Onward – Disney and Pixar are back with their next most likely award-nominated feature, pairing the very likeable duo of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt in the lead roles. Set in a world where fantasy elements like orcs, gnomes, unicorns and other mythical creatures exist in a modern world, this story follows two brothers who find a mysterious magical staff that belonged to their late father. After a spell cast through the staff resurrects the bottom half of Dad, they must embark on an adventure to find the real magic still remaining on the world to bring their family back together. The trailer is really funny for this and I’m really hoping for some great world-building as Pixar needs a new franchise to put t’s hat on. I have good feelings about this movie.
The Way Back – Ben Affleck definitely felt some catharsis in this new drama, directed by the director of one of his last movie The Accountant, the very capable Gavin O’Connor. Affleck plays a former high school basketball star who’s life has deteriorated from alcoholism and bad choices who finds his redemption in returning to his former school to coach the current team, one with potential but no winning push to it. The trailer for this movie is big and full of emotion, giving me the feeling that Affleck put his whole soul into this portrayal so for this reason alone I am looking forward to it. The script comes from writer Brad Ingelsby and if the dialogue is anything close to his work on Out Of The Furnace we could have something special here. (Not opening in Hamilton)
Run This Town – when the walking disaster known as Rob Ford was running for mayor, and then subsequently became mayor, his story, especially that of his arrest and then basic dismissal of his crimes so he can keep running the city was a major story internationally we knew this would be made into a movie. Guess what? It’s here and Homeland star Damian Lewis plays the juicy role in an almost chameleon-like fashion from and center in this investigative journalism story seen through the eyes of young staffers at city hall and a local newspaper just as the 2013 political scandal was emerging. The film features The Politician’s Ben Platt, Vampire Diaries’ Nina Dobrev and veteran actor Scott Speedman in the debut film from writer and director Ricky Tollman who seems almost completely inexperienced. Kind of gives me hope for a future in the film industry myself. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Sorry We Missed You – Being a huge fan of Ken Loach’s since I saw The Wind That Shakes The Barley in my video store days, his films have come to be the ones I love forward to most at the festival and this one didn’t disappoint and refused to let me leave without shedding some tears. The film is about a lower-class family living in Newcastle and struggling to get back to a position of being able to buy a home. The father has just got a new job as a parcel delivery service, but one you have to buy into, causing them to sell his wife’s car that she uses for her job as a home care nurse. As the two parents struggle in their fourteen to sixteen-hour workdays, their kids suffer as their older son begins to lash out as a vandal. Loach always gets to the heart of the everyman’s plight against the system and it’s always heartbreaking. (Opening in Toronto, Hamilton, Calgary and Vancouver. Opens in Edmonton on March 13th)
Lie Exposed – Always for a low budget and aimed at giving this art form a higher platform to get noticed on, stage play adaptations can be a tricky transition as they can either work or show you how different the two mediums really are. Coming from writer and actor Jeff Kober, who costars in this film in a largely silent performance, this story follows a recovering alcoholic who is given a devastating diagnosis that causes her to leave her longtime husband for a Los Angeles photographer and relapse into her addiction. Upon returning home to the aftermath of her choices, she and her husband put together a photography show that gives their close friends an introspection into their own lives that could make or break their relationships. Produced and starring actress Leslie Hope, this movie really is a showcase of her immense skill but kind of leaves everything else a bit cold o the lighted stage. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Emma. – I guess it’s time to revisit some Jane Austen and maybe get the Gwyneth Paltrow version off our palate while also showing some of those nineties kids where Clueless came from. One of my favorites, Anya Taylor Joy plays the lead in this film, an intrusively nosey and selfish socialite who prides herself on being the matchmaker for all of her friends for better or worse. I feel like a lot of us already know this story so any other description moves into redundancy rather than spoilers so I will instead mention that this is the feature debut of director Autumn De Wilde, known previously for her work on music videos for Florence + The Machine, The Raconteurs and Beck so the look of this movie feels very fresh and new again the history of the story. I have hopes for this movie. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops or Oshawa)
Greed – Writer and director Michael Winterbottom brings another facet of his biting satire with this new film that puts his usual leading star Steve Coogan in a handbag looking tan with some bright white veneers as the patriarch of a ridiculously rich and powerful family. Showcasing all the awful qualities of vapidly bullheaded billionaires and the effects of money, Winterbottom gives this movie a scattered feel that all meet up in the end but the journey feels very disjointed along the way. Infusing the movie with the refugee crisis and the evils of sweatshops in Middle Eastern countries and underpaid workers, making a comedy that feels like a little tickle with a hell of a slap. That said, the third act of this movie was so unpredictable that I couldn’t believe it was happening. (Only opening in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver)
True Fiction – Isolated horror stories are something that always seems to strike like a hot iron of paranoia and delirium and we get not one but two this week with this film and the one that follows on the list. Actress Sara Garcia plays Avery, a struggling writer who is given the job interview of a lifetime, to be the assistant to acclaimed but reclusive writer Caleb Conrad, a master of his genre that no one has ever seen before. Driven to a snowy cottage and relieved of her phone, Avery finds out very quickly that she is at the center of Caleb’s new book in a sinister experiment to see how she will finish the story and it would all have been so awesome if the plotting and execution of this movie didn’t feel so horribly dumb. As the paranoid premise constantly flip flops in who the viewer is to believe the “crazy person” is the logic rapidly is thrown out the window culminating in a very ho-hum ending. I expected more. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
The Lodge – It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz to follow up their incredible debut horror thriller Goodnight Mommy and did they ever come through with their first English language film, a movie that can now be included in the “holiday horror” pantheon, as it does take place just before Christmas. The story follows two kids and their soon to be stepmother who find themselves snowed in at a remote holiday lodge. As the days pass, she finds herself more and more paranoid as strange things start to transpire and the evenings get more and more sleepless, drudging up things in her mind of her tumultuous and brutal past as part of a cult run by her father. Riley Keough’s performance in this film is absolutely riveting, perching you on the edge of your seat throughout. This isn’t your most conventional horror story but it will definitely leave a mark. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Queen & Slim – This film came out of nowhere, gathered some great buzz along the way and then was totally forgotten during award season, an absolute tragedy. Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya and newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith lead this drama about a black man and woman who find themselves on the run together after a deadly incident when they are pulled over by the police. The director of Beyonce’s Lemonade video Melina Matsoukas makes her feature debut with this movie and it’s shot by Tat Radcliffe who did Yann Demange’s ’71 as well as Pride the same year and everything about this film works in a breathtaking fashion. Kaluuya and Turner-Smith have a chemistry that burns up every frame they’re in as we gradually see these characters come together in a connection that culminates in out of the most beautiful love scenes I have seen in a long time. I love that grain and shade that Mantzoukas infuses throughout this film, a total feast of cinema. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Dark Waters – Mark Ruffalo has a knack for picking the hard-hitting movies about important stories and acts of horrendous injustices, especially being somewhat of an activist himself, and this film plays right into the same things that he stands up against. The masterful director of Carol and Far From Heaven Todd Haynes helms this story of a corporate defense attorney who takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company that in turn exposes a lengthy history of pollution. An interesting connection with Ruffalo’s involvement is that along with being another attempted kick at an Oscar this is the second film he has been in that relates to the DuPont family after Foxcatcher which got him nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
Playmobil: The Movie – When Lego came together (get it?) to create a massive blockbuster film and multiple spin-offs it seemed to have shot a flare into the studio sky saying that all of the toy properties were now possibly lucrative for big-screen adventures. That said, I’m really thinking this one is a dud as it takes a toy meant for a much younger audience and crafts a story that may go over the target market’s head. The plot that they’ve made is basically a James Bond-esque spy actioner that has a cocky secret agent, voiced by Daniel Radcliffe, who takes it upon himself to rescue two kids from the multiple dimensions of Playmobil’s world. Lots of supporting cast in here including Anya Taylor-Joy, Jim Gaffigan, Meghan Trainor and Adam Lambert but the trailer leaves me with little interest and the movie was yanked from theaters after only a week. Ouch.
Ne Zha – An animated film from China, this film’s style is the biggest saving grace because it is absolutely gorgeous and, at times, comes off like a more well rounded Dragonball Z animation. Unfortunately, the story is a bit of a ho hum, been there done that as it follows a young boy infused with the powers of a demigod a birth that must fight the demons that attack his land even though the people he is protecting fear him as much as the dangers around them. Really, the best part for me about this was the action sequences.
Kansas City – Some more cinema from the classier side, Arrow Academy, this movie definitely isn’t as old and classic as the films I usually get from this distributor as it is a sort of forgotten Robert Altman crime story from 1996 set to a jazz beat. Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, Harry Belafonte, Dermot Mulroney and Steve Buscemi, this film follows a pair of kidnappings that expose the complex power dynamics within the corrupt and unpredictable workings of 1930s Kansas City. The biggest acclaim this film got at its time of release was a nomination for the Palme D’or at Cannes but it has all the great tropes of this master filmmaker, including beautiful long crane shots, a pinpoint focused score and beautiful cinematography, this one done by Oliver Stapleton, fresh off working with Stephen Frears on The Van.
Steve’s Blu-Ray and DVD Geekout:
Insidious – James Wan is now one of the top names when it comes to horror, the creator of the Saw series and now the whole Conjuring universe is under his eye. This movie came before we were freaked out by The Conjuring, a massive hit coming at a time when Wan was failing a bit with his last two efforts, Ded Silence and Death Sentence. The story is very simple, a family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further and the movie is infused with creepiness, jump scares that fit the plot and story and moments of horror that will live with the viewers forever. I’d like to think that it was the repairing with writer Leigh Whannell that rejuvenated Wan’s filmmaking but he wrote Dead Silence as well, a movie I really like. Maybe I just want to celebrate Whannell more because Invisible Man was so amazing.
This Is The End – One of the greatest satire comedies ever made in my opinion, this movie takes pretty much everyone you’ve ever loved that worked for Judd Apatow and a few others and throws those actors into a global apocalypse playing themselves. There really is nothing better than that. Our main group of Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride all find themselves partying at James Franco’s house when holes in the earth start opening up and people start falling to their deaths in hell leading this sextet on a mission of survival as the last stragglers on Earth. I saw this movie twice in theaters so I definitely had to pic this blu-ray up which features commentary, alternate lines and a gag reel which is gold from these guys.
16 Bars – An inspirational documentary that attempts to take a bad situation and make something good and artful out of it, this film is a look into some very human stories locked away in the prison system of the United States, Virginia to be exact. The movie follows a rehabilitation program that encourages inmates to write and record original music with the help of Grammy award-winner Todd “Speech” Thomas of the group Arrested Development, a hip hop outfit that I definitely listened to a lot in the 90s. I mean you’re probably humming Everyday People in your head right now. Films like this really get the emotions going and the fact that it runs against something so creative as hip hop is very intriguing to me as well.
The Point – A story that seems just as psychedelic as the time it comes from, this animated film is a brainchild from mind of Academy Award winner Fred Wolf, a guy that had his hands in the making of the Flintstones, as well as songs and a story tread written by Grammy Award-winning artist Harry Nilsson. This little film also has the added fun of being narrated by one of the greatest drummers of all time, Ringo Starr, who also was, if you remember, a conductor on Shining Time Station. So, he did way more for the kids than you ever thought. It’s kind of hard to break down the story of this film other than saying it’s about the land of the Point. Why is it the land of the Point? Well, because everything comes to a point in this land and that’s just how it was animated so smoke a joint and get to the Point! This vague write up was brought to you by cannabis.
Taylor Tomlinson: Quarter Life Crisis (Netflix) – A comedienne I had never heard of before getting the advance screener for her special, I warmed up to Taylor’s comedy pretty quick as she becomes the most relatable twenty-five-year-old I’ve seen in this format and, even better, she made me feel a lot better about ageing even if, again wat she says, I don’t have it figured out in my thirties either. It’s easy to believe that this Southern California born and raised stand up has been doing this for almost a decade as she seems to glide around the stage and handle herself with a veteran’s ease which, as the viewer, gets us way more into a new comic. Apparently, I should have watched Last Comic Standing because from what I hear she killed on that.
Spenser Confidential (Netflix) – Another big bad action movie original for Netflix as this one stars Mark Wahlberg and also features a bad guy role for Post Malone, his first acting role and probably the beginning of more to come as his popularity rises. Heck, I think even at this moment he still has six to ten songs on the Billboard Top 100, which is crazy. Coming from Wahlberg’s usual collaborative director Peter Berg, this movie follows ex-cop Spenser as he teams up with his roommate Hawk, played by Winston Duke from Us, as they investigate the brutal murder of two Boston police officers. This movie was written by Brian Helgeland, who has written such gems as Man On Fire and L.A. Confidential but has made such stinkers like The Order and Legend, so all bets are kind of off but hopefully, this isn’t like 6 Underground which was so disappointing on so many levels even with the involvement of a charismatic lead star.
Dave: Season 1 (FXX) – Comedic rapper Lil Dicky gets his own series with this show that is produced by Scooter Braun. who is probably not high up on the likeability chain right now, but also Kevin Hart and Greg Mottola who also directs all eight episodes of the show. Co-created by Curb Your Enthusiasm writer Jeff Schaffer, the show follows a mid-twenties suburbanite whose neurosis has convinced him that he is going to become one of the greatest rappers of all time, a totally misguided journey. Those who know Lil Dicky’s work, like his song he did with Chris Brown called Freaky Friday, will be into this and as much as I hate Brown that song is damn catchy. Why did I put it on this list? Well, I guess I’m just kind of interested in Little Dicky and what he’s going to do next.
Dispatches From Elsewhere (AMC) – AMC seems to keep making interesting strides in all the shows that they put on their network as all of them seem to be original ideas aside from any of The Walking Dead spin-offs and this one is testing all new waters as it seems to play at an odd competition-style setting within a scripted series. The show follows four people who have a nagging feeling that there’s something missing in their lives when they stumble onto a mysterious program called “Dispatches From Elsewhere” which gives them challenges to open their eyes to the possibility of something beyond this world. Featuring Andre Benjamin and Sally Feild, this series may seem too flighty and mysterious for a mainstream audience to get behind so it may be a gamble but those that are looking for something to expand their mind in an intriguing narrative I would say continue with this show that just started on Sunday.
Breeders: Season 1 (FX) – One of my favorite British comedic actors, Martin Freeman, once known as the original “Jim from The Office” Tim, gets his own American network show to hopefully raise his awareness internationally better than the unmediated on Hobbit trilogy. Freeman pairs with actress Daisy Haggard as the parents of two kids who try to keep their sanity ad love life intact against the constant barrage of their children. This darkly comedic series is almost like holding a mirror up to any parent’s plight and is infinitely relatable immediately. Created by Freeman, Veep’s Simon Blackwell and The Lab Rats’ Chris Addison, I really hope this show connects with the audience as I’m really liking it so far and want additional seasons.