Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil – We are now at the point of these Disney live-action re-imaginings that we are headed in the sequels to these films as the one to kick it off, a version of Sleeping Beauty that focusses on the villain, now sees an expansion to their story. Angelina Jolie returns in the title role, now godmother to Aurora played again by Elle Fanning, Maleficent finds herself at odds with the family of Aurora’s soon to be husband. Feeling threatened, she starts to unleash her full powers again, wreaking havoc in another special effects extravaganza. The film is made by Joachim Ronning who made the astounding films Kon-Tiki and Max Manus: Man Of War but then proceeded to make the kind of ho-hum Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales so hopefully this will be a sort of return to form but with this type of film he just may be acting as a studio director.
Zombieland: Double Tap – Ten years ago from just a couple of weeks back I was sitting in the theater laughing my ass off at the debut of director Ruben Fleisher, Zombieland, a fresh and funny rejuvenation of the zombie genre the kickstarted the undead for another couple of years. Written by a then-unknown Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, seven years before Deadpool would catapult them to where they are now, they gave us the characters of Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock who return to the screen after ten years of survival in the post-apocalypse, planning a more permanent move into America’s heartland but dealing with a new threat of evolved zombies. More survivors join the pack, with new cast members Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson, Avan Jogia and Zoey Deutch and the latest trailer features a hilarious scene with Thomas Middleditch. I’m excited for this one.
Jay And Silent Bob Reboot – As an uber fan of Kevin Smith I am game for anything the writer and director is going to put out and, strictly speaking, this is just a movie for fans like me because he’s dusting off the classics for a new adventure and I am so here for it. To follow up on their last solo adventures in Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, this movie has Jay and Silent Bob returning to Hollywood to stop a reboot of ‘Bluntman and Chronic’ movie from getting made with so many different celebrity cameos and favors called in from Kevin as well as a villain played by Chris Jericho. This is like all of my worlds colliding around the guy who inspired me to be here in the first place. Very cool. (Not opening in Hamilton, London, Kamloops or Oshawa)
By The Grace Of God – I will start right off the bat by saying that it’s a good thing I watched this film in the form as a screener at home because I had a very visceral knee jerk reaction of anger at this film, a story about pedophilia in the Catholic church. The film follows three men who were close friends in Scouts as children, where the were preyed on by the priest who ran the camp. Slowly the movement grows as more come forward and the lies, manipulation and cover-ups begin to be revealed in a public light. I found myself yelling at my television, unable to hold my disgust with the reveals in this film, which is director Francois Ozon’s best since 2003’s Swimming Pool. The film is maybe a tad too long but it definitely plays like the French version of Spotlight. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Lucy In The Sky – When I saw Fargo and Legion showrunner Noah Hawley’s name attached to this movie as director and screenwriter of this brand new drama starring Natalie Portman I was really excited as he is one of the best television storytellers working today but apparently that only translates to the long-form of episodic work. Portman plays astronaut Lucy Cola who returns to Earth after a life-altering experience during a mission to space and begins to lose touch with reality in a world that now seems too contained for the changes she is going through. Unfortunately, the reviews are very tepid on this film, some calling it too confused and jumbled despite a stellar performance from Portman, which kind of goes back to my comment about Hawley working better in a longer format. I’m still very curious about the film myself. (Only opening in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver)
Monos – This movie is an example of an indie film where I was left in awe of, foremost for its production design and execution. Seriously, how did they make this? The film is an ambiguously set story of eight kids with guns who are watching over a hostage and a conscripted milk cow on a mountaintop and it is one of the most gorgeous things I have seen this year. Director Alejandro Landes crafts a mesmerizing tale that is a sort of adaptation of William Goldman’s Lord Of The Flies with incredible feats of realism throughout. I’m still perplexed about how the scene in the river rapids was done. Mystified. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Before You Know It – I knew nothing about this little film from writer and director Hannah Pearl Utt before watching this new dramedy, a film that features her in the lead role alongside co-writer Jen Tullock. The story follows two sisters coping with the death of their recently passed away father, a once-famous playwright. With the New York theatre and apartment above being in his name, the two are surprised to find out that the building is in the name of their mother, someone they were told was dead but is actually a famous soap actress. This movie manages to be poignant and funny with the relationship of these two sisters but can still come crashing down with the emotional beats. I really liked this one. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Immortal Hero – This movie is a mysterious one to me as it just crossed my desk and I have little information on it. The film is Japanese and follows a highly successful Japanese author and publisher who starts making more grandiose choices in his life after a near-death experience forces him to reevaluate his existence. Feeling reborn, he commits his life to share the wisdom he receives believes to have been received from the spiritual realm as doubters and detractors, including some of his own family, challenge and question his new-found enlightenment. This film looks like it will fit in with the fans of stories like The Celestine Prophecy or The Secret, appealing to those who seek more spiritual centred content in their films. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
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 in 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 movie, while being a bit formulaic and predictable, is a lot of fun because of the two stars and their chemistry and the action is frenetic and stylized making sure there isn’t a wasted moment.
Crawl – Judging this movie by its basic plotline 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 goes 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 ramps up the gore, something he has consistently brought to all of his movies, and his style is uniquely disturbing sometimes as I’m still reeling from at least one kill per movie and that’s not a joke.
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 one that is seriously going to knock a lot of people through a loop.
The Haunting Of Hill House – Based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, this story has been made a few times before but not by Mike Flanagan, a horror director at the top of his game and the perfect fit for this series that took in many of Netflix subscribers. Now it’s on Blu-ray and the difference is that all of these episodes have been extended in a director’s cut of this first series, a precursor before The Haunting Of Bly House, which is currently filming in Vancouver, hits Netflix next year. Keep in mind that every single shot in Hill House has a hidden ghost in it so get this release and happy hunting, everyone!
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.
Night Hunter – Henry Cavill leads this new thriller alongside Sir Ben Kingsley who plays a weathered Lieutenant who finds himself tangles up with his own police force and a local vigilante in the investigation of a recently arrested, troubled man who’s linked to years of female abductions and murders. The film also features Stanley Tucci, Alexandra Daddario and good Canadian kid Brendan Fletcher doing his great psychological work as the suspect in question but this film is getting horribly panned by critics, being called totally contrived and cliched throughout. This is very disappointing as I really like Cavill’s work and I feel like I haven’t seen him since Mission: Impossible: Fallout.
Killer Nun – Arrow Video arrives this week with a total weirdo film that is part insane murderer movie and part sex romp with blood. Yes, totally out of this world in the description but the film has a bit of a cult following. Made in 1979, the film is pretty simple to make a synopsis about as it a demented nun that is drifting through morphine addiction into madness, lashing out in acts of lesbianism, torture and death, endangering the staff and patients around her in the general hospital she practices at. This movie is absolutely bonkers and deserves to be watched with a group of friends to truly appreciate the “Rifftrack” quality of this insanity. This was Italian director Giulio Berruti’s second and final film as he walked away from the industry entirely afterwards. Once you’ve made gold I guess you have to walk away, right?
Spongebob Squarepants: Season 10 – I’ve definitely said this before on the show but I don’t need my kids to be around to watch my favorite underwater seas sponge because I will watch this insane show at any time because I believe the show is funny no matter if you’re a kid or an adult and it is especially funny if you are a stoner like I am. This is a little bittersweet as creator Steven Hillenberg passed away just late last year, but he was fully present for this season that aired from October 2016 to a year later, and his touch was always amazing with these characters. This season also brought back the recurring voices of Ed Asner and Seinfeld’s John O’Hurley as well as guest stars like J.K. Simmons, Steve Buscemi and Joe Pantoliano. This is definitely a box set I can get lost in.
Star Trek Picard: Movie & TV Collection – With the Picard series set to launch on CBS All Access at the end of January, Paramount has put together this collection which includes pivotal pieces of television with the episodes The Best Of Both Worlds and Chai Of Command, the best featuring the iconic captain, as well as Generations, First Contact, Insurrection and Nemesis, films I’m pretty happy to have Blu-ray copies of now. This is a great boxset for any Trek fan, although many may own these already, but to have them in a focused set about Jean Luc Picard is pretty damn cool.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:
Malevolence Trilogy – These movies showed up to me out of the blue as part of a horror trilogy released by director Stevan Mena’s own releasing company Mena Films. The story is pretty interesting to start, with a bunch of bank robbers heading to a remote farmhouse they believe to be abandoned and, of course, it’s not. Inside is a bloodthirsty serial killer looking to dispatch everyone. Interestingly enough, the first film is actually the middle piece of the main story as the second film Bereavement serves as the origin story of our killer and the third movie is the finale. Either way, as far as B-movie horror goes you are definitely going to be entertained by the three movies because this guy takes his horror damn seriously.
This Magnificent Cake! – I love the title to this movie but that’s all the enlightened attitude you will get from this stop motion animated short film as it is going to depress you with its subject matter. The movie is about the 18th century colonial Africa told in five separate tales, one about a king with a serious dilemma, the next about a pygmy who works in a swanky hotel, followed by a down and out businessman on a life building trip, a luggage handler who has lost his way and, finally, a young soldier who went AWOL from his mission. The forty four-minute short is gorgeously done but it will leave you feeling a bit disturbed.
Diamantino – I love the storyline for this film, about a really dim soccer player who fails out of his career in grand fashion at the World Cup and that’s just the beginning of his problems. In his quest for a new purpose, he ends up getting involved with an alt-right anti-EU hate group, crazy eugenics and even more deep state madness through an Italian filter. The movie has been described as an Adam Sandler movie run through the lens of Passolini which is an insanely hilarious way to approach it and to throw you through an even bigger loop, this movie was inspired by the works of David Foster Wallace. How’s that for messed up?
Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don’t Know Me – Here’s yet another stellar music documentary in 2019, this one about R&B legend Teddy Pendergrass who arrived via being the lead singer of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes putting out hits like “The Love I Lost” and, the secondary title of the movie “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” and became a massive solo star after leaving the group in 1976, releasing five consecutive platinum albums from 1977 to 1981. In 1982 he was in a horrific car wreck the paralyzed him from the neck down and didn’t return to sing until an incredible performance at Live Aid in 1985. The movie feels like a true representation of the singer, who passed away at the beginning of 2010, including interviews with his one-hundred-year-old mother as well as close friends and back up singers.
Living With Yourself: Season 1 (Netflix) – So let’s get this straight. Paul Rudd starring in a movie where he clones himself in an experiment gone wrong and has to take his family back from a new and improved version? I’m way into this concept and I’m even more excited that this is a limited series with eight episodes. I really hope that the other cast members like the fantastic Aisling Bea will get something good to work with The show’s reviews are trending pretty well and the consensus is that if you like some Rudd then double Rudd in this comedy will do you nicely.
Eli (Netflix) – I have an aversion to horror which can probably be obvious in these write-ups but I will also give horror filmmakers second chances with films and that is what I’m doing here as Ciaran Foy’s Sinister 2 was an unfortunate rehash of a great movie that never really went anywhere. With this film, he tells the story of a boy who is receiving treatment for his auto-immune disorder that discovers the house he’s living in isn’t as safe as he thought and is filled with malicious spirits. The movie features a capable supporting cast with Kelly Reilly, Lili Taylor and Stranger Things’ Sadie Sink and from who I’m hearing the third act in this is crazy.
The Laundromat (Netflix) – I’m really excited about this one as it is made by the great Steven Soderbergh, based on a book from Jake Bernstein and written by Contagion and The Informant! writer Scott Z. Burns, but, holy crap, this cast gets me excited too. Gary Oldman, Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas, Jeffrey Wright, Matthias Schoenaerts and so many more star in this film about a widow who does a deep dive on a fraudulent insurance claim that leads to a pair of Panama City law partners that are exploiting the world’s financial system. The reviews aren’t hugely favorable for the film but the cast and filmmaker will always ensure that I will check out the validity of the movie for myself and I encourage you to do the same.
Modern Love: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – I’m so excited about this series as it was created by the man behind Once and Sing Street, John Carney, one of my favorite Irish filmmakers. The show has a big cast including Anne Hatheway, Tina Fey, Catherine Keener, Dev Patel, Andy Garcia and so many more in a mosaic story about love as a concept whether it’s sexual, romantic, familial, platonic, or self-love. I also find it pretty interesting that former Shameless star Emmy Rossum directs one of the eight episodes of season one.
Wounds (Netflix) – I’d have to say the one of the hottest up and coming stars right now is Zazie Beetz, with her roles in Atlanta and Deadpool 2, but recently this year with Joker. She co-headlines this film with Armie Hamer and Dakota Johnson about a bartender in New Orleans who’s reality becomes to be unhinged when he takes home the cellphone left behind at his work. The film comes from writer and director Babak Anvari who’s film Under The Shadow creeped the hell out of me. This is going to be terrifying I’m sure and I love the cast that’s involved.