Us – This is definitely one of my most anticipated films of the year as it is writer and director Jordan Peele’s follow up to the amazing, massively popular and Oscar-winning thriller Get Out. The movie is about a black family terrorized by an opposite evil version of them, a family of doppelgangers, and I was hooked from the first trailer I saw. Peele is starting to build himself the moniker of the modern day mast of suspense and thrills like Alfred Hitchcock, which should come in handy with the Vancouver shot reboot of The Twilight Zone. I can not wait for this movie and I expect it’ll have that staying power like his previous film did.
The Hummingbird Project – A couple of years back I checked out a frozen but decidedly damaged love story out of Alaska called Two Lovers and a Bear from Canadian director Kim Nguyen and really enjoyed it. Now he’s back with a very American tale, about a high-frequency trader and his genius but autistic computer programmer cousin who decide to go into business for themselves and get a fibre optic line run from Kansas to Wall Street to get stock information a millisecond before anyone else, all behind the back of their ruthless former employer. This movie is all about performances, with lead star Jesse Eisenberg giving his usual neurotically nuanced delivery and Salma Hayek as their formidable foe. This one has to be handed to Alexander Skarsgard as the MVP, playing the autism spectrum so well and sporting a cul de sac of baldness against his usual beauty, and the supporting work from Michael Mando is fantastic. Really liked this one. (Not opening in Kamloops, Barrie or Oshawa).
Ash Is Purest White – This film is an interesting character piece from China about how love can completely distort an innocent life and deviate a path. The film follows Tao Zhao’s character Qiao a girl who falls for a brutal gangster as he makes his power moves for turf. She must rely on her quick wit which ultimately is the catalyst to her serving prison time for him and toss her deeper into his world. Zhao is absolutely electrifying as you spend the majority of the movie on her back through her strife. It is totally heartbreaking at times. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver this week and Edmonton on April 5th)
Woman At War – I must have some deep love for Iceland, Norway and Sweden or have an incessant need to go there because I keep falling in love with their cinema. This film is a fascinating character piece about a music teacher and choir instructor who is well respected and loved in her community. Her secret is that she is also an environmental activist who goes to great lengths to hobble the local aluminum industry by constantly sabotaging the power to the smelting plant. The film is beautifully shot and the great character work from actress Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir gives us a transparent insight into what makes the “woman at war” tick. Plus they have a great way to show the accompanying music by having the score follow her around in the form of a roving musical troupe. This film takes so many stylistic chances and the audience is better for it every time. (Only opening in Vancouver)
Mary Poppins Returns – Who would have thought that we’d see a sequel to one of the most iconic Disney films of all time and for a new actress to take on one of the most recognizable characters ever but here it is. now to enjoy on your own home theater. The charm is all here as director Rob Marshall has crafted a movie that has exactly the feel of the original, down to atmosphere, sets and set pieces. In all honesty, it may be too close to the 1964 original to forge it’s own identity really but Emily Blunt knocks this performance out of the park, the kids don’t come off as incredibly annoying and Lin Manuel Miranda is totally charming and even rings his own terrible Dick Van Dyke like British accent. And yes, we get a Hamilton rap influenced scene.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse – If you’ve seen any trailers for this movie you know how astoundingly original the animation looks in this one and how comic book really it feels. That said, this is, in my opinion, the greatest Spider-Man film ever made, bringing all the different comic iterations of the web-slinger. How is this possible? Well, it’s something called the Spider-verse, something well established in the comics but maybe a little tough for non-fans to get a grip on. What I can say is that this is the best family film of 2019, one that had everyone coming out of the theater with wide-eyed wonder and excitement and now you can bring it home to watch it over and over again. I know that’s what I’m going to do.
If Beale Street Could Talk – This is the long-anticipated film from Moonlight director Barry Jenkins adapted from the novel by James Baldwin. The story follows Tish Rivers, a twenty-year-old black woman living in 1970s Harlem who must fight to get her wrongly accused fiance out of jail, all while pregnant with their child. The performances in this film are beautiful and understated, the two main leads Stephan James and KiKi Layne putting themselves on the fast track to critical acclaim. The notable performance here is Regina King as Tish’s mother, who makes it a personal crusade to free the father of her grandchild and nabbed that Academy Award she deserved, it’s just too bad that the film itself wasn’t recognized or Barry Jenkins who is a very special filmmaker who deserves to be celebrated. Jenkins shows his knowledgeable command of making pure and driven cinema with the most gorgeous of shot framing. It’s hard to believe that this is just his third feature film.
The Final Wish – I’m pretty disappointed that I just found out about this horror film now because it looks really creepy and it has genre legends Lin Shaye and Tony Todd in it. The movie is about a grieving wife who makes a deadly deal with a djinn to bring back her dead husband. The film also seems like it deals with the family dynamics of emotional abuse, which hangs over the main story of their children who return home for their father’s funeral. In all honesty, the film could be absolute garbage but what it does have is a super effective trailer that shows of what Shaye is fantastic at, providing atmosphere and a total creep factor simply through line delivery.
The Deadly Mantis – This is such a cool one, harkening back to the time when giant movie monsters were king and the film in question is an iconic and classic originator. Coming from 1957, it’s odd how much it plays into the release of Godzilla: King Of Monsters, as the story is about a prehistoric praying mantis that is unthawed in the Arctic and then proceeds to devour everything in its path. Shout Factory again shows their love for the material by including full-length commentary from film historians plus the episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 it was used in.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:
Back Beat – As a big Beatles fan I’m really excited to receive this new installment in the Shout Select series as it is the story of the early years in Hamburg, Germany for the Fab Four. More importantly, the film deals with founding member Stuart Sutcliffe, the original bass player, played by Stephen Dorff. The movie was directed by Hackers filmmaker Iain Softley and was a damn good one in my opinion. The Blu-Ray features include interviews and a full commentary with the director as well as Dorff and co-star Ian Hart. This movie was damn near impossible to find a trailer for.
Dracula’s Fiancee and Lost In New York – Kino Lorber has hooked me up with this weird Eurohorror double feature from French director Jean Rollin, known for his surreal low budget horror and fantasy films. The first film is about a Van Helsing like professor who is tracking down the descendants of Dracula through different dimensional worlds. Yeah, this shit is bananas. Following that is a strange little short film that is described as Alice In Wonderland set against the backdrop of a Manhattan wasteland. Intriguing enough for you? This Redemption release line for Kino Lorber is massively interesting for any fans of messed up cinema. I couldn’t find a single trailer for either of these movies so I can’t even show you the weirdness.
Dehli Crime: Season 1 – Adding to the sweet international television side of the catalog, this series is a partially english language series from India based on a true story. It’s about the investigation of a brutal gang rape, a case that would incense the country and pave the way for the introduction of stricter laws so the victim’s voice would be taken into account.
ReMastered: The Miami Showband Massacre – This month’s episode of Netflix’s fantastic music conspiracy docuseries lands today, again providing a deeper look at stories within the music industry that mainstream media may have brushed off. This episode is about three members of the Miami Showband who were killed in Northern Ireland in 1975 by Irish Nationalists which might be linked back to the government. That’s what I love about this series, the swerves it sends you on.
The Death Of Stalin – Following the Soviet dictator’s last days and depicting the chaos of the regime after his death, this film comes from the mind of Veep creator Armando Iannucci. Unfortunately, the allegations against star Jeffrey Tambor tainted this brilliant film’s release but those who saw it absolutely loved it so I’m really excited to see this film land on Netflix now. For a great base of reference for Iannucci’s theatrical work, I suggest pairing this up with a viewing of In The Loop, which features the late James Gandolfini and the creator’s mainstay Peter Capaldi who unfortunately doesn’t appear in this one.
The Dirt – I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for this great book to be adapted into a movie or series and new here it is, the insane story of hair metal band Motley Crue. I’m not the biggest fan of the band but their story is crazy and I have enough knowledge of them from being a music fan as well as having read the book to know that this could be a stellar music biopic. The cast is pretty interesting too, with Machine Gun Kelly as Tommy Lee, Iwan Rheon (Ramsey Bolton in Game Of Thrones) as Mick Mars, Douglas Booth (Jupiter Ascending) as Nikki Sixx and Aussie actor Daniel Webber as Vince Neil.
Kubo And The Two Strings – If you still haven’t had the opportunity to check out one of the most incredible experiences in animation ever made (high bar, I know) Netflix is absolutely hooking you up with a beautifully told story with rich texture and so much emotion. I fell in love with this movie immediately during my press screening of it in 2016 and couldn’t wait to get the word out. Unfortunately, and like most Laika films sadly, the film underperformed as the studio has yet to produce a massive box office blockbuster. Still, this movie is must-see material.