Wonder Park – Paramount is really hoping that this film takes off, about an amusement park that comes from the imagination of a wildly creative girl named June but, as she discovers, something she created as a child has become real in the forest near her house when she becomes a preteen. The voice cast features Jennifer Garner, Keenan Thompson, Mila Kunis, Ken Jeong, Matthew Broderick and John Oliver but looks like the lower than standard fare we are used to from Dreamworks and Pixar. It may be a surprise hit given the ad campaign push but the trailer is pretty bland.
Five Feet Apart – It feels like I heard about this one a long while back and it’s just making its debut now. Riverdale star Dylan Sprouse and Support The Girls’ Haley Lu Richardson, a favorite of mine, lead this film about two terminally ill teens who fall in love after meeting at the hospital. Give Richarson’s involvement in the film I am immediately drawn to this but it could go down the same path we saw in Josh Green’s adaptation of the popular young adult novel The Fault In Our Stars, a film I was a bit late to find but enjoyed a lot.
Captive State – This movie looks absolutely fascinating and I have to say ts due to smart marketing with its trailers not giving a lot of exposition and doing almost what Cloverfield did with an alien invasion angle. The film takes place in Chicago ten years after it has been infiltrated and taken over by an extraterrestrial force. Now subservient to their new overlords, the film explores the human dynamics of everyday life, politics and the formation of a resistance. This is definitely my type of movie through in through and I’m really excited about what Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes filmmaker Rupert Wyatt is bringing in this sci-fi mystery. The cast including Vera Farmiga, John Goodman Moonlight’s Ashton Sanders and If Beale Street Could Talk’s Kiki Layne is just icing on the cake. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops and Oshawa)
Gloria Bell – This is sure to be a great film just based on the track record of Chilean director Sebastian Lelio alone. Winner of last year’s best foreign Oscar for his amazing film A Fantastic Woman and also the man behind the acclaimed drama The Club, it’s really cool to see him continue his rise in the mainstream with his latest, a remake of one of his own. The film follows Julianne Moore as a woman seeking love in the clubs of Los Angeles in her 50s and co-stars the great John Turturro, so that’s two tried and true actor’s actors. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver. Opening in additional cities next week.)
Birds Of Passage – In 2015 I raved about an Academy Award-nominated film from Columbia called Embrace Of The Serpent, a black and white movie about two scientists looking for a life-saving plant deep within the Amazon. Made by filmmaker Ciro Guerra, I was so excited to get my hands on his next film, a collaboration with Cristina Gallego, the producer of Serpent. The story follows a decade in an indigenous Columbian families lives as they traffic cannabis for the Medellin cartel on their way to creating their own little empire and the decline into blood and death on the other side of that mountain. This is a well told and brutal story that may go down as one of my favorite movies this year. Guerra is a powerhouse filmmaker and one that filmgoers should start recognizing. (Only playing in Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.)
Level 16 – We get some Canadian filmmaking in the releases this week with Manitoban writer and director Danishka Esterhazy’s sci-fi thriller that would fit nicely next to a few episodes of and Canadian’s work, The Handmaid’s Tale. The story is about a girl’s orphanage of sorts, one where the girls are tested on their cleanliness and virtue as the rise up the floors, which translate to viability levels, in hope of adopting a home. Being on a strict regiment of “vitamins”, the two main characters decided to go rogue and unmedicated and end up discovering the sinister truth to their situation. This film actually hits some great heights in its intriguing nature but I feel the bar was kind of set too high when it comes to the returns in plot reveals but the starkness of the production really works with the atmosphere it projects. (Only opening in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Opens in Winnipeg on March 29th.)
The Quietude – I am usually a huge celebrator of French cinema. Just last week I was praising Gaspar Noe’s Climax and am always excited when one of these films crosses into my pathway. This was no exception, a drama starring Edgar Ramirez in a supporting role but, more importantly, led by The Artist’s Oscar-nominated Bérénice Bejo. The film follows two sisters who had always been close until family drama separated them. Now reunited after a tragedy befalls their father, the women reconnect their emotional bond which brings up all their past problems to the surface. Unfortunately, I really felt disconnected from this movie and the heightened nature of the melodrama was a bit too much. There’s also a very uncomfortable mutual masturbation scene with the sisters that was way too inappropriate seeming for me to cheer on. Yeah, I said it. (Only opening in Vancouver.)
Green Book – A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South. Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali netted his second Supporting Actor statue in this film that also took the Best Picture Oscar which I was a bit surprised by. The film is extremely well done and deserving of the nomination at least but I do see the problematic issues with the film, being a white made film about racism and the whole “white savior” complex of the story. It’s also a bit alarming that both families of the real characters say this film is nothing but lies but I really enjoy the film on the chemistry between Mortensen and Ali alone and Linda Cardellini, playing Viggo’s wife, is the unsung hero of the movie.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – The second installment of the “Fantastic Beasts” series set in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World has arrived on Blu-ray, featuring the adventures of magizoologist Newt Scamander. This is the one everyone has been looking forward to including myself but I didn’t get to see the film in theaters and, honestly, the reviews were a bit tepid when all was said and done. Even still, I enjoyed the first movie more than most of the Potter movies that came before it as I love seeing all the backstory, dealings and politics that led up to the “modern” era of Hogwarts and the world of magic.
Mortal Engines – Peter Jackson steps on board to produce this epic film, one that the trailer almost acts as he directed. The film is about a dystopian future where humanity has mobilized their cities by mounting them on to giant wheeled vehicles to keep them moving at all times. The idea is totally inventive and absolutely intriguing but everything I’ve seen about this movie makes it look like a giant mess to me. To much uncanny CGI, making the actors look awkward against it, but I really want to believe in Peter Jackson’s control on this even though The Hobbit trilogy was a bit of a mess itself.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post – It’s really interesting that this film came out in the same year as Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased because this film deals with the real injustice of gay “reprogramming” camps as well. Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, the story follows Cameron Post, a gay teen who force her into gay conversion therapy against her will. The movie was made by writer/director Desiree Akhavan who made the great film Appropriate Behavior five years ago and it’s being highly praised for it’s wit, compassion to the characters and high spirit. The inclusion of breakthrough American Honey star Sasha Lane and 10 Cloverfield Lane’s John Gallagher Jr. has me very intrigued and the certified Rotten Tomatoes rating is another draw as well.
Then Came You – A new comedy with a bunch of actors on the upswing of popularity, this movie may be one that flies under the radar of good films due to great work from Ender’s Game’s Asa Butterfield, Maisie Williams from Game Of Thrones and the leader of The Vampire Diaries Nina Dobrev. The movie sounds pretty original on paper, about a hypochondriac who falls in love with a terminally ill girl looking to complete her bucket list. It’s fluffy and weepy but it may just have enough in the tank to surprise you.
Man’s Best Friend – This is a movie that I have vivid memories of this film when it came out over twenty-five years ago, the trailer, the ridiculous premise, Lance Henrickson and the scene where the dogs swallows a cat in a single gulp, although when I think of it is a horror film which apparently it only is secondarily. The story about a genetically engineered Saint Bernard that goes rogue and kills everything in its path is actually a comedy. You can judge for yourself with the new Shout Factory collector’s edition complete with a commentary track with writer and director John Lafia to explain this madness.
The Craft – If you were at any part of your teen years in 1996 then you know how popular this film was when it came out and you know it started so many amateur witch covens. Robin Tunney, Neve Campbell, Fairuza Balk and Rachel True star in this movie about four outcasts who form a pact that becomes dangerous, deadly and still a pretty solid and entertaining watch. Shout Factory brings this sweet collector’s edition packed with extras, I was so excited to receive this one. It’s quintessential nineties.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:
Valentine – I don’t know if you’ve figured it out in this running article but I’m a huge fan of cheesy slasher films from any era and the late nineties and early 2000s were so crammed full of these movies. This one came from Urban Legend director Jamie Blanks and had David Boreanaz, which was during the Buffy/Angel days so I was a fan, but also Denise Richards and Katherine Heigl so you’ll have to get past that. The movie is basically about the lonely kid at school who didn’t receive a Valentine so he became a cold-blooded killer. You know, that whole bag. Shout Factory again out does themselves on this one, just Google the gorgeous cover.
The Fifth Cord – Getting hooked up with Arrow Academy and Arrow video has afforded me the very cool ability to check out classics that I otherwise wouldn’t have on my radar. My latest one is an Italian Giallo film about an alcoholic journalist who finds himself wrongfully accused of the murders he is trying to investigate. This is the definition of classic Italian film as it stars Franco Nero, Django himself, a man that just oozes star power and he exhibits that in a huge form in this film. I am admittedly very unversed with a lot of films pre 1975 but this one surprised me and I really enjoyed it.
Arrested Development: Season 5 B – This is one of my favorite comedy shows of all time, a series its own network seemed to hate, cancelling it three separate times. Well, Netflix seems to have the correct amount of love for it and revived it. I will admit that season four was a bit rough but I really did enjoy it on a rewatch when the “remix” was released, a very nifty little addition to the series thanks to what an incredible platform this streaming service is. Because of this, my hopes will always be heightened.
Love, Death & Robots: Season 1 – This has got me hook, line and sinker as I’m a sucker for a good anthology. Simply put this is eighteen animated short films written and directed by Deadpool’s Tim Miller and executive produced by the great David Fincher. The trailer is frenetic, in your face and totally pulse-pounding, it has me so pumped up for the launch on Friday. This is definitely the binge-worthy gem you’ve been waiting for, stoners!
Paskal – This delves into the international action side of the new content, as this film comes from Malaysia and looks very intriguing. The film follows a group of special forces elite unit within the Royal Malaysian Navy called PASKAL or Pasukan Khas Laut. The story depicts a true mission they were sent on under Lieutenant Commander Arman Anwar to rescue a tanker occupied by Somalian pirates, kind of like the tactical team that showed up to save Captain Phillips. This could be a great one.
Turn Up Charlie: Season 1 – I’ve been looking forward to this series ever since Idris Elba signed his Netflix deal. He plays a DJ named Charlie who has struggled to find any success in the industry. To make some extra cash he reluctantly decides to be the babysitter for his rich friend but with one simple catch, the kid is an absolute nightmare. I’m a huge fan of Idris’s work and I’m really interested to see him take on some lighter fare in a comedic show. I think this may be the best one as far as new original series goe this week.
Triple Frontier – A Most Violent Year director J.C. Chandor and the Academy Award-winning writer of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty team up to create this new action thriller featuring the killer cast of Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal. The film is about a team of special forces who, disillusioned with the low pay scale they got from their country, decide to take their payment by orchestrating a heist against the criminals they were once paid to take down. The trailer for this one is intense, can’t wait to see it.