Black And Blue – There really isn’t any sort of ad campaign or push behind this movie but the cast seems interesting enough to garner some clout as it stars the always phenomenal Naomie Harris who toplines this crime thriller. She plays a rookie police officer in New Orleans who has to balance her identity as a black woman with her role as a police officer when she witnesses other police officers committing murder. Unfortunately, the film comes from director Deon Taylor who’s last outing The Intruder almost felt like a parody with Dennis Quaid turning in a ridiculous performance that was supposed to be menacing. Hopefully, this one won’t be as cheesy. (Not playing in London, Kamloops, Barrie and Oshawa)
Countdown – Decisive horror can sometimes be a huge problem as we’ve seen some real crap with Truth Or Dare and the first Happy Death Day but sometimes it works out, as some of the Final Destination movies are fun. This film has a nurse downloading an app that claims to predict the moment a person will die and tells her she only has three days to live. With the clock ticking and a figure haunting her, she must find a way to save her life before time runs out. The film is the directorial debut of Justin Dec, so there is some hope with the vision of a new storyteller and it utilizes a young cast including Anne Winters from 13 Reasons Why and Charlie McDermott from The Middle. Maybe this will be a surprise or maybe it will be a crowd-pleaser that I hate like the before mentioned Happy Death Day. (Not opening in Oshawa)
Western Stars – Heck yes, more music documentaries! This one follows The Boss, Bruce Springsteen as he prepares to release his first country album, this film showcasing all the songs in a star-studded live concert. Springsteen co-directed the movie with his frequent video collaborator Thom Zimny and it’s interesting to see this legendary musician move into a different style of music, even if it’s one that I am definitely not a fan of, but the influence is definitely a different flavouring as it was influenced by Southern California pop music of the 1970s like Glen Campbell and Burt Bacharach. I think it is evident that if you’re The Boss, you can do anything and wow the critics over and over again. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops, Barrie or Oshawa)
The Lighthouse – Ever since I saw The Witch at a press screening in 2015 I have been waiting rabidly for the new Robert Eggers film and he did not disappoint. Shot in black and white and in a 1.19:1 aspect ratio (basically a square on the movie screen), this is the story of two lighthouse keepers who arrive to run the light on a New England island in 1890. In two incredible and award-worthy performances, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe descend into isolated madness before your eyes and I’ve never seen anything like it. The description I’m trying to push to describe this film is it’s like if David Lynch wrote a sea shanty and put it on the big screen. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops, or Oshawa)
Parasite – This film was an amazing way to start out my coverage of this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, some great Korean cinema from one of the masters, Bong Joon-Ho. In his return to all Korean film, he tells the story of a family of con artists who grift their way into a rich family’s lives as a chauffeur, housekeeper, tutor and personal assistant respectively. They think they’ve hit the big time until the former housekeeper shows them a deep secret that she’s been hiding in their employer’s house that blows everyone’s situation up. Joon-Ho crafts another incredible masterpiece of a movie that’s filled with twists, incredible cinematography and the amazing ability to tell stories within a story. He never relents in showing that he is not only one of the greatest Korean storytellers today but one of the best in cinema today. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
The Lion King – The continued push of re-imagining Disney animated classics continues 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 the effects on this movie are an absolute gamechanger, some of my friends even calling it a bit disturbing, like a deep fake video. Everyone knows the story of the Lion King so I won’t go over that again but the cast is where the draw is, including Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyonce, Seth Rogen, John Oliver and Billy Eichner, this film is stacked. I really wish I could report back with how amazing this movie was but it feels like it misses the mark in a lot of ways. The music is not quite up to what the original was and everything feels like a rehash with no lasting mark made. Also, I know I’m in the minority on this, but how do the animals poop? They have no butts.
Strange But True – Featuring a cast comprised of Oscar-nominated Amy Ryan, up and comers Nick Robinson and Margaret Qualley and the veterans Greg Kinnear, Blythe Danner and Brian Cox, this movie should be an easy knockout hit. The film centers around the fallout when a woman surprises the family of her deceased boyfriend by telling them she’s pregnant with his child years after his death. The film plays with some interesting elements, trying to be a mystery thriller but holding back on the thrills. It all starts building in a great direction but it completely loses its identity with the third act and doesn’t regain its composure before a pretty lacklustre ending.
Galaxy Quest – An absolute favorite from the nineties, this is my ultimate forgiving line for Tim Allen viewing along with the Toy Story movies. This movie is a fantastic parody of Star Trek fandom, centering on an audience favorite show called “Galaxy Quest” that is mistaken for the real thing by a desperate alien race on the brink of total annihilation, They kidnap the actors from earth in the hope that they will be their salvation and oh hot damn I love this movie. This put Sam Rockwell on the map for me and has such great performances from Sir Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver and Veronica Mars’ dad Enrico Colantoni. To own this movie in this steelbook edition is a pure gift for me.
VeggieTales: The Best Christmas Gift – VeggieTales is something that has been around for a long time it seems, so long that I can remember kids in school saying that the only animated films they could watch were these films, adhering to their family’s values. For those who don’t know, the core audience these movies seek out are the faith-based crowd and this one is very evident of that as this movie, a Christmas tale, is about the birth of Jesus. As many issues as I have with faith-based movies, VeggieTales transcends it because, even through terrible animation, the scripts are witty and the music is kind of catchy. I really wouldn’t have any issues with my kids watching it in all honesty.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:
The Prey – Another Arrow release to kick off my geek outs this week, a slasher film from the early 1980s about six campers who are hunted down and killed by a maniac who is just looking to be loved. Messed up, right? To me, it plays really well into the genre and it’s interesting to note that the film was made in 1979, a year after Halloween and a year before Friday The 13th, but wasn’t released until 1983 and was cut down by fifteen minutes to appease the distributor. This new edition of the movie has the full original cut of the movie, the fifteen-minute less version and a different international version as well.
Find Me Guilty – I think the common knowledge of the mainstream is that Vin Diesel can’t act but what if I told you he could and I have proof? A real Keanu Reeves “whoa” moment I’m sensing here but it’s true, the guy has chops and skills given the right director is involved. This is the case with this courtroom comedy based o a true story as the legendary Sidney Lumet made this one, as Diesel plays a low-level gangster named Jackie DiNorscio who defended himself in court in what became the longest criminal trial in American judicial history. This movie achieves true levels of comedic farce which is even funnier when you bring the reality of the situation into account. This is a movie that shouldn’t have been glossed over when it was released in 2006 but unfortunately was.
Fear No Evil – Bringing more of the awesome campy films to the collectors, Shout Factory released this occult horror movie about a teenager in high school who is not what he seems but is the human embodiment of Lucifer. The real battle gets underway when two archangels are sent to destroy him, appearing as two high school girls. The movie was created by writer and director Frank LaLoggia and producer Charles M. LaLoggia came across the Boldt Castle in Alexandria Bay, New York and wanted to use it badly, the rest being B-movie history. This movie is hilariously ridiculous and has some pretty gruesome looking stuff that reminds me a bit of early Sam Raimi.
Ultimate Holiday Collection – I’m a bit annoyed that I’m already talking about Christmas releases before we’ve even celebrated Halloween but here we are. If you are an avid watcher of Christmas specials on network television then you will be already family with the first disc of this set as it compiled all of the Dreamworks holidays specials for Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and more as an episode by episode feature but it also included the feature movie for Rise Of The Guardians and, you know what? It’s a pretty great movie that no one talks about. I feel like this set is a clear family pleaser for the holidays.
Scarface – What? Scarface is getting another home release? Yes, but this one coincides with the 4K release of it, which is a must own if you have that system. As a person that owns this movie already but not on Blu-ray, I love that I can watch the saga of Tony Montana in a sparkling and beautiful format. The last time I saw this movie was on the big screen at Vancity Theatre for the Brian De Palma retrospective and I was blown away on a whole new level and loved the movie even more by the time the credits hit. There’s a real reason why this movie is so iconic and is a lot of people’s favorite.
Catherine The Great (HBO) – Helen Mirren has had a killer career playing queens as she has been a Roman empress, Queen Charlotte, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II but now she can add Catherine The Great to that list, the focus of this four-episode limited series. Directed by Philip Martin, a main mind behind Wallander, The Crown and Mirren’s long running series Prime Suspect, this show is about the greatest tsarina, an empress of Russia pre 1917, Catherine the Great, a leader who was the longest serving woman ruler until 1796. Co-starring Jason Clarke, Rory Kinnear and Richard Roxburgh, I have faith in this show as it was written by Nigel Williams who wrote Mirren’s Elizabeth I HBO series.
Castle Rock: Season 2 (Space) – I’ve been excited for the second series of this Stephen King adaptation which is really just a vehicle to bring everything in the “King Universe” to life in one place. The first season reintroduced us to iconic characters that fans have loved for decades like Sheriff Alan Pangborn, played by Scott Glenn, who appeared in the books The Dark Half and Needful Things and locations like Shawshank penitentiary making this show the real deal for uber-nerds like myself. This new season brings in an actress I adore, Lizzy Caplan, to play a role that Kathy Bates won an Academy Award for, Annie Wilkes from Misery. This is going to be awesome.
Daybreak: Season 1 (Netflix) – High school teen comedy meets the post-apocalypse in this new and ambitious series that has Matthew Broderick in a main role and I’m really hoping it’s the principal just to reach back for that Election connection. The show follows a high school outcast named Josh is searching for his missing girlfriend in wake of a worldwide catastrophe. He’s later joined by a group of misfits and his former bully Wesley to face off with many weird things along the way. The series was created by Star Trek: Discovery producer Aron Eli Coleite and Rampage director Brad Peyton and it could be the new teenage hit on Netflix.
Dolemite Is My Name (Netflix) – Eddie Murphy makes a triumphant return to feature films with this fantastic biopic, directed by Hustle And Flow’s Craig Brewer. Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore, an ageing performer who made the big move from Arkansas to Los Angeles but hasn’t found any success whatsoever. His big break comes when he decides to gather the tall tales of a bunch of nearby hobos and packages them in a new larger than life pimp character named Dolemite, which leads to huge success in his self pressed album and a growing ambition that eventually has him wanting to make movies. Murphy is incredible in this movie but it’s the performance of Wesley Snipes as D’Urville Martin that floored me, a total game rejuvenation. Definitely see this one.
Watchmen: Season 1 (HBO) – One of the greatest graphic novels of all time and the most interesting and real feeling superhero story I’ve ever read gets a live-action television sequel told by HBO and Lost creator Damon Lindelof and I have a feeling that this may be the best superhero television show ever made and that’s only after the first episode. The cast is great, featuring Regina King, Don Johnson, Jeremy Irons and Tim Blake Nelson, and this series is going to tell a modern take on a story from one of the most revered comic storytellers in history. We could have our new Game Of Thrones.