New to VOD:
Canadian Strain – Using the backdrop of the recent cannabis legalization in Canada, this comedy capitalizes on the confusion over the rollout of this new freedom as well as the endless red tape that the existing stores were wrapped up in. Starring Letterkenny actress Jess Salgueiro, this film follows a cannabis grower and distributor that finds herself in a lawless panic when the decision is made that government stores are to be the method of sales and the already existing stores are to be prohibited. The film centers more on the characters spiral down as she tries to maintain her morals at the same time as keeping herself from destitution and I felt that it let down the general theme that it started out with, the government marginalizing the citizens of the country again but this time in an industry that they have no idea about. It took the bite out of this movie and it’s unfortunate.
Jumanji: The Next Level – The fans cried foul when it was announced that The Rock would be rebooting Jumanji but the end result turned out to be a pretty entertaining movie with the great continued chemistry between The Rock and Kevin Hart. Now the whole cast has returned including Karen Gillan and Jack Black for the Next Level in which Danny DeVito and Danny Glover have now inhabited the bodies of Rock and Hart and it works again as a totally action-packed and funny adventure. All the characters are able to bring something a little different to their performances, being inhabited by different “players” throughout the movie and Rock and Hart get some really great moments of emotional dialogue that actually work really well. I had middling expectations for this movie that were definitely cleared.
Black Christmas – Blumhouse is making a pretty nice little horror niche for itself by picking up older properties and rejuvenating them, sometimes with bad results, but sometimes they come out great. This is one that is close to my heart as the original 1974 movie is a Canadian classic from the legendary director Bob Clark, who also made A Christmas Story (wrap your head around that) and it was already botched in remake land in 2006. This movie though, I really don’t know how I feel. It is a massive departure from the original story and the first trailer released for it seems to give it all away, so much so that I am refusing to summarize it in this write-up. Just watch it below to see what I’m talking about.
Richard Jewell – Clint Eastwood continues his real-life story adaptations with this film about a security guard that saved thousands of lives at the 1994 Atlanta Olympics from a bomb who is then smeared by the press claiming he was the terrorist who planted it. I really like that Paul Walter Hauser, a standout in I Tonya and Blackkklansman, finally getting a lead role in this film, although billed last on the poster but Clint hasn’t been on a real hot streak with his films recently this movie suffers from that even if it has Sam Rockwell and Kathy Bates in it and the performances are phenomenal. Eastwood paints this story in such a stark black and white that you feel his right-wing bias with every clunky piece in the message of this film. That coupled with the serious character assassination of journalist Kathy Scruggs was a real issue for me.
The Courier – There’s a brand new direct to video action film available this week and even though Bruce Willis is nowhere to be found sleepwalking through this it is still most likely garbage. Starring Olga Kurylenko, a star recently diagnosed with COVID-19, and Gary Oldman, this is a simple plot following a courier in London who discovers that one of the packages she’s transporting is a bomb. Playing the bad guy and sporting a killer eye patch, Oldman is probably the biggest draw to this film but it all just looks so hoky ad I’m not even including anything from Zackary Adler’s back catalogue.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:
Mind Games – A pretty unknown little thriller from the late eighties, this b-grade film gets the full Blu-Ray treatment with this beautiful new collector’s edition from MVD Visual. Starring Empire Records own Rex Manning, Maxwell Caulfield, this is a film about a frustrated wife who takes their son camping only to be terrorized by a hitchhiker they helped along the way. The film was directed by Bob Yari, who is now a prominent film producer with his own studio making movies like the Best Picture winner Crash and The Illusionist, this being the first of two movies he had made personally, the second one made in 2015. Caulfield is uber-creepy in this movie and coming off of Grease 2, that was probably the most unsettling part.
Warriors Of The Nation – More Asian martial arts from Well Go USA, an absolute treasure trove of great action films. There are no internationally known actor in this film and the director hasn’t made anything that made any box office marks outside of China but the story is pretty interesting but definitely a bit convoluted at times, centred around the White Lotus Society, a religious and political movement that rose up in the 1330s. If you love movies like the Jet Li series Once Upon A Time In China then these movies are definitely your movie jam this weekend. I know I love ancient Chinese films like this unless they’re done by Americans. I’m looking at you, Matt Damon.
Feel Good: Season 1 (Netflix) – In a lighter way but heavier on the addiction side, this new series reminds me a bit of Fleabag but without that great Phoebe Waller-Bridge edge. The show is about stand up comedian Mae Martin, a Canadian transplant now living in London. When a regular audience member asks her out on a date, Mae finds herself on a whirlwind romance with the girl of her dreams until the crushing reality of her addiction problem comes to light. This show is definitely a sardonically funny show about damaged people and really revels in it in a great way. I hadn’t heard of Martin before this show but now I’m pretty keen on checking out a full set.
Self Made: Inspired By The Life Of Madam C.J. Walker (Netflix) – Octavia Spencer and Tiffany Haddish star in this brand new limited series that tells the story of a trailblazing African American woman who rose up from nothing to become the entrepreneur known as Madam C.J. Walker who built a haircare empire that made her America’s first female self-made millionaire. The cast looks great around these two including Blair Underwood and Carmen Ejogo but I do find it weird that Spencer is playing Haddish’s mother in this as the two are only seven years apart.
Tiger King (Netflix) – This is one of those too crazy to be true stories but I will let you know right now, it’s all true and I know someone who knows someone that knows this guy. I know! Crazy! This is a docuseries about a gonzo rivalry between big cat eccentrics that takes a dark turn when Joe Exotic, a controversial animal park boss with a glorious blond mullet that would make Hulk Hogan and Dog The Bounty Hunter shake in their boots, is caught in a murder-for-hire plot. This show will make you slackjawed in amazement that people like this actually exist. I felt myself giggling and laughing throughout this bat shit show and I feel like it will really catch on with people. I highly recommend it!
Westworld: Season 3 (HBO) – After a two year absence we finally get the next piece of this incredible mysterious show that emanated from a 70s Michael Crichton movie. The favorites are all back including Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores, Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard and Thandie Newton’s Maeve as well as newcomers Aaron Paul and Kid Cudi but what is this season about? Well, showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan are keeping everything secretive but what we do know is that Bernard and Dolores have been rebuilt outside of the facility so we get to see what this future looks like and I am damn excited for that.
The Plot Against America (HBO) – In a time of heightened and emboldened racism in the U.S. and, heck, around the world, we get this brand new “what if” historical drama from one of the great creators of television today, HBO. Starring Winona Ryder, Zoe Kazan, John Turturro and more, this series follows an alternate timeline America that lives in a world that saw Roosevelt defeated in the 1940 race for presidency by Charles Lindbergh, a man who has strengthened ties to Nazi Germany. A six-episode limited series, this show has great creators behind the camera with The West Wing’s Thomas Schlamme directing the lion’s share and The Wire’s David Simon and Edward Burns writing it. This could be the best miniseries of 2020 so I’d give it a look.