Scream VI – It really is impressive how fast Paramount moved on to the next installment of the Scream franchise and the second without series creator Wes Craven as the fifth film just came out in January or last year. The writers and directors behind this film, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, collectively known as Radio Silence, have got the aesthetic down well. This one takes us from the familiarity of Woodboro and into New York City and I’m happy that the time between these movies is so quick as it feels like a rare studio gift I wasn’t expecting. The film follows surviving sisters of the first film Sam And Tara Carpenter who are looking for a fresh start in the Big Apple. As it turns out, the legend of the ever-changing Ghostface killer isn’t done with them as the killings start all over again, bringing Scream veteran Gail Weathers aback into the fold as well as Scream 4’s Kirby Reed, which franchise fans are surely applauding. I have big hopes for this movie, especially as they are pushing the move to New York as a big game changer and at a two-hour run time, there has to be so much bloody mayhem included there. This is the big movie this week and another indicator that the blockbusters are now arriving weekly in 2023
65 – To set this one up in a quick synopsis to get genre fans going, this movie is Adam Driver with sci-fi weapons defending himself from dinosaurs. I readily admit that the kid in me loves that idea and could have possibly come up with it in his imagination, as it feels like a surface-level kids’ playtime narrative. Now, this is actually a new big-budget thriller from A Quiet Place writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods which makes this one. a must-see as I really enjoyed their last effort, an indie feature called Haunt in 2019. To go a little deeper into the story, Driver plays an astronaut who crashes lands on a mysterious planet with a cargo of cryogenically frozen passengers only to discover that the earth is inhabited by giant reptiles who we know as the dinosaurs, including tyrannosaurus rexes and raptors. So, yeah, it is sci-fi action meets Jurassic Park but given the awesome trailers I’ve seen everywhere for it, this looks like my type of movie fully. It also reminds me of a toy series from my childhood called Dino-Riders and if this s the closes conduit I get to that, then I am satisfied.
Champions – The mistakes in Hollywood comedies always feel doomed to repeat themselves and get into sensitive topics to get laughs in centrifugal and it can be seen right here in this new Bobby Farrelly film. The great thing about this new comedy is that it reunites star Woody Harrelson with one-half of his Kingpin directors, a movie that is still hilarious but I experience trepidation with everything else. The film has Woody as a hothead basketball coach who is ordered by the court after a public incident to manage a team of players with intellectual disabilities. He soon realizes that despite his doubts, together, this team can go further than they ever imagined in a movie that looks really formulaic at its core and has learned nothing from the cautionary tale that was Johnny Knoxville’s The Ringer from 2005. It may be comforting to see that, unlike Peter, Bobby has retained his comfort level in making comedies like what kept him popular with There’s Something About Mary and Dumb And Dumber but we also must regard it in the same sentence as The Three Stooges big screen adaptation and The Heartbreak Kid. This movie just looks like such a dud to me.
Luther: The Fallen Sun – This may come off as a bit of hyperbole but the Idris Elba-led BBC series Luther will go down in history as one of the greatest mystery thriller shows of all time. Elba is fantastic as a serial killer profile and a definite sociopath over the five seasons that aired from 2010 until 2019, the last time we saw the character. Well, he’s back in this new Netflix original, and as the film opens the brilliant detective is locked away in a prison as a gruesome serial killer is terrorizing London. Haunted by his failure to capture the cyber psychopath who now taunts him, Luther decides to break out of prison to finish the job by any means necessary. Original creator Neil Cross returns to write the film with stalwart episodic director Jamie Payne making his feature film debut here and the results are really solid. If this is the last time we see Idris step into this role again, at least we have some sort of closure and it does feel like an inconsequential as the Breaking Bad movie El Camino.
Inside – An easy way to get my butt in a seat for a movie is to say “Willem Dafoe stars as a…” and I’m there immediately. This is an easy indicator of why I wanted to cover this film, even if the studio was unable to hook me up with a screener to fully review it. No worries, they will still get my money eventually. Dafoe plays Nemo, a high-end art thief, who is trapped in a New York penthouse after his heist doesn’t go as planned. Locked inside with nothing but priceless works of art, he must use all his cunning and invention to survive and see his next plan come to fruition. The film is the English language debut of Greek writer and director Vasilis Katsoupis and the advanced word on it is that it is a blend of Dafoe’s on-screen mastery of his craft and a contained heist film that explores its subject in just one location. All of Dafoe’s work with Abel Ferrera and Paul Schrader in the last few decades has taught me a valuable lesson of paying deep attention to leading performances from this legend.
I Like Movies – Well, they made a Canadian movie that, on its surface, plays as exactly my sort of film, with a main character who has a deep obsession with cinema that may be construed by others as possibly unhealthy. Judge all you want. Underneath that is a story about a deep need to become something that ends up blinding our main character with a massive ego and an inability to read social cues. Coming from writer and director Chandler Levack, the film follows Lawrence Kweller, a socially inept seventeen-year-old cinephile who dreams of being the next Paul Thomas Anderson. With the next step to achieving his goal being attending NYU’s film program, he gets a job at the local video store and forms a platonic bond with his store manager. I was enthralled with this movie, so well written and wears its heart on its sleeve. The film plays with the same quirks that made us love John Hughes and Kevin Smith movies but also brings a naive reality to it that tugs on your emotions with its familiarity. This is an impressive first feature from Levack and I’m excited for whatever comes next from her.
Women Talking – Sarah Polley is a Canadian treasure that we’ve loved for decades since her debut as Anne Of Green Gables on Road To Avonlea and, for me, her leading role in Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen. In my adult years, she also devastated me as an actress in the drama My Life Without Me and as a filmmaker in the drama Away From Her and now she is back in the director’s seat to deliver a film that is the best shot film of 2022 in my opinion and wholly important to the current gender conversation. Featuring a stacked cast with Frances McDormand, Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley and more, the film is set in 2010 at an isolated religious commune and follows the lives of a group of women trying to make a life-altering decision of leaving the colony or forcing the men who assault them on a nightly basis. With the cast this film has in place, it is certainly a powerhouse level, but it might have a harder time with a broader audience as it very much feels like a play adaptation that was originally conceived as a one-set production. The conversation that derives from the film is a thoughtful discourse that starkly frames damning metaphors that fully exist in our own reality and leads to a lot of self-reflection, hopefully in those that sourly need it. Polley gives a meaningful voice to the ongoing struggle for equality and equity between genders and it truly might be the best film of 2022, although I doubt the Oscars will recognize it as such. They wouldn’t dare wade that deep into its politics.
Christmas Bloody Christmas – Another Christmas horror after the blu-ray release of Violent Night a few weeks back, yes, I know, but this one aired originally as a streaming title on Shudder and gets the physical release treatment now. This ultra gory and sort of music hipster descent into mayhem comes from the mind of writer and director Joe Begos, a brash filmmaker who debuted with the killer-tortured L.A. artist story Bliss and kept the ball rolling with his old guys versus gangbangers action horror VFW. His new film’s premise is deadly simple and follows record store owner Tori who just wants to get drunk and party on Christmas Eve. This all gets thrown out the window when a robotic Santa Claus at a nearby toy store goes haywire and begins a rampant killing spree through her small town, putting her in a fight for her life. Filled with bright neon, torrents of blood and five fucks per minute in the dialogue, this film is really entertaining on a B-movie level but I don’t think it has a real appeal beyond that level. The characters in my opinion are largely unlikeable, aside from our main who becomes better as her horrible night continues. Not my favourite of the Begos library but he brings a Rob Zombie-like style slammed into an homage to Richard Stanley’s Hardware that won me over.
Steve’s Blu-Ray & DVD Geekouts:
The TV Set – In my continuing journey to collect all of the entries into the numbered collection from Shout Factory known as the Shout Select series, one of my best friends Mark, sent me a copy of this, the 111th title, and it was a film I remember loving when I work at Rogers Video. The film was an early one from Walk Hard and Orange County director Jake Kasdan and one of those early 2000s films that had an ensemble cast to die for. Starring David Duchovny, Sigourney Weaver and more, the film was a sardonic and sarcastic fly-on-the-wall comedy-drama that shows the ins and outs of a television series set and all of the chaos contained within. It’s an interesting exercise in showing the creative process but applied to a situation in which the man behind the idea is using it as a catharsis to say goodbye to a loved one. I feel like a lot of set knowledge fueled this film as Jake is the son of legendary screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and is for sure pulling from a lot of experience. This was a hidden gem that really only had a rental run rather than a theatrical one and I think people should check it out.
House Party – Being a kid of the nineties, I am well-versed in the escapades of Kid and Play and their three house parties which is why I’m so very wary about this remake that invokes nostalgia with the name but I was unsure if it would with it’s follow through. I do like that original director Reginald Hudlin is an executive producer on the film alongside Lebron James but new stars Jacob Latimore and Tosin Cole definitely have sweet shoes and high fades to fill. The story this time around follows two house cleaners who get the opportunity of a lifetime when they are assigned to clean Lebron James’ mansion while he is overseas. They decide to make a life-changing decision to throw a giant party in a quest for immortality and some cash and, as the party gets out of control and one of Lebron’s championship rings goes missing, which may turn the dream night into a felony. I will say that this movie is by no means great but it still manages to recapture the fun vibe of the first film with great music and cameos from Kid Cudi, Mya, Bill Bellamy and the original stars themselves which made me really happy. Those who scoured the shelves for VHS tapes in 1992 will be as into this as I was.
Perry Mason: Season 2 (Crave) – As a kid, I used to sit with my grandparents and watch reruns of this classic lawyer show starring the legendary status Canadian Raymond Burr and was captivated time and time again. Well, Robert Downey Jr. made my dreams come true as he and the global force of HBO collaborated to bring this new series set in the era that creator Erle Stanley Gardner intended it to be in and it stars The Americans’ Matthew Rhys in the title role. Set in 1932 Los Angeles, the series focuses on the origin story of famed defence lawyer Perry Mason who is living check-to-check as a low-rent private investigator, haunted by his wartime experiences in France and suffering the effects of a broken marriage. The first season followed him on a case of a kidnapping gone very wrong which led to Mason exposing a fractured city as he uncovered the truth of the crime and uses it, sometimes lawlessly, to find some redemption. Needless to say, this show rocks in every way and Rhys is powerful, gripping and definitely deserving of all the acclaim that has come his way, I’m so excited to see where the series goes next.
History Of The World: Part II (Disney+) – I can’t believe this is a reality but possibly one of the longest anticipated sequels ever is finally here and, even better, it has expanded to being a series. Yes, Mel Brooks has returned, twenty-eight years after Dracula: Dead And Loving It to follow up a film he made forty-two years ago and to put that in context is pretty amazing. The king of the spoof is clearly here with an updated look at the history of this planet in a style that is very Brooks and a modern sensibility with Ike Barinholtz, Nick Kroll and Wanda Sykes who co-wrote it as well as starred in it. I feel like this is something I’m going to watch again in its entirety after ingesting all of Brooks’ filmography. This series has inspired me to do so.
Chang Can Dunk (Disney+) – Disney+ has a brand new series hitting the service this week, unrelated to Star Wars and Marvel or something that was previously released on Hulu and FX previously in the states but something a little more heartwarming. Looking to join the Mighty Ducks sequel series in the family sports shows, this series follows Chang, a young Asian-American teen and basketball fanatic who just wants to dunk and get the girl, the full NBA dream. Though his peers treat him as though he is insignificant, he becomes obsessed with learning how to slam dunk and becomes determined to beat the high school’s all-star named Matt, all while hopefully winning the adoration of his romantic interest, Kristy. I found the show really quite charming, having never heard anything heading into it, and the young cast shines with a really fun script that I hope catches on with the older audience. Heck, you don’t even need to like basketball to find the draw with this show.