My Spy – Dave Bautista’s career must be going in a good direction as he has hit the point of his action hero career where he does the obligatory family film just as all the greats have before him, most notably The Rock and John Cena recently. For this film, he plays a CIA agent that has angered the higher-ups with his shoot first and ask dead bodies questions afterwards approach and has one last chance to prove himself. It all goes awry when he is found out by a mischievous nine-year-old girl while he is investigating her family. This movie was originally supposed to be released in the summer of last year but after Bautista’s film, Stuber disappointed at the box office this one was shelved until a better time. Coming from comedy director Peter Segal, I want to believe that this ill be entertaining but the studio worries are a bit contagious. (Not opening in Hamilton)
Bloodshot – Sony and Valiant Comics kick off their own cinematic universe with this new violent action film with a character that I honestly think is tailor-made for lead star Vin Diesel. The Fast And Furious action-heavy stars as Ray Garrison, a marine that is resurrected as part of a secret black ops program with nanobots in his blood that repair him as he is shot, stabbed, contused and everything else. In short, the dude is now totally invincible but was he brought back for good or to dispatch those who get in the way of the shadowy organization that created him? The film is the feature debut for visual effects supervisor Dave Wilson and hopefully it’s a good enough start for Valiant to expand on their cinematic universe as there are some really cool characters to be made into a big studio franchise. I’ve been a fan of this comic company for a while so I’m already on board.
The Hunt – The movie that got the right all riled up before anyone had ever seen a single frame of it finally gets its release day after getting removed in September of last year and the ad campaign seems to be taking advantage of that as its tagline is “The Most Talked About Movie of the Year is One That No One’s Actually Seen”. Perfect. The movie stars GLOW’s Betty Gilpin, Blockers’ Ike Barinholtz and a slimed down Ethan Suplee in a story about twelve strangers who wake up bound and gagged in a clearing, the fodder for a manhunt in which the rich elite will kill each of them for sport. Kind of like a big version of the Ice-T action flick Surviving The Game from the mid-nineties, Compliance director Craig Zobel’s latest seemed to tickle the offended nature of the Fox News crowd and I doubted that we’d ever see it. Well, the advance word is very good so I’m pretty ramped up for this now, barring another uprising. (Not opening in Kamloops)
I Still Believe – We made it into March before getting the first weepy romance of the year but this film has the double distinction of being a faith-based inspirational movie as well. Starring Riverdale’s leading man K.J. Apa and Tomorrowland’s Britt Robertson, this is the true story of Christian music star Jeremy Camp Melissa Lynn Henning-Camp, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer shortly before they married. I never have anything great to say about these Christian studio releases as none of them have been any good and seem to be more driven in getting the message across than to make a good movie. I expect this to be the same. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops or Oshawa)
First Cow – Writer and director Kelly Reichardt continues her deeply somber character tales with this frontier western film that is an absolute arrival of lead star John Magaro. The film opens with Alia Shawkat unearthing two skeletons in modern days while out walking her dog before we get into the real story. The main plot follows a former cook turned fur trapper in the settler days of Oregon and trade that he’s always felt on the outside of, hated by his peers. This changes when he finds friendship with a Chinese immigrant and the two collaborate on a successful business. Beautifully shot and punctuated by two fantastic performances, this is definitely on the shortlist of my favorite films this year. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Wendy – Writer and director Benh Zeitlin was a fresh new name that blew onto the scene in 2012 with his film Beasts Of The Southern Wild about a bayou girl named Hushpuppy which put his name on a shortlist of the best new voices in cinema. Now, eight years later, we get his sophomore film which is quite a mountain to climb in subject matter as it involves an iconic story, Peter Pan. Told from the point of view of the studious Wendy, this film is the story you know but with a narrative slant to it. This is the debut of young actress Devin France, continuing Zeitlin’s trend of using non-actors in his main roles. I loved Beasts so I’m excited to see the imagination of this new film. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Hope Gap – A twice nominated writer for his work on Gladiator and Shadowlands, William Nicholson sits in the director’s chair as well for this powerhouse drama involving the complications of family. The story follows a couple’s visit with their son which takes a sad turn when the father tells him he plans on leaving his mother and with Bill Nighy and Annette Bening playing those roles you know this movie has so much depth of character. Based on a play he wrote himself, Nicholson describes this film as mid-point between “Brief Encounter” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ which is such an intriguing way to frame it. For me, it was just great to see Nighy and Bening on screen together. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
The Whistlers – This slow-burn crime mystery from Frace felt like it was taking a really long time to reveal it’s hand and even now as I sit down to give my thoughts on it I’m unsure if it ever did. The film is from multiple points of view but the main thread follows Christi, a French policeman who finds himself on both sides of the law and under constant surveillance by his own people. Looking for an exit to the subterfuge, he pairs with a femme fatale named Gilda for a high stakes heist that employs a new method of communication, a complex whistling code. Beautifully shot, this film is a weaving story of corruption, treachery and deception that culminates in a final scene that is gorgeous but open-ended. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Beanpole – One thing that will always be evident from every frame of this film is that it is very much a Russian movie in every way, a country’s history infused into every frame at a time of sorrow and recovery. Taking place after World War II in a bombed-out Leningrad, this film follows two women who fought in the war and now return home to try and resume their pre-conflict lives, both working in the local hospital still dealing with casualties. Each woman has their very person damage, the towering Iya, who has debilitating trances due to the concussive blasts she faced during the war and Masha grieves the death of her son and is compelled to fill the void he left. Both actresses, Viktoria Miroshnichenko and Vasilisa Perelygina give incredible performances in this colorful but bleak film, their first-ever roles on film. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Brotherhood – Lots of Canadiana hitting theaters in a limited release this Friday including this film that is both an inspiring character drama and a survival film wrapped up in the same story. Starring former WB Network heartthrob Brendan Fehr and hard-working local actor Brendan Fletcher (a tale of two Brendans?) this film has the two playing camp leaders at the Long Point Camp in the summer of 1926, charged with giving a band of teenagers the adventure of their lives. While out the lake in the night, a freak storm capsizes their canoe and forces all of them to fend for their lives in the middle of the water with no indication of where the shore is. This film is a story of heroism against an unknown backdrop and the ultimate sacrifice that a lot of these men had to make. The movie never shakes that low-fi Canadian feel but the story shines through poignantly with a stellar performance from Fletcher. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)
Red Snow – The debut film from indigenous writer and director Marie Clements, this is a film that moves side by side with a tragic love story and a harrowing tale of survival in a foreign land. The story follows a Gwich’in-Canadian soldier named Dylan Nadazeau who is captured by Taliban soldiers during an ambush that kills the rest of his squad. Defiant from a young age Dylan regresses in his mind to the romance he had with a girl when he was sixteen years old to find the answers he needs to spiritually rise above his situation. The cinematography of this film is flighty and full of metaphor which makes some of the narrative movement a little ethereal but I feel Asivak Koostachin’s performance as the adult Dylan drives the film as the character opens up to the viewer and the final moment of the movie is so triumphant and redeeming. This is a special movie for the indigenous community and I highly recommend it. (Only opening in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver)
Bombshell – Charlize Theron is at the top of her game and almost completely unrecognizable in this new film that tells the story of the fall of Roger Ailes from the mantle of Fox News for sexual harassment. Leading a stellar cast including Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie and John Lithgow, Theron is an absolute powerhouse in her performance, punctuating a story that I think we all paid attention to pretty closely. The only issue I had with this movie is that it never went any deeper than information we already knew about this scandal, other than punching up some dialogue to pad out the plot. In the end, I didn’t feel like I learned anything, I just saw a glossy treatment of a scandal.
Spies In Disguise – Will Smith has had a run of really bad box office failures over the years and Gemini Man and this animated feature definitely did not help matters. In this film he plays a super spy whose skills are put to the test when a nerdy tech agent accidentally transforms him into a pigeon and the two have to work together to deal with a global threat. Smith is great in this, his first animated role since A Shark Tale fifteen years earlier, and his chemistry is really great with co-star Tom Holland, which seems to be the norm so maybe Holland is just a great actor? All of that aside though, the film feels a bit bland like it’s missing something to truly set itself apart from the other animated movies which feels like a bit of a blow to Blue Sky, the makers, who have always delivered solid work.
Charlie’s Angels – On the outside, this movie feels like a bit of an impending disaster because we’ve had two feature films already made from this 80s television property and, if you’ve given them a rewatch recently, they’re kind of glossy and dumb, they only surviving thing that has any marginal coolness being the Destiny’s Child song. This new film has promise when you look deeper as Elizabeth Banks is on board to direct as well as play Bosely, a bit of a fan favorite from directing the last couple of Pitch Perfect movies. The winning piece of this for me is that Kristen Stewart being one of the angels, as I am a huge fan of her work, post Twilight of course. This might be hit or miss.
Trauma Center – It feels like the time of getting excited for a Bruce Willis was so long ago as the at one-time A-list action star has found himself the selling point of totally lackluster action thrillers for almost a decade now, a new direction that has seen him phone in performances for just as long. This one is no different as it has him playing a cop who is protecting an injured young woman who witnessed the murder of his partner. To hide her he nonsensically houses her in an inexplicably abandoned hospital which these bad guys find immediately. This movie hasn’t a shred of brains to it whatsoever and the acting is absolutely painful. Probably one of the worst movies of this year.
A Quiet Place – Just a week ahead of the release of the sequel, Paramount released this mondo steelbook of the 4K version of this film that is an integral piece of the best horror in 2018. Directed by John Krasinski who stars as well opposite his wife Emily Blunt in the story of a family living in a world that has been invaded by monsters that kill based on sound. This film is a masterpiece of tension and creating deep fear in the absence of sound, something that I had rarely if ever experienced before, a mostly silent theater. This edition doesn’t feature anything different other than the format but the packaging is awesome.
The Ten Commandments – We’re getting biblical this week as classic Hollywood is showcased in this new box set that has both the original film made in 1923 and the more popular remake starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Edward G. Robinson and Vincent Price made in 1956. I feel like most people have seen some iteration of this movie, maybe on television, but this film has been completely restored to high definition levels and the remake features commentary by a biographer of the film, Katherine Orrison. A showcasing of the golden age of Hollywood, this was definitely a cool movie to receive.
Masked And Anonymous – Bob Dylan has only made the crossover into acting a few times but the final one was seventeen years ago in this film that was the debut as a director for Borat filmmaker Larry Charles. The story, written by Dylan under the name of Sergei Petrov, has him playing Jack Fate, a singer whose career has gone on a downward spiral forcing him to make a comeback to the performance stage for a benefit concert. A heavy cast surrounds this legendary singer and songwriter including Jeff Bridges, Penelope Cruz, John Goodman and Jessica Lange plus the Shout Factory blu-ray features an all-new interview with Charles and a making-of featurette. The film didn’t score great reviews at the time of release but I think it’s aged nicely.
The Affair: The Final Season – With the first couple of seasons earning huge critical acclaim and earning the stars Maura Tierney, Dominic West and Ruth Wilson award nominations and even a win in Tierney’s case, this show seemed to end it’s run with a bit of a whimper rather than a fanfare finish. For those who don’t know, the show is a multi-angle told story about a struggling novelist and a young waitress who strike up an extramarital relationship that promises to forever change the course of their lives and that’s just the opening of the first season. Murder, other affairs and years have passed since then and many had thought this would have come to a close sooner. The selling point on this season for me is the inclusion of new cast member Anna Paquin who always makes things much more watchable.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:
Dragonheart: Vengeance – Universal seems to love dragging all of their properties out of the archives, dusting them off and sending them on an all-new direct to blu-ray adventure because we get another nineties film getting an update but without the lead stars of Dennis Quaid and the very retired Sean Connery. The fourth film to be made after the hit original, this film follows Lukas, a young farmer whose family is killed by savage raiders in the countryside who sets out on an epic quest for revenge forming an unlikely trio with a mercenary named Darius and a dragon voiced by Helena Bonham Carter, the reason for me to have any interest in this movie. Let’s face it, these never turn out to be any good but with the memories I have of this franchise, I just want to believe in it.
Museo – Toplined by Gael Garcia Bernal, this is a film I hadn’t heard of until it was sent to me but based on the accolades it has received alone I really feel like I should have. Winner of the Silver Bear for screenplay and nominated for the Golden Bear for Best Picture at the Berlin Film Festival, this is the true story of the biggest heist in Mexican history, the looting of its sacred Anthropology Museum orchestrated by a couple of veterinary school dropouts. The reviews on this movie are really stellar and critics as director and co-writer Alonso Ruiz Palacios is now being touted as a filmmaker on the rise even though the film didn’t even get anywhere near a wide release.
A Little Romance – I really love receiving all of these Warner Archive classic movies as it’s quickly putting me in the know on great golden age Hollywood films that have otherwise flown under my radar and this one is a special one as it stars the legendary Sir Laurence Olivier, one of the towering shadows during that era. This film, made in 1979, stars a young Diane Lane in her debut as a teenager living in Paris who meets and falls in love with a dreamy Frenchman played by Thelonious Bernard, an actor with only this film to his credit. The film was made be bigger than life filmmaker George Roy Hill who had The Sting, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid and Slapshot under his belt by this point. It should also be noted that this is an Oscar-winning movie, picking up a statue for Best Original Score.
Lost Girls (Netflix) – Getting their indie movie slate rolling for 2020, this new offering has a great cast leading it with Thomasin McKenzie, fresh off a fantastic performance in Jojo Rabbit, Academy Award nominee Amy Ryan and Gabriel Byrne. Ryan plays the mother of a girl recently reported missing who, frustrated by the lack of police activity on the case, drives her own investigation into the gated Long Island community where her daughter was last seen which leads to discoveries in a series of cold cases involving sex workers. This is the narrative debut for director Liz Garbus, who is usually a documentary filmmaker, responsible for films like What Happened, Miss Simone? and Bobby Fischer Against the World but this is a ground shattering movie to kick off this facet of her career.
The Pale Horse (Amazon Prime) – Featuring British stalwart veteran actor Rufus Sewell, this new Prime original miniseries has the added fun of being adapted from an Agatha Christie novel. The story follows a dying woman who gives her last confession to a Catholic priest, but along with her confession, she gives him a list of names and a terrible secret but before he can take action he is struck dead in the fog. As the police begin to investigate, headed by Sewell’s character Mark Easterbrook, a young hero played by the great Kaya Scodelerio begins to piece together evidence that sets him upon a converging path. For those fans of Midsommer Murders and the like, this will definitely appeal to them.
Kingdom: Season 2 (Netflix) – Many times Drex and I have talked about the zombie genre and how it consistently needs that fresh breath to keep it from decaying. I mean, let’s face it, even The Walking Dead is nearing the end of its popularity. The freshness is what makes this new series so great as its taking that zombie stuff and throwing it back to the medieval Joseon period in Korea. Adapted from a webcomic, the adaptation was put together by the acclaimed director of Tunnel and is right up my alley of South Korean film. Those who were all over Train To Busan, this is an easy binge for you.
Marc Maron: End Times Fun (Netflix) – Spare yourself the hysteria of a COVID-19 obsessed outside world and instead dig into this brand new stand up from one of the best neurosis driven comics working today, Marc Maron, who also happens to be one of my favorite podcasters too. This set is so funny as Maron relates how he is only popular with one out of three people, he takes aim at the Trump Administration so MAGAts need not apply and even has a spiritual moment for Mike Pence at the end that you will not forget. Check it out, it’s highly worth it.
Dirty Money: Season 2 (Netflix) – Master documentarian Alex Gibney’s executive produced docuseries returns for another series of episodes that will raise your blood pressure and have you screaming at your television before directing angry tweets at big businesses. Just me? I doubt it. This series takes aim at corporate frauds that are designed to milk excessive amounts of money out of the general public and largely the lower class. Season one took on scandals like Volkswagen’s “clean” diesel and the gross empire of payday loan companies and this is just the tip of the iceberg. This is an important series to binge through, trust me.