Toy Story 4 – When it was announced that a new Toy Story was being written, slated for release nine years after the third movie came out, I was a bit skeptical. I personally felt like Toy Story 3 wrapped everything up quite nicely in a beautifully made film but the early reviews for this new adventure are hugely favorable. With the toys now with a new owner named Bonnie, gifted to her by Andy at the end of the last movie, they head on a road trip with a new created pal named Forky who ends up getting lost. This leads Buzz and Woody to go and bring him back to the family and I feel like everyone needs to have tissues handy for this movie.
Child’s Play – I really don’t know how to feel about this remake or reboot as I really enjoyed the direction that this Don Mancini created series was going with the comedy horror angle. Chucky, for me, is one of those iconic horror staples, especially with the voice of Brad Dourif but I’m willing to give this movie a shot, and not just because it was all shot in Vancouver. The “Buddi” doll in this new film is computer programmable, a gift that a mother (Aubrey Plaza) gives her son that gets possessed by an evil entity with the voice of Mark Hamill. That latter part is another reason I’m giving this movie a chance. (Not opening in Hamilton)
Anna – French action director Luc Besson is back with another woman led ass kicker movie. The film stars Sasha Luss, a relatively unknown actress who featured in Besson’s last movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets in a predominantly CGI role, but she looks totally badass in the trailer. She plays the title character, a beautiful and deadly assassin and really that’s all I know about it and with this great action director, well, that’s all you need to know. The rest of the cast is solid too with Helen Mirren, Luke Evans and Cillian Murphy. If you’re looking for more brainless stuff and can’t do horror, this is your ticket. (Not opening in Kamloops or Oshawa)
Us – This is definitely one of my favorite films of the year, right now sitting at number one, 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 and definitely deeper once I saw the opening scene. Peele is starting to build himself the moniker of the modern day mast of suspense and thrills like Alfred Hitchcock, which came in handy with the Vancouver shot reboot of The Twilight Zone. This is the high bar of this year to hurdle over to win my affections and now with the movie on demand and on Blu-ray, I can’t wait to hear people’s takes on its themes.
Wonder Park – Paramount really hoped that this film took 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 the standard fare we are used to from Dreamworks and Pixar. Unfortunately the movie never really had any box office steam and I think parents kind of ignored this film as the trailer is pretty bland.
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. A very different experience, I assure you.
Under The Silver Lake – I have been waiting for this movie to debut ever since it screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival this past year because it is the second film from It Follows director David Robert Mitchell. Doing more of a noir mystery film this time, Andrew Garfield stars as an intelligent loner who becomes infatuated with a woman he sees swimming in the pool at his apartment complex. When she disappears he sets off on an investigation to her whereabouts across the weirdest and more dangerous parts of Los Angeles. The movie seems to be hitting the middle of the road as far as reviews go but its oddness is something that keeps coming up which makes me all that more intrigued. I love the weird stuff.
Run The Race – I now I’m the master of my own destiny but in the want to be fully inclusive of reviewing everything I threw in this blu-ray that Universal sent me and oh boy did I regret it. A faith-based film from producer Tim Tebow, this movie is about football, God and daddy issues, following two athlete brothers, one who has been sidelined due to seizures and the other who is the star quarterback. Right away, the pandering, wooden acting and melodramatic glossiness of the film turned me off and it got considerably worse as the film progressed. Is there a way that producers and filmmakers can make a movie that doesn’t feel like a religious commercial? I am literally begging for a writer and filmmaker to prove me wrong with something that doesn’t feel like it came off the recruitment assembly line because watching these movies is increasingly frustrating. Hail Satan in closing.
Crypto – I hadn’t heard of this financial crime thriller until I saw the new release list but the cast is really interesting, featuring supporting roles from Alexis Bledel, her husband Vincent Kartheiser, Jill Hennessy, Westworld’s Luke Hemsworth and Kurt Russell. The movie follows a young Wall Street banker who is drawn into investigating a tangled web of corruption and fraud in Upstate New York and investigating this movie is a bit perplexing as Richard Roeper seemed to really like it but it doesn’t look like anyone else does. Might be a warning sign.
Modest Heroes – More anime from Shout Factory found it’s way into my mailbox with this new film but this one is a little different as it is an anthology of three original shorts written and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (When Marnie Was There), Yoshiyuki Momose (visual effects on Princess Mononoke) and Akihiko Yamashita (assistant director on Tales from Earthsea). The movie takes full advantage of the short form animation and really delves into some emotional filmmaking, fleshing out a promising future for the latter two new feature anime directors. It exhibits the range of Studio Ponoc but also has a bit of a Twilight Zone flare to it as well, almost like an homage. I’m still a little out of the loop on the anime genre but films like this get me closer and closer to being a fan.
Universal Horror Collection: Volume 1 – This boxset got a little delayed as there may have been some sort of rights battle as it was supposed to be called the Bela Lugosi/Boris Karloff Collection but we finally have it, the four movie collector’s edition that has The Black Cat, The Raven, The Invisible Ray and Black Friday. Lately, with all these cool classic horror films being sent to me, I’ve been able to take a deeper look at the genre’s origins and it’s through the great special features that Shout Factory supplies such as the ones for this boxset like 2K scans of the original film elements, commentaries with film historians and so many featurettes. This is a treasure trove of Edgar Allan Poe and two of the greatest legends to bring horror to the masses.
Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo – This is one of two new releases I received from Kino Lorber Classics that are very different films for me to cover, a blu-ray issuing of some of what they call the “American Theater Films”. This one is a biopic about Galileo Galilei, the seventeenth century Italian who laid the foundations of modern science made himself one of the world’s first telescopes and discovered the moons of Jupiter. This version features a cameo by Sir John Gielgud, all filmed in a day, and the director of the movie Joseph Losey had also directed the original Broadway production of “Galileo”, twenty-eight years previously. Also, a nerd moment, Michael Gough appears in this movie in a major role and he would go on to be Alfred in the first four Batman movies.
Lost In The Stars – Continuing on the “American Theater Films” release path, this film is a musical based on the novel Cry, the Beloved Country starring Brock Peters from To Kill A Mockingbird. He plays Stephen Kumalo, a black South African minister desperately searching through back alleys and the dilapidated bungalows of Johannesburg for his son, Absalom. This is the only film in the American Film Theater series to get a G rating from the MPAA although the subject matter feels a bit tough for a general audience in my opinion.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:
An Innocent Man – Remember when Tom Selleck was a leading star that could topline a theatrically released movie? Kino Lorber remembers and has put out this blu-ray edition of the crime thriller from 1989 co-starring the brilliant Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham. Selleck plays a man framed for drug possession by a pair of dirty cops and exacts his revenge after being released from prison in this movie from Bullitt and Breaking Away director Peter Yates. Fun fact about the behind the scenes on this film, actor M.C. Gainey, who audiences may know from Con Air and Django Unchained, was high on cocaine during his audition for the role of Malcolm and still got the role maybe because of his highness.
Unstrung Heroes – Another Kino Lorber Classic, I remember this movie when it was released back in 1995 because it was noted that Seinfeld star Michael Richards was doing a more dramatic role right during the heyday of his hit series. This movie is the feature directorial debut of Oscar winner Diane Keaton and follows a young boy named Steven Lidz who is unhappy with his home life since his mother (Andie MacDowell) got sick and goes and lives with his two crazy Uncles (Richards and John Turturro). There he changes, gets closer to his Uncles and starts to grow into the man he will become but his parents want him home even though he is finally happy and popular. This is a beautiful but ultimately forgotten coming of age film that deserves more eyes on it.
Superstition – Shout Factory has issued this brand new special edition of this creepy witchcraft horror film that features absolutely no one anyone would know. The story is about a witch who is put to death in 1692 but swears vengeance on her persecutors and returns to the present day to punish their descendants. The movie is directed by James W. Roberson, someone more known as a cinematographer for television, and achieved cult status in the United Kingdom though it went by a different name, The Witch. The film was also listed on Greater Manchester Police’s list of films subject to seizure during the UK video nasty scare of the 1980’s, which was just an insanely weird time for horror films.
Dark: Season 2 (Netflix) – Coming from Germany, the first season of this supernatural based show was released just after the second season of Stranger Things, giving those fans something to tide them over for the long wait for the third season. The story is a family saga set in a German town where the disappearance of two young children exposes the relationships among four families. This is the first German series produced by Netflix and although it is a bit of a slow burn, the payoffs are fantastic and the character development is solid. This is some seriously creepy television that will get some love from the genre fans.
Riviera: Season 2 (Sundance Now) – Available through the Roku, this drama stars Julia Stiles and Lena Olin and comes from master filmmaker Neil Jordan who just astounded me with his new movie Greta. The story is about a woman who discovers her family’s lifestyle has been funded by murder her husband is killed in a yacht explosion, tearing her life apart, and seeks to protect herself and her grieving family. The show is a bit soaked in melodrama but Jordan’s knack for intrigue and thrills keeps you engaged for the whole series.
Yellowstone: Season 2 (Paramount) – If you are a big western fan then you need no more information about this series other than it stars Kevin Costner. For those who need a deeper reason to get immersed in this just know that the show was created by Taylor Sheridan, the mind behind Sicario, Hell Or High Water and Wind River, all incredible films. The show is about a ranching family in Montana who faces off against others looking to encroach on their land, including land developers, an Indian reservation, and representatives of America’s first National Park. The show has a lot of middling reviews but, let’s be fair, so does a lot of Costner’s work.
The Lavander Scare (PBS) – It’s really rare that we get something so interesting on the public broadcast network but this is an interesting one as it combines documentary with some high calibre reenactments through voiceover that includes the cast of Zachary Quinto, Cynthia Nixon, T.R. Knight and narrated by Glenn Close. The film is about some tragic history from when the U.S. was deeply embroiled in the Cold War and President Eisenhower deemed homosexuals to be “security risks” and ordered the immediate firing of any government employee discovered to be gay or lesbian. It triggered a vicious witch hunt that lasted for forty years and ruined thousands of lives but ultimately triggered what would become the modern LGBT rights movement.
Drunk History: Season 6 (Comedy Network) – If you have yet to catch a single episode of this madness from creator Derek Waters, the gist of the premise is that he gets a comedian pal sloppy drunk and then asks them to tell a story from somewhere in history then, to sweeten the pot for us viewers, he gets a cast of famous actors and comedians to reenact the story to hilarious results. I have loved every episode I’ve seen, all available on Crave, and have already been enjoying this new season which includes appearances by Seth Rogen as Victor Frankenstein, Chris Parnell as Carl Sagan and Thomas Lennon as William Randolph Hearst, just to name a few.