Stuber – I feel like that who have enjoyed the Guardians Of The Galaxy or Infinity War know that Dave Bautista has some great comedy chops so, on the outside, this looks like an immediate win by pairing him with the hilarious Kumail Nanjani known for his role on Silicon Valley and the brilliant comedy The Big Sick, one that he wrote as well. The story has him as Stu an Uber driver who picks up what he assumes to be a normal customer. Unfortunately, the guy he picks up is Vic a reckless detective looking to make a dent in some crime. This looks like a home run to me and it’s also directed by Michael Dowse who Canadians know from his two FUBAR movies. (Not opening in Hamilton)
Crawl – Judging this movie by its basic plot line and poster, this movie would look like your standard survival thriller fare we our main characters battling the elements to predictable results. I’m happy to report that this movie is directed by Hills Have Eyes and Horns director Alejandre Aja so this movie will probably go anywhere but the beaten path. The film has Maze Runner and Pirates Of The Caribbean star Kaya Scodelerio as a woman attempting to rescue her father after a category five hurricane from a sinking house and to make matters worse they are being hunted by a group of alligators. The bonus to having such a cool director in a story like this is that Aja will definitely ramp up the gore as that is something he has consistently brought to all of his movies. This could be really fun.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco – The debut feature film from writer and director Joe Talbot, this movie absolutely stunned me with its message and beautiful cinematography. The story is about a young black man on a quest to find where he belongs in the everchanging city of San Francisco. Fueled by a deep love for his hometown and looking to get out of his best friend’s parents house, he takes an almost squatter’s method of taking over a beautiful house, one that was built by his own grandfather. This film immediately establishes Talbot as a director to look out for but also the performances of Jimmie Fails (who also co-wrote the movie) and Jonathan Majors cannot be ignored because they are heartfelt and emotional. I love this movie and see it sitting at the top of my best of 2019 at the end of the year. (Only opening in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver)
Unplanned – This movie was released a while back in the states, months ago to be accurate, and given its subject matter the timing of the film is both horrifying and fascinating. The movie is a pandering faith-based film with nothing more than an agenda to be brainlessly consumed by their base. The plot follows a woman who becomes one of the youngest Planned Parenthood directors in the US. After she is asked to assist in an abortion at thirteen weeks she instead resigns, becoming a pro-life activist. I’m usually against banning films or boycotting it as I feel its pretty limiting in the art field but this is a movie that I hope earns no box office numbers whatsoever. No movie should be used as a political weapon or one that confused people with fiction disguised as fact. This honestly makes me mad. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops, Barrie or Oshawa)
Ray & Liz – Welsh writer and director Richard Billingham digs deep into his own past for his debut film and the audience is better off or worse off for it depending on how you look at it. This film is the unflinching story of two brothers upbringing by their horribly neglectful parents in a dingy flat in the outskirts of Birmingham. Through few separate stories, we get a first-hand account of the brutal relationship between the two sons, striving to keep each other safe with a tinge of sibling rivalry, and their greedy and drunken parents, all divided by the subplot of an old recluse who lives upstairs, constantly tanked on homebrew. Birmingham never allows even a second of sentimentality in this film and I’m glad he didn’t because absolutely none of it would ring true. This is a downer story but the upside is that the experience led to the making of this movie. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Pet Sematary – One of the staple Stephen King novels gets its turn at the remake treatment and the advance word was that it was actually terrifying. The movie is the story of a family that moves to rural Maine and discover an old burial ground in the woods behind their house that’s soil can reanimate the dead. I was always a fan of the original and, of course, the book so I was salivating for this movie and it managed to grip me in the first moments of the film but then I felt the grip start to loosen, Aside from sequence of very cool gore effects, even with my knowledge of where the story was going to go, the film feels very paint by numbers for anyone who isn’t initiated into what’s going to happen all leading to an ending that really just feels like the equivalent of a shoulder shrug. Maybe I put too much into my expectations but this film doesn’t come through with any of the prementioned hype.
After – What can I say, teen romances and my viewing experiences are sometimes like oil and water, it just doesn’t mix. Every now and then though, something can breakthrough with enough originality behind it to change my mind. So, let’s look at this one, about a young woman who falls for the dark new stranger that crosses her path, which deviates her direction from marrying her high school sweetheart and living her pre-planned life. Yeah, there’s not enough originality to hold me here, an adaptation from a novel that seems to put a lot of these stories out.
Little – Look, when I originally saw the trailer for this movie I totally made the connection that this was the reverse of the Tom Hanks film Big but it really looked like hot garbage. The film stars the massively popular star of Insecure Issa Rae and Regina Hall about a ruthless executive who is transformed into her younger self, played by Blackish’s Marsai Martin, to teach her a lesson about her attitude and how she treats people. A strange thing happened when I watched this movie as I felt myself laughing and enjoying it. Yes, there is some terrible movie tropes that it can’t seem to avoid but the chemistry between Rae and Martin is phenomenal and I absolutely adore the former’s comedic timing. Issa Rae is destined to be a star for a long time I think.
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.
This Island Earth – Getting some real classic sci-fi this week from Shout Factory, a movie that was rushed, underfunded and reshot into cult move history as the film is pretty popular among b-movie 50s fans. The story is as simple as can be, aliens arrive on earth to ask scientists pertinent information to help win their galactic war. Being that it was made in 1955 you could probably guess where this plot is heading as audiences were far easier to dupe than the jaded viewers of today but just seeing the classic troupes in their rawest state is so fascinating to see and it really set the groundwork of all the fantasy and popular science fiction we have today.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:
Ferrante Fever – I received this documentary from a little studio called Greenwich Entertainment and, although it had a short theatrical run at the beginning of March that I don’t think played in Canada, I had never heard of it. The film focuses on Elena Ferrante, an Italian writer under a fake name who wrote a four-part coming of age story collected as the Neapolitan Novels. First published in 2012, these books caused a literary craze that roped in readers from around the world, including big celebrity endorsements from Hillary Clinton, Gomorrah author Roberto Saviano and one of the great American novelists Jonathan Franzen, all of who appear as interview subjects for this movie. Book lovers should be all over this movie.
The Andromeda Strain – Michael Crichton is a novelist that I followed with rabid fascination as I was just starting my love for reading. Of course, I credit Stephen King for getting me started but I would deviate to the Jurrasic Park writer as a bit of a heady break from the Master of Horror’s carnage and Andromeda Strain was among the first I read. Now Arrow Video gives a brand new blu-ray edition for the adaptation made in 1971, a film about the discovery of an alien virus and the frantic actions to keep it contained. Famed director Robert Wise created a movie with such ramping and slow-burn intensity that some movies of today could really learn from it. Arrow has made a beauty release here with restored sound and picture plus commentary and a really great making of featurette as well as a little doc on Crichton himself.
Trapped Alive – One thing these new releases from Arrow does for me is introduce me to films I may not have gotten to see in my younger years and bring them to the forefront. This is definitely true of this horror film from 1988, the story of a band of survivors including a sheriff’s deputy, some escaped prisoners and two young girls who find themselves trapped in a mine shaft underground, prey for some cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers. Yes, C.H.U.D. for anyone that gets the reference! The story is simple and, although the movie was made in 1988 and didn’t see release until 1993, this movie is fun in a schlocky Troma fan sort of way. The features are full of interviews and behind the scenes with writer and director Leszek Burzynski as well as cast and crew to give insight to why this classic has been hidden for so long.
Woody Guthrie: All-Star Tribute Concert 1970 – The origins of mainstream folk music has been something a little lost on me but one name I do know is Woody Guthrie and his influence on a lot of the artists I grew up listening to and his lasting effect to this day with bands like Mumford and Sons and even Kings Of Leon. Guthrie set the framework. Narrated by Peter Fonda, this documentary takes a look at the concert organized in 1970 to showcase the talent of the legend who had passed away three years prior. The one night only concert featured his son Arlo, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, The Band and more and was used to raise money and awareness for Huntington’s disease, which took Woody’s life. The special features include rehearsal footage that has never been seen previously.
The Loudest Voice (Showtime) – Just looking at the trailer and glimpsing Russell Crowe in full makeup and fat suit to play now fallen media mogul and monster Roger Ailes is an incredible accomplishment because we know without a doubt that the actor in the role won’t distract us from the story, just like Adam MacKay and Christian Bale did in Vice. The true story of this is something we all know about a little, this seven part series takes a deep look at Ailes, the founder of Fox News, more to the point, focusing on the past decade in which Ailes arguably became the Republican Party’s not so hidden spokesperson and the sexual harassment accusations that brought his career to a crashing and deserved end. Featuring Sienna Miller as Beth Ailes, Naomi Watts as Gretchen Carlson and character actor Simon McBurney as Rupert Murdoch, you know this is going to be can’t miss television.
Years And Years (HBO) – A brand new co-production between HBO and BBC, this series was created by the mind behind Queer As Folk as well as most of the modern day Doctor Who, Russell T. Davies which means it has me as a viewer hook, line and sinker. It stars Emma Thompson as Vivienne Rook, an outspoken celebrity businesswoman turned political figure whose controversial opinions divide the nation but, beyond that, its also about a Manchester-based family who acts as the microcosm of results and consequences of Rook’s political moves, told over a fifteen year period. The scope of this show is huge but to show it in the little arc of one middle-class family is fascinating.
Point Blank (Netflix) – If you are looking for that action movie fix then Netflix is bringing you some gold nuggets with the dropping of this new film starring Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo. Directed by Mayhem and Everly director Joe Lynch, this film has a desperate man on a mission to save his pregnant wife from gang members and crooked cops. Looking for the best help possible, he breaks an injured thug out of the hospital to form an alliance to take everyone down. The geek in me, which is a large portion, gets really excited about the collaboration of Mackie and Grillo because, if you think about it, this is a good guy and bad guy team up between the Falcon and Crossbones from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Taco Chronicles (Netflix) – I’m not a foodie by any means. Don’t get me wrong, I do love to eat and enjoy the hell out of a great meal but it’s not an obsession. On the other hand, if you put Mexican cuisine in front of me my eyes light up like fireworks because that is my number one and the fact that Netflix has a new docuseries about tacos, well, I’m in love. Yes, we’re going through everything taco related in this show. Talking about its history, significance in Mexico, global appeal and varieties like pastor, carnitas, canasta, asada, barbacoa and guisados, oh man, I’m starving just thinking about it let alone typing it out.
Shangri-La (Showtime) – A fascinating new music docuseries, this will appeal to any music fan because it is focusing on one of the greats, producer Rick Rubin. Told in four parts, it makes a creative conversation delving into the emotional side of music-making using Rubin’s iconic Malibu, CA studio as the backdrop and his history as a legendary music producer and the Def Jam Records co-founder. I’ve always been really interested in the moves Rubin has made, his music philosophy and his drive to keep creating, collaborating with artists that break the mould of the conventional on a regular. Kind of like The Defiant Ones on HBO, this will hold that audience in its palm.