Shadow In The Cloud – I thought this one would be a movie with the utmost potential but all of that was quickly erased when I saw that it was partially written by the bottom-feeding troll that is Max Landis, for me one of the worst interview subjects I have ever had. Not to go into detail but the dude is awful. The movie does sound pretty cool, as it stars Chloe Grace Moretz as a female pilot with top-secret cargo talks her way on board a bomber plane about to take-off on a stormy night during World War II. The crass all-male crew reluctantly agrees, but their suspicions about her identity and the mysterious cargo quickly grow. Then a shadow appears in the clouds that may be the incoming Japanese fleet or it could be caused by some other sinister stowaway on the plane. The end result isn’t something I disliked but instead was a pulpy little horror film that would fit in an elseworlds World War, like the actioner Overlord. It feels like two separate movies thrown together at times but the unevenness of that is handled deftly by Moretz who is bringing her A-game here. It’s worth your time on a slow New Year’s Day, for sure.
We Can Be Heroes – One thing we can say about writer, director and producer Robert Rodriguez and that is he has fun making his projects. We’ve already seen it this year with his episode of The Mandalorian where he brought back Boba Fett in a spectacular style that made us all feel like glee filled children again. Well, that feeling will continue with your kids as he brings this sequel to his 2005 family fantasy actioner The Adventures Of Shark Boy And Lava Girl, this time without the 3D but with a pretty sizable cast behind it, except for original star Taylor Lautner for some reason. The film has all of the children of superheroes banding together when alien invaders kidnap their parents, and by using their individual powers, from elasticity to time control to predicting the future, they form an out-of-this-world team to bring the fight to these villains and save the planet. Simple, bombastic filmmaking with Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the lava hot Pedro Pascal, Boyd Holbrook, Christian Slater and more showing up to add some star power cred, this is one entertaining adventure.
Death To 2020 – Let’s kill this year. Shoot it, stab it, throw it off a building and just to make sure it’s not going to rise up like Jason Voorhees in the third act of a Friday The 13th film, set it on fire. Okay, so we can’t do that but Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker has provided us with a pretty solid consolation prize with a brand new bout of satire that features a huge cast including Samuel L. Jackson, Hugh Grant, Lisa Kudrow, Kumail Nanjiani, Tracey Ullman, Leslie Jones and many more. They all come together, in separate COVID safe recordings to take a look back at the mad glory of the year 2020 in this comedic retrospective and it all works greatly to laugh away our sorrows. Seriously, I can’t stress the catharsis of this one enough.
Sing Me A Song – Let’s hit the door on this horrible year that we will forever be running from with a little bit of inspiration, shall we? This film takes us out of the comfort zone of our living rooms into the Kingdom of Bhutan, a landlocked country in the Eastern Himalayas that has just gotten internet service for the first time ten years ago and filmmaker Thomas Balmes was there for it. He focuses on a seven-year-old Buddhist named Peyangki who lived in a monastery set against a stunning mountainous backdrop. Peyangki confides to the camera his hopes and fears about the arrival of electricity. Fast forward to now and Peyangki is a seventeen-year-old monk, still at the monastery, but now awaking to the alarm of the smartphone that is his constant tool for every minute of the day, even during prayers. The film follows Peyangki in his rural monastery as he forms, via WeChat, a virtual relationship with a barroom singer named Ugyen who lives in the capital, Thimphu. She sings him love songs while he saves money from collecting medicinal mushrooms to go visit her. We watch their long-distance relationship evolve from both sides and, oh man, is it ever hopeful in this dark Zoom age we’ve plunged into this year. Human connection is something we all still strive for and this is a beautiful illustration of it.
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. The film is formulaic, corny at times and massively bland, to the point that you will forget about it immediately after viewing it and the ending has this “all’s well that ends well” cheese ball quality that was almost laughable. Avoid this.
The Last Shift – Richard Jenkins is one of those character actors who has been busting his ass for years and movie fans adore him and casual viewers know his face for sure. In this film, he plays Stanley, a long time employee on the graveyard shift at Oscar’s Chicken and Fish who is calling it quits after 38 years and must train his young replacement, a talented but stalled young writer who was recently paroled and his provocative politics keep landing him in trouble. Jenkins gives another fantastic performance as he’s done throughout his career but like The Visitor, a film that got him nominated for an Oscar, this is another benchmark in his great career. This is a strong narrative debut for writer and director Andrew Cohn and a really solid supporting role from Shane Paul McGhie as well as former Modern Family star Ed O’Neill.
Triggered – Hell yes, some diabolical survival horror comes your way to finish off the new releases for this week and, really, this one is just a shut off your brain sort of movie because if you try to look for deeper meaning within the characters you will give yourself a migraine. The film follows nine friends, who all harbour a dark secret, that go camping in the woods. After a wild night of partying, they wake up with explosive vests strapped to their chests, all with varying times on their countdown clocks. They decide to work out how to disarm the bombs or find help until they discover they can ‘take’ one another’s time by killing each other. The concept is really cool and the need to understand each character’s plight is minimal but the endgame to the movie feels flimsy and almost makes everything you’ve seen pretty superfluous. That said, the violence in it is neat and stylish making it an entertaining but hollow and weightless thriller.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Outs:
Silent Running – One of the classic science fiction stories from the 1970s, this film is fast becoming a forgotten gem that had such a massive influence on so many filmmakers but Arrow Video isn’t going to let it fade away without a fight. In this new collector’s edition, you can be introduced or re-introduced to Freeman Lowell, a man who looks after plants in giant space greenhouses. Back on Earth, all the trees have long vanished, so Lowell puts a lot of heart into his work but when orders from Earth are received to destroy the greenhouses, Lowell can’t go through with it, and cannot persuade his three colleagues to help him save the plants, so he makes other “arrangements”. This is the nudging piece to many end of the world films, like Danny Boyle’s Sunshine or Claire Denis’ recent space film High Life, and is part of the great career from director Douglas Trumbull, in his debut film, and writer Michael Cimino made his debut writing this as well. Well worth the time.
The Hobbit Trilogy & The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy 4K – Much like a part of the generation before me got to experience the beginning of Star Wars in their teens and early twenties when the first film hit theatres in 1977, I consider the Lord Of The Rings to be my version of that, a phenomenon in film that is the trendsetter of the time. Then came the prequel trilogy, The Hobbit, which didn’t have as much appeal. See the connection? Well, now both trilogies on 4K, and the Rings including the extended versions, I can introduce my kid, the new generation, to the stories that Tolkien has lovingly crafted and director, writer and produced Peter Jackson has brought to the screen and watching them in the order of the story might give me a better insight to how they are received now, much like when I went through the Star Wars Saga. Spoilers, she really enjoyed the prequels of that so maybe we were a little hard on them as jaded adults?
Yearly Departed (Amazon Prime) – It’s really about time we got out of this wretched year so why not do it in style with a whole bunch of comedians roasting it like it sorely deserves? This comedy special features eulogies for the year 2020 with a line-up of all-women comedians, featuring Rachel Brosnahan, Sarah Silverman, Tiffany Haddish, Natasha Leggero and more, discussing everything from casual sex to beige Band-Aids and everything in between that we’ve “lost” in 2020. I think this is another great indicator of how we must enter 2021, either laughing our asses off or quietly and disturbing nothing so it doesn’t notice that we are here. I think both are solid bets, don’t you?
Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina: Part 4 (Netflix) – The final piece of this story hits Netflix for all the rabid fans of this show and I’m excited about the conclusion but we may be the only ones as Sabrina isn’t closing out because they want to, instead they are being rushed off of Netflix in a sweep of cancellations. Former Mad Men star Kiernan Shipka is perfectly cast as the title star, a girl that is half human and half witch and constantly finds herself torn between those worlds, trying to keep evil at bay while still maintaining the life of a normal teenager. The show plays the gothic themes so well and the direction and cinematography match it with so many great nods to classic horror tropes and the supporting cast of Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto as Aunt Hilda and Zelda will always keep me watching and makes me a bit misty that it’s going out like this. It’s much better than Riverdale, I think.
Letterkenny: Season 9 (Crave) – I don’t think it is at all outlandish to call this how one of or possibly THE greatest comedy series on television today. On the outside, it looks like rural Trailer Park Boys with a crude sense of humour but looking at it on a deeper level, it is an insanely well-written show that takes its jokes to intricate levels that I had no idea existed in a show like this. You know what? Strike that. There is no show like this one. For those who have never had the pleasure of this homegrown gem, it is a quick-witted, fast-paced snappy comedy about rural folk getting by in the small town of Letterkenny, filled with hicks, muscleheads, meth heads and hockey playing morons. It is a pure piece of brilliance that truly shows that the laughs can come from weird places.
Cobra Kai: Season 3 (Netflix) – Remember that school of bad guys from the Karate Kid movies? Well, they’ve had their own series running for two seasons as a YouTube original and now with this third season, they get the high profile and bigger budget release on Netflix to bump it up to the next level. Featuring a lot of the original cast from the movies, including William Zabka, Martin Kove and even Daniel-san, Ralph Macchio, this Emmy nominated series takes place decades after our mains have had their 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament bout, following a middle-aged Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence who again find themselves martial-arts rivals. This is your chance to get fully acquainted with this critic and audience lauded series all at once and hopefully secure it another season and it’s damn worthy of that.
The Watch (AMC) – In the literary world, author and creator Terry Pratchett was almost godlike, a man who had and still has a pantheon of fans that revere everything he has written and the biggest tentpole in that has to be the Discworld series, a connective tissue for a lot of his writings. There are so many cogs that make up this world and AMC has decided to latch onto one in their latest series. Based on the characters from those novels, this show follows a group of misfit cops who rise up from decades of helplessness to save their corrupt city from catastrophe. The show was brought to the screen by showrunner Simon Allen, a writer on BBC shows like The Musketeers, and doesn’t feature a notable cast outside of The Wire’s Wendell Pierce and What We Do In The Shadows Matt Berry, but the story is where this series excels and if it’s given the chance, it can just get better and more intricate into a world that really deserves this sort of treatment. I’m excited about it.