Violent Night – Just describing this film, you know exactly why one like this would be at the top of my list for the end of this year and, yes, David Harbour is a big reason for it. Not being a huge holiday movie guys except for the classics, something that I’ve got into in my Geekouts, it takes a hook to get me immersed in a new one and this one definitely has it. The story follows a team of elite mercenaries who breaks into a wealthy family compound on Christmas Eve, taking everyone inside hostage to obtain the millions in an underground vault. The team isn’t remotely prepared for a surprise combatant in the form of Santa Claus who takes it upon himself to dispatch each one of these naughty listers in increasingly gruesome ways. Translation? My type of movie. The film comes from the producers of the Bob Odenkirk action flick Nobody and is directed by the madman Tommy Wirkola, responsible for the Nazi zombie comedy horror films Dead Snow and its sequel, a team that will create absolutely glorious insanity. For those who dislike my love of Die Hard as a Christmas movie, we might have a new heavyweight in town.
Sr. – There’s something really touching about seeing a son presenting something about his father, something that only the lucky ones get to do, so when I saw this on Netflix’s release schedule I was very interested. Being a huge fan of Robet Downey Jr., I really wanted to see something where he just got to be himself, not Tony stark or any of his movie characters and I think this is him at his raw self. The documentary follows a tender but appropriately irreverent account of the life and career of Robert Downey Sr., the fearless and visionary American director who set the standard for countercultural comedy in the 1960s and 1970s. I will admit that I really don’t know a lot about Downey Sr. or his influence on film so this exhibits the best thing a documentary can do, educate. Alongside son Robert, the film also features filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, Alan Arkin, Sean Hayes and the legendary Norman Lear but it was also directed by Chris Smith who, besides the viral sensation Tiger King, also directed Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond which is an incredible must-see film as well.
Troll – If Netflix releases a giant monster movie, you know it has my eyeballs on it immediately and if said movie happens to be directed by a Scandinavian filmmaker, well, then all bets are off. Well, the boxes on this film have been checked and the filmmaker happens to be the aptly named Roar Uthaug who has done a disaster film with The Wave and made a big-budget Hollywood adaptation with Tomb Raider and now is reaching for the sky, literally. Set in Dovre, Norway, the film follows the nearby villagers as something gigantic deep inside the mountain awakens after being trapped for a thousand years. Destroying everything in its path, the creature is fast approaching the capital of Norway, with city-dweller struggling to stop something they thought existed only in Norwegian folklore. The trailer for this is just awesome and showcases Uthaug’s great knack of approaching big special effects with a method that gives it resonance along with the spectacle. He fantastically nails every soulful and emotional beat in The Wave and I really hope he can do the same with this, especially not being under the thumb of a major studio, like he was with Warner Bros for his Lara Croft movie. This could have a hell of a lot of potential.
The Inspection – It’s a telling sign that I got a tingle up my spine when I saw the a24 logo because, as usual, I knew I’d be seeing something special, either incredibly personal, definitely resonant and something that no other huge studio would take a chance on. That said, so much of this film was unknown to me. I didn’t know who Jeremy Pope is as I don’t watch Pose (yet), I was unfamiliar with writer and director Elegance Bratton and I didn’t know anything about the plot itself other than being a military story. A semi-autobiographical story from Bratton, the film follows a young, gay Black man who has been rejected by his mother and, with few options for his future, decides to join the Marines, doing whatever it takes to succeed in a system that would cast him aside. The character building of this film is so fantastic and this isn’t just focused on our main lead as the squad around him seems to grow and develop alongside him. The command Bratton observes in just his first feature is that of a creator who has been running this film in his mind for a long time. I also have to acknowledge how incredible Gabrielle Union is in this as the main’s homophobic mother.
Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules – The animated rebirth that Disney+ has given to this beloved book series by Dave Kinney is truly awesome and this is coming from a guy who really liked the live-action movies a lot and watched them in theatres with my oldest daughter. Well, the younger kid is now into them so we redo the story again but this time in the same authentic versions that appear in the book’s art. Now on to the second story, our hero Greg is in warfare with his older brother Roderick at the beginning of a new school year, a complicated relationship for sure. A spiky-haired teen that fronts the band “Loded Diper” and is a lazy slob at best the other times, Greg’s sole mission is to win over his brother taking whatever lengths he has to. These movies are so much fun and the great writing of the books translates to screen in what I think is the best way to present it. The animation is so fleshed out in Kinney’s unique and sort of crude style and I will liken it to the level of the Captain Underpants adaption, which is great by the way. Yeah, I said it.
A Wounded Fawn – With the shift from online sketch comedy on the College Humor Youtube channel to now absolutely killing it in the horror genre, Josh Ruben is one of my current favourite writer and directors. That said, he is still a fantastic actor and comes with his second role on Shudder in two weeks, following Noah Segn’s Blood Relatives last week. The film comes from writer and director Travis Stevens, in his follow-up to the fantastically fun Jakob’s Wife, and follows Ruben as a serial killer who brings an unsuspecting new victim on a weekend getaway to add another body to his ever-growing count. She seems to be buying into his faux charms as his lust for blood and viscera grows and grows but is he really the cat in this game or is it all leading to a deadly misstep? With each film, Steves is growing as a filmmaker and it’s crazy to see that at the center of this movie is a thread of Greek mythology and surrealist art, a depth that just expands the genre even more. There are so many elements at play in this film and the method in which they are delivered is truly diabolical.
Hunt – I have to preface this by saying that I’m not at all caught up with Squid Game, more to the point, I haven’t even started yet which is a major mark against a South Korean film fan such as myself. Regardless, I still know who the lead actor Lee Jung-jae is and this is sure to pull in the viewers, as is the inclusion of a of co-star from the massive Netflix hit, Heo Sung-tae, but it is an even bigger deal because it is the directorial debut of Jung-jae. The film is set in Korea in the 1980s and follows KCIA Foreign Unit chief Park Pyong-ho and Domestic Unit chief Kim Jung-do who are tasked with uncovering a North Korean spy, known as Donglim, who is deeply embedded within their agency when a high-ranking North Korean official requests asylum to give information in return. Double crosses and violent takeovers puntuate a story filled with brutal action sequences that become the highlight of the experience. The subterfuge in the film seems to be lesser than the sum of it’s parts as I feel the main threads get so convoluted that it starts to become dull and may take a casual viewer out altogether. Even so, that third act is crazy and the scale of it’s endgame is explosive, pun probably intended.
Don’t Worry Darling – A big Warner Bros. release that was dogged by rumours of a toxic behind the scenes that put the star of the film, Florence Pugh, at odds with the director and co-star, Olivia Wilde, has involved the at one point star of the film Shia LeBeouf and the unfortunate subpar performance of Harry Styles, all of it can now be yours after a fizzling at the box office. As a fan of Pugh’s work and Wilde’s previous movie Booksmart, I wanted to believe that this could be good as the trailer was solid but, alas, the end result is a bit messy. The story has Ms. Flo as a 1950s housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community who begins to worry that his glamorous company could be hiding disturbing secrets. It’s sad that something as publicized as on-set drama could immediately tank a film’s expectations so much but when the final product ends up so middling with so many questions unanswered, it all feels frustrating. There are many themes and plots in the film that get thrown away or forgotten, character performances obviously left on the cutting room floor and an ending that feels unsatisfying in its ambiguity. All that said, Pugh does an incredible job in basically carrying the entire film aside from some great moments from a smiling and villainous Chris Pine.
Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul. -If anything needs to be lampooned today, aside from the MAGA Gollums and evil Republicans, it is definitely evangelicals and the ridiculous lifestyles of Mega Church-owning pastors. Danny McBride has done it with his HBO series The Righteous Gemstones and now debuting writer and director Adamma Ebo is taking a crack at it. Starring Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall, the story follows pastor Lee-Curtis Childs and his first lady Trinitie Childs as they attempt to rebuild the congregation of their Southern Baptist Mega Church in the aftermath of a huge scandal. Hiring a documentary crew to follow their story of redemption shows the still problematic qualities of their personality and marriage in a comedy that comes off with the realism and cringe that you would find in an episode of The Office. This film comes off as hilariously satirical but still believable because it is a blind fever that runs through America like a lifeline. Will audiences buy into the message that this film shares as we see the Childs flaunt their riches that were given to the church as an offering to God? Probably not but I enjoyed the journey myself.
Bodies Bodies Bodies – Slasher horror comedies are very much my jam so I had been waiting for this new A24-produced film to get some sort of a release for months after hearing stellar reviews of it at film festivals across America. The film is the sophomore release from director Halina Reijn whose last film, Instinct, while well received, never made it to any sort of wide release and is still impossible to track down. I’d say, with a film that set the internet ablaze with its original and unpredictable nature, ensured that she would be highly sought after following it. The movie follows a group of rich twenty-somethings who plan a hurricane party at a remote family mansion. Things get way out of control when a party game turns deadly in this fresh and funny look at backstabbing, fake friends, and one party went very, very wrong. The cast is young, fresh and possibly the future of the industry as it features Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Pete Davidson and the proven star strength of Lee Pace, as a horror fan, it was on my list of anticipated genre films and it really didn’t disappoint. Bodies is a film that really has no template to it and the focus is really just the vapid and fleeting nature of social stature, buzz words and lucrative friendships and it all plays out with a dark humour that holds it all together like glue. This is one of 2022’s most original films, for sure.
Emily The Criminal – For many, when they see Aubrey Plaza they may think of the deadpan and straight-up mean secretary April Ludgate from the series Parks And Recreation and not for any real dramatic roles but I think that anyone that gets their eyes on this new thriller will be taken for a wild ride. Co-starring Sons Of Anarchy’s Theo Rossi and written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker John Patton Ford, this may be the most low-key best movie of the year with the most dramatic shift from a comedy actress than I have seen in years. The film follows her as Emily, a down-on-her-luck transplant to Los Angeles saddled with insurmountable student debt who gets involved in a credit card scam that pulls her into the criminal underworld of the City Of Angels, ultimately leading to deadly consequences. The intensity of this film is brimming to overflow from the first scene of this film as it has Emily in a disastrous job interview, digging up her past felonies, and it never lessens its grip on the viewer. By the time the credits hit, I knew it was one of the best of 2022 but also that there wouldn’t be a huge push on its advertisement, so this is my due diligence in saying to you, my reader, see this movie!
Emergency Declaration – Ever since Parasite won the Best Picture award at the Academy Awards, Bong Joon Ho has been the big star to come out of that but I think that leading star Song Kang-Ho should get some of that love too. I feel like he definitely will get some flowers when Hirokazu Koreeda’s Broker hits theatres just before the new year but he has this airborne thriller as well and it really is nothing to sneeze at. The story centers around any traveller’s nightmare, a terrorist takeover on an international flight. The issue is, while it’s known that assailants are on the flight, it is not immediately known who it is and what their intentions are. What is evident is people are dropping like flies and the paranoia is ramping up to a fever pitch. This movie is really well constructed, filled with intensity and great acting infused with that deep emotion that South Korean films seem to bathe in. It may be a hard sell to any frequent flyer but those who love South Korean cinema like me or who want a great thriller will be very satisfied by the outcome.
The Offer – This is a troubled television production about a source matter I was really intrigued and I’m so happy it’s here and even more elated that it is good. Sadly, it will all get overshadowed by the fact that Armie Hammer was replaced on it due to allegations that he is a cannibal and he was shuffled out for Miles Teller who is problematic in his own way but let’s not let that bog down the classic Hollywood story they are telling here. The series follows the experience of tech salesman turned Hollywood producer Albert Ruddy’s experience in getting the Mario Puzo novel The Godfather from the written page to the big screen. Great casting, fun writing and a known Hollywood as its backdrop kept me ravenously taking in each episode until I was all spent on the seventies era. As a cinema fan, this one is almost made exclusively for people of a like mind but I think it could have legs for other viewers as well. The saddest part of it all is that I’m done now and this is a one-season thing.
Steve’s Geek-Outs In 4K:
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 4K– “Shitters full!” Of course, I’m going to start off by mentioning this yuletide classic with an iconic line from Cousin Eddie, possibly one of the greatest roles in the history of the troubled idiot that is Randy Quaid. The Griswold’s celebrating Christmas may be one of the most memorable of the Christmas movies and it is with great reason. For those who have never seen it and need the enlightenment of a great Christmas classic in their lives, it follows the Griswolds preparing for a family seasonal celebration, but things never run smoothly for Clark, his wife Ellen and their two kids as Clark’s continual bad luck is worsened by his obnoxious family guests. He manages to keep going and pushing forward through every terrible moment knowing that his Christmas bonus is due soon ad that the new year light is on the horizon. This film is special with its family heart and the comedy is timeless and that has to be due to a fantastic script from one of the best, John Hughes. It’s rewatching films like this that make me miss the quality of his films so much and to own it now on 4K is amazing.
A Christmas Story 4K – With the sequel now streaming on Crave from their HBO Max side, it feels like this Christmas classic from the legendary Bob Clark has a new lease on life, as does original star and now producer Peter Billingsley who has mostly been doing work for Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn behind the scenes of their productions. This film is iconic in every day and features multiple scenes that make a call back to every yuletide season, especially the linguire-clad leg lamp which is an item you can actually buy now. For those buried under Santa’s sled for decades, the story follows a young boy named Ralphie Parker in the 1940s who attempts to convince his parents, teacher, and Santa Claus that a Red Ryder Range 200 Shot BB gun really is the perfect Christmas gift. The friction and resistance that comes back are always the same, “You’ll shoot your eye out” and between that, his overbearing mother with her makeshift snowsuit for him and the endless taunting and bullying at school, Ralphie’s Christmas looks like a bust. I remember watching this movie in elementary school before the holiday break and it will always have a place in my heart because of it. The Canadian roots of it are also an element of endearment for me as well.
The Polar Express 4K – With legendary director and creator Robert Zemeckis and his animation company ImageMovers, there were so many cool things that came out of that motion capture studio but this has to be the pinnacle as. itis re-celebrated every year and even got an IMAX re-release a few years back. It also marks the re-teaming of Zemeckis and one of his most popular stars, Tom Hanks, a union that reunited this year for Pinocchio on Disney+. This film is based on the very popular kid’s Christmas story and follows a young boy who embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express on Christmas Eve, learning about friendship, bravery, and the spirit of Christmas on the way. The animation is impeccable, even eighteen years after it’s initial release, and getting it in this higher definition just ensures that it will last in your collection longer for when you need to bust it out on a cold Christmas Eve to renew the magic with the family. It may be just a magic journey with, really, no stakes, but it is still a great experience.
Willow (Disney+) – It has been a long time since the Ron Howard-directed fantasy film Willow had its time to shine in a regular spotlight and I have almost completely forgotten that it was a Lucasfilm production, which works out well for us fans as we now get a legacy series to latch onto and hopefully it will be more than just one limited run. To me, it’s so great to see lead star Warick Davis return to a role where he doesn’t have to don a mask or have to act under makeup and instead return to playing Willow, the powerful mage that saved the world all those years ago. Now, the long-dormant evil that was thought to be ended with the demise of Queen Bavmorda has risen to take hold again and now the child of Sorsha, played by Joanne Whalley, a childhood crush of mine must find Willow to do what he does best. Having seen the first seven episodes already, I can say that it recaptures the feeling of the movie and is a loving sequel to it all, even if it’s missing the great Mad Martigan, played by Val Kilmer. I love the fantasy of this world and the effects and sets are impeccable. This is a great series to slide into the void that Andor left in its season finale.
Slow Horses: Season 2 (AppleTV+) – It is probably best for any Gary Oldman fan to get into this AppleTV+ series because the Academy Awar winning actor has declared that once the show has made its run, he will most likely retire from acting. Yes, I’m panicking too but the great news is this show is really solid and definitely worth going out on his shield. The story is set at Slough House, a dumping ground for members of the intelligence service who’ve screwed up, whether it be leaving a service file on a train, blowing surveillance or becoming drunkenly unreliable. The “slow horses” and most bitter among them is River Cartwright, played by Jack Lowden, whose days are spent transcribing mobile-phone conversations but he has an opportunity to get back in the game when a young man is abducted and his kidnappers threaten to behead him live on the Internet. This is one of those sleeper hit shows and one of the better releases from AppleTV+ but unfortunately gets dwarfed by shows like See or Ted Lasso. For those people who have the streaming service and have gotten through the more notable shows, this one should be next on your list.
Firefly Lane: Season 2 (Netflix) – For many television viewers, this one is a double-edged sword as it features the incredibly likeable and Canadian former Scrubs star Sarah Chalke but also has former Grey’s Anatomy pariah and generally one-note actress Katherine Heigl in the opposite role. The great news is Heigl plays against type in this very friendship-centric new series and the two also share some great chemistry. The series is the story of Tully and Kate, two unlikely friends from their meeting as tweens in 1974 to the present. Kate, the introvert, and Tully, the coolest girl in school, form a bond that weathers every milestone in their lives, leading up to a tragedy in the present and when we start out with the characters Kate is going through a separation leading to a divorce and Tully is an Oprah like figure with a show rapidly descending into cheesy nothingness. The show is really intriguing once you get past the first episode of season one which feels like it’s completely uneventful until the last scene but the trial that is started and the cliffhanger that ended it made it one of the most anticipated of the last quarter of the year, at least for my wife. I also need to finish this by saying this is the first half of a two-part season so there is more to come after you binge all of this.