New To VOD:
Hamilton – The massive hit Broadway musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda has now made its way to the Disney+ streaming service for all of us who either will never be able to afford to head to New York City to see the real thing or only have a fleet interest in it, like me, but I do know the magnitude of this moment. The production follows the real life of one of America’s foremost founding fathers and first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton in that Miranda style that now feels almost iconic with Moana becoming the hit it was and the upcoming In The Heights which will definitely spread his stardust. This version of Hamilton was filmed live on Broadway from the Richard Rodgers Theatre with the original Broadway cast.
American Woman – An insane situation out of the mid-seventies was definitely the Patty Hearst kidnapping which saw her take the side of her militant kidnappers and, in a way, join them in their freedom fight versus the government against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. In her debut film, former Mad Men writer Semi Chellas attempts to recreate what happened behind closed doors during this ordeal with this story that was inspired by those events but tells it with changed names but as so much tension wrapped in every scene that it feels real enough to make your stomach churn. Downsizing star Hong Chau plays Jenny, a political activist brought in by the kidnappers to care for the Patty of this film, renamed Pauline and played by fantastic Canadian actress Sarah Gadon, and the two form a quick bond. Is Jenny being used or is this a real relationship between the two. Beautifully shot and punctuated by great performances from the cast including a powder keg of one from John Gallagher Jr.
Buffaloed – If you haven’t experienced the brilliance of actress Zoey Deutch yet then this is the crash course of her that you need to get into your brain immediately because it is a beautiful showcasing of her work. Playing a sort of dirtbag version of The Wolf Of Wall Street in a way, the film follows Deutch as Peg, a scheming Buffalo resident looking to make her fortune on quick scams and finds it in the shady business of debt collecting. After working for and being screwed over by the big wolf in the game named Wizz, played by Jai Courtney, who becomes her nemesis. The film is brilliantly written, darkly funny and spotlights a huge industry of greed in America and the constant plight of debt among 71 million Americans. I loved this movie so much, possibly my favorite this week.
Last Moment Of Clarity – With star Samara Weaving on a hot streak after Ready Or Not, her fun performance in Guns Akimbo and recently the Netflix series Hollywood, this movie had me hooked with the mere mention of her name. I wish that feeling lasted. The film follows a man living as a drifter in Paris three years after witnessing the murder of his fiancée who’s reality is thrown to the wind when he sees an actress who looks a lot like his dead love in a movie at the local theater. The premise of this movie sounds interesting but unfortunately, it is so slow and boring that it fails to engage you and the lead up to the finale and the last climactic scenes themselves have so many logic gaffs and plot holes that it all lands with a dull thud when the credits hit. Adding to that whole mess, lead star Zach Avery couldn’t buy himself a shred of charisma if he was the richest man in the world. A huge disappointment.
Force Of Nature – I definitely can’t say that actor Mel Gibson is on a list of marketable stars right now and hasn’t been for a while so it really makes a lot of sense that this new heist film is one that flew under everyone’s radar and just now is making itself known as it lands its home release. The story follows a gang of thieves who plan a heist during a hurricane and immediately encounter problems when a cop tries to force everyone in the building to evacuate. A very simple story and a pretty solid cast around Gibson including Emile Hirsh and Kate Bosworth punctuate a movie that will only stick in your memory for the amount of time it is on screen in all honesty. The whole thing feels so ridiculous in its scope and it doesn’t even have the inkling to be at least a little fun or have any sort of levity to it whatsoever. I didn’t regret watching this movie but I definitely didn’t see the point in investing an hour and a half into it.
Come And See – Criterion coming again this week with the hard-hitting features they are known for picking up, this one coming from Belarus which, at the time of its release in 1985, was part of the Soviet Union. The story follows a young boy who joins the Soviet resistance movement against ruthless German forces after finding an old rifle and experiences the horrors of World War II. I had been hearing about this film for years as it has been appearing on lists of great international cinema from a bunch of acclaimed directors like Edgar Wright and after seeing it, yes, this is the real deal but it is definitely not for the faint of heart. You’ve been warned.
Street Survivors: The True Story Of The Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash – I feel like I just watched a documentary recently about the tragic plane crash that killed Lynyrd Skynyrd’s iconic frontman Ronnie Van Zant among others but this takes that same story in more of a re-enactment route but with a little more professionalism than that bare-bones previous film did. This biopic recreates the story about the ill-fated flight through the eyes of former Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle, who is the narrator as well, who not only survived the plane crash that claimed the life of the band’s founder and the others, but who also risked his life to pull the remaining survivors out of the plane wreckage before staggering towards the nearest farmhouse in rural Louisiana to seek help. The story is an unforgettable piece of rock n’ roll’s tragic history and seems to have a hyper-focus on it right now. This movie won’t win any sort of awards but the story will fascinate music fans.
Evil: Season 1 – Coming from the television power couple of Robert and Michelle King who were responsible for the hit shows The Good Wife and it’s CBS All Access spinoff The Good Fight, this new thriller takes them down the very different path of law, murder and demonic possession. I know, they totally swerved you with that last description and it’s exactly what I thought when I got this boxset. Starring Westworld’s Katja Herbers, Luke Cage’s Mike Colter and former Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi, the series is about a skeptical clinical psychologist who joins a priest-in-training and a blue-collar contractor as they investigate supposed miracles, demonic possession, and other extraordinary occurrences to see if there’s a scientific explanation or if something truly supernatural is at work. I put on my own skeptical hat with the first episode and found myself gripped by this really unpredictable show that takes you in som unfathomable directions. Can’t wait to continue through the set.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:
Victor And Victoria – You might be thinking “oh, Victor/Victoria”, that Julie Andrews movie she did with Blake Edwards, right?” but mostly your mind is that shrugging emoji. I totally get you but this is not that movie but it’s what that one was based on. The story follows an aspiring singer named Susanne who takes over for a terrible actor at a small cabaret in Berlin where he works as a woman impersonator which ends up getting her discovered. The catch is that everyone believes that she is a man. This film is interesting because it was made by a German filmmaker before World War II and is largely an LGBTQ+ friendly movie in a lot of ways, very ahead of its time. Nice to see it get some spotlight during Pride month.
Inside Daisy Clover – About a month and a half ago I checked out the HBO documentary on Natalie Wood made by her daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner and I immediately became fascinated with her filmography and the role choices she made and it stems a lot from this film, one that her influence got a young actor named Robert Redford cast in. C-starring Christopher Plummer, the story follows the title character Daisy Clover, a 15-year-old Tomboy who dreams of being a Hollywood star who, after auditioning for producer Raymond Swan of Swan Studios, becomes the toast of Hollywood. Daisy must then come to terms with her newfound fame and the 1930’s Hollywood star treatment. The film would be nominated for three Academy Awards, including one for Ruth Gordon in the first sweet spot of her career. This is a classic Hollywood flick with an inward look.
The Mystery Of The Wax Museum – Going back for some more classics this week with one of the iconic King Kong starlet Fay Wray and the kick-off to a story that would get remade twice over the next seventy-five years. The film follows a reporter who is drawn to a wax museum and a sinister sculptor after a series of disappearances of both people and corpses and is actually a pretty creepy film for its time and must have been terrifying for audiences back in the early thirties. The film had a life beyond being remade as a main shot of the monster lifting up the sheet in the morgue was, along with many other Warner Bros. films of the early 1930s, incorporated into the opening credits of their 1974 musical Mame.
Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark – As a youngster growing up with a fascination for horror I had a healthy obsession with late-night chiller theatre host Elvira, played by Cassandra Peterson, and this movie definitely was in my list of favorites with the buxom goth getting her first big-screen adventure. For those who have never experienced Elvira in her glory, buckle up, because she is in a fight for her ancestral home in a small town, battling an evil uncle and trying not to get burned at the stake by angry townspeople. Sure it’s campy, insane and definitely politically incorrect but I love every moment of it. Hell, it’s part of who I am now at this point.
Big Dogs (Amazon Prime) – You have to love a television series that has the courage to try and pull off an alternate reality and that’s exactly what this new series does, led by a cast that you recognize their faces but can’t seem to place their names. The show is an alternate reality of New York City where businesses are shuttered, crime is rampant and black markets thrive. Drugs are run via taxis and NYPD detectives use taxis for undercover teams trying to rein in the chaos and this series looks too interesting to pass up. Created by newcomer Adam Dunn, Amazon has trusted him with a pretty pricey looking production and I’m interested to see how it pans out.
Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix) – As soon as the first tones of the theme song hit for this new series revival spearheaded by Stranger Things producer Shawn Levy and I was transported back to the nineties when I would sit on the floor of my parent’s rec room and watch the original series hosted and narrated by Robert Stack. Now, given that Stack has been dead for about seventeen years, certain changes had to be made but it all works so well because, let’s face it, weird stuff hasn’t stopped happening just because this show has been off the air. I really hope it takes off again with all the Netflix true-crime buffs and we get more seasons because this series is just as addicting as it was when it was first released. The theme still gives me chills.
Hanna: Season 2 (Amazon Prime) – The movie this series is based on holds a special place in my heart as my wife and I sort of got our daughter’s name from it but this series is all sorts of kick-ass and does a solid job of recreating the brilliance that Joe Wright started on the big screen and expands it in series form. Saorise Ronan and Cate Blanchett don’t feature, instead making way for new series star Esme Creed-Miles as the title character, an extraordinary young girl raised in the forest and trained to kill by her CIA operative father, and evading the relentless pursuit of an off-book CIA agent as she tries to unearth the truth behind who she is. My favorite thing about this new show is it reteams The Killing stars Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman who I absolutely adore in every way. This show is awesome and if you’ve already done all the Jack Ryan and Bosch then this should be the next in your queue.
Warrior Nun (Netflix) – This show has possibly one of the most off-putting names for just a casual Netflix bigger but for a comic book fan like myself or maybe an avid anime fan the possibilities could be somewhat endless. starring a new face by the name of Alba Baptista, this action-heavy series follows a young woman who wakes up with a divine artifact in her back and gets caught in a war between the forces of Heaven and Hell which is the simplest but most effective way to describe this. Campy, violent and with a healthy side of ridiculous imagination, this show could strike a chord with fans of The Witcher as they await a new season and with character names like Shotgun Mary I was pretty into this show right away although I concede that it definitely is not for everyone.
I’ll Be Gone In The Dark (Crave) – More HBO goodness has arrived this week and, again, something a bit off the beaten path and one that will hopefully get a little boost from word of mouth. Very relevant due to the current court case going on right now, this limited mini-series is the gripping examination of the unsolved crimes of the Golden State Killer who terrorized California in the 1970s and 1980s, a case that will hopefully see resolution very soon and maybe a second series could be made of that. The series is narrated by Academy Award nominee Amy Ryan and features incredible first-hand testimonies from witnesses like Michelle McNamara and will get true crime buffs hooked immediately. This is highly recommended.