Dumbo – Disney continues their big 2019 with the first of their three live-action updates of classic films from their animation library. This movie, being based on the original film from 1941, may only hold in the hearts of kids who are deeply immersed in the whole catalogue contained the iconic vault but for us adults in the know, we are aware of the importance of this adaptation. My reservations lie in the director choice of Tim Burton who I think hasn’t made a truly great film since maybe Sweeney Todd. Maybe the reunion between him and stars Michael Keaton and Danny Devito will lead to great things because the trailers show a film that I really want to like. Fingers are crossed on this one.
The Beach Bum – Oddball writer and director Harmonie Korine returns to follow up the fantastic Spring Breakers with a Matthew McConaughey character piece and I am definitely here for it. The movie is about Moondog, an ageing stoner who spends his existence rolling around South Florida in a stupor, getting every drop of partying he possibly can. Look, I’m perfectly aware that not everyone is going to dig this movie and you can just look at Korine past films fro the barometer of if you’ll hate this movie as the man wrote Kids, made Gummo and Mister Lonely, two stories that are destined to trigger a disgusted or angry reaction. The gist of this is to just be wary of checking this one out. (Not opening in Hamilton or Oshawa)
Hotel Mumbai – Dev Patel stars in this true story film about the terrorist attack on the Taj Hotel in Mumbai focusing on the hotel staff that put their lives on the line to save others. Armie Hammer co-stars in this movie from first time writer and director Anthony Maras, relying heavily on the real transcripts from that horrifying day and the reviews are trending in a good direction. I think it’s fascinating that Patel stars in this AND the Best and Second Marigold Hotel movies. Very different experience, I assure you. (Not opening in Kamloops, Barrie or Oshawa)
The Mustang – I’ve enjoyed actor Matthias Schoenaerts work since I first saw him in Left Bank and since he did The Drop I think he’s made a stride into the North American cinema landscape and this film looks like it could further his leading man push. He plays Roman, a violent inmate who tries to find a path out of his rage through participating in an outdoor maintenance program training wild horses. Both Schoenaerts and co-star Bruce Dern are being praised for the film but, being that it’s only the end of March, will likely be an afterthought come awards season. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver).
The Aftermath – After her great performance in last year’s Colette, Keira Knightley follows it up with this post World War II drama that looks deeply complex. She plays the wife of a British Colonel who moves to Hamburg, Germany, a country suffering from the post effects of the brutal war. They seize a home from a German family who they keep on as hired help but when her husband leaves on military business her relationship with the widowed patriarch of the family turns romantic. Co-starring Jason Clarke and Alexander Skarsgard, this film looks to be driven by great performances but the trailer shows off the films lush cinematography as well. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver).
Giant Little Ones – Coming from a Canadian production, I was really setting the low bar on this teen drama but after taking it in I don’t think I should have. The movie is about Frankie and his lifelong best friend Ballas who’s relationship is splintered when a homosexual experience happens at a sleepover with the two. Without getting too deep in the spoiler territory, I need to stress how great the performances are in the film, starting with the lead Josh Wiggins who gives Frankie an interesting exploring charisma that grows with the viewer. I also loved the performances of Maria Bello as his mother and Kyle MacLachlan as his ostracized father, really great stuff. I also believe that Taylor Hickson is going to be a huge star as she is fantastic in this movie. (Only opening in Vancouver).
Through Black Spruce – If you are a fan of Canadian films and have yet to discover the works of the brilliant writer and director DonMcKellar then you need to get educated right quick because he will blow your mind. He’s back with this brand new thriller centred around the missing daughter of a young indigenous woman from Northern Ontario and the effect it has on her twin, father and mother. The trailer looks intense, almost like this film is a revenge flick in hiding. The reviews are fantastic and this movie killed on the festival market. We certainly need more indigenous stories so I really hope this movie catches on in a big way. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops, Barrie or Oshawa)
Ghost Town Anthology – Canadian films can some times be a total slog to get through but there is something about French-Canadian movies that have a certain quality to them that sets it apart from the rest, probably the fact that it doesn’t adhere to any genre fully. This film is a multi-faceted story about a small Quebec town coming to terms with the death of a popular resident named Simon Dubé, which plunges the rest of the citizens into some existential crises over the circumstances of his death as well as releasing the remnants of the dead to roam the area. This movie is quirky and has odd moments of suspense horror to it but never quite classifies itself in either area which may have been why I enjoyed it as I did. Definitely not a movie with mainstream appeal. (Only opening in Vancouver).
Aquaman – We have gotten to the point that we sigh and roll our eyes when it comes to any announcement of a DC universe film, no matter how much we can say that Wonder Woman was a solid piece of it. Now with this movie, we have to battle that popular opinion along with the long-standing stigma that Aquaman is a lame superhero. As a fan of the character, I’m really happy to see that the film is changing a lot of opinions of the King Of Atlantis because, for one, Jason Momoa is super charming and, for two, the movie is actually pretty great. it’s fun, load and oozes a bravado that is really hard not to get behind. I’m fully supportive of this movie and hope it’s the trajectory of the DC Cinematic Universe going forward.
Second Act – I really hope that Jennifer Lopez still has some sort of a built-in audience because I doubt anyone new is going to be seeking out her movies. This movie has her playing a woman in management at a Walmart like store who is looking to make that big leap to corporate but is ignored due to the fact that she doesn’t have the required schooling. On a whim, her friend’s son invents a fake resume for her that gets her hired to the top product development firm in the city. On paper, this movie seems lame and it really is. There is so much plot deviation in this film that you forget what the entire premise is and Lopez is so disingenuous that it’s hard to root for her as a character. I also don’t think Leah Remini, who plays her friend, has ever been so unlikeable, quipping terrible lines and basically mugging for the camera. This film is a hot turd.
Stan & Ollie – This is an example of a film that it seems everyone else loved and I’m wondering if I missed something. Starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly, this is a biopic about the legendary comedy duo of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy but instead of focusing on the origins, we join these two in the middle of their careers with the strain of having to keep up physically and mentally had started to form cracks in their resolve. The main piece of this film is the resilience of the relationship as friends, collaborators and, most of all, business partners. Being about comedy you might think that this would be a comedy itself but it really is far from it. Instead, director Jon S. Baird makes this a character drama, one that rests heavily on the shoulders of its stars and those being portrayed which unfortunately makes the film a tad bland, making its final resting spot in the unforgettable pile. That aside, the cinematography is just as big of a star as the two leads, done by Ben Wheatley’s usual director of photography Laurie Rose.
MFKZ – It’s weird that this is the first I’m hearing about this new animated film but just looking at the trailer and it reminds me a little bit of the BET series The Boondocks. The movie was made by the animation studio behind Batman: Gotham Knight and Tekkonkinkreet and is about Angelino, one of the “deadbeats” living in Dark Meat City, a place where everyone ignores each other’s own existence until a scooter accident caused by a mysterious stranger awakens him to the reality of a monstrous invasion that has made the world the way it is. Featuring the voices of rappers Vince Staples and the RZA as well as Michael Chiklis, Giancarlo Esposito and Danny Trejo, this movie looks like a totally tripped out ride and I think it could be very cool.
Capernaum – Nominated for an Oscar just recently, this drama from Lebanon is a heartbreaking journey through the eyes of a child. The film follows Zain, a young boy who is suing his parents for the simple act of being born. Going through the backstory his mother and father cheat and steal using his help to make a living and when they sell his sister into marriage Zain decides that is the final straw causing him to run away. He finds a young Ethiopian mother who is forced to hide her infant son and decides to stay and help. This movie shook me, a real look into the class struggle, racial divide and poverty in the third world. It will haunt you.
The Body Snatcher – More classic horror gold from Shout Factory as this brand new collector’s edition update features the both the iconic Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in a film about a ruthless doctor and his student who find themselves continually harassed by the supplier of the illegal cadavers they procure who may or may not be his murder victims. Again killing it with special features, Shout provides a 4K scan of the original camera negative, a new featurette about the restoration of the almost seventy-five-year-old movie and a film historian led commentary track with director Robert Wise.
The Street Fighter Collection – Shout Factory is spoiling us this week and I know Clarence Worley would be super excited for this box set too because we get every film in this classic Sonny Chiba martial arts film series. The set includes uncut versions of The Street Fighter and The Return Of The Street Fighter, as well as both the U.S. and Japanese cuts of The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge and, has interviews with the now eighty-year-old star. This collection is just a gold mine to a classic action film fan like myself and I know a bunch of people who will be picking this up.
Pet Sematary – Just ahead of the remake, which opens April and is getting stellar reviews, we get the thirtieth-anniversary edition of this classic Stephen King adaptation from Mary Harron who also directed the sequel as well. I loved this movie so much and always remember the iconic Fred Gwynne played character Jud Crandell with the line “Sometimes dead is better”. The new Blu-Ray edition has a new retrospective featurette with the cast and crew and a full interview with the director but the important thing is a brand new digital transfer of a horror film that was criminally underrated.
Bad Banks: Season 1 – Kino Lorber hooked me up with this new German television series and I was really excited to discover right away is that it stars my favorite German actress right now Paula Beer. She plays Jana, a woman embedded in the ruthless world of finance and a firsthand victim of it when her boss fires her unceremoniously. but lands a new job for a rival company. This was all orchestrated by her former employer in order to use Jana to gain inside knowledge about her competition. The pilot of the series has some great twists and turns and really looks like it could be a neat six episode Wall Street like thriller.
Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – This is another case of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” from a company that usually has more faith in their programming. Digging into the Nicholodeon kid’s shows, I was looking forward to this new Ninja Turtles cartoon but I wasn’t impressed by the initial character designs and when I got to watch the pilot episode, well, the finished animation product might be worse. Honestly, the whole thing is basically held together on the charisma of the voice cast that includes Ben Schwartz, John Cena and the Big Head from Silicon Valley. If you want to see something better just go back to the 2012 version which is actually fantastic.
The Clovehitch Killer – Shout Factory sent this film through IFC Films a little late but I was definitely interested in checking it out. It follows Tyler, played by All The Money In The World’s Charlie Plummer, who is a Boy Scout, a volunteer at his local church and an active part of the community through his father (Dylan McDermott), a popular figure in the neighborhood. When a serial killer starts picking people off, Tyler fascination with it leads him on an investigation that starts to point at his own father. This movie excels with its tension and most notably the performances between Plummer and McDermott. It’s also great to see 90s favorite Samantha Mathis in this as the mother in the family.
Welcome To Mercy – There has been some solid buzz around this horror film from IFC Films although, with no one of note starring in it and a director making just his second feature, this movie doesn’t have any real push behind it. The story is a dark and twisted one about a single mother discovering that she is being possessed, starting with the phenomenon of stigmata. As the reactions deepen, she enlists the help of a local nun and priest to perform some sort of an exorcism. This movie is definitely one that pays off for fans of a slow burn but some may become frustrated by the subtleness the plot is driven with. I enjoyed it but it’s not for everyone.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:
My Name Is Julia Ross – Reaching all the way back to 1945, this noir crime drama follows the titular character, a woman who is placed in the employment of a wealthy widow where she is to be a live-in caretaker. Two days later she awakes in a different house in new clothes being addressed by a different name and, beyond that, she is supposedly the daughter-in-law of her new employer. Has she really suffered a nervous breakdown or is she falling victim to a sinister mind game? At only an hour long, this movie is a quick jaunt of intriguing mystery in a time where everything was a bit simpler. Gotta love Arrow Films for these little gems. Fun fact, this movie was later remade in 1987 as “Dead of Winter” starring Mary Steenbergen and Roddy McDowell, directed by Bonnie And Clyde’s Arthur Penn.
So Dark The Night – The crime drama noir doesn’t stop there as Arrow Films also released this film, a story of a renowned Paris detective who takes his first vacation in eleven years at a remote countryside inn. He falls for the hotel owner’s daughter, a woman that has already promised her hand in marriage to another but reciprocates his feeling and when both she and her former fiance go missing he must rely on his talents to solve their disappearance. Playing a rural French mystery, a forgotten genre, this release is a little bit longer in runtime than the last but maybe a deeper dig given the subtitles.
McQueen – The tragic story of fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen, this is a documentary of a powerful creative life that was cut way too short. I’ve taken in fashion documentaries before which don’t really engage me at all but the beauty of this film had me absolutely fascinated and wishing I had seen it on a screen at least bigger than my laptop. The work McQueen was creating was on an astonishing level of artistry that becomes the measuring point of what’s to follow.
Osmosis: Season 1 – This is a weird little Netflix produced series from France and the only way to classify it is to call it a sci-fi mystery thriller with a romance base. Confused? Well, the trailer depicts a Parisian future that has a tech company using their technology to solve people’s love lives by pairing them us with implants put into their bodies but the liberties taken with this body control may be deadly. It looks tripped out but it may just be all in the trailer.
Santa Clarita Diet: Season 3 – The massive hit zombie comedy debuts its third season and I am so happy that this Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant show has grabbed a huge audience because I adore both of them. This season has Sheila (Barrymore) searching for meaning in her newfound, zombified life while her husband finds himself investigating a local secret society. I honestly can not wait to check these new episodes out and I expect a fourth season renewal pretty quickly.
The Highwaymen – Based on the top billing of this Netflix original movie I’m sold with Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson. The storyline is even better, the untold story of two out of retirement Texas Rangers who put away the notorious criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. The film was directed by John Lee Hancock, following up The Founder which is a great movie but the last two entries in the writer’s filmography are The Shack and the Crouching Dragon sequel. Not good.
The Legend of Cocaine Island – A new Netflix documentary the delves into the too crazy to be true side of stories with this one about a normal American guy who dug up several million dollars’ worth of cocaine buried beneath the sands of Culebra, a small island settled about 17 miles off the shore of mainland Puerto Rico based on a outlandish rumor he heard. What resulted was the weirdest Scarface wannabe story that you will ever come across. This film did really well on the festival circuit, then titled White Tide: The Legend of Culebra, and now it gets it’s wide release to audiences.