Bad Boys For Life – It’s been seventeen years since we last saw Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s characters of Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett and after so much teasing and collapses of this third film it is now finally here without Michael Bay behind the camera and I’m actually really excited for it as I loved the two other movies. This film teases the two cops’ “last ride” as they confront their ageing into different roles of law enforcement and the creation of their own squad which gets put to the immediate test with the emergence of a new enemy, Armando Armas, the vicious leader of a Miami drug cartel. This is the big-budget debut of the directing duo of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah and I would have to say that all bets are off for this action flick. My aim is to just have fun.
Dolittle – Its been a long time coming for this brand new version of the Rex Harrison classic and unlike the Eddie Murphy version and its sequel the producers went with a more traditional route. Starring the charismatic Robert Downey Jr. in the title role, the basic story is exactly the same as you remember it, a veterinarian discovers that he has the ability to speak to animals as well as hear their thoughts. The interesting aspect is the filmmakers behind this as Syriana writer and director Stephen Gaghan steps out of his gritty wheelhouse to do the same on this family film, shot by Pan’s Labyrinth cinematographer Guillermo Navarro which adds a whole new level of interesting to this movie. Honestly, just based on Downey Jr.’s involvement alone I’m looking forward to this one.
Clemency – Just a week after the death row drama Just Mercy comes this film that features two blistering lead performances that will leave you breathless by the end credits. The story has Alfre Woodard as the warden of a prison that carries out death sentences for inmates, each one taking a little piece of her soul as she dutifully does her jobs. Still reeling from the last one, a procedure that went wrong causing the inmate to spasm brutally until his death, the lead up to her next execution causes her emotions to rise and her life to slowly deteriorate. On the other side of that is that inmate in question, played with incredible nuance by Aldis Hodge, a man who hasn’t let the imminence of his death hit him yet, still deep in a well of hope that his life will be spared. While it lacks some of the pomp that Just Mercy has, the movie’s stillness is its strength. This movie is worth checking out just for the powerhouse performances alone. (Only opening in Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver)
Uncut Gems – Adam Sandler is here to give a shot to the haters, including me, that says he is only out for the easy work and to simply hang out with his friends. This is such a gamechanger that the ground shakes with every scene. Following up on their incredible tour-de-force Good Time, the Safdie brothers return with this incredible character-driven story of Howard Ratner, a New York City jeweller who is more interested in making money hand over fist than he is with his personal wellbeing or that of his family and friends as well. In a pulsing mosaic of tension and anxiety, Howard finds himself in increasingly dangerous predicaments as he uses the high profile of NBA star Kevin Garnett to lift himself out of a preexisting debt by piquing his interest with something special he procured in Ethiopia. This is an incredible film, another masterpiece from two of the best storytellers working today and proof that Sandler is not to be ignored. (Only opening in Hamilton, London, Edmonton, Kamloops and Vancouver. On Netflix on January 31st)
Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil – We are now at the point of these Disney live-action re-imaginings that we are headed in the sequels to these films as the one to kick it off, a version of Sleeping Beauty that focuses on the villain, now sees an expansion to their story. Angelina Jolie returns in the title role, now godmother to Aurora played again by Elle Fanning, Maleficent finds herself at odds with the family of Aurora’s soon to be husband. Feeling threatened, she starts to unleash her full powers again, wreaking havoc in another special effects extravaganza. The film is made by Joachim Ronning who made the astounding films Kon-Tiki and Max Manus: Man Of War but then proceeded to make the kind of ho-hum Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales but the great thing is he adds such a luscious life to the visuals of this movie. Unfortunately, on the other hand, he plunges many of the scenes into murky darkness that is hard to see and coupling it with a pretty predictable story it becomes a very forgettable film in the end.
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 and now you can own it for life just like a good cinephile.
Gemini Man – The premise of this movie is one of those great action foils that draw you in, Will Smith playing a hitman who keeps getting duped by a younger assassin who turns out to be a younger clone of himself in a twist that is unfortunately given away in the trailer. With the star power of Smith in a long gestated project from producer Jerry Bruckheimer that was at one time in the hands of Curtis Hanson and Tony Scott, this movie should have been something to get the star back on that box office winning track. Unfortunately, nothing in this movie works even with Ang Lee as the director on this, a filmmaker who is honestly pretty hit or miss with me, but usually not this badly as this film doesn’t feel like a Lee project in any way. Even worse, his faster frame rate of 120 frames per second makes the movie an overly glossy mess which, coupled with a bad script and some really glaring logic gaffs, make this one a total dud and I didn’t even mention the de-ageing on Will Smith that goes from great to slightly nightmarish.
The Peanut Butter Falcon – Shia Lebeouf is an actor that went through a lot of issues in his transition from child and teen star to the crush and expectations of adulthood. He was mocked mercilessly in the press but the whole time he was still giving knockout performance after performance, never slowing down but just doing movies you haven’t heard of. Now with this film, I really hope he gets the recognition he deserves. The film is about a man with down syndrome named Zak who escapes his care home in the hope of finding his wrestler idols school in the hopes of being trained. Along the way, he runs into Tyler, a troubled fisherman who is on the run from others on the same dock. Deeply grieving the loss of his brother, Tyler reluctantly forms a bond with Zak and the end result is a beautiful emotional journey filled with redemption for Lebeouf, both in this character and hopefully to the skeptical viewer. This movie is massively special and I loved it.
Code 8 – The Amell brothers, Robbie and Stephen, come together for this brand new sci-fi film that has been playing well with fans of the genre as well as Arrowverse fanboys. The film takes place in a world where people with “special” abilities are living in poverty and follows Robbie Amell’s character, a powerful young man who is struggling to pay for his ailing mother’s medical treatment. To earn money, he joins a possibly lucrative underworld of crime through Stephen Amell’s Garrett, the right hand of a major drug lord. This is the debut feature film from writer and director Jeff Chan who adapted this from his short film of the same name and the reaction on a studio level was so good for this that Quibi has now announced a spinoff series that will air later this year. It’s best to get in the know on this film as soon as possible.
Little Monsters – Zombie movies are once again in a dodgy time as with The Walking Dead and it’s spin-off series and another one on the horizon, we quickly hurtle towards burnout on these creatures again. One of the saving genre shifts is the zombie comedy or zombedy which is exactly what this movie is, following a kindergarten class and their sunshiny teacher who tries to protect them all during an outbreak, shielding all their young minds by telling them that it’s all a game. Lupita N’yongo plays the teacher, Mrs. Caroline, the ultimate bright point of a film that gets lost in terrible characters that we are unable to root for and general silliness that bogs the story down at every turn. I wanted to love this film but ended up pretty so-so on it.
Beverly Hills Cop: 3 Movie Collection – In a week where Eddie Murphy was absolutely robbed of an Academy Award nomination for Dolemite Is My Name you can now get over those hurt feelings by getting the movie that introduced us to him on the big screen and the subsequent sequel in this new hi-def box set. The 80s action fan in me is singing as I loved the exploits of Detroit transplant cop Axel Foley and, hell, I even enjoy the third movie which is, let’s face it, an absolute mess but it was made by the legendary John Landis so it kind of scores some points there. The features a bit bare bones for the sequels but the first film has all the goodies including commentary with director Martin Brest and a retrospective about the movie’s pop culture effect. This is a box set crammed with iconic Eddie Murphy stuff.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:
Breaking Bad: The Complete Series – One of the greatest shows ever made is now available in an absolutely beautiful box set that features the “sketch artist” version of Heisenberg on the cover and, although it doesn’t have the new Netflix exclusive movie El Camino in the set, I’m pretty sure I’m in love with this Blu-ray collection and it sits pretty on the shelf with my Game Of Thrones complete series. This show is the definition of iconic with incredible characters, brilliant writing and an overarching endgame that no one saw coming except for creator Vince Gilligan himself. I think people will look back at this show as a benchmark in television for the time and a show that it seems no one has a bad thing to say about.
Sex Education: Season 2 (Netflix) – This British comedy series got a huge boost with geat numbers when the first season debuted that it was a no brainer for a pickup. The show stars Gillian Anderson and Asa Butterfield and is about the teenage son of a sex therapist who decides to use the smarts he’s learned from her to run his own “practice” in his high school with the help of the edgy girl in his class. The script for this series is so snappy and smart with both Butterfield and Andeson giving some of their best work and the best thing is how incredibly unpredictable the storyline is. Honestly, it is so good that I can’t get even a toe into spoiler territory because I would hate myself for it. Just watch it.
Grace And Frankie: Season 6 (Netflix) – The penultimate season of this massive Netflix hit is finally here and as a guy playing catch up with the show I definitely have my opinion about the show and it’s direction. For those who don’t know, the story follows two women who find out that their husbands are not just work partners but have also been romantically involved for the last twenty years. The two ladies already have a strained relationship but try to cope with the circumstances together and even go into business with each other over the five seasons. I watch the series definitely for lead stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin but mostly for June Diane Raphael who plays Grace’s daughter Brianna, the highlight of the show to me.
Tammy And The T-Rex: Gore Cut (Shudder) – Pulling out a B-movie classic from the 90s, this is the prime example of bringing a forgotten property back with some new goodies for a brand new introduction. Starring Denise Richards in the title role, this is the gonzo story of an evil scientist who implants the brain of a murdered high school student into a Tyrannosaurus which then escapes and wreaks vengeance on his high school bullies and is reunites with his sweetheart Tammy. Oh, and the difference is that there is now way more gore in this 1994 camp film and it is hilariously insane. This is kind of a deep dig for some people but it is things like this that make Shudder such a treat to have.
Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez (Netflix) – I love myself some true-crime docuseries and this one is fantastic as it delves into the high profile murder trial putting former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez as the mastermind of the execution-style killing of one of his close friends. This three-episode is a fascinating watch as Hernandez goes from an unlikely suspect to a tragic figure to a cold-blooded monster battle with rage issues, concussions and a man dealing with sexuality issues. I was on the edge of my seat for this whole series and need more Killer Inside documentaries like this one. This is a case I thought I knew a lot about but as it turns out, I really knew just the surface information.
Leslie Jones: Time Machine (Netflix) – Rising above the hate she got for being in Ghostbusters: Answer The Call and now separating herself from Saturday Night Live, the very funny Leslie Jones gets her first Netflix special and it’s a stand-up set that I enjoyed for the most part but keep in mind that Leslie likes to scream a lot and it probably should have been a warning to a couple of people in the front row of her show because they definitely get the brunt of her exacerbated anger. No worries though, it wasn’t really anger, just for the show, friends. It’s also amazing to see the energy she can exude especially talking about ageing into her fifties.