Leave the World Behind (Netflix) - Dec 15, 2023
Leave the World Behind

Director: Sam Esmail

Main Stars: Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Mahershala Ali, Kevin Bacon

Rating: 4.5/5

I found out about this while watching one of my prepping shows on YouTube. The little bit I watched had me intrigued so I stopped the show and made a mental note to finish it later as I didn't want to have any spoilers. Speaking of spoilers, there may be some very mild ones here - it's hard to talk about what makes this such a great film without giving a bit away of the plot.

I've always loved the 'end of the world' genre and at first glance the setup for this one is a bit different.

We have a White couple and their young daughter and teenage son who decide to take a break from the stresses of the big city and head to the countryside to relax at an Airbus type home. All is idyllic until one night there's a knock at the door and a Black man and his daughter are there who he claims to be the owner of the (very affluent) house. They say there's been a massive power outage in the city and they want to know if they can stay the night - even going so far as to offer a refund to the vacationers.

Ok, so why am I mentioning race? Because it's central to one of the main points of the film. Without saying it outright, the White couple (actually the Wife) is obviously uncomfortable with strangers staying in the same house as them with the added implication being that they're even more uncomfortable because they're Black as well. Plus there's no way a Black person could afford this massive house in the countryside, so they must be lying. At this point my back was definitely up, especially because I was aware that this film was produced by Obama (yes, that Obama). Apparently the thing these days for ex-Presidents to do is to start their own production company. And Mr. Hopey Changey was probably the worst President in my lifetime for stoking racial divisions (on the plus side, this was directed by the same guy who did the excellent Mr. Robot series).

However...as we find out later in the film such divisions are preciously what our enemies might look to take advantage of in any future conflict.

So I'm willing to give the racial stuff a pass as it is integral to the story. And as we soon find out, there are bigger things for the characters to be concerned about anyway.

The great thing is that it's not apparent what's going on and there's a building sense of dread from beginning to end. It's a very open ended film by design. Are they being invaded? Is it just a cyber attack? An environmental disaster? Aliens??? Most of the negative reviews are from people who don't like having to think on their own. They like having all the dots connected for them.

I also have to mention that it's a beautifully shot film. The technicals are top notch.

So why was this highlighted on a Prepper show? Because one of the characters (Kevin Bacon) is a Prepper whom the wife (Roberts) notices stockpiling water and supplies in his truck soon after they arrive in the nearby town. Later after SHTF as they say, they go to him looking for help and are met with a shotgun in their face. It brings up one of the primary dilemmas of Prepping. Why should you help all the sheep who go through life completely oblivious to what's going on around them ignorant in their belief that the Government will take care of them. If you go through the time and effort and expense of preparing for the unthinkable to protect yourself and your family from disaster, why should you help others?

This is a very smart and well written film with Easter eggs and hidden meaning galore. I went back later and watched my show where they broke it all down and I can't believe I missed some of the more obvious things. Being a character driven film all the actors give great performances and even better they're not reduced to stereotypes. There's complexity and nuance to all. I also found it interesting that the one person most in tune with what was going on was the young girl. Said young girl also has an obsession with the TV show Friends which they bring up over and over again at the beginning. I found myself asking what the deal with that was as it was obviously more than just random. And at the end they use it to tie up the movie which I found quite satisfying.

What else can I say? This is all out terrific. And while it might not be up there with say The Road, it's a very unique entry in the genre.

Now I'm off to go stock up on canned goods and bottled water...

Terrifier (VOD) - Sep 17, 2023

Director: Damien Leone

Main Stars: Jenna Kanell, Samantha Scaffidi, David Howard Thornton

Rating: 4/5

A horror movie in summer? Sure, why not? Normally I tend to watch such fare during the month of October, but occasionally you get the itch for some gore and mindless violence. And so we have the latest horror baddie - Art the Clown.

To be honest I don't really remember hearing about this one when it came out. Instead it was when the sequel was released that I noticed it - most notably when word got out of audience members getting sick and rushing out of the theatre - shades of when the Exorcist premiered back in the day. So naturally I was intrigued.

Plot wise there's not much to say. On the surface this is yet another slasher entry in a long and frankly boring subgenre. I've always considered them to be my least favourite horror movies. Honestly, how many times can you see someone running around in a hockey or Halloween mask who can't be killed hacking up teenagers before you lose interest?

However to its credit, this one changes things up a bit. Without giving things away, the protagonist's journey deviates from the norm. It's also not readily apparent if this killer clown is invincible or is mortal after all.

The character itself is all kinds of awesome. Clowns are inherently creepy to begin with, but I love how 'Art' is presented. And one of the early scenes of him coming into a greasy pizza joint and sitting down across from the two main characters and just staring at them is creepy as hell.

About the only thing I didn't like is when someone would get the upper hand while struggling with our clown instead of finishing him off they'd run away instead only cross paths again later. But that's typical in these films.

In the end I quite enjoyed it. It managed to elevate itself slightly above the norm, provides some truly creepy scenes and memorable kill scenes and plenty of gore. Halloween is coming next month and this would be right at home in any party movie playlist.

Finally, out of curiosity I did watch the sequel a few days later. Let's just say a much bigger budget, bloated runtime, and lame attempt at a back story do not make for a better experience. Skip the sequel unless you're really bored.

Fall (VOD) - May 29, 2023

Director: Scott Mann

Main Stars: Grace Caroline Currey, Virginia Gardner, Mason Gooding, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Rating: 3/5

Becky, her life in a downward spiral a year after she witnessed her husband plunge to his death while rock climbing, grudgingly is convinced by her adrenaline junkie friend to confront her fears head on and finally move on with life. To do this, they intend on climbing a 2000 foot TV tower located in the middle of nowhere.

However soon after accomplishing their goal, things go awry and they end up stranded at the top with no obvious way of getting help.

When I saw the trailer for this I was somewhat intrigued. Not only because it looked like a thrill ride, but also because in my personal life I once did something similar. In the town where I grew up there was a massively tall TV/Radio tower and one afternoon some friends and I climbed it. While we only went up maybe half way, unlike in the film we didn't have any climbing equipment or safety gear. We didn't even bring water with us and this was before the age of cell phones (idiots).

Sadly I watched this on a plane. I can only imagine how much more thrilling it would have been to experience on the big screen. But despite the less than optimal viewing experience it still managed to keep my attention throughout. The story is super simplistic but that's ok as the focus is just mankind overcoming adversity. That said, as this was initially meant to be a short film you can tell where they added some padding to try and fill out the run time. While I generally like Jeffrey Dean Morgan from his stint in The Walking Dead, his role here as the concerned Dad didn't really resonate - although again, he didn't have much to work with. There's also hints at a love triangle but thankfully they didn't flesh it out or resort to flashbacks or anything like that. Finally, there's a twist near the end which many people likely saw coming, but for me didn't feel contrived and I was ok with it.

The two leading ladies are capable in their roles although they won't be winning any Oscars. They did however do most of their own stunts. And that's really it in terms of the cast.

It's worth noting that while I expected this to be a CGI fest with everything done on a green screen in actuality it was mostly practical effects. They actually built part of the tower high up on a mountain so the shots giving a sense of height and distance looked realistic. And while the actors might have only been 50 feet up from the ground, I still wouldn't have wanted to have fallen from that height.

There's lots you could nitpick in terms of reality but as long as you're willing to overlook that you're in for one heck of an experience.

Fall reminds me a lot of the excellent indie flick Open Water which while obviously on the literal opposite end in terms of location of the action is another film that manages to do a lot with just a little (I also wouldn't recommend watching right before going on a snorkeling vacation). It's nice to know that in today's age of endless big budget super hero blockbusters, there are still some people managing to make thrilling and engaging movies on a limited budget.

Blow Out (Blu-ray) - Jan 6, 2023
Blow Out

Director: Brian De Palma

Main Stars: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz

Rating: 3/5

Jack Terry (Travolta) makes a living as a sound technician for a Philadelphia movie studio that produces low budget horror films. One night while out recording new sounds he witnesses a car speeding along the road when it suddenly swerves and plunges into a lake. With no one else seemingly around he dives into the water and rescues one of the occupants from drowning. Later at the hospital he is approached by a strange man who tells him to forget all about the lady he saved. Only later while listening to his recordings does he realize that they are a 'witness' to what turns out to be more than just an accident.

Brian De Palma directed three movies in the early 80's - Dressed To Kill, Blow Out, and Body Double. Of those Dressed to Kill is generally regarded as the standout and correspondingly it also is part of the Criterion catalog. For those not aware, Criterion is a publishing studio that acquires the rights to movies and releases them after painstakingly fixing any image or sound flaws and including not only existing extras but often new interviews as well. The movies they release tend to all be highly regarded if not outright 'artsy'. Essentially movies for movie snobs. So I found it odd that they chose this one to include in their catalog versus other potential De Palma flicks such as Scarface or The Untouchables.

Whenever I review a film I'll also read other reviews to see if I'm way off the mark or not. It doesn't change my opinion, but it is nice to be validated.

And by and large even though this one did poorly at the box office it is generally well regarded. Of the films mentioned that he did in the early 80s they all had similar themes and all had a sleazy undercurrent to them. So it's easy to make comparisons. I just simply enjoyed Body Double much more and therefore IMHO Criterion should have gone with it instead.

That said, this is still a solid movie. You have Travolta at the height of his career and I honestly could watch Nancy Allen all day long. I did enjoy the beginning which was one long steady cam shot of a cheap slasher/women's exploitation flick. While the setup was that it was a movie the main character was working on - in reality I can't help but think it was either a homage or a critique of the 80's slasher films that were endemic at the time. Either way as someone who grew up during that era I thought it was hilarious.

There's also a terrific chase scene which takes place during a massive city parade. Fun fact, the footage for that was left in a van which ended up being stolen and so they had to reshoot the entire scene all over again. It's been suggested that the downer ending played a big part it not being a hit with audiences but for me I was ok with it. Test screenings are the bane of today's releases.

A decent entry to what I'll call the director's 'sleaze trilogy' but ultimately it just didn't really grab me.

Extras on the disc include an interview with the director and one with Nancy Allen plus the trailer. But the highlight is including the director's very first experimental short film he did in the late 60's.

The Way (2010) (VOD) - Aug 20, 2022
Last Nigh In Soho

Director: Emilio Estevez

Main Stars: Martin Sheen, Deborah Kara Unger, Yorick van Wageningen, James Nesbitt

Rating: 4.5/5

Tom seemingly has it all. A respected Doctor and pillar of the community. But despite his wishes his son refuses to follow in his footsteps - instead following his heart and wandering seemingly aimlessly across the planet. One day Tom gets the heartbreaking news that his wayward son has accidentally died along the Camino de Santiago - a 800km trail through France and Spain travelled yearly by thousands of pilgrims to visit the shrine of Saint James. After flying to Europe to retrieve his sons body he suddenly decides to leave his old life behind, take up his son's journey, and finish his pilgrimage for him.

The wife and I are will be visiting Portugal and Spain soon and while researching one of the stops a reviewer mentioned that it was part of the famous trail and suggested people watch this film before visiting. Not having heard of it I found it interesting that it was directed by Sheen's son and had decent reviews. So we sat down one night, found it on Apple TV, and fired it up.

On the surface it's a shockingly straightforward movie. While the scenery and locations are beautiful and historic (hence the recommendation to watch) the heart of the story is the father overcoming the obvious physical efforts of the journey but also coming to terms with the pain of losing his son and reconciling their estrangement. Along the way other characters are introduced and over time we find out they each have their own equally personal reasons for making the trek. And that's it. No explosions or car chases to be found here.

But the story is so well crafted and subtle that the emotional impact as things reach the end just hammers you out of left field. It caught me completely by surprise at how emotional I got. Of course there's also the added layer of the dynamics between real life son and father.

Besides the main narrative, it's also a joy to watch the interactions between the characters initially running into each other randomly along the path before deciding to band together and finish as a group. I also got a kick out of seeing Miss Unger who was in so many 90s releases always playing basically the same beautiful, smoldering, femme fatale before essentially dropping off the map. Time has definitely hardened her looks, but she's still mesmerizing to watch.

A beautifully shot and sincere movie that is surprisingly moving. Recommended.

Note: Not to be confused with a film from 2021 with the same title.

Last Night In Soho (Blu-ray) - May 8, 2022
Last Nigh In Soho

Director: Edgar Right

Main Stars: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Diana Rigg

Rating: 4/5

Eloise is a young lady who aspires for greatness in the fashion industry. Having lost her mother at an early age to mental disease she was raised by her grandmother in small town England. As such she led a fairly sheltered life. In order to pursue her passion she must move to London where she is warned that if she's not careful it'll eat her up and spit her out. Once there she begins to have visions of a beautiful, confident woman - encompassing everything she's always wanted to be - living in the bygone era of the swinging 60's which is oddly the decade all her favourite music is from and the era which she draws the inspiration for her clothing designs from.

There's lots of reasons I end up watching and/or buying a movie. But I can honestly say this is probably the first time I did so based solely on how much I liked the poster. As soon as I saw it, it grabbed my attention and intrigued me with it's neon colour palette. For that reason alone I ended up buying it without knowing anything about it. Thankfully it had a pretty good buzz on the movie geek website I hang out on.

I've also stated several times in the past how I love going into a film not knowing anything about it and I especially delight when it takes awhile for that film to reveal itself. At first I was like 'oh this is a fish out of water/coming of age story'. Then I was like 'oh no, it's a spin on the Mean Girls genre'. So when everything finally fell into place it was quite the shock and not at all what I expected. And yet because there were hints along the way and the director took his time getting there it didn't feel contrived at all. About the only minor issue I had was an unnecessary CGI'd scene near the end. It would have been much more effective if they'd resisted the temptation to go full on Hollywood and done it differently. But again, it's only a minor quibble.

As for the actors they were all terrific. Miss McKenzie was extremely believable as the young naive woman because in a rarity of casting these days, she was actually the age of her character in real life. But the standout performance is that of Miss Taylor-Joy. It was bugging the heck out of me at first as I was trying to place what I had seen her in before - let's face it she has an oddly captivating and unique look - and eventually I remembered that she was in The Witch. Also delightful was Matt Smith playing a character completely out of type for him. For me I'll always associate him with Doctor Who, but his performance here is a far cry from the good Doctor.

Finally we have the technicals and they are outstanding. Someone else pointed out that the movie starts in Stereo and then at a certain point blooms into full surround (in this case Dolby Atmos). Which in relation to the story is more than just a gimmick, it actually complements the story. The visuals are also top notch. Actually shot on location in Soho they do a terrific job of transforming the place and taking you back in time. I also loved the dance numbers and the 'mirroring' between the two actresses.

Finally, the extras on the disc are well worth a look with featurettes consisting of actor and director interviews, discussing shooting on location, detailing the music and behind the scenes of all the visual work, plus deleted scenes.

A thoroughly pleasant surprise that rewards the patient viewer.

Titane (Blu-ray) - Feb 21, 2022

Director: Julia Ducournau

Main Stars: Vincent Lindon, Agathe Rousselle, Garance Marillier, Bertrand Bonello

Rating: 3.5/5

Alexia drifts aimlessly through life earning a living as an exotic dancer at car shows being ogled and groped along the way. A car accident as a young child left her with a disfiguring metal plate in her head and in all likelihood damaged her ability to function with any meaningful form of normalcy. Her only real pleasure in life is obtained when she engages in vigorous masturbation with car parts. At this point you are either intrigued or repulsed. Titane is a film that manages to do both at the same time. Controversial winner of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival it has obvious parallels with David Cronenberg's Crash and Videodrome. Crash winning a 'special jury prize' when it debuted at the festival and people walking out mid-screening in disgust. Director Ducournau also having professed her love of Cronenberg in interviews.

So given the above references to one of my favourite directors, the um, visually engaging promo shots of the star dancing on the car, and this being her second film with me having rather enjoyed her debut feature Raw I instantly knew I had to get this.

Sadly it doesn't quite reach the same lofty heights as its obvious influences. There's a hugely jarring shift in story and tone half way through that I had a hard time reconciling. To her credit the director has outright stated she doesn't care if the audience follows it all or not. She makes her films for her and no one else. And I don't have a problem being taken on a bizarre journey as long as there's a payoff at the end. But I kept thinking to myself throughout the movie 'where are we going with this?' and when the end came I wasn't really satisfied. There's a number of themes all playing out at the same time but they don't quite all come together seamlessly.

Still there's no denying that unlike so many flicks that are instantly forgettable this will stick in your head long after you've seen it. And if we're going to stick with the Cronenberg references, it took him around 8 films before he reached what I consider to be his best work. Being that this is only her second film, I think Julia Ducournau has a very bright future ahead of her and I can't wait to see her next creation. When the credits roll you'll be trying to figure out what you just saw - but at the very least you'll know you just had quite the experience.

Resurrection (Blu-ray) - Dec 27, 2021

Director: Russell Mulcahy

Main Stars: Christopher Lambert, Robert Joy, Leland Orser, David Cronenberg, Rick Fox

Rating: 3.5/5

Chicago detective Prudhomme (Lambert) and his partner are tasked with tracking down and eliminating an elusive serial killer who is removing different parts of his victims. As the body count rises they reluctantly accept the help of a FBI profiler (Orser) and things soon turn personal. Christopher Lambert is a bit of an acquired taste. You either love him or you don't. While his most notable role was in Highlander (teaming up with the same director once again), the majority of his career consists of a string of average B movies in the 80's and 90's. So I wasn't expecting much when I fired this one up. In truth I had never even heard of it which I found somewhat surprising considering my penchant for all things schlock. Recently released by Vinegar Syndrome an up and coming distribution company who's focus is 'Providing public access to our ever growing archive of rare & forgotten cult films', my interest was peaked when I saw the cover art and then when I saw Lambert's name I knew I had to get it.

A number of reviews dismiss it as nothing more than yet another Seven knock off that were endemic during that time period. But that's really doing the film a disservice. While not exactly known for his acting range, this is easily Lambert's best performance of his career. The supporting cast is also quite capable and included some interesting choices - I especially loved the cameo by famed Canadian director David Cronenberg. As for the story, it was engaging with noir overtones and equal parts suspense and gore. While watching I kept thinking it would have been right at home in the excellent Hannibal series. It gave off the same creepy, unnerving vibe. And while I saw the inevitable twist coming at least it didn't feel contrived like so many movie twists do.

My favourite films tend to be ones where I go in with low expectations or knowing nothing about them and ending up being pleasantly surprised. And that is the case here. I'm not sure if it's available on streaming or not, but I hope so as it deserves to be seen outside of us genre diehards addicted to physical media. As for the Blu-ray release technicals are strong with a 2K scan for video and a quality 5.1 audio mix. Extras are also fairly decent however it would have been nice had they been able to include an interview with Lambert.

A surprisingly entertaining effort that is worth a look - if you can find it.

Doctor Sleep (VOD) - Oct 30, 2021
Doctor Sleep

Director: Mike Flanagan

Main Stars: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Emily Alyn Lind

Rating: 1/5

Now an adult, Danny Torrance (McGregor) struggles with his past trauma and turns to alcohol to dull his senses and suppress his psychic ability. After hitting rock bottom he ends up in a small town where a local (Curtis) takes him in and gives him a job and sponsors his recovery. All that goes off the rails when he wakes up one morning to see a message from his past scrawled across the apartment wall.

Full up disclaimer: I consider The Shining to be one of only a handful of Stephen King adaptations that are great. It's also one of only a handful of horror films that truly creeped me out growing up. Finally, I consider it's director, the esteemed Stanley Kubrick to be one of my favourite directors of all time. So when I heard they were making a sequel I uttered several expletives to express my displeasure at the sheer audacity of doing so. Recently however I was watching an episode of Eli Roth's History of Horror where they discussed the plot and it sounded somewhat interesting, so I decided against my better judgment to give it a shot. Despite trying to keep an open mind my initial reaction was justified and this is complete garbage. Here then are the reasons why...

First up we see young Danny not long after the events of the original still seeing visions as his concerned Mom worries about his mental state. While they cast actors that fairly decently resembled the original actors it instantly took me out of the movie. My biggest question was why?? Why not instead show Danny as a teen still struggling and with an older Mother instead?

Then we spend at least an hour witnessing all the supernatural powers that the bad guys and a new protagonist have. So how are the majority of the bad guys dispatched? In the most mundane and non-supernatural way - they are shot to death. Really?

From there we move on to the casting of Rebecca Ferguson as the villain. For me it just didn't work. As a fairly attractive hippy type she simply wasn't menacing or sinister. In fact the young blonde girl the gang picks up early on would have been a much better choice.

Then we get to the final act of which a big deal was made about how much attention was paid to the original set and designs of the Overlook hotel. But once again they turn to new actors to reprise the characters from the original. And once again, it took me out of the movie and I had to ask why they would do that? Why not instead use flashbacks, or have Jack in silhouette, or where you don't see his face but hear him talking etc. And they also had the opportunity (which might have salvaged things for me) to pay tribute to the great Kubrick by copying his iconic style of filming. But outside of an overhead shot of them driving up the mountain which mirrored the beginning of the first film they don't bother. Hell, I would have gone full on Tarantino levels of obsessiveness and tracked down and used the exact same cameras Kubrick used! Another missed opportunity being to slowly transition the hotel from it's current decrepit state to it's former splendour while the finale unfolds - McGregor even stated he had to go in to 'wake the hotel up'.

Questionable decisions, poor casting, and missed opportunities all make for an abysmal effort. Stay far away.

A Quiet Place Part II (VOD) - Aug 3, 2021
A Quiet Place II

Director: John Krasinski

Main Stars: Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Cillian Murphy, Noah Jupe, John Krasinski

Rating: 3.5/5

Right after the events of the first film we find the survivors abandoning their home and making the perilous journey, um somewhere...um, for some reason? To be honest I'm not entirely sure why - not that plot really matters in these type of films. So of course after the success of the first one we have the obligatory sequel. To be fair, apparently Director Krasinski resisted for quite awhile demands that he return to helm the follow up. And then once he did, like so many other projects it got side swiped by Covid and it's release was repeatedly delayed eventually finding a home on streaming platforms.

So was it worth the wait? On the whole I'd say yes. It's miles above some of the other dreck that came out during the pandemic (cough, Greenland, cough, cough) and is a worthy successor. While you obviously lose the novelty of figuring out what's going on, a new revelation in the monster's behavior and a really effective location which takes place in a former iron works factory help to keep you glued to the screen. We also get to see the beginning of the invasion and the breakdown of society - which is always my favourite part of these disaster flicks. I do wish that section had been fleshed out a bit more however. There's zero transition from 'hey there's something in the sky' to 'oh my God, we're being attacked'.

Of course silence is the key theme in the series and Millicent Simmonds who plays the daughter (who is deaf in real life) gets to wander around with a heightened sense of danger due to her disability. Several times we get to experience the world through her lack of hearing which adds to the tension, although is a bit over-used. There's also the usual jump scares which (unlike the wife) failed to actually make me jump as I saw them coming a mile away. Likewise the big development at the end was also painfully obvious. So that, plus the massive plot hole revealed in the first film, and my general dislike of sequels should have meant I wouldn't have enjoyed it. And yet I did. New revelations, new locations, and a new character in the form of Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later) make for a relatively enjoyable viewing experience.

Shhhhhh! (again)

Army of the Dead (VOD) - Jun 5, 2021

Director: Zack Snyder

Main Stars: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Tig Notaro, Garret Dillahunt, Hiroyuki Sanada

Rating: 2/5

When a military experiment goes awry Vegas is overwhelmed by hordes of zombies. Now a walled off city, former mercenary Scott Ward (Bautista) is approached by a shadowy character (Sanada) to assemble a crack team to go back in and retrieve $200 million dollars from a vault underneath one of the Casinos. Can his team get in and out with the money before the US government decides on a final solution to eliminate the zombie threat forever?

Oh Zack....how far you've fallen. While I don't drink the fan Koolaid of all thing Snyder like so many others do, I did extremely enjoy his earlier work - specifically 300, Sucker Punch, and his remake of Dawn of the Dead. But with his latest, while it works ok as an action flick if you completely turn off your brain and just go with the flow, if you devote even an iota of scrutiny you'll soon realize that this just is not a good film.

To be fair, someone recently posted online a summary of the original script, and having read it, had it been made it would have been pretty decent. It also would have been much more expensive and I'm guessing that with pandemic tightened budgets the movie studio had him severely reduce the scope of the story. Even that though doesn't fully explain the mess we're presented with. At the story level we're presented with all kinds of cliches for characters that we don't care about. When they do attempt to develop some sort of back story it's sloppily done and in some cases as with the father/daughter storyline outright cringe worthy. Then you have one storyline that is used as the justification for the pivotal actions of one of the main characters and then at the end they simply and literally ditch that justification with nary a second thought.

Then there's the technical issues like the bloated runtime - Zack apparently doesn't know what an Editor is supposed to do - and the piss poor video quality. The director has done the interview circuit taking credit for the shitty camera work as if he thinks non-stop blurriness and non-existent field of depth is something to be proud of. And then you have one of the main characters completely being erased from the film when the now almost daily sexual scandal broke and they hired another actor (Notaro) to re-film all of pervy actors scenes on a green screen and insert them back into the movie digitally. Ironically Tig is the best thing in the movie as she clearly is a poor actress (because she's actually a comedian) but in the context of this shitty movie it actually works.

And finally there's all the fan service (Oh look! It's the Snyder cut of Justice League on the shelves!!!), homages to much better films (so many to list, but notably, Aliens, American Werewolf in London) that in this crapfest come off as cheap and derivative, and setups for the obligatory sequels (maybe he should have concentrated on making a decent first entry instead).

My advice, go online and just watch the intro credits where Vegas 'falls' and then all the 'This is why this film sucks so bad' vids on YouTube instead of wasting 2.5 hours of your life on this dreck.

Raw (Blu-ray) - Apr 5, 2021

Director: Julia Ducournau

Main Stars: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss

Rating: 3.5/5

Justine is a freshman at a prestigious French Veterinary school where her older sister also attends. While surviving the hellish first week's ritual hazing she must choose between her strict beliefs as a Vegetarian and not embarrassing her watching sister when told she must eat some unidentified offal from a butchered animal as part of her initiation. Reluctantly she goes through with it only to find herself several days later wracked with an intense hunger that only raw meat seems to satisfy.

I came across this title during discussions on my movie geek website and a number of other posters indicated it was pretty decent. So I ended up doing a so called 'blind buy' and ordering it off Amazon. A French/Belgian production the movie is in French but with English subtitles. As such I hadn't seen any of the actors before, but the lead actress in apparently her first major role was excellent. I had expected your typical horror flick going in but this one manages to defy such a blanket categorization. It's more disturbing than scary and gives off David Cronenberg vibes in spades.

It's also a gorgeous film visually - despite an overall bleakness to it. Watching the very first scene with a super wide angle static shot in the French countryside I knew that I'd be in for a treat. The story is also elevated and works on different levels - a coming of age story, female empowerment and so on. Likely that's due in a large part to it's female director. In fact in the extras there's a panel discussion with various female directors in the horror genre and the general consensus is they by virtue of their gender bring a different perspective, but also in a male dominated industry need to up their game even more in order to stand out.

In the end, the best thing about Raw is the multiple squirm inducing scenes. Going back to that panel discussion, the director mentioned how she loved going to screenings and watching audience reactions. Specifically, people would be disgusted and horrified, watching between the fingers of their hand in front of their face, but with a wide ass grin on their faces at the same time. And after thinking about it, I realized I had done exactly that at a few points along the way.

About the only negative was I thought the premise was a bit far fetched. However there's a surprise revelation at the end which pieced everything together.

Beautifully filmed and different enough to rise above your typical genre offerings.

Greenland (VOD) - Feb 21, 2021

Director: Ric Roman Waugh

Main Stars: Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, Scott Glenn

Rating: 2.5/5

John is your typical white collar father. He commutes back and forth to work, lives in a large but cookie cutter house, has the hot wife - which of course he cheated on - and is trying to get his relationship back on track. About the only thing going on to break up the monotony of suburban life are news updates of a previously unknown comet that is scheduled to fly past Earth in a couple days. He suddenly realizes everyone is being lied to when he receives a mysterious text advising him to grab his family and head to the nearest military base for evacuation.

Note: Part of me thought I should maybe preface things with a Spoiler alert, but then I thought why? This isn't exactly Citizen Kane we're talking about. Is it really a surprise that the Hollywood star survives? 

Greenland was 2020's big blockbuster movie that got relegated to the 'straight to video' bin due to Covid. To be fair, much better films (if they're ever released) such as Dune or the latest James Bond were likewise sideswiped by the pandemic. Which in a way is kind of ironic considering it's an end of the world genre film. A genre that's always had a particular fascination for me - specifically how fast society can completely break down. And for the first half things reflect this scenario fairly well with scenes of panic, gridlocked highways, looting, and just generally the worst aspects of humanity. However given the PG-13 rating (because God forbid a Blockbuster be rated R) it's not like you need to worry that little Timmy is going to end up seeing his neighbor get raped or something. So the impact of that breakdown isn't the visceral experience it could have been. That said, there are also scenes of the best of humanity - people helping each other and banding together in a time of crisis.

While I appreciate them focusing on the human aspect of tragedy instead of hammering you over the head with idiotic CGI based spectacle, that's sort of where the film lost it's way for me. The scenes with the family back together before parting ways one final time seemed insincere and forced - it's supposed to emotional invest the viewer for the final act and instead it just had me rolling my eyes and looking at the clock. While I normally like Scott Glenn, I just didn't buy him as the gruff, protective Father-in-law. And that was my other issue - the casting just didn't work. Butler's Scottish accent was a distraction and he's way too old to have a 7 year old kid. However the actor who played the kid was excellent. 

And while it's just a stupid popcorn flick, the amount of coincidences and super convenient timing not to mention outright impossibilities (note to the Director, a Twin Otter plane can't fly from Ontario to Greenland. It. Just. Can't.) ramp up to almost farcical levels. I also would have ended it with the fade to black as they are huddled waiting for the inevitable - but no, they have to justify their bloated FX budget with a montage of disaster scenes and being a Hollywood flick cap it off with a happy(ish) ending. I probably wouldn't have reacted so harshly had I not already seen a disaster movie with almost the exact same plot (albeit planetary collision versus comet) that was far superior in absolutely every way and in fact is one of my favourite films of all time. That film is Lars Von Trier's Melancholia. But despite its beauty, emotional resonance, and outright genius - it's also a slow moving experience. So for some maybe this stupid popcorn flick is more their speed.

I guess you could spend worse ways passing the time during the very real disaster we're currently living through. Better than watching socially distanced game shows at least.

Palm Springs (VOD) - Dec 20, 2020
Palm Springs

Director: Max Barbakow

Main Stars: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J.K. Simmons, Peter Gallagher

Rating: 5/5

Nyles (Samberg) is stuck at a wedding in Palm Springs. While there he finds himself attracted to the maid of honor (Milioti) and tries to draw her out of her self imposed misery. However all is not what is seems and she soon finds herself trapped in the same endless hell as him. I absolutely love going into a film completley blind and knowing nothing about it and then ending up thoroughly surprised and pleased with the end result. Such is the case here. It was new, there wasn't much else on, so I gave it a shot and am glad I did.

While the gimmick at the heart of the story has been done before in the classic Groundhog Day and more recently in the also excellent Edge of Tomorrow, it doesn't feel derivative and still manages to be fresh. While I'm somewhat neutral on watching Samberg - he's charming, but his shtick can wear old after awhile - here he tones it down somewhat while still being his entertaining self. As I gazed with adoration at his costar's doe-eyed look, it was bugging me where I had seen her before. Finally I remembered that she was in that episode of Black Mirror - USS Callister. As was the case here, I remember being thoroughly enthralled watching her back then. I could watch her all day long.

Unlike the previous films, instead of the characters simply trying to escape the loop, here it raises the question of whether it might be better to resign one's self to that fate and simply make the best of it - it being preferable to the real world with all its dangers and disappointments. Not that this is exactly a heady film, but it adds a nice variation to the concept. Of course at it's heart is the so called love story and most of the movie's charm comes from watching the chemistry between the two stars, but it never feels forced or clich├ęd - there's no swelling music to be found here.

Ultimately that's what I like about it. It does it's thing, does it well, moves along at a good clip and never deviates in tone, or drags with pointless subplots. Premiering at the Sundance Film festival in January, Palm Springs was the standout entry and broke the previous record for the amount spent on securing the distribution rights. Of course then the pandemic came along and sadly outside of a few select theatres it was shelved until being recently released on streaming platforms.

At least people are finally getting to see it. As this crappy year comes to a close this was the perfect bit of escapism that I needed. I suspect anyone else watching will feel the same way.

1917 (Blu-ray) - Dec 6, 2020

Director: Sam Mendes

Main Stars: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays, Colin Firth, Pip Carter

Rating: 4.5/5

Set in the trenches of France during the darkest days of the first World War, two corporals are assigned the dangerous task of being runners to get a message across no man's land to another company set to walk into an ambush laid by the retreating German forces. Failure to get the message through in time will mean the deaths of thousands of soldiers, including the one corporal's own brother.

To commemorate Remembrance Day this year, I decided to watch two recent blockbuster war films released only a few years apart. The first was Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk and the second was Sam Mendes' 1917. Rather than review both separately, I'll instead focus on why 1917 is the much superior movie.

Both are visual wonders and both faithfully recreate the era they're in (Dunkirk being set in WWII). Technically Dunkirk is superb with some amazing set pieces. I need to go back and watch the special features to see exactly how they managed to have a set consisting of a sinking destroyer for example. While 1917 doesn't have that degree of wow, it does have what some might consider a gimmick that was hugely discussed leading up to its release. Namely, the implication that the entire film was done in one continuous take. When I heard that, my initial reaction was to cry bullsh*t - there was no way that was possible. However for the first half it honestly looks like it was done in a single continuous take (it actually wasn't). Regardless, it's amazing to witness and draws you thoroughly into the story and the characters.

And that's where the two films diverge. When the credits rolled in Nolan's epic I was left with a profound sense of 'meh'. While full of sound and fury you simply aren't emotionally invested in things. It's a very cold feeling film - you feel like you're watching history unfold, but you are never really drawn into it - precisely because you don't end up caring about any of the characters. Part of that's because you're watching four separate but intertwining stories, but most of it is because that's precisely how the director wanted audiences to experience it.

While the storyline in Mendes' film is fairly simple, at least you care about the people in that story. You become emotionally invested in their fate. And thus 1917 is a much more well rounded film and better overall experience. As an aside, this is the director's second war movie, his first being the hugely underappreciated Jarhead which is one of my favourites of the genre.

The illusion of being shot in one continuous take, a storyline that engages the viewer, and the novelty of being set during the first World War all makes for a terrific and epic war flick. Highly recommended.

Trick 'r Treat (VOD) - Oct 18, 2020
Trick 'r Treat

Director: Michael Dougherty

Main Stars: Anna Paquin, Leslie Bibb, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker, Quinn Lord, Dylan Baker

Rating: 4/5

This is my Halloween pick for the year.

Normally I'm not a big fan of 'modern' horror films. I think I can count on one hand the number that I have liked from the past two decades. That said, I was flipping channels recently and came across this on AMC's Fear Fest - I had it muted in the background while I was putzing around and occasionally watching it.

It peaked my interest when the main character (Bibb) came to an unfortunate demise in the first few minutes, a gimmick that has previously been done before in Scream. But then you see her again later in the film and it dawned on me that they were telling a bunch of different stories all interwoven together. You'd be focused on one group of characters and see something happen to someone else and then later on they'd tell that person's story. So I thought that was a definite cut above most of the dreck horror flicks released lately - most of which consist of just quick edits and lame jump scares.

So because of that I ended up streaming it and watching it in it's entirety.

In addition to the overlapping story lines - of which there are five of them - you are introduced to what I think is one of the most interesting horror 'villains' in recent memory - Samhain, or Sam for short. A clever take on the name for a real phobia consisting of the fear of Halloween. The little guy is equal parts horrifying and adorable. Once you figure out what his 'issue' is you begin to appreciate him even more. Thankfully he's not just another mindless killing machine. There's also a nice mixture of dark humour, creepiness, gore, and prerequisite eye candy resulting in a well rounded and entertaining experience.

For what it's worth, the wife who's normally not into these movies also really enjoyed it.

A pleasant surprise and a standout entry in the genre. Recommended.

Vivarium (VOD) - Sep 9, 2020

Director: Lorcan Finnegan

Main Stars: Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris, Senan Jennings

Rating: 3/5

Gemma (Poots) and Tom (Eisenberg) are a young couple. Like most young couples they dream of having their own home and living in domestic bliss. In pursuit of that goal they pop into a realtor's office one day. The realtor is only to happy to show them the latest development in suburbia - however there's something extremely 'off' about him. Still, mostly as to not offend they agree to go with him to find their dream house. A decision they soon regret as they become trapped in a nightmarish hell with no escape.

When I watched the trailer for this several months ago I made a mental note to check it out when it was released as it definitely had that 'well this is different' vibe to it.

I believe in one of the promo posters it says something about it being 'straight out of Black Mirror'. Therein lies the problem. I think this probably would have made a better episode in that excellent TV series than as a feature film, albeit one that's only 97 mins long. That said, there's nothing overtly wrong with it as a movie. And days later I find it still echoing around in my head - always the sign of a good flick. And conceptually I think it's great even if the message isn't overly subtle - domesticity and suburbia are living hells. The acting is also fine. I'm somewhat neutral about Eisenberg as an actor, but I really enjoy the lovely Imogen Poots. For one, I just love saying her name, and two she readily worked her way into my heart during her debut in 28 Weeks Later.

So why not rate it higher?

For some reason while watching it just left me feeling somewhat ambivalent about it. Maybe it's the timing. Being isolated during a pandemic makes one less receptive to seeing more of the same on the screen? I don't know. It could also be the monotony of the daily routine which while driving home the overall message doesn't make for overly gripping viewing. Although they do throw in enough sex and outright messed up imagery to pep things up. Maybe they could have spent a bit more time exploring Tom's obsession and mental fragility or Gemma being torn between revulsion and motherly instinct. Or maybe they could have just thrown in more sex - for my benefit at least.

An intriguing, if flawed, premise that may have worked better on television than as a feature film. If you want to watch something different, worth a rental at least.

JoJo Rabbit (Blu-ray) - Aug 1, 2020
JoJo Rabbit

Director: Taika Waititi

Main Stars: Roman Griffin Davis, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Archie Yates

Rating: 4.5/5

JoJo (Davis) is a young boy growing up in Nazi Germany. As his Dad is out of the picture having possibly died fighting in some far off country, his sister recently deceased and his Mom often away, he's quite lonely and frequently bullied by others. He only has his pudgy best friend Yorki (Yates) to commiserate with. Actually that's not true. Yorki is really his 2nd best friend. His best (imaginary) friend is none other than the Fuhrer himself who extols the virtues of National Socialism, how to be a better Aryan, and to always be vigilant for those treacherous Jews with their horned heads.

Having seen the trailer and heard some buzz about the film I kind of knew what to expect going in and I had already figured out where the story was going from the beginning. But still, the first few minutes of the film was a bit jarring and uncomfortable. I kept asking myself where it was going. You'd find yourself laughing at something but then the little voice inside your head would remind you that you really shouldn't be laughing at the subject matter. It's a weird juxtaposition of imagery and content. Another reviewer wrote 'What if Wes Anderson made a Nazi comedy?'. That nicely sums up the movie's quirkiness.

Eventually things become more serious although there's still moments of hilarity sprinkled throughout - a sequence involving a bunch of Gestapo agents Heil Hitler'ing each other is especially humorous - and there's one particularly gut wrenching scene near the end. When the end does come I'm glad they wrapped it up the way they did. Had it gone in the other direction I would have been upset not only because I simply wasn't emotionally prepared for it but it would have done a massive disservice to the tone and spirit of the film.

All the actors give great performances. I love Sam Rockwell in anything he's done and once again he shines here. Rebel Wilson is, well, Rebel Wilson, but thankfully she's used sparingly. Scarlett Johansson is effective as the mom and brings that 'old Hollywood' glamour. However the real stars are the two kids - Davis as JoJo and Yates as his friend. But it is Yates that really steals the show.

There's also lots of well thought out details. You wonder why they keep focusing on his Mom's shoes for instance. There's something more to Rockwell's character than is immediately apparent. The film's colour schemes change from an oversaturated and bright palette in the beginning to dull, grey, and dreary by the end - representing not only Germany's waning fortunes in the war, but also JoJo's eventual rejection of Nazism. And so on.

I rated this movie so highly because in today's era of cancel culture, political correctness, and general outrage I'm amazed that this even got made. The important, touching, and life-affirming meaning at the core of the film notwithstanding. But even more so, because of how the director deftly navigated such a minefield of shifting tonality. In lesser hands this would have been an outright disaster.

A terrifically quirky film with a heartfelt message and surprising emotional heft near the end. Recommended viewing if you can reconcile the subject matter and jarring initial tone.

The Lighthouse (Blu-ray) - Jul 17, 2020
The Lighthouse

Director: Robert Eggers

Main Stars: Robert Pattison, Willem Dafoe, Valeriia Karaman

Rating: 3.5/5

Having left the life as a lumberjack behind him, Ephraim Winslow (Pattison) now finds himself isolated on a desolate stretch of rock tending lighthouse with a no-nonsense salty sea-dog (Dafoe). As the new guy he gets all the grunt work and is frustratingly kept away from the top where the light resides. It's back breaking work made worse by a growing dislike of each other. A month later, relief is finally in sight when they are scheduled to be replaced by a new crew. But that crew never arrives and they are suddenly faced with the prospect of being stranded for an unknown period of time. To cope with the stress they increasingly turn to booze fueled nights and their grip on reality begins to slip away.

I'll say up front I enjoyed director Eggers follow up effort to The Witch much more. In his debut a big deal was made out of his obsession with historical accuracy which while impressive, it also meant you were forced to endure the film in olde English which frequently made it hard to understand the dialog and took me out of the movie. This time the setting is late 1800's New England and once again historical accuracy is first and foremost. And while the dialog is again sometimes hard to decipher, it was at least mostly understandable.

With only two characters - three if you count the seagull - to watch, the actors must carry the film. Thankfully they are more than up for the challenge. Pattison shows surprising depth and is able to keep up with the ever enjoyable Dafoe who literally chews up the screen in his many long running soliloquys. In fact, the movie sometimes has the feeling of a play to it. In the hands of anyone else Dafoe's character would come across as camp. But he commits wholly to the role and more than pulls it off.

Shot in Black & White and framed in an ancient 1:19 aspect ratio, the cinematography enhances the sense of isolation and claustrophobia the characters are experiencing. Coupled with an excellent score and ever present cacophony of howling wind and blasting fog horn technical merits are top notch.

Ultimately it comes down to the story and I wish the director had stuck with making this a slow burn psychological horror. Instead he throws in moments of humour which is sometimes effective (painting the lighthouse, bickering about the cooking), but also sometimes jarring (fart jokes? really?). You feel like it goes from The Shining to Family Guy in an instant. Which is a shame as I think if he had resisted his scatological impulses this truly could have been a masterpiece. Most people seem to absolutely love or hate it, but I'm left somewhat in the middle as a result.

As a side note, usually the extras on a disc aren't overally enthralling. But I quite enjoyed them this time.

A frustratingly flawed effort that's worth it for the acting and atmosphere and for those who appreciate the bizarre. However not likely to be to everyone's taste.

A Midnight Clear (Blu-ray) - Jun 21, 2020
A Midnight Clear

Director: Keith Gordon

Main Stars: Peter Berg, Kevin Dillon, Ethan Hawke, Gary Sinise, Frank Whaley, Arye Gross

Rating: 4/5

Will Knott (Hawke) leads an intelligence team sent on a mission to setup at an abandoned chateau in the Ardennes and report on German troop movements just prior to their biggest counter attack of the entire war. The army thought they'd get better intelligence if the squad was made up of the smartest people. Unfortunately the smartest people don't necessarily make very good soldiers and their group is soon reduced to only six people. When they finally do encounter the enemy all the rules of warfare are thrown out the window and things take an unexpected turn.

According to the director, this film had the misfortune of being released the weekend of the Rodney King riots and thus came and went without much notice. I myself have this on Laserdisc, but had never gotten around to watching it. There was apparently a release that came out on DVD but the transfer was horrible and it was in a 4:3 aspect ratio. All of which is a shame as I would put this up there with A Thin Red Line and Jarhead as some of the best Anti-war movies - even more so because this was set in WWII which was considered a 'good' war.

Unlike most Hollywood films where the actors are a decade or more older than the characters they're playing, here they all really were just kids - and this was one of the first films for both Ethan Hawke and Gary Sinise. I've always enjoyed Ethan in everything he's done and here he brings a innocence and vulnerability which is just right for the role. The rest of the cast are equally strong. But really it's the story that sets this apart and based on the 1982 novel by William Wharton by all accounts it stays true to the source material.

Sadly I knew where things were headed early on and when it came it was still depressing to watch. However there's enough funny moments, tenderness, and examination of the human spirit to round everything out and prevent it from becoming an overly disheartening experience.

A victim of bad timing and a dearth of quality releases on video - this is a rare gem that deserves to be watched.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Blu-ray) - Apr 4, 2020
Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker

Director: J.J. Abrams

Main Stars: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega

Rating: 3.5/5

The Dead Speak! Wait, what? That's what they chose to start the iconic summary scroll with? Forty Two years since the original film mesmerized us with a rollicking adventure of good versus evil set against the vast backdrop of space we now are presented with the final entry. So is it a fitting conclusion to the series?

You could tell trouble was brewing when the studio fired Colin Trevorrow and instead brought back J.J. Abrams to direct. It's obvious they didn't want another repeat of The Last Jedi (TLJ) which sharply divided fans and instead decided to play it safe. For the record I'm one of the few that actually enjoyed TLJ over The Force Awakens. So what does playing it safe get us? An adequate final film that devotes as much time to fan service as to trying to wrap up the story. And the story was my biggest issue. You get the feeling they simply decided at some hastily scheduled writers meeting how things were going to play out. The first half of the film is like a bad version of Relic Hunter and the last half feels like simply a rehash of Return of the Jedi - even going as far as returning to some of the same locations.

Despite all that, on the whole it's still enjoyable to watch. It's still a Star Wars film. It still has that spectacle of awe and wonder. And the two stars Driver and Ridley do the most with what they're given and frankly are far better actors than anyone in the original trilogy. And while some of the sets are a return to the past they as well as others are some of the best set designs of the entire nine films.

There are also some very poignant moments in the film. I can't believe I got a bit misty eyed over a droid of all things. And naturally, seeing Carrie Fisher again brought a flood of emotions. At one point Chewbacca drops to his knees and gives a heart rending roar of grief - and he is merely vocalizing every single person watching that scene.

I also must mention there is some pretty dark and scary stuff going on. While I was personally surprised by it, as an adult I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I'm not so sure how young kids would fare. When I saw the original Star Wars I was six. If I was six seeing this and the way a certain character is portrayed I'd likely end up with nightmares.

At long last the saga comes to a close. While the story is a mess, technical merits and the spirit of the series are enough to mostly satisfy.

Joker (VOD) - Jan 22, 2020

Director: Todd Phillips

Main Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen

Rating: 4/5

Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) spends his days working as a clown and his nights taking care of his increasingly unwell mother (Conroy). About his only true enjoyment in life comes from watching his favourite late night talk show. He dreams of one day becoming a famous stand up comic and ending up on that very show. Living with a medical condition that leads him to burst out laughing when nervous leads to numerous misunderstandings and even physical abuse. Never the most stable, as he tells his therapist that 'all he has are negative thoughts', he truly becomes unhinged after getting fired from his job and then learning a deep secret from his mother that she's hid from him all these years.

Again, not having the highest regard for comic book movies I wasn't sure what to expect, but it had good buzz and I really like Joaquin Phoenix. Happy to say this is a must see, not only for fans but also for movie lovers in general. Here we have a gritty, realistic portrayal of mental illness that doesn't shy away from graphic violence (unlike most in the genre) combined with social commentary with the Batman mythos as the backdrop. And I truly got a kick out of how it tied into the beginnings of that story. I always wondered why a random stranger would kill Bruce Wayne's parents. Now it all comes together.

As well, you have to mention the amazing physical transformation of Mr. Phoenix. I would easily put this up there with Christian Bale's jaw dropping appearance in The Machinist. And while I didn't quite have the same visceral rush of just wanting to murder someone like when I came out of the theatre having just watched Natural Born Killers, it was pretty close. It's easy to see why the FBI was concerned this movie would incite the unstable amongst us to violence.

One reviewer said something along the lines of 'This is not the movie America needs right now' - implying that all of that nation's woes are because of the sitting President. I think this is exactly the movie they need right now, but instead of highlighting the disparity between rich and poor it would be applicable to today's cancel culture and the sanctimonious mouthpieces lecturing half the country that they voted wrong. The same fate befalling them as with some in this film would equally bring a smile to my face.

The rarest of comic book movies. One that's actually truly enjoyable and far exceeds your typical CGI crap fest on every level.

Level 16 (VOD) - Jan 5, 2020
Level 16

Director: Danishka Esterhazy

Main Stars: Katie Douglas, Celina Martin, Sara Canning, Peter Outerbridge

Rating: 3.5/5

Young Vivien has spent her life growing up at a boarding school with other girls. Because the air outside is poisoned they have never been or even seen the outside world. She spends her days being taught how to be a good girl learning the virtues of patience, cleanliness, and obedience. All so that when she is old enough she'll find a home with a loving set of adoptive parents. One day one of the other girls implores her not to take her vitamins - a daily requirement to keep them being healthy girls. Hesitantly she does so and quickly discovers that all is not what it seems.

Here we have a decent low-budget Canadian entry in the dystopian near-future genre. I believe I caught wind of it reading one of the year end 'obscure films from the past year that you should watch' lists. As such I didn't know anything about it and purposefully kept myself ignorant as to what it was about.

The director manages to do a lot with a little and crafts a thoroughly engaging story that kept me on edge for most of the runtime. With such a claustrophobic and dreary setting it's up to the actors to carry the film and the main star Katie Douglas doesn't disappoint. Her credits show her mostly doing obscure TV shows, but I hope she ends up in more features as she's simply mesmerizing to watch. The rest of the (small) cast are equally effective.

Unfortunately when the twist is revealed it went a bit downhill for me. Not in terms of the story, but more in terms of how it was executed. And the more I thought about it, the more things began to unravel in regards to believability. Which was frustrating considering the slow burn the rest of the movie was in preparing for that moment. These kind of films drive me crazy because you feel that greatness is tantalizingly close, but then they let it slip away from them. You then put on your directors hat imagining how you'd change things for the better.

Still, a rewarding experience overall that while flawed, at least isn't instantly forgettable.