Bros – With all of the big Hollywood romantic comedies always being a heterosexual love affair, it’s really refreshing to see this new big Universal Pictures-backed film from producer Judd Apatow and they’ve picked the perfect person to lead it in Billy Eichner. The long-time Billy In The Street host who has found viral fame through Funny Or Die on Youtube and shared constantly on social media, he brings his comedy stylings, minus the erratic shouting, into the pantheon of filmmaking that had given star lifts to Seth Rogen, Amy Schumer and Pete Davidson. The film follows Eichner as a serial dating gay man with a fear of commitment who finds what he believes is the perfect partner for him but he also has the same commitment phobia that keeps him from moving to the next step. The two decide to cast their fears to the wind and adventure in a serious relationship together, complete with all the pitfalls that follow. The film co-stars Luke MacFarlane, a favourite of mine from back in his television days on Brothers & Sisters so there is a lot going for this movie because I adore Eichner too so much. The great news is the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival with fantastic reviews so I think we may have a hit on our hands here.
Smile – Seeing the trailer over and over again before all of the spooky films I have gone to over the last three months, I have to say that they really didn’t do anything for me. Sure, there is a lot of creep factor to it with the unsettling smiles that the victims or infected people exhibit are effective but it all sort of came off to me as a J-horror style thriller like The Ring or The Grudge. The film stars Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick’s daughter Sosie Bacon as psychiatrist Dr. Rose Cotter who starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can’t explain after witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient. Rose must confront her troubling past in order to survive and escape becoming the latest victim in a terrifying phenomenon. As the film got closer to release, praise started to be heaped on the film by horror critics everywhere, stating the writer and director Parker Finn’s debut film is original, deeply disturbing and will leave a mark on you for days after. All of this is great hype to a genre fan like me and I honestly can’t wait to take this in for myself. It might even make me smile during it.
Hocus Pocus 2 – Almost thirty years after the Sanderson sisters and their hijinx delighted audiences and became many young girls go to movie at Halloween, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy are back to slip into these fun roles and it still fits them like a snug little glove. I have to say that there was worry that this long anticipated and gestated sequel was going to be a brazen cash grab but that notion quickly dissipates. This new story finds three teen girls who accidentally bring back the Sanderson Sisters to modern-day Salem and must figure out how to stop the child-hungry witches from wreaking havoc on the world. With all the great physicality that these three bring back to these characters, it’s a marvel to think that Midler is seventy-six years old but still looks like she can slip in and out of a character she only did once, albeit perfectly. I will also go on record saying that Sarah Sanderson is Parker’s greatest character in her career and the fun she has with it is absolutely palpable. I must close by mentioning that Doug Jones returns as well for another portrait of the mummified Billy Butcherson and it is still as great as always. I’m so happy that this movie was so enjoyable because it keeps my faith in these Disney+ productions alive.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever – My introduction to director Peter Farrelly was through the work that he and his brother Bobby did bringing us unforgettable comedies like Dumb And Dumber, There’s Something About Mary and Kingpin but Green Book came along and won him an Academy Award and now he is kind of in a different ballpark. For his new film, it seems to skew to both eras in his filmmaking career as it is, essentially, a film about boys being boys and a real story rooted in real history. Starring Zac Efron as Chickie Donohue, a guy just looking to support his friends deployed across the globe in the midst of the Vietnam War. His idea is to do something drastic, to travel to the frontline by himself to bring the soldiers a little piece of home, their favourite can of American beer. However, what started as a well-meaning journey quickly turns into the adventure of a lifetime as Chickie confronts the reality of this controversial war and his reunions with his childhood buddies thrust him into the complexities and responsibilities of adulthood. In supporting roles, Efron is in good company with Russell Crowe and Bill Murray popping up here and there but it’s a great opportunity to have the actor round out his resume more with a good character story which is fantastic because I think he has done some excellent work in the last few years. The critics are really behind this one but I think the general audience might pick up it.
The Good House – The name of the game with this new comedy-drama is definitely likable because how can you not be intrigued by a film that has Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver leading it? Beyond that, it also has the husband and wife team of Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky writing and directing it, the same people who did the loveable Infinitely Polar Bear. The film follows Weaver as New England realtor Hildy Good whose life begins to unravel when she hooks up with an old flame of hers from New York. Becoming dangerously entwined in his reckless behaviour and igniting long-buried emotions and family secrets, including being a descendant of the Salem witches, Hildy is propelled toward a reckoning with the one person she’s been avoiding for decades, herself. From the initial reviews I’m finding, the standout here is Sigourney who brings that charm and gravitas that has made her a star for decades now and I definitely will always have a spot in my heart for her, an original crush since I first saw Ghostbusters and was deepened when I finally got to see Alien and Aliens. This is definitely a character movie at its core and who better to do it than her and the great Kevin Kline?
Dead For A Dollar – Westerns in modern Hollywood have gotten a rough ride recently because most of the time they aren’t backed by a big studio, the money in production seems fleeting and fewer and fewer of them are getting released as the days go by. This one had promise all over it as it features Christoph Waltz in his second western behind Django Unchained, one of the greatest actors ever in Willem Dafoe and is directed by Walter Hill, the man who did 48 Hrs, Another 48 Hrs, The Warriors and so many more. Good pedigree there. The story is really basic western 101, following a famed bounty hunter who runs into his sworn enemy, a professional gambler and outlaw that he had sent to prison years before while trying to collect the reward of a kidnapped woman from her scheming husband. As basic as the plot is, the production of the film is even more frustratingly basic with terrible editing and cinematography that lacks any imagination at all. Even if style could have saved the film, the script never would hold any sort of dramatic water no matter what actor you have delivering it and the film just kind of coasts by without anything memorable. At almost eighty years old, it was more of an indication of the cinema world leaving old Walter behind and that he should more think about just being a producer on things or just retiring altogether.
Thor: Love And Thunder – After the hilarious work that writer, director and co-star Taika Waititi did with the last Thor movie Ragnarok, I was really excited to see the next installment and get more of the zaniest and sillier side of the Marvel Universe, to the chagrin of many out there. The perfect addition to the Thor character was Taika’s silly approach to it which gave the God Of Thunder a douche bro vulnerability that Chris Hemsworth plays so well. This new film finds Thor in his retirement which is quickly ended when a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher emerges and seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie, Korg and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster, who, to Thor’s surprise, inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they embark upon a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late. The comedy is obviously evident, being a Waititi joint, but with that comes the mind-bending gorgeous cinematography as well as we see colourful new worlds, bold new characters and a little tease of the direction of where the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going afterwards. having watched this film a few times now, my love for it and its predecessor or even more present and I kind of resent all the haters who get gleeful about their hatred of this new direction. Things like this are why we can’t have nice things.
Sound Of Metal – Riz Ahmed has astounded me multiple times with his talent, most recently with his role as a British Pakistani rapper in the drama Mogul Mowgli which played at a virtual version of the Vancouver International Film Festival during the pandemic and definitely this one, another deep character piece that now deservedly earned its place in the Criterion Collection. In this film, he plays a heavy-metal drummer and former heroin addict whose life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing. Believing that there can be a solution, he fixates on an experimental but expensive procedure to “cure” his hearing loss in a sort of desperate hope. This is an impactful film about the state of denial and desperation a person must feel when they lose something that we take for granted, really. Director and writer Darius Marder beautifully creates an experience that seems to transcend the sensory experience and put you right into Ahmed’s character’s plight in such an incredible way. It’s truly stellar.
The Munsters – If you talked to me in the mid to late 2000s you probably would have found a guy pretty susceptible and excited for rock star and grittily technicolour horror filmmaker Rob Zombie taking on a classic like The Munsters. His career in the genre started out so well, with House Of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects, his Halloween reimagining and even Lords Of Salem. That said, his films like 3 From Hell and 31 left a lot to be desired so this news of a classic spooky family reboot gave me a slight cringe. The story gives this television landmark group a rebooting, telling the story of how Herman came to be, how he met Lily and the start of their romance, years before Eddie was even born and even before they made the move from Transylvania to Hollywood. The cast is filled with Zombie’s usual cast, headed up by his wife Sheri Moon as Lily, Jeff Daniel Phillips as Herman, Daniel Roebuck as The Count and Richard Brake as the mad scientist who gets the ball rolling. The vision is there, and the colours pop off the screen but everything feels so dreadfully undercooked, as is the problem with all of his later work. It all serves to totally bum me out as a fan as I just want a return to that fresh Rob Zombie we got in the beginning but it all feels like a saturation of his lesser qualities.
Mean Girls – One of the greatest high school teen comedies of the 2000s gets its blu-ray dues this week as the Plastics are now in steelbook and you can relive this fantastic Tina Fey-written comedy over and over again. Really, this is an appreciation post of a young Lindey Lohan who had phenomenal comedic timing before the fame and excess shoved her out of Hollywood, along with her terrible family. It kind of reminds me of how Amanda Bynes was amazing too. For those who have never seen this brilliant piece of comedy, Lohan plays Cady Heron who is an immediate hit with The Plastics, the A-list girl clique at her new school, until she makes the mistake of falling for Aaron Samuels, the ex-boyfriend of alpha Plastic Regina George. In a totally relatable story of class statuses facing off, stars were made beyond Lohan as Canadian actress Rachel McAdams got his first spotlight to shine as well as Amanda Seyfried in a breakout role. I seem to have a penchant for high school comedies and as crazy as it sounds, I reiterate that this is one of the best.
The War Of The Worlds/When Worlds Collide 4K – Classic science fiction gets its chance to shine in the highest of definitions as Paramount has paired these two in a brand new edition, remastered in 4K. Released in 1953 and 1951 respectively, these films dazzled audiences in the theatres and blew minds with the capabilities of special effects at the time, a far cry from where they are now. The War Of The Worlds is that same classic H.G. Wells story that was once read and directed by Orson Welles, about a small town in California that is attacked by Martians, kicking off a worldwide invasion. When Worlds Collide, a predecessor, follows a small group of survivalists who frantically work to complete the rocket which will take them to their new home as a new star and planet hurtle toward a doomed Earth. These films are the epitome of a genre classic and have the foundation of what the whole sci-fi theme was born from. As a film buff like myself who has a real blindspot for films before 1965, I find them fascinating.
The White Lotus: Season 1 – One of the breakout hits this year was this dark comedy-drama that is so well cast from top to bottom with Jennifer Coolidge, Steve Zahn, Connie Britton as well as young stars like Alexandra Daddario, Fred Herschinger ad Sydney Sweeney but the important thing is it comes from one of the most gifted writers in Mike White. On the heels of picking up ten Primetime Emmys recently, it’s the best time to get immersed in this critic and audience darling as it hits DVD this week. Set in a tropical resort, it follows the exploits of various guests and employees over the span of a week, whose stay becomes affected by their various dysfunctions. With the mountain of awards that came this past week, the big ones were for White’s writing and the series itself but we also saw Coolidge win a long-deserved award as well as the celebration of a new name in the zeitgeist, Murray Bartlett, who plays a pivotal role that I can’t even begin to describe. With season two just around the corner, it’s time to get on the hype train for this HBO series and see what the hype is about.
Mayor Of Kingstown: Season 1 – The reach of Taylor Sheridan’s genius extends beyond his creation of Yellowstone and its spin-off shows 1883 and 1923 because he has reteamed with Wind River star Jeremy Renner for this brand new series on Paramount+. The show also features Friday Night Lights’ Kyle Chandler, veteran actress Dianne Wiest, Game Of Thrones and The Wire alum Aidan Gillen and Headstones frontman Hugh Dillon, a Yellowstone cast member who also is the co-creator of this. The series follows the McLusky family who are power brokers tackling themes of systemic racism, corruption and inequality in Kingstown, Michigan, where the business of incarceration is the only thriving industry. I really love how gritty Sheridan’s writing is and it doesn’t relax one bit in this show at all, just puts it into a whole new avenue, away from the farm life. With season two just around the corner, I trying to binge my way through it myself in preparation.
Kung Fu: Season 2 – It’s been a long time since David Carradine roamed the streets of Western America as Shaolin Monk Kwai Chang Caine in the original series Kung Fu, which ran from 1972 to 1975, a movie in 1986, then rebooted in 1993 to run for another four seasons. Well, The CW, who are no strangers to rebooting popular shows, has made it past its first season and now has made its way through the second as well, survived the extensive cuts that Warner Bros. made to the network and we are geared for a third season. Does it go beyond that? Who knows. Starring Legacies actress Olivia Liang, she plays a young Chinese-American woman named Nicky Chen who, after a quarter-life crisis, decides to drop out of college and go on a life-changing journey to an isolated monastery in China. She returns home to find her hometown overrun with crime and corruption and vows to use her martial arts skills and Shaolin values to protect her community and bring criminals to justice while searching for the assassin who killed her Shaolin mentor and is now targeting her. Much like the Walker, Texas Ranger reboot, this show plays in the corny sandbox but it still has all of those nods to the original that will make you smile and remember Caine and how he was here to help us plus it was filmed in the lower mainland and seeing my old haunts here and there makes me really happy and nostalgic.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Outs:
Peacemaker: Season 1 – Following James Gunn’s revamping of The Suicide Squad in the summer of 2021, he took one of the characters and the consequences of his specific actions to the small screen and directed a handful of the episodes himself. Yes, the douchebag and murderous version of Captain America, Peacemaker, played by John Cena, gets a chance at redemption and his mission extended. I won’t go into the spoilers of The Suicide Squad, which is available to stream on Crave now, but this series delves into the things that make up this character, his intentions and his destructive past and familial relationships and how he can form himself and rebuild himself to be an actual hero. I really loved Cena in this role and this series just cemented him as unforgettable in only eight episodes and I really can’t wait for more, which has already been confirmed. Also, my friend did the set decoration for his trailer so I have a lot of pride in that too as just Peacemaker’s trailer alone is a treasure trove of easter eggs and funny references.
11 Minutes (Paramount+) – While I definitely think it is in bad taste to capitalize on tragic events with a docuseries, I am nonetheless drawn to watching all of them and reliving all the horror that unfolds within. That is why I was immediately drawn to this new show even though it is completely and shamelessly vapid in making buzz-worthy Twitter moments out of the sadness that befell many families on one night in Las Vegas. The series is told through emotional first-hand accounts and never-before-seen archival footage and immerses viewers inside the largest mass shooting in our country’s history, a story of survival at what was supposed to be a festival celebrating country music on a hot Vegas night. I’m curious to see how the killer is framed in this series and just how they will address him going out in a hail of bullets and what footage of the whole thing they have. It’s morbid and sort of sick but I’ve watched through so many serial killer documentaries so, really, what’s the difference?
Entergalactic (Netflix) – I’m a huge fan of Kid Cudi’s work, both as a music artist and as an actor, but this puts him in a whole new avenue as a creator and showrunner but he has the knowledge of executive producer Kenya Barris, responsible for shows like Blackish and the movie Girls Trip to guide his vision. The series is bound to be dazzling as well as it happens to be an animated one as well. Featuring the voices of Cudi, Timothee Chalamet, Vanessa Hudgens, Macaulay Culkin, Keith David and so many more, this series follows Jabari, a charming, streetwear-clad artist on the cusp of real success who has a chance run-in with his cool new photographer neighbour, Meadow, and has to figure out whether he can make space for love in his life of keep chasing the dream. The animation, to me, is reminiscent of the work that was done on Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and really seems to pop off of the screen. It’s vibrant and the characters feel richer and, at times, almost ethereal as a result. I think this will be a show released in segments so embrace episode one and let’s enjoy some discourse before the sophomore episode hits.
The Mighty Ducks Game Changers: Season 2 (Disney+) – So many people are looking forward to the second season of the continuation of a story we all adored and most of the fans drooling for it are my age and, yes, I can definitely be included in the ravenous waiters but I will admit that the show is made for kids. Before heading full-on into this description I will say that, yes, the loss of Emilio Estevez from the cast puts a huge damper on things but COVID made us all a bit crazy with protocols and, really, that’s all I’ll say about that. The show follows twelve-year-old Evan who, after failing to make the cut to join the now powerhouse Mighty Ducks junior hockey team, is encouraged by his mother to form a new team of underdogs with help from Gordon Bombay, the Ducks’ original coach who is now operating a rundown ice rink and, for some reason, hates hockey entirely. Now, after the events of the last season, we know that the team has earned back the name of the Mighty Ducks but how do they write out the most pivotal character in the series and does it mean that Lauren Graham’s character will be the new coach? One of the main plot points of last season was how she was unable to do the job in a competitive nature and the team was lacking because of it so it almost seems that the Emilio less series kind of has bigger overarching issues than we thought. Even still, I’ll watch every episode like a psychopath.