Birds Of Prey – The DC Cinematic Universe continues on its upswing with this new film that will hopefully wash the taste of Suicide Squad out of our mouths as this is the second kick at the can for Margot Robbie’s version of Harley Quinn, now shedding the shackles of the abusive Jared Leto Joker and looking to be a force for good alongside the rest of the Birds Of Prey. Who are they? Well, we have the supersonic ass-kicker of Black Canary, played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Huntress, an assassin played by Ramona Flowers herself Mary Elizabeth Winstead and the iconic Rosie Perez playing Gotham City detective Renee Montoya, a comic favorite. Together they take of Ewan McGregor’s villain character who is looking like he’s having an insanely good time playing this bad guy. The reviews are good so I am excited.
Come To Daddy – Elijah Wood is the champion of independent horror that you never knew. He produced the incredible Nicolas Cage films Mandy and Color Out Of Space as well as taking the lead in the incredible remake of William Lustig’s Maniac and there’s much more in the tank. This movie is one of them, a tension and anxiety-filled reconnection between a father and son who have been estranged for decades, from first-time director Ant Timpson, a producer for the Canadian film company RKSS, responsible for films like Turbo Kid and Summer Of ’84. The film takes its outside premise to a crazy and final conclusion between these two characters and then the real story begins, one I can’t even begin to describe for spoiler reasons. This is one of those future cult hits that gets that slow burn of the word of mouth until horror fans are all in the know. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
The Assistant – In the week after we heard the disturbing first-hand account of Harvey Weinstein’s raper accuser we get this indie film that made a huge splash at film festivals and turned heads just based on the subject matter alone. Starring Ozark’s Julia Garner, this is the story of the assistant to a powerful executive and, in turn, the silent witness to all of the unethical, illegal and degrading things he does behind closed doors. The film is a searing narrative debut of Casting JonBenet documentary filmmaker Kitty Green and from all of the reviews, I’m reading this is a damning and truthful look at abuses of power that happen every day completely unchecked. This is probably the beginning of an incredible feature directing career for Green and definitely a lead lady moment for Garner who has so much acclaim already for her Netflix series. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
The Traitor – A brand new sprawling look into the Cosanostra and Corleone mafia families, writer and director Marco Bellocchio has no time or patience to lower you into this story but instead throws you in at breakneck speed as person after person is murdered in brutal fashion all in the introduction of our main character Tommaso Buscetta, played brilliantly by veteran Italian actor Pierfrancesco Favino. His performance is the driving force of a film that feels erratic in its execution, making the whole story feel very scattered in its storytelling. That said, when Buscetta is giving his testimony against the family that is trying to kill him, it gets tense and very interesting. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Playing With Fire – John Cena hits the kids movie point of his rise as a Hollywood actor and most notably an action star but the good news is, just like The Rock, Cena has a great command of his comedy chops but that said, the bad news is this movie is still absolutely brutal in every way. He plays one of the all-business members of a crew of rugged firefighters who meet their match when try to rescue three endlessly troublemaking kids and the fact that this film is made by Paul Blart Mall Cop 2’s Andy Fickman may tell you all you need to know. This movie isn’t made for anyone but the juvenile viewers of Nickolodeon programming with fart jokes, slapstick and a horrible and disturbing moment of poop humor. I didn’t enjoy a single moment of this movie, possibly one of the worst things I have ever seen.
Last Christmas – I heavily dislike Christmas movies and to make matters worse this film’s title is my most hated Christmas song ever so it is really was a bad omen for me and this romantic comedy already. The Mother Of Dragons Emilia Clarke was the bright point to start the movie on, playing a desperately single woman with a disastrous love life who meets the man, played by Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding, who may be the one, someone she meets while working her job as an elf a year-round Christmas store. This movie starts out with so much charm, some good situational comedy and fun dialogue but it all starts to deteriorate as the story progresses. It’s hard to believe that this is a Paul Feig film as the consistency even in comedy beats isn’t there and there is more of a penchant to go for the corny, sappy or easy joke which doesn’t feel like his style. I was thoroughly disappointed by this one.
Doctor Sleep – Finally one of my favorite movies of last year is on Blu-Ray and it has an all-new director’s cut to check out which is just an even sweet cherry on top of this sundae. Based on a novel by Stephen King, this is the follow up to The Shining, which has both the distinction of being one of the greatest horror stories and films of all time as well as being one of Stanley Kubrick’s greatest works. Ewan McGregor takes the role of an adult Danny Torrence who has to protect a young girl from an evil cult known as The True Knot who prey on children with powers to remain immortal, an ensuing battle that will definitely lead to some sort of a showdown at the Overlook Hotel. This movie is a beautiful love letter to both the original film and the source material and I was in tears almost immediately with the return to the Overlook in the opening shot. This movie is truly exquisite.
The Good Liar – Veteran acting is the big selling point of this movie as it features Sir Ian McKellan and Dame Helen Mirren in the lead roles. McKellan plays a con artist named Roy Courtnay who believes he’s found his career jackpot when he meets a well off widow Betty McLeish (Mirren) online. As Betty opens up her life to this possible new suitor, Roy begins to have a sneaking suspicion that he may be on the receiving end of a con job himself. The film is directed by Bill Condon who has teamed many times with McKellen on films like Mr. Holmes and Gods And Monsters, which I enjoyed both of, and this movie is definitely resting on the talents of he and Mirren but it’s just enough for the movie to coast by on a good but not great level. I kind of wanted more from it.
The Nightingale – In her follow up to the massively popular indie horror film The Babadook, writer and director Jennifer Kent is bringing something horrifying as her second feature but this story lies in the truth of Australian history. The movie stars Aisling Franciosi as an Irish convict woman living with her husband and newborn child who is set off on a mission of revenge when they are brutally murdered by three British officers. This movie may be one of the most violent films I have ever seen but it never feels gratuitous and always serves the story. Kent has crafted a near-perfect film and the performances of Franciosi and co-star Baykali Ganambarr who plays her aboriginal tracker Billy are heartbreaking in their conviction. I also have to give so much praise to Sam Claflin for his villainous role, one for the ages.
Waves – Director and writer Trey Edward Shults has made an incredible film about the bonds of family across terrible decisions and seemingly monstrous actions and how far the notion of “unconditional love” extends. The film follows the story of a suburban African-American family, led by a well-intentioned but domineering father played by This Is Us star Sterling K. Brown, as they are thrown through the loop by the domino effect their son goes through when his college wrestling career is brought to an abrupt end. This is a movie that will stun you with its incredible realism and the performances throughout are dominated by these fantastic actors. This is a movie that gained such little clout last year at the start of awards season and could have done lots to satisfy that racial inclusion issue because it is that damn good.
Kill Chain – Nicolas Cage! Again! Just a little preface just to get you in the mood because, yes, this is a brand new Nic Cage movie and you know I’m here for it. The film has Cage, True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten and Veronica Mars’ dad Enrico Colantoni in a story about three strangers who get embroiled in a deadly conflict, told in a film noir style setting. As usual, I have my “Ridiculous Cage” blinders on for this movie so I’m just going to enjoy it while he’s onscreen and, really, with no other reviews anywhere I’ll say that it’s highly entertaining and expect no backlash.
Rabid – After being a loud voice against the multitudes of horror remakes, the Vancouver born and raised Soska Sisters, known lovingly in the genre community as the Twisted Twins, wade into the pantheons of “re-imagines” with this film, the first-ever remake of a David Cronenberg movie. The film has former Supergirl Laura Vandervoort as Rose, a mousy woman who works for a highly powerful fashion designer who, after a horrific accident and disfiguration, finds new life in an experimental stem cell procedure that completely repairs her but comes at the cost of a viral outbreak and a monstrous evolution in her own body. While the make up effects in this movie are masterful, the story feels like a lesser retread of the original film and the execution was a little less than desired for me, coming off as a bit of B-grade schlock horror and not in the fun popcorn spilling way.
White Snake – I find my grip on anime is gaining more traction as I have now seen another film which I both connected with and really enjoyed and maybe it had to do with the visual similarities between this animation style and that of one of my favorite anime films, Appleseed. The story of this film is, at its heart, a simple story of the love bond between a snake trapper and a demigod that takes the form of a giant white snake, hence the name. The action of this film is absolutely dazzling every moment which detracts a bit from the very bland looking main female character, probably my only complaint about the movie. I really love how much this film dives into the mythology of the Tang dynasty and I hope they make more out of this story.
Donten: Laughing Under The Clouds Gaiden – So, this is the mid or endgame to a series that I have no knowledge of or connection to so I had a fixed look of confusion on my face when I watched the first of the three movies contained in this box set. Heck, I might have looked like I was doing calculus or something trying to make sense of the loose threads of a far larger story that was absolutely impossible for me to grasp. The story drops you in the years after the imperial restoration in central Japan when a forceful and malevolent snake, which rears its head once every 300 years, is about to reappear to cause destruction. Three successors to the local shrine ally with other forces to block this evil but have to contend with the forces it allies with itself. Honestly, this is the simplest way I can describe the show and it even confused me all over again. Insert shrugging emoji here.
Steve’s Blu-Ray and DVD Geek-Out:
Melody Makers – Continuing my music rush from last week’s geek out, I received this DVD which takes a deep dive into the iconic songwriters of Britain’s music scene from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies. In a rough feeling talking heads style documentary, the film gets stories and recollections from great artists including Eric Burdon, Ian Grant of The Cult, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull and more. As with most of the films I have received from this company, the quality of the production leaves a lot to be denied and kind of effects my feeling on the documentary as a whole, causing my interest to wain a bit. Music lovers will still find this one fascinating though.
Brick – The greatest modern noir story in the last twenty years has now made its way to a Blu-Ray special edition and I’m in love with it and have watched it three times since I have gotten it. This was my introduction to the incredible mind of writer and director Rian Johnson, one of the most brilliant and original filmmakers working today, no matter what any The Last Jedi hater will cry at you. Starring Joseph Gordon Levitt, this is an old fashioned detective story told through a contemporary high school age lens following a loner on the outside of all clique who leads an investigation into the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend. With style and substance like crazy, this movie draws you deep into the mystery and rewards you with great lines and astounding writing. This is one of my favorite movies of all time and everyone I’ve recommended it to loves it. Depp words, I know, but trust me.
Locke & Key: Season 1 (Netflix) – One of my favorite modern comic series ever, a little piece of haunted mystery from the minds of Stephen King’s son Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez, finally makes its way onto Netflix after a long and rocky road of an adaptation process. The story follows three siblings who move into their ancestral estate after their father’s murder and discover their new home has magical keys that must be used in their stand against an evil creature who wants the keys and their powers. Knowing the endgame of the comic book, I am so excited to see where the live-action telling will bring this story and I think it will grab a pretty sizeable audience, especially those ravenously waiting for the next “Haunting” season.
Honey Boy (Amazon Prime) – Mark my words, Shia Lebeouf is going to go on such a comeback tear that his talent will be undeniable to all of those who considered his career over. He started this positive momentum with the beautifully crafted outsider story The Peanut Butter Falcon and now continues with this film he wrote which is the real tale of the damaged relationship between him and his father. An incredible young actor himself, Lucas Hedges takes on the older role in Lebeouf’s life story, chronicling his stormy childhood and early adult years as he struggles to reconcile with his father and deal with his mental health. My hope is that this movie is a source of catharsis and he keeps creating amazing art because I love everything I’ve seen so far.
The Pharmacist (Netflix) – Another documentary series to piss you off and make you paranoid but something that will hopefully educate you, this is a four-episode series about a small-town pharmacist who decides to conduct his own investigation into the 1999 murder of his son in New Orleans and starts to see connections to his own industry that are quite disturbing. I only meant to watch the first episode just to give myself a feel for the show and found myself pounding back each episode like a good old fashioned Netflix binge. You want your true crime docuseries? Well, here you go, friendo!
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Season 7 (NBC) – NINE-NINE! Yes, the greatest currently running television series is back and I’m deliriously excited about it as I adore every single character on this show, it is simply perfect. With infinitely quotable lines, series long-running in-jokes, characters that ACTUALLY develop, which is rare in these shows, and a cast that brings it with every episode, what’s NOT to love? This show is up in the hall of fame of great shows with absolutely no bad episodes in it and I can’t think of another show like that except for maybe Breaking Bad? I digress though, NINE-NINE!
Horse Girl (Netflix) – Alison Brie leads this quirky new comedy that Netflix acquired on the festival circuit, following a socially awkward woman with a fondness for arts and crafts, horses, and supernatural crime shows who finds her increasingly vivid dreams making their way into her real-life which kind of sounds like a Michel Gondry nightmare to me and I’m totally excited for it. Brie helped write this movie with the director Jeff Baena who directed and wrote her earlier film The Little Hours which was one of my favorite comedies that year. Expect a lot of insanity directly on the surface of this movie, one I think will grab a pretty eclectic audience.