Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New On VOD:

Extra Ordinary – Take the quirky attitudes of both new Academy Award winner Taika Waititi and combine it with the sombre middle American weird comedy of a Jared and Jerusha Hess movie like Napoleon Dynamite and ad a splash of British bumbling charm and you have this new horror-comedy. The film has unknown actress Maeve Higgins as a medium that has given up talking to ghosts because of the role she thinks she played in her father’s death. Now begged back into the job by a man who has a daughter that is being supernaturally groomed to be a sacrifice to the devil for a burnt-out rock star looking for a comeback. Aside from Higgins, the film also has Barry Ward in a comedic role, a weird movie after his Loach movies and the hilarious Will Forte as the villainous rock star. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie, a gut bustlingly hilarious story that will keep you laughing until the hysterical final moment.

Robert The Bruce – Twenty five years after Angus MacFayden played the character that screwed over Willaim Wallace in Braveheart, he is back to reprise the role in a film about the events that followed that betrayal, one that the actor wrote himself twelve years earlier. The immediate question is why did MacFayden at fifty-six years of age decide that he should jump back into that role, playing Robert The Bruce at age of thirty-two? It honestly doesn’t make a lot of sense and takes away from this quasi spinoff of the Academy Award-winning Braveheart. That said, the film is gorgeous looking throughout, taking advantage of the picturesque Scottish landscape and the mists in every moment, I just wish the surrounding film was more engaging. A story about this era should definitely not feel this painfully dull at times.

Blue Story – A gritty new tale of gangland violence comes from the United Kingdom with this feature film that is based on a series of YouTube videos from a creator named Rapman. Now in the huge leap to a major Paramount production, he writes and directs the feature version about two young friends who become rivals in an escalating street war that is killing off both sides with malice. Rapman himself jumps in as the narrator, always talking in rap rhymes which works well in some instances and comes off as corny in others. All in all, the film is a well-done gangster warfare story but just with that British edge that makes it a little hard to understand in some parts but as a genre entry goes I think a lot of people will enjoy it.

Spaceship Earth – Remember the Biosphere 2, an Earth system science research facility that was constructed to created to conduct a two-year experiment meant to demonstrate the viability of closed ecological systems to support and maintain human life in Outer Space? Sealed in for the experiment in 1991, the way most of my generation learned about this was the comedy BioDome starring Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin, but, as flawed as the initial experiment was, this was supposed to be a direct representation of how we could live on other planets if need be and more than twenty-five years afterwards that need has sped up exponentially. This film is fascinating in its approach, pulling from hours of footage, and the reveal on what happened to the facility after is almost some Scooby Doo villain type insanity that connects the Trump administration to this mess. The last ten minutes of this movie is pretty infuriating.

Lancaster Skies – Going from the war movie I had to watch last week which supported from a lame script, shoddy production value and a scowling bad boy lead who just looks slimy, I was trepidatious about this new World War II movie but also thought “well, how bad can it be?” I can’t say that this film was worse but it lacked almost all of the action of the before mentioned film. This is the story of Douglas, a broken, solitary, Spitfire Ace, who must overcome his past to lead a Lancaster bomber crew in the pivotal aerial war over Berlin, in 1944 but the guy has zero people skills whatsoever and has a hard time bonding with any of his men and is an absolute disaster with the woman on the base who has an obvious infatuation with him. This movie is really only bookended with war scenes and is instead about the off-time between the men of this crew which is not what I expected with this title. The skies are pretty much a metaphor besides a couple of scenes and it comes off as more a British melodrama more than anything. A bit dull for a casual viewer.

Blu-Ray:

Bloodshot – Sony and Valiant Comics kicked off their own cinematic universe with this new violent action film with a character that I honestly think was tailor-made for lead star Vin Diesel. The Fast And Furious action-heavy stars as Ray Garrison, a marine that is resurrected as part of a secret black ops program with nanobots in his blood that repair him as he is shot, stabbed, contused and everything else. In short, the dude is now totally invincible but was he brought back for good or to dispatch those who get in the way of the shadowy organization that created him? The film is the feature debut for visual effects supervisor Dave Wilson and the inexperience shows through with a project that could have carved its own path but instead kowtows to the cliches we expect from the star. Being this is the last movie I saw in theaters, I’m so disappointed that the studio who rather play everything safe than to produce a new franchise of worth.

I Still Believe – We made it into March before getting the first weepy romance of the year but this film has the double distinction of being a faith-based inspirational movie as well. Starring Riverdale’s leading man K.J. Apa and Tomorrowland’s Britt Robertson, this is the true story of Christian music star Jeremy Camp and the love of his life Melissa Lynn Henning-Camp, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer shortly before they married. I never have anything great to say about these Christian studio releases as none of them have been any good and seem to be more driven in getting the message across than to make a good movie and this doesn’t change that at all. For a true story, this movie still feels completely contrived and massively predictable with all logic thrown to the wind just to make the narrative fit into their box. It’s disappointing and massively boring.

Gretel & Hansel – In the dark niches of mystery and horror actor turned director Osgood Perkins has been making waves with stylishly done films like The Blackcoat’s Daughter and with this film, just his third feature, he may hit more of a mainstream level with how wide this release was and he’s doing it with a classic Grimm fairy tale. The story is kind of what you remember it to be, a young girl and her little brother who live in a distant countryside long ago are forced from their home lured in a desperate search of food and work to a cottage in the woods that may be the end of both of them. The film stars It’s Sophia Lillis and The Borg Queen herself Alice Krige as the formidable villain of this film and one who absolutely owns her performance in every way, the delicious little extra that keeps the atmosphere of the story heightened. I really enjoyed this movie visually as it is an absolute feast in every way with a rich art direction and production design that is totally awe-inspiring, The script is a bit threadbare but on the level of being an arthouse horror it succeeds.

Greed – Writer and director Michael Winterbottom brings another facet of his biting satire with this new film that puts his usual leading star Steve Coogan in a handbag looking tan with some bright white veneers as the patriarch of a ridiculously rich and powerful family. Showcasing all the awful qualities of vapidly bullheaded billionaires and the effects of money, Winterbottom gives this movie a scattered feel that all meet up in the end but the journey feels very disjointed along the way. Infusing the movie with the refugee crisis and the evils of sweatshops in Middle Eastern countries and underpaid workers, making a comedy that feels like a little tickle with a hell of a slap. That said, the third act of this movie was so unpredictable that I couldn’t believe it was happening.

Arkansas – Usually known from comedic roles, Clark Duke makes his feature directorial debut with this modern noir story that he wrote as well, adapted from a book by John Brandon. It stars Liam Hemsworth and Duke as two smugglers working for a mysterious Arkansas based kingpin named Frog that they’ve never met. When their in-between is killed after being followed home, the two are thrown into the crosshairs of their boss as the errors stack up. Both Hemsworth and Duke are fantastic in this movie and Vince Vaughn carries the other half of the film as Frog as well as some great supporting work from Josh Brolin’s daughter, Eden. I really liked this film and I’m looking forward to what’s next from Clark Duke.

The Jesus Rolls – John Turturro got the rights to make a spin-off story of his character Jesus Quintana from the Coen Brothers but it is explicitly known that they do not consider this movie a direct and official piece of the Lebowski “universe” and, honestly, after watching it that’s really for the best. Written, directed, produced and starring Turturro, this movie follows “The Jesus” after he is released from prison again and looks to start up a sort of prison release program with his cohort, played by Bobby Cannavale. All this movie does is show how thin Jesus is as a character and really drive home the thought that we don’t need a Lebowski sequel. In all of this mess though it is so great to see French actress Audrey Tautou. I adore her.

Tigers Are Not Afraid – This movie has a couple of things working against it coming out of the gate. Firstly, this is an independent film so if you want it to hit the big time it needs to have that word darling attached to it. That’s not going to happen because the second deterrent from that additive title is that this s a horror film as well. Hopefully, Guillermo del Toro calling this Issa Lopez written and directed movie one of his favorites of the last year can help because I found this movie to be incredibly special. The film is a dark tale about a gang of five children trying to survive the horrific violence of the cartels, led in a way by a girl who can see the ghosts created every day by the drug war, spirits looking for vengeance. Lopez’s style breathes right off of the screen and sort of reminds me of the earlier del Toro film The Devil’s Backbone, signifying that she has a huge future ahead of her.

The Jack In The Box – Looks like we’re getting a double dose of low budget British filmmaking as this dumb creature feature is available this week, an hour and a half of a slightly cool premise that farts its way to a murky finish. In “forbidden object” form, this is about a jack in the box that is dug up and given to a local museum where the clown that is contained in the box starts to kill people and bringing them back to the box as a collection that will unleash its freedom to kill untethered. Besides the cool design of the clown creature, this movie is a bust with totally lazy blood and gore and some really terrible looking CG in the third act. Also, the clown’s creepiness is only effective as long as they don’t have him appear on the screen for long periods of time which happens in the middle of the second act.

In Search Of Kundun – More than twenty years after its completion, this documentary brings us back to the production of Martin Scorsese’s film Kundun, a passion projected he made about the Dhali Lama, a movie that was done in complete cooperation with the spiritual leader using his own family members. This movie is fascinating as it gives the viewer a deeper look into how Scorses constructs his movies but also about the spiritual connection that he held with the Lama and how fervent the need to make this film was in the acclaimed filmmaker’s soul. It also shows that he never has that cliched dictator’s spirit while making a movie and, even in the face of a production collapse he is calm as a cucumber. This is a fascinating look at belief working side by side with cinema and I also saw glimpses of his need to make his future passion project Silence hidden in there too.

Ray Donovan: Season 7 – One of the coolest men on television, Liev Schreiber, is back for another season of his hit Showtime series and, admittedly, being so embroiled in watching all the movies I can, this show slipped by me but I have finished a couple of seasons since I received season 6. The story follows Ray, a professional “fixer” who is employed by the who’s who of Los Angeles in secret. The problem is his own family, played by Eddie Marsan, Dash Mihok and the legendary Jon Voight, create even more problems than he can deal with given his extra workload. The new season has Ray deep in therapy, trying to repair the damages he has made, still living in New York City but he has to revert back to the old Ray Donovan to deal with a bit of his father Mickey’s past. This show is one of the best on television and still, is sitting in the middle of Showtime’s ratings.

Gunsmoke: The Final Season – The final season of this, at the time, record-breaking series is now my collection, one that’s totally full of western stories including marshalls, outlaws, damsels in distress and the gloriously dusty town of Dodge City. For those who don’t know about the show, this is the story of Marshall Matt Dillon and his town, the aforementioned Dodge City, one that he governs and keeps safe from all the lawless townfolk and bandits that roll through. This series ran for a total of 20 Seasons so we are at the of the run and all of the original characters and actors had moved on from the series leaving actor James Arness and his sidekick Festus on their own. Still, this is a great show to go through for nostalgic reasons and see how episodic serial television was done in its first golden age.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

The Virgin Suicides – This is one of the most interesting films to come out of the year 2000 as it was the launching of the directorial career of the second generation of Coppolas with Sofia making her debut. A beautiful film shot by one of the best, Edward Lachman, it was based on the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides and follows a group of male friends who become obsessed with five mysterious sisters who are sheltered by their strict, religious parents in suburban Detroit in the mid-1970s. For a first feature film, Coppola commands this story with such an overarching presence that you know the lineage of her family flowed through her strongly even five minutes into it. This one exists in the Criterion Collection for a good reason. Find this one on Hoopla and Popcornflix.

Kingdom Of Heaven – Ridley Scott is a director that has gotten a pretty bad rap for films since Gladiator in 2000, aside from The Martian, and I know because I’m one of the guys that said them. This movie is a bit of an anomaly in that time period as the original theatrical cut of this movie is a pretty confusing mess that feels like it should have been longer. News flash, it was longer and later Scott released the director’s cut of this Orlando Bloom Crusades story an I think it is one of the greatest epics of the 2000s era. Beautiful cinematography from Ridley’s main guy John Mathieson, incredible production design and career performances from the cast, especially Edward Norton’s masked and Brando like portrayal makes this film absolutely can’t miss.

Adult Beginners – A lot of people seemed to sleep on that style of comedy not so lovingly referred to as “mumblecore” but a guy like me absolutely lived for it. One of these movies that got swept under the rug was this little indie film from Sofia Coppola’s producer Ross Katz (how about that connection?) in his feature debut, a story about a self-involved businessman on the brink of bankruptcy who tries to rekindle the relationship he has lost with his sister and his nephew. The movie stars Nick Kroll and Rose Byrne in the lead roles who give performances that are but hilarious and totally grounded to life, a total gem of a movie that just this week celebrates its fifth birthday. You can find this one right now on the Crave subscription.

Exit Through The Gift Shop – One of the most interesting, enigmatic but wholly influential artists of the modern era has to be Banksy as it feels everyone gets interested when a new art “installation” pops up or he does something to provoke the media that seems very gullible to his tricks. Ten years ago he took it upon himself to jump into the fray of documentary filmmaking by doing his story himself or something kind of like that. This is the story of how an eccentric French shop-keeper and amateur film-maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner. The film contains footage of Banksy, Shephard Fairey, Invader and many of the world’s most infamous graffiti artists at work in pieces that will consistently make your jaw drop. I love this movie and you can find it on Amazon Prime, Tubi and Sundance TV.

Please Give – Writer and director Nicole Holofcener is one of those special voices in independent cinema that I always take note of whether she is just writing a film or doing both like this great little movie that definitely doesn’t get talked about enough. Her films are always deep stories about the human condition and sometimes how much we can be that old oil and water adage and this film is very indicative of that. Starring Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt and Rebecca Hall, this film is about a husband and wife who butt heads with the granddaughters of the elderly woman who lives in the apartment the couple owns in New York City and is so brilliantly acted through Holofcener’s script and shot by Yaron Orbach who did Sing Street for John Carney. You can find it on the Criterion Channel right now.

Television:

Becoming (Netflix) – An incredible and inspirational story about one of the greatest first ladies of all time, get ready to fall in love with Michelle Obama all over again. Those who are still on the Obama train, like me, or who have already ravenously read her book Becoming will absolutely love every second of this movie that documents her 2019 tour to promote the book as well as going through her life leading to Barack, the ups and downs of the presidential campaign, the backlash of the media against her and, of course, everything about being the first lady. Beyond that, this is an interesting look at a woman that managed to keep her own identity intact and separate from the shadow of her husband, one that raised her daughters in an empowering way and the feeling of relinquishing their home at the end of Obama’s term. As a portrait of someone I highly respect, this was a fantastic movie.

The Eddy (Netflix) – I think it’s pretty apparent that Whiplash and La La Land writer and director Damien Chazelle loves jazz as it has been the basis of most of his career, save the Neil Armstrong biopic he did with Ryan Gosling a couple of years ago. Now he heads to Netflix to produce this eight-part series which he directed two of the episodes about a jazz club in Paris and a struggling musician that has to take the establishment on his shoulders after a tragedy befalls the previous owner. Ironically, the show stars Andre Holland, an actor from Moonlight, the film that was part of the Best Picture curfuffle from a few years back with La La Land. The show is grittily real, almost looking a bit like a docudrama at times and has a bit of a slow burn to it so it may take a few episodes to find it’s stride with you.

Dead To Me: Season 2 (Netflix) – Two of my favorite actresses lead this dark comedy as one of my childhood crushes, Christina Applegate, plays a recently widowed woman who meets a new friend, played by Linda Cardellini, at the grief support group, not knowing that she is the one responsible for her husband’s death. This series is so well written and while this new season takes it in a crazy different direction in some senses but doesn’t quite hit that level that Weeds did where it became completely unbelievable and kind of ruins some of the characters in the process. The show was created by Liz Feldman who made the short-lived Elisha Cuthbert sitcom One Big Happy but has really hit her stride with this show and the deeply sardonic and mean character for Applegate is so perfect. I love this show.

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind (Crave) – Natasha Gregson Wagner takes it on herself to set the record straight with this beautiful portrait of her mother complete with interviews with all of the remaining family including her biological father Richard Gregson, who has now since passed away and the father who raised her, Robert Wagner. What results from this film is an intimate look at a one of a kind and special talent that we may never see the likes of again. Natalie Wood was powerful, driven and always willing to stand up for herself in every way, push forward women’s rights in the industry in every facet she could. This type of documentary is an easy sell with me but I think everyone should check it out, it’s phenomenal.

Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill (Netflix) – One of the greatest living comedians on the planet is back with this new hour-long stand up set and I don’t know what it is about Jerry but I’ve always been a fan, dating back to his book Seinlanguage which I read three times when it came out. Not a huge accomplishment as it’s pretty short. This new special digs into the mundane nature of life as he always does, the fervour of going out just to want to go home, the annoying nature of friends and the headache to make new ones and the fact that dads are embued with the same natural instincts as mothers. Seinfeld proves that even now he can get the laughs and is still the measuring bar of stand up comedy and will be for years to come.

As heard on The J’Lyn Nye Show on 630 CHED in Edmonton, here’s a breakdown of the things to get you through at least the weekend!

Movies:

Tigertail (Netflix) – Parks and Recreation producer and Master Of None co-creator Alan Yang makes his feature directorial debut with this movie that he wrote as well. Starring Vancouver based actor Tzi Ma, this movie moves through the life of Grover, a Taiwanese born American citizen who is going through the motions of grieving for his recently deceased mother, the template for the man he became, a former factory worker who achieved the immigrant’s dream. This lineage has been passed onto his daughter, a life long overachiever who now wants to follow her heart more than what is expected of her. The performances in this film are powerfully felt through how muted they are in what they aren’t saying and Tzi Ma shoulders the majority of it beautifully. Also, as a Twin Peaks fan, it was an incredible treat to see Joan Chen in this movie.

Blood Quantum – Soaked in blood and dripping with style, writer and director Jeff Barnaby follows up his astoundingly great Indigenous film Rhymes For Young Ghouls with this zombie horror that feels familiar only in the basics of its mechanics. The film takes place outside the isolated Mi’gMaq reserve of Red Crow when the dead start to rise, observed first as a gutted salmon resurrects. Soon everything spirals out of control leading the survivors to isolate in an impenetrable structure made from scraps that are barely holding together as arguments for leadership rage on. The story feels a little disjointed here ad there but I loved the execution of the plot points and the gore is beautifully slick. I’m excited to see what Barnaby does next as he is a great filmmaking voice in the indigenous community that has a real chance to leap to the mainstream.

The Willoughbys (Netflix) – An animated film without the backing of a huge company like Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks or Illumination, I hadn’t heard of this movie until it landed o my pre-screening row on the Netflix bar and I have to say that I was completely blown away by it. Featuring a great voice cast including Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Terry Crews and Ricky Gervais, this movie follows the Willoughby children, a quartet of kids that are convinced they’d be better off raising themselves and hatch a sneaky plan to send their selfish parents on vacation or death, whatever comes first. This is a movie that hilariously hugs the line fo being darkly comedic and a sweetheart story that is bursting with rainbows. So many moments had me laughing so hard and the fact that Gervais narrates as the neighborhood cat is just the cherry on this sundae.

Little Women – Louise May Alcott’s book is an iconic story that has been read to many and adapted a few times as well, three times in the last twenty-five years to be precise, including this one. So, why is Greta Gerwig’s version of this story so important? It’s because Gerwig seems to encapsulate the consistent marginalization and generic rut of the female species and show it as the handcuffing of personal growth, free-thinking and creation that it really is. Featuring a stellar cast including Saorise Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet and Tracy Letts, this feels like the definitive screen version of the story, a beautifully created piece of cinema that shows the growth of Greta as a filmmaker between Lady Bird to now while her cast brings such life to a wonderful script, in one of my favorite ensembles from last year.

Circus Of Books (Netflix) – Yes, I’m bringing a documentary yet again this time but the subject matter on this one is so interesting I couldn’t resist. Produced by Ryan Murphy, this is the story of Karen and Barry Mason who, in 1976 Los Angeles, had fallen on hard times and were looking for a way to support their young family. They answered an ad in the Los Angeles Times for Larry Flynt who was seeking distributors for Hustler Magazine which led to their becoming fully immersed in the LGBT community as they took over a local store, Circus of Books. A decade after that they had become the biggest distributors of gay porn in the US and the community grew immensely for years after that. This documentary is a sweet human interest story that has a great message to it and some loveable people at the center. This is one of my favorite releases this week.

Extraction (Netflix) – Chris Hemsworth leads this film that was produced from Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame filmmaker’s The Russo Brothers limited comic series Ciudad, a phenomenal book. Led by new director Sam Hargraves, this is the story of a black market mercenary named Tyler Rake who is employed to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord in an extraction that is definitely a suicide mission. This movie is pulse-pounding action from start to finish with bloody violence, bullets flying, explosions booming and fight scenes that will quicken your heart rate. This movie kicks ass almost constantly and I loved every second. If you dig movies like John Wick, you will love the hell out of this one.

Underwater – Being buried in the first month of the year, any horror or action movie is usually something the studios want to bury as they’re generally not very good and that’s what happened to this one. Hell, we didn’t even get it here in Penticton. The story is about a crew of aquatic researchers who have a desperate struggle to get to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory but, worse than that, something has been released from the cracks underwater that starts to pick them off one by one. So, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, it’s got Kristen Stewart in it and, yes, I’m a big fan of her post-Twilight work, hate me for it if you want.  The movie was directed by William Eubanks who made the awesome sci-fi thriller The Signal, a film I stumbled upon and absolutely fell in love with and this movie is satisfying on the level of “Hey, I’d love to see a sort of mash-up between The Abyss and Alien” which it kind of ends up being. The creature design looks really cool and I will take scowling KStew in a tough as nails survival film any day. Enjoy this one for what it is.

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project – This is a fascinating documentary about a driven obsession with information through the visual media of televised news. Marion Stokes was an activist being groomed to become a communist leader in America who decided that her crusade would be to expose the truth of unfiltered media in what could be assembled into a comprehensive library of documented history. With everything that is currently going on in America and the media, this movie is an engrossing look at the path that led us to this point with Stokes herself making some very bold predictions of the future back in the 1970s that are chillingly coming to fruition today. A great movie for documentary fans.

Bad Boys For Life – It’s been seventeen years since we last saw Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s characters of Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett and after so much teasing and collapses of this third film it is now finally here without Michael Bay behind the camera and even though this is pretty much the only franchise I have love for some “Beyhem” in, this movie still worked the same with fresh blood behind the camera. This film teases the two cops’ “last ride” as they confront their ageing into different roles of law enforcement and the creation of their own squad which gets put to the immediate test with the emergence of a new enemy, Armando Armas, the vicious leader of a Miami drug cartel. This is the big-budget debut of the directing duo of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah and they bring that same frenetic action bombastic craziness we have come to expect every time Lowrey and Burnett take on a case. If you liked the previous movies you will definitely like this one.

The Gentlemen – Writer and director Guy Ritchie has returned to the roots of the type of cinema that got him popular, the gangster flicks like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. For this film, he grabs a huge cast with Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell and more for the story of a drug lord looking to get out of the game and sell of his empire to the highest bidder which sets off a bloody war in the London underworld, a place that Ritchie knows as well as he knows himself. This movie probably won’t draw in a new audience but will satisfy the hordes of fans of this genre he made famous, all of us salivating for him to do another movie with great dialogue and loud gunfights, all of which he brings for this. Got to hand it to him that he can make all of these already cool actors to an even higher level of coolness. That is some serious talent there.

Television:

Chris D’Elia: No Pain (Netflix) – One of my favorite stand up comedians of the last decade returns with a brand new set that I seriously can’t miss and will chase away your quarantine blues. This show, recorded in Indianapolis, Indiana, has D’Elia coming to grips with the notion that improving as a stand-up comedian is making him a worse human being in public, his vendetta against a mall baby and the fact that he had too much of a good upbringing to capitalize on any hardships for comedy. D’Elia’s comedy always feels so directly relatable which is one of the main reasons I always laugh to the point of hurting myself every time I watch one of his sets. So, I guess the title is a lie because there will be some pain.

The Innocence Files (Netflix) – True crimes docuseries have been the hotness everyone has been raving about on Netflix for a few years now and although it doesn’t have the trashy allure of Tiger King, I really feel like this series should be on peoples radars. Told in three hour-long episodes, this series details the personal stories behind eight cases of wrongful convictions that the Innocence Project and organizations within the Innocence Network have worked to highlight and overturn. The set up to this show is brilliant, as the first episode covers the wrongful conviction of two black Mississippi residents who are thrown into life sentences on the shakiest of evidence. This show with have you shaking your head in disbelief over how the justice system can be so flawed that basic logic has been thrown out the window in favor of opinion. Riveting stuff.

Hollywood (Netflix) – Ryan Murphy seems to have the stranglehold on Netflix during this whole pandemic as we get no only the two documentaries over the last couple weeks but this brand new scripted series that brings us to the golden era of post World War II Hollywood. The movie focuses on a bunch of aspiring actors, actresses, writers and directors who are desperate to make their big break into the industry at any cost to their soul. The show features a great young cast including American Crime Story’s Darren Criss, Spider-Man Homecoming’s Laura Harrier and Ready Or Not’s breakout star Samara Weaving as well as veterans like Holland Taylor and Dylan McDermott who is no stranger to Murphy’s world. Racy and always pushing the envelope, this series has the stuff to make it big, see, it’s gonna be a star!

What We Do In The Shadows: Season 2 (FX) – Following up a hilarious movie with the first season of a heavily anticipated series that delivered on all levels, we have been not so patiently waiting for the return of our favorite vampire roommates. Created by the star of the original film, Jemaine Clement, this show follows a different cast, led by the brilliant Kayvon Novak and one of my favorite current British comedic actors Matt Berry, the story simply follows three vampires and their night lives living on Staten Island, their home for a century. This is by far one of the most clever new comedies on television and their return is so welcome at this crazy and unpredictable time.

Looking For Alaska – Teen dramas usually skate a fine line between being annoying or cheesy and totally sappy but it seems that author John Green has the adolescent voice hammered down because, in my opinion, the previous adaptations of his work, The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns, are pretty damn good. Now, in a longer series format for Hulu, his first book Looking For Alaska gets the adaptation treatment, following a guy named Miles who has enrolled in a private school in the woods called Culver Creek Academy, a decision that will change his life and hopefully give him a deeper perspective on life. Not a popular kid at his previous school, Miles immediately strikes up a friendship with his roommate known as “The Colonel” who then introduces him to Alaska Young, the girl of his dreams. This young cast, including rising star Charlie Plummer and new faces like Kristine Forseth and Denny Love, give this show a charisma that intrigues me and characters I felt like I immediately cared about and that has to be due to it being shepherded to the screen by The OC’s Josh Schwartz.

Middleditch & Schwartz (Netflix) – Capturing three nights of their North American tour, this show gives you the brilliance of comedic actors Thomas Middleditch, a native of Nelson, British Columbia, and Ben Schwartz as they do hour-long shows completely made up on the spot with just a few suggestions from the audience. With the kick-off episode entitled Parking Lot Wedding, the pure brilliance of these two is fully on display as I was laughing my butt off from beginning to end. The callbacks, memory gaffs and motions to the audience all combine to hopefully elevate the hilarious improv that these two pull off. I definitely want more episodes added as three doesn’t feel anywhere close to enough.

After Life: Season 2 (Netflix) – Whenever I hear the name Ricky Gervais I am automatically interested, especially in series form, as this is the man who brought us The Office, Extras and Derek, plus the countless other things he has been a part of. This series might be my favorite he has ever done as it comes from deep in the heart and soul but sheds away the humanity of saying whatever the hell you want to people and, although it looks like it will play on some heavier themes like his last one, I think it has broad appeal. The series follows a man that goes from Mr. Nice Guy to social terror with a don’t give a shit attitude when his wife dies. A good cast around Gervais with The Strain’s David Bradley playing his father, It’s All Gone Pete Tong’s Paul Kaye as his therapist and his Extras co-star Ashley Jensen as his father’s caretaker.

Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels (Crave) – A pretty sizeable fan base is very excited to get the spinoff to the popular Showtime series that started back in 2014 and ran for three seasons. While the original series followed explorer Sir Malcolm Murray, American gunslinger Ethan Chandler, scientist Victor Frankenstein and medium Vanessa Ives as they combated supernatural threats in Victorian London, this series goes ahead in time to a late 1930s Los Angeles at a time that city expansion was aggressive and pushing out the Latino community and the rise of the Nazi ideals were taking hold in the city. The kick is that an evil and godly entity is responsible for pushing the weaker-minded humans into furthering the agenda of the destruction of humanity. The show stars Game Of Thrones alum Natalie Dormer, Nathan Lane and It Follows and Don’t Breathe actor Daniel Zovatto and I loved episode one. Looking forward to what’s next.

Upload: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – After the mind-twisting darkness of Devs, Amazon Prime is going for a lighter approach to the online gaming world with this new sci-fi series from Greg Daniels, the creator of the American version of The Office and Parks And Recreation. Starring Robbie Amell, this ten-episode series follows a man who gets to electronically pick the new world he inhabits after his untimely death. This is a show that has been long in development for Daniels as he started writing it right after the series finale for The Office. I’ve been seeing trailers for this everywhere for months and I really hope it is as good as it looks.

Betty: Season 1 (Crave) – A couple of years ago I fell in love with a little New York shot indie story from writer and director Crystal Moselle called Skate Kitchen about a teenager new to the area that falls in with a group of skater girls. It’s really great that HBO feels the same way I do, if not more, as they have produced, with Moselle directing, a new six-episode series putting us right back into the skatepark and I am very excited for possibly the most underrated shows of 2020 that will hopefully get some eyes on the original film.

New On VOD:

Blood Quantum – Soaked in blood and dripping with style, writer and director Jeff Barnaby follows up his astoundingly great Indigenous film Rhymes For Young Ghouls with this zombie horror that feels familiar only in the basics of its mechanics. The film takes place outside the isolated Mi’gMaq reserve of Red Crow when the dead start to rise, observed first as a gutted salmon resurrects. Soon everything spirals out of control leading the survivors to isolate in an impenetrable structure made from scraps that are barely holding together as arguments for leadership rage on. The story feels a little disjointed here ad there but I loved the execution of the plot points and the gore is beautifully slick. I’m excited to see what Barnaby does next as he is a great filmmaking voice in the indigenous community that has a real chance to leap to the mainstream.

Nose To Tail – This movie seems to be playing into the kind of movies I generally like as it all takes place in a five-star restaurant during a make or break night for the head chef. Aaron Abrams from Hannibal and Closet Monster plays Daniel, a pill and alcohol-fueled chef and restaurant owner who is as abusive to all of those around him as he is to himself, but, like most of these guys, is driven by his ego to a fault. As I said, this is totally my type of movie but the lead character is so immediately unlikeable and the snowball effect on that is far too quick to recover from because it really doesn’t get any better. I feel like the point of this movie is to see Daniel go down in a big ball of flames and feel justified in doing so. It just didn’t work for me.

Enemy Lines – I’m always a sucker for a World War II film and when any of them get pushed my way for release I will generally check them out but this movie raised red flags right away. A story about a crack team of allied commandos sent on a deadly mission behind enemy lines to extract a rocket scientist from the hands of the Nazis, the film should check all the boxes of a great war film but the fact that it stars Ed Westwick, an actor who after sexual assault accusations is low on the employability list made me work and for good reason because it isn’t good at all. The plot feels easy and almost paint by numbers with our heroes easily skirting through any problem up until our third act where it all hits the fan and the effects are some of the worst I have ever seen and I watch Canadian films regularly. Do not be duped by this movie on your VOD screen, it’s not even worth ten minutes of your time.

Tammy’s Always Dying – Felicity Huffman is an actress that has been getting a lot of publicity over the last year or so and it is not in a good way at all but instead wrapped up in that whole university admissions scandal. The whole debacle even stopped her from promoting this new movie, one that needed the star’s help due to the low budget of it. Huffman plays the alcohol addled mother of a woman who is the direct result of being raised by someone like that, quick to anger, constantly making bad decisions and on a slope to personal ruin. Even through all of this, she is there to save her mother from jumping to her death every month like clockwork. I will say right here that for me Huffman’s over the top performance is what soured this movie for me and made me feel distant from it starting with her opening moment on screen. It feels like she’s in a play on the subject when everyone else is in a more grounded drama and I couldn’t shake that notion. That said, this is quite the debut in the director’s chair for former Power Rangers star Amy Jo Johnson and I look forward to what she does next.

Blu-Ray:

The Rhythm Section – Ryan Reynolds can’t be the only ass-kicker of his family as his wife Blake Lively makes her leap to the action genre. Yes, I know we already saw her take on a shark in the thriller The Shallows but this film sees her in hand to hand combat and firing a gun and looking a bit less awkward than I expected for the former Gossip Girl. In the film, she plays a woman looking for revenge after her family is murdered during a terrorist plot. Kind of leaning into that cliche a bit, she arms her self up and goes into training to destroy those who took her loved ones but the film looks a bit grittier than your standard Taken film and it has Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown to do some heavy lifting as well. This film, produced by James Bond executive Barbara Broccoli, tried to carve a new niche of female-led action films for itself but failed to pull it off as the pacing really dogs this movie constantly and felt a little half baked at times.

Guns Akimbo – After seeing his debut film Deathgasm at the Vancouver International Film Festival a few years ago, I’ve been waiting for the bigger budget and more notable cast led follow up from New Zealand director Jason Lei Howden and this hits the spot in the genre of loud, brash and bloody action films. Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving star in the darkly comedic story of a tech employee who must throw caution to the wind when he wakes up after trolling the dark web with guns fixed to his hands and bloodthirsty killers looking to kill him while trying to save his ex-girlfriend from the same people who put him in this situation. Unfortunately, Howden killed all momentum for this movie by using the film’s twitter account to publicly attack female critics who gave it low marks. Brutal.

I Wish I Knew – A new documentary from the director of last year’s beautiful Chinese gangster flick Ash Is Purest White, filmmaker Zhangke Jia gives an intimate vision of Shanghai and its history but most importantly the voices of those who know it deeply, have never left or have tried to escape it and those whose journeys brought them back to it. This film, with a serene and calm demeanour, portrays a city that has been founded on industry and on the backs of its workers but has also captured the imaginations of the local storytellers, filmmakers and actors as well as the international community like acclaimed director Michaelangelo Antonioni who went there to make a documentary in the 1970s but seemed to glorify that which the residents thought set their culture back. This documentary may feel too sombre at times and may bore those who need more flash.

Spongebob SquarePants: Bikini Bottom Bash – When this brand new compilation of episodes hit my mailbox from my friends at Paramount I looked at it and said “sure, why not?” because, for those who don’t know, I love Spongebob Squarepants and actually own a lot of it already, a show which I consider, along with being a successful kids show, a really great source of stoner viewing. With this grouping of five episodes, we get classic stories like Spongebob’s birthday party, the hilarious beach party episode “Sun Bleached”, the Slumber Party and more. This is great for the kids and just as good for the immature big kids like me.

Steve’s DVD Geekout:

Criminal Minds: The Final Season – After fourteen seasons on the air and a couple of spinoffs that were pretty great but didn’t rope in that targeted market, one of the creepiest police procedurals finally came to an end with the ten-episode finale season. Led by their stalwart leading man Joe Mantegna and featuring the consistent nerd heartthrob of Matthew Gray Gubler, this show always flushed out a character study week to week of some of the most depraved and evil serial killers that the writer’s room could come up with, whether they were figments of these people’s imaginations or inspired by a real case. The final season was really interesting though as it involved our cast more directly into the story like an evil genius targeted the squad themselves. I got into this way late and am just binging it all now on CBS All Access and, well, I should have joined this party before. It’s a procedural that consistently works! Imagine that!

Television:

Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels (Crave) – A pretty sizeable fan base is very excited to get the spinoff to the popular Showtime series that started back in 2014 and ran for three seasons. While the original series followed explorer Sir Malcolm Murray, American gunslinger Ethan Chandler, scientist Victor Frankenstein and medium Vanessa Ives as they combated supernatural threats in Victorian London, this series goes ahead in time to a late 1930s Los Angeles at a time that city expansion was aggressive and pushing out the Latino community and the rise of the Nazi ideals were taking hold in the city. The kick is that an evil and godly entity is responsible for pushing the weaker-minded humans into furthering the agenda of the destruction of humanity. The show stars Game Of Thrones alum Natalie Dormer, Nathan Lane and It Follows and Don’t Breathe actor Daniel Zovatto and I loved episode one. Looking forward to what’s next.

Upload: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – After the mind-twisting darkness of Devs, Amazon Prime is going for a lighter approach to the online gaming world with this new sci-fi series from Greg Daniels, the creator of the American version of The Office and Parks And Recreation. Starring Robbie Amell, this ten-episode series follows a man who gets to electronically pick the new world he inhabits after his untimely death. This is a show that has been long in development for Daniels as he started writing it right after the series finale for The Office. I’ve been seeing trailers for this everywhere for months and I really hope it is as good as it looks.

Murder To Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story (Netflix) – After all of the true-crime documentaries I have been watching about horrible people who don’t get what they deserve, wrongfully convicted people and inmates that have been used and abused by the system, it was pretty refreshing to actually get into a story of redemption, even if the execution of the whole thing lends to the viewer being manipulated. The story of Cyntoia Brown is anything but simple, convicted as an adult at the age of sixteen for the first-degree murder of a man she alleges had picked her up hours earlier in a Nashville parking lot intending to pay for sex. Given a life sentence that would see her released somewhere within her sixties, Cyntoia begins a journey to improve her condition, change her life and hopefully earn herself a chance of clemency or parole. My biggest issue with this movie is that the interviews feel framed to only give the feelings that the filmmaker intends rather than leaving the onus on the viewer which I think is best in these films. I don’t need this and a swell of music to blur the lines, we have enough of that on Twitter every day.

Betty: Season 1 (Crave) – A couple of years ago I fell in love with a little New York shot indie story from writer and director Crystal Moselle called Skate Kitchen about a teenager new to the area that falls in with a group of skater girls. It’s really great that HBO feels the same way I do, if not more, as they have produced, with Moselle directing, a new six-episode series putting us right back into the skatepark and I am very excited for possibly the most underrated shows of 2020 that will hopefully get some eyes on the original film.

Hollywood (Netflix) – Ryan Murphy seems to have the stranglehold on Netflix during this whole pandemic as we get no only the two documentaries over the last couple weeks but this brand new scripted series that brings us to the golden era of post World War II Hollywood. The movie focuses on a bunch of aspiring actors, actresses, writers and directors who are desperate to make their big break into the industry at any cost to their soul. The show features a great young cast including American Crime Story’s Darren Criss, Spider-Man Homecoming’s Laura Harrier and Ready Or Not’s breakout star Samara Weaving as well as veterans like Holland Taylor and Dylan McDermott who is no stranger to Murphy’s world. Racy and always pushing the envelope, this series has the stuff to make it big, see, it’s gonna be a star!

New On VOD:

Run This Town – When the walking disaster known as Rob Ford was in his position of mayor, his story, especially that of his arrest and then basic dismissal of his crimes so he can keep running the city was a major story internationally we knew this would be made into a movie. Guess what? It’s here and Homeland star Damian Lewis plays the juicy role in a large fleshy fat suit that kind of makes him look like Fat Bastard from Austin Powers and he is just really the subject that all the characters revolve around as this is mostly seen through the eyes of young staffers at city hall and a new idealistic young reporter at The Recorder looking to make his big break on the ground floor of this 2013 political scandal emerging. The film features The Politician’s Ben Platt, Vampire Diaries’ Nina Dobrev and veteran actor Scott Speedman in the debut film from writer and director Ricky Tollman who’s inexperience kind of shows through as this movie seems to be more filler than it is substantial. I felt frustrated with the film’s continued focus on superfluous banter to make characters painted in black and white strokes than to the furthering of any journalistic intrigue. Very disappointed.

Blu-Ray:

Bad Boys For Life – It’s been seventeen years since we last saw Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s characters of Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett and after so much teasing and collapses of this third film it is now finally here without Michael Bay behind the camera and even though this is pretty much the only franchise I have love for some “Beyhem” in, this movie still worked the same with fresh blood behind the camera. This film teases the two cops’ “last ride” as they confront their ageing into different roles of law enforcement and the creation of their own squad which gets put to the immediate test with the emergence of a new enemy, Armando Armas, the vicious leader of a Miami drug cartel. This is the big-budget debut of the directing duo of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah and they bring that same frenetic action bombastic craziness we have come to expect every time Lowrey and Burnett take on a case. If you liked the previous movies you will definitely like this one.

Like A Boss – I really wanted to have good thoughts heading into this movie as it has Rose Byrne, one of my favorite comedic actresses, and Tiffany Haddish, someone who I think is funny in real life, taking on Salma Hayek, an actress that always brings it in comedy. The problem is that Haddish’s track record theatrically speaking is spotty at best and this storyline is so lame with Haddish and Byrne as joint owners of a beauty company but with massively different ideals in how they run the business. Their friendship is put to the test when they try to go into business with a successful businesswoman who decides that she would rather gut the company. The story is so minimal in this and it’s really all about the dialogue and delivery by the cast that keeps the laughs coming, especially with the supporting cast of Billy Porter and Jennifer Coolidge. That said, Salma feels like the lady version of Willy Wonka as so many weird choices are made with her character. If you seriously want to shut the brain down for some laughs, this is a good bet.

The Gentlemen – Writer and director Guy Ritchie has returned to the roots of the type of cinema that got him popular, the gangster flicks like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. For this film, he grabs a huge cast with Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell and more for the story of a drug lord looking to get out of the game and sell of his empire to the highest bidder which sets off a bloody war in the London underworld, a place that Ritchie knows as well as he knows himself. This movie probably won’t draw in a new audience but will satisfy the hordes of fans of this genre he made famous, all of us salivating for him to do another movie with great dialogue and loud gunfights, all of which he brings for this. Got to hand it to him that he can make all of these already cool actors to an even higher level of coolness. That is some serious talent there.

The Turning – Adapting the classic Henry James novel The Turning Of The Screw, this is a modern telling of the darkly gothic horror thriller about a young nanny who is hired by a rich estate who has become responsible for his young nephew and niece after the deaths of their parents. The film stars one of my favorite actresses, Blade Runner 2049’s Mackenzie Davis and two young stars in Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard and The Florida Project’s brilliant lead Brooklynn Prince, but as stylish as the movie looks it seems to constantly get lost in leaving misconstrued clues, plot threads that go nowhere and setting up jump scares that constantly muddy the waters of a very cliched horror film. It is directed by Floria Sigismondi who follows up her only other feature film The Runaways with this one, which lends to the stylish nature of the movie, but the whole thing feels very undercooked and served to us in a sheepish” here you go, I guess” way.

The Last Full Measure – Let’s head back to the Vietnam War for this new film from writer and director Todd Robinson, a filmmaker usually known for documentaries. Starring Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Plummer and Peter Fonda in his final onscreen performance, this is the story of a Clinton era Department of Defense intern on the rise who, on the way out the door to bigger and better things, is given the file of Airman William H. Pitsenbarger, Jr., also known as “Pits”, who left his ship and gave his life to aid the ground platoons in a failed attack but was not awarded the Medal Of Honor the nation’s highest military accolade. As he investigates the file, he develops a deeper connection to the case through the people he meets until the culmination which I felt came off a bit overdone and sappy. I felt the script was a bit weak in places and it showed when some of the members of the cast when aren’t veterans delivered it.

Ip Man 4: The Finale – Donnie Yen closes out his martial arts franchise as Master Ip, the teacher of the legendary Bruce Lee and founder of the Wing Chun style. This film brings him right back into the story of his most famous pupil as Bruce’s publishing of the ways of martial arts has ruffled the feathers of the entire community in America forcing the master to make a trip to a very new and foreign land, the United States in the 1960s. After a really lackluster third installment, it’s really great to see this series close out with some of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen Donnie Yen do. At fifty-seven years old, Yen is still absolutely flawless in his execution and his climactic battle with Scott Adkins at the end of the film is awesome. The acting around our star is on par of what you remember about this genre but the story is Master Ip is fascinating.

Party Hard, Die Young – A film that has been streaming for a bit on the horror service Shudder as one of their originals, this movie comes from Croatia, a first for me with this country’s cinema, and takes place during a rave at sea. Freshly graduated and looking for a week of alcohol-infused debauchery, a group of friends find themselves at the mercy of a smiley face masked killer who is picking them off one by one. There isn’t a lot of new ground being broken in the slasher genre with this movie and there isn’t a lot of on-screen kills or very memorable gore but the frenetic style keeps the movie afloat. If you’re looking for a quick horror film to pass the time there are worse movies out there than this.

Why Don’t You Just Die! – In my experience with modern Russian cinema a lot of it is over the top hyper frenetic and in your face from start to finish and with a title like this, you know it fits right into that category easily. The set up is simple, a man knocks on the door of a ruthlessly violent police detective bent on bludgeoning him to death with a hammer he is concealing behind his back. Why? Because the detective’s daughter had told this man, her boyfriend, that her father abused her and, well, that’s just the tip of the twists that cascade from the start. Bloody and absolutely off the rails, this movie is not for the faint of heart at all and hits Guy Ritchie or Quentin Tarantino like crescendos and then tops them like breaking through a glass ceiling. This movie is totally relentless and I really loved it for going so balls out.

Looking For Alaska – Teen dramas usually skate a fine line between being annoying or cheesy and totally sappy but it seems that author John Green has the adolescent voice hammered down because, in my opinion, the previous adaptations of his work, The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns, are pretty damn good. Now, in a longer series format for Hulu, his first book Looking For Alaska gets the adaptation treatment, following a guy named Miles who has enrolled in a private school in the woods called Culver Creek Academy, a decision that will change his life and hopefully give him a deeper perspective on life. Not a popular kid at his previous school, Miles immediately strikes up a friendship with his roommate known as “The Colonel” who then introduces him to Alaska Young, the girl of his dreams. This young cast, including rising star Charlie Plummer and new faces like Kristine Forseth and Denny Love, give this show a charisma that intrigues me and characters I felt like I immediately cared about and that has to be due to it being shepherded to the screen by The OC’s Josh Schwartz.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Lost River – After working so closely with Nicholas Winding Refn on their movie Drive, Ryan Gosling got bitten by the directing bug hard and wanted to carve a little piece of cinema out for himself and five years ago this week he did with this weirdo story that borrows some of that neon glare from his aforementioned director friend and casts that light on a pretty David Lynch feeling story. Starring Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD’s Iain De Caestecker, Saorise Ronan, Christina Hendricks, Matt Smith and Gosling’s wife Eva ended, this is the tale of a teenager that finds a road to an underwater town nears his sleepy small town while his mother slips into the madness of a dark underworld. This movie is very strange and definitely commands a very open cinema mind but I really love it and the soundtrack from Portland’s electro pop ground the Chromatics in one of my favorites in the last ten years.

The Salvation – An actor with charisma in every smouldering look and intrigue in the enigma of his gaze, I could watch Mads Mikkelsen star in pretty much anything so when it came to him starring in a Danish made western you better believe I was all in. Celebrating its fifth anniversary this week, Mikkelsen plays a peaceful settler living in 1870s America who is put on a path of bloody revenge when a ruthless gang leader kills his entire family. This is a searing story of a one-man army that comes from Kristian Levring who helped develop the Danish filmmaking style of Dogme95 with Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg in the mid-nineties. Co-starring Eva Green, this is a forgotten about western that unfortunately never got a wide enough release to make a mark.

Kung Fu Hustle – From writer, director, producer and star Stephen Chow, the easiest way to describe this movie lies in a pull quote on the cover as it really is “Looney Tunes meets martial arts”. Celebrating its fifteenth year, this is an incredible action film that seamlessly blends fantastical CGI into a story that was massively ahead of its time, just like everything else Chow has done it needs that gestation time to hit the full capacity it deserved. The story is kind of simple, a wannabe gangster living in Shanghai, China in the 1940s aspires to join the notorious “Axe Gang” while residents of a housing complex exhibit extraordinary powers in defending their turf from this same gang wanting full control over the city. This film commands a great home theater set up as it is a mindblowing experience for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. Trust me, this is a must-see.

The Basketball Diaries – Reaching back into the beginning of an Oscar yearning Leonardo DiCaprio’s career, this is a movie I still think of when it comes to all the outstanding work the Academy Award winner has done. Based on the memoir of Jim Carroll who Leo plays in the film, this is the story of an inner-city teen who has aspirations of becoming a professional basketball star who’s life is thrown into chaos when he descends into the crippling addiction of heroin. Co-starring Mark Wahlberg and Lorraine Bracco, this is one of the best films of the nineties and is powerfully biting every time I see it. I find it fascinating that director Scott Kalvert only made this and Dueces Wild seven years later before dying just over five years ago. This film should have earned so much awards acclaim.

Ex Machina – With his brainchild Devs currently blowing minds on FX, it’s cool that we can look back on writer and director Alex Garland’s first official time behind the camera, the techno-thriller Ex Machina starring Domnhall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander. For those who don’t know, the film follows a young programmer who is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in synthetic intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a highly advanced humanoid A.I. created by his recluse employer. The movie, released five years ago this week, earned Vikander the Best Supporting Actress Oscar and was meticulously crafted in every way, these three actors working so incredibly well of each other. It may seem grandiose to say but this is among my favorite sci-fi films ever made and it continues to blow my mind every time I watch it.

Television:

Middleditch & Schwartz (Netflix) – Capturing three nights of their North American tour, this show gives you the brilliance of comedic actors Thomas Middleditch, a native of Nelson, British Columbia, and Ben Schwartz as they do hour-long shows completely made up on the spot with just a few suggestions from the audience. With the kick-off episode entitled Parking Lot Wedding, the pure brilliance of these two is fully on display as I was laughing my butt off from beginning to end. The callbacks, memory gaffs and motions to the audience all combine to hopefully elevate the hilarious improv that these two pull off. I definitely want more episodes added as three doesn’t feel anywhere close to enough.

The Willoughbys (Netflix) – An animated film without the backing of a huge company like Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks or Illumination, I hadn’t heard of this movie until it landed o my pre-screening row on the Netflix bar and I have to say that I was completely blown away by it. Featuring a great voice cast including Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Terry Crews and Ricky Gervais, this movie follows the Willoughby children, a quartet of kids that are convinced they’d be better off raising themselves and hatch a sneaky plan to send their selfish parents on vacation or death, whatever comes first. This is a movie that hilariously hugs the line fo being darkly comedic and a sweetheart story that is bursting with rainbows. So many moments had me laughing so hard and the fact that Gervais narrates as the neighborhood cat is just the cherry on this sundae.

After Life: Season 2 (Netflix) – Whenever I hear the name Ricky Gervais I am automatically interested, especially in series form, as this is the man who brought us The Office, Extras and Derek, plus the countless other things he has been a part of. This series might be my favorite he has ever done as it comes from deep in the heart and soul but sheds away the humanity of saying whatever the hell you want to people and, although it looks like it will play on some heavier themes like his last one, I think it has broad appeal. The series follows a man that goes from Mr. Nice Guy to social terror with a don’t give a shit attitude when his wife dies. A good cast around Gervais with The Strain’s David Bradley playing his father, It’s All Gone Pete Tong’s Paul Kaye as his therapist and his Extras co-star Ashley Jensen as his father’s caretaker.

Extraction (Netflix) – Chris Hemsworth leads this film that was produced from Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame filmmaker’s The Russo Brothers limited comic series Ciudad, a phenomenal book. Led by new director Sam Hargraves, this is the story of a black market mercenary named Tyler Rake who is employed to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord in an extraction that is definitely a suicide mission. This movie is pulse-pounding action from start to finish with bloody violence, bullets flying, explosions booming and fight scenes that will quicken your heart rate. This movie kicks ass almost constantly and I loved every second. If you dig movies like John Wick, you will love the hell out of this one.

Circus Of Books (Netflix) – Yes, I’m bringing a documentary yet again this week but the subject matter on this one is so interesting I couldn’t resist. Produced by Ryan Murphy, this is the story of Karen and Barry Mason who, in 1976 Los Angeles, had fallen on hard times and were looking for a way to support their young family. They answered an ad in the Los Angeles Times for Larry Flynt who was seeking distributors for Hustler Magazine which led to their becoming fully immersed in the LGBT community as they took over a local store, Circus of Books. A decade after that they had become the biggest distributors of gay porn in the US and the community grew immensely for years after that. This documentary is a sweet human interest story that has a great message to it and some loveable people at the center. This is one of my favorite releases this week.

Blu-Ray:

Just Mercy – Short Term 12 director Destin Daniel Cretin returns to form after The Glass Castle with this well-acted true story about civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard law school graduate who moved from Delaware to Alabama to give death row inmates proper legal representation, played in this film by Michael B. Jordan. I really thought awards season was definitely going to contain talk of this movie after getting its wide release and not just for Jordan who turns in another great performance but for Jamie Foxx who gives a blistering portrayal of a wrongly convicted small-town Alabama man that was made a target by a brutal sheriff in his county. I will say that this is a powerful movie that maybe didn’t need the additional character played by Brie Larson who just seems a bit lost in the shuffle. I enjoyed this when I saw it at the film festival and it still holds up half a year later.

Underwater – Being buried in the first month of the year, any horror or action movie is usually something the studios want to bury as they’re generally not very good and that’s what happened to this one. Hell, we didn’t even get it here in Penticton. The story is about a crew of aquatic researchers who have a desperate struggle to get to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory but, worse than that, something has been released from the cracks underwater that starts to pick them off one by one. So, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, it’s got Kristen Stewart in it and, yes, I’m a big fan of her post-Twilight work, hate me for it if you want. The movie was directed by William Eubanks who made the awesome sci-fi thriller The Signal, a film I stumbled upon and absolutely fell in love with and this movie is satisfying on the level of “Hey, I’d love to see a sort of mash-up between The Abyss and Alien” which it kind of ends up being. The creature design looks really cool and I will take scowling KStew in a tough as nails survival film any day. Enjoy this one for what it is.

Hell On The Border – This is one of those movies that duped me in so many ways and I didn’t realize my error until a half-hour into it. The film is a western, boasting the stars Ron Perlman and Frank Grillo who also acts as an executive producer on it. The story has Cloud Atlas actor David Gyasi playing Bass Reeves, a black man that finds himself deputized as the first of his race to be deputy marshal west of Mississippi and was the basis of The Lone Ranger. Sounds interesting but everything about this movie is terrible. The acting is awful, the direction is aimless, te blocking is truly dreadful and the music comes in with early 80s television-quality at the absolute worst times. This was a total chore to work my way through but I did it so I could tell you not to do the same. This is a horrible shame of a western that needs to be forgotten.

Final Kill – The easy give away of the calibre of this action thriller should have been immediate when the main notable star of it is former UFC champion Randy Couture because I really have no idea who Ed Morrone and after watching this, I don’t care to. The plot follows Morrone as an ageing protection specialist who takes on one last job before retirement, protecting a couple who stole eight million dollars from a ruthless crime family. The saving grace of this movie is the few scenes that feature a scenery-chewing Billy Zane but everything else is just corny tough-guy bravado talk followed by totally goofy action sequences that feel lazy and thrown together. Damn, this is kind of a rough week for new releases.

Chichinette: The Accidental Spy – A fascinating documentary about an astounding human being I hadn’t known about beforehand, this film gives insight into a woman with a strong resolve and one whose actions were pivotal for the fight against Nazi Germany, one she waged from within the belly of the beast. Told in snippets as she makes her way across Europe giving speeches about her experience, Marthe Cohn tells her remarkable story, fighting against the Nazis as a spy in the French Army during World War II. At the time of filming her tour and interviews, Marthe, which she implicitly tells the audience is pronounced “Mart”, now is just celebrating her 100th birthday this week and is still feisty with a dry sense of humor and a need to still educate and deliver a message. This was a short but wholly enjoyable documentary that told a brave tale.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project – This is a fascinating documentary about a driven obsession with information through the visual media of televised news. Marion Stokes was an activist being groomed to become a communist leader in America who decided that her crusade would be to expose the truth of unfiltered media in what could be assembled into a comprehensive library of documented history. With everything that is currently going on in America and the media, this movie is an engrossing look at the path that led us to this point with Stokes herself making some very bold predictions of the future back in the 1970s that are chillingly coming to fruition today. A great movie for documentary fans.

Television:

Chris D’Elia: No Pain (Netflix) – One of my favorite stand up comedians of the last decade returns with a brand new set that I seriously can’t miss and will chase away your quarantine blues. This show, recorded in Indianapolis, Indiana, has D’Elia coming to grips with the notion that improving as a stand-up comedian is making him a worse human being in public, his vendetta against a mall baby and the fact that he had too much of a good upbringing to capitalize on any hardships for comedy. D’Elia’s comedy always feels so directly relatable which is one of the main reasons I always laugh to the point of hurting myself every time I watch one of his sets. So, I guess the title is a lie because there will be some pain.

Outer Banks (Netflix) – A brand new mystery for the tweens and twenty-somethings to get behind, this show centers around a group of teenagers in the beach vacation destination of the Outer Banks of North Carolina known not so affectionately as “The Pogues” and I don’t mean the Irish band. A hurricane descends on the town and in the wreckage, this group discovers a sunken boat that contains clues to the possible existence of buried treasure. With corrupt police, slimy business owners and ruthless gangsters on their trail, the intrigue is really well told in this show that, honestly, wouldn’t have a lot of eyes on it if it weren’t for this lockdown. I’m really enjoying it so far but I can’t say there is any star of note in it.

The Innocence Files (Netflix) – True crimes docuseries have been the hotness everyone has been raving about on Netflix for a few years now and although it doesn’t have the trashy allure of Tiger King, I really feel like this series should be on peoples radars. Told in three hour-long episodes, this series details the personal stories behind eight cases of wrongful convictions that the Innocence Project and organizations within the Innocence Network have worked to highlight and overturn. The set up to this show is brilliant, as the first episode covers the wrongful conviction of two black Mississippi residents who are thrown into life sentences on the shakiest of evidence. This show with have you shaking your head in disbelief over how the justice system can be so flawed that basic logic has been thrown out the window in favor of opinion. Riveting stuff.

#blackAF (Netflix) – A massive rising star behind the scenes, Kenya Barris is a name that may be a little unfamiliar to you but you have guaranteed seen or heard of his work. The creator of shows like Blackish and the two spinoffs, producer of Girls Trip and other films and the main executive on the Tyra Banks reality show America’s Next Top Model, this show has Barris going the mockumentary route with his “family” as the series has his daughter trying to document her family as a video application for NYU. The show has that definite Curb Your Enthusiasm quality as Barris constantly struggles with the notion of being rich, famous and black with the various pitfalls there. The highlight of this show is without a doubt Rashida Jones who plays his enabling wife. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve seen so far.

What We Do In The Shadows: Season 2 (FX) – Following up a hilarious movie with the first season of a heavily anticipated series that delivered on all levels, we have been not so patiently waiting for the return of our favorite vampire roommates. Created by the star of the original film, Jemaine Clement, this show follows a different cast, led by the brilliant Kayvon Novak and one of my favorite current British comedic actors Matt Berry, the story simply follows three vampires and their night lives living on Staten Island, their home for a century. This is by far one of the most clever new comedies on television and their return is so welcome at this crazy and unpredictable time.

New to VOD:

Trolls: World Tour – One of the release casualties of COVID-19, this animated sequel is getting the “direct into you home for the kids” treatment, almost like Universal is now giving back to the base demographic in these tough times. I fully expect there to be another Justin Timberlake song like “Can’t Stop The Feeling” for the kids to dance all over the living room but as a rock and metal guy myself I kind of love that the villains for this movie are the “Rock n Roll Trolls” bent on obtaining all of the magical musical strings to make everything rock forever. It doesn’t seem like a problem to me but in this world, it would mean the destruction of everything, whatever. A great voice cast in this one includes the returning Anna Kendrick along with JT, Ron Funches and Kunaal Nayar as well as the additions of Rachel Bloom, Sam Rockwell, Ozzy Osbourne and more. I really hope this is fun.

She’s Allergic To Cats – I’m all for seeing messed up movies, a big part of cinema I enjoy, and experimental cinema can really be hit or miss but I have to say that this one tossed me through a loop and not in a good way. The film is about a struggling filmmaker who moves to Los Angeles to pursue the dream but finds himself instead working a dead-end job as a dog groomer and living in a dingy rat-infested apartment. Things start to spiral out of reality when he wins the affection of the girl of his dreams, putting all of his hopes into their first date, just the beginning of their collective nightmare. This movie was a total fail for me, the narrative tissue of the story being almost nonexistent and they didn’t even seem to know how to end it. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the supporting madness from comedian Flula Borg I would have zero accolades to praise this for.

Why Don’t You Just Die? – In my experience with modern Russian cinema a lot of it is over the top hyper frenetic and in your face from start to finish and with a title like this, you know it fits right into that category easily. The set up is simple, a man knocks on the door of a ruthlessly violent police detective bent on bludgeoning him to death with a hammer he is concealing behind his back. Why? Because the detective’s daughter had told this man, her boyfriend, that her father abused her and, well, that’s just the tip of the twists that cascade from the start. Bloody and absolutely off the rails, this movie is not for the faint of heart at all and hits Guy Ritchie or Quentin Tarantino like crescendos and then tops them like breaking through a glass ceiling. This movie is totally relentless and I really loved it for going so balls out.

Blu-Ray:

Little Women – Louise May Alcott’s book is an iconic story that has been read to many and adapted a few times as well, three times in the last twenty-five years to be precise, including this one. So, why is Greta Gerwig’s version of this story so important? It’s because Gerwig seems to encapsulate the consistent marginalization and generic rut of the female species and show it as the handcuffing of personal growth, free-thinking and creation that it really is. Featuring a stellar cast including Saorise Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet and Tracy Letts, this feels like the definitive screen version of the story, a beautifully created piece of cinema that shows the growth of Greta as a filmmaker between Lady Bird to now while her cast brings such life to a wonderful script, in one of my favorite ensembles from last year.

Dolittle – Its been a long time coming for this brand new version of the Rex Harrison classic and unlike the Eddie Murphy version and its sequel the producers went with a more traditional route. Starring the charismatic Robert Downey Jr. in the title role, the basic story is then you remember it, as it follows the veterinarian with the ability to speak to animals as he comes out of a state of deep seclusion after the death of his wife to save the Queen by retrieving a mythical cure for her ailment. This would be an interesting film as it comes from Syriana writer and director Stephen Gaghan who steps out of his gritty wheelhouse to do the same on this family film, shot by Pan’s Labyrinth cinematographer Guillermo Navarro but the movie is a horrendous mess in every way with zero redeemable qualities. It reeks of producers arguing over the plot, shoehorning in weird modern lines and a meandering final vision with a performance from Robert Downey Jr. that feels completely nuts and terrible in execution. For the first act of the movie I thought he was being dubbed by someone else and then I couldn’t tell if his accent was Scottish, Welsh or Jamaican. This is a true waste of time, don’t do it.

Cats – Speaking of don’t do it, this horrifying mess is now available. For those who don’t know, this terrifying-looking movie is another Andrew Lloyd Webber original musical getting the big-screen treatment for who knows what reason. Yes, I get that we would have people skipping around in cat-like leotards if it weren’t for the CG look but oh man is the final result unsettling. The cast is a huge ensemble that features Idris Elba, Dame Judi Dench, Rebel Wilson, Jennifer Hudson and, yes, the main attraction is probably Taylor Swift in her film debut but this feels bloated, expensive and massively unnecessary throughout its hour and forty minutes run time and if I hadn’t watched it with my wife, constantly riffing like we were on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I don’t think I would have survived. I have heard the word “Jellicle” way too many times and it offends me now.

Camp Cold Brook – Coming from the Scream Factory side of the Shout Factory system, this movie feels like a lampooning of those inane ghost hunter shows that appear on the Discovery Channel or History network but it plays kind of well as if has the cynicism of creating this type of programming hanging above its head. Chad Michael Murray plays the host and producer of one of these types of shows who promises the biggest show in the history of the program when he is threatened with cancellation. This leads him and his crew to Camp Cold Brook, a summer camp that has been abandoned after a tragedy killed many of the kids and counsellors years earlier. The formula is kind of obvious but it mostly works and it has child actress turned scream queen Danielle Harris in it, although the low budget is woefully on display.

The Night Clerk – Tye Sheridan has been a star on the rise if you are looking in the right spot and, yes, the big-budget film involvements like Cyclops in the X-Men franchise or the lead in Spielberg’s Ready Player One didn’t get as much good attention as it should’ve, but Tree Of Life, Mud and Joe paved the way to get these roles. This new film has him in a proper role as well as playing the lead, a hotel clerk who suffers from severe Asberger’s Syndrome and has a voyeuristic penchant for recording the guest’s rooms which lands him in trouble when a woman is murdered in her room. Featuring a solid cast including Helen Hunt John Leguizamo and Knives Out actress Ana De Armas, I really enjoyed this film as a solid character tale and Sheridan is so great in it. I’m excited to watch his career evolve.

Madam Secretary: The Final Season – From what felt like a very divisive premise meant to almost be a sort of love letter to the Secretary of State at the time, Hillary Rodham Clinton, this show evolved past its thin feeling premise to be a show that actually had some merit to it, tackled some real-world politics and actually had a voice with something to say beyond political statements. Starring Tea Leoni as the lead character, the show started with her character being shoved into the position as a favor to the current president, played by one of my favorites, Keith Carradine. The premise has her trying to balance her work life with her family life which includes her husband, played by Tim Daly, and her smart college-age daughter and two younger kids and all the scandal she needs to protect them and herself from. Now that this show has come to an end it’s a good time to catch up with it on CBS All Access, free now for sixty days.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Salesman – This one has me feeling a bit melancholy as it is probably the last Criterion Collection film that I will receive for the foreseeable future as the company’s offices in New York City, so hopefully everyone is safe there. This is quite the film to take a hiatus on though, a joint effort by three different directors, master filmmakers Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, crafting this documentary about four relentless door to door salesmen and the constant rejection, homesickness and inevitable burnout as they go across the country selling very expensive bibles to low-income Catholic families. A fascinating look into one of the older professions in twentieth-century America, this comes from a place of experience as both Maysles brothers worked in the profession themselves.

The Passion Of Darkly Noon – Another deep cut from Arrow Video, reaching back to the mid-nineties for this film starring Brendan Fraser, Ashley Judd and Viggo Mortensen and, just for context, this would be at the height of popularity for Fraser, the same year as Heat for Judd and the same year Viggo played Lucifer in The Prophecy. This is a mysterious film that follows an abandoned man who drifts into the woods after the deaths of his strict and religious parents. Discovered by a trucker and his wife who live in the forest, they take him in and the action starts a deadly sexual obsession in the young man’s mind that starts to drive him insane. After watching this film, I’m really surprised that this is the first I’m hearing about it as I thought it was fascinating and well-acted. It also comes from writer and director Philip Ridley who does have a huge body of work but has made interesting films like Heartless in 2009.

Television:

Brews Brothers (Netflix) – An example of the lower budget side of Netflix and the inclusiveness of its programming, this show is definitely not something that will appeal to a wide audience but those who love things like Super Troopers and the like will definitely find the humor. The story follows a man who’s craft brewery is facing tough times due to his indecisive nature and bad marketing with his line of beers leading him to reunite with his nemesis, his own brother, for an attempt to sell a large batch of beer to a rich restauranteur. There are no stars of note besides guest star Steve Rannazzisi from The League playing the client to impress but the chemistry is good and even though all of the jokes don’t land there are some real gems in there. It’s a quick watch but I enjoyed it.

Tigertail (Netflix) – Parks and Recreation producer and Master Of None co-creator Alan Yang makes his feature directorial debut with this movie that he wrote as well. Starring Vancouver based actor Tzi Ma, this movie moves through the life of Grover, a Taiwanese born American citizen who is going through the motions of grieving for his recently deceased mother, the template for the man he became, a former factory worker who achieved the immigrant’s dream. This lineage has been passed onto his daughter, a life long overachiever who now wants to follow her heart more than what is expected of her. The performances in this film are powerfully felt through how muted they are in what they aren’t saying and Tzi Ma shoulders the majority of it beautifully. Also, as a Twin Peaks fan, it was an incredible treat to see Joan Chen in this movie.

Love Wedding Repeat (Netflix) – Something totally unexpected, I had no idea that this was a comedy I needed right now. Written and directed by the guy who brought us the hilarious Death At A Funeral in 2007, Dean Craig, this is another farce comedy about the wedding of a young woman to her Italian fiance in a picturesque location in Italy that is teetering on the edge of completely falling apart if her brother can’t keep all the moving pieces from ruining everything. Featuring a stellar ensemble cast including Sam Claflin, Olivia Munn, Eleanor Tomlinson, Aisling Bea and Joel Fry, this movie had me laughing hard from start to finish. Start your weekend right with this comedy, trust me.

The Main Event (Netflix) – The theme of this week seems to be WWE collaborations with Netflix as The Big Show Show debuted earlier this week but this one is a series featuring many of the current WWE and NXT roster members. The story is about an eleven-year-old boy named Mason who discovers a magical luchador mask that grants him strength and unbelievable skill. So, what does he do with that? He obviously becomes a WWE superstar just as you thought he would! This movie looks lame but for a wrestling nerd like myself, I will watch it just so I can see stars like The Miz, Beth Phoenix, Sheamus, Kofi Kingston and more. Yes, I’m a mark but at least I own it.

The Good Fight: Season 4 (CBS All Access) – I definitely consider myself a fan of the CBS series The Good Wife, a show that got me from the get-go with great characters and compelling storylines so when it was announced that a spin-off would be made with big wig partner Diane Lockhart leading the way I was excited and I think this show has satisfied in every way. The show picked up where the other series left off, Diane readying for retirement when her investment banker is arrested for fraud and she is left penniless. Now years in at her new firm, she is just as ruthless as you remember but the supporting cast of Delroy Lindo, Audra MacDonald and Game Of Thrones alum Rose Leslie this show is stellar with that same character work as well as making good use of the no rules CBS All Access platform. It may go heavy on the anti-Trump message, which may turn other viewers off with its heavy hand, but I totally love it.

As heard on The J’Lyn Nye Show on 630 CHED in Edmonton, here’s a breakdown of the things to get you through at least the weekend!

Television:

Ozark: Season 3 (Netflix) – This is definitely a hugely anticipated new season, especially now during the lockdown, and it returns with one of the most explosive and fast-paced episodes yet. In case you haven’t dug into the show yet, Jason Bateman plays Marty Byrde, a financial advisor in Chicago who is unknowingly been fudging numbers for the cartel, something his business partner hasn’t clued him in on until the finality of being murdered in from of him by the leader of this deadly group. A quick thinker under pressure Marty is able to convince him to spare his life by moving to the remote Ozarks to clean millions for his new boss, presenting an all-new set of problems for him, his wife who is played by the great Laura Linney and his two kids. The show is so phenomenally well done and Bateman himself directs a handful of episodes. Highly recommended if you have immersed yourself in it yet.

Dark Side Of The Ring: Season 2 (Vice) – Vice continues their look into an industry that I have a deep love for, and always have, professional wrestling. Beyond that, this season focuses on a log misunderstood and tragic happening in the mid 2000s, the murder-suicide of Chris Benoit and his family. Narrated by close friend Chris Jericho, widely regarded as the greatest of all time, this series will dispel the rumors and myths that have been attributed to this case as well as shine a light on the possible causes of Benoit’s psychosis that leg to this horrifying act. I’m so happy to see this available on YouTube and am deep in the binge already myself. Totally recommended even if you aren’t a wrestling fan.

Devs (FX) – Coming from the mind of one of the greatest science fiction writers via grounded and real science, Alex Garland running a limited series is really going to turn some heads and from what I’ve seen so far this could be one of the best shows we get this year. The series centers around Lily, a computer engineer who starts an investigation into the secretive development department within her employer when her boyfriend, a fellow employee, disappears. The lead star, Sonoya Mizuno, isn’t exactly a household name, aside from some great work on Cary Fukanaga’s Netflix show Maniac but the mystery of Nick Offerman’s character as the CEO Forest should have everyone watching this.

Feel Good: Season 1 (Netflix) – In a lighter way but heavier on the addiction side, this new series reminds me a bit of Fleabag but without that great Phoebe Waller-Bridge edge. The show is about stand up comedian Mae Martin, a Canadian transplant now living in London. When a regular audience member asks her out on a date, Mae finds herself on a whirlwind romance with the girl of her dreams until the crushing reality of her addiction problem comes to light. This show is definitely a sardonically funny show about damaged people and really revels in it in a great way. I hadn’t heard of Martin before this show but now I’m pretty keen on checking out a full set.

Tiger King (Netflix) – This is one of those too crazy to be true stories but I will let you know right now, it’s all true and I know someone who knows someone that knows this guy. I know! Crazy! This is a docuseries about a gonzo rivalry between big cat eccentrics that takes a dark turn when Joe Exotic, a controversial animal park boss with a glorious blond mullet that would make Hulk Hogan and Dog The Bounty Hunter shake in their boots, is caught in a murder-for-hire plot. This show will make you slackjawed in amazement that people like this actually exist. I felt myself giggling and laughing throughout this bat shit show and I know it has caught on with the world because it is everywhere you look. I highly recommend it!

Westworld: Season 3 (HBO) – After a two year absence we finally get the next piece of this incredible mysterious show that emanated from a 70s Michael Crichton movie. The favorites are all back including Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores, Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard and Thandie Newton’s Maeve as well as newcomers Aaron Paul and Kid Cudi but what is this season about? Well, showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan are keeping everything secretive but what we do know is that Bernard and Dolores have been rebuilt outside of the facility so we get to see what this future looks like and I am damn excited for that.

The Plot Against America (HBO) – In a time of heightened and emboldened racism in the U.S. and, heck, around the world, we get this brand new “what if” historical drama from one of the great creators of television today, HBO. Starring Winona Ryder, Zoe Kazan, John Turturro and more, this series follows an alternate timeline America that lives in a world that saw Roosevelt defeated in the 1940 race for presidency by Charles Lindbergh, a man who has strengthened ties to Nazi Germany. A six-episode limited series, this show has great creators behind the camera with The West Wing’s Thomas Schlamme directing the lion’s share and The Wire’s David Simon and Edward Burns writing it. This could be the best miniseries of 2020 so I’d give it a look.

Dirty Money: Season 2 (Netflix) – Master documentarian Alex Gibney’s executive produced docuseries returns for another series of episodes that will raise your blood pressure and have you screaming at your television before directing angry tweets at big businesses. Just me? I doubt it. This series takes aim at corporate frauds that are designed to milk excessive amounts of money out of the general public and largely the lower class. Season one took on scandals like Volkswagen’s “clean” diesel and the gross empire of payday loan companies and this is just the tip of the iceberg. This is an important series to binge through, trust me.

I Am Not Okay With This: Season 1 (Netflix) – It Chapter 1 and 2 stars Sophia Lillis and Wyatt Oleff reunite for this new teen series that has the actress playing a teenaged outcast trying to navigate her life of high school cliques, two-faced friends, potential love interests and a complex family life. Things spiral even more for her when she realizes that she isn’t just dealing with the pitfalls of puberty changing her body but she also has new and unexplained powers to contend with. Coming from the producers of Stranger Things, I dug into this series right away because the angsty nature of the writing really appealed to me and I love creator Jonathan Entwistle’s previous work, The End Of The Fucking World.

Hunters: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – Jordan Peele executive produces this new show that has a secret group of people who are dedicated to hunting down Nazi war criminals in the seventies and I am so very excited to check it out, something I have been waiting for ever since I saw the first trailer. The cast is phenomenal, led by the Academy Award-winning Al Pacino and featuring Fury’s Logan Lerman, Lena Olin, How I Met Your Mother’s Josh Radnor and more, this might be that new Amazon series that catches fire like Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or Jack Ryan. Don’t quote me on this but the show looks awesome enough to hook a large audience.

Movies:

Slay The Dragon (VOD) – During this time of self-containment and quarantine, it’s a time where we are binge-watching all different television series and catching u on movies but it is also an opportunity to learn and expand our minds which is exactly what this documentary did for me. The film tells the story of the Voters Not Politicians party that was started in Michigan for the express purpose of ending gerrymandering in America, a political strategy of grouping voters into districts that would ensure victories for the Republican Party GOP. I learned some of the basics of this democracy shredding act on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver but this film brings it home in a way that shows how this directly affects every working American and the generations to come. In my opinion, this is a massively important film that should be mandatory in the education of the whole nation especially heading into an election.

Vivarium (VOD) – This movie is totally something geared to my twisted likes as it feels like one of those nightmare Twilight Zone episodes and I ate up every second of it. Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg star as Gemma and Tom, a sweetheart couple looking to purchase their first home together. Stepping into a condo sales store, they have a very unsettling meeting with a salesman who implores them to get in their car to follow him to the neighborhood itself. Guided into a disturbingly uniform community that looks like it was designed on a computer, the salesman disappears, abandoning them in a maze of condos they can’t leave and that’s just the setup. Poots’ performance in this film is astounding as she starts to crumble with the reality around her and the direction from Lorcan Finnegan is fantastically striking all the way up until the end. This may be a total niche movie but I thoroughly loved it.

The Hunt (VOD) – The movie that got the right all riled up before anyone had ever seen a single frame of it finally gets its release day after getting removed in September of last year and the ad campaign seems to be taking advantage of that as its tagline is “The Most Talked About Movie of the Year is One That No One’s Actually Seen”. Perfect. The movie stars GLOW’s Betty Gilpin, Blockers’ Ike Barinholtz and a slimed down Ethan Suplee in a story about twelve strangers who wake up bound and gagged in a clearing, the fodder for a manhunt in which the rich elite will kill each of them for sport. Kind of like a big version of the Ice-T action flick Surviving The Game from the mid-nineties, Compliance director Craig Zobel’s latest seemed to tickle the offended nature of the Fox News crowd and I doubted that we’d ever see it.

The Invisible Man (VOD) – The Dark Universe from Universal Pictures may have died a dismal death after the failure of Tom Cruise’s The Mummy but from the ashes of that mess this property was floated over to Blumhouse and they put filmmaker Leigh Whannell, one-half of the minds behind Saw, at the helm of it and the final result is absolutely fantastic. Elisabeth Moss stars as the survivor of an abusive relationship who believes the news of her ex’s suicide is a hoax and this is reinforced when she realizes that she is being hunted by an unseen force. This movie is awesome, thrilling, unpredictable and always able to get under your skin by simply panning over to an “empty” side of the room. Whannell is quickly rising up the ranks of must-see filmmakers and it is so deserved.

Onward (Disney+) – Disney and Pixar are back with their next most likely award-nominated feature, pairing the very likeable duo of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt in the lead roles. Set in a world where fantasy elements like orcs, gnomes, unicorns and other mythical creatures exist in a modern world, this story follows two brothers who find a mysterious magical staff that belonged to their late father. After a spell cast through the staff resurrects the bottom half of Dad, they must embark on an adventure to find the real magic still remaining on the world to bring their family back together. This movie is really funny and has some great world-building, as Pixar needs a new franchise to put its hat on, and the heart of this story is displayed prominently on its sleeve. The whole family is going to love this movie and it definitely needs a rewatch for all of the “easter eggs” to be found.

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (VOD) – I really wish I had seen this movie at the Vancouver International Film Festival or at least before the end of the year as it definitely would have made my “Best of 2019” list because this movie is an absolutely astounding film and has a final scene that will resonate with me cinematically for the rest of my life. The film takes place at the end of the eighteenth century and follows Marianne, a painter employed to do a portrait of the daughter of a rich aristocrat. As the sessions go on, the two women fall in love with each other, a forbidden secret that could destroy both of their lives. Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel are incredible together in this film, a clinic in how just one glance can say volumes.

Daniel Isn’t Real (Shudder) – Coming from director Adam Egypt Mortimer, the filmmaker who did the highly entertaining “New Year’s Eve” segment of the anthology film Holidays, this movie is one I’m hearing some great buzz about. Based on a novel of the same name, this film is about a troubled college freshman who suffers a violent family trauma and brings back his childhood imaginary friend Daniel as a coping mechanism. The film stars Halloween and Blockers actor Miles Robbins as the lead character, Patrick Schwarzenegger as the title character and the great Sasha Lane in a supporting role and is just the kind of genre film that intrigues me greatly. The movie is described as a slick mind twist of a thriller that is well pieced together and totally stylish.

This Is The End (Crave) – Probably a little dark to bring a movie like this at a time like now but it’s one of the greatest satire comedies ever made in my opinion, taking pretty much everyone you’ve ever loved that worked for Judd Apatow and a few others and throws those actors into a global apocalypse playing themselves. There really is nothing better than that. Our main group of Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride all find themselves partying at James Franco’s house when holes in the earth start opening up and people start falling to their deaths in hell leading this sextet on a mission of survival as the last stragglers on Earth. I saw this movie twice in theaters so I definitely had to pic this blu-ray up which features commentary, alternate lines and a gag reel which is gold from these guys but, hey, it is streaming for everyone else!

Mustang (Criterion Channel) – One of the greatest international films from the last decade, this is a movie that is begging to be seen and heard. Guaranteed to drain every tear out of your body, as it did a friend of mine who I brought to the original screening, this is the story of five orphaned Turkish girls who are sold off in marriage by their guardians. This is a beautiful and heartbreaking film of sisterhood and the destruction of innocence, a movie that will leave its mark on you like a belt lashing. This movie was nominated for an Oscar but ultimately lost to Son Of Saul in a year of incredibly tough competition. The release was bobbled badly here in Canada so this is a great opportunity to check it out.

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (Netflix) – I have made it no secret that I adore everything Aardman puts out. Just like Laika Studios, their films have an original charm to them that I love on a consistent level and I know that extends to my kids as well because every time I put on one of the movies they are immediately captivated. One of the favorites is Shaun The Sheep, the television series being a big hit and that last movie is absolutely adorable. Now we get the return to the big screen of Shaun and his farm friends, this time the gang encountering an alien with amazing powers who crash-lands at their home and pushes everyone to go on a mission to shepherd the intergalactic visitor home before a sinister organization can capture her. This is exactly everything the trailer sets it up to be, nothing more, nothing less, but damn it looks enjoyable.

New on VOD:

Slay The Dragon – During this time of self-containment and quarantine, it’s a time where we are binge-watching all different television series and catching u on movies but it is also an opportunity to learn and expand our minds which is exactly what this documentary did for me. The film tells the story of the Voters Not Politicians party that was started in Michigan for the express purpose of ending gerrymandering in America, a political strategy of grouping voters into districts that would ensure victories for the Republican Party GOP. I learned some of the basics of this democracy shredding act on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver but this film brings it home in a way that shows how this directly affects every working American and the generations to come. In my opinion, this is a massively important film that should be mandatory in the education of the whole nation especially heading into an election.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always – After the infuriatingly blind and misinformed faith-based film Unplanned was released last year and then screened by churches for most of 2019, I’m really happy to see this new movie, produced by Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins, getting its release even if it is only directly to video on demand. The story follows Autumn, a rural Pennsylvania teen who is dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, a secret she keeps from her family and something which is only known to her best friend. With her help, the two take a trip to New York City to an abortion clinic and find more maturing in their lives as they are left to live off of the streets for the time they are in the Big Apple. Both actresses, Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder are phenomenal in this film and keep the story so grounded in reality which definitely comes from writer and director Eliza Hittman who astounded me years ago with her film Beach Rats. This is a fantastic film and I hope it gets some love in its release.

Blu-Ray:

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker – The end to the whole original saga, one that has almost formed a new religion since it’s inception in 1977, is finally available for us to watch in the comfort of our own quarantines and has taken us on a total emotional journey as part of the fandom and the new movies have definitely divided us. Say what you want about Rian Johnson’s previous installment The Last Jedi, a movie I very much enjoyed, but now J.J Abrams and the cast are sort of throwing him under the bus a bit to appease the slighted fans and it really bothers me that the creator solidarity isn’t there. That said, there are pieces I enjoy in this movie and the rewatch has opened up brand new things to me but I’m ultimately still feeling like the easy route was taken and after ambitious movements that The Last Jedi had taken, this movie moves back into a predictable rut.

The Current War: Director’s Cut – Coming off such a loved film like Me, Earl And The Dying Girl, a movie that had critics and audiences in agreement about how thoroughly charming it was, a lot of people were wondering what director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon would do next and the battle for the patent of the lightbulb I’m sure wasn’t on anyone’s list but here we are. Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon play Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, two of the innovators of electricity who were in an escalating war to get their products into the World’s Fair first. Think about the war between Microsoft and Apple and you have a good idea of what this looks like. Honestly, it’s a good thing that Gome-Rejon makes this movie so dynamic and interesting to look at, using It cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung’s eye-popping work, because the story feels painfully dull above both actor’s impeccable character work and yes, Edison is just as unlikeable as you think he is. Also, I’m unsure of why “director’s cut” is so implicitly stated as I’ve seen no other cut of this movie in circulation.

The Assent – Some exorcism horror for your at-home viewing hits the shelves this week with this film starring Pacific Rim’s Robert Kazinsky and a usual John Carpenter staple, the greatly underrated Peter Jason. Kazinsky plays the single father of a young boy that is both struggling to make ends meet and is faltering mentally with the day to day struggle. When he feels an ominous presence in his house that starts to appear in his son, he begins to believe that a malevolent danger is set to destroy his little family and this causes him to turn to a trained exorcist, enter Peter Jason. This movie oozes atmosphere and has great production design and incredibly creepy creature effects which keeps everything on track even if it feels a bit cliched and predictable. Kazinsky’s descent into despair has all the great qualities of a Lovecraftian madness and Jason chews the scenery in such a solid way that I really found myself enjoying this and even got caught by a couple of jump scares.

Munster, Go Home! – Taking another classic kooky and spooky television comedy family’s big-screen debut and throwing it to those geniuses at Shout Factory for an all-new collector’s edition, I can now introduce my family to the Munsters, the iconic monster brood with Ed Gwynne as the patriarch, Herman Munster, a Frankenstein’s creature as well as the loving father of a werewolf son and Lily, who I’m not sure what she and her mom were supposed to be. Vampires? Anyways, this is the 1966 movie that was made which sent Herman and the family to England when he discovers he’s the new Lord of the Munster Hall leading to classic television antics in a whole new environment. I used to watch the show all the time as a kid so I feel really nostalgic about this one.

Tommy Boy – One of the greatest comedies of all time celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary this week and gets the great honor of being the newest Paramount steelbook, a glorious way to collect blu-rays. Starring one of the best comedic duos ever, Chris Farley and David Spade, this movie, if you didn’t know, follows the fat and lazy son of an auto parts tycoon who teams up with a bitchy accountant to go on a cross country trip to save the company after his dad passes away. Farley and Spade are so iconic in this movie and Rob Lowe, the Saturday Night Live movie resident bad guy, is so great and villainous in this film, doing it all for the love of Tommy’s stepmom, Bo Derek. This is one of my favorite movies of the 90s and one that still makes me laugh hysterically every time and, to be honest, that’s exactly what we need right now.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Lost In America – Without anything being sent to me on the regular like usual, I have to rely on different ways to pick my geek-outs and anniversary films are an easy pick and I love that I’m starting out with this Albert Brooks classic. Co-starring Airplane’s Julie Haggerty as his wife, the two play a couple in their thirties that decide to quit their jobs on a whim and drive their Winnebago across America to realize the quintessential American dream. Directed and written by Brooks, this hilarious film turns thirty-five this week and it is available on a beautiful Criterion edition that was released during the summer of 2017.

Tank Girl – One of my favorite movies of the 90s for totally cult reasons, this movie was made in a time that comic book adaptations were a total gamble and were basically hated by studios. Enter Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare’s director Rachel Talalay and lead star Lori Petty to take on Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett’s post-apocalyptic madness into this brash and colorful action film that is crazy fun from start to finish and totally pulpy the whole way. Unfortunately, streaming services haven’t locked this movie down yet but there is a beautiful blu-ray and DVD combo that Shout Factory put out in 2013 that is available to order and I highly recommend it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Now that we’re all in lockdown with the family and kids it’s a great opportunity to show them all the nostalgic things from your childhood including this classic from 1990, a live-action big-screen version of one of the greatest Saturday morning cartoons ever made in my opinion. This is the first of two times they got the Ninja Turtles correct, Judith Hoag was a great April O’Neal and Elias Koteas is the best and most badass Casey Jones that we have seen, all apologies to Stephen Amell who was decent in Out Of The Shadows. The great news is that this and the two sequels are in a blu-ray three-pack easily available on Amazon.

While We’re Young – Now after all the attention around the Netflix released Noah Baumbach film Marriage Story has died down a bit this is a great opportunity for people to check out a film he did five years ago that paints another portrait of a directly relatable time in life for everyone, that transition from being young and hip to older and out of touch. Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play a middle-aged couple who find themselves socially attracted to a young bohemian couple played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. The wife and I saw this film just before it came out and absolutely loved it, another great script and a well-executed microcosm of a story from Baumbach. This one is easily available at your fingertips on Netflix and I totally recommend you checking it out, especially for the acting debut of Beastie Boy Adam Horowitz.

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter – A relatively unheard of independent film that was one of my favorite films of 2015, this lockdown is a perfect chance to check out this zany drama featuring an incredible performance from Pacific Rim actress Rinko Kikuchi. She plays a trouble Japanese woman who is convinced that her VHS copy of Fargo contains a treasure map to a buried fortune in Minnesota prompting her on an insane journey halfway across the world. Directed by David Zellner and co-written by his brother Nathan, this movie is always so grounded in the human experience while being a story of a complete oddity that keeps the movie in an ever-changing shift of inspiration and total tragedy. Order this one on Blu-ray, it is totally worth it.

Television:

The Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show (Netflix) – After releasing a few stand up specials on the world’s most popular streaming service, comedian Iliza Shlesinger was been given her own show to do whatever the hell she wants and, to be honest, just like her comedy, some works and some definitely does not. Shlesinger and her cast take on subjects like gender politics, dating dynamics and airline pries and policies just to name a few and while the nectarine board room skit did nothing for me, the “Female Jackass” has me laughing as instead of stunts they would have girls confront ex-boyfriends or be the awkward uninvited guest at a house party. Don’t expect anything highbrow but there are some great moments to be had.

Nailed It!: Season 4 (Netflix) – Comedian and host Nicole Byers returns with a brand new season of her insane baking show which takes everyday home bakers and puts almost impossible looking tasks in front of them, mostly involving cake sculpting and fondant crafting usually to hilarious and sometimes horrifying results. Yes, the point of this show is to “nail it” without actually doing it. Alongside her trusty sidekick, master baker Jacques Torres, and the helpful hand of her trusty stagehand Wes, Nicole welcomes a plethora of brave guest judges to help her find out the true chef who really nails it to hilarious results. This woman is truly a gift to comedy and I’m sometimes surprised that she is able to keep herself PG on this show. That said, my seven-year-old daughter may be the biggest fan I know of this and probably Byer’s youngest fan.

Tales From The Loop: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – A streaming service that I touch on every now and then, Amazon is coming through this week with probably my most anticipated new series this week and mostly because I love weirdo sci-fi. Featuring a cast that includes Rebecca Hall, Paul Schneider and Oscar nominee Jonathan Pryce, this series follows the townspeople who live above something called “The Loop,” a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe, experience things previously consigned to the realm of science fiction. Weird, right? The trailer has a whole bunch of “WTF” moments in it that just ramp up the intrigue of this show for me and it comes from the mind of Nathaniel Halpern who wrote on the FX Marvel mind trip Legion and the excellent murder mystery series The Killing, which is must-see and on Netlfix if you haven’t seen it yet.

Dolphin Reef (Disney+) – Usually around this time isney would be gearing up to release their yearly nature documentary as Earth Day is just around the corner on April 22nd but with this year being all but cancelled they are instead rolling out not one but two of them and they’re all premiering on their streaming service which has been quite busy in the last few weeks. Accompanying the Megan Markle narrated Elephants is this new film dives under the sea to play with some of the planet’s most engaging and intelligent mammals, dolphins. Narrated by Natalie Portman, the story to it centers around a dolphin named Echo, which makes me geek out on a Sega gamer level. With schools out right now, this is a helpful and educational movie to plunk the kids down in front of and feel no guilt.

Coffee And Kareem (Netflix) – This looks like a bit of a low bell to ring, doing the “Odd Couple” action movie pairing, and the director of this film, Michael Dowse, just did one kind of like this with the Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista underrated comedy Stuber but still I feel pretty on board with this. The story follows twelve-year-old Kareem Manning who hires a criminal to scare his mom’s new boyfriend, police officer James Coffee, but it backfires, forcing Coffee and Kareem to team up in order to save themselves from Detroit’s most ruthless drug kingpin. The story seems dumb but the cast is great, featuring Ed Helms, GLOW’s Betty Gilpin and Taraji P. Henson which makes me think that it will be some mindless entertainment but the keyword there is “entertainment”.

New On VOD:

Vivarium – This movie is totally something geared to my twisted likes as it feels like one of those nightmare Twilight Zone episodes and I ate up every second of it. Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg star as Gemma and Tom, a sweetheart couple looking to purchase their first home together. Stepping into a condo sales store, they have a very unsettling meeting with a salesman who implores them to get in their car to follow him to the neighborhood itself. Guided into a disturbingly uniform community that looks like it was designed on a computer, the salesman disappears, abandoning them in a maze of condos they can’t leave and that’s just the setup. Poots’ performance in this film is astounding as she starts to crumble with the reality around her and the direction from Lorcan Finnegan is fantastically striking all the way up until the end. This may be a total niche movie but I thoroughly loved it.

Blu-Ray:

1917 – A Golden Globe winner for Best Picture and Best Director, we finally get the chance to check out this World War I epic from director Sam Mendes in the comfort of our own homes, shot by one of the greatest cinematographers ever to get behind the camera, Roger Deakins. The story follows two young British soldiers who are given an impossible mission to deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men, including one of the soldiers’ brothers, from walking straight into a bloodbath. The film is comprised of two single-take shots, put together with invisible and seamless cuts much like Birdman was, and, although it is early in the year, this is one of my favorite films of 2020 and one of the greatest war films of all time. This was totally warranted for it’s Best Picture Oscar nomination, although I’m convinced that the right film won.

The Song Of Names – With two names like Tim Roth and Clive Owen leading the film, this melodrama should be an absolute home run and pairing with The Red Violin filmmaker Francois Gerard and Game Of Thrones cinematographer David Franco just makes that pot sweeter. The film is about an Englishman who finds himself obsessed with finding the whereabouts of a violin virtuoso that was adopted into his family at a young age. Based on a novel by Norman Lebrecht, the story starts out very interesting, following the two boys in World War II London during the blitzkriegs of Nazi Germany but the interest seems to falter as the film continues to a lackluster ending. As much as I love both of these actors, the performances were so understated that it left nothing for me to actually care about.

The Grudge – We are now in the cycle of horror where we try out the Japanese waif ghosts again and if you remember, this didn’t work out too well when Paramount tried to reboot The Ring with Rings, a limp and frightening nudge to a story audiences had largely forgotten about. This movie does have so bright points to it as director Nicolas Pesce is behind this as well as the screenwriter and with original films like The Eyes Of My Mother and Piercing on his belt, this would be the first movie of his to fail the genre if it’s bad. I love the cast in this, which includes John Cho, Lin Shaye, Demien Bichir and Andrea Riseborough but being the only movie dumped on the first release date of 2020 feels suspect.

Clemency – Coming out in theaters just a week after the death row drama Just Mercy, this film featured two blistering lead performances that will leave you breathless by the end credits. The story has Alfre Woodard as the warden of a prison that carries out death sentences for inmates, each one taking a little piece of her soul as she dutifully does her jobs. Still reeling from the last one, a procedure that went wrong causing the inmate to spasm brutally until his death, the lead up to her next execution causes her emotions to rise and her life to slowly deteriorate. On the other side of that is that inmate in question, played with incredible nuance by Aldis Hodge, a man who hasn’t let the imminence of his death hit him yet, still deep in a well of hope that his life will be spared. While it lacks some of the pomp that Just Mercy has, the movie’s stillness is its strength. This movie is worth checking out just for the powerhouse performances alone.

The Wizard – One of the absolute childhood staples, this is a movie that is very special to me and, judging by the massive volume of likes and comments that my post got when I received it, a lot more people feel the same way. Fred Savage stars as the older brother of an autistic savant with the knack for video games who run away from home and hitchhike across America with the help of a girl they meet to compete in the ultimate video game championship. Co-starring Beau Bridges and Christian Slater as their father and older brother hot on their heels, this movie is iconic and not just because it was the first place we ever saw Super Mario 3 and the Power Glove. This movie holds up to multiple viewings and is perfect to watch with the family.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

The Climbers – Some more exhilarating adventure and action from Well Go USA is on my geek outs this week with this brand new film that features House Of Flying Daggers star Ziyi Zhang. The film follows four members of an expedition to the summit of Mount Everest as a part of the China Everest Climbing Commando unit. As the climb becomes more and more difficult, the four must contend with deadly force winds, plummeting temperatures and the depletion of physical energy as they struggle to survive. The film comes from filmmaker Daniel Li, directing this film under his Chinese name Rengang Li, who has great movies like Black Mask and Three Kingdoms, which are both highly recommended martial arts movies.

Television:

Ozark: Season 3 (Netflix) – This is definitely a hugely anticipated new season, especially now during the lockdown, and it returns with one of the most explosive and fast-paced episodes yet. In case you haven’t dug into the show yet, Jason Bateman plays Marty Byrde, a financial advisor in Chicago who is unknowingly been fudging numbers for the cartel, something his business partner hasn’t clued him in on until the finality of being murdered in from of him by the leader of this deadly group. A quick thinker under pressure Marty is able to convince him to spare his life by moving to the remote Ozarks to clean millions for his new boss, presenting an all-new set of problems for him, his wife who is played by the great Laura Linney and his two kids. The show is so phenomenally well done and Bateman himself directs a handful of episodes. Highly recommended if you have immersed yourself in it yet.

Unorthodox (Netflix) – Between last week’s release of Feel Good and this it seems like I keep picking up on Netflix’s lesbian programming as this is another story of a young gay woman but if a far different context and genre. Shira Haas plays Esther Shapiro, a young ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman who flees her arranged marriage and religious community to start a new life abroad in the United States. Little does she know that her estranged fiance and a gruff investigator from the Hasidic leaders are hot on her tail to drag her back to be wed. This show tells Esther’s story in two parts, the introduction and courtship of her arranged husband as well as her current awakening to the new feelings she can freely explore and it is so fascinating. Haas has an ability to be wanton, yearning and reserved all in the same breath and it is a sheer joy to watch. She is worth checking it out for alone.

Daniel Isn’t Real (Shudder) – Coming from director Adam Egypt Mortimer, the filmmaker who did the highly entertaining “New Year’s Eve” segment of the anthology film Holidays, this movie is one I’m hearing some great buzz about. Based on a novel of the same name, this film is about a troubled college freshman who suffers a violent family trauma and brings back his childhood imaginary friend Daniel as a coping mechanism. The film stars Halloween and Blockers actor Miles Robbins as the lead character, Patrick Schwarzenegger as the title character and the great Sasha Lane in a supporting role and is just the kind of genre film that intrigues me greatly. The movie is described as a slick mind twist of a thriller that is well pieced together and totally stylish.

Dark Side Of The Ring: Season 2 (Vice/YouTube) – Vice continues their look into an industry that I have a deep love for, and always have, professional wrestling. Beyond that, this season focuses on a log misunderstood and tragic happening in the mid 2000s, the murder-suicide of Chris Benoit and his family. Narrated by close friend Chris Jericho, widely regarded as the greatest of all time, this series will dispel the rumors and myths that have been attributed to this case as well as shine a light on the possible causes of Benoit’s psychosis that leg to this horrifying act. I’m so happy to see this available on YouTube and am deep in the binge already myself. Totally recommended even if you aren’t a wrestling fan.

Devs (FX) – Coming from the mind of one of the greatest science fiction writers via grounded and real science, Alex Garland running a limited series is really going to turn some heads and from what I’ve seen so far this could be one of the best shows we get this year. The series centers around Lily, a computer engineer who starts an investigation into the secretive development department within her employer when her boyfriend, a fellow employee, disappears. The lead star, Sonoya Mizuno, isn’t exactly a household name, aside from some great work on Cary Fukanaga’s Netflix show Maniac but the mystery of Nick Offerman’s character as the CEO Forest should have everyone watching this.

New to VOD:

Canadian Strain – Using the backdrop of the recent cannabis legalization in Canada, this comedy capitalizes on the confusion over the rollout of this new freedom as well as the endless red tape that the existing stores were wrapped up in. Starring Letterkenny actress Jess Salgueiro, this film follows a cannabis grower and distributor that finds herself in a lawless panic when the decision is made that government stores are to be the method of sales and the already existing stores are to be prohibited. The film centers more on the characters spiral down as she tries to maintain her morals at the same time as keeping herself from destitution and I felt that it let down the general theme that it started out with, the government marginalizing the citizens of the country again but this time in an industry that they have no idea about. It took the bite out of this movie and it’s unfortunate.

Blu-Ray:

Jumanji: The Next Level – The fans cried foul when it was announced that The Rock would be rebooting Jumanji but the end result turned out to be a pretty entertaining movie with the great continued chemistry between The Rock and Kevin Hart. Now the whole cast has returned including Karen Gillan and Jack Black for the Next Level in which Danny DeVito and Danny Glover have now inhabited the bodies of Rock and Hart and it works again as a totally action-packed and funny adventure. All the characters are able to bring something a little different to their performances, being inhabited by different “players” throughout the movie and Rock and Hart get some really great moments of emotional dialogue that actually work really well. I had middling expectations for this movie that were definitely cleared.

Black Christmas – Blumhouse is making a pretty nice little horror niche for itself by picking up older properties and rejuvenating them, sometimes with bad results, but sometimes they come out great. This is one that is close to my heart as the original 1974 movie is a Canadian classic from the legendary director Bob Clark, who also made A Christmas Story (wrap your head around that) and it was already botched in remake land in 2006. This movie though, I really don’t know how I feel. It is a massive departure from the original story and the first trailer released for it seems to give it all away, so much so that I am refusing to summarize it in this write-up. Just watch it below to see what I’m talking about.

Richard Jewell – Clint Eastwood continues his real-life story adaptations with this film about a security guard that saved thousands of lives at the 1994 Atlanta Olympics from a bomb who is then smeared by the press claiming he was the terrorist who planted it. I really like that Paul Walter Hauser, a standout in I Tonya and Blackkklansman, finally getting a lead role in this film, although billed last on the poster but Clint hasn’t been on a real hot streak with his films recently this movie suffers from that even if it has Sam Rockwell and Kathy Bates in it and the performances are phenomenal. Eastwood paints this story in such a stark black and white that you feel his right-wing bias with every clunky piece in the message of this film. That coupled with the serious character assassination of journalist Kathy Scruggs was a real issue for me.

The Courier – There’s a brand new direct to video action film available this week and even though Bruce Willis is nowhere to be found sleepwalking through this it is still most likely garbage. Starring Olga Kurylenko, a star recently diagnosed with COVID-19, and Gary Oldman, this is a simple plot following a courier in London who discovers that one of the packages she’s transporting is a bomb. Playing the bad guy and sporting a killer eye patch, Oldman is probably the biggest draw to this film but it all just looks so hoky ad I’m not even including anything from Zackary Adler’s back catalogue.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Mind Games – A pretty unknown little thriller from the late eighties, this b-grade film gets the full Blu-Ray treatment with this beautiful new collector’s edition from MVD Visual. Starring Empire Records own Rex Manning, Maxwell Caulfield, this is a film about a frustrated wife who takes their son camping only to be terrorized by a hitchhiker they helped along the way. The film was directed by Bob Yari, who is now a prominent film producer with his own studio making movies like the Best Picture winner Crash and The Illusionist, this being the first of two movies he had made personally, the second one made in 2015. Caulfield is uber-creepy in this movie and coming off of Grease 2, that was probably the most unsettling part.

Warriors Of The Nation – More Asian martial arts from Well Go USA, an absolute treasure trove of great action films. There are no internationally known actor in this film and the director hasn’t made anything that made any box office marks outside of China but the story is pretty interesting but definitely a bit convoluted at times, centred around the White Lotus Society, a religious and political movement that rose up in the 1330s. If you love movies like the Jet Li series Once Upon A Time In China then these movies are definitely your movie jam this weekend. I know I love ancient Chinese films like this unless they’re done by Americans. I’m looking at you, Matt Damon.

Television:

Feel Good: Season 1 (Netflix) – In a lighter way but heavier on the addiction side, this new series reminds me a bit of Fleabag but without that great Phoebe Waller-Bridge edge. The show is about stand up comedian Mae Martin, a Canadian transplant now living in London. When a regular audience member asks her out on a date, Mae finds herself on a whirlwind romance with the girl of her dreams until the crushing reality of her addiction problem comes to light. This show is definitely a sardonically funny show about damaged people and really revels in it in a great way. I hadn’t heard of Martin before this show but now I’m pretty keen on checking out a full set.

Self Made: Inspired By The Life Of Madam C.J. Walker (Netflix) – Octavia Spencer and Tiffany Haddish star in this brand new limited series that tells the story of a trailblazing African American woman who rose up from nothing to become the entrepreneur known as Madam C.J. Walker who built a haircare empire that made her America’s first female self-made millionaire. The cast looks great around these two including Blair Underwood and Carmen Ejogo but I do find it weird that Spencer is playing Haddish’s mother in this as the two are only seven years apart.

Tiger King (Netflix) – This is one of those too crazy to be true stories but I will let you know right now, it’s all true and I know someone who knows someone that knows this guy. I know! Crazy! This is a docuseries about a gonzo rivalry between big cat eccentrics that takes a dark turn when Joe Exotic, a controversial animal park boss with a glorious blond mullet that would make Hulk Hogan and Dog The Bounty Hunter shake in their boots, is caught in a murder-for-hire plot. This show will make you slackjawed in amazement that people like this actually exist. I felt myself giggling and laughing throughout this bat shit show and I feel like it will really catch on with people. I highly recommend it!

Westworld: Season 3 (HBO) – After a two year absence we finally get the next piece of this incredible mysterious show that emanated from a 70s Michael Crichton movie. The favorites are all back including Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores, Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard and Thandie Newton’s Maeve as well as newcomers Aaron Paul and Kid Cudi but what is this season about? Well, showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan are keeping everything secretive but what we do know is that Bernard and Dolores have been rebuilt outside of the facility so we get to see what this future looks like and I am damn excited for that.

The Plot Against America (HBO) – In a time of heightened and emboldened racism in the U.S. and, heck, around the world, we get this brand new “what if” historical drama from one of the great creators of television today, HBO. Starring Winona Ryder, Zoe Kazan, John Turturro and more, this series follows an alternate timeline America that lives in a world that saw Roosevelt defeated in the 1940 race for presidency by Charles Lindbergh, a man who has strengthened ties to Nazi Germany. A six-episode limited series, this show has great creators behind the camera with The West Wing’s Thomas Schlamme directing the lion’s share and The Wire’s David Simon and Edward Burns writing it. This could be the best miniseries of 2020 so I’d give it a look.