Infinity Pool – With the moves that Brandon Cronenberg has been making in film, it is only a matter of time before he is regarded on his own rather than being referred to as David Cronenberg’s son. He has made disturbing content in the form of the almost satirical Antiviral and the violent sci-fi mind warp Possessor and I think with this third feature he may hit the big time as he has a red hot cast with The Northman’s Alexander Skarsgard and X and Pearl’s Mia Goth. This film has Skarsgard as one half of a vacationing couple named James and Em Foster who are enjoying an all-inclusive beach resort on the fictional island of La Tolqa when a fatal accident exposes the resort’s perverse subculture of hedonistic tourism, reckless violence and surreal horrors. Yes, this is going to be another descent into the violently depraved as only the offspring of the man I believe created the term in our genre lexicon, body horror. I’m also really excited to see another gonzo performance from Goth who has to be on a fast track to huge acclaim at this point.
You People – I’m not going to lie, I was really excited when I saw that Eddie Murphy was starring in a new comedy on Netflix and his co-star was Jonah Hill, an actor I absolutely adore. The film is written and directed by television mogul Kenya Barris who has massive hits on his resume so teaming him up with a superstar like Eddie seemed like a no-brainer. The film follows Jonah’s character Ezra, a finance worker with a dream for podcasting, who falls for Amira after an Uber mixup. Six months later, it’s getting serious and it’s time to bring the families together with Ezra’s Jewish Mom, Dad and sister and Amira’s black Muslim one, and the tensions flare but, you know, comedically. Or so it is supposed to be. Boasting a great surrounding cast including Julia Louis Dreyfuss, David Duchovny, and Nia Long, this movie feels completely ungrounded in any sense of reality with cliches, poorly written characters and even a sort of slapstick humour scene that feels completely misplaced. With a story that could have said something original or even poignant, it manages to say absolutely nothing ad give you some serious muscle workout with the sheer amount of cringe humour.
Shotgun Wedding – I can’t really say that I’ve ever actively looked forward to any Jennifer Lopez movie. Not to throw any sort of shade at her but my favourites of her films were all discoveries after the fact, like the Elmore Leonard adaptation Out Of Sight or Tarsem’s mind-bending serial killer thriller The Cell. It’s just not my thing but seeing the first trailer for this action comedy and getting a glimpse of some solid chemistry with lead actor Josh Duhamel, well, I was sold but not “oh my god, it’s must see!” The film has Jenny From The Block and Josh as Darcy and Tom, a couple just about to hit the stage in a destination wedding with all of their family in attendance. Of course, it’s the perfect time for pirates to take over and hold everyone, hostage, while the now bickering couple tries to get it together and pull off the action hero thing. To my increased surprise, I actually had a lot of fun with this movie and had some great laughs, mostly due to every line the Golden Globe-winning actress Jennifer Coolidge said in her role as Tom’s mom and, at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about? To be entertained? Now, I will never go out of my way to say “hey, watch this JLo movie.” but, honestly, it really isn’t a waste of your weekend.
Loudmouth – My favourite saying from the legendary John Lewis was to make “good trouble” and I think Reverend Al Sharpton is a man that follows that philosophy to its depth, a man that has fought and continues to fight for black rights for decades, an unforgettable and powerful speaker. Not knowing a massive amount of information about the man himself, I found this documentary fascinating, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement reaching a huge level in the summer of 2020 with the George Floyd murder at the hands of Minneapolis police. The film tells the story of Sharpton, painting an intimate portrait of a tireless warrior who has never ducked a fight in his mission to transform the status quo, all while having an impeccable style and the most memorable hair in politics. This film is informative but also hits incredibly emotional moments when you see how intimately Sharpton treats everyone in the families of those he fights for and it gave me a way better understanding of a man I just generally saw as a talking head on NBC, CNN and the like. As far as documentary biopics go, this one was pretty solid.
TÁR – Let’s be honest about this right off the bat, this is your Academy Award winner for Best Actress withing moments of the film the viewer will want to hand the award to Cate Blanchett themselves. This isn’t to say that Blanchett plays a likeable character in composer Lydia Tár but she does it with such incredible conviction that it puts her in that incredible character actor category as Daniel Day-Lewis. Set in the international world of Western classical music, the film centers on Lydia Tár, widely considered one of the greatest living composer-conductors and the very first female director of a major German orchestra as he is entering the rehearsal period for one of her crowning moments on stage. We get an early portrait of someone at the top of their game but as the film progresses, through the practices and her teachings at Julliard, we see a woman drove by the strive to be the best but a woman that uses her ego and stature to destroy others. Yes, this is a movie very much about the rise and fall of an egomaniac and the fall becomes really satisfying to watch. I will say that the film is a bit long, clocking at just over two and a half hours, but I was totally engrossed in every moment of it.
Taurus – If you pay attention to any sort of music or entertainment news you will most likely have heard the name of rapper turned alt-rocker MachineGun Kelly, maybe not through his music but possibly through his high-profile relationship with Megan Fox and their gratuitous sessions of public displays of affection. Kelly has been pursuing acting in the last few years, notably playing Tommy Lee in Netflix’s The Dirt, and is playing a little flipped reality in this new drama under his real name, Closon Baker. Very much modelled on himself, he plays a rising but troubled musician who searches for the inspiration to record his next song, pushing himself deep into the void. A work of fiction that explores fame, addiction, the artistic process, and the music industry, this serves as another cautionary tale of superstar excess and the descent into abuse. I was really surprised with the acting depth that Baker exhibits in the film, a sure sign that he is on a good path in a new industry but at the end of the film it felt a bit predictable and even pointless at the heart of its’ story. I didn’t feel like Taurus had anything new to say, especially when we have real stories of real artists going down the same lifeline, beat for beat. I will say that I really like his track Papercut which ends the film.
Steve’s DVD, Blu-Ray and 4K Geekouts:
The Staircase – If your series is led by Colin Firth and one of the greatest actresses to grace the screen, Toni Collette, well you’ve got yourself a hit with this guy immediately. Not only that but it is also a mystery that is the adaptation of a famous suburban murder that Nancy Grace obsessed over for years which is kind of cool but may turn others off due to the oversaturation of the story. This is once again the telling of the story of Michael Peterson, but this time by HBO and not Lifetime, a crime novelist accused of killing his wife Kathleen after she is found dead at the bottom of a staircase in their home. Beyond that, which is told in flashbacks, this follows the sixteen-year judicial battle that followed and features a great cast around Firth and Collette with Game Of Thrones’ Sophie Turner, Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Stuhlbarg, Dane Dehaan, Juliette Binoche and Parker Posey. I love these mystery melodramas that HBO puts out like The Undoing so I’m looking forward to this one.
Ip Man Trilogy 4K – Well Go USA gave audiences the gift of Master Ip in 4K late last year and now that I’ve got them in my possession, I can gush about how great they are. I know that Donnie Yen has done many great films over his legendary career but these have to be my favourites. For those who haven’t heard of them, these are based on the true story of Grandmaster Yip, the legendary martial arts master who was responsible for teaching Bruce Lee his ways which were subsequently brought to America as his star pupil would teach others. The first film in this series is definitely the best and it coasts a bit downhill until he’s fighting Mike Tyson in the third movie but, that said, all of the fight scenes in the films are flawless and so entertaining to watch again ad again. Also, with the new 4K transfer, the hits are harder and the bones crunch louder, perfect for any martial arts film fan.
Call Jane – A timely and relevant story about abortion, this is the type of filmmaking we need in the world right now without question. The benefit, to be completely honest, is that this isn’t an independent film as well and features known Hollywood stars in Elizabeth Banks, Sigourney Weaver and Kate Mara which gets it in more theatres and more commercials on television. The film follows Banks as a married woman with an unwanted pregnancy who lives in a time in America when she can’t get a legal abortion and works with a group of suburban women to find help. This leads to her joining the growing movement in the hope to empower the women around them and take the fight to the powers that be but under the contact eye and thumb of those who hold their choices, including her own husband. This movie just played at the Vancouver International Film Festival, so it is very fresh in my mind heading into its home release. I really dug the film, fully focused on its message as it should be but it definitely lacks in enriching the characters who are supposed to be based on real people. When it comes to telling that story it feels a little contrived and familiar in most parts. I still can’t stress enough how important it all is though.
Shrinking (AppleTV+) – Bill Lawrence is a creator ad producer who I have enjoyed for decades now, starting with his Michael J. Fox series Spin City in the nineties, moving into Scrubs then Cougar Town in the 2000s and, of course, AppleTV+’s runaway hit Ted Lasso. He has a penchant for finding great and funny stories and, alongside Roy Kent actor Brett Goldstein, he has found his next hit I believe and it stars a favourite of mine, Jason Segal. The show has a definitely different tone to Ted Lasso, following Segal as a grieving therapist who starts to tell his clients exactly what he thinks, ignoring his training and ethics, and he finds himself making huge changes to people’s lives, a tactic that may spread to his own. The highlight of this show has to be Segal’s stoner boss, played by Harrison Ford who seems to be getting comfortable doing television which is great for lifelong fans of his like myself but, beyond that, I’m really happy to see Jason Segal get a great role like this, a very deserving actor for years. Perhaps this one becomes a monster hit for AppleTV+ as well?
Wolf Pack (Paramount+) – As a fan of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer television series, and a big one at that, I’ve been looking forward to this new show as it is the return of Sarah Michelle Gellar to the series format and it has to be something cool to get her interest. Yes, a s an “original scoobies” fanboy, I’m predestined to like this show no matter what but it is created by Jeff Davis who found success with his other series Teen Wolf so I have faith in this show at least being fun. Definitely a teen show that may have fit in on The CW, it follows two teenagers who are witnesses to a supernatural creature that is unleashed during a California wildfire. With the rising of each moon, more and more teens in town start feeling connected in an eerily similar way but what does it all mean? The intrigue has certainly got me and hopefully, it is enough to become a hit for Paramount+ who are surely looking for one beyond all of their Taylor Sheridan-created stuff.
How I Met Your Father: Season 2 (Disney+) – When it was first announced that they were actually going ahead with this sort of spin-off series to the extremely popular CBS sitcom with a disastrous end, I was honestly too jaded from the finale of How I Met Your Mother to give it a fair look. Starring Hilary Duff in the main role, it seemed like a fleeting cash grab that was mostly hoping to capitalize on the name it came from but I was wrong in the end. The series follows Duff as Sophie, a single New Yorker while, along with her close-knit group of friends, are in the midst of figuring out who they are, what they want out of life, and how to fall in love in the age of dating apps and limitless options. My biggest worry heading into the show was that it would do all it could to piggyback on what was already successful but this wasn’t the cast. There are no similar archetypes to Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin and Barney Stinson as “Father” makes its own characters and has a cast with enough charisma to embody them. I really enjoyed the first season of the show, laughed a lot and hope it has a future beyond this second season too. This might be one of the better shows that you aren’t watching.
Lockwood & Co. (Netflix) – When I was first exposed to the works of Edgar Wright, I became ravenous about taking in every single piece of media he took part in, leading me to writer, producer and director Joe Cornish, all starting with Wright’s Hot Fuzz. Since then, he made his debut film, the incredible sci-fi action Attack The Block as well as the King Arthur modern adventure The Kid Who Would Be King, release a few years ago but I had no idea he was going to do a story in the long form of episodic television and I didn’t know it was based on a popular book series in the United Kingdom. The series is so fun in its nature, following a tiny startup detective agency run by two teenage boys and a newly arrived, supremely psychically gifted girl who are destined to unravel a mystery that will change the course of history. I love the atmosphere of the episodes and the gothic nature of the ghosts that this trio has to navigate. It also has that bold and biting style that you would come to expect from British teens who are smarter than your average adult, marginalized by the system, at least in Ruby Stokes’ character’s experience and may be too clever and ambitious to stay alive. I’m loving what I’ve seen so far as I binge through it this week and really hope we get more.