New To VOD:
The King Of Staten Island – It’s been almost five years minus a month and a few days since Judd Apatow gave us a redemption story of an up and coming comic and comedian basically playing themselves in an over two-hour movie and we are now moving on from the now megastar of Amy Schumer to the rising stardom of Pete Davidson. The film features the Saturday Night Live writer and cast member as Scott, a do-nothing stoner in his mid-twenties who lives with his exhausted widower mom on Staten Island, appalling around with his friends and a childhood pal who has now become a sexual relationship. Deep in Scott’s psyche is the issues left when his firefighter father died in a fire when he was seven, which sort of informed his whole life but through that hurt, his redemption can be seen. This film’s biggest issue is that it feels so bloated, with Scott’s turn as a dynamic character not even hinting at itself until almost an hour and a half in. That said, Davidson is funny at times but it’s the rest of the cast that shines brighter around him. While I wasn’t a huge fan of this movie, it is definitely better than Apatow’s This Is 40 but sits below even a movie like Funny People.
Artemis Fowl – This is a really interesting one for Disney and their streaming service as it is the first full-on casualty for the studio giant during the COVID-19 pandemic as this big-budget film, which had already been postponed from a release date last year, has now landed on Disney Plus but I doubt it will recoup any losses seeing that the budget of the production of this film is $125 million. Directed by Kenneth Brannagh and based on a series of books by Eoin Colfer, this is the high tech and spy filed story of Artemis Fowl, a young criminal prodigy who must hunt down a secret society of fairies in order to find his missing father. I kind of like the cast of this movie that includes Colin Farrell, Dame Judi Dench and Josh Gad who has redeemed himself in my eyes through his YouTube series Reunited Apart but Brannagh has been a bit hit and miss with his last handful of projects. I hope we’re catching him on the upswing with this one.
Burden – With the Black Lives Matter protests currently sweeping the world as the citizens unite to rise up against awful oppression on the black race for hundreds of years, its a good moment for this new film based on a true story to be released. Writer and director Andrew Heckler makes is debut with this film about Kennedy, a reverend in a small South Carolina town who strives to keep the peace when a museum celebrating the Ku Klux Klan is opened. Looking to finally slay the beast of racism in his area, Reverend Kennedy goes beyond the faces that worship in his own church and tries to urge the group’s Grand Dragon to disavow his racist past. The film stars Forest Whitaker, Andrea Riseborough, Garrett Hedlund and Usher and features really great performances from all of them, especially Whitaker and Hedlund who give such deeply nuanced portrayals.
It Must Be Heaven – Writer and director Elia Sulieman returns after a ten-year absence to once again start in another almost completely silent performance and, I’ll admit, this is the first of his films I have ever seen and I’m definitely hooked now because it brings back a style of film that has been largely forgotten. Sulieman basically plays himself, addressed as ES, a filmmaker living in Palestine who takes a trip to Paris and New York City to see what similarities are shared with his home country ad trying to shop his new project at the same time. The most incredible thing about this movie is how Sulieman is able to bring the silent performance style of Charlie Chaplin or Marcel Marceau in this comedy of him just simply observing his world and the sometimes absurdity the follows him. A lot of beautiful static shots in this film but it may be a bit of slog for anyone that likes a faster-paced movie. I had the patience that ES exhibits in this movie and I loved it.
The Soul Collector – It seems that voodoo horror has been my mode this past weekend as I took I the slow burn Haiti based thriller Zombi Child on the Criterion Channel and this period piece horror story that heads down a more conventional route and has some really creepy moments along the way. The film centers around a family new to the area and looking to lay down their roots in a land rich with history. Little do they know that the old man who cares for the landscape, Lazarus, has been fated to collect souls for eternity, seeks atonement after trading his daughter’s soul decades previous. The film tries to make the best of its low budget by keeping things mostly in the shadows until the final climactic moment and it works mostly but the flimsiness of the white actors in this kind of work against it. That said, the color palette of the final scene between Lazarus and the daughter is truly awesome.
Shoot To Marry – Another documentary entry into the Canadian Film Festival that is currently airing on the Superchannels, this is a really personal one that puts the director clearly in the center of the story. At one time a part of Kenny Hotz insane competition show Testees, Steve Markle finds himself freshly dumped after a wedding proposal and wondering if he will ever find the partner to spend the rest of his life with. Picking up the camera and dusting himself off, Markle sets out on a serial dating spree, seeking out the most interesting women he can with good, bad and hilarious results. I was really surprised by how charming and thoughtful this movie was, a hit out of nowhere in my opinion.
The Hunt – The movie that got the right all riled up before anyone had ever seen a single frame of it is now on blu-ray after getting removed in September of last year and shoved to VOD just a couple of months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic that cut short its theatrical run. 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” which is perfect because it actually is one of my favorites this year. 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 but with way more biting satire and buckets full of great gore, Compliance director Craig Zobel’s latest definitely tickled the offended nature of the Fox News crowd and I doubted that we’d ever see it. Trust me, this has to be on the list for must-see movies right now.
We Summon The Darkness – Satan worship is the name of the game in this brand new horror film as it follows three girls in 1988 headed to a heavy metal show where they meet up with a trio of guys that see themselves as a bit of an up and coming band. After the show, the six of them head back to one of the girl’s palatial mansion where a game of “Never Have I Ever” opens the door for a bloody murder filled evening. It’s hard to get into more detail on this movie as the first twist, which happens very early on in the film, basically sets up the whole direction of it but I will say that is where it peaks. I liked the performances from stars Alexandra Daddario and Alita: Battle Angel’s Keean Johnson but the writing feels a bit dumb in a lot of spots and some of it totally ruins the plotting. There are bright points but the “darkness” feels a bit grey in most parts.
Corpus Christi – A nominee that represented Poland for Best Foreign at this past year’s Academy Awards, This movie was unfortunately destined to lose to Parasite but it still had me gripped immediately. It follows Daniel, a young man in a juvenile detention center who has found the path of God but, because of his crimes, is unable to act on this in any official capacity. He escapes from his holdings and steals the local pastor’s robes and heads out on the road on a bus until he’s dropped off at a small village that has a vacancy from a priest. He assumes this position and quickly learns that the townspeople are in deep mourning from an accident that claimed the lives of six teens. In getting the town to heal, Daniel learns to heal himself in a film that is beautifully shot and crafted with a soulful and ground shaking performance from young star Bartosz Bielenia.
Think Like A Dog – Let’s face the facts on family movies, especially direct to video releases, but generally, they are terrible and not in a scattershot way. Either being glossy or too low budget, the same thing is always true, an easy and predictable ride for the kids that doesn’t ruffle a single feather and that describes this one perfectly. The story revolves around young Oliver, a tech prodigy who’s science experiment goes wrong and creates a telepathic connection with his best friend, his dog Henry, voiced by Todd Stashwick, a face you recognize from a lot of stuff but can’t name. This story soon devolves into a billionaire tech developer’s interest and international incidents but it goes all where you expect it to. The film features the familiar faces of Josh Duhamel, Megan Fox, Kunal Nayer and Bryan Callen who look to be doing their best to get a studio paycheque and move onto something better. This one is rough and undeserving of any mention whatsoever.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:
Beau Brummel – Heading back into the classic archives of Warner Bros. extensive collection with this new re-issue that they sent me starring the stunning Elizabeth Taylor in her prime. Released in the mid-fifties, the story follows Captain George Bryan “Beau” Brummell of the 10th Royal Hussars Regiment who offends the Prince of Wales, played by the legendary Sir Peter Ustinov, with his straightforward outspokenness and gets fired from the Army but is then chosen as the Prince’s personal advisor. Interestingly enough, this movie was chosen for the Royal Film Performance of 1954 because it is rumored that Queen Elizabeth II thought that Robert Morley’s interpretation of her ancestor was really hilarious. See? She does have a sense of humor. The monarchy laughs!
Husbands – Finally making it’s way to a beautiful Criterion Collection edition, this is a film from legendary writer and director John Cassavettes, who also stars in it, and it features two all-time favorites of mine, Ben Gazzara and Peter Falk. The film follows three married men who, after the death of a close friend, leave their lives together, seeking pleasure and freedom elsewhere and ultimately leave for London for an adventure. The screenplay of this film would be nominated for a Golden Globe, losing the award to the romance Love Story, but still is a brilliant piece of cinema, Impeccable shot by director of photography Victor Kemper who went on to lens Dog Day Afternoon and Clue among other fantastic movies. It should also be noted that Cassavetes spent nine months in the cutting room editing the film but is not billed as an editor on the picture which is a weird slip in the motion picture unions at the time.
Scorsese Shorts – This is a really cool collection from one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and it sits beautifully in my collection from Arrow Video of Brian DePalma’s who is well known to be a close friend of Martin Scorsese. This boxed set consists of five shorts, Italianamerican, a documentary in which Martin interviews his mother and father in their small Little Italy apartment, American Boy, an interview he conducted with actor Steven Price about his dark past, The Big Shave, a short set to the tune of “I Can Get Started” that turns horrific, It’s Not Just You, Murray! which has an old mobster reflecting on his life, which would become a big part of Scorsese’s career and What’s A Nice Girl Like You Doing In A Place Like This? about a man’s obsession with a picture of a boat. There’s a lot to unpack with this one but you can see how these films formulated the filmmaker he would become.
Thousand Pieces Of Gold – Kino Lorber has a penchant for picking up the most obscure of international and independent cinema and it is certainly true of this film from 1990 which I had never heard of before. Starring Rosalind Chao, who is n the upcoming remake of Mulan and Academy Award winner Chris Cooper, this film is set in 1880’s China and follows a young girl named Lalu who is sold into marriage by her penniless father but rather than becoming a bride, she ends up in an Idaho gold-mining town as the property of a saloon owner who renames her China Polly and plans to sell her as entertainment for the locals. In a strong strong performance, Chao gives fire to this character as she refuses to let these constraints define her as she rises above it and the film definitely resonated with me as a slave tale in these times. I would call this some recommended cinephile viewing and it’s awesome that Kino Lorber has given it this new platform.
Lenox Hill (Netflix) – With doctor shows being still such a hot topic for the television networks of all forms so it’s smart for Netflix to jump in this arena but they’re doing it with their best foot forward because this is a reality show and not a broad sweep of one either, as it gives a more intimate focus. This eight-episode series gets a deep look at the lives of four doctors, two brain surgeons, an emergency room physician, and a Chief Resident OBGYN, as they navigate the highs and lows of working at the renowned Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. This show definitely isn’t for the faint of hearts as it unflinchingly brings you into the operating room from brain surgery, into the delivery room for childbirths and even a patient dealing with a painful problem on his rear end in the opening episode. This is a fascinating look at the real there’s in our society that have only sporadically been getting praise and are usually treated thanklessly.
Warning: Do Not Play (Shudder) – New South Korean horror and it’s coming directly to Shudder! Oh, you know I’m so into this one and the story for it looks massively intriguing because, as always, these films take so many chances. The story follows Mi-Jung, a rookie film director that has been preparing a horror film for the past 8 years and one day she hears about a movie which was banned. Wanting to know about the film, she begins to search for the movie which brings her to Jae-Hyun, the director of the film. Jae-Hyun warns Mi-Jung to forget about his film but she, of course, ignores his warning leading her on a bizarre and horrible journey. Dark and mysterious horror from South Korea is really my bag and if you like Parasite, The Chaser or I Saw The Devil then you are probably in the same boat as me and are excited to check this one out.
F Is For Family: Season 4 (Netflix) – Bill Burr is a busy guy this week as not only is he a supporting star in the Judd Apatow flick The King Of Staten Island but he’s also reunited with his animated family in this brand new season. For those who don’t know about this Netflix original, Burr voices Frank Murphy, the patriarch of your quintessential family living in the seventies when kids played in the streets, dads always had a beer in hand and nothing came between a man and his TV. Yes, we’re getting a bit of an Archie Bunker vibe here but it’s played mostly as satire rather than celebrating the more insensitive and politically incorrect opinions of the time from white America. This show really hooked me during the last season and I absolutely love the cast around Burr which includes Academy Award winners Laura Dern and Sam Rockwell, Justin Long and Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul’s Jonathan Banks. This may turn off a lot of people but it found a soft spot in my love for things like King Of The Hill.
I May Destroy You (Crave) – Coming from the creator and star of the British made and Netflix acquired Chewing Gum, an insanely great comedy-drama series if you haven’t seen it yet, HBO is now giving the spotlight to Michaela Coel for this brand new show that may just make her a star in North America alongside great black creators like Issa Rae and Laila Waithe. In this show, Coel plays Arabella, a British writer navigating the question of sexual consent in modern life and how, in the new landscape of dating and relationships, between make the distinction between liberation and exploitation. Heavy, right? What I love about Coel’s work is the accessibility of it and the relatable nature she portrays it to give it a more broad understanding. This series has started off brilliantly and I’m looking forward to where it goes.
Da 5 Bloods (Netflix) – One of the biggest voices in Black American cinema returns at a time where he is needed with this brand new film that is landing directly on our televisions screens. Based on a true story, the film is the story of four African-American Vietnam war vets who battle the forces of man and nature when they return to the country of their ultimate traumas seeking the remains of their fallen Squad Leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide. After the explosive landmine of masterpiece Blackkklansman was I have been waiting for what Spike had next in his arsenal and the fire of this movie was exactly what I wanted. To me, it’s crazy how much my opinion of Lee as a filmmaker has changed since the release of his angry and charged Chicago story, Chi-Raq, and have been riveted with everything he has produced. This man is power, see his work.