New On VOD:
Blood Quantum – Soaked in blood and dripping with style, writer and director Jeff Barnaby follows up his astoundingly great Indigenous film Rhymes For Young Ghouls with this zombie horror that feels familiar only in the basics of its mechanics. The film takes place outside the isolated Mi’gMaq reserve of Red Crow when the dead start to rise, observed first as a gutted salmon resurrects. Soon everything spirals out of control leading the survivors to isolate in an impenetrable structure made from scraps that are barely holding together as arguments for leadership rage on. The story feels a little disjointed here ad there but I loved the execution of the plot points and the gore is beautifully slick. I’m excited to see what Barnaby does next as he is a great filmmaking voice in the indigenous community that has a real chance to leap to the mainstream.
Nose To Tail – This movie seems to be playing into the kind of movies I generally like as it all takes place in a five-star restaurant during a make or break night for the head chef. Aaron Abrams from Hannibal and Closet Monster plays Daniel, a pill and alcohol-fueled chef and restaurant owner who is as abusive to all of those around him as he is to himself, but, like most of these guys, is driven by his ego to a fault. As I said, this is totally my type of movie but the lead character is so immediately unlikeable and the snowball effect on that is far too quick to recover from because it really doesn’t get any better. I feel like the point of this movie is to see Daniel go down in a big ball of flames and feel justified in doing so. It just didn’t work for me.
Enemy Lines – I’m always a sucker for a World War II film and when any of them get pushed my way for release I will generally check them out but this movie raised red flags right away. A story about a crack team of allied commandos sent on a deadly mission behind enemy lines to extract a rocket scientist from the hands of the Nazis, the film should check all the boxes of a great war film but the fact that it stars Ed Westwick, an actor who after sexual assault accusations is low on the employability list made me work and for good reason because it isn’t good at all. The plot feels easy and almost paint by numbers with our heroes easily skirting through any problem up until our third act where it all hits the fan and the effects are some of the worst I have ever seen and I watch Canadian films regularly. Do not be duped by this movie on your VOD screen, it’s not even worth ten minutes of your time.
Tammy’s Always Dying – Felicity Huffman is an actress that has been getting a lot of publicity over the last year or so and it is not in a good way at all but instead wrapped up in that whole university admissions scandal. The whole debacle even stopped her from promoting this new movie, one that needed the star’s help due to the low budget of it. Huffman plays the alcohol addled mother of a woman who is the direct result of being raised by someone like that, quick to anger, constantly making bad decisions and on a slope to personal ruin. Even through all of this, she is there to save her mother from jumping to her death every month like clockwork. I will say right here that for me Huffman’s over the top performance is what soured this movie for me and made me feel distant from it starting with her opening moment on screen. It feels like she’s in a play on the subject when everyone else is in a more grounded drama and I couldn’t shake that notion. That said, this is quite the debut in the director’s chair for former Power Rangers star Amy Jo Johnson and I look forward to what she does next.
The Rhythm Section – Ryan Reynolds can’t be the only ass-kicker of his family as his wife Blake Lively makes her leap to the action genre. Yes, I know we already saw her take on a shark in the thriller The Shallows but this film sees her in hand to hand combat and firing a gun and looking a bit less awkward than I expected for the former Gossip Girl. In the film, she plays a woman looking for revenge after her family is murdered during a terrorist plot. Kind of leaning into that cliche a bit, she arms her self up and goes into training to destroy those who took her loved ones but the film looks a bit grittier than your standard Taken film and it has Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown to do some heavy lifting as well. This film, produced by James Bond executive Barbara Broccoli, tried to carve a new niche of female-led action films for itself but failed to pull it off as the pacing really dogs this movie constantly and felt a little half baked at times.
Guns Akimbo – After seeing his debut film Deathgasm at the Vancouver International Film Festival a few years ago, I’ve been waiting for the bigger budget and more notable cast led follow up from New Zealand director Jason Lei Howden and this hits the spot in the genre of loud, brash and bloody action films. Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving star in the darkly comedic story of a tech employee who must throw caution to the wind when he wakes up after trolling the dark web with guns fixed to his hands and bloodthirsty killers looking to kill him while trying to save his ex-girlfriend from the same people who put him in this situation. Unfortunately, Howden killed all momentum for this movie by using the film’s twitter account to publicly attack female critics who gave it low marks. Brutal.
I Wish I Knew – A new documentary from the director of last year’s beautiful Chinese gangster flick Ash Is Purest White, filmmaker Zhangke Jia gives an intimate vision of Shanghai and its history but most importantly the voices of those who know it deeply, have never left or have tried to escape it and those whose journeys brought them back to it. This film, with a serene and calm demeanour, portrays a city that has been founded on industry and on the backs of its workers but has also captured the imaginations of the local storytellers, filmmakers and actors as well as the international community like acclaimed director Michaelangelo Antonioni who went there to make a documentary in the 1970s but seemed to glorify that which the residents thought set their culture back. This documentary may feel too sombre at times and may bore those who need more flash.
Spongebob SquarePants: Bikini Bottom Bash – When this brand new compilation of episodes hit my mailbox from my friends at Paramount I looked at it and said “sure, why not?” because, for those who don’t know, I love Spongebob Squarepants and actually own a lot of it already, a show which I consider, along with being a successful kids show, a really great source of stoner viewing. With this grouping of five episodes, we get classic stories like Spongebob’s birthday party, the hilarious beach party episode “Sun Bleached”, the Slumber Party and more. This is great for the kids and just as good for the immature big kids like me.
Steve’s DVD Geekout:
Criminal Minds: The Final Season – After fourteen seasons on the air and a couple of spinoffs that were pretty great but didn’t rope in that targeted market, one of the creepiest police procedurals finally came to an end with the ten-episode finale season. Led by their stalwart leading man Joe Mantegna and featuring the consistent nerd heartthrob of Matthew Gray Gubler, this show always flushed out a character study week to week of some of the most depraved and evil serial killers that the writer’s room could come up with, whether they were figments of these people’s imaginations or inspired by a real case. The final season was really interesting though as it involved our cast more directly into the story like an evil genius targeted the squad themselves. I got into this way late and am just binging it all now on CBS All Access and, well, I should have joined this party before. It’s a procedural that consistently works! Imagine that!
Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels (Crave) – A pretty sizeable fan base is very excited to get the spinoff to the popular Showtime series that started back in 2014 and ran for three seasons. While the original series followed explorer Sir Malcolm Murray, American gunslinger Ethan Chandler, scientist Victor Frankenstein and medium Vanessa Ives as they combated supernatural threats in Victorian London, this series goes ahead in time to a late 1930s Los Angeles at a time that city expansion was aggressive and pushing out the Latino community and the rise of the Nazi ideals were taking hold in the city. The kick is that an evil and godly entity is responsible for pushing the weaker-minded humans into furthering the agenda of the destruction of humanity. The show stars Game Of Thrones alum Natalie Dormer, Nathan Lane and It Follows and Don’t Breathe actor Daniel Zovatto and I loved episode one. Looking forward to what’s next.
Upload: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – After the mind-twisting darkness of Devs, Amazon Prime is going for a lighter approach to the online gaming world with this new sci-fi series from Greg Daniels, the creator of the American version of The Office and Parks And Recreation. Starring Robbie Amell, this ten-episode series follows a man who gets to electronically pick the new world he inhabits after his untimely death. This is a show that has been long in development for Daniels as he started writing it right after the series finale for The Office. I’ve been seeing trailers for this everywhere for months and I really hope it is as good as it looks.
Murder To Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story (Netflix) – After all of the true-crime documentaries I have been watching about horrible people who don’t get what they deserve, wrongfully convicted people and inmates that have been used and abused by the system, it was pretty refreshing to actually get into a story of redemption, even if the execution of the whole thing lends to the viewer being manipulated. The story of Cyntoia Brown is anything but simple, convicted as an adult at the age of sixteen for the first-degree murder of a man she alleges had picked her up hours earlier in a Nashville parking lot intending to pay for sex. Given a life sentence that would see her released somewhere within her sixties, Cyntoia begins a journey to improve her condition, change her life and hopefully earn herself a chance of clemency or parole. My biggest issue with this movie is that the interviews feel framed to only give the feelings that the filmmaker intends rather than leaving the onus on the viewer which I think is best in these films. I don’t need this and a swell of music to blur the lines, we have enough of that on Twitter every day.
Betty: Season 1 (Crave) – A couple of years ago I fell in love with a little New York shot indie story from writer and director Crystal Moselle called Skate Kitchen about a teenager new to the area that falls in with a group of skater girls. It’s really great that HBO feels the same way I do, if not more, as they have produced, with Moselle directing, a new six-episode series putting us right back into the skatepark and I am very excited for possibly the most underrated shows of 2020 that will hopefully get some eyes on the original film.
Hollywood (Netflix) – Ryan Murphy seems to have the stranglehold on Netflix during this whole pandemic as we get no only the two documentaries over the last couple weeks but this brand new scripted series that brings us to the golden era of post World War II Hollywood. The movie focuses on a bunch of aspiring actors, actresses, writers and directors who are desperate to make their big break into the industry at any cost to their soul. The show features a great young cast including American Crime Story’s Darren Criss, Spider-Man Homecoming’s Laura Harrier and Ready Or Not’s breakout star Samara Weaving as well as veterans like Holland Taylor and Dylan McDermott who is no stranger to Murphy’s world. Racy and always pushing the envelope, this series has the stuff to make it big, see, it’s gonna be a star!