New On VOD:
I Used To Go Here – Any time you see the Lonely Island guys attached to something you really feel a compulsory need to check it out or at least I do. This new comedy-drama has the added effect of having them produce it, Jorma showing up for a tiny bit role, and Community’s Gillian Jacobs in the starring role. She plays Kate, a writer in her mid-thirties who is invited to speak at her alma mater by her former professor following the launch of her new novel. After accepting the invitation, Kate finds herself deeply enmeshed in the lives of a group of college students who live in her old house. The film features a great cast around Jacobs including Jemaine Clement as the college professor in question, Greyhound star Josh Wiggins and former Dirk Gently actress Hannah Marks and is another great outing from Unexpected filmmaker Kris Rey who has a knack for scripting the best and most awkward moments. I really liked this one.
The Secret Garden – A classic story from novelist Frances Hodgson Burnett who also wrote A Little Princess, it’s about time we got another theatrical adaptation of this book as the last one was made over twenty-five years ago. Beautifully shot by 45 Years cinematographer Lol Crawley and directed by usual miniseries guy Marc Munden, this is the heartwrenching and equally uplifting tale of Mary Lennox, a spoiled 10-year-old girl of rich parents who grew up in India who, after everyone in her family dies from cholera, is sent to live in Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire with her uncle. There, she discovers that the household’s many secrets and finds a key that leads her to a garden held locked for years by her uncle after the death of his wife, a secret place that she brings to life which rejuvenates her and her bedridden cousin thought to be on his deathbed. This film is very well done, a visual feast every moment that had me captivated while dealing with some deep and dark issues.
Paydirt – If you’re looking for dumb guy bravado with guns and terrible one-liners then this is the movie for you as direct to video tough dude and former Guillermo del Toro villain (note to self, watch Hellboy II: The Golden Army again) Luke Goss leads this heist action thriller that was just tedious to get through. Written and directed by Vigilante Diaries filmmaker Christian Sesma, this film follows a parolee who teams up with his old crew and is determined to find a buried bag of cash stolen five years ago from a DEA bust gone bad while being tracked by a retired Sheriff. The only real big star to grace the screen in this film is Val Kilmer, who features with his daughter Mercedes, and, oh man, he looks so awful that I felt like he died multiple times on camera. This movie is supremely awful, just avoid it.
She Dies Tomorrow – Actress Amy Seimetz has a lot of great things on her resume, dating back to 2006 when I first saw her in Wristcutters: A Love Story, then Upstream Color which is a story I would rather not get into and great television like The Killing and a small part in Stranger Things and, let’s face it, she’s one of the better things about Alien: Covenant. Well, she is behind the camera as writer and director in this new horror, her second feature, this film following a character named Amy, played by You’re Next actress Kate Lyn Sheil, who is ravaged by the notion that she is going to die tomorrow, which sends her down a dizzying emotional spiral. When her skeptical friend Jane discovers Amy’s feeling of imminent death to be contagious, they both begin bizarre journeys through what might be the last day of their lives and, I feel like this is needless to say, but the film is amazing and totally captivating from the start. I’m in total awe of this film and I feel like it was released in the perfect time as it works incredibly well into the pandemic psychological warfare. Be prepared for this one, it will bruise you.
Peninsula – After the South Korean zombie horror hit went overseas and became a must-see film for genre fans in North America the obvious questions came up which are “can we remake it?” and “where’s the sequel?”. Well, hopefully, the answer to that first question is never but the second question has been answered with this brand new follow up which takes place four years after the zombie outbreak in Train to Busan with the Korean peninsula in full devastation and follows Jung Seok, a former soldier who has managed to escape overseas, who is given a mission to go back and unexpectedly meets survivors. Now having said all of that, it’s really unfortunate that the audience demand rushed this movie to be made because, in all honesty, it really isn’t very good and kind of makes the problems from the first film more glaringly obvious. This one, by extension, feels clunky, cartoonish and at many times totally ridiculous. I know zombie films, in general, are ridiculous but this far exceeds the limit.
Battle Scars – Vietnam War films always fascinate me and I think it is largely due to the psychology of the war itself and the effect and after effect it had on those who served. This movie takes a bite out of that psychology, following a young man who must grapple with the reality of life before and after war, all after witnessing his best friend go through the same thing months earlier. The nastiness of draft conscripted soldiers is at the heart of this film, a forceful exposing of the youth to the deadly fire of this completely unpredictable fight where let’s face it, the Americans were completely out of their element. No recognizable stars lead this one and writer and director Samuel Gonzalez Jr. is unknown to me as well but, as I said, Vietnam is very intriguing.
Spinster – After devouring every season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and her off-kilter stand-up comedy special on Netflix, One Of The Greats, I am really all about any Chelsea Peretti has done and when I was told about this Canadian produced character comedy-drama I was sold immediately. Peretti plays Gaby, a woman devastated after her partner breaks up with her on her thirty-ninth birthday and, rather than wallow in self-pity and depression, tackles her fears of loneliness as well as preconceptions of what it means for a woman to be single. With this film and Jillia Bell’s Brittany Runs A Marathon I feel like we’ve entered a great realm of uplifting stories for women that don’t feel like they fall into the trap of being horribly contrived like Under The Tuscan Sun or, even worse, Eat Pray Love. Those films are nothing but vapid fluff while these movies are brimming with substance and relatable characters.
Ride Your Wave – Oh no! More anime for me to butcher an opinion of this week. Honestly, fans of the genre must hate and cringe every time I bring one of these films up but here I go again. Coming from a one time Adventure Time episode animator Masaaki Yuasa, this is the simple love story between a surfer and a firefighter but, of course, it’s anime so that is really only the basis of the film. Yuasa, with his intense visual style, weaves in grandiose themes of romance, grief and self-discovery and it largely works, again, if the melodrama of it didn’t wear me completely down within the first half-hour. It seems to be consistently the biggest issue I have with these films.
Swallow – This film has been getting so much underground buzz from the horror faithful, both festival audiences and critics alike, so, yes, genre fans, get excited. Starring The Girl On A Train’s Haley Bennett, this film has her playing Hunter, a newly pregnant housewife who finds herself increasingly compelled to consume dangerous objects and as her husband and his family tighten their control over her life, she must confront the dark secret behind her new obsession. This movie is an obsessive-compulsive nightmare and Bennett is completely mesmerizing in her performance. I really can’t wait for whatever comes next from writer and director Carlo Mirabella-Davis because with only his first feature film he has set the bar very high. This is one of those must-see films of 2020 and maybe at the top of a lot of lists by the end of the year.
House Of Hummingbird – With my love for South Korean cinema always being at an all-time high, I was so very excited to receive this new movie even if I knew absolutely nothing about it. The film is the debut of writer and director Bora Kim and follows fourteen-year-old Eunhee wanders the city of Seoul in the mid-nineties searching for love in the year the Seongsu Bridge collapsed, a major event in the city’s history. This is a beautifully crafted coming of age story that is reminiscent of some of the American features like The Virgin Suicides and rests the heavy lifting on the shoulders of young Ji-hu Park who excels in her role. Given that the film was made in 2018, it’s sad that we’re only getting to see it now as it would have been an easy pick for a Best Foreign nominee shortlist. This movie definitely surprised me, with my South Korean film love aside.
Jack Ryan: Season 2 – John Krasinksi dons the CIA agent role for the sophomore season of this popular espionage hit. I really liked the first season a lot, the writers managed to keep this character fresh and original in a post-Jason Bourne genre landscape and it has great direction from proven feature filmmakers like Morten Tyldum and Patricia Riggen as well as ex-Game Of Thrones guys like Daniel Sackheim. This new season adds new characters, like one played by former Lisbeth Salander Noomi Repace, and continues the deepening saga of this iconic literary character who’s had a really bumpy live-action life after Harrison checked out. I really enjoy that the first series acts as more of an origin conduit for the character and now we’re getting into the espionage that really formed his career. I can’t wait for more.
NCIS Los Angeles: Season 11 – What’s that? More NCIS you say? Well, yes, but this is the cool one because it features former Robin, Chris O’Donnell, and LL Cool J and that guy has the word cool in his name and it concludes the yearly install of NCIS shows in my home release reviews and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down. They play key agents in the Office of Special Projects branch of the organization which puts them undercover to crack cases, utilizing their backgrounds as street kids. I’m fully aware of the dime a dozen nature of crime procedurals but I will admit something about this particular one and that is that I kind of like it and, really, at the end of the day it needs to be somewhat good to make it past the initial double digits and now into season twelve, right?
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:
Taste Of Cherry – This revered Criterion title finally makes its way to the higher platform of blu-ray and a lot of film fans consider this to be one of the greatest to be included in the prestigious Criterion Collection, a masterpiece from one of the greatest international filmmakers of all time, Abbas Kiarostami. The film is an emotional wrapt story of an Iranian man who drives his truck in search of someone who will quietly bury him under a cherry tree after he commits suicide. The film, released in the late nineties, has heaps of acclaim, legendary filmmaker Agnes Varda saying its one of her favorite films ever, it lists as one top ten Cannes festival premieres ever and is on the list of 1001 movies you must see before you die, which is a brilliant list of films. This is a special movie and well worth seeing, cinephile or not.
Romance On The High Seas – Another hit from the Warner Archive vault land on the Geek Outs again this week with this film featuring Doris Day, honestly the only name I recognized in this romantic comedy musical from the late 1940s. The film is about the romantic misunderstandings that transpire when a group of spouses suspect each other of being unfaithful, and a nightclub singer named Georgia Garrett takes the cruise under a false identity to catch her employer’s husband in the act of adultery. Funny enough, this was Doris Day’s first acting role, and she was extremely naive about how movies were made. She wrote in her autobiography that the first scenes to be filmed would be aboard the cruise ship, and on the first day, she walked onto the sound stage and asked when they would be leaving for the boat. Hilarious. Really, this movie will only appeal to fans of classic cinema, so watch it with your grandparents.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – It was a big move for Sony to start adapting the Millenium trilogy from writer Stieg Larsson and it got even better when one of my favorite directors, David Fincher was signed to make it. The casting formed up with Rooney Mara starring as hacker and vigilante Lisbeth Salander and Daniel Craig as intrepid journalist Mikael Blomkvist and this movie is an awesome American remake, something which is rare when foreign films get this exposure in the Hollywood meat grinder but then we got no more in this series and no indication if we ever will. This is most depressing because, spoilers if you haven’t seen it yet, but this film is completely open-ended. I assume this trilogy will never see the light of day as Sony already made The Girl In The Spider’s Web with a new director and cast that sort of bombed in the box office but damn this movie is good and at a great price right now.
The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water – I don’t think I’ve ever made it a secret on these write-ups that I love Spongebob Squarepants and his entire underwater crew, so, me going out of my way to pick up one of the movies is sort of on-brand. This is the second film that was made from the longtime Nickelodeon hit series and it ventured to try some new things as Antonio Banderas plays a villainous pirate who steals the secret formula to the Krusty Krab’s renowned Krabby Patty, Spongebob and friends must team up with his arch-nemesis Plankton to go where they’ve never gone before, the reality of 3D. The animation gets punched up for this adventure and, like all of the other movies, this one is just so much fun and a good lead into Sponge On The Run which actually hits theaters here in Canada on August 14th. Get prepared for more nautical nonsense now.
…And God Created Woman – This is the second Criterion Collection movie I’m showcasing this week and it’s a bit of a lie on the list as it hasn’t been reformated for blu-ray just yet but it is oh so deserving of that special accolade, being one of the movies in the first hundred of the collection. This film comes out of the mid-fifties and stars bombshell of the times, Brigitte Bardot as orphan Juliete Hardy, an eighteen-year-old woman who is sexually active and ahead of her time and is strongly desired by the wealthy middle-aged man Eric Carradine, played by Curd Jurgens, the villain in the Roger Moore Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. The love triangle is formed when Juliete’s love is put in the direction of Antoine Tardieu, the older son of a poor family that works in Toulon running a modest shipyard, but he just wants to have one night stand with her which ends up driving her into the arms of his younger brother Michel. Yes, this all gets convoluted, risky and a bit taboo which is the main catalyst for it landing in the Criterion Collection, a classic piece of cinema that begs to be seen.
Star Trek: Lower Decks: Season 1 (Crave) – Moe Star Trek for CBS All Access? Well, why not because it seems to be a lucrative cash cow for them and if I can throw my opinion in on this, I’m enjoying everything that has come out so far. This new show though begs the question “can we do comedy in this universe of science fiction that has been so serious up until this point?” Not only is this show forging new ground in genre shift it is also animated and follows the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships, the U.S.S. Cerritos, who have to keep up with their duties, often while the ship is being rocked by a multitude of sci-fi anomalies. The voice cast includes former Sliders star Jerry O’Connell, The Boys’ Wee Hughie, Jack Quaid and Eugene Cordero from Tacoma FD and actually looks like it is pretty damn funny. In a void of missing shows like Futurama, this series might actually make a mark outside of its niche audience.
La Llorona (Shudder) – Just last year there was a big-screen version of this famous Mexican ghost done as a film to be included in the ever-expanding universe of The Conjuring and, well, it wasn’t that great. Good thing this sleeper hit has come along to give some great insight into a curse that is both believed and revered in the older lineage of Hispanic families and, better yet, this film aims to scare the pants off of you. A Spanish language horror from writer and director Jayro Bustamante, this film follows an ageing and paranoid dictator who is protected from outside forces by a witchcraft practicing wife heads down a terrifying path as he faces death and the uprise against his iron rule from his people in Guatemala. The reviews of this film are absolutely phenomenal and promise an emotionally traumatic journey with spirits against the backdrop of an incredibly harsh reality.
An American Pickle (Crave) – How weird is this story on paper? A simple Jewish man named Herschel Greenbaum works in a pickle factory in Brooklyn when, one day, he falls into a vat of brine and stays there, perfectly preserved, for 100 years. Coming back to life in modern times, he goes to stay with his great-great-grandson, Ben, in contemporary Brooklyn, and tries to earn the ropes of a new and jarringly progressive reality. This might make a bit more sense when I tell you that this one stars Seth Rogen in the dual role of Herschel and Ben and comes from the mind of Man Seeking Woman creator Simon Rich, so the reality of the film is totally out there just like that series was. The advance reviews of the film are calling it inane with a good side of dark comedy which has me massively intrigued and it features Succession star Sarah Snook who is a real hot commodity at the moment.
Get Duked! (Amazon Prime) – Nothing makes me happier than a horror-comedy out of the United Kingdom with chavs as the lead stars. For those who don’t know, chav is a derogatory term for teens who dress in Adidas or Nike gear, have a filthy mouth and terrible attitude and are always bumming smokes of people, so you can equate that to a lot in North America. This film is great, capitalizing on those great character traits with a killer soundtrack including Run The Jewels and Danny Brown, around a story that puts these characters on a team-building exercise as they have to journey through the Scottish highlands from one side to the other but, unbeknownst to them, a couple of psycho residents are hunting them the whole time under the guise of “The Duke Of Edinburgh” and “the Queen”. This movie is fun, absolutely hilarious but ultimately pretty predictable.
Howard (Disney+) – Yes, I know Black Is King and Hamilton are probably the biggest things to watch Disney+ for at the moment but a new film-related documentary is quietly landing this week and, as a total nerd for these behind the scenes stories, this one has my full attention. The film is about songwriter Howard Ashman, the man who penned the lyrics for Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast before he died far too young of AIDS at the height of the AIDS crisis in 1991. Featuring interviews with Jeffrey Katzenberg, Alan Menken and more, we get a portrait of an immense talent that provided that backbone for a string of Disney animated hits that rose the studio back into the position of a must-see heavyweight film producer. All of those songs that get stuck in your heart and are passed down to your kids that will do the same are all credited to Ashman and this film is a beautiful tribute to that.