Little Women (Opened on Christmas Day) – Greta Gerwig cements herself as one of the finest contemporary filmmakers working today, adapting Louise May Alcott’s cherished novel and really creating a relatable story for women about women and the struggles of ambition with a societal limit, love with a societal scrutiny and existence under the watchful eye of “what’s proper for a lady”. The cast is absolutely perfect with Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson and Sharp Objects actress Eliza Scanlen rounding out our immediate cast of the Marsh sisters. These ladies all play like they really have been raised together and their bond is immediately felt. Gerwig crafts their individual stories so beautifully as the film moves in non linear arcs to paint the full story of each of these women’s battle to raise their own voices. This film is special in every way and breathtaking with every frame this amazing filmmaker and Personal Shopper cinematographer Yorick Le Saux shows you. (Not opening in Hamilton)
Spies In Disguise (Opened on Christmas Day) – Getting that coveted Christmas release day, this animated film from the fledgling Fox property of Blue Sky Studio gets to impress your kids this holiday weekend featuring the voices of Will Smith and Tom Holland. The movie has Smith as a secret agent who’s skills are put to the ultimate test when he is transformed into a pigeon and has to rely on his young tech officer to navigate through his new existence. This is the debut film from a couple of animators who had worked on The Peanuts Movie previously for Blue Sky and the reviews so far are praising the voice work as the reason to go see this. It looks fun to me.
The Song Of Names (Opened on Christmas Day) – With stellar actors toplining this film, Tim Roth and Clive Owen, I was really looking forward to this sweeping drama that spanned these two characters from childhood until far into their adult years. The film is about an Englishman named Martin who journey’s through Europe to find his childhood friend, a virtuoso genius violin player who had abandoned everything thirty-five years earlier, failing to appear at a prestigious performance, a decision that left Martin’s family in ruins. The story would be far more compelling if the pacing of this film didn’t seem to drag in so many places and the acting feels so understated. That said, the young boy who plays Clive Owen’s childhood version, Luke Doyle, is phenomenal. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver. Expands on January 10th)
Adopt A Highway – Actor Logan Marshall-Green makes his directorial debut with a film that he wrote as well. Ethan Hawe gives a soulful performance as a man just recently granted parole when he discovers a baby in a dumpster outside of the fast-food restaurant he works at. Looking to do something with his life that has meaning, he decides to try and keep the baby to raise his own as a sort of redemption in his mind. this movie is so well done with an outing from Hake that resonates afterwards and there is such a moment of triumph at the end of the movie that you will be left with a smile when the credits roll. I really loved this movie and look forward to the next offering Marshall-Green has as a filmmaker.
The Kill Team – Writer and director Dan Krauss makes his narrative feature debut with this true story based on a previous documentary that he had made. The story follows a young American soldier in Afghanistan who finds his safety in jeopardy in his tour when his new commanding officer starts killing Afghani civilians and planting weapons on their bodies afterwards. When his fellow squad members start doing the same, he finds himself increasingly paranoid as to who he can trust and what information he can send back home. This movie is an exercise in intense filmmaking and features fantastic performances from lead stars Nat Wolff and Alexander Skarsgard. I’m surprised there isn’t more buzz around this movie, it’s really good.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:
American Made – Tom Cruise is usually known for playing the all American homegrown good guy which is why this movie works so well and is a big departure for him because the true story character he plays in this film, Barry Seal, is definitely not a good dude. A pilot who was looking for a better way to earn money, Seal took an opportunity to work for the CIA running drugs undercover for the cartel. Getting in way over his head, the danger starts to landslide out of control even if the money he’s earning is overflowing, landing him in the middle of an international incident. Teaming up again after the massive success of Edge Of Tomorrow, Cruise and writer and director Doug Liman make another great film that seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle.
Aya Of Yop City – Kino Lorber usually does a pretty deep dig with their original releases and it definitely is the case with this animated feature from France. Set in the seventies, the story takes place in Ivory Coast’s working-class district of Abidjan, otherwise known as Yop City, following a nineteen-year-old girl with the hopes of being a doctor against her father’s wishes as this didn’t gel with the gender norms of women marrying and starting a family immediately. The film was created by the original writer of the graphic novel this was based on, Clément Oubrerie, and it really is a pretty astounding feature to look at and an interesting look into the class system of a foreign country.
Robocop – One of my favorite movies of all time gets a glorious revamp in this new limited collector’s edition from Arrow Video. A brilliant commentary on the future of our society that feels super relevant now, director Paul Verhoeven was kind of ahead of his time as he usually is in this Peter Weller led sci-fi film. This set has so many cool extras like the full director’s cut of the film which was only previously available on the X-rated Criterion edition that is out of print a new interview featurette with a new conversation between co-writer Ed Neumeier and filmmakers David Birke and Nicholas McCarthy, behind the scenes documentaries and a Q&A from 2012 featuring Verhoeven himself. This is a must-own for any fan of this movie and I’d definitely buy that for a dollar!
The Bad And The Beautiful – Coming from the Warner Archives, it’s crazy to think that the star of this 1952 drama is still with us as the legendary Kirk Douglas just turned 103 the other day. The winner of five Academy Awards, this film tells the story of a movie producer who uses his relationships to elevate him to the right lucrative project, stepping on the backs of an actress, a director and a writer to get there. The movie comes from a famed director named Vincente Minnelli, the husband of Judy Garland and the father of Liza, and feels like such an insider piece of art that really pulls back the curtain on the first golden age of Hollywood. A perfect movie for deep cinema buffs.
Lucky Day – It’s been a long time since we’ve gotten a Roger Avary movie and for those of you who are scratching your head going “who?” he is the guy who wrote Pulp Fiction with Quentin Tarantino and made the bank heist film Killing Zoe and the Bret Easton Ellis adaptation Rules Of Attraction. In his return, he gathers a sizable cast including Nina Dobrev, Crispin Glover and Clifton Collins Jr. for this crime story about Red, a safe cracker who has just been released from prison and is trying to keep his family away from his past. It all catches up with him in the form of Luc, a psychopathic contract killer who’s seeking revenge for the death of his brother. Avary works in a very niche genre that won’t be for everyone but if you like fast-talking and sardonic bad guys and violent shoot outs, well this is his forte. I dug this movie but it really doesn’t hold any deep substance at all.
Kevin Hart: Don’t F This Up (Netflix) – Kevin Hart not only has a big hit movie in theaters right now with Jumanji: The Next Level but he’s back on your favorite streaming service with a brand new special to giggle your way through the holidays. While I’m not a big fan of his movies without The Rock in tow, I am partial to his stand up which really lands with me a lot of the time. This one plays it a little differently though as it is presented in a six-part docuseries, chronicling a bit of a controversial year for the comedian as he was picked by the Academy Awards producers to host then had to step down in light of some past social media posts. It should be a very introspective look at one of the biggest acts in the world.
New Order: Decades (Showtime) – One of the greatest groups of the 1980s, and a band that persevered through the death of their charismatic original lead singer as Joy Division, New Order finally get their due with this new Showtime special. Part concert, part documentary, this film follows the band getting ready for the re-staging of their acclaimed collaboration, So It Goes, with the artist Liam Gillick and the 12-piece synthesizer orchestra that was an acclaimed hit during Manchester International Festival 2017. As a huge fan of their catalogue and the mark on music they left, I’m very excited about this one.
John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch (Netflix) – One of my favorite stand up comedians working today, John Mulaney, returns with this new special and it looks hilarious just looking at the trailer. Mulaney and his kid pals tackle existential topics for all ages with catchy songs, comedy sketches and special guests like Jake Gyllenhaal, Natasha Lyonne and the legendary David Byrne join in a very nostalgic variety special. It’s really neat to see Mulaney lean back into the wholesome qualities that make up a bit of his stand up routine, especially after how uncomfortable his animated show Big Mouth makes people feel.
You: Season 2 (Netflix) – This creeper thriller gets a new entry as Penn Badgley reprises his role as Joe Goldberg, a bookstore manager who you hate but can’t keep your eye off of. Now the question of season two is “How much further can Joe go for his version of love?” and according to the star, this season was really hard to pull off without repeating themselves and it’s a character he really has a hard time playing as he is so massively unlikeable. Who knows? Maybe this is the season that fails to connect with the massive audience the first pulled in.
Lost In Space: Season 2 (Netflix) – Honestly, when I heard that Netflix had picked this property up to make a brand new series from I wasn’t sure that it could work, possibly because the troupe of a space travelling scientific family seemed out of date or the fact that the feature film, no matter what it had that worked for it, didn’t have what it takes to be a hit. This show has proved me wrong as it earned a second season pick up shortly after it’s premiere and, truth be told, it’s actually pretty good. The showrunners were the writers on Dracula Untold and the latest Power Rangers reboot which may not seem like the greatest pedigree but the lead stars of Canadian actress Molly Parker and former Bond villain Toby Stephens are really great on this show too alongside the new Dr. Smith who has been gender-swapped for Parker Posey, another favorite of mine.