Jumanji: The Next Level – the fans cried foul when it was announced that The Rock would be rebooting Jumanji but the end result turned out to be a pretty entertaining movie with the great continued Chemistry Between The Rock and Kevin Hart. Now the whole cast is returning including Karen Gillan and Jack Black for the next level in which Danny DeVito and Danny Glover have now inhabited the bodies of Rock and Hart in the movie that I expect to be just as funny as its predecessor. So many parts in the latest trailer get the laugh from me every time I see it.
Black Christmas – Blumhouse is making a pretty nice little horror niche for itself by picking up older properties and rejuvenating them, sometimes with bad results, but sometimes they come out great. This is one that is close to my heart as the original 1974 movie is a Canadian classic from the legendary director Bob Clark, who also made A Christmas Story (wrap your head around that) and it was already botched in remake land in 2006. This movie though, I really don’t know how I feel. It is a massive departure from the original story and the first trailer released for it seems to give it all away, so much so that I am refusing to summarize it in this write-up. Just watch it below to see what I’m talking about. (Not opening in Kamloops)
Richard Jewell – Clint Eastwood continues his real-life story adaptations with this film about a security guard that saved thousands of lives at the 1994 Atlanta Olympics from a bomb who is then smeared by the press claiming he was the terrorist who planted it. I really like that Paul Walter Hauser, a standout in I Tonya and Blackkklansman gets the lead role in this film but Clint hasn’t been on a real hot streak with his films recently especially in the true story Department. I’m a little worried about this movie even if it has Sam Rockwell and Kathy Bates in it. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops and Oshawa)
The Kindness Of Strangers – The cast is the immediate draw for me in this sprawling New York story from writer and director Lone Scherfig who was behind the films An Education and Their Finest, as it features the always great Bill Nighy and Andrea Riseborough as well as a younger group including Zoe Kazan, Caleb Landry Jones and Canadian Jay Baruchel. The film takes place over a cold winter in New York with many intersecting stories like a young mother who has fled to the Big Apple to escape her abusive husband, a lonely ex-con looking through redemption through a Russian restaurant he helps run with an eccentric owner, an ER nurse who spends her free time helping a local church and a young man with debilitating anger issues. This could be hit or miss as these stories can get a bit muddled, convoluted and can fall into the path of being totally ridiculous in trying to connect the threads. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
The Two Popes – Continuing the great last few weeks we have gotten with award caliber movies on Netflix, we now get this new film, a biopic about the meeting between the conservative Pope Benedict and the liberal future Pope Francis who must band together to find common ground in order to forge a new path for the Catholic Church. Some serious heavyweights have been brought in to play the roles of Benedict and Francis with Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce and City Of God director Fernando Meirelles is behind the camera for it and I think this one will play out beautifully with these capable artists and the fact that it is subcategorized as a comedy only adds to my excitement. It could be like Curb Your Enthusiasm with Popes! (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
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 film is a damn near perfect masterpiece with fantastic comedy beats throughout, some conversational, some situational and some very dark ones. All three of these leads are totally brilliant and award-worthy and Tarantino just knows cinema so thoroughly and has made his true love letter to all that has inspired him with this must-see movie.
Hustlers – Just looking at this movie it is pretty much completely unappealing to me. This film is toplined by Constance Wu, an actress I really enjoyed in Crazy Rich Asians but her real-life diva antics have really turned me off, and Jennifer Lopez who I’ve never really been a fan of so it has a bit working against it. That said it has Cardi B and Lizzo in supporting roles and is about a crew of former strippers who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients so I have a glimmer of hope for entertainment in this. Now the movie has the added clout of having J. Lo being nominated for a Golden Globe which adds to all the stellar reviews the film has already earned. I may be eating that word I started with on this write up, unnappealing. This might actually be very appealing.
It Chapter Two – Stephen King is a special writer in my life because e is a big reason why my reading level started to excel when I was a preteen as I ravenously ate up everything he had written in chronological order. His novel It was among my absolute favorites and after the TV movie in 1989 I was hoping that a big-screen version would come and I’m so happy director Andy Muscetti nailed it in the first chapter, released two years ago, and now we get the follow-up and I wish I could say that it all ended with me being happy and satisfied and it definitely did not. This story fell sharply off a cliff in plotting, script, acting and is my biggest disappointment this year, very reminiscent of how I felt after the adaptation of The Dark Tower. So much promise with a brilliant cast brought in to play the older versions of the kids and the movie falls into predictable story traps, bad CG and weird direction choices. Without the base script by Cary Joji Fukunaga and cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung, this is director Andy Muschetti’s first bad movie.
Freaks – My first narrative film of last year’s VIFF, this hit me with all sorts of parental feelings like a loaded punch to the face. Freaks is a paranoid mystery that slowly blooms to its audience but, interestingly enough, shares a few different qualities from the Academy Award-winning hit Room. Just like young local actor Jacob Tremblay dazzled in that film, nine-year-old actress Lexy Kolker is the battery at the heart of this film as well, it’s driving force. From the directing and writing duo of Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein, the story drops you into a rundown house with papered windows and padlocked doors with our main two characters, Chloe (Kolker) and her dad played with deep nuance by Emile Hirsch. With what appears to be an unhealthy amount of itching paranoia, he constantly quizzes his young daughter on how to act outside the walls, in the real world, something that is absolutely foreign to Chloe. It’s life and death to Dad though. Inside the house is where they are safe and outside everyone will try to kill them. It’s a bleak and horrifying message to instill in a child, raising the immediate question: Is he indoctrinating his child with his own psychosis or is he protecting her from the reality he already knows? This movie is a must-see tour de force of acting and will hopefully make some waves a full year after I discovered it.
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound Of My Voice – to be completely honest Linda Ronstadt is an artist that I was very unfamiliar with until my wife gave me a reintroduction into her work uniform of the record Trio. Lovelace directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman go back to what they’re good at by making this biographical documentary on one of the most beautiful voices ever and one that took over the folk-rock music scene in the 60s and whether you’re a fan of hers or not this movie makes the subject very accessible and an interesting human story as well.
Killerman – Liam Hemsworth has been making headlines more recently with his personal life and not for his professional life which may be for the better as this new crime Thriller is nothing to write home about definitely not want to go out of your way for. Hemsworth and Brooklyn star Emory Cohen Star as two friends were laundering money in New York City but things go drastically wrong when two dirty cops get involved in their business. The film feels a bit underwritten and borrows cliches from other gangster movies that are almost cringe-worthy and besides Hemsworth and Cohen, there really isn’t a star to remember in this.
The Death Of Dick Long – I feel like any description I can give for this movie leads me down murky paths of either doing a complete injustice to the insanity of this movie that writer and director Daniel Schienart has created as well as being any semblance of spoilered because, in all honesty, the best way to go into this film is completely out of the loop. Taking on the immense task of following up his first feature Swiss Army Man, under the dual name of Daniels with fellow filmmaker Daniel Kwan, his solo venture is like a redneck satire on partying dumbasses who find themselves embroiled in a Coens-esque predicament and every moment gets crazier than the last. This movie is filled to the brim with cringe tension that ramps up to a reveal that is too crazy and jawdropping to even come to grips with. Seriously, I will be thinking about this one for a long time yet but I do know that I totally loved every minute of it.
Millennium Actress – I may not be totally knowledgeable about anime but I do know some filmmakers and Satoshi Kon is definitely one of them, the revered filmmaker behind 4 of the most influential films in the genre including this one. This film is about a TV interviewer and his cameraman who do an extensive piece on Chiyoko Fujiwara, a legendary actress who now in her 70s leaves the two on a journey through her life starting when she was 10 years old. Kon’s ability to craft the story with beautiful animation and cinematography it’s something that I think bridges the gap between anime and traditional cinema. I feel films like this are more relatable to a newbie like myself and if more were like this I would probably have an easier time getting into these films.
The Anne Bancroft Collection – I feel like it was just a few months ago I got Anne Bancroft’s directorial debut Fatso starring Dom DeLuise and now I get this sweet new box set from Shot Factory collecting all the definitive films in this legendary actress and director’s career. This set has eight films including her Academy Award-winning The Miracle Worker as well as Oscar-nominated films like The Graduate, The Pumpkin Eater and Agnes Of God, a plethora of great films and classic performances by a legendary actress.
The Fly Collection – The Shout Factory box sets keep on giving this week as this sci-fi gold brick lands this week, one that includes all four Fly movies including the Vincent Price movies, The David Cronenberg classic starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis and the will not well thought through Eric Stoltz and Daphne Zuniga film from the late 80s. No matter how you feel about that last movie the fact that you get all four of these films pressed in a brand new 2K transfer makes it all worth it and my excited gasp when I receive this on my doorstep was entirely warranted, trust me.
Gunsmoke: Season 16 & 17 – another thing I seem to be collecting just like I am anime is these old Western shows and just a few months back I got volume 1 and volume 2 of season 15 of this classic Western series and now I have two more seasons to add to my collection. For those who don’t know about the show, this is the story of Marshall Matt Dillon and his town Dodge City one that he governs and keeps safe from all the lawless townfolk and bandits that roll through. This series ran for a total of 20 Seasons so you know we’re getting up near the end of this shows run and a lot of the original characters and actors had moved on from the series. Still, this is a great show to go through for nostalgic reasons and see how episodic serial television was done in its first golden age.
The Loudest Voice – It’s really interesting that this series sees it’s DVD release this month as it comes before showrunner Jay Roach’s big-screen version of the same story hits on Christmas Day. Now a Golden Globe-nominated series, this is the story of Roger Ailes and his shepherding of Fox News to the airwaves in the mid-nineties and his rise as a media mogul to his fall as a total creep and sexual deviant. Russell Crowe plays Ailes with such an interesting charismas and to no one’s surprise nails the fiery temper so well. I have slight issues with the scripting and direction as it feels like a Sorkin copy without the polish in a lot of places but it’s still very engrossing.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:
The Jetsons: Complete Series – Growing up I was definitely was raised on a lot of Hanna Barbara created Saturday morning cartoons made years before I got my eyes on them but for a long time my idea of a cartoon family, before The Simpsons, was The Flintstones or this nuclear family and their space adventures. Now I can introduce my daughter to this great set containing all three seasons of George, Jane, Judy, Elroy and Astro’s daily life across seventy-five episodes. Hell, throw in some Scooby-Doo and that family from Bedrock and I could recreate your childhood or at least I’m getting close to it!
Bunuel In The Labyrinth Of The Turtles – A beautifully made animated film from Spain this film is the true story of how surrealist director Luis Bunuel made his third film which was spurred on by a friend after he won the lottery. This pushes them to the mountains of Spain where pinnule is almost driven mad by his own thoughts insecurities and artistic ideas. This film is so engaging just by the Striking animation alone and director Salvador Simo has transitioned beautifully from doing special effects on films like Passengers and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales to this engrossing story.
Hitch Hike To Hell – Arrow Video proves again that they always get the weirdest of the weird with this late 70s trucker film about a guy with some serious mommy issues who picks up hitchhikers in the side of the road rapes and murders them and discards their bodies. Yeah, this is definitely not a film for the weak at heart. This movie is definitely grindhouse to its very core and I think that was the appeal when Arrow Video picked it up and that’s definitely where it’s going to find its niche. Expect to see this one in your Black Dog Video or Videomatica because it’s going to thrive with the cult film viewers.
Krampus – I am so happy to have gotten this re-released from Universal Pictures movie I could definitely watch every Christmas and find new and fun things from IT. Director Michael Dougherty gleefully brings this Christmas horror story about a Danish folklore tale to life with practical effects which is so much more satisfying than seeing massive amounts of CG. Toni Collette Adam Scott Dave Koechner and Allison Tolman leave this film that is both thrilling scary and Darkly comedic and may leave you with a little bit of a Christmas message in the end.
The Expanse: Season 4 (Amazon Prime) – now this is a show that Drex actually got me into really pushing me to watch the series that’s I think really reminiscent of a show like Battlestar Galactica where is the human interaction that really drives the story the politics of the immediate crisis at hand it keeps you fully engaged and on the edge of your seat. I’m so happy that we can actually get a season 4 out of this show as it was cancelled at his original Network sci-fi which I believe is a huge mistake that they are going to Rick rat very quickly into this new season launch and hopefully Amazon Prime will pick it up for another few seasons as well.
6 Underground (Netflix) – Michael Bay returns with a new film to continue his tried, tested and true brand of action films, his absolute Bay-hem if you will, but this time he’s got the charismatic lead star Ryan Reynolds along for the ride making this a can’t miss movie this weekend. Coming from the writers of Deadpool and Zombieland, this is the high stakes story of a group of elite agents from around the world who have faked their deaths for global security and now are employed to keep that secret hidden. The trailer for this movie looks totally insane, which is par for the course for Michael Bay as they always look like a million bucks in short form. Beyond that, this could be fun and a brainless bit of flash with some funny lines from Ryan Reynolds.
Marvel’s Runaways: Season 3 (Hulu) – With all of the new Marvel Cinematic Universe shows coming to Disney+ next year and all the cancellations of Netflix properties like Daredevil and The Punisher, the FX ones like Legion and the Freeform series Cloak and Dagger, I’m shocked that this show still had the go-ahead for a new series but I believe it is a situation of “catch it now before it’s gone”. Based on one of my favorite comic series, this is the story of a handful of conflicted but superpowered teens who are the offspring of supervillains. Trying to escape their perceived destiny, they band together to be a beacon of goodness and save the innocent while unlocking their true potential. The cast is largely young and unknown but the inclusion of veteran TV actors like Alias’ Kevin Weisman, Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s James Marsters and Kip Purdue kind of has me hooked on the show.
The L Word Generation Q: Season 1 (Showtime) – As a fan of the original series since episode one, I am massively intrigued by this brand new reboot of this show about a group of lesbians living in Los Angeles and notably I’m most excited about the return of one of the greatest television characters in my opinion, the bad girl who can nab anyone she wants, Shane McCutcheon, played perfectly by Katherine Moening. The new show picks up ten years later with Shane, Bette (Jennifer Beals) and Alice (Leisha Hailey) all running their still very successful lives with new characters and new relationships throwing their usual wrenches in to dispel the tranquilness. I’m just glad the character of Jenny Schecter is nowhere to be seen as the almost ruined the last two seasons for me.
Work In Progress: Season 1 (Showtime) – This is a great looking new show for Showtime and one that will definitely push the representation of the LGBTQ+ community in a big way, hopefully rising it into the mainstream. The show is about Abby, a 45-year-old self-identified fat, queer dyke whose misfortune and despair unexpectedly lead her to a vibrantly transformative relationship with Chris, played by Theo Germaine, a standout from the Ryan Murphy created Netflix series The Politician. Chicago improv mainstay Abby McEnany co-created and stars in the lead role of this uniquely human comedy series and I feel like this eight-episode run will turn a lot of heads as I’ve heard really great things about her work.