The Lion King – The continued push of re-imagining Disney animated classics continue with this new version of my favorite film in the catalogue. You could argue that this is an animated film as well, which it kind of is, but from what I hear the effects on this movie are an absolute gamechanger. Everyone knows the story of the Lion King so I won’t go over that again but the cast is where the draw is for me, including Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyonce, Seth Rogen, John Oliver and Billy Eichner, this film is stacked. I’m putting a lot of faith into director Jon Favreau to get this one right as I wasn’t a huge fan of his adaptation of The Jungle Book.
The Farewell – Actress and comedian Awkwafina moves from the supporting role to the main role in this new comedy-drama that is getting a lot of attention. The story is about a Chinese family who discovers their grandmother has only a short while left to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding to gather the extended family together before she dies. This movie is trending so well, earning a 100% certified on Rotten Tomatoes, and maybe one of those “can’t miss” indie films out of nowhere. Interestingly enough, this film is only the second outing from writer and director Lulu Wang who is already set for her next movie a science fiction movie “Children of the New World.” Put her name on the filmmakers to keep an eye on. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
The Art Of Self Defense – Filmmaker Riley Stearns follows up his incredible debut film from 2014, Faults, with this dark comedy about a socially awkward accountant named Casey who finds himself looking for answers after being brutally beaten during a mugging. He believes the next step in his life is martial arts, taught by the enigmatic “Sensei” who takes a special interest in him. This movie is absolutely wild, unpredictable in its story and containing reveals that will have you laughing hysterically and gasping in surprise. This is possibly my favorite movie this year and I had the privilege of interviewing Stearns for my podcast that will debut Friday evening. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Marianne & Leonard: Words Of Love – I’ve been waiting patiently for a documentary to come out about the late and great Canadian singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen so leave it to the year 2019, the time where music and film have come together to make some beautiful babies, to give us another stellar movie in this vein. This film is an in-depth look at the relationship between Cohen and his Norwegian muse Marianne Ihlen, made by accomplished filmmaker Nick Broomfield, who made the recent Whitney Houston documentary as well as Battle For Haditha, an intense Iraq War movie. (Only opening in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver)
Peterloo – Acclaimed director Mike Leigh brings this historical and very British story to the big screen about the events that led the British army to attack and kill peaceful protesters at a pro-democracy rally in 1819 Manchester, known as the Peterloo Massacre. The only recognizable star is modern James Bond stalwart Rory Kinnear in a film that focuses on the anger of the lower class citizens who are constantly belittled and thrown in prison by the officials who are supposed to be charged with providing for the society, prompting a need for change. The only thing is it comes across as so dull and boring that it is hard to even care about the story. The dialogue is so stuff and pompous that at times it comes off even comically and at two and a half hours long the bloat of the whole production seems completely unnecessary. It could have been trimmed by an hour and no one would notice. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Shazam! – The DC Universe looks to continue on their upswing with a movie that I knew would be totally satisfying. The story follows an orphan named Billy Batson who is entrusted with the powers of the wizard Shazam. What does this mean? Well, once the word “Shazam” is said he turns into a grown-up superhero. Warner trusted this to be in the hands of horror filmmaker David Sandberg who saw success with the films Lights Out and Annabelle Creation and with star Zachary Levi in the driver’s seat, the movie is a real treat full of charm, fantastic action and great line delivery. There may be a few things that will be a little scary for the younger viewers but at the end of the movie, I was totally stoked on Billy Batson and his family and am excited to see more with these characters. There’s also a third act reveal that I almost stood up in theaters and cheered for.
Breakthrough – 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. Well, the streak continues 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 film is totally laughable throughout, the only bright spot being the inclusion of supporting actor Topher Grace but even he can’t make any of this movie compelling. This movie feels like it makes a mockery of medical science and gives more weight to the notion that some religious followers are just nuts.
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.
Fast Color – I’m kind of disappointed that there was absolutely no advertising push on this as it looks freaking awesome. The movie stars Gugu M’Batha Raw as a woman who is forced to go on the run when she is discovered to have superhuman abilities. The world-building that writer and director Julia Hart does in just her second feature film is absolutely astounding. This may be a film that is centred around a woman with extraordinary powers but this is a far more grounded story than you will be expecting with the emphasis being on character building and exposition more than anything. This is a cinephiles must-see.
The Big Bad Fox And Other Tales – I got this odd little collection of animation from those great people at Shout Factory and this one is pretty interesting. Made in France, this is a fable that looks to dispell the myth of a calm countryside. In it we find an insane group of animals like a Fox that thinks it’s a chicken, a Rabbit that acts like a stork, and a Duck who wants to replace Santa Claus. This film may be filled with enough craziness to delight your child and dupe them into watching a sort of French art film because, let’s face it, it kind of is.
Space: 1999: The Complete Series – As a sci-fi fan through and through I really have to admit that, although I know of this show I Have never seen it but I do know that it has a huge fan following so I was very happy that Shout Factory sent it to me for review. To give a quick once over of the official plot, the show follows the crew of Moonbase Alpha who must struggle to survive when a massive explosion throws the Moon from orbit into deep space. Sounds cool, right? Well, the series stars the late and infinitely great Martin Landau as Commander John Koenig and special effects supervisor Brian Johnson became a hot commodity afterwards, being asked to work on Star Wars in 1977 and Alien in 1979. Nerds are also going to want to pay attention to the cast list who play villains in this show, it’s amazing.
Peter Pan – This is a first for me in my collection as I believe this is the first silent film I have ever gotten and it’s of an age-old classic, the J.M. Barrie story that I’m sure we’ve all been exposed to at some point. Released in 1924, this is the simplest version of the story, Peter Pan enters the nursery of the Darling children and, with the help of fairy dust, leads them off to Never Never Land, where they meet the nefarious Captain Hook. We all know it, we all love it, but to see it in the original context is a window into a time we only can read about in books or see pictures of. This was also a big first, the first time that Tinkerbell was played by an actress as opposed to simply a spotlight on the stage which Julie Roberts and Disney have a lot to thank for. Heck, Disney had a whole direct to video franchise developed for Tink.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:
The Running Man – A lot of people will just look at the title on this list and be like “duh, Steve, we know that this Arnold Schwarzenegger classic is awesome” but I say “not so fast, jerkface” because this is a different movie altogether, made in 1963 and not based on a Stephen King or Richard Bachman book. The film, starring Laurence Harvey, Lee Remick and Alan Bates, is about a man soured by being turned down by an insurance company who decides to fake his death for an easy way to quick cash. What he wasn’t counting on was a studious insurance adjuster who makes it a vendetta to track down this fraudster. This is some classic cat and mouse thriller from legendary director Carol Reed who made The Third Man with Orson Welles as well as that 1960s version of Oliver you were probably forced to watch.
The New York Ripper – Lucio Fulci is a name that will always live in the history of horror because he gave us Italian zombie movies like City Of The Living Dead and Zombie 2 as well as Edgar Allan Poe adaptations with The Black Cat. Do I even need to mention that he had a zombie and shark fight scene? Well, this movie is quite the messed up one itself but the story sounds simple, about a burned-out New York police detective who teams up with a college psychoanalyst to track down a serial killer randomly stalking and killing young women around New York. The movie ended up being far more violent than any country wanted to even handle and the film was pretty much banned everywhere except Japan but now you can see it in its full glory including scenes that were pulled from all releases in this new three-disc set that has blu-ray, DVD and a CD of the soundtrack. So cool.
Sweetbitter: Season 2 (Starz) – I basically just discovered this show entering its sophomore season on Starz but the story seems pretty easy. Tim Burton’s one time leading star Ella Purnell stars as a young woman learns how crazy it is to work in a restaurant in New York City, a common theme this week, Immediately introduced to the world of drugs, alcohol, love, lust, dive bars, and fine dining, she needs to grow up quickly and lose her smalltown and young naivety before it causes irreparable damage. Television always seems to be a minefield of crap with some goodness mixed in and the reviews seem to say that this is the latter.
Pearson: Season 1 (USA) – With Suits starting its final season this week as well, the USA network is looking to continue its must-see franchise with this spinoff series focusing on the Gina Torres character Jessica Pearson, you know, the woman that basically prevented Harvey Spector from teetering off the edge of the attorney world for nine seasons. Being a huge fan of hers since Firefly, I have a feeling this could be a great way for Torres to shine in the lead role as she enters the complex and seedy world of Chicago politics, which is kind of a hot button area for prosecution right now given the high profile cases of Jussie Smollett and R. Kelly.
Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein (Netflix) – This new show seems like a total trip and it had David Harbour in it which makes it infinitely cooler and also will drag the Stranger Things fans who already blew through the third season. To put the show in a nutshell, Harbour, as himself, delves into the enigmatic history of his legendary acting family, as he examines his father’s legacy, also play and role in a made-for-TV play. The hilarious thing is Harbour also plays his “father”, done as a definite homage to Orson Welles in the later years of his more eccentric life. The show was created by Daniel Grey Longino who is on a bit of a hot streak after the Hulu show PEN15 and directing Sacha Baron Cohen in Who Is America. This could be really great and might explode like that new Tim Robinson sketch show.
Pandora: Season 1 (The CW) – Some brand new sci-fi hits the channel usually known for teen melodrama so really this could all go good or horribly sideways. Set in the year 2199, this show follows a young woman who has lost everything but finds a new life at Earth’s Space Training Academy where she learns to defend the galaxy from intergalactic threats. Sure to find a home with those who dug on the Vancouver shot post-apocalypse series The 100, I really want this to have more of a serious approach like The Expanse. Unfortunately, the only four reviews I can find totally panned it but that can’t be the nail in the coffin, can it?
Notorious: Season 2 (ABC) – The one thing about reviewing movies weekly is that I have such a limited time to take in other mediums and a show like this one, on a major television network, just slips through the cracks. This show piques my interest a bit as it stars Coyote Ugly alumni Piper Perabo and Daniel Sunjata from one of my favorite shows ever Rescue Me. The show follows a defence attorney and a television producer who join together to control the breaking of a high profile incident which seems to break the norm of procedural a little bit but at the same time it was created by Josh Berman, the producer behind CSI and Bones, but I still have some faith. It did survive for a second season.