John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum – Definitely one of my most anticipated films to be released this year, both movies leading up to this one have been like a gift from the action film gods, bestowing on us the perfect anti-hero story all birthed from the death of his dog. Now in this culminating (I think) piece, the whole world is after John Wick due to his decisions in the second movie and he has to bring in an old friend, Halle Berry’s character, to make it out alive. This movie is going to burn all action movies to the ground and show them how it’s really done. I can not wait.
The Sun is Also A Star – I’m really on the fence with this one because on the surface it looks like a standard teen romance film, something that has never really found any resonance with me. Looking deeper, the movie is about a girl on the eve of being deported from the United States, the only home she has ever known, who meets a boy that sparks an immediate connection with her. The trailer invokes feelings of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, a burgeoning romance that unfolds over one day and that intrigues me. The added factor that Ry Russo-Young, director of the surprisingly great Before I Fall, is the director behind this film gives it that much more weight. This movie has a lot of potential and seems to be timely in its delivery.
A Dog’s Journey – I’m a bit baffled to why we are getting this sequel as I really don’t think the first movie A Dog’s Purpose or the unconnected canine film A Dog’s Way Home really drummed up enough theatrical interest begging the question why does Sony continue to pump these out? The story of this film is the continuing story of a dog learning about existence and the strength of love through continuous reincarnation, which sounds sweet but only if it wasn’t presented in such a contrived and totally cheesy way. Yes, this will definitely land with the kids but the first one was such a plodding and grating mess of a movie that my bar is set low on this one.
The Biggest Little Farm – This documentary is the start of a really great trend this week, the “feel good” doc because this one is full of good intentions and celebrated outcomes. The film follows the journey of John and Molly Chester, a Los Angeles couple who dream of owning their own sustainable farm, something that seemed like a pipe dream to them. Through a string of circumstances, they decide to put their ideas out into the world and find many financial backers to help get them the land they need, two hundred acres north of the City Of Angels. Now on the farm, a dilapidated space that needs a complete overhaul, the two find themselves in control of the next step. This movie was massively inspirational in a push to follow what drives you and has surprising depths of emotion that seem to bubble up here and there. I found myself enthralled with the Chesters’ story very quickly and was gripped to the end. (Opening in Toronto and Vancouver. Expanding on May 24th across Canada.)
Meeting Gorbachev – Almost the perfect director to take on a one on one look at a former world leader as well as interview him, I’m so happy that this documentary comes from Werner Herzog. Leaving no stone unturned, he takes a deep dive into the life of Mikael Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union and possibly the last decent leader of a country that has been under the fist of Putin for so long that it’s all we know. Deep within this story, we get a fascinating look at just how crazy Russian politics have been since the late seventies as Gorbachev rose through the ranks and also a glimpse of what the general perceptions they had of the western world. I really love the way Herzog tackles his subjects through narration, almost like an alien reasoning with the facts and relating it to you with a thick German accent. (Opening in Toronto and Vancouver. Expanding to Calgary on May 31st.)
JT LeRoy – Before even really paying attention to what the premise was for this film, I was captivated by the two lead stars Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern, although the name JT LeRoy seemed so familiar. It turns out that this soul-wrenching and inspirational writer who turned out to be a total fraud was behind a movie that astounded me years ago, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, the debut of Asia Argento as a filmmaker. Well, this movie is about exactly that, the creation of a false persona to be used in public by the writer behind LeRoy, Laura Albert, and the woman that was used to be “his” body, Savannah Knoop, who wrote the book this movie was based on. And yes, they cover the Argento movie with Diane Kruger playing that character in a possibly detrimental way to the real-life person. I found this film absolutely fascinating and it is a damn fine chemistry of performances from Dern and Stewart. (Opening in Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.)
Ask Dr. Ruth – A beautifully told documentary on the life of a woman that went through incredible hardships to make her journey to the United States to start her life’s work, the story of Doctor Ruth Westheimer is massively inspirational. Dr. Ruth’s work as an educator of the highest level in sexuality and sex has saved millions of lives in bringing knowledge and understanding to an aspect of life that seems so daunting, so confusing and with so much room for misinterpretation. Director Ryan White crafts his documentary by tackling all we know about the iconic doctor with archival footage, her life now at age ninety with a follow along film crew and gorgeous animation to literally illustrate her upbringing and journey to America. This is an astoundingly special documentary of a woman who means so much to modern society. (Opening in Toronto and Vancouver.)
Cold Pursuit – About five years ago Stellan Skarsgard starred in a Norwegian film called In Order Of Disappearance, a revenge flick about a respected local plowman and a grieving father who exacts violent retribution on the crinal organization that was responsible for his son’s death. Liam Neeson got a look at it and seemingly ended his action retirement to remake the film with the original director and I really wish they just left it alone. Were the original came off as darkly funny this movie negates that for a more cartoonish approach, right down to Neeson’s performance. Skarsgard had a real broodiness to his performance and Liam decided to bring his Taken attitude into this film. Just watch the Norweigan film, trust me.
Happy Death Day 2U – The fact this sequel exists kind of infuriates me as I absolutely hated the first movie. In sort of a Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls story, the movie was about Tree, a girl that relives her birthday over and over, the day always ends with her murder at the hands of a figure in a baby mask. The new film returns to that trope but looks to be bigger and badder, roping her friends into the equation and even adding a little sci-fi twinge to it. A Lot of my friends loved this first film and are raving about how much an improvement this film was so maybe I’m missing something and should get a little bit more on board with it. I’ve been known to make some movie mistakes before.
Fighting With My Family – Being an absolutely massive wrestling fan it feels like I had been waiting for this film since last Wrestlemania in April because, well, I have since that’s when we got our first trailer. This is the story of Paige, the youngest women’s champion ever in WWE and the daughter of Nick and Saraya Knight a kickass wrestling family out of the UK. When Paige and her brother Zak are offered tryouts for the top company in the world, WWE, they are put to the test in a make or break competition against the others selected. The best thing about this movie is it’s broad appeal as you don’t even have to be a wrestling fan for this story as it’s comedy lands well, the characters are really well fleshed out and the message is totally inspiring. This is also evidence that stars Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden have incredibly bright futures ahead of them.
Apollo 11 – It feels like a long time coming for a story like this to be told on the biggest possible movie screen, the IMAX, so now receiving it on Blu-ray feels way too minimalist to bring this, save for the sound which will still be amazing. A story fifty years in the making, we get the full-scale story of the Apollo 11 mission with archive accounts from Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin plus it features a plethora of never before seen footage. For an immersive space history experience, this film definitely the ticket but I feel like a home video experience would require the biggest screen possible and, even so, you will still struggle to see any of the time clock moments that appear in text on the screen. This is the issue with IMAX to home release.
Triple Threat – As a martial arts movie fan I am one hundred percent behind this movie sight unseen just based on the cast because you have Ong Bak’s Tony Jaa, The Matrix stuntman and choreographer Tiger Chen and The Raid’s Iwo Kwais, so really, how can you go wrong? The story is about a contract taken out on a billionaire’s daughter who is intent on bringing down a major crime syndicate which brings a team of mercenaries into the fold to take on a group of professional assassins and stop them before they kill their target. The plot for the movie may seem contrived but the endless fight scenes are going to make up for that as well as it’s hard R rating.
Never Grow Old – The top line of this action thriller is what really sold this movie to me straight off because it is a western that stars Emile Hirsh and John Cusack, two really great character actors. The story has Hirsh as an Irish undertaker in a small town who has been profiting for years off the rising death tolls due to a bloodthirsty gang of outlaws led by Cusack’s character. As the dead continue to pile up, the undertaker and his family eventually find themselves between the crosshairs, starting a fight between the two sides that may kill everyone. The great news is that the film has some stellar reviews, many praising Cusack’s chilling performance, and no matter how predictable the film gets, it is a well-told story of violence and redemption.
Backdraft 2 – I can’t believe there is a sequel to what I think is the greatest firefighter movie of all time, and yes, I know that the genre is a pretty small niche. No Kurt Russell starring in this or Ron Howard behind the camera but we do get a returning Billy.. sorry, William Baldwin and Donald Sutherland reprising their roles and instead we have Across The Universe’s Joe Anderson in the lead role. This time the Chicago Fire Department has to contend with a ruthless arms dealer who is using arson to cover his tracks and wreak havoc on the city. Definitely don’t expect this movie to be anywhere near its predecessor in quality but the fun thing about the movie is it is far more violence with a nasty penchant for gore. Sounds watchable to me.
Princess Mononoke – Shout Factory and Studio Ghibli teamed up for this absolutely gorgeous and expansive collector’s edition of what I think is that biggest film in Hayao Miyazaki’s catalogue, released over twenty years ago. The film, set in the late Muromachi period, follows a young prince who is seeking the cure for a deadly curse who finds himself in the middle of a giant war between forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. The conflict also introduces him to San, a young woman who was raised by the wolves, instilled with a hatred for humans but with a week spot for this newly discovered prince. The English dub of the film includes voice work from Billy Crudup, Claire Danes and Gillian Anderson and I have to say that the Ghibli movies are pretty much the only time I will accept the dubbed version over the subtitled. This is an iconic classic and I’m super happy to have it.
Steve’s Blu-ray Geek Out:
The Return Of The Vampire – Some more classic horror in a brand new collector’s edition from Shout Factory, this vampire story features possibly the most iconic horror actor of the time, Bela Lugosi, playing two roles in which he was paid $3,500 for in 1943 for four weeks of work. The story is about the unearthing of a vampire’s coffin during the London Blitz who comes to life when the gravedigger unknowingly removes the stake from its heart unleashing an ancient evil on the city. The movie was a massive hit, grossing half a million dollars and only being made for $75,000. Keep in mind that this was the mid-forties as well. That’s huge.
Blood Hunger: The Films Of Jose Larraz – Let’s get down to the brass tacks of this box set because it is essentially nudie flicks with gore and mystery thrown in and, you know what, there is a whole genre based on this, something Troma Entertainment snapped up. This one is from those wonderful people at Arrow Video and explores a filmmaker we never would have heard about in the mainstream. The collection contains three of his movies, his debut Whirlpool about a porno photographer who terrorizes a girl with the help of his aunt, Vampyres about a lesbian vampire couple abducting tourists on an English countryside and The Coming of Sin, a psychedelic love triangle thriller.
Far From Heaven – This movie came out in the time before I was really paying attention to Todd Haynes but now that I’m clued in on his genius I am very happy to receive this film that earned four Oscar nominations, including best actress for Julianne Moore, best cinematography for Edward Lachmann, best score for Elmer Bernstein and Haynes for best original screenplay. The story is set in the 1950s, about a housewife who is in deep marital crisis with her husband’s sexuality in question and enters a relationship with her black groundskeeper in a time of huge racial tensions. This is a movie that deserves a great collector’s edition and Kino Lorber is really bringing it.
Losin’ It – A long and forgotten Tom Cruise movie before the fixing of his original teeth, this movie is basically about a group of teenagers heading to Tijuana in 1965 with one thing on their mind, losing their virginity. Yes, it’s one of those types of movies but assembled around Cruise are a young Jackie Earle Haley and Shelley Long, which has me so interested in it. This is also an early movie from 8 Mile and Wonder Boys filmmaker Curtis Hanson.
It’s Bruno: Season 1 – A web series that has been making some waves, the first series of this adorable show hits a higher platform with a Netflix pick up. The series follows the daily adventures of Hugo and his little canine companion Bruno as they strut around their neighbourhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn. Always getting attention both good and bad, Hugo catches the eye of a new romantic interest who is drawn to him by his adorable dog, creating a distinctive Brooklyn relationship. I really love that Netflix is giving extended life to smaller stories like this and even though it isn’t getting the same sort of ad push, it will still find an audience.
Maria – A brand new Spanish action thriller, the film is about a former Black Rose cartel assassin who has fallen off the grid by faking her own death, changed her name and started a family far away from her past life. When the cartel learns of her betrayal they send every gun for hire they can leading Maria to defend herself and her family against a raging fire that will destroy everything in its path. I really want this movie to be good because the red band trailer is so entertaining but I’m still reeling from how bad Miss Bala was recently.
Nailed It!: Season 3 – Nicole Byers and Jacques Torres are back to judge again with this cooking show that celebrates terrible cooking by rewarding those who just can’t pull off making something beautiful out of fondant. This makes me incredibly happy as I would probably fail harder than the contestants put on this show and I can quietly observe and judge from the safety of my couch. This season includes everything from half-baked doll cakes to delightfully creepy edible clowns so that sounds like a lot of fun to me.
See You Yesterday – This movie looks totally up my alley and I’m really surprised I’ve never heard of it as it comes from producer Spike Lee and the subject matter seems like a great mash of current societal problems and time travel sci-fi. Confused yet? Well, to break it down, the movie follows a trio of smart teens who make a possible breakthrough in time travel technology but decide to put it to the test when one of their older brothers is killed by the police. It’s like a mix of Clockstoppers and Clockers and I really hope I’m the only one to draw that parallel.
The Rain: Season 2 – I know a lot of people have been looking forward to this second season of the Scandinavian made survival thriller ad it looks like the virus horror angle gets deeper in this teen led saga. The show is a post-apocalyptic story that follows the world after a brutal virus decimates the world’s population and focuses on two siblings try to navigate their new reality. The cliffhanger of season one has massive implications in the future of this show so I won’t get into the plotline of the new season as it is heavily in spoiler territory.