Where The Crawdads Sing – There’s something about this new drama mystery that has me absolutely disinterested and I have to say it stems from the pretty lacklustre trailer that I saw in theatres for it. Maybe it is also the fact that this ad screened before a showing of Lightyear in front of a bunch of kids, including my own, and I thought it was a bit inappropriate. The film is based on the popular novel by Delia Owens and follows a woman who raised herself in the marshes of the deep South that becomes a suspect in the murder of a man she was once involved with. The selling point for me is that it stars the breakout leading actress of the recent dark comedy thriller Fresh, Daisy Edgar Jones. Still, beyond that, I’m really unfamiliar with director Olivia Newman’s work and not a lot else in the film really draws me in. Who knows, it may surprise me and it does feature a new song by Taylor Swift.
Paws Of Fury: The Legend Of Hank – Probably looking to be crushed under the box office weight of Gru and his Minions, I can’t say the outlook is great for this new animated feature that seems to be borrowing just a little bit from Kung Fu Panda but I’m willing to give it a chance. I probably hinge it all on the fact that Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World star and Canadian treasure Michael Cera is the voice of our titular character but that certainly doesn’t mean it will be good. Even so, Cera lends his vocal talents to Hank, a loveable dog with a head full of dreams about becoming a samurai, who sets off in search of his destiny, to be trained by a martial arts master named Jimbo. The cast around Cera is really solid, including the legendary and identifiable voices of Samuel L. Jackson, Mel Brooks, George Takei and Ricky Gervais but the animation definitely looks a bit subpar in comparison to any Pixar film for sure but even week against an Illumination Entertainment film like its current duelling foe, Minions: The Rise Of Gru. I have to say that for adults the jury is still out on this but I have no doubt that the kids will love it.
Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris – I love Lesley Manville and have for a very long time, an incredible character actress that steals the films that she’s in, usually as a supporting character. She almost stole Phantom Thread from Daniel Day-Lewis and more recently became the memorable adversary in the Kevin Costner and Diane Lane thriller Let Him Go but now she gets the very deserving leading role in this new comedy-drama. She plays the title character, a widowed cleaning lady in 1950s London who falls madly in love with a couture Dior dress and decides that she must have one of her own, sending her on a whirlwind trip to the heart of fashion in Paris, France. The film comes from writer and director Anthony Fabian who gives this film such a whimsical look with cinematography for Felix Wiedemann that just pops off the screen. This will definitely be a hit with the older generation and the Downton Abbey fans but I hope it goes broader and puts Manville in the minds of a mainstream audience.
Tammy’s Always Dying – Felicity Huffman seems to be persona non grata after her legal troubles and subsequent prison sentence that she’s since served but can she make a film that redeems her for moviegoers or, in this instance, regular movie streamers? Well, it’s in the hands of a Power Ranger and most notably the Pink Ranger as Amy Jo Johnson helms this in her second feature film and the advanced buzz behind it is solid making a really well-received filmmaker to date, a feat that is sometimes hard to pull off. The film features Canadian actress Anastasia Phillips as Catherine, a young woman forced to care for her embarrassing alcoholic mother, who decides to flee her life of poverty and appear on a sleazy talk show after her mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Phillips is an unproven lead for me but it’s Huffman’s stalwart performance that gives this film its drive, coupled with an outstanding supporting performance from Clark Johnson who led Amy’s last feature film. This is definitely an actor’s film and it relies on all of these performances to make up for the story’s shortcomings.
Don’t Make Me Go – When I saw this one pop up as coming soon to Prime Video, I geeked out a fair bit because I had the privilege of meeting filmmaker Hannah Marks in an ill-fated interview with showrunner and writer Max Landis who had her tag along to the interview. Needless to say, I was more interested in talking to her as the disastrous meeting with Landis continued, have loved the last two films she put out and am really excited to get my eyeballs on this one, especially because it stars JohnCho, fresh off the sadly cancelled Cowboy Bebop adaptation on Netflix. The film follows Cho as a single father who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and takes her on a road trip to find the mother who abandoned her years before while simultaneously trying to teach her everything she might need over the rest of her life. The heart of this movie just swells in the trailer and Cho has been in some of the best low-key indie films, with Koganada’s Columbus being a giant on that mountain of great work. The film was penned by This Is Us writer Vera Herbert so you know it will have a deep well of emotional depth to it and it was shot by Jaron Presant who did The Rock’s video game adaptation Rampage, not a big selling feature, but he also did the mockumentary horror Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon, making his inclusion a big win in my department.
Persuasion – Jane Austen is definitely not my strong suit or a preferred adaptation for me at all, yet I always find myself watching them for review and, aside from Joe Wright’s Pride And Prejudice or Whit Stillman’s Love And Friendship, none of them have managed to convert me to an Austenite. They always seem to have a draw with great casting and this new one, Last adapted fifteen years ago with Sally Hawkins, has Dakota Johnson in the leading role and I’m a newly minted fan of hers. The story is about Anne Elliot, a nonconforming woman with modern sensibilities who lives with her snobby family that is on the brink of bankruptcy. When Fredrick Wentworth, the dashing man she once sent away, crashes back into her life, she must choose between putting the past behind her or listening to her heart when it comes to second chances. Well, the results are not good for this film despite a great performance from Dakota and, for me, a lot of it is due to the fatigue of this kind of Austen story. The film seems like a mish-mash of actual lines from the novels and a modernizing and pandering that doesn’t cohese at all. It all comes across as a drab and dry romantic comedy that brings nothing new to the table besides a pretty face.
Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey – I feel like I’ve seen so many documentaries on legendary and dark Canadian crooner Leonard Cohen but to be honest I’ve never really been bored in them because his life and influence is so fascinating. I also think it is because I’m getting older that I can relate more to his music, his headspace and his plight but there is a certain quality to seeing Cohen with such joy as he performs the songs if front of an audience and ending each one with a sly smile that transcends age and love for the genre. This documentary is more focused than all of its predecessors as it explores the life of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen as seen through the prism of his internationally renowned hymn, Hallelujah. It digs into all of the artists that have covered it since, like Brandi Carlile, U2’s Bono, Eric Church and even John Cale and Rufus Wainwright who had duelling versions of the song, vying to be in the Dreamworks animated film Shrek in a pivotal sequence. What really got me was the focus on Jeff Buckley’s version which appeared on his one and only album Grace and catapulted the artist to the top of the charts after his tragic drowning in the Mississippi River. I really love a good music documentary but more than that I love a deeply human story and this one is about connection through writers that transcends multiple decades and genres and explores the same voice in different filters. There is no denying Hallelujah’s effect on pop culture and music as even my ten-year-old daughter knows the song.
The Beatles: Get Back – Master filmmaker Peter Jackson is known for a plethora of reasons in the film world. At first, he was an originator in schlock horror, making splatter films in New Zealand for years. Then he was the Tolkein guy, adapting both the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and The Hobbit and also did a great job of King Kong in my opinion. Finally, he pivoted to documentary filmmaking with a hell of a World War I film called They Shall Not Grow Old. Now he’s made a Beatles fan like me overjoyed with this three-part docu-series that follows the Fab Four as they regroup to record and rehearse fourteen new songs that would become the album Let It Be and prepare for their unforgettable rooftop concert at London’s Savile Row, their first live performance in two years. As a person that holds this group so close to his heart, as does the rest of my family, this series is so special and it’s jaw-dropping to see this footage restored to look like it was recorded yesterday. I’m grateful to Jackson and his team and I feel like other Beatles fans will be as well.
Montana Story – A generational talent like young actress Haley Lu Richardson is a one-of-a-kind talent and while other actresses of her generation are getting their well-deserved flowers, like Florence Pugh, Hailee Steinfeld and more, she hasn’t risen to that level quite yet. Again and again, turning in performance after performance like in Koganada’s Columbus, which I mentioned earlier, Edge Of Seventeen and, recently, the hot button film Unpregnant, she is consistently underrated and this new drama falls into that category too. Co-starring It’s Owen Teague, the story follows two estranged siblings who return home to the sprawling ranch they once knew and loved, in the process confronting a deep and bitter family legacy against a mythic and majestic American backdrop. I think it’s my love for Yellowstone that has stoked my thirst for ranch set dramas but even still, this movie has a great brooding script that leaps off the screen thanks to two powerful performances. I’m surprised that the word of mouth on this film isn’t louder as it is one of the better films I’ve seen this year.
The Twin – Shudder releases are generally a mixed bag of low-budget, foreign releases and classic revamps but this one hits the higher profile because it stars Teresa Palmer, who is the lead star in a Prime Video and Shudder co-produced show, A Discovery Of Witches. Well, Tez is heading back to a supernatural-infused story again but this one plays into family lineage in a decidedly creepier way. This film opens during the aftermath of a tragic accident that claimed the life of one of their twins, with parents Rachel and Anthony relocating to the other side of the world with their surviving son. What begins as a time of healing in the quiet Scandinavian countryside soon takes an ominous turn when Rachel begins to unravel the torturous truth about her son and confronts the malicious forces that are trying to take hold of him. The initial reviews on this film are really strong with a great sense of mystery and atmosphere enveloping it to make it an edge-of-your-seat nailbiter. There’s something about emotional fol horror that always lands with me and this film seems to have it written all over.
Rugrats: Season 1 Volume 1 – This one made me really happy to receive because I had already been given the complete series of the original series, one that I grew up watching for sure, and makes my collection of nostalgia and newly rebooted memories complete. Well, not totally compiled as I am missing the series All Grown Up from 2003 until 2008 but I’m not going to let that harsh my Nickelodeon buzz because there is a lot of good stuff here. This new reboot fleshes the animation out a lot more with a 3D computer-generated animation but all of the goodness of Tommy, Chuckie, and the Rugrats crew is still present with the best o the best in the voice cast including Bart Simspon herself, Nancy Cartwright, E.G Daily from the Powerpuff Girls and, on of the all-time greats, Inspector Gadget’s Cree Summer. This was a fun watch for an adult reminiscing about his past and watching the animation of a group of imaginative toddlers as well as a really cool thing to get the younger kids interested in. This is my conduit to being able to show the original series to my daughter. Can’t wait.
Star Trek Lower Decks: Season 2 – The second season of the animated and comedic version of Star Trek is now available to own and it comes at the perfect time as lead voice actor Jack Quaid is riding the tidal wave of the third season of the Prime Video series The Boys and anything he touches seems to be gold at the moment. I’m looking directly at my copy of Scream from this year as I say that. For those uninitiated into the “Final Space” -ing of Star Trek that this show is, the series is about the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships, the U.S.S. Cerritos, following them as they keep up with their duties, often while the ship is being rocked by a multitude of sci-fi anomalies. The supporting cast with Quaidis great, including Jerry O’Connell, Space Force’s Tawny Newsome, Loki’s Eugene Cordero and fellow podcaster Paul Scheer, and I’ve really enjoyed my dive through the series and I’m looking forward to the forthcoming season three. It lacks a little of the consistency of the heavyweights like South Park but it is still a solid show with some great Trek references always.
Batwoman: Season 3 – I’d been waiting a long time for a live-action onscreen version of Kate Kane aka Batwoman to be made and finally we got it and I thought the casting of Ruby Rose is kind of incredible as she already invoked many of the character traits right out the door. Then, only a year later, Rose departed the role and left the producers scrambling for their unpredicted new direction and for rightful reasons according to everything that Rosepostedon her Instagram. For those not in the know, Kane was inspired by Batman to use her resources to fight crime in Gotham as well under the moniker of Batwoman, but is a woman of Jewish descent and is also a lesbian, something that was a hard pill to swallow for the mainstream. Now the new actress that has stepped in is Javicia Leslie, star of the cancelled series God Friended Me, as Ryan Wilder who steps into the cowl in Kate’s absence. With all of the problems I outlined at the start, it’s a wonder that this show was only shown the cancellation door at the end of this season because the bad blood, bad press and producer overreaches are all so public now. Hopefully, we can see this character in a better way down the line but this one felt doomed very quickly.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:
Monty Python: Not The Messiah – When I saw this blu-ray for cheap I just had to snap it up in my attempt to have everything Monty Python related but I will give a warning straight away before this entry as it is the Python crew but without John Cleese. To be fair though, this was more of an Eric Idle side project that Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones jumped on the ride for and it all has to do with the success of Spamalot, a musical that rose from the bones of Monty Python And The Holy Grail. To be to the point, what this is is a comic oratorio inspired by Life of Brian this time around and filmed at its only European performance at the Royal Albert Hall in October 2009 to celebrate forty years of Monty Python. No touring, no reproductions or recreations, just one night only, one and done. Idle is such a gifted songwriter and it is all on display here and to see the charm and wit of Palin, the added oomph of Jones, may he rest in peace, and the devilish smile and demeanour of Gilliam, just makes this purchase all the more necessary in my opinion. I love it.
Giant 4K – When the name James Dean gets brought up it is usually just in praise of his performance in Rebel Without A Cause and because of that everything else gets overshadowed, like this western from 1956 that featured him alongside the Hollywood power couple of Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. You would think it would have had more clout to it as well generationally as legendary director George Stevens, the man behind Shane and A Place In The Sun just to name a couple, won his second Academy Award for the film. The film is a sprawling epic covering the life of a Texas cattle rancher and his family and associates, an ambitious Texas-style scale saga that traces the rising and falling fortunes of two generations of Texans. It is rumoured that while making this film Rock Hudson and James Dean did not get along, although later rumours would suggest that Dean had rejected a pass from Hudson, with most sources reporting that each had little respect for the other’s approach to acting, and Hudson resented what he considered Dean’s unprofessional behaviour, a trait that would follow Dean to his death which happened late in production. It should be noted that none of the issues involved Taylor, who had a notoriety for being difficult over her career but I really wonder through what kind of a lens these stories were told using.
Tuca & Bertie: Season 3 (Adult Swim) – There’s not much I can preface this little blurb with except the disclaimer being that this show is incredibly weird and comes from the mind of a main writer on Bojack Horseman but definitely isn’t the same. That said, if you hated Bojack or didn’t get far enough into that series to see the diamonds lodged in its writing then this one is definitely not for you. Featuring the voices of Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong, the show is simply about a free-spirited toucan named Tuca and a self-doubting song thrush named Bertie who are best friends and birds who guide each other through life’s ups and downs, with Bertie being a little more pragmatic but a push over and Tuca being problematically self-centred. With both of the previous seasons already streaming on Netflix to give you a taste of what it’s all about, this show may be a hard sell as it really likes to go off on tangents quite a lot but I am enamoured with the bold chances it seems to love taking. If you’re a fan of either of these ladies, who both have so many great comedy specials, I recommend this to you and you only.
South Park: The Streaming Wars Part 2 (Paramount+) – With the reach of Paramount+ the minds behind South Park, notably Trey Parker and his muse Matt Stone, were able to rework a deal that put them as an exclusive on the streaming service and without the vague censorship of Comedy Central. Being over twenty seasons deep in the series, the enthusiasm must wane in making episodic seasons so they signed a multi-movie deal which gives them the ability to make these epic stories as they did with the Pandemic Special, the Vaccination Special, the two After COVID movies and the first part of this Streaming Wars story. The first part had Cartman locking horns with his mom in a battle of wills, something I’m sure she’s used to over the years, while an epic conflict unfolds and threatens South Park’s very existence. This second film picks up in the aftermath of that conflict, resulting in a catastrophic drought that has taken over the Colorado town. Look, if you haven’t been sold on this show from when it came out in the late nineties, then nothing I say here will get you on board but I know there are many out there that will stream this immediately which is ironic.
The Rehearsal (Crave) – Canadian comedian Nathan Fielder is a national treasure who hasn’t totally hit the big time but I feel if people just gave his show Nathan For You a chance, he would be a household name. Well, it’s been a while since that “man on the street” style Comedy Central show and now HBO has wisened up to his genius because they’ve given him the platform for this new also unscripted scripted series. As in his other show, Nathan likes to give back and this explores the lengths he will go to reduce the uncertainties of everyday life. With a construction crew, a legion of actors, and seemingly unlimited resources, Fielder allows ordinary people to prepare for life’s biggest moments by “rehearsing” them in carefully crafted simulations of his own design. Hysterically funny and always cringe-inducing with his irreverence, Fielder has another bonafide hit on his hands and I really hope to see more because if this is a one-and-done show, I will be so disappointed. I say it again, this dude is a national treasure.
What We Do In The Shadows: Season 4 (FX) – Following up yet another fantastic season that capitalizes again and again on great story foundations and characters, we have been not so patiently waiting for the return of our favourite vampire roommates. Created by the star of the original film, Jemaine Clement, this show follows a different cast than people who have only seen the movie are used to, led by the brilliant Kayvon Novak and one of my favourite current British comedic actors Matt Berry. The story simply follows three vampires and their night lives living on Staten Island, their home for a century in, by far, one of the most clever new comedies on television and their return is so welcome at this depressing end of the summer season that has us all feeling that step into autumn ennui. The stand-out always for me is Colin, a seemingly human “Daywalker” that is an “energy vampire” something so hilariously relatable and I can’t get enough of it. This isn’t to undersell anyone else in this show as it is one of the best cast comedies on television today.
Resident Evil (Netflix) – The road has been rocky for everything Resident Evil as the Milla Jovovich series, for however campy and entertaining it always felt like a sci-fi riff that never understood the game and while Welcome To Raccoon City got everything right in look, atmosphere and casting it failed in everything else that makes a movie work. For this reason, I headed into this series adaptation of the popular video game series with a serious chip on my shoulder. The series operated as its own thing and takes place nearly three decades after the discovery of the T-virus and after an outbreak reveals the Umbrella Corporation’s dark secrets. Following the daughter of company man Albert Wesker, we are taken through her story of survival in a barren wasteland overrun by zombies and also back to the origins of Earth’s final days through flashbacks. The Wire and John Wick’s Lance Reddick plays Wesker and does it with that amazing gravitas he brings to all of his roles and, to my amazement, I’m really loving this series and I hope that it gets an additional season. No spoilers but there is room for it to happen.