New To VOD:
The Outpost – Right from the get-go this brand new war movie feels like it has some lineage to it as it has Clint Eastwood’s son Scott in a lead role, Mel Gibson’s son Milo, Mick Jagger’s son James, Richard Attenborough’s grandson Will and Alan Alda’s grandson Scott Alda-Coffey in supporting roles who all look so much like their famous parents and grandparents. Beyond that, this is an intense and grittily realistic Afghan war story from Rod Lurie, the guy who had the balls to remake Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. Also starring Orlando Bloom and Caleb Landry-Jones, this is the story of a small team of U.S. soldiers who battle against hundreds of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan from a base nestled into the bottom of a massive mountain. For the entire duration of this movie, you feel like you’re being piggybacked by the characters you follow and it’s tragic we didn’t get to experience this in theaters. Optimize your home theater, this one is worth it.
Ash – For me, this movie hits very close to where I’m living now and bases itself around a real fear to the central Okanagan and British Columbia as a whole, the ugly annual summer wildfires. This story follows a journalist local to Peachland who has been monitoring a wildfire that is slowly moving its way to the town. Just as his work is being noticed he is accused and charged with a horrific crime that turns the entire town against him and renders his work to be nothing more than a warning shouted to deaf ears. Coming from writer and director Andrew Huculiak, his second film after the incredible debut Violent, this movie is personal as the main character is based on the father of a childhood friend he had when growing up in Kelowna. Tim Guinee, the lead of this movie, gives such an incredible performance that I think it elevates this to one of the best dramas of the year and should get award recognition.
White Lie – Former Hannibal star and friend of mine, Kacey Rohl leads this new dark drama about a college-age cancer patient n the midst of a fundraising campaign that may have more falsehoods in her story than she can keep together as the deadline for a huge government grant lies a mere week away. The film is brilliantly crafted and strings you alone in intrigue as Rohl’s character makes decisions devoid of morals to keep her secret hidden and those who have supported her, including a supportive girlfriend, in the dark. It was so weird watching my friend play a character that I despised within fifteen minutes and I spent a good majority of the film relishing her discovery and social demise. I feel like I need to give Kacey a hug now but holy hell, what a performance. Award-worthy stuff.
A Perfect Plan – Originally airing as part of the Canadian Film Festival on Superchannel during this pandemic, this one delves into the mystery genre for a heist film. The film has that whole Saw vibe to it initially as it follows four notorious thieves wake up in a fortified warehouse and are forced by a cunning master thief to plan and commit an extraordinary diamond heist. The film has a total 90s staple in William Forsythe playing one of the ageing thieves put into this life or death situation as well as former 24 actor and creator and host of The Great Canadian Food Show, Carolo Rota as the villain but it all feels under-produced, predictable and very badly paced at times which makes this film a slog to get through rather than being intriguing in any way.
Scoob! – Another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Warner Bros. made the choice to move this animated reboot of a beloved franchise to VOD for the kids, just like Universal was forced to with Trolls: World Tour and, although it’s much more fun to enjoy these on the big screen the word of mouth with families was goo and WB is hoping for a fresh new franchise out of a storied classic and this one delves a bit into the origin stories of the Mystery Machine occupants, how they met and of course how the bond between Shaggy and Scooby-Doo started to get all of that origin story stuff out of the way. My biggest disappointment is that Matthew Lillard isn’t doing the voice of Shaggy, my favorite to ever do the role but instead, they went with Will Forte who I really do love. The movie is pretty fun and as a kid that grew up on every Saturday morning cartoon, this film brings so many Hanna Barbera cameos which had the cartoon nerd in me pretty satisfied.
Marriage Story – One of my favorite filmmakers ever, writer and director Noah Baumbach is here to break your heart this time rather than make you laugh awkwardly. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver star in this film that puts you inside of a marriage that is slowly breaking and heading towards divorce and all of the tragic pitfalls in between and both are absolutely incredible in their roles with Laura Dern stealing the show in all of her scenes. There’s one scene in particular between Johansson and Dern that blew me away with its realism and Scarjo wears her emotion on her sleeve. This is the perfect place for this Netflix film to land in a home entertainment aspect, in the hands of the greatest publishing company ever, Criterion. This is like a gift from the cinema gods.
Survive The Night -Uh oh, here comes Bruce Willis limping along with another direct to blu-ray feature to phone in his acting skills again on and not only that, he’s also brought former One Tree Hill star Chad Michael Murray with him. This action thriller follows a disgraced doctor and his family who are held hostage at their home by criminals on the run after a robbery-gone-wrong requires them to seek immediate medical attention. The film comes from director Matt Eskandari whose last outing with Willis, Trauma Center, was so horrible that I still have nightmares from my viewing of it. Be warned, this one is not any better at all.
Resistance – Jesse Eisenberg seems to be featuring a lot during this COVID-19 pandemic times, first with the paranoid mind twister Vivarium and now this film, a World War II biopic In Bruges actress Clemence Poesy. The film centers around the story of a group of Jewish Boy Scouts who worked with the French Resistance to save the lives of ten thousand orphans during World War II and is the real story of Marcel Marceau’s days of heroism. The film comes from writer and director Jonathan Jakubowicz, whose only other film I know of is Sequestro Express and the Roberto Duran biopic Hands Of Stone but this is a pretty gripping story that will have you engaged throughout. It also had veteran actor Ed Harris playing General George S. Patton and that really blew my mind.
The Room – Olga Kurylenko has had her share of direct to video duds, especially that last action film with Gary Oldman, The Courier. Still trying to shed the stink of that one. This new movie definitely isn’t the remake of a Tommy Wiseau classic but is a horror story about a newlywed couple who buy an isolated house to raise a family in. While moving, they discover a strange room that grants them an unlimited number of material wishes and since Olga’s character has had two miscarriages, of course, they want a child which leads to dastardly happenings obviously. The movie comes from director Christian Volckman who made the awesome animated feature Renaissance and this one is actually pretty effective if you can get past its pretty weak script. I really wish these films wouldn’t lean into the jump scares as much, it feels tacky now.
You Don’t Nomi – Definitely regarded at the time as one of the worst movies of all time, Showgirls is a film that lives in infamy as it took then sweet as pie Saved By The Bell actress Elizabeth Berkley and put her in the role of Nomi, a rural girl looking to make her mark on the Las Vegas strip as an exotic dance and, let’s face it, the movie is batshit insane and director Paul Verhoeven and writer Joe Ezterhaus should hold the blame for that. This documentary is about the deep cult adoration that developed over time for this movie as well as it’s Hollywood history at the time of its release. As a movie fan, this movie astounded me but as a viewer who snuck into this movie at the age of thirteen, it feels like a full-circle moment.
Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 10 – Larry David is back to make awkward and uncomfortable moments and to walk away relatively unscathed and, for this, we love him, a definite American treasure. This season has much of the same sort of hijinx you would expect like Larry going head to head against a coffee bar, bringing the wrong date to a destination wedding and more things that he has to make amends for eventually, you know, in his own way. This season has one of my favorite Curb episodes though with Larry using the MAGA hat to get out of social situations and road rage. This season is better than pretty, pretty pretttttttyyyyyyyyy good, trust me.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:
War Of The Worlds – Criterion is rocking this week in my blog as I’m not only bringing the new release of Noah Baumbach’s latest genius but this classic sci-fi tale that is iconic and hopefully not an H.G. Wells written cautionary tale. Yes, I’m that paranoid deep down. This version is definitely not the 2005 Spielberg and Tom Cruise epic, which is, again, an awesome flick, but instead from 1953, a time where sci-fi could still scare the pants off of you with the unknown. The plot is very simple, a small town in California is attacked by Martians, beginning a worldwide invasion, and Arsenic And Old Lace director Byron Haskin really knocked this one out of the park for a film of this time. The movie won an Oscar for best special effects.
Proximity – When it comes to the original new content that they distribute the Shout Factory owned offshoot Shout Studios can definitely be hit or miss sometimes and this new sci-fi flick lands itself somewhere in the in-between. Featuring no one you’ve seen before and directed by no one you’ve ever heard of, this film follows a young NASA scientist who is abducted by aliens and returned to Earth. When no one believes his story he becomes obsessed with finding proof which leads him on a journey of discovery and hopefully to a bridge between humankind and these advanced visitors. The movie kind of plays like a wannabe Spielberg in a lot of ways which pulls away from any originality that it could have had. This writer and director Eric Demeusy shows a lot of promise but he needs to move away from his safety net of well-used tropes to discover something new.
Rachel And The Stranger – Getting some of that classic Hollywood in my geek-outs this week thanks to those lovely people at Warner Archive and, even better, this one has two legendary heavyweights in William Holden and Robert Mitchum. The film is led by Loretta Young as the title character, an indentured servant who marries her farmer boss after his wife passes away. The new relationship is put to the test when an old friend of her new husband shows up on their doorstep and a love triangle starts to develop. The film was made by director Norman Foster who had made The Loretta Young Show with the star for half a decade and knows how to shoot her scenes beautifully and the film became one of RKO’s biggest hits of 1948, earning $395,000.00. An interesting film in the history of Hollywood, for sure.
Reflections In A Golden Eye – This is totally Hollywood class as it features two of the most famous stars of all time, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando, sharing the screen in a bizarre tale of sex, betrayal, and perversion at a military post from one of the most famous filmmakers in classic film, John Huston. Another absolute gift from the vaults of the Warner Archive, this is the story of a U.S. Army Major and his wife trapped in an unsatisfying marriage who decide to spice up their lives with multiple torrid affairs, all under each other’s watchful eyes. The film was originally released in a version in which all scenes were suffused with the color gold and one object in each scene (such as a rose) appeared normally colored. This was done in reference to the houseboy’s statement regarding the golden peacock in a drawing that he shows to Alison: he states that the world is just a reflection in the eye of the golden peacock. However, that version puzzled audiences so it was withdrawn and a normal color version released. This new blu-ray includes both versions, a film that really blew me away. Between this and Dodsworth I’m on a marriage wrecking roll!
Bloodtide – Time for some of that weird and schlocky cinema from those searchers at Arrow Video that have an infinite penchant for the weird. This new collector’s edition takes us back to the early eighties for A James Earl Jones film I guarantee you’ve never heard of, a crazy little succubus story. The film follows Jones as an adventurer hunting for treasure in Greece who, of course, accidentally frees a monster that forces local villagers to sacrifice virgins to abate her murderous thirst for chaos. Co-starring the legendary Jose Ferrer, this movie was originally supposed to be led by hot rising star Jeff Bridges who was unable to do it due to scheduling and it was recast with the formidable voice of Darth Vader. A pretty cool but totally campy flick.
Jack Whitehall: I’m Only Joking (Netflix) – It’s a week of pretty solid stand up specials this week and I have to admit that I’m not super familiar with Jack Whitehall outside of his show and subsequent movie to follow for Bad Eduction and his “what the heck is he doing there?” involvement with All Elite Wrestling. I definitely find myself a fan with this show where Whitehall talks about bombing in front of Prince Charles, crazy fad diets and his father Michael’s newfound fame on their reality show Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father. Whitehall is the perfect blend of proper British comedy, physical bits and insane personal anecdotes which endeared me to him immediately. Now I have to watch his series with his dad.
The Alienist: Angel Of Darkness (Netflix) – This is an interesting sequel to an adaptation as it continues on a series of books that I adored two decades ago. A period piece or of procedural from writer Caleb Carr, Daniel Bruhl stars as criminal psychologist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, who is also known as an alienist, that joins forces with a newspaper illustrator played by Luke Evans to investigate a serial killer in New York during the late 19th century. This encompasses the first series and this new show is the direct carry on of that storyline and I have to say that they nailed everything great about the books and made a strong series out of it that is intriguing even if you’ve read the books. I’m still making my way through the first series and am loving it. Highly recommended.
Tacoma FD: Season 2 (Crave) – A couple of the guys from Broken Lizard, also known as the maniacs who brought you two Super Troopers movies, Club Dread, Beerfest and more, have quietly been doing a show on the American channel TruTV that probably a lot of Canadians haven’t even heard of. Starring Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme, this show has the guys playing firefighters who, when not faced with the immediate danger of burning alive in a horrible fire, find painstaking ways to stave off boredom in their town. As Hefferman and Lemme both serve as the creators and showrunners of this show you can expect that same style that got them so popular in the first place to resonate through every episode. Definitely not for everyone but they have already kind of built their niche anyways.
Radioactive (Amazon Prime) – How has the brave story of Madame Marie Curie, the discoverer of plutonium which was both a life changer and a life ender for her, not told in a biopic yet? Well, thanks to Amazon Prime and Persepolis director Marjane Satrapi, we do have a screen representation of this amazing woman, played by Academy Award nominee Rosamund Pike. This film is a close look at the woman dubbed a pioneer, a rebel and a genius and her relationship with her husband Pierre, played by Control’s Sam Riley, and chronicles her rise to discovery. I love the trailer for this movie and I really hope the full film is a great film about an important woman because the last at-bat for this, Kasi Lemmon’s Harriet, did not hit the mark for me at all.
Jim Gaffigan: The Pale Tourist (Amazon Prime) – We started with a stand-up comedy on this week’s television look and we’ll end with one from one of the best and he also happens to be a completely clean material comic with no swearing. Yes, Jim Gaffigan has made a career out of family values, being pale and salad with bacon and now he brings his new form of hilarity in two different specials where he travels the world, experiences meeting people, eating the food, and learning a bit about the history of each country and transforming it into a stand-up set of all-new material and perform it for locals and expatriates, before heading on to another destination and doing it all over again. It’s a fascinating new way to approach comedy and I kind of hope that Gaffigan continues this style because I’m loving what I’m seeing so far.