Breakthrough (Opened Wednesday) – It’s been a rough ride for any of the many faith-based films that have been released in the last decade as it seems like the producers for these movies only value getting their message out instead of a well put together story with good acting. Hopefully, this film can break out of that slump with This Is Us star Chrissy Metz leading this film about a mother who uses all the faith she can muster after her son is put in a coma after drowning in a frozen lake and being resuscitated. Honestly, the trailer doesn’t give me a lot of hope for it but surprising things happen when the bar is set low so who knows. (Not opening in Kamloops or Oshawa).
Penguins (Opened Wednesday) – The track record for these Disneynature movies we have been getting every year is pretty damn solid so when I saw that this film was slated for this week my interest was raised. The story of this documentary is Steve, an Adelie penguin on the search for his life mate to create a family, something totally relatable, right? What is guaranteed is that this film will look stunning, especially on the big screen and the attention to story detail even immersed in the reality of nature is always mindblowing in these movies. The partnership between Disney and National Geographic is such a fantastic combo for the audiences who love these types of movies. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops or Oshawa).
The Curse of La Llorona – From the same producers behind the Conjuring universe, James Wan and company, we get a new ghostly horror film but not one connected to that franchise I mentioned. The story, set in 1970s Los Angeles, follows a social worker who finds her and her family under attack from a malevolent spirit who had previously terrorized one of the clients in her caseload to their demise. I like that the film stars Linda Cardellini but I’m unsure if she is enough to elevate a movie that looks pretty cookie cutter by its trailer and the reviews I am seeing seems to confirm my feelings. (Not opening in Hamilton).
High Life – This is a film I have been massively excited to check out because it pairs acclaimed French filmmaker Claire Denis, responsible for the incredible piece of cinema Beau Trevail, and one of my favorite character actors right now Robert Pattinson. The story is a futuristic one, following a father and his daughter living in the isolation of deep space and from everything I am reading it is mesmerizing in its scope and has a chasm of complexity to it. I love the style of Denis with her slow method and am really intrigued by her stepping into a genre like science fiction. This could be a great one for all the cinephiles out there. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver).
Teen Spirit – Elle Fanning continues to make fantastic moves, this time taking the lead in actor Max Minghella’s directorial debut, a film he also wrote. She plays Violet, a shy small-town teen who has a single passion, singing. Pushed by a mentor of sorts, she enters a local singing competition which gives her the fuel to put it all one the line. The movie features a really great soundtrack of pop songs and is a really inventive spin of the Cinderella story at its core. Fanning’s voice is really great too, just another talent in an already stacked repertoire. (Not opening in Hamilton, London, Kamloops, Barrie or Oshawa).
The Grizzlies – This movie cuts to the quick very early on with its main and heartbreakingly true core. The young indigenous teens that live in the small towns in the Arctic are dying rapidly by their own hands as suicide rates are spiralling out of control. This movie is seen through the eyes of an idealistic but naive young teacher who believes he can change the trajectory of this by getting the kids into lacrosse. I feel like this movie can be looked on as troubling due to the very “white saviour” approach that it takes but the irony of that still lies within. As much as he believes he can truly give these kids something to live for, the reality is that you can’t save everyone and no bandaid can fix that. I think this is exactly why this film feels so effective and leaves you in silence when the credits hit. Powerful stuff. (Not opening in Hamilton, London, Kamloops, Barrie or Oshawa).
Breaking Habits – Heading into the Good Friday/Easter weekend, this documentary feels doubly ingrained into the festivities as it is also Cannabis Day weekend as well. This is the story of the town of Merced, California, home to a commune of activist nuns who run a cannabis farm. A place that grows natural medicines for everything from epilepsy to cancer, the nuns find themselves constantly under siege from the local sheriff, the authorities as well as nearby cartels. This is such a fascinating film to come out now when the battle over the validity of cannabis as a healing plant is almost constant and the stigma of its drug purposes still linger and clouds the minds of those staunchly against it. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver).
Glass – A lot of people like to say that M. Night Shymalan’s days as a great filmmaker are over and, while I will concede that he made three of the worst movies I have ever watched, he has some really great things in his rearview mirror including a solid two previous films. His most recent film Split tied into my favorite of his movies Unbreakable which brings us to the culmination of his superhero trilogy here. The unfortunate thing is this film got some absolutely dismal reviews which had me very concerned but I cherish like a deep guilty pleasure. Not everyone is going to like this movie, it may feel like a huge build to little return but what I loved about it was the character face-off between all three of these characters and, oh man, James McAvoy is doing performance gymnastics in this, the main reason that it is can’t miss.
Replicas – Sci-fi with Keanu Reeves? I’m sold. Will it be good? Actually, it might be cool as it comes from Jeffery Nachmenoff who’s only other directed film is the fantastic thriller Traitor starring Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce. This is a futuristic film about a scientist who learns a costly lesson when he becomes obsessed with bringing his family back after a deadly accident. The story for the film was developed by Reeves himself, alongside his frequent collaborator Stephen Hamel who he also made Henry’s Crime, Siberia and the upcoming Rally Car. This may be just that popcorn fluff science fiction to start your year.
The Kid Who Would Be King – Joe Cornish is a name that people need to know and if this film gets the audience push I think it deserves people will know the name soon. As a director, he has just one other film under his belt, Attack The Block, an amazing sci-fi action mixed with a British urban sort of Gremlins type story but as a writer, he has made films with Edgar Wright, Steven Spielberg and set the groundwork for Marvel’s Ant-Man. Now he looks to revive the King Arthur story in modern days with kids at the center. Adding to that we get Patrick Stewart playing Merlin that rocks Led Zeppelin t-shirts and a villainous Rebecca Ferguson trying to take over the world. Cornish again exhibits his brilliant command of story and style and this movie works fantastically well, an entertaining resurrection and retelling of a classic tale. This is a great film to gather the family around for a Friday viewing. Highly recommended.
Escape At Dannemora – An interesting true story directed by Ben Stiller and featuring a stellar cast including Paul Dano, Benicio del Toro and the Golden Globe-winning Patricia Arquette, this is the prison drama I had no idea I needed in my life until I was about fifteen minutes into episode one. Arquette plays a prison work release program supervisor who gets romantically involved with two of the inmates which prompts her to help them in a daring escape from maximum security. This show is moody with great performances but I find some of the musical choices in it a bit jarring. This is consistent in the first few episodes and really is my only bone of contention I can think of.
Iguana With The Tongue Of Fire – Arrow Video is continuing its collection of fascinating films that we’ve never heard of in North America with this Italian giallo movie set in Ireland, the only one to do so. The story follows the murder of a young woman, discovered in her home brutally slain and disfigured with acid posthumously. This leads a retired investigator to use his past experiences in trauma to profile this serial killer before his kill numbers raise any higher. Released in 1971 and disowned by its producer, this movie and Dario Argento’s The Bird With The Crystal Plumage were the movies that led to the genres quick popularity.
Melo – Got some real genre stuff this week from Arrow Academy with this romantic drama from 1986 about a concert violinist who falls in love with a dancer who happens to be the wife of an old friend from his past. Upon discovering his feeling for her, she fuels the forbidden romance while her husband falls more and more ill, something she may be responsible for. This movie has a lot of plot going for it and comes from director Alain Resnais, a renowned filmmaker in France who did acclaimed films like My American Uncle and Hiroshima Mon Amour. This movie also landed the prestigious Cesar Awards for best actress and best supporting actor, an award show that is very important to European film.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:
The Vengeance Of She – My first Shout Factory geek out this week, they hooked me up with this campy fantasy film from 1968 about a young European girl who is mysteriously taken over by the spirit of the queen of Kuma, a lost and fabled city. This is a Hammer Film that was a loosely based follow up to the 1965 movie She, although after a late rewrite all real connections between the two movies were removed and the original lead, Ursula Andress, turned down the opportunity to return.
Willard – One of the oddities of Hollywood, Crispin Glover, graced us with one of his really weird roles about a decade and a half ago, this film, a remake of the classic creepy 1971 horror flick Ben. Directed by the guy who also made the Black Christmas remake, this is actually a really decent remake with Glover pulling gymnastics in his performance complete with more campy schlock than your mind has room for. I’m really happy that Joaquin Phoenix and Macaulay Culkin turned down the lead role because this movie will always stick in my mind and it’s all because of the lead. This movie also features the song “Ben” by Michael Jackson, one that was written specifically for the 1971 films sequel, Ben. Weird.
Kolobos – A strange little horror movie that turns twenty this year and I’ve never heard of it, the film stars former WWE Diva Amy Weber as a girl who just landed her dream job, a three-month gig in an experimental anthology film. Sequestered in a mountain resort with her other castmates, her dark secrets begin to come out around the same time strange and dangerous happenings start to take over their secluded location. This movie has weirdness, style and lots of blood, making it a possible cult classic that no one knew about. Movies like this are why I love being hooked up with Arrow Video.
Cuckoo: Season 5 – This series is an odd one, commissioned by the BBC and starring Andy Samberg before he was unable to return to film the show due to a massive slate of projects and was replaced by Taylor Lautner, which is bizarre casting in my opinion. The show is about a British family who must welcome their new son in law from hell, played by Samberg/Lautner, an American “free spirit”. I really liked the first season but haven’t seen Lautner’s take on the character.
Samantha!: Season 2 – An international comedy out of Brazil, this series follows a former child star looking to reinvent her image after it becomes public knowledge that she was an absolute nightmare in her big break on television, a show she cancelled herself in spectacular fashion. The show looks like it plays into some comedy sensibilities that are very inclusive to Brazilians but the trailer had me laughing a few times. With her weird hairbrained schemes to try and repair the years of damage she’s given her star power, lead actress Emanuelle Araújo is actually pretty adorable.
Someone Great – On paper, this isn’t a movie that I would normally seek out. It focuses on a New York woman who is dumped just before making a cross country move. Relying on her two best friends to pick up the pieces and put her back together, she is able to come to terms with love, loss, growth and appreciate the everlasting bond of female friendship. Barf, am I right? Well, its the cast that makes this one stand out, as it is led by Jane The Virgin’s Gina Rodriguez and features Brittany Snow, Rosario Dawson and the great LaKeith Stansfield, all from writer and director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson who made the really solid MTV series Sweet Vicious. I’m kind of sold on this one.
No Good Nick: Season 1 – A brand new series that is one of those rare family binge shows, this one is about a young teen who moves in with a family who allows her into their home after she claims to be a distant relative. As the relationship develops, the kids in the family have very different opinions on their new housemate and start to dig for secrets. The show immediately caught my attention through the cast, as Sean Astin plays the dad in the family and Warehouse 13’s Eddie McClintock stars in a supporting role as the main’s incarcerated father. That fact that TGIF veteran Melissa Jan Hart is in the series as the mom is an added bonus.
What They Had – A film listed on my honorable mentions of 2018, this movie is a drama with a little life comedy to it. Hilary Swank plays an uptight woman who goes home to Chicago after her dementia-suffering mother (Blythe Danner) starts to decline further, putting a strain on her father (Robert Forster). Given that she has the power of attorney, her exasperated brother (Michael Shannon), the one who stayed behind to hold the family together, tries to convince her to use her position to have her mother and father put in a home. The acting is so incredible in this film and first-time writer-director Elizabeth Chomko crafts an endearing and wholly relatable story that I think is a must see.