Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood – When Quentin Tarantino makes a film everybody takes notice and his fan base, myself included, salivate in anticipation of it. Now with his ninth movie, he heads to an interesting time in Hollywood history with a very Sergio Leone movie title that speaks volumes to his reverence for the classics. The film, as usual, has a massive cast but the important names at the top are Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie in this story about a faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles also against the backdrop of the Sharon Tate murder at the hand of Charles Manson and his followers. This has instant classic written all over it and is getting some awesome reviews.
Maiden – An inspiring story of perseverance and strength, this was an incredible documentary to watch. It follows Tracy Edwards, a troubled teen who found her fit when she took the job as a galley cook for a charter boat in the Whitbread Round the World Race. This pushed her to form her own all-women crew, the first-ever entered into the famous race and a journey that took years to finally come together. This film, through footage taken during these brave women’s race, depicts a massive battle against the element and the constant uncertainty of whether they are still anywhere close to winning it. This movie is engrossing and totally fascinating throughout, the director opting to have the story told through one on one interviews with Edwards and her crew being very effective. This is an important documentary for people to check out, maybe one of my favorites this year. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Watergate – An hugely expansive look at what we thought would be the biggest presidential scandal ever, this is less a movie documentary and more a two-part miniseries which is pretty interesting given that there is so much to cover with this story. No End In Sight and Inside Job director Charles Ferguson draws from 3400 hours of audiotapes, archival footage and declassified documents to give a comprehensive insight on the entire investigation with help from the players in the game like Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward and John Dean. This documentary has the feel of a meticulously obsessive mind outlining details of a piece of history that we thought we knew so well. I think after this work of great filmmaking there won’t be a lot of shadows left in this subject matter. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Propaganda: The Art Of Selling Lies – In the world we live in these days we are fed a lot of information and so much of it is called fake news or misleading but all of it can be considered propaganda and that is what documentarian Larry Weinstein focuses on with this film, looking into the past brainwashing of Russia by Stalin and his cronies, the rise of Hitler and even more recently the North Korean Kim regime. It also delves into Trump’s claim of “what you’re hearing and seeing isn’t what’s real” claim and how very Orwellian that is and, by the way, that comes from an actual George Orwell historian. The film will infuriate you and inform you just like a good documentary should as well as leave you some food for thought and conversation starters. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Astronaut – With the lead actor of Richard Dreyfuss, a film about a widower trying to chase his dream of going into space should be a pretty easy home run, especially for people looking for a little more “Space Cowboys” in their life. Adding to that, the movie is decidedly Canadian, featuring supporting roles from Lyriq Bent, Colm Feore and the legendary Art Hindle and Sonja Smits. The sad thing is the script largely doesn’t feel well written, goes for the easy manipulation of emotions and seems to fizzle badly about two thirds in. This is especially upsetting because the final emotional beat of the story is super effective but can’t rise above the hour and twenty preceding it. This is not one to celebrate when it comes to homegrown cinema. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Alita: Battle Angel – This movie had a long and arduous journey from the pages of manga to the big screen. James Cameron bought the property over fifteen years ago before the Avatar films had taken hold of his creative mind. Delayed due to the development and production of that movie, Alita didn’t really begin it’s development process until Robert Rodriguez was hired to direct in 2016 and after another release delay, as it was supposed to come out in July last year. Now it is on Blu-ray and I think it is a damn cool experience to check out as the action is phenomenal and the effects are totally dazzling, a real treat to check out on the big screen. The movie, at times, gets a little bogged down with its universe building and push for more films but Rosa Salazar does such a great job in making you cheer for Alita and Christoph Waltz always has his charm cranked to a ten.
Hellboy – I must start this off with the heartbreaking reminder that we will never see the final piece of the Guillermo del Toro directed and written Hellboy series with Ron Perlman in the role he played so beautifully. That said, this reboot looked like it turned out way better than I could have ever imagined and David Harbour from Stranger Things seemed to be the perfect person to take over this fan favorite comic book role. Well, we were all duped horribly because, aside from Harbour who actually looks pretty cool in the role, this movie is a fizzling fart of a movie that feels like it was ripped away from director Neil Marchall and fed into a horrendous wood chipper of writing by a group of fourteen-year-old boys. For anything that wors in this movie there are ten things to drive you to absolutely hate anything that is happening. I think they effectively killed any hope for more Hellboy movies in any shape or form.
Missing Link – I was waiting for Laika Animation Studios to follow up their brilliant and resoundingly beautiful film Kubo And The Two Strings and boy did this movie hold up to my expectations. Zack Galifianakis voices the titular character, also known as Mr. Link, a legendary creature who lives in the Pacific Northwest, one that might also be called a Sasquatch or Bigfoot. An investigator named Mr. Lionel Frost, with the voice of Hugh Jackman looks to bring Mr. Link and his story to the masses in this film that is charming, hilarious and brimming with pure heart. The chemistry between Jackman and Galifianakis is so great and Mr. Link’s precocious naive nature is so adorable. Laika also gets some great English talent with Little Britain’s David Walliams and Matt Luca reuniting to play the villains. This is a fun film with breathtaking stop motion animation as only this world-class studio can provide.
Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy – Usually when it comes to the Ip Man movies a martial arts fan is already sold. Firstly, for all the movies except this one, this has been Donnie Yen’s franchise. Secondly, this is an actioner that follows the true story of the creator of Wing Chun and the man who taught Bruce Lee himself. This movie now follows Cheung Tin Chi, a teacher who was defeated by Ip Man who has opted to quit and keep a low profile until local drug dealers conflict with good citizens lures him out for a fight. The movie has special appearances from Michelle Yeoh, Tony Ja and Dave Bautista and has some really kick-ass fights throughout despite having kind of a standard kung fu movie plot.
Universal Horror Collection: Volume 2 – It feels like only last month I was giving some love to Shout Factory’s release of the first volume (because I was) but this classic collection of horror films is a different animal this time around. Another four-pack of movies, this one contains Murders In The Zoo about a monomaniacal zoologist who is pathologically jealous of his beautiful but unfaithful wife Evelyn to a deadly degree, The Mad Ghoul about a university chemistry professor who experiments with an ancient Mayan gas on a medical student, turning him into a murdering monster, The Mad Doctor of Market Street about a mad scientist who is forced to leave San Francisco when his experiments become known and flees to a tropical island to continue his atrocities and lastly The Strange Case of Doctor Rx about a private eye that is hired by a criminal defense lawyer after five mobsters he has gotten acquitted are apparently strangled by a serial killer. To be honest, all of these movies were totally unknown to me so, again, it is so cool to get my eyes on them.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:
Resurrecting The Champ – A little known Samuel L. Jackson movie from twelve years ago, this film was made at a time when Josh Hartnett was a leading man. He plays an up-and-coming sports reporter who rescues a homeless man only to discover that he is, in fact, a boxing legend believed to have died years ago. Directed by The Contender filmmaker Rod Lurie, this movie flew way under everyone’s radar but I really liked Jackson’s nuanced performance which I thought harkened back to his turn in The Caveman’s Valentine, another underrated and kind of gonzo Sam Jackson movie.
American Horror Project: Volume 2 – This is a pretty cool three-pack of films I got from Arrow Video that span 1970 to 1977, again showcasing movies I had never come across before. The first film is Dream No Evil, a surrealist horror about a preacher’s young assistant who basically goes insane in a fantasy she creates in her own head. Next up was Dark August about a man who accidentally runs down a young girl and has a curse placed on him by the girl’s father, an occultist. Finally, The Child is about a newly hired maid in a secluded area who is alarmed to discover that her boss’s eleven-year-old daughter is using her supernatural powers to take revenge on the people she holds responsible for her mother’s death using zombies. Yet another cool collection of classic horror to devour.
Maze – This movie crossed my doorstep and, I’ve got to be honest, I’d never heard of it but immediately it piqued my interest because it is Irish and it is about a prison break and a real one at that. Coming from writer and director Stephen Burke in only his second feature film, this is the story of an infamous 1983 prison breakout of 38 IRA prisoners from HMP, also known as Her Majesty’s Prison Maze in Northern Ireland, which became the biggest prison escape in Europe since World War II. The film stars Ken Loach alumni Barry Ward who was astounding in his film Jimmy’s Hall as well as Tom Vaughan-Lawlor who was totally unrecognizable in his role as Thanos’ right hand in Infinity War and Endgame. Fans of prison break films should be all over this and if you liked Steve McQueen’s Hunger you better get on this one.
Orange Is the New Black: Season 7 (Netflix) – The final season of one of Netflix’s most popular original series is now here and I really think that we are all prepared for it to end. I really thought the show would get five seasons maximum but we return to Litchfield for Jenji Kojan to close out everything and I’m really hoping that the resolution will go better than Weeds did because to call that one rough would be an utter understatement. The show brought us new stars in the form of Taylor Schilling, Uzo Aduba and Lea DeLaria and rejuvenated the careers of Laura Prepon, Kate Mulgrew and Natasha Lyonne and of course, I’ve missed out a few people there. Not being a massive fan of this show in years, I’m more than ready for this.
The Boys: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – My favorite comic book ever is now a television series brought to life by good Vancouver guys Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the same two that brought Preacher to us coincidentally from the same author. Thanks to the sick and twisted mind of Garth Ennis we have a story that is not about the superheroes but a superpowered group put together to keep the massive egos and lust for fun in absolute check. This show is going to be over the top violence, crude, full of nudity and will probably offend more than a few people, so a lot like Preacher. I can’t wait.
Light as a Feather: Season 2 (Hulu) – You know that urban legend of a game called “light as a feather, stiff as a board”? For those uninitiated, it is a game, sometimes known as pig in a blanket, played by children at slumber parties and is basically used to freak out friends in a sort of ghostly levitation hoax. This show, coming back for a sophomore season, is about five girls dealing with the supernatural fallout from playing their own game of this and start being picked off by an evil entity intent on destroying everything in it’s path. The series features a really great cast of up and comers and is created by an unlikely horror source, R. Lee Fleming Jr., a former Friends writer.
Veronica Mars: Season 1 (Hulu) – I am a massive Veronica Mars fan and have since this show debuted on the WB or UPN or whatever it was back then and have followed it through every iteration. Hell, I even contributed to the Kickstarter for the movie so to say that I’m excited about this brand new season is totally an understatement as Kristen Bell’s sleuthing character is embedded deeply in my love for episodic television. If you are a deep V Mars geek like I am I will warn you that the final episode will drain you of all of your precious tears. You’ve been warned.
Another Life: Season 1 (Netflix) – Being a guy that has a deep love for Battlestar Galactica and actress Katee Sackhoff, I’ve been waiting patiently for her new show, especially since Longmire has now completed it’s run. Her new show is putting her back into the realm of science fiction as she plays the commander of a crew that sets out into the vastness of space to find the origins behind a newly discovered alien artifact. Co-starring Selma Blair, Shameless’s Justin Chatwin and Supergirl’s Superman himself Tyler Hoechlin, this new Netflix original was created by Aaron Martin who made another Netflix show called Slasher which is also very entertaining. I have hope for this show.