Amsterdam – I am going to preface this little blurb here by saying that I don’t think writer and director David O. Russell is a good dude as there have been many documented incidents of bullying cast, crew and extras on his film by him. Still, I will say that he really does have a handful of great movies on his resume but he also has Joy and American Hustle on that same list, his last two efforts, and I downright detested the former of those two. This film has a killer cast, as he usually assembles, featuring Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington and so many more, which makes this all the more enticing. Set in the 1930s, the film follows three lifelong friends who witness a murder, are framed for it, and then uncover one of the most outrageous plots in American history attached to it. The trailer has me so pumped for it and maybe that is just the use of the Ten Years After song I’d Love To Change The World and snappy editing but I guess we’ll find out in theatres. Like Scorcese loves to use Rolling Stones in his film, Russell opts for Led Zeppelin but I have no idea how that fits in a thirties film but who knows.
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile – Shawn Mendes is one of the hottest acts on the planet as far as pop stars go so why not make the leap to the big screen and play a giant singing crocodile while he’s at it? This movie looks like it was made for the families who dug the big screen version of Clifford The Big Red Dog which honestly did okay at the box office for being a quasi-post-pandemic family release. Starring Constance Wu, Scoot McNairy, Winslow Fegley and an odd-looking Javier Bardem, the film follows the title reptile who lives in a house on East 88th Street in New York City. Lyle enjoys helping the Primm family with everyday chores and playing with the neighbourhood kids but one neighbour insists that Lyle belongs in a zoo. Mr. Grumps and his cat, Loretta, do not like crocodiles, and Lyle tries to prove that he is not as bad as others might first think. The trailer gives you the entire tone of the film and it looks like more of an avenue for Mendes to release more original music as I think he is also a producer on the movie. I feel like it will definitely hit its demographic.
Werewolf By Night – To my recollection, Marvel Studios hasn’t done a one-off short movie yet in their existence, aside from the shorts that accompanied some of their early blu-ray releases but that all changes this week. Coming from a director that usually scores films, like the J.J. Abrams Star Wars movies, Michael Giacchino is a recognizable name that gets to bring some of Marvel Comics’ darker characters and I’m excited for everyone to check it out because it is so much fun. The story follows a secret cabal of monster hunters who gather at Bloodstone Temple following the death of their leader. In a strange memorial to the leader’s life, the attendees are thrust into a mysterious and deadly competition for a powerful relic–a hunt that will ultimately bring them face to face with a dangerous monster. Done in black and white, the approach to the filmmaking is that of a sort of Hammer Horror production which brings a whole new genre mash to a cinematic universe that continues to reinvent itself with each different project and hero. Without getting into any spoiler territory, I will say that I hope some of the characters that debuted in this hour-long special presentation have a life beyond what we’ve seen because I know them well from the comics and they are pivotally important in that universe.
Triangle Of Sadness – When you sit down for a movie by writer and director Ruben Ostlund you have to know that you are in for something unpredictable and sometimes as scathing as having a bucket of cold water thrown in your face. He’s taken on marriage dynamics in Force Majeure, and the volatility of the art world in The Square but this time he has the 1% and influencers in his crosshairs and it is very “shoot to kill”. The initial story follows a celebrity model couple named Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), who are invited on a luxury cruise for the uber-rich, helmed by an unhinged boat captain (Woody Harrelson). What first appeared “instagrammable” ends catastrophically, leaving the survivors stranded on a desert island and fighting for survival. Ostlund is going for the throat in an even spicier version of his firebrand and as soon as the story starts to slide down the slope of chaos it is unrelenting into a totally unpredictable third act. Not everyone is loving this movie as much as I am but it hit me in all the right spots even if it is massively stomach-churning in certain places.
Catherine Called Birdy – This film kind of snuck up on me as it only started getting reviews recently and the advance word on it was absolutely stellar. I understand that it probably will get shunned by a large population of viewers because it is written and directed by Lena Dunham, a sort of people-repellant in some regard, but her track record is sound with a phenomenal debut in Tiny Furniture and a long-tenured show on HBO with Girls. Easy for me to admit that I’m on board for this film starring the young Bella Ramsey playing a fourteen-year-old girl in medieval England who navigates through life, avoiding potential suitors her cash-strapped father has in mind to help pull them out of the decline into poverty their family is in. The film is based on a book by Karen Cashman, and, from what I’m hearing, Dunham’s approach and resolute faith to the source material is felt in every frame and the cast assembled around Ramsey is really deep with former Doctor Who companion Billie Piper, brilliant character actor Andrew Scott and the man of Taylor Swift’s midnight, Joe Alwyn. With such a short turnaround from festival to streaming, I don’t see this getting any broad appeal but those in the know will be streaming it as soon as possible on Prime Video.
Deadstream – Sometimes with horror films, especially in the indie market, we hear the buzz on films but it takes a while for them to get picked up in any streaming deals or a physical release and that’s the deal with this one. Thanks to Shudder, this genre festival favourite gets to stream on the perfect platform for it and the reviews for the horror with a comedy spin have been absolutely glowing. The story follows Shawn, a disgraced internet personality who attempts to win back his followers by live-streaming one night alone in a haunted house. Unfortunately, when he accidentally pisses off a vengeful spirit, his big comeback event becomes a real-time fight for his life and who knows if he will even survive to see redemption. Written and directed by Joseph Winter, he takes the triple duty by playing the lead role of Shawn in a film that can mask its low budget by being a handheld Blair Witch-style shocker and it absolutely knows where the strengths lie in that storytelling trope. Add to that some insanely good creature effects, a snappy script and some great slapstick humour and you have a solid and original film to kick off your horror month.
DC League Of Super-Pets – Just weeks before he’s set to take the stage in the long gestated debut of Black Adam, The Rock is giving back to the kids through DC Comics properties and is dragging his buddy Kevin Hart along for the ride. These are some deep cuts to put on the big screen but Dwayne is kind of the best choice to voice the dog of Superman, Krypto, which is probably the only one that your comic layman will know off the bat, no pun intended. The story of the film follows Krypto as he forms a team of shelter pets who were given superpowers when the Justice League are captured by Lex Luthor. On that squad is a hound named Ace, who becomes super-strong, a pig named PB, who can grow to giant size, a turtle named Merton, who becomes super-fast, and a squirrel named Chip, who gains electric powers. See, Chip is another one I know from the comics as he is an actual Green Lantern Corps member but it is obviously being played in a different way here. I also really love the fact that this film has Keanu Reeves voicing Batman which really works on so many levels. John Wick is now Batman in some sort of way. I will be honest that I set my bar low for this one, believing that it would play exclusively to the kids but it has a lot of value for an older comic lover like myself and the comedy charisma that Rock and Hart hold together as a team is very much evident here too. If you want to have some animated fun, this movie is definitely worth the time.
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 think more about just being a producer on things or just retiring altogether.
Watcher -Ever since I experienced the low-budget horror feast that was David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows, I have been enthralled with everything that came from it, including his weird follow-up Under The Silver Lake. Another discovery from It Follows was the brilliance of lead actress Maika Monroe and the depth that she gives her horror. This is why I am so interested in Shudder’s new offering this week, a film about a young American woman who moves with her husband to Bucharest, and begins to suspect that a stranger who watches her from the apartment building across the street may be a local serial killer decapitating women. It is definitely that sort of Maniac mixed with Rear Window storyline that solidified the deal for me with Monroe being perfectly cast but it also features another woman in horror behind the camera with writer and director Chloe Okuno following up her segment in V/H/S ’94 with her first full-length feature. It also doesn’t hurt that this movie is trending at a Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, no small feat for a film of this genre.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Outs:
She’s Out Of My League – There are so many rom-coms from year to year that a lot of them slip through the cracks and I really believe this to be one of them. In the two-year crunch that saw him starring in the ensembles of Knocked Up and Tropic Thunder, proud Canadian Jay Baruchel was cast as the lead in this funny film from writer Sean Anders, just after his raunchy comedy Sex Drive, and it worked plus it gave hope to us skinny nerdy types, or at least at the time. Jay plays Kirk, your average everyday dude who meets the perfect woman, but his lack of confidence and the influence of his friends and family begin to pick away at the relationship. A funny cast is assembled around Jay like T.J. Miller and Hayes MacArthur, but it’s the star turn of actress Alice Eve and her chemistry with the lead star that makes this movie memorable in my opinion. I think it’s really funny that they had Kirk be a Pittsburg Penguins fan when, in reality, Jay is a massive Montreal Canadians fan which has never been a hard thing to find out.
The Lost Boys 4K – This movie is one that I have to credit for putting me on the path to being a horror fan. The cast was my conduit and, as you could guess, it was the two Coreys, Haim and Feldman, that made me so interested at first and definitely the Feld Man as he played one-half of the vampire-hunting Frog brothers. For those who have been under a rock for decades, the story follows a mother, played by Dianne Wiest, and her two sons (Haim and Jason Patric) who move to a small coast town in California, that unknown to them, is plagued by bikers and some mysterious deaths. The younger boy makes friends with two other boys who claim to be vampire hunters while the older boy is drawn into the gang of bikers by a beautiful girl which leads to an intense “initiation” that starts to make a change in him physically. From legendary filmmaker Joel Schumacher, this was a generation definer with so many iconic and memorable moments as well as an insane musical number featuring a muscled-up saxophone player, a part that everybody remembers. I love this movie so much.
Poltergeist 4K – Speaking of movies I love, this one is going to be a bit of a rehash but it’s on 4K now and it deserves it. This is one of the classic ghost stories on film, a movie released forty years ago this year 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 are 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 focusing 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.
Let The Right One In (Crave) – Just a couple of weeks ago I had some harsh words about Americans remaking foreign horror films but we may have come across the one exception with this horror IP right here. Originally a phenomenal Swedish film from director Tomas Alfredson, it was remade by Matt Reeves with Chloe Grace Moretz, a film I lashed out at before it came out and it ended up totally astounding me. This is why I’ll give this series version more than a chance and the fact that it is led by the great Demian Bichir softens it a bit for me. The series follows a 12-year-old girl who lives a closed-in life after turning into a vampire, only able to go out at night. Her father does his best to provide her with the minimal amount of human blood she needs to stay alive, acting almost as her personal Renfield, which is a definitely play on the source material. The series is run by Penny Dreadful writer Andrew Hinderaker who used this series to get over the heartbreak of the cancellation of his space series Away at Netflix but, just judging from the trailer, think he was right to put his efforts into this show.
The Midnight Club (Netflix) – After numerous movies and three hit shows, Mike Flanagan is back to put the chills into us once again and I had no idea that I had read the source material as a teenager until halfway into the first episode. It pulls from some good stuff too as this series is based on a book by Christopher Pike, a writer that cornered the young adult horror genre, along with R.L. Stine. The show follows a group of five terminally ill patients at Brightcliffe Hospice, who begin to gather together at midnight to share scary stories, almost like a terminal version of the Are You Afraid Of The Dark crew. From moments in, Flanagan is so gifted at making your hairs stand on end with creepy imagery, foreboding moments and jump scares that are totally earned at all times. It also has A Nightmare On Elm Street’s original final girl Heather Langenkamp in it as well which was such a delight to find out. I’m loving it all so far.