Rebecca – The trio of director Ben Wheatley, cinematographer Laurie Rose and composer Clint Mansell have collaborated for a second time to make a complete masterpiece of a film again and after doing an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s High Rise, a project that the legendary Stanley Kubrick once said was impossible, they set their sights on this Alfred Hitchcock remake. Starring Lily James, Armie Hammer and Kristen Scott Thomas, this story follows a young newlywed woman who arrives at her husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast and finds herself battling the house’s domineering headmistress as well as the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy lives on in the house long after her death. This movie just pops out of the screen at you from the get-go, a beautifully crafted piece of cinema and with the story and plot twists to match. This might easily be one of my favorite films of the year.
The Secrets We Keep – Nazis are evil no matter what and we should stomp them out whenever we come across them, no question, no if, and or buts. This is unwavering but what if you were unsure because your trauma may be clouding your judgement. This is the story at the heart of this new thriller starring former Lisbeth Salander Noomi Rapace, Chris Messina and Joel Kinnaman, set in a post-WWII America following a woman rebuilding her life in the suburbs with her husband who kidnaps her neighbor, seeking vengeance for the heinous war crimes she believes he committed against her. The film is well-paced and Rapace is absolutely riveting, wearing every emotion on her sleeve, so palpable with each drag of her character’s cigarette. Pieces of this movie feel a bit far fetched but it’s her conviction that keeps it all grounded.
Love And Monsters – These days, if a film is attached to the name of Brian Duffield I am pretty much on board immediately with his last works being the Babysitter movies and his directorial debut Spontaneous which was just fantastic. This new film has Five Fingers for Marseilles director Michael Matthews behind the camera for his second feature and star Dylan O’Brien in front of it to hopefully show off how great he was in Teen Wolf and not the failings that were the Maze Runner series and the action flick American Assassin. The story is set seven years after the Monsterpocalypse, following Joel, who, along with the rest of humanity, has been living underground ever since giant creatures took control of the land. After reconnecting over the radio with his high school girlfriend Aimee, who is now 80 miles away at a coastal colony, Joel begins to fall for her again and as he realizes that there’s nothing left for him underground, he decides against all logic to venture out to Aimee, despite all the dangerous monsters that stand in his way. The supporting cast also has Michael Rooker, which is an instant sell in my opinion.
Totally Under Control – Just a couple of weeks ago the public was informed that master documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney had been meticulously working on a comprehensive timeline of the coronavirus pandemic and now it is available and it is certainly in-depth. Gathering public health officials in a unique and safe fashion, the discussion of the U.S. government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is brought to light and how the current administration has failed the American people and has led to over two hundred thousand deaths that could have largely been avoided. The frustration is palpable and you can’t help but feel angry and a little bit hopeless watching it, much like you do anytime you see a comment thread about it on social media. The feeling that we are all pretty much screwed seems to be never shakeable.
I Am Greta – To follow up the new Alex Gibney film with this biopic documentary about a young girl making big changes in our fight with climate control was probably a mistake as I really wasn’t emotionally ready for this. The film starts in August of 2018, with Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old student in Sweden starting a school strike for the climate. Her question for adults is very blunt and simple at its heart if you don’t care about her future on earth, why should she care about her future in school? Within months, her strike evolves into a global movement and Greta, a quiet Swedish girl on the autism spectrum, is now a world-famous activist with the team behind Greta following the young activist from her very first day of school striking to her trek across the ocean to speak at the United Nations in New York City. This film gave me a deeply emotional reaction as I look at my own eight-year-old daughter and fear for her future, especially during these very uncertain times. I reiterate again, we all feel hopelessly screwed right now and, as Greta says, the leaders have failed us with no recourse of change.
Clouds – Disney is looking to inspire this week but they’re digging in that well of inspirational stories that really turns me off and we have a double shot of it this week. The film follows seventeen-year-old Zach Sobiech, a fun-loving high school senior with raw musical talent whose world gets turned upside down when he finds out his cancer has spread a few weeks into his senior year, just after asking out his long-time crush, leaving him with a life expectancy of just six months. With limited time, he follows his dream and makes an album, unaware that it will soon be a viral music phenomenon and, you guessed it, a total inspiration. The film is directed by actor turned filmmaker Justin Baldoni who was an audience favorite in the series Jane The Virgin and this film kind of soared above my expectations for it entirely, a story that is heartbreaking, well acted and leaves a lasting effect more than just a good tune.
2 Hearts – The words “inspirational true story” are usually the kiss of death for me in a movie as it usually contains the words “faith-based” somewhere in the descriptor and if you’ve followed this blog you know I absolutely hate those message over substance films. This one has me in the fact that it has Radha Mitchell in it and follows two couples across different decades and different places but with a hidden connection that brings them together through faith and there it is, I’ve already checked out. No matter what, these movies always devolve into a preach fest that yields nothing story-wise and feels like a constant reach for more people to attend church and that ship has sailed for me. That said, it’s weird that this comes from the director of the Chuck Norris action flick Missing in Action 2: The Beginning.
Making Monsters – It’s the Halloween month so let’s continue a bit down the path of horror again, shall we? We haven’t touched much on the subgenre of slasher movies so this film hits that quota quite nicely and, although its low budget, it really does encompass all of the things that started this type of film back with Friday The 13th and Halloween. The very basic story follows a social media prankster who finds his idyllic country weekend with his fiancée turned into the ultimate video prank where the stakes are life and death as the two have to outwit a sadistic killer. Surprisingly the suspense in this movie is really well executed which manages to overcome its small budget look to be one of the more inventive horror movies, especially being pigeonholed as a Canadian film which is still trying to claw out of its stereotypes for a large part of the movie audience.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie – The fan demanded movie follow up to Breaking Bad is now able to be purchased on a home entertainment format complete with digital sound surround and all the bells and whistles and if you still haven’t gotten around to it, the great thing is that the trailer and synopsis released by both Netflix and AMC are so fantastically ambiguous that there is really no hint to what this movie will be about except that Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman leads it. It should be noted that Badger, Mike, Skinny Pete and Old Joe are the only other characters listed in the cast list so a contained cast means a smaller scope film but that definitely leads to a bunch of uncredited cameos just to blow away the viewer with surprise. Breaking Bad fans, you can now finish up your original series collection and await the final season of Better Call Saul which might just be the superior series.
Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite! – They’re making more of these movies? Yes, two were in theaters to varying successes and now Warner Bros. wants to squeeze a little bit more out of the franchise with this direct to blu-ray sequel. Many out there, including the target demographic, have no clue that these movies exist but to give the quick rundown, cats and dogs are secret agents working in a constant battle with each other and in this film, Gwen the Cat and Roger the Dog have now partnered up due to the Great Truce which has stopped dog and cat hostility for a decade. The long-standing peace is threatened though when a supervillain parrot discovers a way to manipulate wireless frequencies that only dogs and cats can hear, and that parrot is extra villainous because he is voiced by George Lopez. This film is without a doubt just meant for the kids as it is pretty much unbearable to human adults. Most times talking animal movies are just the worst and this is one of those frequent times.
Seized – Yes, I will be the first to admit that direct to video action films are almost all terrible and I just had an example of that last week with The Invincible Dragon but this movie definitely is aiming for that crown too. Starring martial arts expert Scott Adkins and Mario Van Peebles, this follows a former special forces agent who has moved to a quiet beach town to raise his son and leave his past life behind but that’s all thrown out when he is awakened by a phone call from a modulated voice telling him that his son has been kidnapped. He must now wipe out three dangerous crime syndicates using his deadliest skills if he wants to see his son alive again in obvious bloody fashion. It’s such a bummer that Adkins constantly does these mediocre films because I think if he had a great writer and director he could be at the top of the action mountain in no time.
Bad Mothers – Bad Moms with Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell is now a television series? No, not quite. This is a brand new series that is not playing for the comedy at all, instead going the dramatic route via some deep melodrama. The story follows five very modern women juggling the life engrossing issues of love, family, careers, infidelity and eventually murder as they end up getting in their problems way over their heads. When their lives collide following a series of shocking events, the group of women have unexpected support among each other and a bond that might keep them out of jail, given that they can stay out of trouble. I had never heard of this show coming into this week and, although it doesn’t feature any notable stars, it really isn’t half bad if you’re in for a Desperate Housewives without the horrible cheesiness.
Sergeant York – Warner Archive has brought another old classic to the elevated format of blu-ray and this one happens to be my first Gary Cooper movie in my collection. Cooper takes the title role in this somewhat fictionalized account of the life and war service of Alvin York, who went from humble beginnings to being one of the most celebrated American servicemen to fight in World War I. The film follows York having turned to religion when he was struck by lightning during one of his drunken outings, taking this newfound belief very seriously, claiming to be a conscientious objector when receiving his draft notice and when that was refused, he joined the infantry where he served with valor, capturing a large number of Germans and saving the lives of many of his men who were under heavy fire. The film was directed by legendary filmmaker Howard Hawks and ended up winning Cooper an Academy Award as well as one for editing.
Reversal Of Fortune – Based on a novel by Alan Dershowitz, this was always a film that I saw on video store shelves as a kid but never paid it any notice and now as an adult, I’m like “whoa, Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons in a Barbet Schroeder movie?”, so, yeah, things have changed. The film follows actor Ron Silver as Dershowitz himself, a brilliant professor of law who is hired by wealthy socialite Claus von Bulow to attempt to overturn his two convictions for the attempted murder of his extremely wealthy wife. Based on a real story, the film concentrates not on the trial like other legal thrillers, but on the preparatory work that Dershowitz and his students put in as they attempt to disprove the prosecution’s case and achieve the “Reversal of Fortune” that is implied by the title. Irons ended up winning an Oscar for his performance in this film.
Space Ghost & Dino Boy: Complete Series – I’ll be completely honest about this one, when I unwrapped it I thought it was the Adult Swim cartoon for more than a decade ago that put this superhero behind a talk show desk where he got really cantankerous and eventually would execute all of his guest by fire. It was hilarious. This, though, is the original series all of that was taken from, as well as Brak who featured on The Brak Show, although in this series he was one of the villains. This series is simple and classic Hanna Barbera stuff, following the adventures of a space superhero who can become invisible and his sidekicks. It’s been neat reliving all of these episodes that I never knew existed plus it’s an early role for 80s staple actor and National Lampoon alumni Tim Matheson.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:
Beau Travail – I love bringing all of these Criterion Collection releases to the show as they are the definitive films that should be in all cinephiles’ collections and, a lot of the time, they are a new discovery for people, even myself sometimes. I definitely knew of Claire Denis and had watched her last film, the Robert Pattinson sci-fi High Life, which I loved, so I was very excited about this one. This film focuses on Galoup, an ex-Foreign Legion officer, as he recalls his once glorious life, leading troops in the Gulf of Djibouti. His existence there was happy, strict and regimented but the arrival of a promising young recruit, Sentain, plants the seeds of jealousy in Galoup’s mind and he feels compelled to stop him from coming to the attention of the commandant who he admires, but who ignores him. Ultimately, his jealousy leads to the destruction of both Sentain and himself in an incredible finale that needs to be seen to believe it. Denis’ work is forever inspirational and this film was the one that inspired Greta Gerwig to become a filmmaker so now I am forever in the debut of the French writer and director. Trust me, this film is special.
World Cinema Project, Volume 3 – Another cool thing that Criterion does is their film compilation box sets like the ones that are curated by Martin Scorsese and already in 2020 we got all of his early short films and now we get the third volume of his world cinema project. Scorsese has been curating the World Cinema Project for around thirteen years now and the result has been a plethora of international films from 1934 to 1981 that in some cases his efforts have helped save from the ravages of time and film deterioration. This set features six of these rejuvenated classics with Lucia, After The Curfew, Pixote, Dos Monjes, Soliel O ad Downpour to hopefully give it new life with a new audience. This is for the tool film nerd and to see what inspires a legendary filmmaker like Scorsese is fascinating.
A Dog’s Courage – Last week I was baffled by Well Go USA, a predominantly Asian cinema distributor sending me a western and now I have this animated family film that they sent me. A South Korean made film, this is an animal centric story with a deep emotional core to it as it follows stray dogs who have been abandoned by humans who find “a place without humans” and realize their identities and the meaning of freedom and self-identity. I know, you’re asking how kids can latch on to a story like this but many forget that we had to endure the existential questions that don Bluth’s All Dogs Go To Heaven posed us with at a very young age so I feel lie kids can handle it and the animation is absolutely gorgeous in this so it really is a treat to look at.
Yellowstone: Season 1 & 2 – Kevin Costner takes the lead in this new series that has been created by the Paramount network but really hasn’t landed in Canada yet until now but has a whole bunch of clout behind it because it is damn good both in writing from Hell Or High Water and Sicario’s Taylor Sheridan and a well rounded cast around Costner. The show follows the Dutton family, led by John Dutton played by Costner, who controls the largest contiguous ranch in the United States, under constant attack by those it borders, such as land developers, a nearby Indian reservation and the keepers of America’s first National Park. It is an intense study of a violent world far from media scrutiny, where land grabs make developers billions, politicians are bought and sold by the world’s largest oil and lumber corporations, where drinking water poisoned by fracking wells and unsolved murders are not news. I’m currently immersed near the end of the first season and am really enjoying it, a good series for those who like crime series like Sons Of Anarchy or The Sopranos.
The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection – One of the greatest directors to ever step behind the camera, I have a deep adoration for Alfred Hitchcoc so when this new 4K box set landed on my doorstep, I really freaked out. This one contains the most notable films from his filmography with Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, about a wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder, Vertigo, another Stewart film with him playing a former police detective wrestling with his personal demons and becoming obsessed with a hauntingly beautiful woman, The Birds, well, you know the story on that Tippi Hedren film and Psycho, which actually contains two different cuts of the highly influential horror classic. This is a set made for the deep cinephile and I’m so grateful to own it.
The Right Stuff (Disney+) – Disney is hoping to bolster their library with this brand new co-production between them and National Geographic, who they own as well, for an informative and engrossing look at space and those who have explored it so far. Combining real life footage and dramatic recreations with actors, this is the story of U.S. fighter pilots who are recruited to test experimental aircraft and rockets to become first Mercury astronauts. This is the TV adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s book, ‘The Right Stuff’ which had been previously adapted as the four time Academy Award winning film of the same name starring Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid and Fred Ward but in a more expanded series approach to give it more depth.
Fear the Walking Dead: Season 6 (AMC) – Let’s face it, at this point Fear is the best zombie show on television as the original incarnation of this series needs a little shot in the ass to get going again. The cast is flying on all cylinders with Lennie James’ Morgan being my absolute favorite at the moment but don’t let that take away from how stellar Alycia Debnam-Carey is on a consistent level. In a ramble of names, this show is always getting the best of the best as Garret Dillahunt, Jenna Elfman and Matt Frewer are still feature roles and the breakout star, Colman Domingo, is still killing it as Victor Strand.
Star Trek Discovery: Season 3 (Crave) – Ten years before Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise, the USS Discovery discovers new worlds and lifeforms as one Starfleet officer learns to understand all things alien in this series that now enters into it’s latest season and I know a lot of Trekkies out there do not like this show but as a fleeting Trek fan myself I really dig it. Great casting, exciting adventures and inner politics and an infinite ceiling due to being on the CBS All Access streaming service, I really like what they’re doing with this show and the possibilities are really endless to where they can go.
The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (Netflix) – If one writer gets me hook, line and sinker everytime he writes a movie or television series, it’s Aaron Sorkin. I’m just addicted to his stories. For his latest film, that he directed as well as wrote, he takes a bite out of Chicago history as well as adding his own spin with sardonic humor and grandiose moments of grandstanding with a phenomenal cast that includes Oscar winners Eddie Redmayne and Mark Rylance, recent Emmy winners Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jeremy Strong as well as Joseph Gordon Levitt, Frank Langella, Sacha Baron Cohen, Michael Keaton and more. Yes, this is a heavyweight. The film is about the fallout after the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago where there were massive demonstrations against the Vietnam War, which was reaching its peak. When a curfew was finally instated, this led to even further protests, eventually leading to a police riot. and following this, seven of the demonstrators, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seale, John Froines, Tom Hayden, Lee Weiner, and David Dellinger, were tried for conspiracy. The meat and potatoes of this film is the trial that followed. This is a big recommendation this week because, though it is heavy on talk and exposition, this could go down as one of the best films this year and when it debuts on Netflix in two weeks it will be the must watch movie, trust me.
A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote (Crave) – I don’t think I’m alone in wanting a new limited series to continue this fantastic White House set drama amongst all the reboots and revivals we’ve been getting in television these days but I will definitely take what I can get. Originally running for seven seasons, including I believe two different presidential runs, starting with Martin Sheen’s President Bartlett, this show returns for a play style table read episode to bring voter awareness for the fastly approaching election as well as fundraise for the Biden and Harris campaign. It’s probably a known fact that many Trump supporters don’t have the intellect for a smart show like this so their proposed boycott of it pretty much means nothing. Yeah, I said it.