Ready Or Not (Opened on Wednesday) – Horror can be a dime a dozen bunch of releases that all look like one another, a random ghost story or slasher film or maybe even a reboot of a horror franchise that didn’t really need it. This is the appearance to none fans and mainstream film watchers. Then a movie like this comes along from two unproven writers and a couple of indie guys to bring something that feels fresh, funny and with an acerbic wit that makes it all come together. Samara Weaving plays a bride who’s wedding night takes a sinister turn when her eccentric new in-laws force her to take part in a terrifying game where they play hide and seek in their giant mansion but the only catch is that when they find her, they kill her. Weaving delivers a star-making performance that also features killer (no pun intended) outings from veterans like Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell. The best way to go into this movie is with as little knowledge possible and enjoy the ride. Thank me later.
Angel Has Fallen – Sometimes I am completely baffled to what gets the green light in Hollywood and what gets sequels and for how much I enjoyed Olympus Has Fallen, which was a bit above middling, London Has Fallen was complete garbage so why do we have this movie? The film has Gerard Butler returning again as the head of the Secret Service, this time he is framed for the attempted assassination of the new president, the former vice played by Morgan Freeman. Not much to expect from this one other than Butler dispatching bad guys left and right which spitting out one-liners and Danny Huston playing a smirking villain while chewing the scenery. Basic eighties and nineties action film fodder and I don’t expect good things from it.
Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles – Not being a fan of musicals, the appeal of the production Fiddler On The Roof is kind of lost on me even though my dad got us kids to watch it in our childhood, you know, the movie version made by Norman Jewison. You’d get me more interested with a documentary on it, which is what this is, the origin story behind one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals and its creative roots in early 1960s New York. The progressiveness of the show when society was completely uninclusive on gender roles, sexuality, race relations and religion is interesting and pretty groundbreaking in retrospect. Coming from a little known documentary maker, this movie could be a total hidden gem for theater buffs.
Aquarela – This film is, no joke, a movie about water but deep than that, no pun intended, this movie is about being immersed in it. Confused? Me too but to simplify it, this is Russian director Victor Kossakovsky’s cinematic journey through the transformative beauty and raw power of water in all of its forms. Done without the traditional style of talking-head interviews or voice overs, this is the story of Siberia’s frozen Lake Baikal and it’s rapid change of temperature, icebergs off the coast of Greenland and more all told in ninety six frames per second, capturing every essence of the moment. Just for comparison, all other films are shot in twenty-four frames per second.
The Peanut Butter Falcon – Shia Lebeouf is an actor that went through a lot of issues in his transition from child and teen star to the crush and expectations of adulthood. He was mocked mercilessly in the press but the whole time he was still giving knockout performance after performance, never slowing down but just doing movies you haven’t heard of. Now with this film, I really hope he gets the recognition he deserves. The film is about a man with down syndrome named Zak who escapes his care home in the hope of finding his wrestler idols school in the hopes of being trained. Along the way, he runs into Tyler, a troubled fisherman who is on the run from others on the same dock. Deeply grieving the loss of his brother, Tyler reluctantly forms a bond with Zak and the end result is a beautiful emotional journey filled with redemption for Lebeouf, both in this character and hopefully to the skeptical viewer. This movie is massively special and I loved it.
The Death And Life Of John F. Donovan – French Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has made some incredible movies over his career and is, in my opinion, one of the best writers and directors we have to offer. That said, his last movie It’s Only the End of the World was an infuriating mess of disjointed arguing for two hours of my life that I will never go back so even with his incredible skill I go into this movie with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. This film has Game Of Thrones star Kit Harrington as a young actor who reminisces the written correspondence he shared with an American TV star who passed away a decade earlier, as well as the impact those letters had on both their lives. The cast around Harrington is big, both internationally and nationally, as it has Kathy Bates, Natalie Portman and Susan Sarandon as well as local star Jacob Tremblay, the fantastic Sarah Gadon and Letterkenny creator Jared Keeso. I really want to have faith that this movie will be great as Dolan needs to rise to the top again.
The Queen’s Corgi – It seems like there is a lot of these little studio animated films that fly under my radar and another one just crossed my inbox today so on short notice I have to scramble together what this one is all about. The film is pretty simple, the British monarch’s favorite dog gets lost from the palace and finds himself at a dog fight club and then needs to make his long and arduous journey home, so it seems like a… wait… did that say “dog fight club” like dog fighting ring? Whoa, this just got dark and with the only recognizable name in this being Dam Julie Walters and other characters being ones named “Trump” this movie may be just enough under the radar to be completely weirdo. I think I’m in.
Overcomer – Oh fantastic, another faith-based film. This movie comes from a couple of the heavyweights in this genre of films, the Kendrik brothers who are responsible for movies like War Room, Fireproof and Facing The Giants, which were all successful within that audience. This film has one of the brothers Alex taking a front and center role, playing a high school basketball coach who has to use his faith to uplift his team when the local plant closes, losing most of their parents their jobs in the process. Expect a lot of religious pandering and terrible acting and direction as none of these films seem to rise to the level of any mainstream movies, content to give the lowest form of talent just to drive home their message.
A Dog’s Journey – 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 for these dog movies but watching my daughter’s eyes light up in moments in this movie makes it pretty clear why Sony would keep on this path. 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 this one even undershot that. Even with the delighted joy my daughter found in the playful moments of this film, there is still the crushing blow of inevitable death in each of these dog’s incarnations which is a hard pill to swallow as both parent and child. The kids may like it but you will have some explaining to do afterwards.
Brightburn – Coming from the mind of the brilliant writer and director James Gunn, this movie poses the question “what if Superman didn’t take the path of good?” Yes, deeply a horror film, the movie has an alien boy crash land on earth, adopted by a small town family but snaps when bullying and life’s problems get too much and he learns of his extraordinary powers. The film isn’t directed by Gunn but his style is all over the script and the trailer is so deeply satisfying to genre fans such as myself. This one could be really cool.
The Hustle – Just looking at the title of this new comedy film you wouldn’t know that it’s a remake with a gender twist but once you get about thirty seconds in you realize “Hey, this is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels!” Now after watching it I’m wondering how did a reimagining of one of my favorite comedies turn into such a pile of garbage? Minutes into the film I knew I was in for a terrible time as Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway stood in for the iconic Steve Martin and Michael Caine in a cringe-worthy update filled with easy jokes, corny sentimentality and completely predictable beat after beat. By the end of this hour and a half mess, I felt like I’d been locked into it for three hours.
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.
The Tomorrow Man – Two stellar actors in John Lithgow and Blythe Danner lead this lighthearted romantic drama about two ageing people who have seemed to have given up on love and friendship. Lithgow plays Ed, a recluse who is constantly preparing for the end of the world, constantly buying provisions to stock in his bomb shelter at the local grocers, the place he spots Blythe Danner’s character Ronnie, who works at the local knick-knack shop, buying things she will never use. Ed eventually steels up enough nerve to ask Ronnie out and the odd relationship of feeling out each other’s quirks begins. The story feels a bit standard but these two veterans are really what the draw is here because they make every moment of the film feel so deeply meaningful.
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.
NCIS New Orleans: Season 5 – The expanded spinoff series seems to be a thing of the past as we only have one Law & Order now, there are no CSis left and the Criminal Minds one didn’t work out, although I heard it wasn’t bad. This all seems to have skipped the NCIS franchise, which is a spinoff of JAG itself and has not one but two extra shows with NCIS Los Angeles and this one starring Scott Bakula as the lead. The show is your standard fare for these, just factoring in a cajun flavor for the locale, but the charm of Bakula himself, the friendly face of classics like Quantum Leap and Star Trek Enterprise may draw you to it. I like the cast formed around him like stalwart veteran CCH Pounder and former child star Lucas Black.
Blue Bloods: Season 9 – Starting with the traditional procedural, I now move onto the primetime crime dramas with this Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg led show that moves into the double digits in seasons next month. Basically, this is like the Charles Bronson series of made for television movies A Family Of Cops but told much better as we have Tom Selleck as the patriarch of the family and also the commissioner of police, his sons Wahlberg and Will Estes as a detective and police sergeant respectively. The cast rounds out with Bridget Moynahan as the sister, an assistant DA, and the great Len Cariou as the grandpa, a former commissioner himself and the show is actually very solid and its long tenure is indicative of that.
Ronja – The Robber’s Daughter: Complete Series – It’s time for another adventure of Steve’s foray into the anime genre as he attempts to grasp an opinion on it. Okay, that’s a long title that needs shortening but it’s fitting as this box set is a full series consisting of twenty-six episodes. Told over a four-disc blu-ray, this is the story of Ronja, a young girl whose father is the chief of a tribe of bandits in a huge castle in a forest. The show follows her as she encounters mystical creatures and experiences life in her element. It’s based on the fantasy story Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, written by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren who also brought us the classic Pippi Longstocking so my daughter latched on to that as it kind of resonates in the same way.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:
Weird Science – This is a special little gift from Arrow Video, a collector’s edition of one of the greatest comedies of the 1980s and a movie that got young Steve on his way to loving movies and comedies. From the mind of writer and director John Hughes, the absolute legend, this is the story of two computer nerds played by Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith who bring the woman of their dreams to life through their computer in the form of mod eighties it girl Kelly LeBrock. This new edition features three different cuts of the movie, which includes an extended version and one edited for television as well as a treasure trove of brand new featurettes. All of it is so great for any movie buff looking to celebrate a Hughes classic.
Pretenders With Friends – A cool part of being hooked up with MVD Visual Entertainment is they put Blu-ray, DVD and CD combos like this one that I never would have checked out otherwise. Chrissy Hynde and her band The Pretenders put together this show where they invited guests like Kings Of Leon, Incubus, Shirley Manson of Garbage and the legendary Stooge, Iggy Pop to do some songs with them, recorded live at the Decades Rock Arena in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The little switch up in this collaboration is The Pretenders perform their guest’s hits with them so we get to hear Hynde’s voice on songs like Only Happy When It Rains, Drive and The Bucket. For a guy that’s been raised on songs like On The Chain Gang and Day After Day, this is a real treat of a show even if the video quality isn’t amazing.
13 Reasons Why: Season 3 (Netflix) – Every time Netflix announces that a new season is coming for this show I’m a little taken aback because I always thought that this would be kind of a standalone series but I think the property must be too lucrative for them to sit on. Now, heading into a bit of spoiler territory, this third season has Dylan Minnette’s character Clay Jensen investigating the murder of Bryce Walker, his fellow classmate putting the whole film noir aspect of this show back into high gear. My question is how much longevity does this show have ad how many suspicious deaths can one high school contain?
American Factory (Netflix) – A brand new Netflix produced documentary, this movie has a pertinent place in the world right now, especially with the Trump administration’s trade wars, tariff threats and promises of an increase to the industry in America. The film focuses on post-industrial Ohio and a Chinese billionaire who opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring two thousand blue-collar Americans who had been laid off due to outsourcing. Unfortunately, all of the hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China and calls for speed and efficiency clashes with working-class America and their needs. In the news and politics of today films like this are massively important for us to take in, giving us a broader look at the industry depths of Americans.
Hyperdrive: Season 1 (Netflix) – This is a super easy one to describe. Former UFC champion and British trash talker Michael Bisping hosts this reality series where drivers from around the world compete in one of the largest automotive obstacle courses ever made in a tournament to whittle the customers down to find the best. This will appeal to the subscribers who already take in every episode of Ultimate Beastmaster or check out things like American Ninja Warrior, Robot Wars and those type of series but we get fast stunt cars instead. All I know is that my daughter is probably really excited about this one.
This Way Up: Season 1 (Hulu) – If you like to follow along with comedians on Twitter, the name Aisling Bea might be familiar to you, a hilarious comedian from the U.K. who doesn’t pull her punches and will come at anyone. Well, now she has her own Hulu original that she stars in with the equally funny Sharon Horgan, who recently made an impression on North American audiences with her supporting role in Game Night. This series follows Bea as a young woman who is trying to put her life back together after suffering from a nervous breakdown so probably something totally relatable for a lot of people. We need more shows that deal with depression, anxiety and other very common life issues that bog all of us down.
The Righteous Gemstones: Season 1 (HBO) – As a huge fan of Danny McBride’s work, crudeness being a main factor, I have always been massively supportive of his work. Starting with his insane character study Eastbound and Down, the ballad of burnt-out baseball player Kenny Powers, then his turn on Vice Principals about two men battling over a vacant principal position, I love all of his work so this one is sure to be great too. Co-starring his Vice Principals co-star Walton Goggins as well as John Goodman and Adam Devine, this show follows a world-famous televangelist family with a long tradition of deviance, greed and charitable work which I love as a premise because someone has to take the piss out of a user like Joel Osteen and Danny McBride is the perfect person to do it I think.