Just Mercy – Short Term 12 director Destin Daniel Cretin returns to form after The Glass Castle with this well-acted true story about civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard law school graduate who moved from Delaware to Alabama to give death row inmates proper legal representation, played in this film by Michael B. Jordan. I really thought awards season was definitely going to contain talk of this movie after getting its wide release and not just for Jordan who turns in another great performance but for Jamie Foxx who gives a blistering portrayal of a wrongly convicted small-town Alabama man that was made a target by a brutal sheriff in his county. I will say that this is a powerful movie that maybe didn’t need the additional character played by Brie Larson who just seems a bit lost in the shuffle. I enjoyed this when I saw it at the film festival and it still holds up half a year later.
Underwater – Being buried in the first month of the year, any horror or action movie is usually something the studios want to bury as they’re generally not very good and that’s what happened to this one. Hell, we didn’t even get it here in Penticton. The story is about a crew of aquatic researchers who have a desperate struggle to get to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory but, worse than that, something has been released from the cracks underwater that starts to pick them off one by one. So, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, it’s got Kristen Stewart in it and, yes, I’m a big fan of her post-Twilight work, hate me for it if you want. The movie was directed by William Eubanks who made the awesome sci-fi thriller The Signal, a film I stumbled upon and absolutely fell in love with and this movie is satisfying on the level of “Hey, I’d love to see a sort of mash-up between The Abyss and Alien” which it kind of ends up being. The creature design looks really cool and I will take scowling KStew in a tough as nails survival film any day. Enjoy this one for what it is.
Hell On The Border – This is one of those movies that duped me in so many ways and I didn’t realize my error until a half-hour into it. The film is a western, boasting the stars Ron Perlman and Frank Grillo who also acts as an executive producer on it. The story has Cloud Atlas actor David Gyasi playing Bass Reeves, a black man that finds himself deputized as the first of his race to be deputy marshal west of Mississippi and was the basis of The Lone Ranger. Sounds interesting but everything about this movie is terrible. The acting is awful, the direction is aimless, te blocking is truly dreadful and the music comes in with early 80s television-quality at the absolute worst times. This was a total chore to work my way through but I did it so I could tell you not to do the same. This is a horrible shame of a western that needs to be forgotten.
Final Kill – The easy give away of the calibre of this action thriller should have been immediate when the main notable star of it is former UFC champion Randy Couture because I really have no idea who Ed Morrone and after watching this, I don’t care to. The plot follows Morrone as an ageing protection specialist who takes on one last job before retirement, protecting a couple who stole eight million dollars from a ruthless crime family. The saving grace of this movie is the few scenes that feature a scenery-chewing Billy Zane but everything else is just corny tough-guy bravado talk followed by totally goofy action sequences that feel lazy and thrown together. Damn, this is kind of a rough week for new releases.
Chichinette: The Accidental Spy – A fascinating documentary about an astounding human being I hadn’t known about beforehand, this film gives insight into a woman with a strong resolve and one whose actions were pivotal for the fight against Nazi Germany, one she waged from within the belly of the beast. Told in snippets as she makes her way across Europe giving speeches about her experience, Marthe Cohn tells her remarkable story, fighting against the Nazis as a spy in the French Army during World War II. At the time of filming her tour and interviews, Marthe, which she implicitly tells the audience is pronounced “Mart”, now is just celebrating her 100th birthday this week and is still feisty with a dry sense of humor and a need to still educate and deliver a message. This was a short but wholly enjoyable documentary that told a brave tale.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:
Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project – This is a fascinating documentary about a driven obsession with information through the visual media of televised news. Marion Stokes was an activist being groomed to become a communist leader in America who decided that her crusade would be to expose the truth of unfiltered media in what could be assembled into a comprehensive library of documented history. With everything that is currently going on in America and the media, this movie is an engrossing look at the path that led us to this point with Stokes herself making some very bold predictions of the future back in the 1970s that are chillingly coming to fruition today. A great movie for documentary fans.
Chris D’Elia: No Pain (Netflix) – One of my favorite stand up comedians of the last decade returns with a brand new set that I seriously can’t miss and will chase away your quarantine blues. This show, recorded in Indianapolis, Indiana, has D’Elia coming to grips with the notion that improving as a stand-up comedian is making him a worse human being in public, his vendetta against a mall baby and the fact that he had too much of a good upbringing to capitalize on any hardships for comedy. D’Elia’s comedy always feels so directly relatable which is one of the main reasons I always laugh to the point of hurting myself every time I watch one of his sets. So, I guess the title is a lie because there will be some pain.
Outer Banks (Netflix) – A brand new mystery for the tweens and twenty-somethings to get behind, this show centers around a group of teenagers in the beach vacation destination of the Outer Banks of North Carolina known not so affectionately as “The Pogues” and I don’t mean the Irish band. A hurricane descends on the town and in the wreckage, this group discovers a sunken boat that contains clues to the possible existence of buried treasure. With corrupt police, slimy business owners and ruthless gangsters on their trail, the intrigue is really well told in this show that, honestly, wouldn’t have a lot of eyes on it if it weren’t for this lockdown. I’m really enjoying it so far but I can’t say there is any star of note in it.
The Innocence Files (Netflix) – True crimes docuseries have been the hotness everyone has been raving about on Netflix for a few years now and although it doesn’t have the trashy allure of Tiger King, I really feel like this series should be on peoples radars. Told in three hour-long episodes, this series details the personal stories behind eight cases of wrongful convictions that the Innocence Project and organizations within the Innocence Network have worked to highlight and overturn. The set up to this show is brilliant, as the first episode covers the wrongful conviction of two black Mississippi residents who are thrown into life sentences on the shakiest of evidence. This show with have you shaking your head in disbelief over how the justice system can be so flawed that basic logic has been thrown out the window in favor of opinion. Riveting stuff.
#blackAF (Netflix) – A massive rising star behind the scenes, Kenya Barris is a name that may be a little unfamiliar to you but you have guaranteed seen or heard of his work. The creator of shows like Blackish and the two spinoffs, producer of Girls Trip and other films and the main executive on the Tyra Banks reality show America’s Next Top Model, this show has Barris going the mockumentary route with his “family” as the series has his daughter trying to document her family as a video application for NYU. The show has that definite Curb Your Enthusiasm quality as Barris constantly struggles with the notion of being rich, famous and black with the various pitfalls there. The highlight of this show is without a doubt Rashida Jones who plays his enabling wife. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve seen so far.
What We Do In The Shadows: Season 2 (FX) – Following up a hilarious movie with the first season of a heavily anticipated series that delivered on all levels, we have been not so patiently waiting for the return of our favorite vampire roommates. Created by the star of the original film, Jemaine Clement, this show follows a different cast, led by the brilliant Kayvon Novak and one of my favorite current British comedic actors Matt Berry, the story simply follows three vampires and their night lives living on Staten Island, their home for a century. This is by far one of the most clever new comedies on television and their return is so welcome at this crazy and unpredictable time.