The Possession of Hannah Grace – How about kicking off the Christmas month with some frightening possession horror? The story is interesting, with the corpse of a girl being brought into the morgue after an apparent exorcism. Later that night the evil inside her reanimates the body, terrorizing the main character, a morgue attendant. This is definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but as a horror fan, the trailer has me hook line and sinker.
At Eternity’s Gate – Willem Dafoe plays Vincent Van Gogh. That leading sentence should get any film fan into a theatre seat. Adding to that, this is the latest film from Julian Schnabel, the director of The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, my favorite French film possibly of all time. This film follows the period of time that the famously tortured artist lived in Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise, France, his relationship with his brother Theo and his colleague Paul Gauguin, played by the great Oscar Isaac. We also get Van Gogh looking for solace with a priest played by Mads Mikkelsen. Yeah, this one is stacked, the reviews are great and I find myself asking once again “why hasn’t Dafoe won an Oscar yet?” (Opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Tiger – With the success of the Rocky movies and now the Creed spinoffs, boxing films should be a game anyone can get into, right? Well, filmmaker Alister Grierson wanted to give it a go with this true story inspired film about a Sikh man with aggression issues who sparks the interest of an ageing former boxer suffering from Parkinson’s. Fighting against the boxing commision to keep his religious practices intact and still compete, the film has a strong message with terrible execution. Where this story could set itself apart, it just becomes lackluster, badly acted and completely formulaic by the end. The main star draw in this film is Mickey Rourke, playing the main character’s trainer, but something happened to Mickey and he looks terrible and has no heart in his performance. This is an absolute dud. (Opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Clara – This film is billed as a science fiction but it feels like more of a film about scientific discovery. Suits star Patrick J. Adams plays an astronomer obsessed with finding the next inhabitable planet, a drive that destroyed his marriage and personal life leaving him a reclusive cynic. When he hires the free-spirited Clara as his research assistant, his life is opened up more to the possibility of not just life on another planet but the one he currently inhabits. This movie caught me very off guard and by the time the emotional finale hit I was more than won over by the driving character nature of the story. Canadian writer and director Akash Sherman made a real winner here. (Not opening in Kamloops, Barrie or Oshawa)
Elliot The Littlest Reindeer – Of course with the holiday season now in full swing we get a rush of Christmas animated films ad this one is Canada’s entry. Usual documentarian Jennifer Westcott wrote and directed this film that pushes away any limits of the Santa Claus mythos to forge something new as a miniature horse competes in a sort of Olympiad to secure himself on Santa’s reindeer team. This is where I feel that the big Hollywood and the international studio made animated films have made it hard for the little guy to get traction as this movie feels second best in every way and is kind of a slog to get through. The kids may certainly enjoy it but the adults will be missing the opportunity to start scrolling through anything on their phones to avoid it. (Not opening in Hamilton, London, Kamloops or Oshawa)
Dead In A Week (Or Your Money Back) – If you know me, you know I enjoy a good British film, especially a dark comedy and this little unknown fit that niche in every way. The story follows two characters, one is a hitman played by Tom Wilkinson that is nearing an unwanted retirement but makes his living killing those who want to be killed and the other is his final client, a man who just doesn’t see the point in life and wants to be rid of it. The result is a pretty hilarious little dark comedy with some snappy writing and a movie-stealing performance from Christopher Eccleston. The reviews are less than fantastic but I really dug it. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Prosecuting Evil – This documentary was fascinating, a one on one interview with Ben Ferencz, the last surviving member of the Nuremberg prosecuting team and the man who spearheaded the creation of the International Criminal court, a crusade that encompassed his entire career. With the hatred raising its ugly head more prominently in the world these days, a look at what we believed to be a win against pure evil after World War II starts to look more and more minute as we fast approach something possibly worse. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Searching – This movie is getting so much great attention as it takes the elements of telling a mystery story through the interface of a computer screen and isn’t trying to make an Unfriended type ghost story. John Cho plays a father who is looking to find his teenage daughter who has gone missing. Through the help of a detective played by Debra Messing, he begins to find that his daughter may be a complete stranger to him, involved in things that are more sinister than he could ever know. This movie is like one of those horrifying cautionary tales to parents and will stick in your brain for a long time afterwards.
The Little Stranger – Room director Lenny Abrahamson returns with this old school feeling ghostly horror film that will play to fans of period films or those who are looking for a bit of Downton Abbey with their haunted mansion films. Reteaming with his Frank star Domnhall Gleeson, Abrahamson crafts a film about a doctor who is sent to a mansion that has seen better days but is a place that has a sort of family history for him. Once there, he starts to experience things that were thought to be just in the heads of the estate’s inhabitants. The film has divided critics a bit but those in for something more cerebral will enjoy this one.
Blue Iguana – I really want to like this one as it’s a crime comedy with Oscar winner Sam Rockwell and the hilarious Ben Schwartz as two ex-cons employed to go to London to steal back a priceless diamond from some hapless thieves. The trailer looks fun but I’ve been duped by Rockwell toplining a movie like this before which reminds me to tell you not to watch Mr. Right. I do have to give this movie props for its tagline “Mullets. Bullets. And One Gem of a Heist.” That’s just a great selling point.
Sharp Objects – Seriously, does anyone do episodic series better than HBO. Here’s a shining example, as this Amy Adams limited series comes from the mind of Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn and Big Little Lies director Jean-Marc Vallee. The eight episodes are about a reporter who returns to her hometown and the bad memories harboured there. Coincidentally, a brutal killer has also called the small town their home as well, the reason for her trepidatious return. This show checks all my Twin Peaks-like boxes and also features the amazing and Canadian Patricia Clarkson in a pivotal role as well as the breakout star of It, Sophia Lillis, playing the younger version of Amy Adams character.
1983 – I keep going on about Netflix’s wide scope of international series that they have been acquiring and again this week I have another one with this Polish made one. The show takes place in Poland 2003, twenty years after a terrorist bombing that altered it’s history and put the country in a police state with the Iron Curtain still standing. The trailer looks very solid for this one and I’m intrigued by the sort of Elseworlds conspiracy thriller concept of it.
F is for Family: Season 3 – Bill Burr returns with his animated series inspired by his own stand-up comedy act. The show takes place in the 70s and has Burr voicing the Archie Bunker of the family, Frank Murphy, a guy that checks the boxes in every way on that character. This season has Frank forming a new friendship with a fighter pilot voiced by Vince Vaughn. This one took a few episodes to catch on with me but I like it.
The World Is Yours – More international Netflix viewing for the week, this time coming from France, and it looks like a fun crime comedy about a small-time criminal with big league aspirations. Adding the French cinema heavyweights of Vincent Cassel and Isabelle Adjani to the mix has me adding this to my queue immediately and the reviews are really great for it too.
Time Share – We go to Mexico for this paranoid little thriller about two men who bring their families to a tropical resort that goes from luxurious to a nightmare as they begin to suspect that the charismatic American in charge of their timeshare may be trying to steal their family. This movie looks dark and stylish with a comedic edge, something I know will have a satisfying payoff.
Passengers – What could go wrong with the team up of the two biggest box-office names? Apparently, a lot as this Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt science fiction film was an absolute bomb in all the critic’s eyes but the question is was it really that bad? You get a chance to reaffirm your thoughts with it and be surprised at the fact that this is what Morten Tyldum wanted to follow The Imitation Game with.