or Not’s Samara Weaving and Atypical star Brigette Lundy-Paine to take over the franchise and I’m totally on board for that because they’re both really great in this and their new guide Kristen Schaal is fantastic as always. No matter how this movie turned out I was going to love it unconditionally, like my own child, and to see that it is truly “excellent” makes me feel the warmth of a nostalgic hug.

You Cannot Kill David Arquette – As a huge wrestling fan, I feel like the built-in audience for this movie to find, although beyond that the story of the underdog in David Arquette should be broader in it reach to everyone because I found this documentary so compelling and wholly endearing towards Arquette himself. Regarded mainly in the wrestling fan community of the guy who “killed World Championship Wrestling”, AKA WCW, by winning their heavyweight championship in the early 2000s, this is a story of redemption as Arquette attempts a rocky return to the sport that stalled his promising Hollywood career entirely and left him fighting for scrap roles in B and C grade movies. At first, the mental trauma of the fallout of his first pro wrestling foray is something he wants to correct and as the reimmersion in the industry starts he is bitten by the bug of taking it all seriously for a real run on the independent scene. I absolutely adored this movie and ran the rollercoaster of emotions that it evokes. This might go down as one of my favorite movies this year.

The Eight Hundred – A late addition to the list this week, this Chinese made film hit some controversy when it was initially released earlier this year in China as it was originally scheduled to premiere June 15, 2019 but was called off one day earlier, citing ‘technical difficulty’, with premiere date unannounced but media outlets argued the cancellation was due to producers’ lack of political sensitivity as this year marks the seventieth anniversary of the Communist Party victory against the Nationalists, which is a large piece of this film. The producer company’s stock price also fell by 8% the day the premiere was called off. The film is largely a war epic, set in 1937, following eight hundred Chinese soldiers fighting under siege from a warehouse in the middle of the Shanghai battlefield, completely surrounded by the Japanese army. Beautifully shot, this film is awe-inspiring to behold, and the budget is certainly on display.

Fatima – This is a big movie in my mind as it is an anomaly of sorts, a faith-based film depicting Bible events that is actually, wait for it, good. Not just that but I’d dare to venture that this movie is great. Director and former Game Of Thrones cinematographer Marco Pontecorvo brings us the story of three young shepherds in Fátima, Portugal, who reported visions of the Virgin Mary, inspiring believers and angering officials of the Church and the government, who try to force them to recant their story. The film’s cast features Harvey Keitel, a giant of an actor that I have been missing for a while now and while I contend that this movie will not work with everyone, it takes some bold chances that largely work out for it. It’s either that or I’ve been dulled down by faith-based movies so much that any improvement looks almost… miraculous.

VOD:

Uncle Peckerhead – Demonic horror-comedy rears it’s head this week with this pretty ingenious little film that seriously knocked me through a loop. Featuring a title that will get a large number of giggles that will probably turn a lot of people away from it, the film follows a punk band who scores their first tour, but life on the road proves to be supremely difficult when they are joined by a man-eating demon as their roadie. Now, how weird of a story is that to tackle? You know this movie wasn’t made by any large studio, as no one would take the chance on that but, oh boy, did I love this movie. The film doesn’t feature anyone you’ve heard of or even anyone I have, but it’s fun, deeply evil and disturbed and, best of all, it’s gory as all hell. This is totally a movie that is geared to please genre fans like me, and I sort of expect that this will find a cult status like love, sort of how Return Of The Living Dead did in retrospect.

My Days Of Mercy – You can immediately sell me just by involving Ellen Page in a movie because I have been a massive fan of hers ever since Juno and, yes, I know that she was in Trailer Park Boys too but, really, what did she do in that? Co-starring House Of Cards alum and former Invisible Woman, Kate Mara, this film is an LGBTQ story following the daughter of a man on death row who falls in love with a woman on the opposing side of her family’s political cause. The cast around these two is phenomenal, including Amy Seimetz, fresh off her brilliant film She Dies Tomorrow, one of my favorite movies this year, Elias Koteas and Brian Geraghty and the direction from Tali Shalom-Ezer is another notch on the proving ground of a promising career, telling stories from the fringe that deserve to be more forefront in our eyes, just like the heterosexual romances we see almost weekly.

Tito – Oh boy, I have to say I really enjoy my job when I’m able to bookend a section on here with films like Uncle Peckerhead and this movie as it ultimately delights the genre movie side of me and is a great way to showcase the movies and filmmakers who take chances that almost look like a leap of faith over a pool of razor blades. This film is written and directed by Grace Glowicki who makes her feature debut here which she also stars in, about a desperate man who seeks refuge from the predators hunting him by befriending an oddly cheerful intruder. Featuring another Canadian director in the lead role Ben Petrie, and, yes, this is a Canadian film, this is a truly original and unique film that hinges on these two’s performances which I think they knocked out of the park. If you want something deliciously different then I seriously suggest you check this one out.

Blu-Ray:

The King Of Staten Island – It’s been almost five years minus a month and a few days since Judd Apatow gave us a redemption story of an up and coming comic and comedian basically playing themselves in an over two-hour movie and we are now moving on from the now megastar of Amy Schumer to the rising stardom of Pete Davidson. The film features the Saturday Night Live writer and cast member as Scott, a do-nothing stoner in his mid-twenties who lives with his exhausted widower mom on Staten Island, appalling around with his friends and a childhood pal who has now become a sexual relationship. Deep in Scott’s psyche are the issues left when his firefighter father died in a fire when he was seven, which sort of informed his whole life but through that hurt, his redemption can be seen. This film’s biggest issue is that it feels so bloated, with Scott’s turn as a dynamic character not even hinting at itself until almost an hour and a half in. That said, Davidson is funny at times but it’s the rest of the cast that shines brighter around him. While I wasn’t a huge fan of this movie, it is definitely better than Apatow’s This Is 40 but sits below even a movie like Funny People.

The Trip To Greece – I spent my whole Victoria day 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 then, 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 Burnt Orange Heresy – Slow burn is the key to this new thriller which has The Square star Claes Bang playing an art dealer who is thrown into a scheme to nab a painting from a reclusive and eccentric artist, embodied brilliantly by the legendary Donald Sutherland but the role was originally written for Christopher Walken and it really shows. This film, directed by Berlin Station lead Giuseppe Capotondi, largely didn’t work for me as Bang’s character’s devious and paranoid underbelly feels constantly on display, making the intrigue part a bit transparent, but Widows star Elizabeth Debicki is the main draw here and is absolutely fire every moment she is on screen.

Yes, God, Yes – Every now and then I come across a movie where I think “where the hell did this come from?”, something that completely flew under my radar. This is another one of those films, a comedy set in the early 2000s starring Stranger Things actress Natalie Dyer and is one of those rare coming of age films for a woman, following the star as a Catholic teenager who discovers masturbating after an innocent AOL chat turns racy and struggles to suppress her new urges in the face of the indoctrinated punishment of possible eternal damnation. This movie really surprised me, especially based on its premise, for being so sex-positive in its message and Dyer is so fantastic in the film, giving such nuance to her character. The film is the debut behind the camera for Obvious Child writer Karen Maine who continues her knack for creating believable and endearingly fallible female characters. This is a must-see I think this week.

Infamous – An actress on a hot streak with her own very large base is definitely Bella Thorne, hitting on many different platforms with multiple films in the bank, books published, her directorial debut on Pornhub and now her own OnlyFans set to make her millions, I would say that this is an under the radar film of hers but that’s simply untrue if you’re social media savvy, which is where she is queen. This film is an action thriller that has her and co-star Jake Manley from the recently cancelled Netflix series The Order playing two young lovers who rob their way across the southland, posting their exploits to social media, and gaining fame and followers as a result. Probably not the greatest message for the easily led by the nose influencer wannabe but the movie is a pretty entertaining thrill ride with some good twists and turns to keep you going. The film comes from writer and director Joshua Caldwell who takes a page out of the book of hyperactive filmmakers like Joseph Khan or Ariel Shulman and Henry Joost for this.

Without Love – Got some real classic stuff this week from Warner Archive with some old Hollywood hitting Blu-ray for the first time. It all kicks off with this film, a romantic comedy with the star power of Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn and Lucille Ball about a woman living in Washington, D.C. during World War II who enters a loveless marriage with a scientist and ends up becoming his assistant which eventually brings them closer. The movie was released in the mid-forties and, funny enough, Tracy hated making this movie but did it as a favor to Katharine Hepburn, who had starred in the play and who it was really a passion project for and ended up becoming a sizeable box-office hit, making $619,000 which, adjusting for inflation, works out to be about $8.4 million these days. This is the third time Tracy and Hepburn were paired together in their total of nine times they shared the screen, the final film of director Harold S. Bucquet who passed away the following year.

Pat And Mike – It’s now time for the second round of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn films with this film, another romantic comedy, which saw an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay, co-written by actress Ruth Gordon who would go on to star in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, which she would win an Academy Award for, and, of course, one of my favorite movies ever made, Hal Ashby’s Harold And Maude. This film weaves a sports angle into it, following Hepburn as Pat, a fantastic athlete who dominates every sport she is a part of unless her domineering fiancé is around which causes her new devious manager Mike, played by Tracy, to find new ways to keep them apart but quite obviously starts to develop feelings for her. Of the nine movies she made with Spencer Tracy, this was Katharine Hepburn’s favorite and their chemistry beams off the screen with the first meeting of their characters and it’s also interesting to note that this is the debut of The Rifleman star Chuck Conners. It’s no wonder that Hepburn was an easy sell for this role as she was an avid golfer, which is on display when Cate Blanchett played her in The Aviator.

Hell Bent – The classic flicks aren’t over yet as I’m taking you way back to 1918 for this western, harkening to a time when movies didn’t go over an hour-long, probably because the cost of filmmaking was probably exorbitant. The story is simple as most frontier films were back in that day, following a cowboy that must save his girlfriend from captivity and then cross the desert on foot with a single waterhole on the way. Starring a massive western star at the time, Harry Carey who also co-wrote the film, this was an early production of one of the founding fathers of cinema, John Ford, who went by the young name of Jack Ford for this movie. This restoration is one that almost never happened because the original print of it had vanished and then resurfaced in the film archives of Czechoslovakia and now has the glorious distinction of being completely restored for blu-ray by the geniuses at Kino Lorber. this is for those deep historian buff types, for sure.

Reginald Denny Collection – All the movies just seem to get older and older this week as Kino Lorber also sent me this collection of films all featuring actor Reginald Denny, a giant of film in his era during the 1930s with three of his closest regarded movies, The Reckless Age, Skinner’s Dress Suit and What Happened To Jones?. All of these films give deeper insight into the man behind them, a guy who was a jack of all trades in any side of the production and was an avid aviation enthusiast who even used his knowledge many times to help out the military. I really enjoy getting all of these throwback productions as it gives a deeper understanding into the history of a medium I love and shows some of the founding structures that got us there. Again, this stuff may bore a lot of the layman to cinema out there but I know cinephiles will possibly take a keen eye to these films.

Gamera: The Complete Collection – Want a six-disc set of crazy Japanese monster flicks full of city-destroying action? Well, those beautiful people at Arrow Video have meticulously put together this brand new set of films that has all twelve of these celebrated creature features for the first time ever in a worldwide release. This limited edition collectors’ set traces the decades-long evolution of Gamera, from the “friend of all children” in his more lighthearted earlier films to the Guardian of the Universe in the groundbreaking 1990s reboot series, often hailed as three of the best kaiju films ever made, the inspiration for Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim, for sure, a movie I love so very much. These movies run the gamut of either being fun or gritty and action-filled and make for an entertaining ride as you go through the films from it’s inception in 1965 to the final film in 2006 which almost becomes a sort of “my monster and me” story of Gamera’s friendship with a young boy. It’s distinctly Japanese but oh so entertaining.

SEAL Team: Season Three – Even though the series ended fifteen years ago I will always see David Boreanaz as the brooding vampire with a soul Angel from the Joss Whedon created Buffy spinoff and that’s even after twelve seasons as Seeley Booth on Bones. His new series is going very well though, a series that follows the lives of an elite Navy S.E.A.L. team as they train, plan and execute the most dangerous, high-stakes missions for the American government. Created by first-time showrunner Benjamin Cavell, this series has compelling characters and has the potential to get better in this vein if they can steer away from being a mission by mission procedural. I have now thoroughly enjoyed every season that Paramount sent me and I look forward to more as this was another easy pick up for a fourth season on CBS.

Gunsmoke: Movie Collection – Well, they’ve sent me most of the back end of the entire series of this long-running western that formulated the frontier filmmakers of yesterday and today so now it’s time for the movies to get their time on home release with three films that played on television well after the end of the show. debuting between the years of 1987 and 1992, this trilogy consists of the films Return to Dodge, The Last Apache and To the Last Man, the first film made at the behest of Matt Dillon himself James Arness who wanted a reunion badly. The second film, The Last Apache, is more of a storyline tie-up from an episode during the 1973 season that actually brought back an actor from that plot, Michael Learned, and the final film, To The Last Man, was made as a tribute to the show’s original creator, John Meston, and to give then retired Marshall Matt Dillon. As a kid who watched these shows with my dad, I was totally into receiving these as the nostalgia just breathes off the screen.

Are You Afraid Of The Dark? – Getting classic with this series who us Canadian kids remember watching on the kid’s television channel YTV and wishing that we could be part of the storytelling group of the “Campfire Society”, a group of kids who love to terrify each other with ghostly tales. This is a total revamp of that show for a modern era and features Blindspotting writer and star Rafael Casal in a three-part, self-contained limited series about the newest member of the Midnight Society, her first scary tale, and what happens to the group when the terrifying events of her story start to actually happen in their small town. Made by Nickelodeon, this is a great way to scare the kids on a level that is accessible for them and won’t scare them for life like some of the scary shows from my childhood. I say this although it definitely helped with my insatiable penchant for horror movies. I actually thank the original series for giving me this love.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:

Bush: Live In Tampa – Being a total product of the nineties when it comes to my beginnings of finding the music sound I liked, I definitely was a huge fan of Gavin Rossdale and his band Bush, notably the album Sixteen Stone, a record I could probably sing along with from front to back. Needless to say, when this live album box set that consists of a blu-ray, a DVD and an audio CD of the entire show recorded at the MidFlorida Amphitheater in Tampa both my wife and I were ecstatic, putting the CD into our car immediately and have been listening to it ever since. Being a big fan of live albums, this one definitely is a new favorite and features classic Bush hits like Machinehead, which kicks off the show, Comedown, Everything Zen, The Sound Of Winter and. of course, the song that makes you want to sing, Glycerine.

What She Said: The Art Of Pauline Kael – Being a film critic, we definitely feel the brunt of backlash when our opinions of movies or television set people off just simply for the fact that we don’t like said film or that our thoughts don’t jive with the status quo but when you get to certain notoriety the acceptance level is higher. This is the case when it came to Pauline Kael, a controversial and totally outspoken critic and one that helped shape the model of 20th-century filmmaking with her influence. Agree with her opinions or not, Kael is arguably the greatest film critic to grace newspapers and television and is really the model for what all of our work stands on. This documentary is fascinating and well deserved for this legend who was at the top of her game for four decades.

Laurel & Hardy – After Shout Factory hooked me up with the complete set of Abbott and Costello movies I thought I had a pretty good chunk of the classic comedy collection until this definitive set landed on my doorstep, the complete works of combined comedic genius of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, two giants of which everyone else seems to stand in their shadows. For fans of comedy origins, this is a great one to pick up as it features new 2K and 4K digital restorations from original 35mm nitrate of all of their classic comedies in the best quality since their first release, which to me is pretty insane. Two feature films and seventeen shorts, including the legendary pie-fight silent film The Battle of the Century, a massively iconic moment in their career which is making its video debut and nearly complete for the first time in over 90 years. This stuff is totally landmark here.

Batman: Year One – Continuing my new Batman purchases from last week, it really is fitting that I talk about young Batman this week after talking about the old Caped Crusader last week. Again based on a graphic novel from the legendary ad and revered comic writer Frank Miller, this is the story of Batman’s emergence in Gotham City to rise and become the figure that the criminal element fears, all from the point of view of Commissioner Gorden, voiced in this animated feature by Walter White himself, Bryan Cranston. With beautiful animation, headed up by the director of a lot of these DC animated features, Sam Liu, I really liked this adaptation and thought it did a faithful job of bringing the darkness of Batman’s beginnings and Gotham star Ben McKenzie, who played a young James Gordon in that series, ironically voices the world’s greatest detective and Bruce Wayne in this one, a movie that was birthed from Darren Aronovsky’s failed live-action adaptation. I’m glad we got some semblance of this story.

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug – Why mess with a good thing unless you are super greedy? This is a broad question to all Hollywood studios but for this purpose, I aim this question at Warner Bros. who decided to rope Peter Jackson into doing more J.R.R. Tolkien adaptations by having him do The Hobbit as a follow up to the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Getting hypnotized by more millions, they also had him split the one book into three movies and completely dilute everything of any substance. Yes, you can tell I didn’t like this movie so why own it? Well, it was cheap and rewatching the barrel sequence, which is overly too long, the scene really tests out your home theater in all the best ways including that insane frame rate. I know this part of the blog this week is pretty underwhelming but I just made lemonade from lemons in front of you. Tada!

Television:

Trinkets: Season 2 (Netflix) – This is kind of my wild card this week because it’s a teen drama so it could really go either way depending on your tastes but the first season was really great. Brianna Hildebrand, who played the angsty Negasonic Teenage Warhead in the Deadpool movies, stars in this series as a grieving teenager who finds an unexpected connection with two classmates at her new high school when they all land in the same Shoplifters Anonymous group. The reason I dug into this one was that it kind of gives me a Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist vibe, which is fitting as the creators directed Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, which was based on a book by the same author. Now that the show has been axed and will not get a third season, this season gets more focused on these three girls’ futures beyond school and what goodness possibly awaits them there. I will say already that this series was cut far too short for my liking.

All Together Now (Netflix) – The name of director Brett Haley might not be a household name but, damn, has he made some great films with great actors that deserve far more acclaim than they have been getting. Whether is a Blythe Danner story of rediscovery like I’ll See You In My Dreams, a Sam Elliott led story about mortality or a father and daughter musical duo with Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons, Haley makes character films and that’s what he’s done with this new film featuring Moana herself, Auli’i Cravalho and comedy legend Carol Burnett. Cravalho plays an optimistic high schooler with musical aspirations who must learn to accept help from her friends to overcome her personal hardships and fulfill her dreams. The film has a fantastic supporting cast to it and looks like another notch on the board for Haley who will one day get that top name billing he should get. Mark my words here, he’s phenomenal.

Cobra Kai (Netflix) – Remember that school of bad guys from the Karate Kid movies? Well, they’ve had their own series running for two seasons as a YouTube original and now with this third season, they get the high profile and bigger budget release on Netflix to bump it up to the next level. Featuring a lot of the original cast from the movies, including William Zabka, Martin Kove and even Daniel-san, Ralph Macchio, this Emmy nominated series takes place decades after our mains have had their 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament bout, following a middle-aged Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence who again find themselves martial-arts rivals. This is your chance to get fully acquainted with this critic and audience lauded series all at once and hopefully secure it another season and it’s damn worthy of that.

The Binge (Crave) – I kind of have this really deep love for Elseworlds stories, something off of the beaten path that ventures the question “what if?” just like this one does set in a world where all drugs and alcohol are illegal but the only day anyone can participate in the excess to gain from that is on what’s called “Binge Day”. Leave it to the weirdos at Amazon Prime to greenlight something as wacky as this but, besides the young cast, Vince Vaughn and the hilarious Hayes MacArthur co-star in this series from one of the minds behind the great James Van Der Beek show What Would Diplo Do? a massively underrated show itself. Just looking at the trailer I have high hopes for this one, no pun intended, so it better not let me, or most importantly you, down.

Aggretsuko: Season 3 (Netflix) – I never thought that I would relate so much to an animated red panda but here we are. Yes, Retsuko was a graduate who had everything going for her coming out of university but a mere five years later she sees herself in a thankless job, overworking herself for a sexist boss who minimizes all of her accomplishments causing her to bottle her red hot rage to unleash it every day at the karaoke bar, screaming out death metal songs. Yeah, this show was totally made for my consumption and with the third season landing, it’s there perfect time to pull more of you onto the bandwagon of underappreciated Japanese transplants. Each episode is short, sweet and weirdly intuitive, especially if you’re in the nine to five work grind that makes you feel a little off-kilter. I highly recommend this show, it’s so ingenious.

New On VOD:

The One And Only Ivan – Disney Plus rolls out another pretty big feature film on the platform to try and snag some more subscribers before Mulan hits next month and what better way to do it than with a star-studded talking animal movie. The film is based on the novel by Katherine Applegate and follows a gorilla named Ivan voiced by Academy Award winner Sam Rockwell who tries to piece together his past with the help of an elephant named Stella with the voice of Angelina Jolie as they hatch a plan to escape from captivity. Featuring the on-screen star power of Bryan Cranston and Chaka Khan as well as the additional voices of Helen Mirren, Danny Devito and The Florida Project star Brooklynn Prince, it’s definitely an ambitious second film for Me Before You director Thea Sharrock to take on but the trailer looks solid and I think that the kids will really gravitate towards this one. Heck, they might even read the book after and occupy themselves for longer. It’s a thought.

Summerland – Consistently, British actress Gemma Arterton has been the main selling point for me to watch pretty much anything, a versatile performer who has done great genre films, comedies, historical dramas and romances and for this new film she combines those last two. Writer and director Jessica Swale makes her feature-length theatrical debut with this story, set during World War II, following an Englishwoman who opens her heart to an evacuee after initially resolving to be rid of him when the two realize they have more in common in their pasts than she had once assumed. Arterton is without a doubt the best reason to watch this movie, delivering another stellar performance, further proof that she is one of the most underrated leading actresses today. For another example of this in the same sort of setting, what the film Their Finest, released four years ago.

Euphoria – Another couple of names that will put my ass in a seat for the duration of a movie, no matter what genre, is Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander and the always incredible Eva Green but, that being said, I felt this one was a bit regrettable. The third collaboration between Vikander and Swedish writer and director Lisa Langseth, this is the story of two sisters on a trip through Europe where they try to get close to each other and approach the tough questions in life but seem to be constantly at each other’s throats as only bickering siblings are. I wish I could report back on how fantastic this movie is but as much as the two stars have undeniable chemistry together the movie never seemed to gel with me and all of the drama came across very vapid and without any sort of substance. The setup to the whole story is great but they seem to waste all of that potential very quickly afterwards.

Blu-Ray:

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.

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

Sometimes Always Never – This one is a simple film, a story of a father and son, estranged for years, reconnecting to possibly identify the body of Michael, another estranged son who stormed out after a game of Scrabble. Now seemingly obsessed with the game, Nighy’s character is constantly lost in the pieces but is using it to connect with his obtuse son but also the open mind of his grandson. This is basically just a film for Nighy to chew the scenery, which he does brilliantly thanks to the script from Tristram Shandy: A Cock And Bull Story writer Frank Cottrell Boyce against some gorgeous and vibrant backdrops. Richard Stoddard’s cinematography is definitely the second star of this movie.

Prevenge – Want to see some new killer kid horror with a significant twist on it? Well, writer, director and actress Alice Lowe has a doozy of a story to tell you in her filmmaking debut, no stranger to this genre with her work with her roles in Ben Wheatley’s Kill List and Sightseers as well as appearing in the recently released Get Duked! and the totally oddball Aaaaaaaah!. This crazy film follows Lowe as a widow named Ruth who is seven months pregnant when, believing herself to be guided by her unborn baby, she embarks on a homicidal rampage, dispatching anyone who stands in her way. If that doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what will but the best thing about it is that the film is fantastic, so well written, darkly funny and beautifully shot by cinematographer Ryan Eddleston. This is one of those films that will get bandied around by word of mouth leaving you agape after going “why did I just now get told about this?” Get on the bandwagon now, it’s totally worth it.

CRSHD – Something that always feels few and far between when it comes to coming of age teenage romance films is the plight of teenage girls, a complex field of biology, emotion, clique hierarchy and a healthy dose of reality for men that we get it supremely easy. This new film from debuting writer and director Emily Cohn attempts to tell a story of personal growth but with an LGBTQ+ angle to it and for a first time feature filmmaker she has landed with promise. The story follows Izzy who, on the last night of her college freshman year, tries to lose her virginity with the help of her two best friends, their only hope being getting into an exclusive, invite-only “Crush Party.” For a guy that’s been out of the teen lingo for a long time now, this film feels like it has the finger on the pulse of this generation as every line and interaction feels real, sometimes to an almost painful degree. The young cast is also phenomenal with Isabelle Barbier leading the way, an actress with a bright future ahead of her.

Clara’s Heart – Some late eighties goodness this week in new release form from Warner Archive as this Whoopi Goldberg drama hits Blu-ray for the first time and it gave us something else that we didn’t know we needed in the entertainment world at the time, the one and only Neil Patrick Harris who was introduced in this film. Harris plays the lead role, David, a teenager whose parents are in a deteriorating marriage after their infant daughter dies and Goldberg stars as Clara, a chambermaid at a Jamaican resort who’s hired to be a housekeeper. She and David develop a close bond, opening his eyes and heart to new experiences, and eventually leading to a disturbing secret in Clara’s past. This was the penultimate film from To Kill A Mockingbird director Robert Mulligan and it earned NPH a Golden Globe nomination, which is crazy to do in your first time on screen and even crazier sitting on an award-worthy performance as it was filmed in 1986 and not released until two years later.

Blue Bloods: Season 10 – Now that I’ve finished my year for NCIS releases doesn’t mean I’m done with CBS shows or with the traditional procedural, as I now move onto more primetime crime dramas with this Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg led show that is now solidly the double digits in seasons now though with the Black Lives Matter movement in full effect it’s scope show be dramatically different going forward after this. Basically, for those uninitiated into this police show, this is like the Charles Bronson series of made for television movies A Family Of Cops but told much better as we have Tom Selleck as the patriarch of the family and also the commissioner of police, his sons Wahlberg and Will Estes as a detective and police sergeant respectively. The cast rounds out with Bridget Moynahan as the sister, an assistant DA, and the great Len Cariou as the grandpa, a former commissioner himself and the show is actually very solid and its long tenure is indicative of that. I know that when I post on social media that I have it, fans come out of the woodwork to like it.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:

Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy – Oh yeah, bringing some of that Hong Kong action this week and yes, it is a sequel and kind of runs like a weaker Infernal Affairs trilogy. For those who are confused by that one, those are the movies that Martin Scorsese adapted to make The Departed. This film deals with the fallout of the first movie in which a deep conspiracy of police corruption was exposed, the film picking up with three cops caught up in the events and trying to figure out who can be trusted as they look to cut off the head of the monster that’s dragging down the law enforcement in Hong Kong. The film is a slick and stylish action flick, just like it’s predecessor, and feels almost like an ode to the high octane films of Asian cinema’s past like all the Chow Yun Fat and John Woo collaborations and I enjoyed both films on that level.

The Cat And The Moon – I feel at a total loss that I had no idea about this movie’s existence, especially as it is the debut of Hereditary actor Alex Wolff as a feature film writer and director. Led by Wolff and also starring Mike Epps, The Righteous Gemstones’ Skyler Gisondo, Krampus’ Stefania LaVie Owen and Moonrise Kingdom’s Tommy Nelson, this film follows a teenager named Nick who comes to New York City to stay with Cal, a Jazz musician friend of his late father’s while his mother seeks treatment in rehab. The film is very Big Apple driven as Nick discovers the metropolis through innocent eyes and it looks really great on high def. I really like this movie and it’s interesting to note that Alex Wolff began writing the script for this film at age 15 and several scenes were shot at the real high school that he attended as a kid. For a first time director, he has the absolute poise of a veteran and I really look forward to whatever project he has next.

Unintended – Another indie flick from the guys at FilmRise, this new film comes from writer and director Anja Murmann, a filmmaker who hasn’t made a new feature in over twenty years and returns with this new psychological thriller. Delving into the psychiatric battlefield of emotional trauma and guilt, the film follows a young woman who had repressed the memory of having killed someone when she was twelve years old and thirteen years later that memory comes back, breaking her mental world wide open. The film stars Elizabeth Lail, who’s on a hot streak after her breakout performance on Netflix’s You, and Nathan Keyes who starred in Kings Of Summer, a movie I absolutely adore, and this movie works based on their fantastic performances, the driving force of it. This is a very self-contained film but those looking for a great drama filled with pretty intense reveals this is very recommended.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – It took me a while to finally get around to it but thanks to a friend’s shrinking blu-ray collection I landed myself a few Batman centric picks that I thought I would bring to this section because, why not? Batman is awesome. Case in point, this animated movie that takes arguably the great non-canon story of the Caped Crusader written by the king of comics, at the time, the legendary Frank Miller. This story, told over two films, follows a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne who is forced back into the cape and cowl after a ten-year absence when a new breed of criminal ravages Gotham City and coaxes out his greatest foe for a final showdown. This movie is absolutely awesome with former Robocop Peter Weller donning the cowl for a pitch-perfect rendition of the Dark Knight in a massively satisfying animated feature, one of the best of the whole series.

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice – Let’s get this out of the way. I saw this movie at an IMAX press screening and totally hated it, so much so that I was seething as I came out of the theater doors and couldn’t even talk to the Warner Bros. rep to give my opinion. That said, in a self-deprecating need to own everything Batman, I somewhat gladly accepted this film into my collection and gave it a rewatch and, yes, it’s still awful but has some really iconic picturesque moments that make you feel like a fan in between all the terrible writing, nonsensical plot, horrible filmmaking and complete character misreads. Of course, there’s the defining horrendous “Martha” moment that should be ridiculed until the end of time but at the end of the day and the end of the rant, this is an impressive watch to behold on a great home entertainment system. Never take this as praise for Zack Snyder. I would never do that.

Television:

Random Acts Of Violence (Shudder) – 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.

High Score (Netflix) – For my YouTube obsessed little daughter this show was a fascinating feast of information on her favorite subject, video games and their history, and a total godsend for me, a father totally sick of hearing her videos yell and scream about Minecraft, Roblox and a myriad of Mario games. Narrated by the voice of Super Mario himself, this series traces the history of classic video games, featuring insights from the innovators who brought these worlds and characters to life like Space Invaders, PacMan and of course the arrival of Mario and Luigi and beyond. The show is filled with deep interviews with the originators of the industry as well as all that they influenced and it is a really fascinating series, even for the old school gamers who feel like they’ve lost touch with the medium. No, I’m not there yet so I can’t relate.

Hoops (Netflix) – Jake Johnson, Ron Funches, Natasha Leggero and Rob Riggle lend their voices to this vulgar and vile new animated series made directly for Netflix and get ready for those Big Mouth vibes because I don’t think there’s a line this show wouldn’t cross but at least the writing is better than that absolute dreck that is called Paradise PD. The show has Johnson voicing Coach Ben Hopkins, a hot-headed, foul-mouthed high school basketball coach who thinks turning around his god awful team will take him to the “big leagues” and will do anything to get them there, including getting the tallest person in high school a hooker just to join the team. The first couple episodes might be a bit of a hard sell but this show starts to hit its stride in the fifth one and Johnson’s delivery of lines is hysterical and it doesn’t feel like he gets to stretch his R-rated legs enough. The Little Man Tate references in the first episode alone had me laughing hard.

Lucifer: Season 5 Part 1 (Netflix) – The show that the fans keep having the ability to revive enters what I thought was going to be the finale for it, split into two parts with the first one debuting this week. The Tom Ellis led series has preemptively earned its sixth season now and the current season will focus on Lucifer’s lineage, his past and those close around him getting the truth of what he is revealed to them. There is also a killer guest spot of 24’s Dennis Haysbert showing up as, wait for it, God himself. Yes, I’m so behind President David Palmer portraying the thing that makes people do the stupidest thing, worship Donald Trump as the savior of the world. Yeah, boom! I just went political but it really was worth it. Let me know on Twitter how much you hated it!

Lovecraft Country (Crave) – This is definitely the most anticipated new HBO shows of the year, with anticipation behind it that is on par with the excitement us television fans had for the Watchmen limited series. Created by Jordan Peele and Underground creator Misha Green, simply put, the series follows a young African-American travelling across the U.S. in the 1950s in search of his missing father but it’s definitely going to get way deeper and far sinister given that Lovecraft is in the title which usually means to me that it will be a continuing spiral of despair and suffering that leads to doom and death. So, yeah, not going to be bright and sunny but it has Birds Of Prey’s Jurnee Smollett Bell and The Last Black Man In San Francisco’s Jonathan Majors in it and after episode one, holy crap, am I ever hooked! Get on the train now for this because you will love it.

New Releases:

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge On The Run – For the second week in a row I get to talk about the famous sponge who lives under the sea and, hell, it isn’t even my birthday. Seriously, I absolutely adore this Nickelodeon creation of madness and am totally excited for the arrival of the third movie. The new film had Spongebob on the search for his pet snail Gary who has been kidnapped or, as he puts it, “snail napped”. Spongebob grabs his best friend Patrick and embarks on an epic adventure to The Lost City of Atlantic City to bring Gary home and, from the trailer, I know that he encounters a “sage” played by Keanu Reeves. This is definitely a movie that will appeal to a certain audience but for a parent like me, I buy it all, hook, line and sinker. Yes, that last one is an old fishing adage I thought would work perfectly with this write-up.

Unhinged – On paper, this movie sounds absolutely insane and with the rising tempers in citizens around the world during this pandemic maybe it’s a little ill-timed but what really surprised me is how entertaining this movie was and how absolutely gonzo Russell Crowe is in it, playing the ultimate villain role. This one is super simple, a woman and her son become the target of an unstable man’s rage after a confrontation at an intersection and the proverbial shit hits the fan as he pulls out all the stops to try and force an apology out of her. The film comes from German director Derrick Borte who just released the very dark thriller American Dreamer with Jim Gaffigan on Blu-ray earlier this year and this movie is just far fetched enough to be a total popcorn flick and not as societally damning as the premise would initially suggest. This is a film that is totally pulpy and kind of grindhouse at its core and I totally enjoyed it for that reason.

The Burnt Orange Heresy – Slow burn is the key to this new thriller which has The Square star Claes Bang playing an art dealer who is thrown into a scheme to nab a painting from a reclusive and eccentric artist, embodied brilliantly by the legendary Donald Sutherland but the role was originally written for Christopher Walken and it really shows. This film, directed by Berlin Station lead Giuseppe Capotondi, largely didn’t work for me as Bang’s character’s devious and paranoid underbelly feels constantly on display, making the intrigue part a bit transparent, but Widows star Elizabeth Debicki is the main draw here and is absolutely fire every moment she is on screen.

New On VOD:

Black Water: Abyss – A killer crocodile movie out of Australia and it’s in underground caves? I’m definitely in, but I’m more than a little trepidation because 47 Meters Down: Uncaged did this just last year with sharks and oh to describe the ways I hated it. The good news is that this sequel, following up on a film from 2007 which seems like forever ago, is just enough to satisfy fans of survival horror even if it doesn’t really make any sort of lasting impression. The story, simple horror tropes, follows five friends exploring a remote cave system in Northern Australia and find themselves threatened by a hungry crocodile, and honestly, what more could you want? Notably, this is one of the first new films to be released in the UK cinemas after the COVID-19 outbreak, but it wasn’t big enough here to warrant a theatrical release. I will say that if you have claustrophobia you will not enjoy this movie at all. Consider that the disclaimer.

Crash 4K – Getting the full revamp treatment is this thriller based around car crashes and sex, not the Best Picture Oscar-winning film from Canadian Paul Haggis but from the mind of body horror auteur and Canadian legend David Cronenberg. In case you never had the pleasure of seeing this madness on DVD or playing on Showcase, as I did, this is the perverse story of a TV director who discovers an underground sub-culture after getting into a serious car accident of scarred, omnisexual car-crash victims who use car accidents and the raw sexual energy they produce and tries to rejuvenate his sex life with his wife with that new knowledge. There’s no better way to describe this one other than it is totally and utterly screwed up but quite the norm for a guy like Cronenberg and this one has been messing up audiences and been the “oh my god, have you seen this?” movie for almost twenty-five years. I find it fascinating that the studio is bringing it back for another run.

Lucky Grandma – This is a fantastic hidden little gem that I feel so enlightened that it got sent to me. The film stars Tsai Chin, who you may recognize from Memoirs Of A Geisha and Casino Royale, and has her playing Grandma Wong, a chain-smoking widow who is under pressure from her son to give up her longtime apartment to move in with his family. Grandma decides to let it all ride on a senior’s trip to a casino and finds herself with a lapful of gangland money when an old man has a heart attack and dies seated next to her on the trip back. Quickly she finds herself in the middle of a gang war that is both a search for the missing money in her possession as well as a power grab in this quirky comedy of errors that absolutely astounded me with great cinematography and snappy editing. Writer and director Sasie Sealy makes her feature debut with this movie and you can totally see that she is a student of cinema with her beautiful attention to detail and I can’t wait to see what’s next for her.

Blu-Ray:

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

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.

Archive – As if we aren’t scared enough by the prospect of completely tetherless artificial intelligence, along comes this new sci-fi set eighteen years into the future. The film follows Divergent star Theo James as George Almore, a tech developmental scientist who is working on a true human-equivalent AI and his latest prototype is almost ready but this sensitive phase is also the riskiest, especially as he has a goal that must be hidden at all costs which is this is all a means to an end of being reunited with his dead wife. The film is the debut of writer and director Gavin Rothery, who was the conceptual designer and the visual effects supervisor on Moon, and this movie is very high concept as that one was and I really feel like he nailed it. This is a fascinating story about going beyond the laws of nature, trying to replicate it and the dangerous pitfalls to follow.

Valley Of The Gods – I feel like I brought up how Josh Hartnett had been largely missing in action for a while now and here he is again, leading a brand new film alongside John Malkovich, Academy Award winner Jaime Ray Newman, who netted the statue for a short film she did, Lord Of The Rings star John Rhys Davies and former Bond girl Berenice Marlohe. The film is a warped and insane story that entwines Navajo native lore with a reclusive trillionaire and his would-be biographer, creating a fascinating, mysterious and idiosyncratic vision of America and it’s one of those movies where you wish multiplexes were open just to see the general public’s confusion with an obvious art film like this. To go even deeper on that thought, the film features 2001: A Space Odyssey actor Keir Dullea and he said it was much like filming that movie for Stanley Kubrick which I’m sure is another piece to the added intrigue.

How To Build A Girl – First things first, I absolutely adore Beanie Feldstein right down to her core ever since I saw her in the Seth Rogen sequel Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising and that was well before I found out that she was Jonah Hill’s sister so with her leading this new film, well, I’m already very on board. A film that comes from across the pond, this is the story of a teenager living with her working-class family on a council estate in Wolverhampton, England, who grows up and moves to London to reinvent herself as Dolly Wilde, a fast-talking, lady sex-adventurer that’s also a popular but conflicted music journalist looking to make the big bucks to save her family from poverty. The movie was made by Harlots series director Coky Giedroyc and is propelled by an incredible performance from Beanie, who shines every second she’s on-screen. This was an absolute delight to watch and is easily one of my favorites of the week.

I Am Vengeance: Retaliation – An action film with a former WWE wrestler in the lead role? You just know I’m one hundred percent behind this as formerly Wade Barrett and now Stu Bennett stars as former special-forces soldier John Gold who is given the opportunity to bring Sean Teague down, played by British badass Vinnie Jones, the man who betrayed his team on their final mission in Eastern Europe several years ago. Is it any good? Hell no, it’s a vapid shoot ’em up under the guise of being a black ops actioner with way more brawn and bravado than brains which will even irk you if you turn off your mind. To add to all of that, this is a sequel which I honestly had no idea about with Bennett in the driver’s seat as well and while I would never recommend this to you, my loyal reader and listener, I eat this dumb crap up, complain about it and move on. Such is the life of a lifelong action fan.

Michael – Warner Archive lands in my new releases this week and while I usually bring films from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s from this distributor, every now and then a nineties film slip in like this John Travolta film that I actually saw in theaters with my parents. The film follows a couple of tabloid writers who are tipped off to an old woman living in her apartment with the archangel, Michael, who is indeed true and played by Travolta. The movie is definitely a sweetheart one that is soft on any sort of drama and completely aims to be a crowd-pleaser at all times, sometimes to its detriment. On the resume of one of the greatest romantic comedy filmmakers of all time, Nora Ephron, I feel like this film barely registers and is easily forgotten because it plays things too light. Just another example of John Travolta grabbing every project he could in the post Pulp Fiction glow.

NCIS New Orleans: Season 6 – The television year on DVD isn’t quite over until I’ve received every iteration of NCIS and it’s spinoffs and now with the arrival of this latest season of the southern fried Louisiana version, well, we are now complete. This one starring Scott Bakula in the lead as Special Agent Dwayne Pride who heads his crew in a colorful city that harbors a dark side and is a magnet for service personnel on leave who often delve into vices that land them in a series of different troubles. The show is your standard fare for these procedurals in the military vein, just factoring in a cajun flavor for the locale, but the charm of Bakula himself, the friendly face of classics like Quantum Leap and Star Trek Enterprise may draw you to it. I like the cast formed around him like stalwart veteran CCH Pounder and former child star Lucas Black.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Unstoppable – Well Go USA is coming through with a couple of new films from a few weeks back and of course I’m going to start off with the South Korean one because it really is the superior one. The debut from writer and director Kim Min-Ho, this action thriller has a pretty simple plot to it, following a happily married couple whose life is thrown into disarray when the wife is kidnapped, sending the husband into a violent adventure to find her. This movie would feel right at home nestled in with all the great actioners from the eighties and I feel that was largely the goal for the filmmaker. The film features a couple of familiar faces if you’re into Asian cinema, like Train To Busan’s Don Lee, who will soon make his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with The Eternals, and The Man From Nowhere’s Sung-oh Kim. Definitely a fun movie that’s highly entertaining.

Chasing The Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch – To finish off my double shot of Well Go USA releases that top my geek outs this week, this sequel is trying to capitalize on the foundation that top Hong Kong action stars Donnie Yen and Andy Lau set up in the first movie. While the first film showed us the rise of an illegal immigrant from Mainland China who snuck into the corrupt British-colonized Hong Kong of 1963, transforming himself into a ruthless and emerging drug lord, this movie feels completely disjointed from that story. Instead, this film follows serial billionaire kidnapper Logan who has been savaging Hong Kong and now his gang is aiming to go bigger by nabbing someone at an affluent Macau regal. The first film was a pretty anemic mobster story that I thought didn’t warrant any sort of follow up but it’s odd to note that this Tony Leung Ka Fai led film actually ups the quality and is a pretty decent little movie, although it comes across kind of goofy and underdeveloped at times.

Strike Up The Band – Getting real classic here with another entry from the Warner Archive vaults and this one features one of the mega pairings of the time, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, two people very important to classic cinema. Rooney is Jimmy Connors who, with his girlfriend, Mary Holden, played by Garland, wants to take part in Paul Whiteman’s high-school bands contest, but they cannot afford the fare. Then, by chance, they meet Paul Whiteman in person and are able to convince him that their band is good enough, getting him to lend them the money. Everything is going according to plan until one of their friends becomes seriously ill and has to be carried to a hospital by plane, and they have to use Whiteman’s money for this. It’s a long and convoluted plot but this one was a favorite in 1940 and even earned an Academy Award for Best Sound and was nominated for Best Song and Best Original Score which seems to imply that it sounded better than it looked.

Abrakadabra – Got a couple of weird cult films from Blue Underground which are always fun to dig into. This first movie was made just two years ago and is a throwback to the Italian Giallo films that Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and others made so insanely popular, this one film following a magician in the early 1970s who finds himself the target of a sadistic serial killer. The film was made by directing duo Luciano Onetti and Nicolás Onetti who make the attempt to revive this genre, which had a little rise with the fantastic movie Berberian Sound Studio with Toby Jones, and I have to say that this one brings that visual thrill back with some pretty solid looking gore and some very slick suspense sequences. I definitely dug it but I’ve been a fan of the genre for a while now.

American Rickshaw – Let’s head back to the end of the eighties for some more Italian Giallo, shall we? Although this film has the word American in the title and takes place in Miami with an all American cast, it is directed and written by an all Italian team and has all of those same horror-thriller proclivities, even though Sergio Martino goes by Martin Dolman for this film. The story follows a college student who finds himself framed for the murder of an evangelist’s son and, of course, hooks up with an Asian witch and a stripper to find the real killer and clear his name. The film was also titled American Tiger at one point which doesn’t make a lot of sense in context so maybe both titles led to this film being totally forgotten but the best reason to watch this movie is for the utterly gonzo performance from Dr. Loomis himself, Donald Pleasence as the nuttier than nutty Reverend Mortom. It’s worth the whole hour and a half run time alone.

Television:

Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn (Crave) – Given the frontline and deserved focus of the Black Lives Matter movement right now the release of this documentary is as timely as ever right now and is just another story in the sea of injustices aimed at the black community, put together by one of the best companies at putting out hard-hitting films, HBO. This film tells the story of Yusuf Hawkins, a black teenager who was murdered in 1989 by a group of young white men in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.that the police’s official response to sparked outrage in New York, unleashing a torrent of racial tension and spurring tireless civil rights activism that exposed deep racial prejudices and inequities which continue to plague the country today, very clearly. The film is directed by Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee filmmaker Muta’Ali Muhammad and is brimming with emotion, simmering with justified anger and will get you quite riled up while watching it and will resonate afterwards. We need more documentaries like this because if we can change the system, we must expose it at all costs.

Teenage Bounty Hunters (Netflix) – My interest in everything that creator Jenji Kohan makes seems to have a bit of shelf life to it is that two of her three shows that I have gotten into went way past their expiry dates and I’m looking directly at you, Weeds and Orange Is The New Black. That aside, I still adore GLOW and hope it continues longer because it is so well written as Kohan’s shows all start out and it’s for this reason that I’m very optimistic about this new series about sixteen-year-old fraternal twin sisters who dive into the world of bail skipping baddies while still navigating the high stakes of teenage life after joining forces with a veteran bounty hunter. The series is headed by Kathleen Jordan, a new name who had previously been a staff writer for the show American Princess and it stars Supernatural’s Maddie Phillips and The Gifted’s Anjelica Bette Fellini alongside Kadeem Harrison, who I swear I haven’t seen since the nineties. Remember Vampire In Brooklyn? Yeah, he was in that.

Project Power (Netflix) – If you told me to judge this movie purely on it’s trailer I would probably say that you have a serious dog on your hands because it is utterly atrocious. Maybe that was a good precursor to getting into this movie because I kind of loved it and I’m really happy about the return of Joseph Gordon Levitt to genre films because between this and the Amazon Prime movie 7500, he’s killing it right now. Starring Jamie Foxx alongside Joe and The Hate U Give actress Dominique Fishback, the story is about a pill that gives its users unpredictable superpowers for five minutes that hits the streets of New Orleans and a teenage dealer and a local cop must team with an ex-soldier to take down the group responsible for its creation. The action in this film is absolutely insane and coupled with beautifully done special effects it is another damn entertaining movie from Catfish and Nerve directors Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman.

Fearless (Netflix) – One of my favorite British actresses for many years has been the unsung power of Helen McCrory, the underrated actress who was in The Queen, Peaky Blinders, Penny Dreadful and was even Draco Malfoy’s mother in the Harry Potter movies. Well, it’s for her and, really, her only that I’m really excited by this new show, commissioned by ITV in the UK, that is now debuting in North America on Netflix for the full binge effect. The show has McCrory as Emma Banville, a human rights lawyer known for defending lost causes who sets out to prove the innocence of her new client, a man who was convicted for the murder of a school girl fourteen years earlier. The show did not perform well in it’s run on the original network, so don’t expect more episodes beyond this six-episode run but it’s kind of cool to see Helen reunite with the second Dumbeldore, Michael Gambon, though I can’t remember if they share a scene in any of the Potter films.

We Hunt Together: Season 1 (Crave) – I guess the last part of this write up has become the British television invasion but, in my experience, they make some of the best products of that medium and they even get remade by Americans and even Canadians pretty often. What drew me to this show was Eve Myles, a main component of the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood but the show itself seems massively interesting. The series is a gripping twist on a classic cat-and-mouse story that explores the intoxication of sexual attraction and the dangerous power of emotional manipulation as two conflicted detectives track down a pair of deadly killers. Myles is definitely the veteran among a young cast but the great writing and intrigue is what keeps everything afloat and it was enough to grab the interest of Showtime who is now airing it in the United States. Hopefully, the added viewership from us North Americans can stretch out the longevity of this show as it is quite good.

New On VOD:

I Used To Go Here – Any time you see the Lonely Island guys attached to something you really feel a compulsory need to check it out or at least I do. This new comedy-drama has the added effect of having them produce it, Jorma showing up for a tiny bit role, and Community’s Gillian Jacobs in the starring role. She plays Kate, a writer in her mid-thirties who is invited to speak at her alma mater by her former professor following the launch of her new novel. After accepting the invitation, Kate finds herself deeply enmeshed in the lives of a group of college students who live in her old house. The film features a great cast around Jacobs including Jemaine Clement as the college professor in question, Greyhound star Josh Wiggins and former Dirk Gently actress Hannah Marks and is another great outing from Unexpected filmmaker Kris Rey who has a knack for scripting the best and most awkward moments. I really liked this one.

The Secret Garden – A classic story from novelist Frances Hodgson Burnett who also wrote A Little Princess, it’s about time we got another theatrical adaptation of this book as the last one was made over twenty-five years ago. Beautifully shot by 45 Years cinematographer Lol Crawley and directed by usual miniseries guy Marc Munden, this is the heartwrenching and equally uplifting tale of Mary Lennox, a spoiled 10-year-old girl of rich parents who grew up in India who, after everyone in her family dies from cholera, is sent to live in Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire with her uncle. There, she discovers that the household’s many secrets and finds a key that leads her to a garden held locked for years by her uncle after the death of his wife, a secret place that she brings to life which rejuvenates her and her bedridden cousin thought to be on his deathbed. This film is very well done, a visual feast every moment that had me captivated while dealing with some deep and dark issues.

Paydirt – If you’re looking for dumb guy bravado with guns and terrible one-liners then this is the movie for you as direct to video tough dude and former Guillermo del Toro villain (note to self, watch Hellboy II: The Golden Army again) Luke Goss leads this heist action thriller that was just tedious to get through. Written and directed by Vigilante Diaries filmmaker Christian Sesma, this film follows a parolee who teams up with his old crew and is determined to find a buried bag of cash stolen five years ago from a DEA bust gone bad while being tracked by a retired Sheriff. The only real big star to grace the screen in this film is Val Kilmer, who features with his daughter Mercedes, and, oh man, he looks so awful that I felt like he died multiple times on camera. This movie is supremely awful, just avoid it.

She Dies Tomorrow – Actress Amy Seimetz has a lot of great things on her resume, dating back to 2006 when I first saw her in Wristcutters: A Love Story, then Upstream Color which is a story I would rather not get into and great television like The Killing and a small part in Stranger Things and, let’s face it, she’s one of the better things about Alien: Covenant. Well, she is behind the camera as writer and director in this new horror, her second feature, this film following a character named Amy, played by You’re Next actress Kate Lyn Sheil, who is ravaged by the notion that she is going to die tomorrow, which sends her down a dizzying emotional spiral. When her skeptical friend Jane discovers Amy’s feeling of imminent death to be contagious, they both begin bizarre journeys through what might be the last day of their lives and, I feel like this is needless to say, but the film is amazing and totally captivating from the start. I’m in total awe of this film and I feel like it was released in the perfect time as it works incredibly well into the pandemic psychological warfare. Be prepared for this one, it will bruise you.

Peninsula – After the South Korean zombie horror hit went overseas and became a must-see film for genre fans in North America the obvious questions came up which are “can we remake it?” and “where’s the sequel?”. Well, hopefully, the answer to that first question is never but the second question has been answered with this brand new follow up which takes place four years after the zombie outbreak in Train to Busan with the Korean peninsula in full devastation and follows Jung Seok, a former soldier who has managed to escape overseas, who is given a mission to go back and unexpectedly meets survivors. Now having said all of that, it’s really unfortunate that the audience demand rushed this movie to be made because, in all honesty, it really isn’t very good and kind of makes the problems from the first film more glaringly obvious. This one, by extension, feels clunky, cartoonish and at many times totally ridiculous. I know zombie films, in general, are ridiculous but this far exceeds the limit.

Battle Scars – Vietnam War films always fascinate me and I think it is largely due to the psychology of the war itself and the effect and after effect it had on those who served. This movie takes a bite out of that psychology, following a young man who must grapple with the reality of life before and after war, all after witnessing his best friend go through the same thing months earlier. The nastiness of draft conscripted soldiers is at the heart of this film, a forceful exposing of the youth to the deadly fire of this completely unpredictable fight where let’s face it, the Americans were completely out of their element. No recognizable stars lead this one and writer and director Samuel Gonzalez Jr. is unknown to me as well but, as I said, Vietnam is very intriguing.

Spinster – After devouring every season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and her off-kilter stand-up comedy special on Netflix, One Of The Greats, I am really all about any Chelsea Peretti has done and when I was told about this Canadian produced character comedy-drama I was sold immediately. Peretti plays Gaby, a woman devastated after her partner breaks up with her on her thirty-ninth birthday and, rather than wallow in self-pity and depression, tackles her fears of loneliness as well as preconceptions of what it means for a woman to be single. With this film and Jillia Bell’s Brittany Runs A Marathon I feel like we’ve entered a great realm of uplifting stories for women that don’t feel like they fall into the trap of being horribly contrived like Under The Tuscan Sun or, even worse, Eat Pray Love. Those films are nothing but vapid fluff while these movies are brimming with substance and relatable characters.

Blu-Ray:

Ride Your Wave – Oh no! More anime for me to butcher an opinion of this week. Honestly, fans of the genre must hate and cringe every time I bring one of these films up but here I go again. Coming from a one time Adventure Time episode animator Masaaki Yuasa, this is the simple love story between a surfer and a firefighter but, of course, it’s anime so that is really only the basis of the film. Yuasa, with his intense visual style, weaves in grandiose themes of romance, grief and self-discovery and it largely works, again, if the melodrama of it didn’t wear me completely down within the first half-hour. It seems to be consistently the biggest issue I have with these films.

Swallow – This film has been getting so much underground buzz from the horror faithful, both festival audiences and critics alike, so, yes, genre fans, get excited. Starring The Girl On A Train’s Haley Bennett, this film has her playing Hunter, a newly pregnant housewife who finds herself increasingly compelled to consume dangerous objects and as her husband and his family tighten their control over her life, she must confront the dark secret behind her new obsession. This movie is an obsessive-compulsive nightmare and Bennett is completely mesmerizing in her performance. I really can’t wait for whatever comes next from writer and director Carlo Mirabella-Davis because with only his first feature film he has set the bar very high. This is one of those must-see films of 2020 and maybe at the top of a lot of lists by the end of the year.

House Of Hummingbird – With my love for South Korean cinema always being at an all-time high, I was so very excited to receive this new movie even if I knew absolutely nothing about it. The film is the debut of writer and director Bora Kim and follows fourteen-year-old Eunhee wanders the city of Seoul in the mid-nineties searching for love in the year the Seongsu Bridge collapsed, a major event in the city’s history. This is a beautifully crafted coming of age story that is reminiscent of some of the American features like The Virgin Suicides and rests the heavy lifting on the shoulders of young Ji-hu Park who excels in her role. Given that the film was made in 2018, it’s sad that we’re only getting to see it now as it would have been an easy pick for a Best Foreign nominee shortlist. This movie definitely surprised me, with my South Korean film love aside.

Jack Ryan: Season 2 – John Krasinksi dons the CIA agent role for the sophomore season of this popular espionage hit. I really liked the first season a lot, the writers managed to keep this character fresh and original in a post-Jason Bourne genre landscape and it has great direction from proven feature filmmakers like Morten Tyldum and Patricia Riggen as well as ex-Game Of Thrones guys like Daniel Sackheim. This new season adds new characters, like one played by former Lisbeth Salander Noomi Repace, and continues the deepening saga of this iconic literary character who’s had a really bumpy live-action life after Harrison checked out. I really enjoy that the first series acts as more of an origin conduit for the character and now we’re getting into the espionage that really formed his career. I can’t wait for more.

NCIS Los Angeles: Season 11 – What’s that? More NCIS you say? Well, yes, but this is the cool one because it features former Robin, Chris O’Donnell, and LL Cool J and that guy has the word cool in his name and it concludes the yearly install of NCIS shows in my home release reviews and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down. They play key agents in the Office of Special Projects branch of the organization which puts them undercover to crack cases, utilizing their backgrounds as street kids. I’m fully aware of the dime a dozen nature of crime procedurals but I will admit something about this particular one and that is that I kind of like it and, really, at the end of the day it needs to be somewhat good to make it past the initial double digits and now into season twelve, right?

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Taste Of Cherry – This revered Criterion title finally makes its way to the higher platform of blu-ray and a lot of film fans consider this to be one of the greatest to be included in the prestigious Criterion Collection, a masterpiece from one of the greatest international filmmakers of all time, Abbas Kiarostami. The film is an emotional wrapt story of an Iranian man who drives his truck in search of someone who will quietly bury him under a cherry tree after he commits suicide. The film, released in the late nineties, has heaps of acclaim, legendary filmmaker Agnes Varda saying its one of her favorite films ever, it lists as one top ten Cannes festival premieres ever and is on the list of 1001 movies you must see before you die, which is a brilliant list of films. This is a special movie and well worth seeing, cinephile or not.

Romance On The High Seas – Another hit from the Warner Archive vault land on the Geek Outs again this week with this film featuring Doris Day, honestly the only name I recognized in this romantic comedy musical from the late 1940s. The film is about the romantic misunderstandings that transpire when a group of spouses suspect each other of being unfaithful, and a nightclub singer named Georgia Garrett takes the cruise under a false identity to catch her employer’s husband in the act of adultery. Funny enough, this was Doris Day’s first acting role, and she was extremely naive about how movies were made. She wrote in her autobiography that the first scenes to be filmed would be aboard the cruise ship, and on the first day, she walked onto the sound stage and asked when they would be leaving for the boat. Hilarious. Really, this movie will only appeal to fans of classic cinema, so watch it with your grandparents.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – It was a big move for Sony to start adapting the Millenium trilogy from writer Stieg Larsson and it got even better when one of my favorite directors, David Fincher was signed to make it. The casting formed up with Rooney Mara starring as hacker and vigilante Lisbeth Salander and Daniel Craig as intrepid journalist Mikael Blomkvist and this movie is an awesome American remake, something which is rare when foreign films get this exposure in the Hollywood meat grinder but then we got no more in this series and no indication if we ever will. This is most depressing because, spoilers if you haven’t seen it yet, but this film is completely open-ended. I assume this trilogy will never see the light of day as Sony already made The Girl In The Spider’s Web with a new director and cast that sort of bombed in the box office but damn this movie is good and at a great price right now.

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water – I don’t think I’ve ever made it a secret on these write-ups that I love Spongebob Squarepants and his entire underwater crew, so, me going out of my way to pick up one of the movies is sort of on-brand. This is the second film that was made from the longtime Nickelodeon hit series and it ventured to try some new things as Antonio Banderas plays a villainous pirate who steals the secret formula to the Krusty Krab’s renowned Krabby Patty, Spongebob and friends must team up with his arch-nemesis Plankton to go where they’ve never gone before, the reality of 3D. The animation gets punched up for this adventure and, like all of the other movies, this one is just so much fun and a good lead into Sponge On The Run which actually hits theaters here in Canada on August 14th. Get prepared for more nautical nonsense now.

…And God Created Woman – This is the second Criterion Collection movie I’m showcasing this week and it’s a bit of a lie on the list as it hasn’t been reformated for blu-ray just yet but it is oh so deserving of that special accolade, being one of the movies in the first hundred of the collection. This film comes out of the mid-fifties and stars bombshell of the times, Brigitte Bardot as orphan Juliete Hardy, an eighteen-year-old woman who is sexually active and ahead of her time and is strongly desired by the wealthy middle-aged man Eric Carradine, played by Curd Jurgens, the villain in the Roger Moore Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. The love triangle is formed when Juliete’s love is put in the direction of Antoine Tardieu, the older son of a poor family that works in Toulon running a modest shipyard, but he just wants to have one night stand with her which ends up driving her into the arms of his younger brother Michel. Yes, this all gets convoluted, risky and a bit taboo which is the main catalyst for it landing in the Criterion Collection, a classic piece of cinema that begs to be seen.

Television:

Star Trek: Lower Decks: Season 1 (Crave) – Moe Star Trek for CBS All Access? Well, why not because it seems to be a lucrative cash cow for them and if I can throw my opinion in on this, I’m enjoying everything that has come out so far. This new show though begs the question “can we do comedy in this universe of science fiction that has been so serious up until this point?” Not only is this show forging new ground in genre shift it is also animated and follows the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships, the U.S.S. Cerritos, who have to keep up with their duties, often while the ship is being rocked by a multitude of sci-fi anomalies. The voice cast includes former Sliders star Jerry O’Connell, The Boys’ Wee Hughie, Jack Quaid and Eugene Cordero from Tacoma FD and actually looks like it is pretty damn funny. In a void of missing shows like Futurama, this series might actually make a mark outside of its niche audience.

La Llorona (Shudder) – Just last year there was a big-screen version of this famous Mexican ghost done as a film to be included in the ever-expanding universe of The Conjuring and, well, it wasn’t that great. Good thing this sleeper hit has come along to give some great insight into a curse that is both believed and revered in the older lineage of Hispanic families and, better yet, this film aims to scare the pants off of you. A Spanish language horror from writer and director Jayro Bustamante, this film follows an ageing and paranoid dictator who is protected from outside forces by a witchcraft practicing wife heads down a terrifying path as he faces death and the uprise against his iron rule from his people in Guatemala. The reviews of this film are absolutely phenomenal and promise an emotionally traumatic journey with spirits against the backdrop of an incredibly harsh reality.

An American Pickle (Crave) – How weird is this story on paper? A simple Jewish man named Herschel Greenbaum works in a pickle factory in Brooklyn when, one day, he falls into a vat of brine and stays there, perfectly preserved, for 100 years. Coming back to life in modern times, he goes to stay with his great-great-grandson, Ben, in contemporary Brooklyn, and tries to earn the ropes of a new and jarringly progressive reality. This might make a bit more sense when I tell you that this one stars Seth Rogen in the dual role of Herschel and Ben and comes from the mind of Man Seeking Woman creator Simon Rich, so the reality of the film is totally out there just like that series was. The advance reviews of the film are calling it inane with a good side of dark comedy which has me massively intrigued and it features Succession star Sarah Snook who is a real hot commodity at the moment.

Get Duked! (Amazon Prime) – Nothing makes me happier than a horror-comedy out of the United Kingdom with chavs as the lead stars. For those who don’t know, chav is a derogatory term for teens who dress in Adidas or Nike gear, have a filthy mouth and terrible attitude and are always bumming smokes of people, so you can equate that to a lot in North America. This film is great, capitalizing on those great character traits with a killer soundtrack including Run The Jewels and Danny Brown, around a story that puts these characters on a team-building exercise as they have to journey through the Scottish highlands from one side to the other but, unbeknownst to them, a couple of psycho residents are hunting them the whole time under the guise of “The Duke Of Edinburgh” and “the Queen”. This movie is fun, absolutely hilarious but ultimately pretty predictable.

Howard (Disney+) – Yes, I know Black Is King and Hamilton are probably the biggest things to watch Disney+ for at the moment but a new film-related documentary is quietly landing this week and, as a total nerd for these behind the scenes stories, this one has my full attention. The film is about songwriter Howard Ashman, the man who penned the lyrics for Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast before he died far too young of AIDS at the height of the AIDS crisis in 1991. Featuring interviews with Jeffrey Katzenberg, Alan Menken and more, we get a portrait of an immense talent that provided that backbone for a string of Disney animated hits that rose the studio back into the position of a must-see heavyweight film producer. All of those songs that get stuck in your heart and are passed down to your kids that will do the same are all credited to Ashman and this film is a beautiful tribute to that.

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.