Honest Thief – It’s really kind of funny now that after the Taken trilogy had wrapped up, Liam Neeson stated that he was done with the action genre, retired I think was the term he used. Since then, he has made six more of them, including this film here, and five more on the horizon so, contrary to this movie’s title, he isn’t very honest at all. Coming from Ozark producer Mark Williams, this new movie has him playing Tom Carter, nicknamed the In and Out Bandit because of how meticulous of a thief he is, stealing $9 million from small-town banks while managing to keep his identity a secret. After he falls in love with the bubbly Annie, played by Private Practice’s Kate Walsh, Tom decides to make a fresh start by coming clean about his criminal past, only to be double-crossed by two ruthless FBI agents. Neeson action films seem a dime a dozen in the last twenty years with glimmering hopeful spots here and there but I can’t say that this is one of them.
Yellow Rose – This film was a total surprise, one that I had heard no buzz about or one that had any real ad campaign behind it which is kind of a shame because it is an incredible movie. Written and directed by Diane Paragas in her feature narrative debut, this is the story of Rose, an undocumented 17-year-old Filipina, who dreams of one day leaving her small Texas town to pursue her country music dreams. Her world is shattered when her mom suddenly gets picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and, facing this new reality, Rose is forced to flee the scene, leaving behind the only life she knows and embarks on a journey of self-discovery as she searches for a new home in the honky-tonk world of Austin, Texas. This film is beautifully shot and gives each character on screen such a rounded reality that we feel the weight of the situation at all times, most heavily felt with any of the dealings with the Gestapo nature of ICE. This movie has soul and will infuriate you with the immigration practices in today’s America. Highly recommended.
The War With Grandpa – As a general rule now, I don’t get into any movie involving Robert De Niro and the word grandpa because I’m still in a state of trauma from having to go to the press screening for his raunchy comedy Dirty Grandpa which made me severely question his financial state as well. This one will definitely go in a different route than that, a family film that follows a boy thrilled that Grandpa is coming to live with his family until he finds out that Grandpa is moving into his room, forcing him upstairs into the creepy attic. Though he loves his grandpa, he wants his room back and has no choice but to declare war, so, with the help of his friends, he devises outrageous plans to make Grandpa surrender the room but Grandpa is tougher than he looks and rather than give in, Grandpa plans to get even. Oh man, now reading that back, this movie may be no better than the previous movie I mentioned and seeing that it comes from the director of Alvin And The Chipmunks, well, the positivity meter is shrinking.
The Curse Of Audrey Earnshaw – A theme that comes up a few times this week, being the Halloween month, is witchcraft, possession and ghostly curses and I don’t think it’ll slow down until the end of the spooky season. Let’s kick it all off here with this Canadian made film, a period piece about a devout community suffering from a plague which they believe is caused by a beautiful young woman and her mother using the forces of witchcraft, black magic, and possession to decimate crops and livestock. The film features some great Canadian talent like Travelers and Hello Destroyer actor Jared Abrahamson and, a favorite of mine, actor, writer, producer and director Don McKellar and while it has a storyline with so much potential it never feels like it rises to an actually scary level. This movie always feels like it needed that extra nudge that it never got.
Percy – Speaking of crops in Canada, this film takes it to the plains of Saskatchewan for a real David versus Goliath battle with some great veteran talent taking the screen, led by the legendary Christopher Walken. Directed by actor and filmmaker Clark Johnson, this film is based on events from a 1998 lawsuit and follows small-town farmer Percy Schmeiser, who challenges a major conglomerate when the company’s genetically modified canola is discovered in the 70-year-old farmer’s crops. As he speaks out against the company’s business practices, he realizes he is representing thousands of other disenfranchised farmers around the world fighting the same battle and suddenly he becomes an unsuspecting folk hero in a desperate war to protect farmers’ rights and the world’s food supply against what they see as corporate greed. Featuring co-stars Zach Braff, Christina Ricci and good Canadian Adam Beach, this film is a great character drama that excels over its small flaws to be a compelling story about a real fight that rages on now. I really enjoyed 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.
Valley Girl – The curse of “why, why, why remake this movie” is upon us with this completely unnecessary redo of Martha Coolidge’s classic 80s teen love story. Adapted by Rachel Lee Goldenberg who recently did the highly recommended Unpregnant, this is a musical version of this classic story of a pair of young lovers from different backgrounds who defy their parents and friends to stay together all set to an 80s new wave soundtrack. Even though the film features Jessica Rothe, who really won me over in the horror sequel Happy Death Day 2U, I felt nothing but bile towards this movie as I am a huge fan of the original and it really misses the charm of Deborah Foreman and Nicolas Cage. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it!
The Tax Collector – Writer and director David Ayer is a filmmaker who started with such promise, penning Training Day for Antoine Fuqua before stepping behind the camera himself. Unfortunately, that has only worked out for him once, the fantastic LAPD thriller End Of Watch and everything else has been less than middling or straight-up bad. His latest film since his big-budget Suicide Squad is this crime thriller, set on the streets of Los Angeles following family man David and his longtime partner, Creeper, played by one of this generation’s greatest actors, Shia LaBeouf, who are “tax collectors” for the crime lord Wizard, meaning they collect his cut from the profits of local gangs’ illicit dealings. When Wizard’s old rival returns to Los Angeles from Mexico to take his turf back the business is upended, and David finds himself desperate to protect what matters more to him than anything else, his family. If Suicide Squad was bad, and it was, then this movie is infinitely worse, suffering from bad directing, a terrible script and the acting of a lead actor who would lose an audition to a cardboard cut out. LeBeouf is the only saving grace in a film that I couldn’t wait to be over.
Eli Roth’s History Of Horror: Season 1 – Who better to breakdown the history of one of the most fan loved and driven genres in film that still to this day doesn’t get the respect it deserves, especially when it comes to awards season than Hostel, Cabin Fever and The Green Inferno filmmaker Eli Roth. Featuring interviews with the who’s who of the horror world including Greg Nicotero, Rob Zombie, Stephen King and John Landis as well as famous fans who have dabbled in it like Quentin Tarantino, Elijah Wood and Jack Black, we get a comprehensive look at what makes this filmmaking so addictive and the fans so ravenous for it. I absolutely loved this entire season and can not wait for more to return to my television screen. Hook it to my veins, Eli.
Yummy – A Shudder original that is now making its way to physical disc, this is a definitely quirky zombie horror film out of Belgium that may end up on a lot of genre fans’ lists this Halloween. A movie with a darkly comedic edge, this is an orgy of blood, violence and fun in which a young couple travel to a shabby Eastern European hospital for plastic surgery. The young woman wants a breast reduction and her mother comes along for yet another face-lift. While wandering through an abandoned ward the boyfriend stumbles upon a young woman, gagged and strapped to an operating table and finds out that she is the result of experimental rejuvenation treatment. He frees her but does not realize he just caused the outbreak of a virus that will change doctors, patients and his mother-in-law into bloodthirsty zombies. This movie is so insane from the get-go and is an unrelenting ninety minutes that will relentlessly poke you until the end. I really loved this one.
The Pale Door – Let’s keep going down the horror path being that it’s the perfect month for it, with a film that does a bit of genre-mixing refreshingly with the good ole’ fashioned western. Fresh off his segment in the great anthology horror film Scare Package, writer and director Aaron B. Koontz spins this story of the Dalton gang who must find shelter in a seemingly uninhabited ghost town after a train robbery goes south. Seeking help for their wounded leader, they are surprised to stumble upon a welcoming brothel in the town’s square but the beautiful women who greet them are actually a coven of witches with very sinister plans for the unsuspecting outlaws. Executive produced by Bubba Ho Tep and Cold In July’s novelist Joe R. Lansdale, this is a flawed little film that entertains but doesn’t entirely make the best use of its trappings. Featuring Magnum P.I.’s Zachary Knighton, veteran actress Melora Walters and Knives Out’s Noah Segan, I was still entertained enough by this film to enjoy it.
The Invincible Dragon – Martial arts films can usually feel like a dime a dozen and we know that the really good ones or the ones passing for really good usually hit theaters so it’s suspect when there’s one that flies under the radar right to blu-ray. This s one of those movies, focusing on an undercover agent with a dragon tattoo named Kowloon who continually helps the police to solve mysterious cases, which made him known as a rising star in the city. However, his impulsive personality drags him into endless troubles as many in the criminal underworld are looking to take him down for good. The most intriguing thing about this film is to see the fight choreography between the star, Jin Zhang from Pacific Rim: Uprising, and former UFC champion Anderson Silva playing the heavyweight villain. The film is also directed by acclaimed filmmaker Fruit Chan who steps outside of his usual films into a new genre.
Trump Card – I really don’t even know why I’m including this documentary, and I really use that term loosely, as this is a film, another loose term, written and directed by an ex-con and lie spreader, Dinesh D’Souza, who hasn’t made a film that has rose over ten percent on Rotten Tomatoes. For his latest piece of garbage that is sure to rile that MAGA base and be shared like a truthful gospel, this is an “expose” of the socialism, corruption and “gangsterization” (not a work but he uses it) that now apparently define the Democratic Party. Whether it is the feared socialism of Joe Biden or the overtly feared socialism of Bernie Sanders, the film desperately tries to reveal what is unique about modern socialism, who is behind it, why its evil, and how all the other idiots can work together with Trump to stop it. This movie is a complete waste of time, skewing facts into their narrative and omitting that which doesn’t work with it. Pure and utter trash.
Roger Waters: Us + Them – One of the greatest theatrical musical presences ever on stage graces us with another mindblowing concert just five years after he performed The Wall in its entirety, another concert movie definitely worth checking out. Roger has certainly not gotten less political as this whole tour was a direct shot at the Trump administration as well as the Putin regime and the Boris Johnson Brexit debacle. I know a lot of friends that had the chance to see this show in person and while I was extremely jealous at the time, and still am, this is the closest we can all get to being there and it is a pretty sweet consolation prize in my opinion. As a long time Pink Floyd fan, one of my first concerts ever, attended at BC Place, this is a beloved addition to any fans collection.
To Your Last Death – One of the great things about reviewing everything that hits blu-ray is to get contacted out of the blue by a company looking to get eyes on their product and that’s what happened here with this violent and gory animated film that I was sent. Featuring the voices of Firefly’s Morena Baccarin, Star Trek legend William Shatner, The Devil’s Rejects’ Bill Moseley and Twin Peaks’ Ray Wise, this is the story of a young woman who takes on her father and a powerful entity known as Gamemaster that ensnares humans into diabolical plots while her species gambles on the outcome to save her siblings. This movie is pretty insane and uses all the tropes of horror and death metal imagery that dominated the nineties to a really satisfying degree. This will definitely not be for everyone, as it heads down some really dark paths for some comedic reasons, but I found myself very engrossed by it.
Happy Halloween Scooby Doo! – How can it be Halloween if you don’t include the iconic Scooby, Shaggy, the rest of the crew and the Mystery Machine? The simple answer is it can not and will not and even better about this new animated film is that Matthew Lillard is in his rightful place as the voice of your favorite animated secret stoner, Shaggy. Being the gang’s favorite holiday as well, filled with fake monsters and candy galore, this one turns sour when the neighborhood pumpkin patch is infected by a toxic ooze, creating high-flying jack-o-lanterns, and a king-sized pumpkin leader squashing everything in its path. Featuring the guest voices of Bill Nye The Science Guy and, a lifelong crush, Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark, this movie is a throwback to all the Scooby Doo cartoons we grew up on collectively as it has been running for decades. The kids will love it too.
Pierrot Le Fou – Criterion Collection is no stranger to the works of Jean Luc Godard as he has a few of them already in the collection but this one is pretty damn important in the Criterion releasing as it was first released on Blu-ray in the U.S. by The Criterion Collection in 2009, however, it was discontinued almost immediately due to them losing the rights to Studio Canal, its previous owners. For a while, it became a collector’s item due to its out of print status, until now where everything has been restored without the possibility of being taken away again. The film follows the title character who escapes his boring society and travels from Paris to the Mediterranean Sea with Marianne, a girl chased by hit-men from Algeria. Together they lead an unorthodox life, always on the run in this entertaining and wholly different classic film.
Drop Dead Gorgeous – A really dark film from the 90s, the first thing that stood out to me when I received this from Warner Archive is how much two of the stars are pretty much Hollywood pariahs with Kirstie Alley being a MAGA hat-wearing Trumper and Denise Richards being a straight out nutcase but this movie definitely had its charm. The film takes place in a small Minnesota town with the mockumentary style of the annual beauty pageant being covered by a TV crew. Former winner Gladys Leeman, played by Alley, wants to make sure her daughter, Denice Richards’ character Becky, follows in her footsteps by doing some dastardly deeds which include explosions, falling lights and trailer fires. As the Leemans are the richest family in town the police are pretty relaxed about it all but, despite everything, her main rival and nice girl Amber Atkins, played by the wonderful Kirsten Dunst, won’t be stopped even though there is more death and disappointment to come. This movie wasn’t well-reviewed when it came out but I enjoyed it then and still enjoy it now.
Star Trek Picard: Season 1 – Everyone was waiting for this return series featuring one of the most popular Star Fleet captains ever and, in my opinion, the best captain as Sir Patrick Stewart slips back into the chair as Jean-Luc Picard for a brand new series. Set 18 years after his last appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis, the show finds him deeply affected by the death of Data from the events of that film as well as by the destruction of Romulus as referenced in the J.J. Abrams reboot which has me slightly confused. Wasn’t that storyline called the “Kelvin” line? Not a big issue to me in the long run as I really enjoyed this whole series, loved the inclusion of Riker and Deanna Troy later in the season and even the new characters of Michelle Hurd’s gruff Raffi Musiker, the rogue pilot Cristóbal Rios, played by Santiago Cabrera and Allison Pill’s Dr. Agnes Jurati are a welcome addition and feel well written. After an exciting first and establishing season, I’m looking forward to what comes next.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:
She Should’a Said “No!” – These old “marijuana-slpoitation” movies from the Reefer Madness era always make me laugh so when Kino Lorber has them up for grabs I always accept them. Made in 1949, this film, also known as Wild Weed, follows a chorus girl who’s career is ruined and her brother is driven to suicide when she starts smoking marijuana because of hysteria, miseducation and fear-mongering. Sorry, I had to throw that last part of the description in because it is all just so ridiculous. It’s funny that the main actress of this film, Lila Leeds, was cast almost as a punishment because she was arrested in 1948 with Robert Mitchum for possession of marijuana, so I guess she’s the cautionary tale. The film was also put together in seven days making it suspect that it was a government initiative to get cannabis out of people’s hands and fear on the rise immediately. Too funny.
Bloodstone – Time to head back to the forgotten vaults of B, C, and D grade movies in the possession of those film-loving maniacs at Arrow Video with this film from Dwight H. Little which may have fallen a tiny bit under the radar, although it does have a sequel. This action-adventure follows an American couple on a business trip to Bangalore, India who are dragged into the theft of a ruby called ‘Bloodstone’. The wife is then kidnapped and the husband teams up with a resourceful taxi driver to free his wife and retrieve the ruby. The film, released in 1988, almost seems to be borrowing that energy from Romancing The Stone and Jewel Of The Nile but miss having the acting caliber of Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny Devito as there’s absolutely no star power to this one at all.
Life Is A Long Quiet River – Let’s get a bit classier with the Arrow Academy side of the Arrow releasing and dig into this French comedy that was released the same year as Bloodstone, although for an entirely different type of audience. From writer and director Étienne Chatiliez in his debut film, this is the story of two babies are switched at birth by a revengeful nurse and are raised in two radically different families. When the mistake is discovered 12 years later, it leads to complications in the lives of both families, one family is affluent with dutiful and contented children while the other family is poor, with rambunctious and delinquent children, often hungry, but with lots of laughter in the house. This is a fascinating film that almost acts as a sociological experiment and how it can all be blown apart by a reveal of lineage.
A Soldier’s Revenge – Well Go USA, usually known for Asian cinema releases, sent me this film and I stared at it a little bt because I definitely was not expecting a western in any parcels from them. Featuring only a small handful of actors I recognized like Jake Busey, AnnaLynne McCord and, a good cowboy staple, Val Kilmer, this is the story of Civil War soldier-turned-bounty-hunter Frank Connor, haunted by wartime horrors, who spends his time post-war polishing off two things, whiskey and fugitives, but when two desperate children arrive on his doorstep and enlist his help to find their missing mother, Frank must face his past to take down the notorious Major Briggs, with whom he has a violent past with. The first thing to be said about this movie is it is way too freaking long, clocking in at almost two and a half hours which feels wildly unnecessary. Will it satisfy western fans? Only on the surface level of seeing the time period as it is a mess of close-ups and strained dialogue and Kilmer certainly doesn’t look like Doc Holliday anymore, maybe more so like his corpse.
Red Shoes And The Seven Dwarfs – Lionsgate sent this animated family film to me which features the voices of Chloe Grace Moretz and Sam Claflin, two bankable stars, and has been highly praised by the Dove society, a film advisory board that gives awards to the “best” family films but I have never even heard of it. Obviously a take on the classic fairy tale Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, this plays things differently as princes who have been turned into dwarfs seek the red shoes of a lady to break the spell, in a parody with a twist. Is it any good? Well, the parents will find it predictable but with some nice looking animation and some recognizable supporting voice work from Gina Gershon, Community’s Jim Rash and the always welcome baritone of Patrick Warburton but the kids will be delighted with it. I will warn everyone upfront that they may have to have a body issue conversation with their kids afterwards as some of the dialogue and themes in this is slightly problematic and I don’t know how that slipped by Dove.
The Lie (Amazon Prime) – Hot off of her stellar awards season, cleaning up for her lead role in the miniseries The Act, Joey King stars in this new film opposite Peter Sarsgaard as a father and daughter who are on their way to dance camp when they spot the girl’s best friend on the side of the road. Stopping to offer the friend a ride, their good intentions soon result in terrible consequences and the family quickly closes ranks and decides not to tell anybody. Secrets rarely stay secret for long and they soon find themselves faced with an impossible choice that will alter the course of their lives forever. I’m being vague with the details on this for a reason as The Killing creator Veena Sud writes and directs this film, a creator that revels in her reveals and keeping the mysteries close to her chest. This film is intensely engrossing from start to finish.
The Haunting Of Bly Manor (Netflix) – With his first series based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Mike Flanagan proved once again that he is a horror director at the top of his game and the perfect fit for this series that took in many of Netflix subscribers. Now, we head into his next series that will be sure to give you nightmares just like Hill House did for me, shot in Vancouver, this series once again follows Henry Thomas’ character Henry, who hires a young American nanny to care for his orphaned niece and nephew who reside at Bly Manor with the chef Owen, groundskeeper Jamie and housekeeper, Mrs. Grose. Soon after arriving at the Bly estate, she begins to experience strange occurrences and a grim history starts to unravel. This series is full of emotion and atmosphere and it is really neat to see Flanagan pivoting off of Jackson’s classic into this version of The Turning Of The Screw. Also, like the first series, there are so many hidden ghosts to be spotted in this season, one of my favorite things about Hill House.
The Forty-Year Old Version (Netflix) – Right now, with the focus on the Black Lives Matter movement and giving a signal boost to the creations made by people of color being on the forefront it’s really great to see Netflix give it’s platform to a film like this one, written, directed by and starring writer and producer Radha Blank and it’s even better to know that the movie is seriously great and very relatable to women of all colors that hit the forty-year milestone and still feel lost in their own lives. This film follows Blank as a down-on-her-luck New York playwright, who is desperate for a breakthrough before she turns forty after being one of the prominent winners of the top 30 under thirty award a decade earlier. Reinventing herself as a rapper named RadhaMUSPrime, she vacillates between the worlds of hip hop and theater to find her true voice but finds herself trapped in a lie as she has to adjust her playwright voice to get it seen. Through the sighs of everyday comedy, Blank makes this an enriching experience that I believe everyone can take something away from and emerges as a great voice in black cinema that I really hope to see more from. This was a fantastic movie.
The Walking Dead: World Beyond (AMC) – Another Walking Dead spin-off arrives just as the final season of the original series has just been announced and this one has definitely a different vibe to it as it seems to combine the themes of Lord Of The Flies a little bit with the shambling flesh, brain and entrail eating ghouls we are oh so familiar with these days. Featuring Nico Tortorella from Scream 4, this series focuses on the first generation to grow up during the zombie apocalypse, centred around a trio of characters and judging by the trailer it looks suspenseful and will carve a new side in this new zombie lore. If it’s as good as Fear The Walking Dead is I will definitely continue to immerse myself in Robert Kirkman’s imagination.
The Cleansing Hour (Shudder) – Yes, I’m bringing so much horror this week but we have to consider that we are in October and people are clamouring for more of the genre to round out their monthly viewing. This movie had horror critics raving during festivals and has now made its way to the Shudder streaming service at the perfect time. Starring Ryan Guzman and Kyle Gallner, this is about millennial entrepreneurs, Drew and Max, who run a webcast that streams live exorcisms that are, in fact, elaborately staged hoaxes. They get their comeuppance when their latest actress becomes mysteriously possessed by a real demon that holds the crew hostage and, to make matters worse, the possessed victim is Drew’s fiancée, Lane. In front of a rapidly-growing global audience, the demon subjects Max to a series of violent and humiliating challenges meant to punish him for his online charade and, to save the love of his life, Drew discovers that the demon’s sinister motive is not only about revenge, but also to expose the dark secrets he, Max, and Lane have been hiding from one another. This film is brutally effective and a total diamond in the rough as it really has a bumpy start but settles in for some fantastic possession horror that satisfies on all levels.