Renfield – R.M. Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) decides to leave his centuries-long line of work as a henchman and familiar to Count Dracula (Nicolas Cage) and finds a new lease on life in modern-day New Orleans when he falls in love with a feisty but perennially aggressive traffic cop named Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina).
Expectations: Cage, not even a year after the self-lampooning comedy The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent, returns to carve a bit of 2023 out for himself. Bloody fun with a hilarious script and more self-awareness make this an easy crowd-pleaser.
The Pope’s Exorcist – Inspired by the actual files of Father Gabriele Amorth, Chief Exorcist of the Vatican, The Pope’s Exorcist follows Amorth as he investigates a young boy’s terrifying possession and ends up uncovering a centuries-old conspiracy the Vatican has desperately tried to keep hidden.
Expectations: Russell Crowe leads this possession horror flick that looks pretty formulaic in its trailer. The film’s bright spot comes from director Julius Avery who delivered the insane World War II action horror Overlord, an experience way better than expected. He also needs a win after the letdown of Sylvester Stallone’s Samaritan and a Crowe-led horror could deliver a box office surprise.
Mafia Mamma – An American mom (Toni Collette) inherits her grandfather’s mafia empire in Italy. Guided by the firm’s consigliere (Monica Bellucci), she hilariously defies everyone’s expectations as the new head of the family business.
Review: The terrible trailers for this movie nearly scared me off completely but the mere fact that it stars Toni Collette, who I would watch in anything, and directed by Thirteen and Lords Of Dogtown director Catherine Hardwicke kept me on board. That said, Collette is the saving grace in a film that is cartoonish and slapstick but oddly charming in the end. If you read elsewhere bout this movie you will see many low scores for this one but I kind of had fun with the movie.
How To Blow Up A Pipeline – A crew of young environmental activists execute a daring mission to sabotage an oil pipeline, in Daniel Goldhaber’s taut and timely thriller that is part high-stakes heist, part radical exploration of the climate crisis. Based on the controversial book by Andreas Malm.
Review: A low-fi thriller that bubbles with intensity from the get-go and doesn’t let up until its very unpredictable end. I haven’t seen writer and director Daniel Goldhaber’s previous work, Cam, but this film is so well thought out and so driven in its goal. Lead actress and co-writer Ariela Barer is magnetic in her performance as an actress and storyteller to look out for.
Showing Up – A sculptor (Michelle Williams) preparing to open a new show must balance her creative life with the daily dramas of family and friends, in Kelly Reichardt’s vibrant and captivatingly funny portrait of art and craft.
Review: Consistently one of the best pairings in modern independent cinema, Reichardt and Williams always deliver poignant character stories that are believable to the core. It also has the MVP of 2022, Hong Chau in a main role and we get another Judd Hirsch movie after his appearance in Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans. I love Kelly’s very quiet approach to all of her films and the cinematography from usual collaborator Christopher Blauvelt is exquisite.
Kids Vs Aliens – All Gary wants is to make awesome home movies with his best buds. All his older sister Samantha wants is to hang with the cool kids. When their parents head out of town on Halloween weekend, an all-time rager of a teen house party turns to terror when aliens attack, forcing the siblings to band together to survive the night.
Expectations: Jason Eisener, the brilliant mind behind Canadian Grindhouse actioner Hobo With A Shotgun has returned with something a little bit different for Shudder but guaranteed to have the same charm. What has me more excited about this film in particular as it is the fully realized version of the short film which appears in the anthology horror flick, V/H/S/2. If you are a genre fan, I think you owe it to play Canadian this weekend with this film.
Living – Bill Nighy is an incredible actor with a plethora of fantastic performances on his resume but he may have just put a new and bright gem in the crown of his career with this new drama and it also happens to be inspired by one of the greatest creative minds in cinema history. This new character-driven film driven by Nighy’s stellar outing is based on Ikiru, a drama written and directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa in 1952, a film he considered his greatest work. The story follows Nighy as a humourless civil servant who decides to take time off work to experience life after receiving a terminal diagnosis from his doctor. Realizing that he has no legacy, he strives to make his life mean something for the community he’s served all of his life. I cannot stress enough how beautiful Nighy’s portrayal is in this film and the direction from Moffie director Oliver Hermanus is on a whole new level with intimate and gorgeous cinematography from Jamie Ramsey who also shot the unfortunate fanfare silent See How They Run. Presented in a fascinating 4:3 screen ratio, it added so much to the experience.
Infinity Pool – After six slow years of inactivity, unsuccessful novelist James Foster now questions his talent. And at this point in life, James is willing to try everything to overcome the chronic writer’s block–perhaps the sandy beaches and the picturesque serenity of a tropical paradise would do the trick. Instead, as the blocked author and his supportive publishing heiress wife, Em, look for inspiration in an exclusive resort overlooking the sea, a millisecond of inattention destroys the couple’s tomorrows. Now, isolated from reality and bound by the draconian laws of a strange land, James and Em have some tough, life-altering decisions to make. But money buys everything. As things get out of hand, can those who can afford sin find a loophole to save their skin?
Review: Brando Cronenberg is back and coming for the 1% just months removed from Ruben Ostlund coming for their skins in Triangle Of Sadness. Skarsgard is a great conduit in this nightmare ride of a hedonistic vacation that doubles down on debauchery, body horror and mind-bending visuals but Mia Goth is where this film excels in another gonzo performance. Not for the weak of heart but a highly recommended thriller.
The Fisher King – A former radio shock-jock (Jeff Bridges) sinks into a boozy depression when his flip comment on the air is blamed for a shooting spree in an upscale cafe. Living off the kindness of his long-suffering girlfriend Anne (Mercedes Ruehl, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress), Jack has an epiphany when he is rescued from street punks by Parry (Robin Williams), a homeless former professor who has created a world of his own invention to insulate himself from the pain of witnessing his wife’s death in the cafe shooting spree.
New Criterion edition: Landing on Criterion Collection 4K this week, Terry Gilliam’s presence in this prestigious group of films is a clear indicator of his profound effect on cinema, a visionary who is definitely an all-time favourite for me. This movie is a masterpiece with career-best performances from the top-billed three and another showcase of Robin’s incredible range.
Juniper – Veteran actors usually are a good selling point for me in any character study drama and Charlotte Rampling has had a handful of these types of films that I have loved like Swimming Pool and 45 Years. This film is also deeply rooted in the country where it takes place, New Zealand and, like Aussie films, I have a certain affinity for their cinema as well. The film follows a self-destructive teenager spiralling into suicidal thoughts that is asked to look after his ailing grandmother when he is suspended from school. Obtuse to each other at first the two start to bond over each other’s strong will and battle for control over their situations, hers as it dwindles to a close and his as he searches for meaning and a purpose in it. The film is well-acted and beautifully shot but I feel like it doesn’t do enough to secure its own singular voice and kind of gets lost in the shuffle of other films like it and dwarfed by ones that are better. I still love the mauri culture that is represented, an indigenous voice that has such a great presence in all New Zealand productions.
Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:
B’Twixt Now And Sunrise – When struggling supernatural fiction writer Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) arrives in an isolated small town as part of his book tour, he hears about the local lore of vampires and an infamous mass murder. Eager for inspiration, Baltimore is swept into a surreal fever dream of eccentric characters, from the oddball sheriff (Bruce Dern) to the ghost of a young girl (Elle Fanning) to visions of Edgar Allan Poe (Ben Chaplin), that force him to confront his own troubled past.
Review: As film fans, we all have to gather around the great Francis Ford Coppola when he releases something because of the gifts he has given us in his past. This film, first released in 2011, was decidedly not good but, like another misstep of his, The Godfather Part III, he has gone back into the editing room to create a new definitive cut of this horror film. The outcome? A marginally better ghost story that reminds us from time to time that this man did Apocalypse Now but that was over forty-five years ago.
Confessions Of A Nazi Spy – FBI agent Ed Renard (Edward G. Robinson) goes on the hunt for a Nazi spy ring bent on subverting the citizenry of America. Beginning with Nazi rabble-rouser Kurt Schneider (Francis Lederer), Renard uses his well-honed instincts to find his way to the ring leader of the espionage campaign, Dr. Karl Kassell (Paul Lukas). With the Nazi secret police rounding up any security leaks and passing them back to Germany, Renard races to extract the information that will bring down the conspiracy.
Review: One of the rare pre-World War II anti-propaganda films, it’s very cool to see Warner Archive celebrating this, at the time, big studio gamble and giving it a high-def treatment. The reception of it got very personal too as Adolf Hitler reportedly planned to execute the makers of this film upon winning the war. As for the film itself, Edward G. Robinson was a definite star of his era and had the balls to take on this film when other stars like Marlene Dietrich feared what repercussions would happen to their families in Europe.
Flamingo Road – Dancer Lane Bellamy (Joan Crawford) tours as part of a carnival, but is deserted in Boldon City when they flee to avoid their debts. Deputy Fielding Carlisle (Zachary Scott) arrives and, secretly smitten with her, helps Lane find employment as a waitress. However, scheming Sheriff Titus Semple’s (Sydney Greenstreet) ambitious plans for Fielding to become a rep in the state legislature does not include his dating an itinerant woman, so he runs her out of town. Lane seeks revenge, but at what cost?
Review: A favourite American film from German new wave master director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, this underappreciated film noir drama gets another chance at modern relevance with this Blu-ray edition and I think it deserves its flowers now. Joan Crawford is great and I love the tough-talking script for it. It’s a forgotten Michael Curlitz gem that gets overshadowed by giants in his career like Casablanca.
Blindspotting: Season 2 (Crave) – As Miles, Ashley’s partner of 12 years and father of their son, is suddenly incarcerated, she is left to navigate a chaotic and humorous existential crisis when she’s forced to move in with Miles’ mother and half-sister.
What to expect from this season: A brilliant follow-up to a film I consider required watching from 2018, the first season of the series picked up so nicely, this time following Ashley’s struggles in her Oakland neighbourhood as a newly temporary single mom. The snappy writing is still so present in the story and Jasmine Cephas Jones is so likable in the lead role. This is one of my current favourite shows right now so I’m so excited to see it return.
The Marvelous Ms. Maisel: Season 5 (Prime Video) – It’s the late 1950s and Miriam “Midge” Maisel has everything she has ever wanted — the perfect husband, two kids and an elegant apartment on New York’s Upper West Side. Her seemingly idyllic life takes a surprising turn when she discovers a hidden talent she didn’t previously know she had — stand-up comedy. This revelation changes her life forever as she begins a journey that takes her from her comfortable life on the Upper West Side through the cafes and nightclubs of Greenwich Village as she makes her way through the city’s comedy industry on a path that could ultimately lead her to a spot on the “Tonight Show” couch.
What to expect this season: The end, that’s what we should all e expecting because that’s what this season is, the final story for Midge, her insane family, her ex-husband Joel and her manager Suzie. I will say one thing is for certain, I will miss everything about this phenomenal series and will possibly watch it over again in the near future. There is something special about this show and it shined from the get-go with the snappiest scripts I’ve ever heard and character building on a whole new level. We were spoiled by this show and it will have a lasting legacy for it I think.
Rennervations (Disney+) – Jeremy Renner teams up with expert builders to acquire large, decommissioned government vehicles and reimagine them as “mind-blowing creations” that serve kids in communities worldwide.
Expectations: I honestly have no idea as Disney didn’t even supply me with a pre-screener for this show but I’m in it just for the charm of Jeremy himself, an actor I have enjoyed for decades now. Does the world need another celebrity-hosted renovation show? No, probably not but with the name Rennervations such a slam dunk-sounding title, you have to give it a small chance I think.
Florida Man (Netflix) – When a struggling ex-cop (Edgar Ramírez) is forced to return to his home state of Florida to find a Philly mobster’s runaway girlfriend, what should be a quick gig becomes a spiraling journey into buried family secrets and an increasingly futile attempt to do the right thing in a place where so much is wrong. The series is described as a wild odyssey into a sunny place for shady people in the spirit of Body Heat and Elmore Leonard’s Out of Sight.
Expectations: I can’t believe it’s taken this long for the internet what the fuckery of The Florida Man to get any sort of series mention and now here we are with a Netflix show starring Edgar Ramirez, an actor I really like. Costarring Mad Max: Fury Road’s Abbey Lee and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Clark Gregg, the series was created by Donald Todd, a mega-producer and writer on giant shows like This Is Us and Ugly Betty but it doesn’t give me much foothold in his ability to deliver a story like this. When you throw a name around like Elmore Leonard, certain expectations arise.
The Last Thing He Told Me (AppleTV+) – Based on the novel The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother. As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity–and why he really disappeared. Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated.
Expectations: I feel like this show has been kind of done before, most recently with the Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman HBO show The Undoing, but a lead actor can make a seemingly formulaic show a bit more interesting. The star of this series is Jennifer Garner and as a huge fan of her early 2000s series Alias I’ll give anything she does in the episodic form a chance and this has her with Jamie Lannister himself, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. The show is the showrunner debut for Academy Award-winning writer Josh Singer, known for Spotlight, First Man and The Post, all great films, so I’m looking forward to what he produces here.