New On VOD:
Random Acts Of Violence – Canadian star Jay Baruchel returns to his seat behind the camera for his second film after the sequel to the hockey comedy Goon, Goon: The Last Of The Enforcers but this unrelenting and visceral horror film has been in gestation for almost a decade before finally being made. Based on a graphic novel by acclaimed creators Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, the story follows Todd, a comic writer struggling to finish his magnum opus who goes on a book tour and is subsequently followed by a sadistic murderer who is reenacting all of the kills from his book. This movie is balls to the wall and unrelenting in its brutality in an ethereal way that makes you question the reality of these characters. This movie is not for everyone and gives a grindhouse-style that would make the originators of the genre very proud. I loved every moment of this madness but it plays totally into my weirdo proclivities.
Arab Blues – With Jim Jarmusch’s sleeper drama Paterson, I absolutely fell head over heels for the actress playing Adam Driver’s wife in the film, Golshifteh Farahani, a total free spirit character in it that I couldn’t get enough of. Since then she has popped up in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the Netflix action Extraction and the killer French zombie flick The Night Eats The World but with this one she gets a solo chance to shine. Farahani plays Selma, a Tunisian woman who has spent the last four years in Paris and now returns home with the goal of opening her own psychiatry office in her homeland. The problem is that her work isn’t well regarded in Tunisia, as it gets marginalized, misunderstood and even put under scrutiny by the local law officials. Farahani is fantastic in this movie, endearing and driven in her performance. As far as a character film goes, this movie is excellent.
Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison – Comedic actor Romany Malco get this time behind the camera in his debut feature, one that he wrote as well. The veteran actor you have seen in Weeds, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and, yes, even The Love Guru crafts this original story about an ex convict on parole who is dead set on becoming a world renowned motivational speaker and changing the masses’ lives. Co-starring the always funny Regina Hall, this film is a light bit of fun and a good first film for Malco who financed this film without any major studio or industry backing by raising $206,046 from fans and supporters through his PrisonLogic indie go-go campaign, which is a massively impressive feat on it’s own.
The Last Porno Show – Writer and director Kire Paputts returns with his second feature film and it’s a massive departure from his previous work, the adventure film with an edge, The Rainbow Kid. For this new film he surrounds it with the taboo, the dying industry of the porno theaters, lost standing establishments that are falling into dereliction. The story focuses on Wayne, a struggling actor who inherits a downtown X-rated theater from his estranged father, a place where he spent his childhood among all of the nudity on screen and the masturbating audience which has made him the damaged adult he is now. Paputts crafts an interesting character film that speaks to the crushing inevitability of predestination and the weight that our family history can lay on us which makes the resolution of this movie so triumphant.
Primal – Ok, I’ve got some brand new Nicolas Cage this week so get ready for something a bit gonzo, probably a bit bad but definitely something that will entertain the hell out of you. Cage plays Frank, a big-game hunter for zoos who has booked passage on a Latin American shipping freighter with a fresh haul of exotic and deadly animals from the Amazon, including a rare white Jaguar and, of course, a political assassin being extradited to the U.S in secret. Two days into the journey, the assassin escapes and releases the captive animals, throwing the ship into chaos and Frank to be the only one who can save them from this mess. Look, if you get into the whole Metacritic or Rotten Tomato search, you won’t like what you find but those of us who love every crazy thing this man does are totally on board.
You Should Have Left – Let’s face it, besides Friday The 13th, A Stir Of Echoes and arguably Hollow Man, Kevin Bacon’s horror run hasn’t been memorable but neither has that of his co-star for this film, Amanda Seyfried. They take another kick at the can for this horror mystery about a screenwriter who travels to a remote house in Wales with his family so that he can write the sequel to his big hit film. Settling in, he begins to regret his decision after suffering from a severe case of writer’s block which starts to mess with his psyche. The film comes from writer and director David Koepp who isn’t a stranger to horror films about writer’s block as he adapted Stephen King’s Secret Window over a decade ago with Johnny Depp. This trailer has atmosphere so I’m interested.
The Outsider – Now with it’s single Primetime Emmy nomination for Best Actor Jason Bateman, it’s the perfect time for this creepy limited series to land on blu-ray to get everyone exposed to the latest terrifying story from the mind of the master of horror Stephen King. The show begins with a seemingly straightforward investigation into the gruesome murder of a young boy but when an unexplained supernatural force edges its way into the case, it leads a seasoned cop and an unorthodox investigator to question everything they believe in. The show is filled with little nods to the King universe that stretches across all of his work and it is a great companion piece to the series Castle Rock which just released its second season on blu-ray last week.
Strange But True – Featuring a cast comprised of Oscar-nominated Amy Ryan, up and comers Nick Robinson and Margaret Qualley and the veterans Greg Kinnear, Blythe Danner and Brian Cox, this movie should be an easy knockout hit. The film centers around the fallout when a woman surprises the family of her deceased boyfriend by telling them she’s pregnant with his child years after his death. The film plays with some interesting elements, trying to be a mystery thriller but holding back on the thrills. It all starts building in a great direction but it completely loses its identity with the third act and doesn’t regain its composure before a pretty lacklustre ending.
Gundala – On first glance I totally thought that this was going to be another anime that would fly right over my head but giving the synopsis a look I realised that it is really an Indonesian superhero film and with that country producing both of The Raid movies, well, my interest is piqued. As it turns out, Gundala is actually indonesia’s own version of Superman, a comic book superhero beloved by everyone and he and his alter ego Sancaka enter the cinematic universe to battle the wicked Pengkor and his diabolical squad of orphan assassins. Seems like a totally barebones storyline but, honestly, most of the North American made superhero origin films have been sometimes based on less. Knowing the films of this country, expect insane action sequences and the effects were done by the same company that did Daredevil, Watchmen, Supergirl, The Hunger Games, Star Trek, and Iron Man so have some faith in well rounded VFX.
Les Miserables – Taking the broader strokes of the famous book by Victor Hugo and omitting all of the Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway musical numbers, this is a stark look at one of the rougher areas of Paris following a new officer in the Anti-Crime Brigade of Montfermeil. In a very Training Day-esque ride-along, he finds that his new partners act with a brash above the law attitude and a public that is on the cusp of an irredeemable boiling point. This movie is an incredible film from writer and director Ladj Ly in his feature debut and left me in stunned silence for a while afterwards. The final moments of this movie will live in my mind, probably until I put it down on my year-end list in December, it is that powerful. This is some real must-see cinema and a film that just lost out on Best Foreign at the Golden Globes to Parasite.
Hawaii Five-O: The Final Season – All long-running series must come to an end and, as far as new series reboots of old classic shows go, I’d have to say that Steve McGarrett, Danno and company had a solid run heading into this final season, which would be number eleven, especially after two cast members left the show due to pay inequality and managed to get beyond that controversy for another couple of years. Adding in Ian Anthony Dale and Michelle Borth, this last season has some of that same police procedural stuff you’re used to but in a tropical setting, like bombings, kidnappings, murder and such but it also brings pirates to spice it up. The show also features in some crossover with CBS’s other reboot series Magnum P.I., bringing Jay Hernandez into the mix because they’re both on the same island. Also, to keep with the theme, all of the episodes have names that are unpronounceable.
NCIS: Season 17 – Holy crap, Season seventeen now and it’s still a juggernaut for the old folks with no sign of slowing down? In this spin-off of J.A.G., as you all must know after almost twenty years of episodic television, Mark Harmon plays Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, the leader of the Major Case Response Team in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and rocks possibly the worst haircut in television. This season focuses on the teams search for a deadly terrorist only known as Sahar who has been murdering marines at random and even orchestrated an attack at the Arlington National Cemetary. This season the show reaches back into it’s past and brings back actress Cote de Pablo as fan-favorite character Ziva David who had left the show in 2013.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:
Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits – When Criterion announced this new box set my jaw hit the floor because, as it is always the case with this amazing company, they are definitely not messing around when it comes to the definitive pieces in the career of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, a genius of his craft who was taken from us far too soon. This set is incredible as it includes all the hits with The Big Boss, Fist Of Fury, The Way Of The Dragon, the most successful film of his career, Enter The Dragon and his final film, which was unfinished when he died, Game Of Death. For any martial arts aficionado, like myself, this is a must-own and a perfect addition to any collection as the picture has been fully restored and the Lee estate has contributed so much to Criterion to give all of the special features the most well-rounded attention you will see from any Bruce Lee box set. I’m still geeking out over this one.
The Lady Eve – More Criterion this week as it kind of is an embarrassment of riches in my email inbox. For those who don’t know this film or its value to cinema as a whole, this film stars Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda in a story about a trio of classy card sharks who targets the socially awkward heir to brewery millions for his money, until one of them, of course, falls in love with her mark. The film wasn’t as valued at the time, only earning one Academy Award nomination for the screenplay, but created a bond between Stanwyck, Fonda and the director, Preston Sturges, who were the top stars in Hollywood at the time. The special features of this Blu-ray are packed full of Golden Age Hollywood stuff including an intro from filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, multiple video essays and even a radio adaptation featuring Barbara Stanwyck, Ray Milland, and Charles Coburn, hosted by filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille. I feel like I’m still getting a crash course in classic film and this one helps my education.
Selena – The film that put Jennifer Lopez on the map besides being a Fly Girl for the comedy sketch series In Living Color is now old enough to be a part of the Warner Archive collection, a biopic on the tragic short life of mega pop star Selena Quintanilla, a Texas-born Tejano singer who rose from cult status to performing at the Astrodome, as well as having chart-topping albums on the Latin music charts. The film was written and directed by Gregory Nava and reunited a large cast from his previous film My Family, including JLo herself. Interestingly, Lopez was very method early in her career as she actually lived with Selena Quintanilla-Perez’s family to prepare for her role. The finished product is a damn good music film and a horrifying reminder of some of the pitfalls of fame and how there can literally be a target on your back.
Sunday In New York – More from the Warner Archive’s new editions lands on my list this week and this particular film has a lot of Hollywood crammed into it, coming out in the early sixties. The film stars Cliff Robertson, Rod Taylor and an absolutely stunning Jane Fonda as the virginal Eileen Tyler, a young woman who leaves Albany to visit her airline pilot brother in New York but a chance encounter with a man on a city bus threatens to derail her upcoming marriage to her boyfriend Russ. Yes, the corruption of the innocent by the Big Apple is on display in this film but upon its release, the movie was only being celebrated for its music and not for the stars, which is unfortunate because Fonda is absolutely mesmerizing in it. I’m such a huge fan of Hanoi Jane and this movie is a pure pleasure to own.
America As Seen By A Frenchman – Want to go even earlier into the sixties? Well, the classier side of one of my favorite distributors, Arrow’s Arrow Academy banner, is releasing this 1960s classic with Jean Cocteau, a documentary that seems pretty self-explanatory. The movie is a travelogue that follows Cocteau on a trip from San Francisco to New York City with stops in Texas and beyond where, over the course of 18 months, he went from Disneyland to a prison license plate factory, capturing parades and stunt shows and even had time to drop by a striptease class. All of the film is era-specific Americana and both illustrates how the world has changed and how other things indelibly stay the same. The film comes from director François Reichenbach who famously made F Is For Fake with the legendary Orson Welles.
Muppets Now (Disney+) – The Muppets are coming back and I couldn’t be more excited, being a lifelong fan of this Jim Henson creation, some of my first television memories being the original Muppet Show, which needs to be all uploaded to Disney+ as well. Well, this is the series leading to a new series following Scooter as he rushes to deliver the episodes, navigating obstacles, distractions and complications that the rest of the Muppet gang throws at him. Honestly, at this point, it could just be a Zoom call with all of the Muppets and I would probably be ecstatic with it but I’m pretty excited that Walter, the Muppet created for the more recent reboot movie, is a featured player in this one and if features guest stars Like Linda Cardellini, Aubrey Plaza and Danny Trejo. This one is going to be fun.
The Umbrella Academy: Season 2 (Netflix) – This Netflix original based on the comic series from My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way hit with their first season and grabbed views immediately with it’s sort of Addams Family crossed Charles Xavier’s School For The Gifted from X-Men charm. Starring a very cool cast of Ellen Page, Misfits’ Robert Sheehan, Colm Feore and even Mary J. Blige, season one was a fantastic jumping point of character origins and fleshing out what the focus was of the series and now, with season two, we can really get down to business. With this and the second season of The Boys landing at the end of August, it really feels like an embarrassment of riches for us adult comic fans in the really crappy year of 2020. At least we have something to live for, right?
Red Dwarf: The Promised Land (BritBox) – This BBC produced science-fiction comedy has had its audience built into the zeitgeist for over thirty years now and I know a bunch of die-hards who latch on to everything about this series. The revival series have popped up here and there but this particular one is a series which brings back Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewelyn and Norman Lovett to their beloved characters of Rimmer, Lister, Cat, Kryton and Holly for a new and possibly final adventure. Focusing on some of Cat’s lineage, the posse meet three cat clerics who worship Lister as their God. Lister vows to help them as they’re being hunted by a new villain named Rodon, the ruthless feral cat leader who has vowed to wipe out all cats who worship anyone but him. If you love Dwarf and aren’t a smeghead then you want to get on this movie as soon as possible.
In Search Of Darkness (Shudder) – Two of my favorite genres are getting mashed together with this new film as we get a horror documentary and by now as a regular reader you have to know my love of film docs at this point. This is definitely a more focused approach as the film is an exploration of ’80s horror movies through the perspective of the actors, directors, producers and SFX craftspeople who made them and their impact on contemporary cinema. The who’s who of interview subjects for this movie is absolutely insane, featuring master directors like John Carpenter, Larry Cohen, Sean S. Cunningham and Joe Dante, stars like Tom Atkins, Doug Bradley, Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton and cult goddesses like Diana Prince all sharing their unique horror stories. I’m all about this movie this week, my main selection aside from Jay’s movie.
The Weight Of Gold (Crave) – It’s documentary time again this week and we’re hitting the sports side of things to get a look at some of the superhuman athletes who put their body and minds with all the soul they can muster to earn gold at the Olympics for their respective countries. Produced by HBO, known for making the absolute best in documentaries, the film takes a deeper look into what the gold does to the mental health of stars like Apollo Ohno, Michael Phelps and Shaun White after the glitz and glamour have been forgotten when the games end and the torch is extinguished. I love human psyche films like that and it just goes to show you that you can have all the strength in the world but the mind and be brittle underneath that exterior.