The Grudge – We are now in the cycle of horror where we try out the Japanese waif ghosts again and if you remember, this didn’t work out too well when Paramount tried to reboot The Ring with Rings, a limp and frightening nudge to a story audiences had largely forgotten about. This movie does have so bright points to it as director Nicolas Pesce is behind this as well as the screenwriter and with original films like The Eyes Of My Mother and Piercing on his belt, this would be the first movie of his to fail the genre if it’s bad. I love the cast in this, which includes John Cho, Lin Shaye, Demien Bichir and Andrea Riseborough but being the only movie dumped on the first release date of 2020 feels suspect.
Steve’ Blu-Ray Geek-Out:
Jake Speed – Thanks to Arrow Video we head back to the mid-eighties for one of those bigger than life action heroes, this one in the form of this pulp fiction hero satire character played by producer and writer Wayne Crawford. The film has him assisting a desperate woman in saving her sister from sadistic white slaver operating out of Africa. The movie has a little star power as it features Dennis Christopher as Speed’s sidekick Desmond Floyd and the villain is played by the late and truly great John Hurt which you know means a lot of scenery-chewing by an absolute legend complete with a dirty bad-guy moustache. The Blu-ray also has a feature on the transition from pulp novels to the big screen that’s pretty fascinating on its own.
Slaughterhouse-Five – Another classic getting the full special edition treatment thanks to Arrow Video, this is a movie that I saw at way too young of an age and didn’t fully appreciate until I received this new Blu-ray edition. Based on the famous novel from Kurt Vonnegut, this is the story of Billy Pilgrim, a POW in World War II who finds himself “unstuck in time” when he is abducted by aliens, slitting his narrative into three different stories or lifetimes. Confused yet? Yes, maybe this is why I didn’t like it as a kid as this 1972 movie definitely is heady. The film really is groundbreaking for cinema that took wide chances, even if all of them don’t land. Slaughterhouse-Five still is a landmark book and the fact that the movie, which was largely thought to be unfilmable, manages to grasp the themes without muddying them is astounding.
Great Day In The Morning – We’re digging into the decades this week with my geek outs as I’ve already covered the seventies and eighties and now we head to the mid fifties for this rustic action adventure from a French director named Jacques Tourneur who built himself a career as a real genre filmmaker in a time where it wasn’t the popular film path. The story follows a Confederate drifter who wins a hotel-saloon at a poker game in Denver but two rival female admirers, local Union sympathizers, Southern gold miners and an orphaned boy make this wagered acquisition way more than he bargained for. Two old favorites of mine, Robert Stack and Raymond Burr, both star in this film, which was my immediate draw to it and they are both fantastic in it but I think this one belongs to lead star Virginia Mayo who just epitomizes the star power of the time.
The Nude Bomb – I was raised on the comedy stylings of Mel Brooks, Police Squad and Get Smart so you can imagine my elation when this special edition joined my collection as, honestly, I had never heard of it before. Don Adams steps back into his role as secret agent Maxwell Smart, being brought out of retirement to to help fight a villian who threatens to detonate a weapon that destroys clothing. The movie is a bit of a departure from the show as Barbara Feldon doesn’t appear as Agent 99 and kind of failed as the only Get Smart movie to be made but didn’t capitalize on using a name more directly relatable to the hit show so no one really watched it. It’s a bummer because the film is actually really funny especially if you’re already a fan of this style of comedy.
Where’s My Roy Cohn? – This documentary is absolutely chilling to it’s core, an engrossing look at attorney Roy Cohn, a man that got his first notorious start as part of the council employed by Joseph McCarthy to blackball supposed communists in America. A flamboyant individual who guarded his not too secret sexuality until the end of his life when he died of AIDS, something documented in Tony Kushner’s Broadway play Angels In America. Even more interesting, this film shows how much of Cohn’s personality was a blueprint for the tyrant in chief the States has currently in power, using moves that are all too familiar to us now.
Pavarotti (Showtime) – I’m really hit or miss with the narrative films of Ron Howard but as a documentarian, more importantly, a music documentarian he is making some seriously great movies. After his last one, Eight Days A Week, he focuses on the life and work of opera legend Luciano Pavarotti and I have to admit that my knowledge of and even appreciation for opera is quite low but the passion and joy that flows through the man in archival and rehearsal footage and home movies is almost infectious. Howard also uses Pavarotti’s concert footage in a way that helps tell the story of his work, his creative mind and his personal relationships. This is a great watch for any music lover with a broader mind in their tastes.
Messiah: Season 1 (Netflix) – This is a brand new CIA thriller that doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention but it may appear on people’s “most talked about” list to start off 2020. Michelle Monahan and A Most Wanted Man’s Mehdi Dehbi star in the ten-episode series about a CIA officer who must investigate a man attracting international attention and followers through acts of public disruption, sending her on a global, high-stakes mission to uncover whether he is the real deal or a deceptive con artist. The first episode is a great establishment of this series, throwing doubt and belief into the same arena by providing clues to each outcome of who this character known as Al-Masih really is. The show was created by Michael Petroni, who created the religious horror serirs Miracles with Skeet Ulrich, a show that failed to grab an audience. Hopefully, this one will get some legs.
Luz (Shudder) – This ethereal little indie horror film is definitely for the genre films but I feel like fans of early David Cronenberg and all of David Lynch’s work will have an appreciation for this one. The film opens with the title character, a young cabdriver stumbling into a police station. Close behind her is the demonic force that is chasing her, passing from the body of the last fare that put her in the danger she is in and a psychiatric doctor employed to get her story. The movie is disorienting and always ominous in its tone and the score driving some atmospheric tension. It’s interesting to note that the film was made by German writer and director Tilman Singer as his thesis project so it will be very intriguing to see what his next project will be like now that he’s laid down a pretty impressive debut.
Spinning Out: Season 1 (Netflix) – A new sports-driven series featuring rising star Kaya Scodelario, this is another show that Netflix doesn’t seem to be pushing at all. It follows a figure skating Olympic hopeful who is struggling to balance love, family and her fragile mental health as her dream of winning starts to spin out of control. I think Scodelario is one of the actresses to keep an eye on in the next couple of years, with Alexandre Aja’s Crawl being a great notch on her belt this past year and this show might get her on the radar a bit more. The show was created by writer Samantha Stratton who has been doing great work on the Stephen King series Mr. Mercedes so this might be a really great breakout project for her as long as it steers away from being The Cutting Edge or Ice Castles.
Doctor Who: Season 12 (BBC America) – We now head into the second season of Jodie Whittaker’s version of the famous time lord, a casting that has seriously pissed off a huge number of the faithful fandom of Doctor Who and you know what? They can totally suck it because the show is doing great and Whittaker is fantastic in the role. I think the comfortability between her and showrunner and lead writer Chris Chibnall is a big part of it, as they have a lot of experience together after his series Broadchurch and the freshening of this series through a female hero is so refreshing, especially with the Doctor getting used to her new form. I love it and I hope Whittaker remains in the roles for a few years to come.