Enola Holmes 2 – When Millie Bobby Brown starred in the titular role of the first film of this hopeful sleuthing franchise, I was really taken aback by how fun and exhilarating it all felt with some Deadpool-level constant fourth wall breaks that seemed to always work. I ended up being so thrilled with it that I let out an audible “yay” when it was announced that we’d get a sequel. Co-starring Henry Cavil as Enola’s brother Sherlock and Helena Bonham Carter as their nomadic mother, this follow-up picks up with Enola trying to make a go at having her own detective agency, a prospect that doesn’t prove fruitful. In the moments before closing up shop for good, she is approached by a young girl with the mission of finding her lost older sister putting her on a case that delves deep into the industrialization and politics of England. Only the second film from writer and director Harry Bradbear, the other film being the first film in this series, he gives this film an invigoration just as Guy Ritchie did with his Sherlock movies and it keeps you engaged with the characters and keeping time with Enola herself. I also really love both Millie and Henry in their respective roles, so charming and playful, and I really hope this film experiences the same success and we get a third one.
Causeway – It feels like so long ago when Jennifer Lawrence was the sought after it girl both with blockbuster features and award-worthy dramas or comedies and, really, it has been, since the Oscar-winning actress had a baby and gave herself a breather with only limited projects since 2019. Now she returns but, like her previous film Don’t Look Up, it is a limited release direct to streaming project available on AppleTV+ but don’t let that limit the importance. Taking away the satirical comedy that was her previous film, this is a ground look at a former Marine, released after a traumatic brain injury, who must now reacclimate to her home life again. Altered by her experience in the military, she is jaded and potentially damaging to those around her in a film that is driven by her incredible character acting ability. The film also features Bullet Train and Eternals star Brian Tyree Henry, who always elevates any movie he’s in. The importance of this film about mental trauma in the military and the John Boyega film Breaking from last week, no matter their calibre, should always be brought up for the real-life relevancy of giving veterans the safety net they need after their tours.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story – Biopics are really hit and miss these days but a biopic about one of the greatest parody artists ever done in a satirical sort of way looks to blow open all of those expectations, I think. Also, the casting of former Harry Potter actor and now horror and genre film spale Daniel Radcliffe is too delicious to pass up as a movie lover. Told very tongue in cheek, the film explores every facet of the great “Weird” Al Yankovic’s life, from his meteoric rise to fame with early hits like ‘Eat It’ and ‘Like a Surgeon’ to his torrid and exaggerated celebrity love affairs and famously depraved lifestyle. The best thing about this film, streaming for free on the Roku Channel, is that it is already getting great reviews and, for a superfan like me, it all is superfluous as I was going to watch the movie anyways. Like all Weird Al stans, this is going to be all of our Friday night plans.
My Policeman – Coming off of the controversy-marred release of the thriller Don’t Worry Darling, Harry Styles’s first main role is definitely not looked at in the greatest of lights because, having seen the film itself, he’s probably the weakest performance in it. Now he has to take the reigns all on his own in a gay romantic drama, based on a novel by Bethan Roberts and put together by sophomore director Michael Grandage. A story of forbidden love and changing social conventions, the film follows three young people, policeman Tom, teacher Marion and museum curator Patrick, as they embark on an emotional journey in 1950s Britain. Flashing forward to the 1990s, the three are still reeling with longing and regret, but now they have one last chance to repair the damage of the past. Uneven is the best terminology to use when it comes to this film as the story is engaging but the script gets tedious here and there despite the best efforts from a game cast. It saddens me that Lily James was originally cast and dropped out of this film as I love her as a part of an ensemble but Emma Corrin does a pretty solid job, known for her performance on The Crown as Princess Diana Prior to this. She definitely has a bright future but Styles needs considerable work.
Decision To Leave – Park Chan Wook, one of my favourite international filmmakers currently working, never makes the same movie twice and he never makes any moment uninteresting to watch on screen. Just knowing he has something new is enough to get me excited but to know that he was doing a sort of detective noir story had me giddy with cinematic excitement. The film follows a detective investigating the mysterious death of a man who plummeted off a cliff, seemingly by himself. Things get complicated when he begins to suspect the dead man’s wife might be directly involved but he also starts to feel a soulful connection that starts to seep into his own marriage. I want to refrain from any more story reveals but I will say that Park’s attention to character nuance is unparallel and he is a storyteller that always keeps you guessing and may drop your jaw from time to time. This is yet another masterpiece to add to his oeuvre and any international cinema fan owes it to themselves to see this film immediately.
Selena Gomez: My Mind And Me – For anyone that loves music-related documentaries then this first week of November is a sweet spot for you because you get two from very different spectrums. Let’s start with something that a broader audience will gravitate towards, a huge part of the Disney Channel empire and someone that was obsessed over by Justin Beiber fans to this day. Yes, this is about popstar, actress and producer Selena Gomez who is currently experiencing great success on Only Murders In The Building but, of course, achieved unimaginable stardom and years in the spotlight. As a result of that, she experiences regular anxiety, depression and darkness as this film spans a four-year period in her career. The humanizing of such an international superstar is really interesting and brings home the very real and constant fact of these people’s human reality. It also gives me a better understanding of an artist whose work, besides the Steve Martin and Martin Short series, I’m otherwise unfamiliar with.
The Return Of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile – Speaking of artists I’m unfamiliar with, this is another facet in music documentaries that I love and it’s the retrospective but redemptive and comeback-laden stories, although the subject of this film, country star Tanya Tucker, absolutely hates that last term. I am a bit familiar with musician and producer Brandi Carlile, who is the main piece of the film to be included in the title, and co-producer Shooter Jennings, the son of Waylon. The film started running camera a handful of years ago, decades after the most popular years for Tucker and almost two decades after her last album as Carlile takes it upon herself to write an entire album for her hero based on Tanya’s extraordinary life, spurring possibly the greatest modern comeback in country music history and yes, I’m using that word again. What makes a great documentary is a character and that is exactly who Tucker is, note for note. Hard drinking, chain-smoking and pink hair blazing, she is so endearing but wears the damage and tragedy she has experienced, both professionally and personally, on her sleeve. The result is a film deep with humanity and maybe something that inspired me actually to listen to a little bit of country. Did I? I’ll never tell.
Top Gun: Maverick – This is easily one of the best movies of the year and to think that we had COVID almost choke out all of the hype when it was originally supposed to be released, leading it to be mothballed for a solid year and a bit. The way to stop it from spinning out to mediocre obscurity is for it to be a damn good film on every level and that is exactly what it does from the get-go. The film brings us back to the base of the best flyboys in America after thirty years, with Pete “Maverick” Mitchell still pushing the envelope as a top naval aviator. Following the brash decision to ignore orders from the top brass in a land speed record flight, he must confront ghosts of his past when he leads TOP GUN’s elite graduates on a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those chosen to fly it. When you get down to the foundation of this story, it feels very Star Wars in the “we must hit a small ventilation chamber to blow up the Death Star” sort of way but everything works in this film to create one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had in theatres in years. For the final explosive third act, I found myself gripping my seat and steps away from hooting and hollering along with the action. If that’s not theatre-going cinema then I don’t know how to describe it.
The Good Boss – As I was watching this new Javier Bardem dark comedy-drama, I found myself looking up the filmography of writer and director Fernando León de Aranoa and realized that he was the man behind a Vancouver International Film Festival favourite of mine, A Perfect Day, from my first couple years of covering the event. It made sense that this filmmaker languishes in human stories surrounded by darkness and not only does he love to hang out in that mood, but he also excels in it. This film has Bardem playing the owner of an industrial-scale manufacturing business who tries to resolve any problems from his workers as the company is awaiting a visit by a committee that could give them an award for excellence. This causes mounting strife in his own life as choices as the dominoes fall into place with each move he makes to solve other people’s issues. Bardem brings that same great gravitas to the role as he always did but it is the layered script that really propels this story and won me over in the end.
Rubikon – There is something fun about European genre films and I think it has to do with the freedom they experience not having to fit into the mould of Hollywood blockbuster features. We see it all the time in horror and some action films but where the wings really spread is in the sci-fi creature features and you have to admire the originality of some of them. This one comes from Austria and follows a crew in a space station who must decide whether to risk their lives to get home and search for survivors or stay safe in the station’s “algae symbiosis system” when a catastrophic event happens on Earth and the planet is covered in a toxic fog. The final result of this film is a story that brushes its fingertips on greatness but has an uneven ending that sort of diminishes its ability to stick in your mind for long after. The cast is really great, unknown internationally for the most part, but the weakness is its penchant for falling into ruts of predictability which defeats my notion of international originality. I didn’t dislike the experience but find myself at a loss to recommend it.
Euphoria: Seasons 1 & 2 – Game Of Thrones, Chernobyl and The Outsider seem so long ago as the new hotness on HBO right now is the stellar Righteous Gemstones and this provocative teen drama that I saw described as the A24 studio mashing with Degrassi High. It’s funny to say but a little far from the truth. The show looks with an unflinching eye at a group of high school students as they grapple with issues of drugs, sex, and violence in a world that is fast becoming a desolate landscape of forgotten childhoods and ambivalent parents. Starring the megastar of Zendaya, Maude Apatow, which makes a lifelong Judd fan feel really old, and the newcomer Hunter Schafer this series feels like a show that would play like an insidious horror film to any parent of a teenager and the secret lives that each of them leads even lead me to hang my mouth open in disbelief from episode to episode. There’s also a crazy amount of nudity in this as well, so it gets a lot of attention for that. The time of Zendaya isn’t winding down anytime soon so just get on board now with one of the most charismatic young stars in recent memory.
Steve’s 4K Rager:
To Kill A Mockingbird 4K – Gregory Peck was a giant of an actor with many incredible performances in his storied career but it was this film that gets the most attention and, coincidentally, he was celebrated for it too as he earned an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of lawyer Atticus Finch. It’s also interesting to note that the book that the film was based on was banned for a long time in the United States and could be banned again if the GOP gets its wishes. The story follows Finch, a widowed lawyer in Depression-era Alabama who defends a black man against a wrongly accused rape charge and his children against prejudice There really can’t be any slander against a film as revered as this one and it always holds up but to see that Peck performance, particularly the summation monologue, in the high definition 4K. Did it need it? Probably not but it’s cool to possess.
Universal Classic Monsters 4K – Usually Shane gets a tad exasperated with the long list of horror films I bring to the show but these are absolute classics and it says so in the title. If it wasn’t for these four iconic movie creatures we wouldn’t have the films we have today and I’m not just talking about the horror genre. This set, bringing every film to the high definition platform of 4K, has all four of the starting to the most famous movie monsters with Bela Legosi’s Dracula, Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein’s Monster, Claude Rains’ Invisible Man and Lon Chaney’s Wolfman. These are films I can even show my ten-year-old, who hates horror but is pretty fascinated by the origins of it. This is a damn cool set, I think.
Titans: Season 4 Part 1 (Crave) – DC and Warner Bros couldn’t seem to get their movies to work, but now The Suicide Squad came through to change that and alongside Birds Of Prey, Shazam and Aquaman have given us something to be excited about plus we now have James Gunn to oversee all of it to bring us even better things with our favourite characters. Their television division though is doing just fine in my opinion with Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing and this series and now it makes its highly anticipated fourth season debut but it’s going extended by splitting it up into two parts. Originally constructed for their DC-centric streaming platform, this is the darker-themed adaptation of the Teen Titans, led by Robin and featuring Cyborg, Starfire and Beast Boy. It also is still deeply connected to the Doom Patrol, which I still think is the heavyweight in their arsenal and the gift that keeps on giving. Heck, it’s part of the reason that we got that renaissance for actor Brendan Fraser started.
Blockbuster (Netflix) – It has to be with the most tongue-in-cheek irony that Netflix is doing this comedy series about the last Blockbuster in North America because they are the cold-blooded murderer that dispatched the good ol’ video store and I still take issue with that as it is still one of my favourite jobs ever. That aside, the show has things going for it as it comes from first-time showrunner Vanessa Ramos who wrote for Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Superstore and stars Fresh Off The Boat’s Randall Park, Nine-Nine’s Melissa Fumero and Curb Your Enthusiasm’s JB Smoove. The show follows Park as the manager of the last Blockbuster who is doing everything he can to keep the store afloat, battling to keep what once was a massive conglomerate and is now a small independent business with a fifty-fifty ratio of apathetic employees. I really wanted to love this show but it just isn’t hitting anywhere in the ballpark of the shows I just mentioned. The plot feels a little sophomoric as does the script and no matter how much the seasoned comedy pros can elevate it, everything seems to fall flat with the newer cast. I’m hoping it gets better as the season progresses, being that I’m only halfway, but it’s been stuck on middling for the duration so far.
Manifest: Season 4 Part 1 (Netflix) – If you are looking for your new Lost-like series, this family NBC sci-fi mystery that Netlfix miraculously saved might be up your alley and, while it doesn’t feature any huge stars unless you were a fan of Josh Dallas on Once Upon A Time, it comes from creator Jeff Rake who created some vastly underrated comedy with the Wall Street series The $treets. The series follows the passengers onboard Flight 828 who, after being presumed dead, return and discover the world has aged five years. As they reintegrate into society, they begin to experience guiding voices and visions, and soon a deeper mystery unfolds. The show reminds me of the Syfy original series The 4400 quite a bit, a show that was cut down far too early and left too much of a tantalizing mystery. The push was big from the rabid fan base to find a new home for it when the Comcast cable network axed it from their schedule but luckily for the production team and cast the biggest streaming giant on the planet gave it a shot and maybe we can see not just a wrap-up season but a few more batches of episodes like they did with Lucifer. It already has the base to start with and the rest of the series is currently streaming too so it really is a win-win I think.
Young Rock: Season 3 (NBC) – Being a huge wrestling fan, this show only had a bit of interest in its first couple of years but now the series has moved on through The Rock’s life as a young boy, then a teenager and now has him set to debut if the then WWF as Rocky Miavia at Survivor Series. This is complete with the casting of Stone Cold Steve Austin with a Canadian wrestler Tyson Dux playing him and definitely many more so I might actually start this show which I panned due to it being a network-made enterprise. For those who don’t know about it, the show looks at the formative years of superstar Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as he grows up through life and, like everything the Brahma Bull and People’s Champ does, it has earned the support of the fans and even some critics really praise it. Let’s just face it, for whatever fan I claim to be on both wrestling and The Rock, I’m pretty late to the game on this.
The Mosquito Coast: Season 2 (AppleTV+) – Remember the Harrison Ford film of the same name from Aussie master filmmaker Peter Weir with Helen Mirren about a guy trying to pursue the nature dream with his family? Well, much like Amazon Prime did with Weir’s Picnic At Hanging Rock, AppleTV+ has adapted this movie into series form with Justin Theroux in the lead, Melissa George co-starring and a plethora of directors helming episodes like Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes Rupert Wyatt and Game Of Thrones guy Jeremy Podeswa. The series is a gripping adventure and layered character drama following the dangerous journey of a radical idealist and brilliant inventor, Allie Fox, who uproots his family for Mexico when they suddenly find themselves on the run from the US government. The tension of the show is constantly on its sleeve and Theroux brings that same great energy he had with HBO’s The Leftovers to this, which isn’t the same calibre but is still damn good.
The White Lotus: Season 2 (Crave) – One of the breakout hits this year was this dark comedy-drama that is so well cast from top to bottom with Jennifer Coolidge, Steve Zahn, Connie Britton as well as young stars like Alexandra Daddario, Fred Herschinger and Sydney Sweeney but the important thing is it comes from one of the most gifted writers in Mike White. On the heels of picking up ten Primetime Emmys recently, You better have gotten fully caught up on all of the characters because season two is coming your way one episode at a time. I’ll outline where we’ve been to prepare you the spoils as season one was set in a tropical resort following the exploits of various guests and employees over the span of a week, whose stay becomes affected by their various dysfunctions. With the mountain of awards that came this past week, the big ones were for White’s writing and the series itself but we also saw Coolidge win a long-deserved award as well as the celebration of a new name in the zeitgeist, Murray Bartlett, who plays a pivotal role that I can’t even begin to describe. Now with the sophomore season finally here, it will be interesting to see if it was warranted or if it should have just been left as a one-off limited series.