Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves – When I first saw that this movie was being made, I audibly groaned as I was suckered into buying a ticket for the 2000s version of the popular role-playing game that was put into theatres by New Line, an absolutely terrible fantasy adventure. The more and more I see of this new adaptation, done by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, the guys behind Game Night, I get more and more on board with it and now that it premiered at South By Southwest to great reviews, well, I’m excited now. The story follows a charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers who embark on an epic quest to retrieve a lost relic for the wrong person, unleashing a dark and malevolent force on the world that threatens to conquer and destroy everything. There is a deep charm to this cast, led by Chris Pine, as it has depth in so many categories with action stalwart Michelle Rodriguez and rising stars like Detective Pikachu’s Justice Smith, It’s Sophia Lillis and Bridgerton’s Regé-Jean Page taking on a comedically villainous Hugh Grant and Ted Lasso and Buffy The Vampire Slayer star Anthony Stewart Head’s daughter Daisy is a killer evil role. This movie is going to be awesome and I feel pretty confident in saying that.
A Good Person – This movie hits me in two weak spots as it is the new film from Zach Braff, a guy I’ve loved and supported since Scrubs, and his ex-girlfriend Florence Pugh who has never turned in a bad performance in her entire career. Being a huge fan of Braff’s darker films like Garde State and Wish I Was Here, I was looking for more of a return to the focused character story after his remake of Going In Style and this looks to satiate that need. The story follows Pugh as Allison, a once-thriving young woman with a bright future who was involved in an unimaginable tragedy that took the life of the daughter of Morgan Freeman’s character Daniel. Grief-stricken, he navigates raising his teenage granddaughter and opens his heart to helping Allison achieve some sort of redemption for what she has caused. The reviews aren’t stellar but I feel the crowdpleaser lurking within this film and feel like I could be on the side of celebrating this film, surely another fantastic performance from a future Academy Award winner. Bet on that.
Rye Lane – Romantic comedies with a little edge of drama seem to be a dime a dozen over the last fifty years so going outside of the circle to achieve something new seems to be harder and harder as the years go by. Well, it seems like director Raine Allen-Miller has navigated that landscape well and taken influence from one of my favourites with Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy but infused a young and fully self-aware love story with it. The story follows Yas and Dom, two twenty-somethings dealing with bad breakups in very different ways. With Yas, her heartbreak comes across as anger and Dom wallows in the depression of loss but the two find common ground quickly with their respective losses as they walk the streets of their neighbourhood and slowly restore their faith in love, possibly with each other. The film is small and contained but features big performances from newcomers David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah who are endearing from the get-go and solidify their star status by the film’s end. It takes a lot for me to get fully engaged with a from com and this film seems to do it effortlessly which is so massively impressive in my mind. Such a great film.
Tetris – This may be a rarity here but this is a video game film that can’t be lumped into the video games adaptation category but rather the video game biography story because this is a true story comedy drama surrounding the releasing rights of one of the most iconic games of all time. That may sound a little dull in comparison of that type of film but the story behind the release of Tetris and the ripple effects the sale of it had across the Soviet Union is fascinating and Taron Egerton always makes a film more palatable with his energy. The film follows Taron as Henk Rogers, an American businessman who has the ambition of selling the convention discovery and acquisition he made to the biggest video game company in the world, Nintendo. The catch is he must get full permission from the Soviet Union, causing him to team with the game’s creator Alexey Pajitnov. Director Jon S. Baird, the flashy filmmaker behind the James McAvoyled Irvine Welsh adaptation Filth, gives the film a flashy and fast-paced delivery that always keeps you strung along with the story and Egerton excels as always with some great character work. The film definitely tries to be a crowd-pleaser, which it pulls off and I feel like it could have played well in theatres instead of a direct-to-streaming route on AppleTV+.
Missing – The John Cho-led thriller Searching introduced a new kind of thriller to movie audiences and that is the storytelling through a computer interface and I have to say it was pretty effective. Presented through Facetime videos, Skype or Zoom calls and internet searches, it was truly intriguing in ramping up the intensity and writers and directors Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick, who were editors on that film, made their feature film debuts by going back to that well. The film follows June, played by A Wrinkle In Time’s Storm Reid, who has free reign of her house when her mom goes on vacation overseas with her new boyfriend. The terror sets in when June’s mom doesn’t return and she is sent on a tech-driven search, fearing the worst with all signs pointing towards the new man in her life. The unpredictability of the story method had me pinned to my theatre seat with anticipation of what would be revealed next. Reid has transitioned very well to more adult roles and we are rooting for June as a result of her command in that role. With the sheer quality of this film and Searching, I hope this becomes a new subgenre in the thriller department as it has me in the palm of its hand every time.
Plane – It looked like Gerard Butler’s action movies were getting lazier in being named because this had to be the most ridiculously bland titling I have seen, so much so that the initial need to see it was as low as it could possibly be. The good news is the film is helmed by French director Jean-François Richet whose main mark on North American cinema was remaking the John Carpenter classic Assault On Precinct 13 which he did a decent job of. The plot has Butler as the pilot of a commercial airline with one passenger being a convicted felon being transported to a new prison. Lightening strikes the craft, forcing a risky landing on land occupied by a dangerous rebel force that takes the entire flight hostage leaving Butler and the prisoner to team up and dispatch all of the bad guys in a violent fashion. This film is, on the surface, completely formulaic in its setup and kind of the perfect fit for anyone that has loved all of the “Has Fallen” movies that Butler churns out but this thriller plays it a little differently in its execution. Butler and co-star Mike Colter from Paramount+’s excellent series Evil have solid action chemistry and playing with a lightly R-rated tether it manages some great fight sequences throughout. I’m hearing that a franchise has been born out of the characters and while I didn’t feel like I’d need more of these two, I’m game to watch more if they keep up this quality.
Chilly Scenes Of Winter – I always get excited when a new Criterion Collection edition lands on my doorstep and doubly so when it’s something I’ve never seen before. Well, I had neither seen nor heard of this month’s film, alternately titled Head Over Heels, which opened to bad reviews but found a cult following soon after when screenwriter and director Joan Micklin Silver re-edited the film, changing it’s ending to a more realistic and melancholy one. The story has John Heard playing Charles, a bored civil servant struggling through a harsh Utah winter. He spends most of his time reflecting on his romance with Laura, a coworker who left him to return to her husband, an A-Frame salesman. This is one of those winter blues films that speaks to a truth I think we all have when the season rolls around and it may now be my favourite John Heard performance. Criterion always seems to make some deep pulls and this is a seventies classic that I would never have stumbled on to.
Rick And Morty: Season 6 – It’s been a crash course in a cartoon that I was way late to the game for but I will say that I was on board so quickly because the writing is so good I get euphoric with its brilliant complexities. Admittedly, the show has gone through the wringer of controversy in the last year or so with co-creator Justin Roiland being let go from Adult Swim amid a sexual assault accusation but, really, the show has been speculated about ending for a few seasons now and still seems to keep rolling. Even more than that, the show is thriving just as popular as ever with no horizon of slowing down as they have to have more than twenty-five episodes in the tank from that last batch of contracted episodes. We also should be grateful that WB Discovery didn’t shut the show down entirely in those massive restructurings.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:
Detective Knight: Independence – With Bruce Willis having to end his career so tragically, I felt I owed it to the action movie legend to take in his last trilogy of films, a former dirty cop versus bad guy saga that hit the direct-to-Blu-ray market over the last eight months. That said, they definitely reflect their quality, a sad affirmation of where the majority of his career had been, most likely to get as much money as he could with his now public diagnosis. The finale of the series has Bruce’s Detective Knight being given a last-minute assignment of covering the July 4th shift when an EMT has a mental break and masquerades as a cop, enacting a deadly barrage of vigilante revenge. Even with a young up-and-comer like Jack Kilmer and genre stars like Dina Meyer, this movie adds up only to vapid thrills in a formulaic action thriller but I couldn’t miss out on seeing the man who brought me so much tough guy joy’s swan song.
Inland Empire – There should just be a general rule that any film in the filmography of David Lynch should automatically be a Criterion Collection release. I mean, they do it for Wes Anderson, so this isn’t really a stretch. Well, I can at least take solace in another title in the catalogue of one of my all-time favourite filmmakers has seen a new blu-ray release and it’s one of his most divisive films additionally. The film stars Laura Dern as actress Nikki Grace who starts to lose the connection between reality and her new project as the line between her and the character Susan begins to fade. I will admit that this movie really lost me when I first watched it at the time of its release in 2006 but time and a re-watch has definitely turned me around on it. This Blu-ray also has the added awesomeness of containing two fantastic documentaries on the creator himself, released in 2007.
Brooklyn’s Finest – I’m doubling up on the Fuqua for the past two weeks in this section but I feel like this one was an underrated one in his filmography and picked it up for under ten dollars. The cast is definitely here as Don Cheadle stars and Training Day actor Ethan Hawke reunites with his 2001 director. The story follows three unconnected Brooklyn law enforcement, an undercover narcotics, a corrupt cop and an imminently retiring beat cop who all end up at the wrong place at the wrong time and are forced to make a life-altering decision. Co-starring Richard Gere, Wesley Snipes and so many more, I really liked the gritty and unpredictable feel Fuqua was going for and his eye from Training Day was still there, just not with the David Ayer written nuance. For a great price, this one was a no-brainer and well worth checking out.
Succession: Season 4 (Crave) – This was a series I was certainly very late to the game on but after the audience and critic buzz as well as the awards acclaim that it was evident that I needed to change that and I crash coursed it before the third season was released. Now entering its final season, the basic story follows the Roy family who controls one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world and their lives as they start to make power moves in the hopes that their ageing father begins to step back from the company. The series stars Brian Cox as the patriarch of the Roys as well as Kieran Culkin, Nicholas Braun and Jeremy Strong but the standout for me is Hiam Abass as Cox’s wife who constantly delivers knockout performance after performance and Sarah Snook as the lone daughter, Shiv. This is a winner for sure and the more people talk about it the more “watercooler talk” that it will be and those who aren’t on board will relive the things they went through when they didn’t watch Lost, Game Of Thrones or Breaking Bad. You snooze, you lose and this show is going, going but not yet gone.
Rabbit Hole (Paramount+) – Being an original fan of Keifer Sutherland’s first foray into television, the landmark series 24, I have followed every series that he did afterwards like Touch and Designated survivor. What got me even more excited about this new project was that it was on Paramount+ and escapes the boundaries that network television presents. Keifer goes spy mode sort of for this show, playing John Weir, a private espionage operative who heads his own firm that is framed for the murder of an American diplomat and finds himself on the run from an enemy that seems to be outsmarting him at every turn. The pilot for the show is fantastic and sets up a charming Keifer mixed with the action chops we’ve come to crave from the former Jack Bauer. I think this might be another sizeable hit for the Canadian legend.