New On VOD:
Greyhound – One really disappointing thing that feels very selfish of me to say as a movie fan is that COVID-19 robbed us of seeing a possibly incredible new World War II film on the big screen as it was intended. Tom Hanks takes the lead in this film that was produced by Playtone, responsible for the HBO limited series Band Of Brothers and The Pacific, playing an inexperienced U.S. Navy captain who must lead an Allied convoy being stalked by Nazi U-boat wolfpacks. The trailer looks so intense for it but it feels like we are being duped into subscribing to AppleTV+ just to get this movie amongst a kind of weak library. To be honest, though, this is Tom Hanks and I’ll buy it anyway, I have everything else.
Palm Springs – I’m a big enough fanboy for anything Andy Samberg does that I am ready to leap on board with everything he does and the good news is that this film got a hell of a lot of buzz from this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Oh man, remember those? Anyways, the film follows Samberg as the carefree Nyles and a reluctant maid of honor named Sarah, played by Fargo’s Cristin Milioti, have a chance encounter at a Palm Springs wedding but things get complicated as they are unable to escape the venue, themselves, or each other as the day keeps repeating in a totally Groundhog Day sort of way. This film is the debut of Max Barbakow as a director who has now become sort of a hot commodity so hopefully, this one takes off for him even under the VOD release banner, which in the United States landed it on Hulu. I have definite high hopes for it.
Guest Of Honour – At the end of the 90s it looked like Canadian director Atom Egoyan was poised to be one of the greatest talent exports, a filmmaker who made provocative and engaging works like Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter, Felicia’s Journey and Where The Truth Lies but that’s where the hot streak seemed to end and I’ve found myself let down by every entry into his resume since. In this new film, he centers on the damaged relationship between a father and daughter, the former played by David Thewlis, a food inspector who finds himself more and more preoccupied with his daughter’s incarceration for a sexual assault that she turned herself in for without the victim’s request. The story is muddled from the beginning in its plot order which makes the whole thing come off as frustratingly messy which sort of compounds the issue of Thewlis’s character being totally unlikeable and hard to engage with. Another half baked entry from Egoyan makes me really question why I give him a chance continuously but I’ve resigned to the fact that I will probably look forward to his next movie as well. I’m a glutton for Canadian cinema punishment.
Fisherman’s Friends – These small town British comedy-dramas keep hitting me in that sweet spot because, just like Military Wives just a few months ago, this movie slowly rose on me as a total sweetheart of a movie and I found myself hooked by the end which is ironic because it is about fishermen. The movie is based on a true story about ten fishermen from Cornwall who are sought after by a big city music producer who is visiting the town with his producer buddies. When they leave him there as a joke, he starts to fall in love with the land, the people and the daughter of one of the fishermen who heads a singing group that specialize in traditional sea shanties. The cast is phenomenal in this movie including Daniel Mays, Tuppence Middleton and a hell of a performance from James Purefoy who drops his usual villain act to bring out this great curmudgeon character. This is a heartwarming movie guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Tainted – It’s time to get gritty with this new drama thriller that stars Lord OF The Rings star John Rhys Davies, Resident Evil’s Shawn Roberts in a low budget but bleakly entertaining Canadian made film. The story follows an ex-con named Lance with ties to the Russian mob and the Aryan brotherhood, played by Immortals Alan Van Strang, who attempts to live a quiet life after spending fifteen years in prison. This is all disrupted when members of the Russian mafia recruit him to complete one last assignment to earn his freedom, not satisfied with him just walking away. The last mission goes awry as he finds himself in a bloody retaliation that impacts everyone who crosses his path and may lead to his own violent demise. The biggest issue with this movie is its tendency to get lost in brooding moments and slowing the pace of it considerably but for a lower Canadian production it holds up pretty well.
Volition – Let’s continue down the Canadian filmmaking path a little more but we’re going to change gears into a different genre, hitting up some sci-fi this time. This movie won’t have any actors you will completely recognize, outside of Aleks Paunovic, currently starring in Snowpiercer and John Cassini, known for the Canadian shows Blackstone and Continuum, but the originality of the story keeps you going. The film is about a man who is afflicted with clairvoyance and tries to change his fate when a series of events leads to a vision of his own imminent murder. There are some great twists that the main character’s powers facilitate and I have to hand it to the direction and cinematography because they work in tandem to make this film feel dynamic.
First Cow – Writer and director Kelly Reichardt continues her deeply somber character tales with this frontier western film that is an absolute arrival of lead star John Magaro. The film opens with Alia Shawkat unearthing two skeletons in modern days while out walking her dog before we get into the real story. The main plot follows a former cook turned fur trapper in the settler days of Oregon and trade that he’s always felt on the outside of, hated by his peers. This changes when he finds friendship with a Chinese immigrant and the two collaborate on a successful business. Beautifully shot and punctuated by two fantastic performances, this is definitely on the shortlist of my favorite films this year.
White Riot – As soon as I put this movie on I was immediately taken in by how relevant the subject matter of this documentary was and how important it was for people to see. The film is about the Rock Against Racism movement that was started in the Soho section of London, England in the mid-seventies by Red Saunders prompted by Eric Clapton’s endorsement and involvement with the National Front, a far-right, fascist political party that was aggressively racist and anti-immigration. This movie was incredibly eye-opening for me, as a fan of Clapton’s music, giving some incredible insight into this viewpoint that was and is a large part of the beliefs in the United Kingdom. I will say that my love for The Clash grew immensely as they and the Tony Robinson Band were a large part of the movement. This is definitely a must-see documentary for political and musical reasons. Now I need to reconcile my Slow Hand feelings.
From The Vine – We truly are feeling the Canadian mark on cinema this week on video on demand but this one has a bit of the Italian flavour to it, especially because it’s about wine. The film stars the man lovingly known as Joey Pants, Joe Pantoliano, who you may know from the Bad Boys movies, The Matrix or the nuisance of a cousin in The Sopranos but this is a decidedly less violent role for him as he plays a downtrodden man who experiences an ethical crisis and travels back to his hometown in rural Italy to recalibrate his moral compass. Of course, there he finds new purpose in reviving his grandfather’s old vineyard, offering the small town of Acerenza a sustainable future, and reconnecting with his estranged family in the process. The film has an inspirational sweetheart quality to it but feels woefully under directed to a large degree which makes if feel lesser than it could be. That said, Pantoliano is great and I’d love to see him in more lead roles.
Relic – Something in the subgenre of horror that deals with psychological warfare seems to really speak to me, like Ari Aster’s films Hereditary and Midsommar and immediately grabs me, I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s straight-up relating to the character’s plight, I’m not sure. This one had e quickly, following a daughter, mother and grandmother who are haunted by a manifestation of dementia that consumes their family’s home. Starring Emily Mortimer and Bella Heathcote from The Neon Demon, this is an amazing film that probably no one will hear of or see but is the incredible debut of filmmaker Natalie Erika James who makes it look like a veteran put this movie together. As a new female voice in horror, I sincerely can not wait to see what’s next for her.
Trolls World Tour – One of the release casualties of COVID-19, this animated sequel got the “direct into you home for the kids” treatment, almost like Universal is now giving back to the base demographic in these tough times, and actually made them some bank in the process. I fully expected there to be another Justin Timberlake song like “Can’t Stop The Feeling” for the kids to dance all over the living room but nothing that annoying came from it and as a rock and metal guy myself I kind of love that the villains for this movie are the “Rock n Roll Trolls” bent on obtaining all of the magical musical strings to make everything rock forever. It doesn’t seem like a problem to me but in this world, it would mean the destruction of everything, whatever. A great voice cast in this one includes the returning Anna Kendrick along with JT, Ron Funches and Kunaal Nayar as well as the additions of Rachel Bloom, Sam Rockwell, Ozzy Osbourne and more. The film is fluffy but fun and maybe tolerable for at least a couple spins in the blu-ray player.
Sorry We Missed You – Being a huge fan of Ken Loach’s since I saw The Wind That Shakes The Barley in my video store days, his films have come to be the ones I love forward to most at the festival and this one didn’t disappoint and refused to let me leave without shedding some tears. The film is about a lower-class family living in Newcastle and struggling to get back to a position of being able to buy a home. The father has just got a new job as a parcel delivery service, but one you have to buy into, causing them to sell his wife’s car that she uses for her job as a home care nurse. As the two parents struggle in their fourteen to sixteen-hour workdays, their kids suffer as their older son begins to lash out as a vandal. Loach always gets to the heart of the everyman’s plight against the system and it’s always heartbreaking.
Blood And Money – We’re probably entering into some “why the hell are we talking about this?” territory but, well, this is where my job gets a little tiresome. Tom Berenger, a name I feel like we haven’t seen in prominence since the 90s, stars in the lead role of this thriller about a retired veteran hunting in Northern Maine who stumbles across a dead woman and a large sum of money. Pulling on some of that Coen style money thrillers, this film was the feature debut for writer and director John Barr and unfortunately, his inexperience shows in a sloppy script and bad execution that muddies a pretty solid performance from Berenger. I’d love to see more of this classic 80s and 90s actor but, seriously, can we get him better work and one that isn’t a Sniper direct to video sequel?
Inheritance – Mystery is at the center of this brand new film from director Vaughn Stein who’s last venture, the neon gangster noir Terminal, boasted a great cast including Margot Robbie and one of the stars of this movie, Simon Pegg, but was kind of an incoherent mess. Doing away with the metaphorical driven story, this film follows Lily Collins as a successful and driven lawyer whose life is thrown into chaos when her father dies and leaves her a very unusual inheritance. For spoiler reasons, I won’t get deeper into that plot but I have to say that Stein improved vastly from his last film but still lacks that third act polish which definitely hurts this movie as I felt it almost completely changed from mystery to suspense in that transition. I was largely entertained by this film in the end though.
Inferno Of Torture – More weirdness from Arrow Video this week as this new collector’s edition reaches out to Japan at the end of the sixties geisha exploitation film. The story follows a highly sought after geisha due to her illustrated body that comes from the fierce competition between to warring tattoo artists. The film comes from acclaimed filmmaker Teruo Ishii, whose movies An Outlaw and Yakuza Law still get brought up in the conversations of the great tentpoles in Asian cinema, the latter released the same year as this one. Be warned that this movie is a real indicator of its title and has some gory and uncomfortable watch for sure and It’s best I keep my descriptors of it to a minimum.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:
Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight – Looks like I’m bringing more informative documentaries this week to keep everyone informed and to be honest I really didn’t know who this man was but I definitely felt the message that was given in the title as I was definitely informed of Milton Glaser’s ability to delight. The film profiles Milton Glaser, America’s foremost graphic designer who made the iconic “I Heart N.Y.” logo among many others, as well as was a teacher and humanitarian. Interviews with Glaser are put together to take you through a rough chronology of his life, starting with his study at the New York High School of Music and Art and at Cooper Union, a seminal stay in Italy, his marriage, and his various partnerships like founding Push Pin Studios and “New York” magazine as well as designing Grand Union supermarkets, and working with “The Nation.” This movie feels very heady creatively and seems ungrounded at times but is engaging when your head isn’t spinning with information. A good film for the creative type.
The Stalking Moon – Thanks to those great people at Warner Archive I find myself swimming in great classic westerns and this one is a brand new gem in my collection as it features one of the Hollywood greats, Gregory Peck. In the film he plays a sympathetic retired army scout who takes-in a white woman and her half-Apache son, not knowing that the boy’s father, a murderous renegade Apache, is after them. The film co-stars Eva Marie Saint as the woman in question and a young and fresh faced Robert Forster as the villain which was a huge selling point for me as one of my favorite all-time actors. This is a thoroughly fantastic film and is the reteaming of Peck and his To Kill A Mockingbird director Robert Mulligan.
Jaws – The first blockbuster ever made and possibly one of the most beloved and accessible monster horror films ever made, I feel like everyone has a soft spot for this movie. Steven Spielberg adapted the Peter Benchley novel in beautiful fashion with Roy Schieder taking the role of Chief Brody, a law enforcement official that sees himself pitted between a scared town and the town officials looking to ignore a bloodthirsty shark and reopen their town to tourists anyways, something that feels crazily reminiscent of how everything just opened up in this pandemic. This is one of the greatest movies ever and the 4K transfer for it is gorgeous as are all of the retrospective featurettes that will keep movie lovers busy for hours. I feel truly blessed to own it.
Dream Demon – Yes, there is more camp in my piece this week as this brand new release comes from the rising king (or queen) of B-movies, cult status films and forgotten gems and this time we are delving into the dream world in a movie that I think missed the opportunity for the smashy title of “Dreamon”. Catchy, right? Anyways, the film follows a woman about to be married who begins having terrifyingly vivid dreams about demons but when she wakes, however, the demons are realized to be real and begin to commit gruesome murders so in a way this is the cautionary tale of wedlock told through a Ghoulies lense and it works in such a weird way. The film was made by Harley Cokeliss who’s previous entry into the zeitgeist was a movie called Black Moon Rising with Tommy Lee Jones and written by the Master Of Horror, John Carpenter.
Jim Jefferies: Intolerant (Netflix) – We’re digging into a little bit of Australian comedy this week, albeit Jim has been a landed American for a while now so this is more tethered to his new citizenship rather than being a strange man in a strange land. To be bold in my delivery of what this stand up special is I’ll kind of bullet point it for you and say that this is about Jim’s lactose intolerance, how it interfered on a date he was on and the need to put himself on a countdown to when he shit himself. little messed up, right? Well, it’s all funny as along the way Jim digs into generational differences, his own bad habits and the shifting boundaries in comedy and how to navigate what you said in the past to how you can improve in the future. Irreverent and hysterically funny, it makes me miss his show a lot.
Stateless (Netflix) – I’ve been stewing on this one for a bit as I received all of these episodes more than a month ago and it is here to probably be a giant streaming hit this weekend. Starring former Chuck star Yvonne Strahovski and Suicide Squad actor Jai Courtney, this thriller is based on a true story and follows a woman who has just escaped a cult, a refugee fleeing with his family, a father trapped in a dead-end job, and a bureaucrat on the verge of a national scandal who find their lives intertwined when they are imprisoned in an immigration detention centre. The show was created by Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett, Nowhere Boys producer Tony Ayres and Jack Irish creator Elise McCredie and is a damn good watch that is thoroughly addicting and also so very relevant to our times. This is a big recommendation from me this week.
Expecting Amy (Crave) – Remember when Amy Schumer seemed to disappear during the height of her popularity and after a successful third season of her show? Well, we all know now that Amy shut herself away from everyone with her husband and had a baby but what we didn’t know is that it was all documented. For this short three-episode limited HBO Max series, we get the full behind-the-scenes treatment as Schumer goes through an extraordinarily difficult pregnancy while touring to prepare for a stand-up special and as a big fan of her stand up, Inside Amy Schumer and the film Trainwreck, I have been looking forward to this. I’ll say it now though, the less said about Snatched and I Feel Pretty the better because those ones sucked real bad.
The Old Guard (Netflix) – Charlize Theron s stepping back into the action genre and not only that she is leading a film based on a graphic novel from one of the best comic writers working today, Greg Rucka who also made Stumptown, now a hit series with Cobie Smulders and Lazarus, which is coming soon to television screens to blow everyone’s minds. The film has Theron playing the leader of an ancient sect of immortal assassins who are suddenly exposed and must now fight to keep their identity a secret just as an unexpected new member is discovered. The film is from Love & Basketball director Gina Prince-Bythewood in her first action film and she really rocks this one with insane action sequences that will drop jaws like crazy as they’re breaking them at the same time. I’m not the only one raving about this movie, the reviews are in and they’re good.
Close Enough (Crave) – Ever since HBO Max has launched in the United States they have been releasing series after series of new show revivals, original programming and bold narrative choices for all ages but this new animated series might be my most anticipated new shows of the summer for this new platform. Coming from the creators of Regular Show, a Cartoon Network original from J.G. Quintel, this is a decidedly more adult-oriented series about a couple trying to face various challenges in their daily lives while trying to cope with their changes from 20s to 30s. Quintel takes the lead role, just as he did with his previous series but this also has Jason Mantzoukas who just might be my favorite current comedian, podcaster and writer. I have big hopes that this show is just as great as the trailer would lead you to believe it is. I think we have the low rumblings of a hit here.