The Invisible Man – The Dark Universe from Universal Pictures may have died a dismal death after the failure of Tom Cruise’s The Mummy but from the ashes of that mess this property was floated over to Blumhouse and they put filmmaker Leigh Whannell, one-half of the minds behind Saw, at the helm of it and the advance reviews are really great for it. Elisabeth Moss stars as the survivor of an abusive relationship who believes the news of her ex’s suicide is a hoax and this is reinforced when she realizes that she is being hunted by an unseen force. The trailer for this movie is awesome and I am so excited to see this movie as Whannell rises up the ranks of must-see filmmakers.
Disappearance At Clifton Hill – When it comes to creepy mysteries and the creation of atmosphere, a lot of these films owe a lot to David Lynch and Mark Frost for the simple fact that Twin Peaks exists as a template. This new film, a Canadian production and one set in the Great White North, plays with these elements, following a troubled woman who returns home to the Niagara Falls area after the death of her mother. This trip home comes with a lot of baggage as she is haunted by a kidnapping she witnessed as a child that has cast a shadow on her whole life. Lead actress Tuppence Middleton holds this film on her shoulder as she digs into a decades-old abduction while dealing with her own damage and it really works as a sleepy little amateur sleuth film with some great cinematography. It also has David Cronenberg in a rare on-screen role which delighted me. (Only opening in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver)
The Jesus Rolls – John Turturro got the rights to make a spin-off story of his character Jesus Quintana from the Coen Brothers but it is explicitly known that they do not consider this movie a direct and official piece of the Lebowski “universe” and, honestly, after watching it that’s really for the best. Written, directed, produced and starring Turturro, this movie follows “The Jesus” after he is released from prison again and looks to start up a sort of prison release program with his cohort, played by Bobby Cannavale. All this movie does is show how thin Jesus is as a character and really drive home the thought that we don’t need a Lebowski sequel. In all of this mess though it is so great to see French actress Audrey Tautou. I adore her. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Frozen II – The long-awaited sequel to the animated blockbuster from 2013 came and went and, although it did good money box office wise, it failed to be the monster that its predecessor was and it didn’t have as big of a hit song as “Let It Go”. That said, I liked it more than the first. This follow up has Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven leaving Arendelle to travel to an ancient, autumn-bound forest in an enchanted land in order to find the origin of Elsa’s powers, the key to saving their kingdom. The great news for parents who weren’t dragged to the movie yet is that it is a pretty entertaining story which is great because I really don’t think there was the intention to make a sequel after the first one. I also found myself enjoying Olaf a hell of a lot more in this one, so I guess that’s a win for Josh Gad, but it’s kind of weird that he has a very puberty like storyline.
Knives Out – This was one of my favorite movies of last year, coming from a director that makes the most original films when he’s making his own films. Yes, I’m talking about Rian Johnson who’s last outing, The Last Jedi, has fanboys in a decisive tizzy, some people condemning him as the worst filmmaker ever and others who know his merits and appreciate the film for what it is. To me, his other three films Brick, The Brothers Bloom and Looper are damn near perfect films and this new mystery, pulling inspiration from classics like Murder By Death and the Agatha Christie books, is another home run from one of my favorite directors currently. The cast isn’t too shabby either, featuring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette and way more, all giving incredible performances but its all about Ana De Armas who steals the whole film and solidifies her star power.
The Hunt For Red October – The first Tom Clancy film to be made, this was our introduction to CIA analyst Jack Ryan, this version being a young and dashing Alec Baldwin, as he is trusted with the investigation of a Russian submarine captain played by Sean Connery who violates orders and sanctions, cruising into American waters. Is he there as a threat or as a defector? This movie is iconic with great performances from both Baldwin and Connery as well as supporting work from heavyweights Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones and more. This brand new steel book has a beautiful new transfer of the film as well as retrospective featurettes that praise this John McTiernan classic, an originator of a war literary phenomenon.
Manon – A brand new blu-ray from the classier side of Arrow, the Arrow Academy collection, this is an adaptation of Abbe Prevost’s classic French novel ‘Manon Lescaut’ from legendary French filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot, a director known for his unflinching visions. This film updates the story, originally set in the 1700s, to a post-World War II France following a former French Resistance activist who rescues Manon from villagers who want to lynch her for collaborating with the Nazis. Moving to Paris, their relationship quickly turns stormy after they get involved in profiteering, prostitution and murder. Made in 1949, the film had been largely censored in Europe only for political subject matter and now is shown in its entirety for the first time since the original elements had been discovered.
One Missed Call – Arrow Video is bringing more of that international horror to the home entertainment systems with this trilogy of films and, yes, you might recognize the title from a terrible American film that was the adaptation of these movies. A Japanese made ghost story, these movies kind of a play on that Ringu element of J-horror as it is about people who mysteriously start receiving voicemail messages from their future selves that are foretelling their deaths. Look, as dumb as that premise is, the Japanese can always somehow make these hokey premises work in their favors and this trilogy, although a deep dive for more mainstream horror fans, satisfy on that level alone. I will disclose that I realy have only seen the first movie so far so I can’t really vouch for the whole thing. Yet.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:
Dredd – Forget that Sylvester Stallone piece of crap from the mid-nineties, this is the real deal right here. Karl Urban plays the title character, a badass law enforcement official living in a world where he is the judge, jury and executioner, presiding over the mass violence that is Mega City One. An awesome hero and a formidable villain in the form of Lena Headey are just the tip of the iceberg in how great this movie is, a non-stop action thrill ride from start to finish with constant gory violence and sequences you will rewind and play over and over again. On top of that, Urban never takes off the helmet once and this is the first time we got writer Alex Garland behind the camera, although it was uncredited.
Elysium – South Africa transplant to Vancouver writer and director Neill Blomkamp had a massive hill to climb after the huge success of District 9 and it was to keep that ball rolling with a film of equal or greater value and, let’s face it, this is something of an impossibility. That said, I still really dig this movie even though it is a bit uneven, a futuristic story about a former car thief who is exposed to a deadly toxin and goes on a suicide mission to take down the widening class system in a doomed 2154. The effects in this film are awesome, as is the bloody and violent action scenes, and Matt Damon is fantastic as is his antagonist counterpart Sharlto Copley who plays the bloodthirsty cannibal mercenary Kruger. This movie is great, even if Jodie Foster is doing the weirdest accent of her career.
Fast Five – The Fast And Furious saga has devolved into one of those franchises where it is so ridiculous and out there but you come back to it every time but this installment was released in a time where I feel the car-centric series was on a bit of life support. Vin Diesel returned for the last movie but, let’s face it, the film was pretty bland. Well, insert the Viagra that is The Rock as the perceived antagonist of this movie, Hobbs, an Under Armor sponsored part of black ops law enforcement bent on taking down our heroes. The movies get bigger and crazier but this was a part of the series where I feel like my interest reenlisted for the madness and I’ve still been on board ever since.
Goon – A hockey-related comedy film that has really great character work as well as a totally dirty mind and mouth? Yeah, you know I’m totally in the fan club for a movie like this and it’s written by a good Canadian kid named Jay Baruchel, who I had the pleasure of interviewing when he was promoting the sequel, which he wrote, directed and co-starred in. This is a total sweetheart of a movie about a good guy named Doug Glatt who uses his hard head and harder fists to nab himself a role as the on-ice enforcer for the local hockey club, the Halifax Highlanders. For fans of films like Slapshot or those looking for a far grown up Mighty Ducks, this movie is satisfying on all levels and the king of cool Liev Schrieber definitely retains his title with this role.
Spider-Man: Homecoming – This movie is incredibly special to us comic book fans as it is the first Spidey movie to be made with the cooperation of Marvel Studios as Sony finally relented on the iron grip they had on this character and let him play in the sandbox we all know and love, pairing him with Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark just to make us all fanboy out. The movie skips the unnecessary origin story and instead follows Peter Parker as he balances his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens with his superhero alter-ego Spider-Man, and finds himself on the trail of a new menace prowling the skies of New York City in the form of a scenery chewing Michael Keaton who shows exactly why we adore him with every moment on screen. I’m so happy to have this on Blu-Ray now and, friends, if you haven’t, you should pick it up too.
The Walking Dead: Season 10 (AMC) – One of the most popular television shows of all time resumes it’s season and as a huge fan of the comic book I am ashamed to admit that I have completely fallen behind on this show. What I do know about it is that we are right in the midst of the Whisperers side of the story, one which I know very well as I have just finished that part of the book. I know that Samantha Morton is playing Alpha, which is perfect casting, and the business that goes down between her and Negan is fascinating to say the least. Just when we think the shelf life of this show is up, they bring an element that makes it can’t miss.
Queen Sono: Season 1 (Netflix) – A new series from the African division of Netflix, this new series looks badass and pretty groundbreaking not only for African television but for women’s roles as it features lead actress Kate Liquorish as a secret agent working for the national security of her country as well as trying to keep her personal life quiet and away from her career. With just a quick six-episode run, this series seems like just a taste of what African television has to offer an international streaming service like Netflix and from what I’ve seen of this show, I really hope it just snowballs and we get much more.
Altered Carbon: Season 2 (Netflix) – After the mindblowing and heavily R-rated first season of this Vancouver shot dark cyberpunk sci-fi I wasn’t sure if we would see more because, let’s face it, the show looks uber expensive and the casting of Joel Kinnaman seemed pricey as well as the actor is more and more high profile all the time. Well, he’s out now as lead character Takeshi Kovacs and his essence has been “resleeved” as Anthony Mackie, another actor that commands attention. For those who don’t know, this show is set in a future where consciousness is digitized and stored following a prisoner who returns to life in a new body and must solve a mind-bending murder to win his freedom and that’s just the main plotline of the first season. Needless to say, shit gets crazy.
I Am Not Okay With This: Season 1 (Netflix) – It Chapter 1 and 2 stars Sophia Lillis and Wyatt Oleff reunite for this new teen series that has the actress playing a teenaged outcast trying to navigate her life of high school cliques, two-faced friends, potential love interests and a complex family life. Things spiral even more for her when she realizes that she isn’t just dealing with the pitfalls of puberty changing her body but she also has new and unexplained powers to contend with. Coming from the producers of Stranger Things, I dug into this series right away because the angsty nature of the writing really appealed to me and I love creator Jonathan Entwistle’s previous work, The End Of The Fucking World.
Better Call Saul: Season 5 (AMC) – Ravenous fans have been waiting for this new season, the penultimate season in this spin-off of one of the greatest shows in modern television history, Breaking Bad. Maybe the slight letdown of the pretty flavorless Breaking Bad movie El Camino made the fever pitch ramp up for this show but it seems like lead star Bob Odenkirk might be busier than ever, doing that Cranston thing and having another rejuvenation in his career as a highly sought after actor, causing him to say “let’s end this”. All I know is Vince Gilligan ended Breaking Bad with such and iconic bang that I see Saul having somewhat of a similar exit but don’t fret, we’re still a little while away from that.