Gretel & Hansel – In the dark niches of mystery and horror actor turned director Osgood Perkins has been making waves with stylishly done films like The Blackcoat’s Daughter and with this film, just his third feature, he may hit more of a mainstream level and he’s doing it with a classic Grimm fairy tale. The story is exactly what you remember it to be, a young girl and her little brother who live in a distant countryside long ago are lured in a desperate search of food and work to a cottage in the woods that may be the end of both of them. The film stars It’s Sophia Lillis and The Borg Queen herself Alice Krige as the formidable villain of this film and one who looks absolutely terrifying on the poster. I have very high hopes for this movie as everything about it seems to steer right into my wheelhouse of gothic horror and stunning visuals. I feel like Osgood’s legendary father and genre legend Anthony Perkins would be very proud right now. (Only opening in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver)
The Rhythm Section – Ryan Reynolds can’t be the only ass-kicker of his family as his wife Blake Lively makes her leap to the action genre. Yes, I know we already saw her take on a shark in the thriller The Shallows but this film sees her in hand to hand combat and firing a gun and, by all the trailers, I’m looking forward to this one. In the film, she plays a woman looking for revenge after her family is murdered during a terrorist plot. Kind of leaning into that cliche a bit, she arms her self up and goes into training to destroy those who took her loved ones but the film looks a bit grittier than your standard Taken film and it has Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown to do some heavy lifting as well. I find it exciting that Reed Moreno makes her first action film with this, the woman who beautifully shot the Beyonce Lemonade video.
Corpus Christi – A nominee representing Poland for Best Foreign this year at the Academy Awards, a movie destined to lose to Parasite most likely, this story had me gripped immediately. It follows Daniel, a young man in a juvenile detention center who has found the path of God but, because of his crimes, is unable to act on this in any official capacity. He escapes from his holdings and steals the local pastor’s robes and heads out on the road on a bus until he’s dropped off at a small village that has a vacancy from a priest. He assumes this position and quickly learns that the townspeople are in deep mourning from an accident that claimed the lives of six teens. In getting the town to heal, Daniel learns to heal himself in a film that is beautifully shot and crafted with a soulful and ground shaking performance from young star Bartosz Bielenia. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Rosie – This is a film that should be grouped together with the last couple of Ken Loach movies I, Daniel Blake and Sorry We Missed You as they are all damning stories of lower-class struggle in the United Kingdom, glaring truth that is just going to get worse. Coming from acclaimed filmmaker Paddy Breathnach, this is the story of Rosie Davis, a mother of four who is desperately looking for a place to sleep and live temporarily after their landlord evicts after selling the house from under them. While her husband works shift after shift for an uncaring employer, Rosie is the only person fighting to keep their family from becoming destitute and homeless in a film that always feels incredibly real and palpable. When the final credits hit I need to give myself a minute to collect my emotions that had been shattered over the hour and a half of this tragic story. These are the films that are most important right now. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Parasite – This film was an amazing way to start out my coverage of this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, some great Korean cinema from one of the masters, Bong Joon-Ho. In his return to all Korean film, he tells the story of a family of con artists who grift their way into a rich family’s lives as a chauffeur, housekeeper, tutor and personal assistant respectively. They think they’ve hit the big time until the former housekeeper shows them a deep secret that she’s been hiding in their employer’s house that blows everyone’s situation up. Joon-Ho crafts another incredible masterpiece of a movie that’s filled with twists, incredible cinematography and the amazing ability to tell stories within a story. He never relents in showing that he is not only one of the greatest Korean storytellers today but one of the best in cinema today. This is your chance to check out the movie before it wins a Best Picture Oscar, the first foreign film to do so.
Terminator: Dark Fate – A new entry into a series that I felt has burnt me a few times before, I was a little trepidatious heading into the new installment of this iconic sci-fi action series but there are a few differences that gave me hope for a good movie. This film marks the return of producer James Cameron in a more hands-on capacity, the first time since Judgement Day and it has Deadpool director Tim Miller making his first film since that mega-hit, shrugging off the comedy for something far grimmer. Adding to that mix we get the return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, the only one who can do it justice, to join Arnie as well and damn is it a return! Honestly, just having her gruff and pessimistic presence in this film elevates the movie entirely and instantly made everything great. She makes up for whatever shortcomings the new action hero of this series, Mackenzie Davis’s time-travelling character of Grace, has. I really love the darker and extremely dour direction this film has taken as now we aren’t trying to save the world, we are trying to survive in it.
Motherless Brooklyn – Edward Norton is back behind the camera for the first time in almost twenty years with this new detective noir drama where he plays a private investigator’s helper who takes it upon himself to unravel a mystery that gets his boss killed. It should also be mentioned that Norton’s character suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome, which is sometimes played for laughs. The film is an engaging film with a great script but no one in the film is particularly amazing, no standouts that I could see. It is definitely is a little rough around the edges and could be trimmed down a bit, plus there was a bit of additional dialogue that felt a little tacked on.
Harriet – Talk Tom Me director Kasi Lemmons, also an actress who appeared in The Silence Of The Lambs among many others, takes on a huge historical figure with this new film, the amazing story of Harriet Tubman and her escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes who freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history. Cynthia Erivo, who last appeared in the great movies Widows and Bad Times At El Royale, takes the lead in this movie that is without a doubt led by her performance that is now nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards but unfortunately, this was a movie that fell a bit flat with me. The blocking of the film felt like a stage play largely and the cinematography felt very stock and stale with contemporary music that seemed to take about from the reality of the history being told. As great as I find Erivo in this movie it never felt like an award caliber performance and in a year where we got the incredible and soulful portrayals we got, it seems like it doesn’t measure up.
Battle Of Jangsari – Coming from the international movie house of Well Go USA, there are probably a lot of people who have never heard of this movie and, to be honest, I am among them. The film is the story of the Jangsari Landing Operation, which saw seven hundred and seventy-two student soldiers at the average age of seventeen who has only received two weeks of boot camp training tossed into the Korean War effort in order to pave the way for Incheon Landing Operation, which turned the tide of war. The film features Megan Fox and former CSI star George Eads but they only feature in the English portions of the movie, probably to give it North America appeal. Maybe Megan Fox wasn’t the strongest choice?
Edge Of The Axe – Arrow Video digs into the slasher films of the late eighties for this brand new collector’s edition of a film I feel like no one has heard of. Heck, I’d never heard of it. This horror is Spanish produced and focuses on a small California mountain town that is terrorized by a brutal axe murderer leaving two brave computer nerds as the smartest people to figure out who is doing it and how to stop them, The film was made by a director very special to Arrow, José Ramón Larraz, as they released some editions of his more popular films last year, a filmmaker known for more erotic films as well, but this one was supposed to be his foray into something more mainstream and he even adopted the American name of Joseph Braunstein for this and his previous effort Rest In Pieces. At least they get immortalized now with this Blu-Ray edition.
Black Angel – It has been a while since I’ve gotten to bring some good old fashioned film noir to this segment and now thanks to the high brow of the Arrow Academy I can with this classic film. The film follows Kirk Bennett, a man falsely accused of the murder of a woman who had been blackmailing him. This predicament propels his wife to take up an investigation that is aided by the help of an unlikely assistant, the victim’s ex-husband. Extramarital affairs, double-crosses and torching secrets are all revealed in a movie that plays it’s genre to a satisfying conclusion, leaving the viewer to fill in the blanks a little. Based on a popular novel at the time, this was the final film of director Roy William Neill who passed away the year this was released, 1946, at the age of 59. The remastering of this film is really gorgeous, the selling point of this blu-ray for sure.
Steve’s DVD Geek Out:
Come On Feel The Noize: The Story Of How Rock Became Metal – The name pretty much says it all, this is how the world of rock n’ roll made a niche shift over to something a little different, way heavier and something so massively influential to me, heavy metal, my driving force of music. The real unfortunate thing about this movie is the title which is taken from a horrible song by a horrible band, Quiet Riot, a group that was complete crap after Ozzy Osborne poached the charismatic lead guitarist Randy Rhoads. The film features interviews with Alice Cooper, Disturbed’s David Draiman, Metallica’s James Hetfield, Anthrax’s Scott Ian and way more.
Kenny Rogers: The Gambler’s Last Deal – With this massive country and western star in the news recently with his failing health, having something released that states anything as the “last” feels like a proverbial nail in a coffin but here we are. With the popularity of “The Gambler” ever since it’s inception, this is the final hurrah for this aspect of Rogers’ career but it’s not just a farewell concert but a full documentary that movies through the iconic stars storied career and those who joined him along the way. 2020 seems to be a year in which we are losing so many great stars so hopefully, this release doesn’t “tempt the fates” if you know what I mean.
BoJack Horseman: Season 6 (Netflix) – The saga of fallen former television star BoJack Horseman draws to a close with the closing piece of their sixth season and who would have thought it would go so long and have an actual wrap up? I’ll be completely honest, I only just got in to this show in season four but I can not speak enough about how smart and witty the show is and how it can easily shift from something so absolutely ridiculous to an emotional beat that feels so unfathomably poignant and relate-able. The creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg has gifted us with a series that is something special and with a great cast to boot. This show will be seriously missed.
Bliss (Shudder) – This film did its rounds on the festival circuit last year and really captured audience acclaim at Fantastic Fest alongside the director Jeff Bagos’ other film, the monster creature feature VFW, which usually means great things for genre fans when said movie finally earns its release. Well, as of Friday, Shudder has this film streaming, about a gifted painter who finds herself creatively stumped and goes deep into the evil underbelly of Los Angeles to find inspiration. The movie is getting shoved into the same sort of horror category as Mandy and Color Out Of Space so expect a totally messed up ride into a psychedelic nightmare.
Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) -More Ted Bundy documentaries? What, are we at the beginning of 2019 again? No, streaming history isn’t repeating itself, it’s just Amazon Prime wanting to get its own foothold in the world of one of the most disturbingly charismatic serial killers in the last hundred years, Ted Bundy. This docuseries has Bundy’s ex-girlfriend and the one that Lily Collins plays in the Netflix movie Elizabeth Kendall and her daughter Molly sharing their experiences with unsettling new details about Ted Bundy after nearly 40 years of silence so as much as I’m thinking “what, there’s more?” I’ll definitely be watching it.
The Dead Lands: Season 1 (Shudder) – New Zealand wants their own Walking Dead series but they’re going with more the historical and spiritual route with it. This show comes with a bit of a caveat because the best way to get into this show is to have seen the original film that came before it at the end of 2014 about the teenage son of a Maori chief who sets out for revenge. This new series is far different, following an undead Maori warrior and a young tribeswoman as they team up to stop an evil entity from rising up and destroying the living. It’s a bold series for Shudder to pick up on their streaming service but I’m really liking it so far.
Taylor Swift: Miss Americana (Netflix) – One of the biggest selling artists in the world, Tay-Tay gets her second piece of the Netflix pie after her concert movie with this documentary that was held up in legal red tape for a long time with this Scooter Braun drama but now that “allowances” have been made, the masses can be happy. The film is a look at the iconic pop artist during a transformational time in her life as she embraces her role as a singer/songwriter and harnesses the full power of her voice and her effect on her fanbase. I may not be a big fan of her music or some of the victim mentality in some of her music but her effect on the current zeitgeist is undeniable.