Jurassic World Dominion – My feelings are really mixed on what is said to be the conclusion of the Jurassic Park slash World franchise as the last movie left me cold with bad writing, nonsensical plot decisions and totally dumb characters but this film is fully bringing Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum back into the fold and I really am excited about that. These legacy sequels have been hit or miss but with director Colin Trevorrow out of movie jail and back at the helm of it, this might be great. The film takes place four years after the destruction of Isla Nublar and dinosaurs now live and hunt alongside humans all over the world. This fragile balance will reshape the future and determine, once and for all, whether human beings are to remain the apex predators on a planet they now share with history’s most fearsome creatures in a new era. The trailers are fun and exhilarating and a lot of that frontier landscape is right in my backyard here in the Okanagan area as it was filmed in the surrounding areas of Kamloops which star Chris Pratt fell in love with. It’s hard not to set a bar on how good this will be but after Fallen Kingdom they have the benefit of the bar being a good notch lower.
Hustle – I hope it is widely known that Adam Sandler is a fantastic actor when he picks the roles that command more presence. He’s proved this with films like Punch Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, Spanglish and more recently with the pulse-pounding Safdie film Uncut Gems. That said, when he signed his Netflix deal I expected more of the Grown-Ups and Hubie Halloween side of the comedy actor but I wasn’t expecting this new one. Sandler plays a washed-up basketball scout for the Philadelphia 76ers who discovers a phenomenal street ball player while in Spain and sees the prospect as his opportunity to get back into the NBA. The film is brimming with heart and charm brought to the center of it by Sandler’s capable performance that has little nuances of the real Sandman and the giant stature of real NBA star Juancho Hernangomez as the prospect Bo Cruz. Under the steady direction of We The Animals filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar the movie manages to be so infectious that it is able to vault over the more formulaic pieces of the story.
The Contractor – I will fully admit that just Chris Pine alone is not enough to sell a movie for me but when you put Ben Foster in the same film it will pique my interest just because of their chemistry in Hell Or High Water. Even so, on the surface, this movie looks pretty damn formulaic and, for the most part, it is but it still manages to be entertaining. The film has Pine as a discharged U.S. Special Forces sergeant named James Harper who risks everything for his family when he joins a private contracting organization that his military friend has been doing jobs for. The film also has the great Keifer Sutherland and Community’s Gillian Jacobs but everyone takes a back seat as Pine is the driving force of the story and does a dutiful job of keeping it firmly on his soldiers. This isn’t a gamechanger by any standards but it does keep you engaged for the whole duration which is a lot to ask sometimes.
Compartment Number 6 – Conversational movies are a really hard sell to most mainstream audiences at best but when it is a foreign film with a whole bunch of subtitles, it can be worse. I’m a guy who cut his teeth on films like Singles and Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy so when a film like this comes out it feels like it is directly in my wheelhouse. The film follows a young Finnish woman who escapes an enigmatic love affair in Moscow by boarding a train to the Arctic port of Murmansk. Forced to share the long ride and a tiny sleeping car with a Russian miner, the unexpected encounter leads the occupants of Compartment number six to face the truth about their own yearning for human connection and the real feelings of loneliness that have clouded them for longer than they can remember. The fascinating thing about this film is the archetypes which it deals with because, in a focused European way, they seem cliched but this is only on the surface. Laura is an introvert yearning to be a bubbly and outgoing person which could cure her ennui while Ljoha is a brash Russian who replaces anger with vulnerability but also has a soft spot for love stories like Titanic. Most won’t have the patience to see the glow within this movie but those who can will feel totally rewarded.
Catch The Fair One – At a quick breakneck speed, this less than an hour and a half of intense redemption got me hooked right away and I knew absolutely nothing about it when I pressed play. It feels like I’m jumping into descriptors on this film early but that is to sell how out of nowhere great this movie was and how compelling its newcomer lead star is, Kali Reis, who also wrote the story. The story follows a former champion indigenous boxer battling her demons of addiction and family estrangement that embarks on the fight of her life when she goes in search of her missing sister, to bring her home to her mother and earn some sort of redemption. The grit of this movie shakes off in every scene as Reis’s portrayal feels real and the inexperience of her character drives the inexperience and, above all, the reckless abandon of her objective. The violence is explosive but the emotion is just as palpable leading to a third act that delivers an ending that will sit with you for more than a moment.
Steve’s Blu-Ray & DVD Geek-Out:
Poltergeist – This is one of the classic ghost stories on film, a movie released forty years ago this week that will always have a place in many people’s hearts but will also always be a cautionary tale in filmmaking as it has so many dark clouds over it. First off, there’s always the debate on whether Tobe Hooper directed this as he is credited or if producer Steven Spielberg did the heavy lifting and the second one is the use of real human skeletons which may have cursed not just this movie but the subsequent sequels to come. It’s really fascinating to dig into. The film follows the Freelings, a young family who is visited by ghosts in their home. At first, the ghosts appear friendly, moving objects around the house to the amusement of everyone but then they turn nasty and start to terrorize the family before they focus on the youngest daughter, one who has an astral connection with them. This movie oozes style and the effects were groundbreaking at the time. It also illustrates how different a tie it was when it was released as the film would have probably gotten an R-rating these days just for the bathroom mirror scene with Marty alone.
Con Air – If a Nicolas Cage movie is going to hit a milestone anniversary, you know I’m going to try and talk about it on The Shift this is arguably one of the audience favourites of his filmography and it definitely has to do with it being a high octane action thrill ride from start to finish. The cast is another heavyweight that keeps this on the top of the action pile with John Malkovich, John Cusack, Steve Buscemi and so many more with dialogue I still bring up all the time. For those who haven’t seen this, the adventure of an incarcerated Cameron Poe, it follows the newly-paroled ex-con and former U.S. Ranger as he is trapped in a prisoner-transport plane when the passengers seize control. Insane action sequences and the Bruckheimer flair make the almost two hours of this epic fly by. If you haven’t seen this or it’s been a while, no time is better than now to refresh your action muscle.
Harry And The Hendersons – This is a neat reach back here as this family classic is celebrating its thirty fifth anniversary this week and it was a big film in my house during my childhood and to see it pop up again just warms my heart. It was I think the first time I had seen anything with John Lithgow in it to my knowledge which is a big deal because he has since become one of my favourite character actors. For those who haven’t had the sweetheart privilege of seeing this gem, it follows the Hendersons, a family returning home from a family trip who hits something on the road in the forest. At first, they fear it was a man, but when they examine his “body”, they find he’s a “bigfoot”. They think he’s dead, so they decide to take him home. As you guessed, he isn’t dead. Far from being the ferocious monster they fear him to be, he’s a friendly giant. In their attempts to keep him a secret, they have to hide him from the authorities and a man who has made his goal in life to catch a “bigfoot”. This movie is so much fun and still plays so well with the big goofy bigfoot being a live practical effect, something that probably wouldn’t be in a big studio feature film these days. I love when family films were kind of bonkers like this one is and it was a lot of fun to relive it.
Ms. Marvel (Disney+) – After the heavy mythological, spiritual and emotional barrage that Moon Knight was the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues on a television path with something decidedly lighter, more fun and colourful and with a new young Canadian star in the lead. Yes, Canadian raised actress Iman Vellani gets the plum role of Kamala Khan in this six episode series and just judging from the first two episodes she has all the charm and charisma to handle it. The series is directly tied to the Captain Marvel movie and the upcoming sequel and follows the New Jersey raised Khan as she discovers the newly found polymorphous powers that infuse her through an old family heirloom. Those who have played the recent Avengers video game or are current with the Marvel comics know the Marvel fangirl that Kamala is so it’s really cool to see everything done so spot on, some of the first in the MCU storytelling to not seemingly have some sort of deviation. It could all go to hell in the next four episodes but I really liked the first two and can’t wait for more.
Under The Banner Of Heaven (Disney+) – It’s a big week television wise for Disney and the second piece comes with this Hulu produced miniseries that comes from true story writer Jon Krakauer and I will say that I was hooked almost immediately. I will admit that the lead star Andrew Garfield made this series a can’t miss for me but it’s the story at the heart that really kept me situated and engaged. Garfield plays a devout Mormon detective in Salt Lake City whose faith is tested as he investigates the brutal murder of a mother and her baby which is seemingly connected to an esteemed Utah family’s spiral into Latter Day Saints fundamentalism and their distrust in the government. The cast around him is deep with Hell Or High Water’s Gil Birmingham playing his partner and Billy Howle, Rory Culkin, Wyatt Russell and Sam Worthington playing members of the family in question. The series is brilliantly shot, delving into backstories of not just the family and Garfield’s faith but into the origins of the Mormon faith and the actions of their founder, Joseph Smith. This is not a faith based show that I can see but even if it is it seems to operate with a freeness that doesn’t try to drive home a message like a spike to the forehead.