Wrath Of Man – The worst thing you can do heading into this new Jason Statham and Guy Ritchie team-up is to watch the trailer which will completely sell a different type of film than you are getting and one totally askew to anything the Snatch filmmaker has made before. The film follows Statham as a new security guard for a cash truck, who surprises his co-workers when he unleashes precision skills during a heist, head-shotting every armed assailant sent to rob the truck. The crew is left wondering who he is and where he came from and eventually, through intricate flashbacks, the marksman’s ultimate motive becomes clear as he takes dramatic and irrevocable steps to settle a score and exact revenge. This movie is blisteringly violent, takes no prisoners and is filled to the brim with tough-guy bravado and I loved every moment of it. Statham just plain rocks in this movie and the cast around him is immense, including CSI guy Holt McCallany, 2000s heartthrob Josh Hartnett, Jeffrey Donovan, Scott Eastwood and more. It’s gritty and brutal but a great two-hour thrill ride.
Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street – For all the kids that grew up under the tutelage of the Children’s Television Workshop, like me, get ready for a rollercoaster of nostalgia and sweet memories with this new documentary that takes us on the wild ride of our on-screen education. Coming from Mad Hot Ballroom director Marilyn Agrelo, this film takes the viewer inside the minds and hearts of the Sesame Street creators to help us understand not only how they produced this groundbreaking show, but also what it was like to be at the center of a cultural and social phenomenon. Street Gang concentrates on the most experimental and groundbreaking period of Sesame Street with the original surviving creators and archive interviews with those who have since passed to weave together personal narratives and with never before seen behind the scenes footage to reveal how they collaborated to push every boundary that confronted them, changing television and changing the world. Many times in this movie I felt tears of memory and joy rolling down my cheek as I saw the little sketches and vignettes that helped form my childhood brain and then the part dealing with Mr. Hooper came on and I lost it all emotionally. I can’t stress how much I recommend this wonderful movie.
Eat Wheaties! – You can sell me a movie easily by telling me that it features Arrested Development and Veep’s Tony Hale, which this movie does, but it also has Elisha Cuthbert, I, Tonya’s Paul Walter Hauser, Scrubs’ Sarah Chalke and the great Alan Tudyk, so, yeah, I’m all about this one head in. Hale plays Sid Straw, a dude who leads a dull life until he accidentally stalks his famous college friend, Elizabeth Banks, on social media. With each failed attempt to prove he knows her, he rediscovers more of himself and the true meaning of friendship begins to blossom in the strangest places. The strength of this movie resides totally in the players as they all bring the best of their abilities to a story that doesn’t really understand how creepy its premise is, especially in the current celebrity worship climate. Just ask Kylie Jenner, right? Still, I had enough of a fun time with the film to make it work for me.
The Outside Story – I started out my review week with this little film and I’m so happy I did because it is sweet-hearted, warm and thoughtful, putting me in a great mind frame on a Friday night. The film stars Atlanta’s breakout actor Brian Tyree Henry as an introverted editor living a reclusive life in his second-floor apartment, always on deadline and in a constant rut. When he accidentally locks himself out of his building, he’s forced to go into the wilds of the outside and confront the world he’s been avoiding in search of a way back inside. This film was absolutely delightful from beginning to end with a great script filled with awkwardness, anxiety and quirky situations while giving a great message of personal growth, relationship post-traumatic stress, no matter how minute it is, and healing our bonds with others. This was so great to see Henry on this leading level and he does it with such great command. I want to see more leading roles from him for sure.
A Bump Along The Way – I have such a sweet spot in my heart for Irish comedy dramas and with the last one, Dating Amber, still in my brainpan giving me the warm and fuzzies, it was the perfect time for this one to nudge its way in for some love. The film follows You, Me And The Apocalypse actress Bronagh Gallagher as a boozy forty-four-year-old single mother that becomes pregnant from a one-night-stand, much to the shame of her buttoned-up teen daughter, played by Lola Petticrew who starred in the aforementioned Dating Amber too, who is just trying to survive high school with as little trauma as possible. This film is a great story of a close-knit mother and daughter who drift apart due to this small-town scandal and are brought together by finding themselves, finding their voices and pushing back at those who oppress them. This is a beautiful little story about the unbreakable bonds of family with a little Irish seasoning. Loved it.
Son Of The South – We got a bit of true story drama this week and it probably will rope in some of the CBS primetime crowd as it features Lucas Till who plays Angus MacGyver in the rebooted series but it also has one of the final performances from the late and totally legendary Brian Dennehy, although in a pretty villainous role. The story is set during the sixties Civil Rights Movement, following a Klansman’s grandson who is forced to face the rampant racism of his own culture and, defying his family and white Southern norms, he embraces the fight against social injustice, repression and violence to change the world he was born into. This story is a really important one and should be told but the method of which it is done fails to steer it out of the quagmire of “white saviour” storytelling and even misses the mark on what the whole civil rights movement is all about. Till is really solid in the film but the narrative really doesn’t deliver anything fresh or lasting, only presenting a story that we’ve seen far more than once.
The Paper Tigers – Old dogs dusting off their skills to become heroes and champions and giving hope to all of us dudes who have felt like the years have passed us by. We too could be formidable again and be the “Best Of The Best”! Is that Eric Roberts movie reference too obscure? Well, anyway, the film follows three Kung Fu prodigies who have grown into washed-up, middle-aged men, now one kick away from pulling their hamstrings. When They discover their master has been murdered, they must juggle their dead-end jobs, dad duties and old grudges to band together, retrain and avenge his death. The premise sounds totally 1980s and 90s cornball but everything manages to work really well character-wise and the action is actually really entertaining, even when it gets into a bit of silly territory. As a martial arts film fan, I really dug into this one but I also think a casual viewer could pull some enjoyment from it as well.
Fried Barry – The initial synopsis of this new bizarre sci-fi horror comedy seems straight out of the stratosphere of weirdo cinema so, of course, it’s a great fit for the catalogues of Shudder who constantly give their subscribers a special kind of love. The story follows Barry who is a drug-addled, abusive bastard that, after yet another bender, is abducted by aliens. Barry takes a backseat as an alien visitor assumes control of his body and takes it for a joyride through Cape Town and what follows is an onslaught of drugs, sex and violence as our out-of-this-world tourist enters the weird and wonderful world of humankind. The film is based upon the short film of the same name from writer and director Ryan Kruger, which earned fifty-seven official selections including twelve wins at festivals around the world. There aren’t any recognizable stars but everyone gives it their all in a film that tongue in cheek-ly kind of gives a nod to Fire In The Sky. Get into this one on the ground floor because people will be talking about it.
Monster – This was a late pick up for Netflix as this film has been circulating around on the festival circuit since 2018 but it finally gets the streaming clout now and it has to be because of the now high profile of star Kelvin Harrison Jr. from Luce and It Comes At Night and John David Washington from Tenet, BlackkKlansman and the hit Netflix movie Malcolm & Marie. The film tells the story of Steve Harmon, a seventeen-year-old honour student whose world comes crashing down around him when he is charged with felony murder. We then follow his dramatic journey from a smart, likeable film student from Harlem attending an elite high school through a complex legal battle that could leave him spending the rest of his life in prison, a reality that is a split moment away for many young black Americans. The time is right for this movie to hit, which lands in strong and powerful brush strokes but is a little slim on the details of Steve’s character. That said, this movie nails every emotional beat and makes you feel its sting.
Judas And The Black Messiah – With a cast boasting the fast-rising stars of Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stansfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback and Ashton Sanders, all performers on the road to future Academy Awards in their careers, Kaluuya and Stansfield now already nominated, I was already on board with this new historical drama but it’s the subject matter and importance of its timing that got it’s hooks into me most. The second feature film from writer and director Shaka King, most known for her work on Aidy Bryant’s show Shrill and Wyatt Cenac’s People Of Earth, she goes for the throat in this story that follows FBI informant William O’Neal as he infiltrates the Illinois Black Panther Party and is tasked with keeping tabs on their charismatic leader, Chairman Fred Hampton. A career thief, O’Neal gets lost in the danger of manipulating both his comrades and his handler, Special Agent Roy Mitchell and, as Hampton’s political prowess grows, he also starts falling in love with fellow revolutionary Deborah Johnson. This film is being called electrifying and authentic with performances that leap off the screen. This is definitely one of my favorite films of the first quarter of this year and its urgency pounds like a sledgehammer throughout. I feel like this story is pivotal learning for everyone and an example of how our police forces are used to stifle political and sociological oppositions.
The Little Things – After testing out their new model of release in this pandemic era of big films, Warner Brothers rolled out their next film on their big slate for this year and it starred the money-making and reliable face of one of the greatest actors today, Denzel Washington but it kind of did absolutely nothing in anyone’s memory. . The film comes from director John Lee Hancock, known for the popular Sandra Bullock film The Blind Side and the Ray Kroc story The Founder, who gets dark and gritty here with this crime thriller about a burnt-out Californian deputy sheriff who teams up with a crack LASD detective, played by Oscar-winner Rami Malek, to nab a serial killer. The veteran law man’s nose for the “little things” proves eerily accurate, but his willingness to circumvent the rules embroils his young partner in an existential dilemma. As I said at the top, Denzel always delivers and Malek’s performances are so compelling every time but the feeling that Rami is out of his element as a brash detective is always felt down to the way he carries his gun. It just feels unnatural. The bonus is when Jared Leto comes into the film for his quick serial killer role but the resolution to the whole story is a little less than desired.
The Virtuoso – Hot off of his Best Actor Academy Award win, I popped on this new hitman thriller that features Anthony Hopkins in a supporting role and is led by Star Trek Discovery and Hell On Wheels star Anson Mount. Very brooding and dark in tone, the story follows a lonesome stranger with nerves of steel but recovering from a job gone wrong who must track down and kill a rogue hitman to satisfy an outstanding debt. The only information he’s been given is a time and location where to find his target, 5 pm at a rustic diner in a town on the verge of bankruptcy. When the assassin arrives there are several possible targets, including the county sheriff and he must do more dangerous legwork to find this hitman and accomplish his mission. The story sounds like a winner but the drive of the film only comes in here and there and seems to meander in its emotion and not in a good way but in a contrived and boring sort of way. With how great the cast is, rounding out with Abbie Cornish, Eddie Marsan and Richard Brake, it never feels as close to the calibre of the actors put in it.
Tu Me Manques – It’s not very often that I get to bring foreign indie films to this section of the blog but this week I saw that this Bolivian drama was getting a small release and thought I’d shine a little light on it. On the surface, the story is very simple, following Jorge, a Bolivian man dealing with the death of his son Gabriel, who packs up his life to travel from his ultra-conservative country to New York City in order to confront Gabriel’s boyfriend Sebastian. While the two battle over Jorge’s inability to accept his son, Sebastian channels his grief into a bold new play in honour of his lost love, in which Gabriel’s inner turmoil is transformed into an eye-popping gay fantasia. This film is beautifully done with a beautiful focus on acceptance, growth and renewal against the vibrant backdrop of the queer community. This is a pretty special film that probably won’t get a huge amount of focus until it possibly picks up a streaming service’s attention.
Painkiller – More revenge or vigilante action thriller stories are hitting your television screens this week but, being led by Eddie And The Cruisers star Michael Pare, this is decidedly far less enticing as a Jason Statham and Guy Ritchie action piece unless it’s, I don’t know, 1986? The film follows Pare as a man who begins a campaign to destroy the white-collar criminals behind the opioid epidemic after losing his child to an overdose. As he starts to inflict violence and pain, he realizes that it sort of gives him a soul rebirth and he really starts to relish his anti-hero status more and more. Is the film good though? Definitely and certainly it is not. It feels like a filmmaker wanting to make a Death Wish movie but trying to latch on to something relevant and in your face in the news. That makes it sound a bit exploitative, which it definitely is.
A Ghost Waits – Usually, when I’m talking about new Arrow Video collector’s editions it is about an older forgotten piece of cult cinema or a fabled classic but every now and then they give the initial release to a festival favourite, giving it a pedestal to shine on from a great distributor. This is one of those movies, a brilliantly unique and original combo of horror, humour and soul, this is a low-budget labour of love years in the making from first-time writer and director Adam Stovall and producer and leading star MacLeod Andrews. He plays handyman Jack who, given the job of renovating a neglected rental home, quickly finds out why the tenants keep leaving in droves and that’s because the house is totally haunted. The ghost in question is Muriel, she herself employed in sort of a contract job from beyond the grave to keep the home vacant and, against the odds, Jack and Muriel find they have a lot in common. Having found a kindred spirit in an otherwise lonely existence, they must fight for their newfound affection as pressure mounts for them each to fulfil their career obligations. This film contains a special sort of genius in its writing that is hard to impart here without giving spoilers but just know that you will think about it for weeks afterward once you see it.
Trances – This new Criterion Collection film literally just landed on my doorstep so I’m going above and beyond to bring it to you as quick as I can and, to be honest, I almost couldn’t read what it was called at first. The film is a documentary from Ahmed El Maanouni that puts a visual emphasis on the history and heritage of Moroccan and African music and, in a more focused sense, the soul band called Trances. The film portrays the band performing concerts in Morocco, interspersed with excerpts from interviews with band members about the meaning of each of their songs and music and is one of those gems in international cinema that kind of crosses over into the mainstream subtly. Released in 1981, this story of music and the love for the medium, its creation and the process of a songwriter still hits and resonates today.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:
The Furies – A little late arrival in my inbox but a perfect thing to throw at the geek outs this week, Criterion Collection has put together this re-issue of a classic western drama that featured the red hot actress of the 1940s and 50s, Barbara Stanwyck. The film follows cattle baron T.C. Jeffords who rules his sprawling New Mexico ranch with an iron fist, but his authority doesn’t extend to his strong-willed daughter, Vance, who hates and loves her father with equal ferocity. Tensions rise when Vance falls for bad boy Rip Darrow whom T.C. buys off but the family conflict turns violent when T.C. decides to marry Flo Burnett and evict Vance’s childhood friend Juan from his land. Yes, this is a deep film about frontier relationships and the destruction of a powerful family from within that saw Academy Awards recognition for its beautiful cinematography in the days of black and white film. This one has its hold in film history and Criterion definitely knew that.
Godzilla 4K – Now that the whole MonsterVerse has seemingly come to a close with only small murmurs that it will continue in any form, Warner Bros. has put out this brand new 4K revamp of Garth Edwards’ 2014 reboot of the Toho giant lizard and, once again, all of that element is absolutely amazing and the human side is far less so. The film follows Ford Brody, played by Aaron Taylor Johnson, a Navy bomb expert who has just reunited with his family in San Francisco when he is forced to go to Japan to help his estranged father, Joe, played by Bryan Cranston in the quickest of roles. Soon, both men are swept up in an escalating crisis when Godzilla, King of the Monsters, arises from the sea to combat malevolent adversaries that threaten the survival of humanity. The creatures leave colossal destruction in their wake, as they make their way toward their final battleground, the streets and cityscapes of San Francisco. Experiencing this movie in theatres was incredible and constantly caused the hairs to raise on the back of my neck and that feeling does transfer over to this 4K version as well. Definitely worth it for fans to check out.
Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice 4K – Let’s get this out of the way once again but in a 4K way because I’m. glutton for punishment. I saw this movie at an IMAX press screening and totally hated it, so much so that I was seething as I came out of the theatre doors and couldn’t even talk to the Warner Bros. rep to give my opinion. That said, in a self-deprecating need to own everything Batman, I somewhat gladly accepted this film into my collection and gave it a rewatch and, yes, it’s still awful but has some really iconic picturesque moments that make you feel like a fan in between all the terrible writing, nonsensical plot, horrible filmmaking and complete character misreads. Of course, there’s the defining horrendous “Martha” moment that should be ridiculed until the end of time but at the end of the day and the end of the rant, this is an impressive watch to behold on a great home entertainment system, especially now in the best way you can possibly watch it that’s not on the big screen. Never take this as praise for Zack Snyder. I would never do that, especially after the bloated Justice League cut of his. He already had enough fanboys worshipping him.
Mythic Quest: Season 2 (AppleTV+) – Any fans of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia out there are probably already wise to this new series that launched with the AppleTV+ service but I was definitely late to the game and after a full binge of both seasons I am here to tell you it is must-see stuff. Starring Rob McElhenney and created alongside Charlie Day and gifted writer Megan Ganz, the show follows a team of video game developers as they navigate the challenges of running a popular video game. This show is hysterically funny and devolves into a chaos of tech jargon, clashing egos, insane ideas and more with a great recurring cast including Community’s Danny Pudi and an Academy Award-winning heavyweight in F. Murray Abraham and also has guest stars like Jake Johnson, Palm Springs star Cristin Milioti and even recent Best Actor Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins. This is some can’t miss comedy right here for everyone to jump into.
The Sons Of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness (Netflix) – What? You haven’t had enough serial killer-centric documentary series yet? Or are you just blowing through them at a record rate? Well, this week I’ve got what you need to get through the weekend, satisfy your blood lust and maybe give you some takeaway facts too. Coming from Joshua Zeman, the brilliant mind behind the creepy as hell documentary Cropsey, this four-episode series brings you into the hunt for the “Son of Sam” which captivated the world in the late 1970s but this one goes far deeper because, while the arrest and conviction of David Berkowitz brought the nightmare to an end for many New Yorkers, for journalist and author Maury Terry, the real mystery was just beginning. Convinced Berkowitz had not acted alone, he would go on to spend decades attempting to prove that the web of darkness behind the murders went deeper than anyone imagined and his pursuit of that elusive truth would eventually cost him everything. Zeman draws on archival news footage, conversations with the people closest to the investigation and Terry’s own words and case files to tell a cautionary tale of a man who went down a rabbit hole and never came out and it’s utterly fascinating in all the darkest ways. I know what’s going to be widely debated everywhere come Saturday, so you better binge fast!
Jupiter’s Legacy (Netflix) – Being a huge fan of comic book writer Mark Millar, I was following this original comic that this series is based on issue to issue so when it was announced that this was going to be made in an episodic format for Netflix I lost my mind with excitement. Coming from the man who brought us Kick-Ass, The Kingsmen and much more, this series follows the world’s first generation of superheroes who, after nearly a century of keeping mankind safe, must look to their children to continue the legacy. Of course, tensions rise as the young superheroes, hungry to prove their worth, struggle to live up to their parents’ legendary public reputations and exacting personal standards driving some of them to tragic depths that may challenge their bonds and allegiances. I’ve been chewing through this show ever since I got access to it and I’m loving it. Josh Duhamel is so well at as the patriarch or Superman of the group and Leslie Bibb and Ben Daniels deliver some veteran supporting work. I hope this catches on because, with the success of the first season of Invincible, I want as many adult superhero properties as I can get.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch (Disney+) – Rabid fans of Star Wars cartoons The Clone Wars and Rebels have been rigidly awaiting the launch of this new continuing series from mastermind Dave Filoni, the guy who also helped Jon Favreau with The Mandolorian, and it’s here now and everyone should be happy because it is gloriously awesome after the first two awesome episodes I saw. The series follows the elite and experimental clones of the Bad Batch, who were first introduced in The Clone Wars, as they find their way in a rapidly changing galaxy in the immediate aftermath of the war. Members of Bad Batch, a unique squad of clones who vary genetically from their brothers in the Clone Army, each possess a singular exceptional skill that makes them extraordinarily effective soldiers and a formidable crew that must forge their path alone as the Empire rises and the Republic is forced underground, forming the new Rebel Alliance. This show pulls deep into the geekiness of Star Wars in all the best ways and will immediately become my anticipated shows of the week with the void that Invincible and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier’s finales have left.
The Cafe (BritBox) – Everyone has a justified love affair with actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge and her series Fleabag, which she wrote completely herself and if you haven’t had the pleasure, it’s simply a must. That said, many people, including myself, had never heard of the ensemble comedy The Cafe that she starred in a decade ago and now the lovely BritBox people have made it available here. The story is simple, a sitcom that follows three young and hip generationals who run a coffee shop together. Simple, simple, easy peasy. The script is what makes this show and the gifted cast that delivers it, pretty much unknown except for Waller-Bridge, makes it all shine. This is going to be a blind watch for a lot of people but it may gain it popularity and as of what I see on IMDB, it hasn’t been officially cancelled yet.