Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania – The next installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is here and needless to say that I’m really excited about it as I am not experiencing the apparent fatigue with these films and I just adore Paul Rudd in this role. Another reason I’m anticipating this film as it sets up our next big villain for the foreseeable future for the next grouping of the Avengers. The film follows our heroes of Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne, along with Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, who must explore the Quantum Realm they find themselves lost in after an experiment gone wrong by Scott’s now teenaged daughter Cassie. They find this new world inhabited by strange creatures, embarking on an adventure that goes beyond the limits of what they thought was possible and putting them face to face with a formidable foe known as Kang the Conqueror. This movie looks visually stunning as far as the trailers go, something reminiscent of the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune here and there. It will be interesting to see what effect the story revelations will have on future stories within the MCU and I look forward to seeing the first piece in a fantastic year for actor Jonathan Majors who plays Kang here and then the villain in the upcoming Creed III in a couple of weeks.
Sharper – I love a solid grifter film and I had no idea that is what I was heading into when I threw on the screener for this AppleTV+ release that was also surprisingly produced by A24 as well. I had a movie nerd moment as soon as the logo splashed across the screen, I’m not going to lie. The film is a multi-storyline project that intersects our main characters at certain points which is a trope if done right, that I really enjoy. The film starts out by following the beginning of a new relationship leading to the woman in the situation needing money to save her brother. After $350,000 is given, the woman disappears with the cash and we now follow her story of how she became a con artist which adjusts to her mentor’s story and so on and so forth. The film is guided in supporting roles by veterans like Julianne Moore and John Lithgow and one of the current hot stars, Sebastian Stan, but the bulk of the main character weight has to be Pokemon Detective Pikachu’s Justice Smith and actress Brianna Middleton who I have only seen in a small role in George Clooney’s The Tender Bar. Everyone gives great performances in a film that feels slick with its reveals and kept me engage with the story from start to finish. Director Benjamin Caron has made great television with Andor, The Crown and Sherlock and he definitely nailed his first feature film now too.
Marlowe – I know I’ve been ragging on Liam Neeson every time one of his new geriatric action thrillers is released but I will obtain from it his week because his new film is directed by the legendary Neil Jordan, the man behind films like Interview With The Vampire, The Crying Game and Mona Lisa among others. I’m also digging into the fact that this is an old-school film noir following one of the iconic characters of the genre, Philip Marlowe, which Neeson is pretty perfect for. The story is set in a late 1930s Bay City, with the brooding, down-on-his-luck detective being hired to find the ex-lover of a glamorous heiress, setting up all the delicious cliches of a damsel in distress or a femme fatale. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm started to wane when I found that it was all talk and no bluster as Jordan’s Marlowe knows how to construct the dialogue but has a hollow quality underneath as it starts to parrot much better detective stories. Neeson also can’t seem to get out of that gruff Taken gear and it becomes distracting more and more as the film goes on. I thought this was a break out of the slog that he’s put himself into for more than a decade now but, alas, we are still in the rut.
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon – Twenty-three years after its initial release, Ang Lee’s epic martial arts story is getting a re-release into theatres, maybe to compete with the twenty-fifth-anniversary release of Titanic but also maybe to make reparations for the ignoring of Michelle Yeoh’s great performance now that she’s an Oscar-nominated actress. I remember seeing it in the, at the time, new theatres of International Village with my aunt when it came out and was blown away. For those who have never seen this masterpiece, it follows a young Chinese warrior who steals a sword from a famed swordsman and then escapes into a world of romantic adventure with a mysterious man on the frontier of the nation. The film is incredible from top to bottom, featuring a cast with a legend in its lead character played by Chow Yun Fat and a rising star named Ziyi Zhang. Gorgeously shot with amazing fight scenes on the ground, in the trees and in mid-air, to experience this film in theatres again is an absolute cinematic gift ad is highly recommended.
Of An Age – The international film race starts out early in 2023 because I think this new drama could already be a front-runner and, yes I’m aware it is mid-February. The film is also produced out of Australia and I have a definite weakness for Aussie-made movies, especially dramas featuring new actors I’ve never seen before. This is a gay romance that is set in the summer of 1999 following a seventeen-year-old Serbian-born and Australian-living amateur ballroom dancer who experiences an unexpected and intense twenty-four-hour romance with his friend’s older brother. What results is an awakening of his true self in a story that is beautifully framed and under great direction from filmmaker Goran Stolevski who is following up his incredible debut, the horror chiller You Won’t Be Alone, with another stellar outing. Soon, his name will be on a list of up-and-comers and I can not wait.
Hidden Blade – Well Go USA has its next theatrical epic lined up here and it has some serious star power as Tony Chiu-Wai Leung is the lead role, n actor I hope North American audiences still remember after his appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Shang Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings. The film follows the story of underground workers who risked their lives to send intelligence and defend the motherland, set after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor when the Wang Jingwei regime declared war on Britain and the United States. I love films like this, reminiscent of the South Korean masterpiece Age Of Shadows mixed with a bit of Jean-Pierre Melville’s World War II spy drama Army Of Shadows. Stories of the resistance are always gripping and it feels like writer and director Er Chang really did his homework on this one.
Blu-Ray & DVD:
The Fabelmans – Being a lifelong Steven Spielberg fan, clearly the number one filmmaker in the world now for decades, he has tackled so many different stories and genres over his life and career but this one is the most personal he has ever done. It is a film that definitely speaks to his fans but to the filmmakers and creators that he has inspired as well as the heart of this story is about imagination and the creation of cinema from a young age. The story follows young Sammy Fabelman growing up in post-World War II era Arizona, aspiring to become a filmmaker as he reaches adolescence. Armed with a camera, Sammy makes his own films at home, much to the delight of his supportive mother, played by the phenomenal Michelle Williams. With an incredible cast and the powerhouse and comfortable team of Spielberg and longtime cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, this film might be one of the most special of 2022 and has the potential to be the Best Picture Oscar winner. I can’t even say that is hyperbole because it is the master of modern cinema, Steven Spielberg, who took on a writing credit as well with a project to help him mourn the loss of his father and give him some closure in a sense.
Strange World – It’s crazy how developed Disney’s own in-house computer animated division has gotten as it is now easily on par with all of the Pixar releases, something that used to far exceed it. With recent releases in memory like Raya And The Last Dragon and Encanto, it fueled the excitement big time for this sci-fi foray for the gifted studio. The film follows a legendary family of explorers, the Clades, as they attempt to navigate an uncharted, treacherous land alongside a motley crew that includes a mischievous blob, a three-legged dog and a slew of ravenous creatures. Featuring the voices of Jake Gyllenhaal, Gabrielle Union, Lucy Liu, Dennis Quaid and stalwart Disney voice-over master Alan Tudyk, I have to say that Disney failed their own film with a low-key ad campaign that led to a bad box office return. This is really sad as I brought my daughter to see it in theatres and had so much fun with it. Vibrant and imaginative, this film just popped off the screen with its colourful world and a storyline that felt fun and sadly relevant in a lot of ways. Kids will really like this one, which is already available on Disney+, but I implore adults to give it a chance as well. It reminds me of how fun Treasure Planet was too and also how that film failed at the box office too.
Project Wolf Hunting – Between the Shudder-released horror thriller The Sadness and this film, I can’t imagine that there is any blood left to make any more of these types of movies because the sheer volume of it is insane. For a guy like me, this should be my wheelhouse for sure but there are certain moments in both films where I felt a bit squeamish and, well, I guess they really did their job here as filmmakers. This film frames itself as an action thriller, following a group of dangerous criminals on a cargo ship who are transported from the Philippines to South Korea. The inmates have organized a daring attempt to escape but in the process unleash an experimental super soldier contained in the bowels of the ship that rips through everyone with an unfathomable bloodlust. This movie rocks and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. The violence is fast and heavy, definitely designed for shock and awe, something that is made for a certain audience. I loved every second of it and am so happy to own the blu-ray to watch over and over again.
On The Come Up – Actress Sanaa Lathan makes her feature film directorial debut in this new drama and it looks like she wanted to pull on a bit of the 8 Mile chain as she adapted this novel by The Hate U Give writer Angie Thomas. She has some solid help with the legendary Method Man playing a role and Only Murders In The Building’s Da’Vine Joy Randolph in supporting roles in a story that feels compelling at the start. The plot centers on sixteen-year-old Bri, who wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time but not in the name of her late father, a neighbourhood legend. Facing controversies and with an eviction notice staring down her family, Bri doesn’t just want to make it, she has to make it but can she keep her persona intact or become a parody of it just to make money? This movie has all the potential in the world but it falters in having too much going on to satisfy every character arc. What results is a noticeably uneven film that misses the mark hip-hop-wise as well. It’s a great start for Lathan but she needs to smooth some of those rough edges.
Steve’s Blu-Ray & 4K Geek Outs:
Rock Dog 3: Battle The Beat – This section is usually designed for films that I geek out about, just like the header suggests, but sometimes it is about the late arrivals that I didn’t get to review during release week and that’s where we sit with the three this week. To start off, this is a family film that is now in its third story and I will warn you now, this is strictly for the kids. This film picks up with our hero Bodi, voiced by Gregory Hamilton, looking to restore the stature of his idol and legendary rockstar Angus Scattergood, voiced by the hilarious Eddie Izzard, one of the most recognizable voiceover actors to British comedy nerds like myself. The animation is solid but Lionsgate, the film’s producer, has had a bad track record of half-fleshed-out animated properties and this is one that has been a downgrade with each installment. When they lost Luke Wilson as the voice of Bodi after the first movie, the writing was on the wall.
Belly 4K – This is a blast from the end of my high school days as this was a film that got so many views by my group of friends as it stars two of the biggest hip hop stars of the late nineties and early 2000s, DMX and Nas. There were many films like this at the time like State Property and any Steven Seagal movie of the era, but this is a film that stuck and it has its debut in 4K glory now. The film follows the two legendary rappers as young up-and-comers looking to make their mark on the streets as they rise to power in the drug game. With the gain of power, struggles begin to emerge between the two as their ideals start to differ and ruthless actions are taken to impede each other’s business. The rose-coloured glasses of watching this film now to watching it then is obviously there as it hasn’t aged all that well. Even still, with DMX’s passing so recently in our memories, it is really cool to see one of the films that had him in the driver’s seat and it was done pretty well for its budget and time.
Mindcage – This is such a weird little thriller that I had to request it from Lionsgate. Why is it so weird? Well, it has Martin Lawrence starring in a dramatic role and not one that is action infused with comedy like the Bad Boys movies are. If that doesn’t grab you, then John Malkovich playing a serial killer might get you in the movie mood, maybe. The film has Lawrence and actress Melissa Roxburgh as two detectives who are trying to hunt down a serial killer who is mimicking the modus operandi of a much more famous killer now incarcerated for life. The detectives quickly find themselves trapped between the two diabolical masterminds in a cat-and-mouse game that may lure both of them to their demise. I will fully admit that I hate the title, something to me that seems clunky and ill-conceived but the hamminess of the script and the performances kind of make it work. Lawrence and Malkovich are the best pieces of a film that feels like it was ripped out of the nineties, borrowing tropes that feel so dated that no one would notice. Seeing so many movies all the time, I will say that I noticed but didn’t mind that much.
Carnival Row: Season 2 (Prime Video) – It’s crazy to think that one of the earlier Prime Video episodic series is only now just getting its second and final season but for this fantasy mystery that is the case and I’d have to think it is because it is really expensive to make. The show comes from the mind of the Pacific Rim creator Travis Beacham and the first season featured episodes directed by Lucky Number Slevin’s Paul McGuigan, Entrapment’s Jon Amiel and two veteran television stalwarts Anne Foerster and Andy Goddard. The show stars Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevigne as a human detective and a fairy respectively who rekindle a dangerous affair in a Victorian fantasy world, where the city’s uneasy peace collapses when a string of murders reveals an unimaginable monster. I really enjoy world-building things like this and the first season impressed me with great character builds, cool special effects and a gruff performance from Bloom as our lead, a human detective with a love for a faerie woman. Intriguing enough right? I think this was Prime’s Game Of Thrones, at least before the Lord Of The Rings: Rings Of Power debuted.
Star Trek Picard: Season 3 (Crave) – All good things come to an end and after a really killer second season, it looks like we are at the finale of Jean Luc Picard’s journey. Patrick Stewart and his new crew are welcoming some old friends though to close it out as Worf, Riker and more of the “Next Generation” cast reprise their roles to go out in style. The first season felt a bit uneven for me but having the Borg Queen return along with Picard’s ultimate nemesis Q to cause chaos had me glued to the show and I have been impatiently waiting for its return. Let me reiterate that I’m not a Trekkie in any way but I like Discovery and I like this show
Hello Tomorrow! (AppleTV+) – I absolutely adore Billy Crudup as an actor so when I saw this release pop up on my AppleTV+ preview screen I knew that there was a definite element of likability to this new series. The show also features a favourite of mine, Hank Azaria, in a supporting role, a character actor usually in a comedic vein that always improves everything he’s a part of. I mean, we all remember his scene with Al Pacino in Heat, right? The series is set in a retro-futuristic world and follows Crudup as a charismatic salesman named Jack Billings who leads a team of fellow sales associates determined to revitalize their customers’ lives by hawking timeshares for condos built on the moon. Under Billings’ calm and personable exterior lives a man running from something in his past, some of which comes to find him in the form of an estranged son that he takes under his wing as his protege. The catch is that his son doesn’t know that his new boss is the father who left him when he was two. I really loved the first episode, with its subtle sci-fi being very background to the story, but the character building being the full focus. This show acts like an odd Mad Men-tinged comedy story and I’m here for all of it.