Black Adam – The anticipation on this movie is high and not because the track record for DC Comics live-action adaptations has been so dependable, because they haven’t been apart from a few standouts, but because The Rock has been campaigning and championing this film and character so much. Knowing what I know about the character, The Rock as Black Adam is such a no-brainer and a role that seems tailor-made for the megastar so I want it to be a successful venture as well because the dude is so damn likeable. The story follows Black Adam, recently released from captivity nearly 5,000 years after he was bestowed with the almighty powers of the Egyptian gods and ready to unleash his rage and vengeance on the world where he was held captive, Earth. It’s up to Doctor Fate and his assembled crew of Hawkman, Cyclone and The Atom to either bring Black Adam into the fold or prevent him from destroying the planet. The film comes from director Jaume Collet Serra who just did The Rock’s Disney film Jungle Cruise prior to this, has a pretty good history as of now with the People’s Champ but has a lot of bad movies on his resume as well. I still keep optimistic but there is a nagging feeling that it might not be the sum of all of its parts.
Ticket To Paradise – Without knowing anything about it, on paper, the casting of George Clooney and Julia Roberts in a comedy would probably lead to a hit given that they have great chemistry in the Ocean’s movies and audiences love a reunion. Then the trailer rolled around and it felt like we’ve seen every funny pat and plot twist contained in a two-and-a-half minute mash up but the name of the game is casual optimism. The film follows the two bankable stars as a divorced couple who team up and travel to Bali to stop their daughter from making the same mistake they think they made twenty-five years ago, marrying the supposed love of her life. To be honest, there is so much predictability in the story that I think the film will have to rely on the charisma and charm of these two A-listers and the script might take a backseat to that. The film comes from writer and director Ol Parker who is mostly known for the sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again so you can see what kind of audience this film is playing to.
The Banshees Of Inisherin – One of the greatest writers and directors working today, I jump with joy when I see that Martin McDonough has a new film coming out, one of the best script writers in my opinion. Responsible for gems like Seven Psychopaths and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, he is going back to the well that put him on the map, grabbing the stars of his initial masterpiece In Bruges, reuniting Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. The story follows two lifelong friends who find themselves at an impasse when one abruptly ends their relationship, with alarming consequences for both of them. Bent on keeping silent, the friend who wants to keep a rift between the two vows to take a finger off his hand in repercussion of being spoken to, which is a McDonough detail through and through. The reception at film festivals, including the recent Vancouver International Film Festival, has been stellar so my excitement to see it might be the biggest of all the new releases this week.
Raymond & Ray – I can’t imagine two more likeable actors being paired together than Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke which automatically indicates interest in this brand new Rodrigo Garcia drama, a filmmaker who is a little hit and miss but when he hits hot he hits good and these two stars definitely have to add to that. Coming off of a year where Ewan reprised his role of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ethan has done more incredible work in horror with The Black Phone, these are two of the most arguable sought-after performances in the game so good or bad movie, we all win here still. The plot has them as half-brothers Raymond and Ray who reunite when their estranged father dies and discover that his final wish was for them to dig his grave. Together, they process who they’ve become as men, both because of their father and in spite of him, and try to find a bond between the two of them now that the reason that they are linked is gone forever. Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival last month, and the reviews that came back from it are filled with praise for both Ethan and Ewan but sleepiness in the script that betrays the talent on screen makes for an uneven experience. As a guy that has had issues with Garcia’s work from time to time, I was really hoping for a return to form like Albert Nobbs from over a decade ago but this is apparently not it.
TÁR – Writer and director Todd Fields is a special kind of talent, an actor turned filmmaker who has swooped in only three times with feature films including this one but has earned acclaim every time, first with In The Bedroom then with Little Children. Now, sixteen years after his last feature, he teams with Cate Blanchett for a gorgeous-looking biopic that, judging from the trailer, will be another beautifully shot production from Florian Hoffmeister who just did Kogonada’s Pachinko on AppleTV+. The story is set in the international world of Western classical music and centers on Lydia Tár, who is widely considered one of the greatest living composer-conductors and the first-ever female music director of a major German orchestra. Blanchett may have easily earned herself another Academy Award nomination with the performance that is, from what I’ve read, the dominant force of this, but I doubt it will have a broader appeal for a non-cinema-minded audience. That said, I know this movie is definitely my kind of jam and I have deep anticipation for it as I loved Little Children when it came out, one of the best films of 2006.
Bullet Train – As far as fun action flicks go, I had been looking forward to this new high-octane thriller ever since I saw the trailer because it stars a game-looking Brad Pitt who appears to be having the time of his life and it’s directed by David Leitch who hasn’t made a disappointing film yet in my opinion. It also has a killer supporting cast in it, pun intended, as they all appear to be playing dangerous assassins. Pitt plays Ladybug, an unlucky assassin determined to do his job peacefully after one too many gigs gone off the rails. Fate, however, may have other plans, as Ladybug’s latest mission puts him on a collision course with lethal adversaries from around the globe-all with connected, yet conflicting, objectives-on the world’s fastest train, that’s right, the bullet train. That aforementioned killer cast? It features Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Bad Bunny and Sandra Bullock in a film that is snappy with its script and bone-crushing with its action making a fun ride from beginning to end even if it gets a little messy along the way. Brad is at the top of his comedy game here, showing off the chops that we see ever so often from him but Aaron Taylor Johnson almost steals the whole film, playing a character that seems to have walked in off of an early Guy Ritchie movie to provide some East London swagger. It adds to the infinite rewatchable nature that this movie radiates at all times.
Easter Sunday – Jo Koy is one of those phenomenal stand-up comedy talents that has been doing great work for years now but is only kind of known to the niche audience that gets deep in that scene or has watched a lot of Chelsea Lately when it was on the air. Now he hits a whole new medium with this brand new comedy feature that he gets to lead and it’s under the proven comedy chops of director Jay Chandrasekhar, a Broken Lizard member responsible for both Super Troopers movies, Club Dread, Beerfest and more. Based on Koy’s own experiences with his family, he stars as a man returning home for an Easter celebration with his riotous, bickering, eating, drinking, laughing and loving family, in this love letter to his Filipino-American community. The supporting cast is great, with Silicon Valley’s Jimmy O’ Yang, the hysterical Eugene Cordero, Lou Diamond Phillips and Tiffany Haddish, I must admit that I set my bar pretty low for this but really found myself enjoying it thoroughly. Sure, it comes off cheesy and formulaic here and there but the casting is so great and the charm is always present. At the end of it, I really like Jo as a lead character as well and though I doubt more leading roles are in his immediate future, he did his film the best in services.
Paws Of Fury: The Legend Of Hank – Sadly crushed under the box office weight of Gru and his Minions, the box office outlook wasn’t great for this animated feature that, looking at the ad campaign, seemed to be borrowing just a little bit from Kung Fu Panda but I implore people to give it a chance. I initially hinged 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 was just the tip of the iceberg. Cera voices 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 in a town where dogs are the pariah of the land and are hated by all. The cast around Cera is really solid, including the legendary and identifiable voices of Samuel L. Jackson, Mel Brooks, George Takei and Ricky Gervais and, yes, the animation definitely looks a bit subpar in comparison to any Pixar film for sure and even weak against an Illumination Entertainment film like its duelling foe, Minions: The Rise Of Gru but once I tell you that Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor got writing credits on this, it may turn the adult audience around on it. Yes, this is a semi-loose remake of the classic spoof comedy Blazing Saddles and has so many great homages to a movie that influenced so much in comedy today. The fourth wall breaks in the film also made me snort-laugh so many times in theatres that I had to explain some of them to my daughter and that should be an indicator of if it’s a film for the whole family.
Flux Gourmet – With the brand new thriller with a comedy edge The Menu just playing the Toronto International Film Festival last month and getting comparisons to a cross between Succession and the Saw franchise, Shudder struck while the frying pan is just heating up with this culinary related thriller. To me, it also has the added bonus of featuring former Game Of Thrones actress Gwendoline Christie in a pivotal role just after she magnificently played Lucifer in the Netflix adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. This film, also exhibiting a comedic smile to it, is set at an institute devoted to culinary and alimentary performance, following a collective that finds themselves embroiled in power struggles, artistic vendettas, and gastrointestinal disorders in order to be at the top of their class. The film was created by writer and director Peter Strickland who, in my opinion, has made some of the most underrated and compelling thrillers of all time with the sound-based and paranoia-inducing Berberian Sound Studio and the fashion-motivated chiller In Fabric and he brings a mix of all of those elements to this movie that may be too divisive for everyone to get behind. I think it is a big score for Shudder to nab such an impressive debut and bringing it to blu-ray with the sharpness of sound and picture just adds so much more to the experience. All hail Shudder and let it live on as a genre giant, introducing more and more to genre cinema every day!
The Innocents – Looking for a creepy kid movie to get you to Halloween week? Well, I’m serving it up this week as you can check out this new Norweigian slow-burn horror that has been getting not just stellar reviews but “you gotta see this” glowing ones from my peers. The film takes place during a bright Nordic summer following a group of children who reveal to each other their dark and mysterious powers when the adults aren’t looking. While exploring their newfound abilities in the nearby forests and playgrounds, their innocent play takes a dark turn and strange things begin to happen and the lives of their parents hang in the balance. I really have to stress how gradual this film is as it is largely based on the kid’s point of view but the third act is incredibly rewarding and what I believe is pushing the word of mouth. Writer and director Eskil Vogt was responsible for penning one of last year’s best movies in The Worst Person In The World and has already returned with another piece of pure cinema.
E.T. The Extraterrestrial 4K – If you were a kid of the eighties you might have had a theatrical experience with this Steven Spielberg adventure that either enchanted you or scarred you deeply for life because you saw the titular alien like a dried-up dog turd and dying. Well, no matter how you took it then, it has its 4K re-release here and it is thoroughly gorgeous and has reinstilled that awe that Spielberg is so known for. We know the story here, following a stranded alien who befriends a ten-year-old boy named Elliott who protects him from government agents with his older brother and younger sister and try to get their new friend E.T. home before it’s too late. The wonder and magic of this movie can really never be disputed as everything about this movie feels so special to, at least, my cinema footprint in what I believe makes a movie and makes theatrical memories. I will always adore and champion this movie.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:
Winning Time – The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty: Season 1 – At the end of last year, Adam MacKay had the critical fence-riding comedy Don’t Look Up on Netflix that let him get some vitriol out while also resulting in him getting lambasted by half the audience online but he’s back to tell some basketball history. Sadly, this was also the project that broke the friendship of MacKay and longtime pal and collaborator Will Ferrell as he wasn’t approached to star in it but it looks to be an alright consolation prize for not getting a Step Brothers sequel. The series is a comedy-drama that centers on the professional and personal lives of the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers, one of sports’ most revered, dominant dynasties and a team that defined an era, both on and off the court. The swagger of the eighties style is all there, we have Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as well as one-time majority shareholder Jerry Buss played by John C. Reilly in another team-up with him and Adam. I really loved the first season of this show and was really happy when they said they’d be moving forward on a second one. I’m guessing there is a stack of Jerry Buss stories to be told.
Somebody Feed Phil: Season 6 (Netflix) – There’s something delightful about watching Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal going around the world eating food in different cities and countries and I think it has to be due to his big smile and even bigger heart that he wears so much in the open. I think it is easy to live through his experiences and travel with the awe-filled wonder in which he takes it all in. Now, after five seasons, you would think that the premise is getting a bit old but Phil exudes such a likeable quality that I could continue watching this series season after season and the check-ins with his elderly parents are such a heartwarming piece of it that I’m flabbergasted at how right they got this old concept of eating and travelling in essentially what is an “on the road” blog. He definitely isn’t as dour and dark as Anthony Bourdain was but I’ll say that sometimes it’s to a fault. Don’t really expect the bigger issues internationally in this one.
The Peripheral (Prime Video) – I’m definitely a sucker for genre movies and when they roll it into a television format then you have me engaged fully and this one dabbles in the sci-fi area with a thriller and mystery element so, no matter who is involved, I will be watching. That said, the cast is solid with Chloe Grace Moretz, Midsommar’s Jack Reynor and One Night In Miami’s Eli Goree, so the young up-and-comers are well represented. The series is set in a future where technology has subtly altered society, much like our own, where a woman discovers a secret connection to an alternate reality as well as a dark future of her own. This is a vague description, I know, but it whets my appetite for some world-building science fiction from novelist Scott Smith who has brought other genre fun to the screen with the criminally underrated vacation horror The Ruins and the mystery thriller A Simple Plan which was adapted by Sam Raimi, also underrated. This could be a sleeper hit so I suggest you get into it sooner than later.
Unsolved Mysteries: Volume 3 (Netflix) – So it may not have the iconic hosting and narration from the legendary Robert Stack, may he rest in peace, but the theme song is still present, chilling and hair-raising as always, and the stories are still true, riveting and, above all, unsolved. Two volumes deep before this one hits this week, if you haven’t had the chance to watch this new Netflix reboot of the show and loved the original show then you really owe it to yourself to get immersed in this show that will puzzle and challenge you, turning you into an investigator along the way. I also really like the attention to character and the emotion that can sometimes be plumbed by it. It’s so insane that so many disappear with no trace but maybe, with more viewer eyes on it, these mysteries might not be unsolved forever.
Inside Amy Schumer: Season 5 (Paramount+) – I don’t need to go on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook to know that Amy Schumer’s comedy is divisive and a lot of people do not like her brand of humour. It’s plain as day. I will tell you here that I’m not one of them and have really enjoyed her work ever since I saw Trainwreck and now she has resurrected her Comedy Central series on Paramount+ and the track record of said show was so good that I’m excited for more from her hilarious mind. With memorable sketches like 12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer with a jury of men debating if Amy is “fuckable”, her Friday Night Lights parody Football Town Nights or Last Fuckable Day which sees her meet up with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Patricia Arquette and Tina Fey to send off Fey on her last maiden voyage, it’s all so hilarious and so I can’t wait to see what parenthood has added to her comedic arsenal now.