1917 – Now a Golden Globe winner for Best Picture and Best Director, we finally get the chance to check out this World War I epic from director Sam Mendes, shot by one of the greatest cinematographers ever to get behind the camera, Roger Deakins. The story follows two young British soldiers who are given an impossible mission to deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men, including one of the soldiers’ brothers, from walking straight into a bloodbath. The film is comprised of two single-take shots, put together with invisible and seamless cuts much like Birdman was, and, although it is early in the year, this is one of my most anticipated films of 2020. This is most likely your Best Picture Oscar winner right here, mark my words.
Just Mercy – Short Term 12 director Destin Daniel Cretin returns to form after The Glass Castle with this well-acted true story about civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard law school graduate who moved from Delaware to Alabama to give death row inmates proper legal representation, played in this film by Michael B. Jordan. Awards season will definitely contain talk of this movie now that it is finally getting its wide release and not just for Jordan who turns in another great performance but it’s more likely that Jamie Foxx will get the nomination as a wrongly convicted small-town Alabama man that was made a target by a brutal sheriff in his county.
Like A Boss – I really want to have good thoughts about this movie as it has Rose Byrne, one of my favorite comedic actresses, and Tiffany Haddish, someone who I think is funny in real life, taking on Salma Hayek, an actress that always brings it in comedy. My problem is that Haddish’s track record theatrically speaking is spotty at best and this storyline feels so lame. the film has Haddish and Byrne as joint owners of a beauty company but with massively different ideals in how they run the business. Their friendship is put to the test when they try to go into business with a successful businesswoman who decides that she would rather gut the company. The trailer for this movie is an absolute mess and it’s hard to glean any sort of comedic tone from it. Is it a slapstick? Is it a situational comedy or a girl power one? Obviously, the studio has no idea.
Underwater – Being buried in the first month of the year, any horror or action movie is usually something the studios want to bury as they’re generally not very good. I want to think that this movie could be really great because the trailer looks awesome and, yes, it’s got Kristen Stewart in it and I’m a big fan, hate me for it if you want. The story is about a crew of aquatic researchers who have a desperate struggle to get to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory but, worse than that, something has been released from the cracks underwater that starts to pick them off one by one and the creature design looks really cool. The movie was directed by William Eubanks who made the awesome sci-fi thriller The Signal, a film I stumbled upon and absolutely fell in love with. I really want this movie to be a sleeper hit.
Les Miserables – Taking the broader strokes of the famous book by Victor Hugo and omitting all of the Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway musical numbers, this is a stark look at one of the rougher areas of Paris following a new officer in the Anti-Crime Brigade of Montfermeil. In a very Training Day-esque ride-along, he finds that his new partners act with a brash above the law attitude and a public that is on the cusp of an irredeemable boiling point. This movie is an incredible film from writer and director Ladj Ly in his feature debut and left me in stunned silence for a while afterwards. The final moments of this movie will live in my mind, probably until I put it down on my year-end list in December, it is that powerful. This is some real must-see cinema and a film that just lost out on Best Foreign at the Golden Globes to Parasite.
Invisible Life – This is a film that kind of got dumped into this early January release week and I wasn’t too familiar with it. It comes from Brazilian director Karim Aïnouz and follows two sisters living in Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s, who separated to make their individual ways through life, each mistakenly believing the other is living out her dreams half a world away. The movie is very rich with emotion and is totally heartbreaking in its scope and, although I wasn’t feeling this movie in its first act and it made some acting choices that were confusing, the second act comes in like a sledgehammer and I was gripped for the remainder of the movie. This film was submitted as Brazil’s official selection for next year’s Academy Awards so it may be a film the cinephiles will want to take note of.
And The Birds Rained Down – A French Canadian film about three elderly men living in isolation in the forests of Quebec, this story was poignant and thoughtful with beautiful scenery. The draw for me immediately was Remy Girard who brings a fantastic sour edge to his weathered alcoholic character but it’s the ideology of the movie that keeps you around, pushing a deeply ecological message but also a heartbreaking tale of three men who headed into the forest when they were handed a death sentence from regular society and ended up finding a sort of rebirth in nature, the conduit being Andree Lachapelle’s character, a woman deteriorating in-home care brought into the forest as almost a refugee. Not everyone will pick up on this movie but it was effective with me.
Joker – After a release that had many people divided over its merit, the overall message and what effects this could have on weaker-minded viewers, this Todd Phillips directed film has arrived on Blu-ray and it really can’t be contested, Joaquin Phoenix should be praised for his performance in it, an undeniable fact. With zero connection to any pre-existing comic story or film, this is the story of how struggling comedian Arthur Fleck became the Joker, a criminal mastermind that terrorizes Gotham City. This movie comes across as a gritty version of Martin Scorsese’s The King Of Comedy blended with a Taxi Driver quality if it was driven by a violent and clown-themed twist. this movie left me slack-jawed at times with its astounding bleakness and the finale is a ramping tension and intensity that makes you squirm in your seat. This film also has one of the funniest dark comedy beats of the year as well and it comes out of nowhere.
Judy – Ever since Rene Zellweger returned to the spotlight for her third Bridget Jones movie, I have been waiting for her to nab a juicy role that would put her back into the position of being an award hopeful like when she won an Oscar for Cold Mountain. Yes, I root for Rene and now she has just won Best Actress at the Golden Globes so I think I’ve been vindicated here. She plays the legendary Judy Garland in this biopic about the troubled and tragic actress from True Story director Rupert Goold, focusing on her series of sold-out concerts in London during the winter of 1968. Although this movie and Rene were publicly denounced by Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli, the performance from Zellweger is a showstopper and the film received a huge standing ovation at TIFF. I think this will be the one to look out for in the Best Actress at the Oscars now as its next conquest so make note of it now.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:
The Cider House Rules – Celebrating its twentieth anniversary this week, it’s the perfect time to pick up this Blu-ray and relive this beautiful Maine story from director Lasse Hallstrom, possibly the best film of his career. Tobey Maguire, Michael Caine and Charlize Theron star in this film set in an orphanage in the remote town of St. Cloud following a never adopted orphan who spends his time helping the director as a medical assistant of sorts. The movie earned two Academy Awards including Supporting Actor for Caine and is one of the best films of that year that still resonates every time I watch it.
Born On The Fourth Of July – One of the best Oliver Stone movies ever made, this is your first bulletin here that a new Blu-ray version will be in stores next week just in time to celebrate thirty years of release. For those who don’t know, Tom Cruise gives a fantastic performance as Ron Kovics, a paralyzed Vietnam War veteran, traumatized by his experiences there and is determined to prevent that happening to anyone else. He then turns his attention to being an anti-war activist, a life-changing decision that puts him in many different crosshairs in a totally different war of freedoms. The film earned Stone his third Oscar which was his second statue for Best Director in a total masterclass of a movie.
Daybreakers – This is definitely a genre pick here but as it is turning ten this week I had to bring it for a little geek out. Coming from the Aussie writer and director duo the Spierig Brothers, this film is about a vampire run future where humans are the animals just meant to be fed on but unfortunately that fresh meat source is running out causing the population to start to mutate into something a lot worse. The movie has such a great cast with Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill and Willem Dafoe and, one of my favorite things, the story is set in 2019. I guess they definitely got that one wrong but there are certainly some vampires running the world or should I say RUINING. Yeah, let’s go with that.
AJ And The Queen: Season 1 (Netflix) – This is a show that will capture a large audience already dedicated to RuPaul’s Drag Race as the creator of that show now gets their own series and it is a little unorthodox, just like they are. The show centers around RuPaul as a drag queen named Ruby Red, a bigger than life character that is in need of a serious luck boost as she makes her way across the country. Along the way, she befriends a tough-talking ten-year-old named AJ who stowed away in her vehicle. The show was co-created by Sex And The City showrunner Michael Patrick King and with RuPaul’s charisma, I really think this is going to be a big hit.
Medical Police: Season 1 (Netflix) – From the creators of the hilarious series Children’s Hospital comes this brand new spin-off starring Rob Huebel and Erinn Hayes’ characters of Owen Maestro and Lola Spratt. On a brand new adventure, the two physicians discover a civilization-threatening virus on an expedition to São Paulo, Brazil and are recruited as government agents in a race against time and around the world to find a cure and uncover a dark conspiracy at the head of it all. Yes, they’re doctors with guns and I’m totally here for it as many of the favorites from the original series pop in and it comes from the genius minds of David Wain and Rob Corddry so, without any boundaries, this could be amazing.
Dracula: Season 1 (Netflix) – How many times have we seen the Dracula story done and redone? So many times, right? Well, get ready for another one comes from the brilliant minds behind the latest Sherlock Holmes series Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat and I have to say that I’m really enjoying what I’ve seen so far. The show brings it all back to the Bram Stoker roots set in 1897 Transylvania with the blood-drinking Count forming his plans to take over Victorian-era London and with The Square star Claes Bang in the title role I am totally hooked on it. Really though, it should be way longer than just three episodes.
Schitt’s Creek: Season 7 (CBC) – One of the greatest Canadian television shows of all time starts its swan song as Johnny Rose and his family’s story ends. The draw is immediate, a show following a rich family led by legendary comedians Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara who are forced to move to a small town they bought years ago. With their two spoiled children in tow, played by Dan Levy and Annie Murphy, they try to make their best of the situation while scheming to figure out a way to get it all back. I thoroughly love this show so much and it introduced me to the younger Levy and his own sense of comedic genius that is very different than his father’s. This is a bittersweet ending but I’m going to enjoy it.
Treadstone: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – Now that we’ve had a spin-off film starring Jeremy Renner that failed to gain traction, although I enjoyed it, and another installment of the Matt Damon led series that was lackluster and unnecessary we get a show revolving around the program that created these operatives. The series actually looks really solid and coming from the streaming service that has already given up two fantastic seasons of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan I have nothing but good thoughts about this show. Besides Michelle Forbes and Patrick Fugit, there probably aren’t going to be a lot of recognizable stars but the show is run by Tim Kring who created the NBC series Heroes, which contributes more to my excitement.