Nope – I know I generally say these things week to week but this is one of my most anticipated films of 2022, the return of Jordan Peele with his third feature film and one that had been very secretive with its story up until the last few weeks. The trailer that first dropped was so ambiguous but intriguing, giving me all sorts of room to speculate on what kind of terror Jordan was delivering this time. Even if you look up a synopsis anywhere, the write-ups are all so secretive as well only saying that the film follows caretakers at a California black-owned horse ranch who encounter a mysterious force that affects human and animal behaviour. My theories on the title seem to be validated as I think it’s an anacronym for Not Of Planet Earth because there are clearly flying saucers in the new ad but beyond that, Peeleis an incredible filmmaker, he reteams with Get Out actor and Academy Award winner Daniel Kaluuya and has a solid cast around him with Keke Palmer, Steven Yuen and veteran Michael Wincott. Needless to say, I’m so damn excited for this movie.
The Gray Man – Captain America is back under the direction of his many-time directors Anthony and Joe Russo but this time he’s playing the bad guy and Ryan Gosling gets the protagonist role in this highly expensive-looking Netflix action thriller epic. Lots of inflammatory statements are being made about the war between theaters and streaming by the filmmakers but I’m going to skirt that just to talk about the anticipation for the film itself which looks like the kind of action flicks that I’ve loved for decades. The film follows Sierra Six, the CIA’s most skilled operative whose true identity is known to none who accidentally uncovers dark agency secrets leading a psychopathic former colleague to put a bounty on his head which sets off a global manhunt by international assassins. I know people are steaming mad about the bloated budget of a seemingly brainless action film but these are the movies that got me into theaters big time and, unfortunately in my small market town of Penticton, I have to rely on my own home theater to get my bombastic experience but I am really looking forward to it.
This Is GWAR – One of the coolest heavy metal acts in the last four decades finally gets their flowers with this biopic documentary and the only thing that upsets me about it is that original creator, singer and banner frontman Oederus Orungus or Dave Brockie was not alive to see the film come together. Having seen GWAR live and been bathed in the blood and viscera of their stage show, I will say that there is no other show like it so I’m happy to see a documentary that illustrates the process of that and maybe give some insight to the people who have heard of the insanity of their performances but never seen it first hand. The film is a deep dive into the powerful story of the most iconic heavy metal, art collective and monster band in the universe, as told by the humans who have fought to keep it alive for over thirty years, even through the shocking and tragic death of the mind behind it all. The effect the band has had on pop culture, horror fans and even popular movies like Empire Records is all so fascinating to re-immerse myself in and I loved every second of it. To see Ethan Embry talk about it all these years later is really cool as well.
The Day The Music Died: The Story Of Don McLean’s American Pie – We aren’t done with the music documentaries this week as Paramount+ is throwing a new one into the ring and it seems fascinating and based around an iconic piece of music because I feel, no matter what age you are, you know the song American Pie. The song held the record for almost 50 years for being the longest song to reach number one before Taylor Swift’s All To Well recently beat that, has been covered famously by Madonna and John Mayer and was a plot point feature in the recent films Black Widow and Finch. The song seems to be forever relevant and much like the Lenord Cohen Documentary Hallelujah did last week, this film looks at the career of singer and songwriter Don McLean’s career through the prism of his most lasting hit and magnum opus. I think the song’s basis, the “day music died”, referring to the death of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper in a tragic plane crash, is a fascinating event to extrapolate from and I think it kind of gets lost a bit in the enjoyment of the song for generations. To hear it all from MacLean’s point of view has me very intrigued.
Fire Of Love – I had no idea what I was getting into when I put my screener on for this new documentary, probably something dry when I saw the logo for National Geographic pop up on the screen. I definitely wasn’t prepared for the love story of two odd and pretty opposite ducks who just happen to share the same passion for magma bubbling under the earth and then exploding all over the world, a long metaphor for volcanoes which also plays into their little romance brilliantly. Narrated by actress and filmmaker Miranda July, this is the story of intrepid scientists and lovers Katia and Maurice Krafft who died in a volcanic explosion doing the very thing that brought them together: unravelling the mysteries of volcanoes by capturing the most explosive imagery ever recorded. Using all of their hours and hours of footage from expeditions around the world, the film paints a vivid portrait of a pragmatic and mousy individual in Katia and a boisterous and witty showman in Maurice which made quite a compelling coupling that the French media adored. With mesmerizing shots of lava flows, violent geysers and exploding volcanos, I was so hooked into the imagery and the human connection of it all felt secondary until I really started to like these two. The tragic end of that is exactly that and I definitely dreaded it once I got halfway.
The Bad Guys – Based on a series of best-selling kids’ books, I knew nothing about this new Dreamworks animated movie but my daughter seems to know everything so when it comes to the subject of this new film I will just defer to being a fan of the voice casting in this. Led by an always charming Sam Rockwell, this film also has Marc Maron, Awkwafina, Richard Ayoade, Craig Robinson, Anthony Ramos, Zazie Beetz and many more, which would make a great adult comedy so why wouldn’t that work in a kid’s flick? The story follows notorious criminals Mr. Wolf, Mr. Snake, Mr. Piranha, Mr. Shark and Ms. Tarantula who are finally caught after a lifetime of legendary heists. To avoid a prison sentence, the animal outlaws must pull off their most challenging con yet, becoming model citizens. Under the tutelage of their mentor, Professor Marmalade, the dubious gang sets out to fool the world that they’re turning good. The animation style looks very cool and original, playing on a noir style almost with a dynamic shading to it which now looks confusing as I’m writing this but it really gives it a unique style. I’m sure that Dreamworks is hoping that this strikes with the reader fan base and, in a post-pandemic release, did better than expected so I think it’s entirely possible that we could see more adventures and heists with this crew.
The Northman – Following his incredible films the VVitch and The Lighthouse, this new feature film from writer and director Robert Eggers was easily one of my most anticipated films of 2022. The atmosphere and the approach to the subject matter are always one of a kind from Eggers and the simple fact that he is tackling the Viking era with this film and a cast that is familiar to him and some outstanding new additions were enough to get my anticipation to a fever pitch. The story follows Prince Amleth, played by Alexander Skarsgaard, who is on the verge of becoming a man when his father is brutally murdered by his uncle, who kidnaps the boy’s mother. Two decades later, Amleth is now a Viking who’s on a mission to save his mother, kill his uncle and avenge his father in a viscerally violent art film that commands with the styling of the time period but also operates with an underlying tone of an eighties revenge action flick. With a cast around Skarsgard featuring Anya Taylor Joy, Willem Dafoe, Ethan Hawke, Claes Bang and even Bjork, this is one hell of an experience that is viscerally violent, beautifully shot throughout and gives Skarsgard infinite room for character development. I was also so deeply fascinated with the spiritual core to the story that beats along with it like a lifeline headed to an abrupt end. This one is a treasured Blu-ray release that I will watch over and over again.
The Bob’s Burgers Movie – It’s been fifteen years since The Simpsons made their one and only big leap onto the big screen for a movie I adored but, albeit less successful in comparison but just as good if not better, in my opinion, Bob’s Burgers made their silver screen debut a lot quicker. This is exactly what all the fans have been waiting for, featuring the voices of stalwart voice-over actors H. Jon Benjamin, Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal, Dan Mintz and John Roberts. The story has the Belchers trying to save the restaurant from closing as a sinkhole forms in front of it, unearthing a murdered carny in the process. The kids try to solve the mystery which puts the owner of their neighborhood, Calvin Fishoeder behind bars, an act that could save their family’s restaurant. To many non-fans, this movie might come off as a big glossy version of a television episode but as a fan, I loved that it opened up the world of the Belchers and their neighborhood in a bigger way than the series ever could and it also is able to subvert itself to be a fun whodunnit along the way. Many may feel that this is not a movie for them but if you love side-splitting laughs, why would you pass on this one?
Drive My Car -With Academy Awards nominations, which notched a win for Best Foreign, and critical acclaim from so many renowned film reviewers worldwide, the bar was set pretty high for this Japanese drama. This is no flinching matter for writer and director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, who not only netted the Best Foreign Oscar award but the Best Adapted Screenplay nomination as well, which puts him in the arena against favourites like Jane Campion, Denis Villeneuve and Maggie Gyllenhaal but I don’t think he’s worried because his film is that good. The story follows Yusuke Kafuku, a renowned stage actor and director, who receives an offer to direct a production of Uncle Vanya at a theatre festival in Hiroshima just shortly after the tragic passing of his wife. There, he meets Misaki Watari, a taciturn young woman assigned by the festival to chauffeur him in his beloved red Saab 900. As the production’s premiere approaches, tensions mount among the cast and crew, not least between Yusuke and Koshi Takatsuki, a handsome TV star who shares an unwelcome connection with Yusuke’s late wife. Forced to confront painful truths raised from his past, Yusuke begins, with the help of his driver, to face the haunting mysteries his wife left behind. This film is made with such rich performances and a beautiful scope that reminded me of the serene qualities of a Hikaru Korreda film, a dramatic director who prefers stories about quiet solitude. I don’t want to give too much of this movie away but it is a real crowd-pleaser that will be remembered long afterwards and goes down avenues of grief and processing it through art.
Dual – With just three films under his belt now, Riley Stearns has risen to be one of my favorite filmmakers and a creative mind I follow on social media for nuggets about what he’s going to tackle next. He’s made subversive and intriguing stories about many sociological issues like religious and cult indoctrination in his thriller Faults, toxic masculinity in his dark comedy The Art Of Self Defense and now takes on a whole new set of issues in a movie he made in the midst of the COVID lockdown. The film stars Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Karen Gillan as a woman who opts for a cloning procedure after she receives a terminal diagnosis but when she recovers her attempts to have her clone decommissioned fail, leading to a court-mandated duel to the death. The concept of this film is incredible and opens with a duel between a man and his clone that totally sets the tone. The film is a bit of a character-building slow burn but once the gears lock in, you are in for one hell of a ride and a biting dialogue that made me chuckle darkly multiple times.
Minamata – Now that the whole Amber Heard and Johnny Depp trial is over, the fallout has occurred, Depp has moved on to record an album and Heard is… well.. we don’t know but we can start to move on, right? I hope we can because I feel like this movie definitely needs people to see it and Johnny is a big reason why I enjoyed it. Based on a true story, Depp plays war photographer W. Eugene Smith who travels back to Japan, a company that already put him into a life-ruining bender from his experiences, where he documents the devastating effect of mercury poisoning in coastal communities. This movie is very much a people versus the establishment type of story and draws you in so deeply with the injustices forced upon the people in the surrounding areas and their families for generations to come. Beautifully shot at all times, the story is so deeply compelling and, although extremely cantankerous for a good portion of the film, Depp gives Smith a really interesting depth that you want to see through. I was totally surprised and blown away by this film.
Reno 911! The Hunt For QAnon – Sometimes you need a vapid, mostly improved and dumb comedy to give you some good belly laughs and Reno 911 has been a dependable go-to for that for me since 2003. The cast is always great, led by creator and star Thomas Lennon’s Lieutenant Jim Dangle and the supporting cast of co-creator Robert Ben Garant, Cedric Yarbrough, Niecy Nash, Carlos Alazaqui, Mary Birdsong, Kerry Kenney and Wendi McLendon-Covey. She has since become a pretty big star since the show’s start. This full-length movie follows the deputies of the Reno Sheriff’s Department as they hunt for Q, the one behind all the QAnon conspiracies and infiltrate a QAnon convention booked on a not-so-luxury cruise at sea. I know this movie is not going to be a lot of people’s thing so the litmus test is if you enjoyed the run of the series as well as the first feature-length film, Reno 911!: Miami then I can’t see you not enjoying this. It’s kind of like the South Park Paramount+ movies in keeping consistent in what you saw before it. I adore these guys and hope they keep making more because the possibilities are kind of endless.
Good Burger – It may be a totally generational thing but Kenan and Kel’s leap to the big screen in this goofy little Nickelodeon comedy from 1997 hit cult status somewhere in the last fifteen years and, thanks to Twitter, I see it brought up very often. It’s ridiculous and slapstick fueled but it has some really bold and funny performances from our lead actors, Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell and I’d have to say that it probably served as a pretty good Saturday Night Live audition tape as well. The story follows a dim-witted teenager and his new coworker trying to save the old burger joint they work for from failing after the opening of a brand new burger restaurant across the street, which’s planning to put them out of business. For me, I remember this film fondly as the first time I ever saw Linda Cardellini, pre Freaks And Geeks, but upon receiving this glorious steelbook anniversary edition, I threw it on and found myself laughing harder than I did the first time I saw it. Did the aging of it help my enjoyment? Possibly but it might be me getting over my jaded teenage years and getting out of my own way to enjoy something new. Now I’m with that age group that says this film is an absolute classic.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:
Raya And The Last Dragon – I recently picked this one up on blu-ray at Walmart for fifteen dollars for the express purpose of geeking out on it here so let’s run that old review back. This movie was released at a time when I definitely had been missing the movie theatres and sadly this film would have played beautifully on that silver giant screen. Originally slated to arrive in theatres as a pre-Christmas, November release, this dazzling Disney film follows a lone warrior named Raya whose mission is to track down the last dragon to finally stop the Druun, sinister monsters that turns all life to stone and have broken apart humanity into different tribes who hide to keep their pieces of an ancient dragon artifact that keeps the enemy at bay. The only chance for a future lies in the unification of all these pieces that will restore the balance of the world. Featuring an all Asian cast including Star Wars star Kelly Marie Tran and the hilarious Awkwafina, I loved every moment of this film and so did my family, a breath of fresh air in the Disney animated films that fell like another piece in their iconic original stories that could stand shoulder to shoulder with movies like Aladdin and The Lion King.
Primal: Season 2 (Adult Swim) – One of the greatest creators in the game, Genndy Tartokovsky is back with the second season of another incredible epic that he can put alongside Samurai Jack and beam with pride. A decidedly violent tale, this series follows a caveman at the dawn of evolution as he forms an unlikely friendship with an almost extinct dinosaur. Again, without a single word of dialogue, the series is a painting come to life, relying solely on music and graphic imagery to tell the story of two unlikely allies as they navigate through a treacherous world and, after bonding over unfortunate tragedies, they seem to become each other’s only hope of survival against a common enemy. The show is mind-meltingly beautiful in a way that Tartokovsky has the utmost command over and The emotional resonance of even the first episode had me bursting into tears with how heavily it was handled and the fact that it relies on just visuals without any dialogue. I think he has released yet another masterpiece that will be celebrated for years to come, just like the legend of Samurai Jack and each episode resonates with me so much. I can’t wait for these new episodes.