Come Play – On the outside of this movie it may look like another creepy kid horror film but this one only features a kid as the main character but is more about a malevolent creature looking to steal said kid. The story follows Oliver, a lonely young boy who feels different from everyone else who’s only way to speak is through his smartphone. Desperate for a friend, he seeks solace and refuge in his ever-present cell phone and tablet but when a mysterious creature uses Oliver’s devices against him to break into our world, Oliver’s parents must fight to save their son from the monster beyond the screen. The story seems a bit hokey, based on a short film for the director Jacob Chase, but had the potential to be a really great thriller and makes pretty effective use of its material early on but a terrible script and, therefore, really bad acting constantly serve to take you completely out of the movie time and time again. I love both Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr. but can’t muster up a good thing to say about either of them in this, they’re just terrible.
Spell – With the heavyweight of the horror classic The Serpent And The Rainbow behind it in a big bad way, I’m always excited to check out voodoo and hoodoo centric genre films and this one definitely piqued my interest as it not only has all of the boxes checked on these tropes but it also has character actress Loretta Deine doing some villain work. The story follows a man who crash lands in rural Appalachia with his family on the way to his father’s funeral and awakens in the attic of a traditional Hoodoo practitioner named Ms. Eloise who claims she can nurse him back to health with the Boogity, a Hoodoo figure she has made from his blood and skin. He desperately tries to break free from her dark magic and save his family from a sinister ritual before the rise of the blood moon in a film that has its really creepy moments but feels a bit less than effective. The thing that bothered me most about this lower grade but bloody thriller-horror was the score which felt like a placeholder rather than anything composed with what was going on in the movie.
Ravers – Yes, it’s all horror this week across the board in theaters and on-demand and what else would you expect this week? We cap it off in this section with this club based film which definitely feels tame when compared to the LSD laced madness that was Gaspar Noe’s Climax, which was one of my favorite films that year. This film is set at an illegal rave that gets turned into a living nightmare when a contaminated energy drink is ingested, slowly turning everyone into monsters leading a germaphobe journalist to overcome her deepest fears to get her friends out alive. This movie is low-budget and conceptually weird but it is totally wild and keeps you engaged the whole time. It’s also cool to see Canadian and former Species star Natasha Henstridge show up in this. I’ve had a crush on her since the nineties.
Amulet – The horror is definitely relentless this week as Atonement star Romola Garai makes her directorial debut with this new creeper of a movie that she wrote as well. The story follows an ex-soldier, living homeless in London, who is offered a place to stay at a decaying house inhabited by a young woman and her dying mother. As he starts to fall for her, he cannot ignore his suspicion that something sinister is going on and that his life and his soul is increasingly at risk. Garai nails this mystery horror with great atmosphere and a few really choice moments of pure terror but the theme again is a thriller that rolls everything out very well but fails to fully capitalize on the groundwork it has laid. The highlight of this movie is Harry Potter franchise alumni Imelda Staunton who brings an incredible amount of gravitas and veteran attitude to the production.
Attack Of The Unknown – It’s probably best to start with the synopsis of this new sci-fi action so here it goes. The story follows a SWAT team transporting a high profile inmate who finds themselves trapped inside a county detention center as the world burns around them. Having no communication with the outside world, no radios, no television, and no working vehicles, they must put aside their differences and band together to escape the mysterious alien forces that are tracking them, bent on world destruction one human victim at a time. Sounds cool, right? Now I will give you that bad news that it stars former 21 Jump Street star Richard Grieco and Sharknado’s cast-off Tara Reid and, yes, the whole thing pales dramatically because the whole production is on caliber with their talent, almost non-existent. Such a disappointment because the eighties and nineties action fan in me absolutely loved that premise.
Fatima – This is a big movie in my mind as it is an anomaly of sorts, a faith-based film depicting Bible events that are actually, wait for it, good. Not just that but I’d dare to venture that this movie is great. Director and former Game Of Thrones cinematographer Marco Pontecorvo brings us the story of three young shepherds in Fátima, Portugal, who report visions of the Virgin Mary, inspiring believers and angering officials of the Church and the government, who try to force them to recant their story. The film’s cast features Harvey Keitel, a giant of an actor that I have been missing for a while now and while I contend that this movie will not work with everyone, it takes some bold chances that largely work out for it. It’s either that or I’ve been dulled down by faith-based movies so much that any improvement looks almost… miraculous.
Spree – Stranger Things is an incredible phenomenon that has given us a plethora of new stars like Finn Wolfhard and Millie Bobby Brown but we have to admit that the show’s darling is the character of Steve Harrington, played by Joe Keery, someone who went from a season one bully to the best dude on the show. This new high octane thriller looks to capitalize on that as he stars in this film as Kurt Kunkle, a rideshare driver thirsty for an online following who has figured out a deadly plan to go viral by killing his clients. This movie is filled to the brim with dark humor by bold writer and director Eugene Kotlyarenko who, while this isn’t his first bat at the plate, will be very remembered after the end credits of this film hit. This is an absolutely wild ride that puts the fleeting fame of social media directly in the crosshairs of satire.
Tom And Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale – Do the kids still remember Tom and Jerry? My daughter only vaguely has a notion about them but it was only in the context of comparing them to The Simpsons cartoon within a cartoon, Itchy and Scratchy. Well, I remember these two well and their 2007 Christmas special has been revamped for the higher blu-ray platform to hopefully rope in a new generation. The story has Tom and his army of stray cats taking over Jerry’s magical kingdom of living toys leading Jerry to find the Toymaker and get help to win his kingdom back before sunrise when the window of opportunity closes all the while chased by his nemesis and his cronies. It’s hard to review this really because it is all pretty standard so if you’re into showing the kids Tom and Jerry just go for this one for the upcoming holidays.
The Opposite Sex – Heading back to 1956 for this classic Joan Collins movie that is a remake of the famous Joan Crawford film The Women but in musical form. The film follows Kay, a former nightclub singer, married ten years and mother of a young daughter, who is informed that her husband Steven, played by one of the greatest Canadians of all time, Leslie Nielsen is having an affair with chorus girl Crystal Allen, Collins role, so she goes to Reno for a divorce. After that, Steven marries Crystal, but Crystal ends up cheating and when Kay hears about this, she starts fighting to win her ex-husband back. Crawford was not a fan of this remake and when asked about it said “It’s ridiculous. Norma (her co-star) and I might not ever have been bosom buddies, but we towered compared to those pygmies in the remake.”. Apparently, this cattiness was prevalent because Collins and this film’s star didn’t get along either.
Waterloo Bridge – It’s double Warner Archive this week with this film that starred Vivian Leigh hot off of her lead role in a film regarded as one of the greatest of all time, Gone With The Wind. Directed by Gypsy and Wizard Of Oz filmmaker Mervyn LeRoy, this story is set on the eve of World War II, following a British officer recalling his time at Waterloo Bridge as a young man at the beginning of World War I and the young ballerina he met just before he left for the front, Myra who ends up staying with him past curfew and is thrown out of the corps de ballet and ends up having to fend for herself, surviving on the streets of London. She ends up falling even lower after she hears her true love has been killed in action, an untrue piece of information. This film was nominated for two Oscars for cinematography and best score but Rebecca won for the former, the remake now streaming on Netflix and Disney’s Pinocchio for the latter.
Bonanza: Season 11 Volumes 1 & 2 – To add to my burgeoning collection of classic western television series I am pretty happy to cover this family show that my dad introduced me to as a kid. A season that is over three quarters through the show’s entire fourteen-year run, this is the iconic story of the Cartwright family and their Nevada ranch featuring the bigger than life stars Lorne Greene and Michael Landon, these episodes focusing on Hoss and Candy being misidentified as bank robbers, romance, uneasy alliances and, believe it or not, social distancing makes an appearance in this season of the frontier family’s life. The classic television fans are going to be all over these two box sets.
The Flintstones: Complete Series – As a Saturday morning cartoon nerd, this new complete series box set is another piece of gold in my collection and can sit next to my complete series of The Jetsons as it awaits the arrival of the Josie And The Pussycats set in January. For those born under a prehistoric rock, this popular animated television cartoon featured two Stone Age families, the Flintstones and their neighbors, the Rubbles, much of the humor was based on its comic portrayals of modern conveniences, reinterpreted using Stone Age ‘technology.’ Most notably were their cars, complete with absence of floorboards to allow them to be ‘foot-powered.’ This set features all six seasons of the series as well as a few of the feature films as well. No, not the live action ones.
Head Of The Class: Season 2 – As a kid and preteen I was all about Saved By The Bell, not because Zach Morris and A.C. Slater were the coolest, which they really were, but because I loved Kelly Kapowski. This show had none of those teen idols but had WKRP In Cincinnati’s Howard Hesseman who in my mind will always be the epitome of cool, Johnny Fever. A series that aired from 1986-1990, this show skipped me entirely, as I was too young for it, but reliving it now has been a total trip. The show is about a laid back teacher who provides needed guidance about life for a special class of exceptional students and features early performances from Robin Givens, Richard Pryor’s daughter Rain, John Cameron Mitchell, Billy Connolly and many more. The themes have paled but it’s still interesting to take the show in as a time capsule of the late eighties.
Steve’s Home Release Geekout:
Black Lightning: Season 2 & 3 – Let’s just acknowledge right here how fantastic all of the DC Universe shows have been since the start of their sort of expanded universe, starting with Stephen Amell’s Arrow. Everything that has been put out has been a total knockout and that extends to this series that, I admit, as a comic book fan I was a bit hazy on the character. Cress Williams plays the titular hero whose civilian identity is Jefferson Pierce, a crusading school principal who gets back into action as the original African-American electrical superhero Black Lightning. He hung up the suit and his secret identity years ago, but with a daughter hell-bent on justice and a star student being recruited by a local gang, he’ll be pulled back into the fight as the wanted vigilante and DC legend. Locally shot in Vancouver, as are all of these shows, this is a very entertaining series with fantastic action sequences in every episode. Cruising through this show has been an absolute pleasure.
Mallrats – One of my favorite movies of all time and a film from one of the biggest directorial influences on my life is finally on a big, beautiful special edition as Kevin Smith’s follow-up to his debut film gets its glorious time in the blu-ray spotlight. For those who don’t know, this film gives us a viewing of a day in the life of two teenagers, T.S. and Brodie, as they wander around all day in a local mall while the girls who recently dumped them do the same. The two guys encounter characters like Jay and Silent Bob, 15-year old sex novel author Trish the Dish, 3-D visually challenged Willam (the guy just wants to see the sailboat!) and many others. T.S. and Brodie have decided that they will attempt to win back the hearts of their ex-girlfriends before scumbags like Brodie’s arch-nemesis Shannon Hamilton get to have sex with them in very uncomfortable places, while Jay and Silent Bob attempt to wreck one of their ex-girlfriend’s father’s game show in the meantime. This movie is a total darling and a large number of people, especially in my circle of friends, adore it as much as I do. This is a must-own film.
Once Upon A Snowman (Disney+) – Have your kids totally driven you nuts with not only the first Frozen movie but the sequel as well? Well, Disney+ has gifted you a twelve-minute reprieve with this Olaf centric little short film that follows the plucky and curious snowman on a new short adventure showing him taking his first steps as he comes to life and searches for his identity in the snowy mountains outside Arendelle, a nice little tack on to the original Frozen movie. Josh Gad reprises the role that shot him to superstardom and, honestly, besides the always loveable Kristen Bell and both her and Idina Menzel’s beautiful singing voices, Olaf is the best part of these movies. Yeah, I said it.
The Mandalorian: Season 2 (DIsney+) – It’s time to relive a historic moment by going back and rewatching the first-ever live-action Star Wars series all based around a character that we fans have always revered, Boba Fett, creating our new anti-hero turned real hero, The Mandalorian or “Mando” for short. Created by Jon Favreau, Disney+ will be releasing an episode a week of the new season featuring the adventures of our lone gunfighter and his adopted son, the child, also known as “Baby Yoda” set in the New Republic.With stars Pedro Pascal, Ming Na, Taika Waititi and Werner Herzog playing main characters in the first season, the ante has been upped with former Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul bad dude Giancarlo Esposito showing up as the villain at the end of last season and WWE superstar Sasha Banks playing another undisclosed character. I think it’s probably obvious that I’m going to say this but I can not wait for all of the episodes to land so I can binge it over and over again.
His House (Netflix) – It’s Halloween week so Netflix is giving it all by releasing this new indie horror flick that garnered fantastic reviews at the many festivals it played at. This British made film follows a refugee couple who make a harrowing escape from war-torn South Sudan but then struggle to adjust to their new life in an English town that has an evil lurking beneath the surface of the floorboards of their new not so happy home. Co-starring former Doctor Who, Matt Smith, this movie has all the slow burn of an instant haunted house classic, broody in a Japanese horror sense but still keeping the gothic nature of traditional ghostly stories with its roots grounded in South African folklore. I was highly entertained by this film throughout, a total sleeper horror hit that will definitely get word of mouth.
Ghosts (Crave) – Yes, it’s Halloween week but we can throw a little comedy in to have some fun too, right? This BBC television produced series takes the haunted house stereotype and tosses in the great comedy we’ve come to love from Yonderland’s Mathew Baynton in this story about Alison and Mike, a cash-strapped young couple struggling to buy their first home who think their prayers are answered when a distant relative bequeathed them a sprawling country estate. The catch is that the old house is haunted by the ghosts of its former inhabitants.Already aired in the United Kingdom and onto its second season, we now get to see for ourselves why this series has become such a notable hit and it really lands at the perfect time.
The Undoing (Crave) – A brand new HBO drama lands this week and it should be a more noteworthy premiere as it is the first series on the cable network for mega television producer and creator David E. Kelley, known for making Ally McBeal, The Practice and, my personal favorite, Boston Legal. This show has some big names to it as it stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant and follows Grace Sachs, a successful therapist who has a devoted husband, a young son who attends an elite private school in New York City and is living the only life she ever wanted for herself. Overnight a chasm opens in her life as a violent death disrupts her perfect life structure, her husband goes missing and the investigation only yields a chain of terrible revelations. Left behind in the wake of a spreading and very public disaster and horrified by how she has failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another for her child and herself. The entire series was directed by acclaimed Danish director Susanne Bier which is the biggest reason I want to take in all six episodes of this show which is very different from Kelley’s previous work.