The streaming options are limitless right now during this isolation period and our Team gather together some Series and Films that might be on your radar this month!
DEFENDING JACOB (APPLE TV+)
Based on William Landay‘s best-selling Novel of the same name, this eight-part Series stars Chris Evans, Michelle Dockery and Jaeden Martell as a family navigating the son being accused of a deadly crime. The suspenseful Series throws in a few twists where we realize very early the outcome, but the story doesn’t end there as it goes a layer deeper and we learn about Andy (Evans), a successful lawyer navigating being a father to his son Jacob (Martell) and seeking justice for him, yet having to step aside from the situation based on conflict of interest. We learn that Andy has been covering a deep, dark secret about his family which is key to how the story unfolds. Evans shows us his true dramatic chops, while Downton Abbey‘s Dockery also transforms into a suburban housewife/mother who increasingly grows doubtful of her son’s innocence. Martell, who we loved in It, Knives Out and St. Vincent continues to show why he’s among this next generation’s top young talent. All episodes are available now to stream on Apple TV+.
JUDY AND PUNCH (A71) Set in Seaside, which humourously is nowhere near the sea, this Australian Black Comedy centers on a couple, Judy (Mia Wasikowska) and Punch (Damon Herriman), a pair of Puppeteers with a popular show. Taking place in an era of Paganism, where justice is sought through hanging and stoning, we see Judy frustrated by her husband’s drinking which leads to catastrophe and domestic violence. Just when we think Judy is dead, she isn’t and she bands with a group of misfits who help her find herself as she exacts revenge on her husband who manufactures a story about her disappearance, struggling to maintain his puppet act on his own. This Film, which got raves at Sundance last year, is the directorial debut by Actress and Writer Mirrah Foulkes, carried by a post-Me Too energy and fantastic performances from its two leads. Wasikowska emerges from the background as the Film progresses breathing a vulnerable courage into Judy, while Herriman who has played Charles Manson in both Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and Mindhunter, brings a similar type of manic energy to Punch. Worth a watch if revenge stories are your thing. Available June 5, 2020 on Digital and On-Demand.
JEFFREY EPSTEIN: FILTHY RICH (NETFLIX)
This four-part Netflix series is based on the Book of the same name by James Patterson. Co-written by John Connolly and Tim Malloy, it gives us candid interviews with victims of the convicted sex offender, also exposing some of his high-profile and highly-guarded circle of friends who victimized these young, often under-aged women. Certainly a difficult watch and often enraging how successful Epstein and his legal team were for several years dodging conviction and receiving pardon. Being so secretive and cryptic, we never get a clear picture as to the Whys behind Epstein‘s action, although we commend this being largely about what this opportunity means to his many victims who never really had their justice or chance to be heard with him ending his life.
HONEY BOY (AMAZON PRIME)
Winning much Awards Season acclaim and a premiere at TIFF ’19, this Dramedy based on Shia LaBeouf’s life growing-up as a child actor with his alcoholic, sex offender father, played by himself. Noah Jupe (Mid-90s) plays a younger LaBeouf, as this story which doubles as therapy for LaBeouf who still maintains a close relationship with his father. Honey Boy explores the peculiar dynamic when a child is the breadwinner in the family and the power struggle between parent and child, set in a $40-a-night motel room where they live. A difficult watch at times, we gain insight and some empathy for this troubled, often misunderstood star who also wrote the Film, directed by Alma Har’el. This has been on Amazon Prime for a bit, but definitely worth a watch for their phenomenal work by the Film’s two leads.
FLAVORFUL ORIGINS (NETFLIX) This gorgeously-shot treasure is a quick watch and we easily zipped through this. Those who love to learn about other cuisine and cultures should definitely check this out. Season One draws you right in as we visit the Chaoshan region of Guangdong, China. Each episode we learn about native ingredients which define the region’s tastes and learn about the processes behind making dishes like Raw Crab, Fish Sauce, Master Sauce, Fish and Meat Balls, plus so much more. Highly-educational, giving you insight into the science behind foods also. Something to wind down to at the of the day. Both seasons are on Netflix.
This 2018 coming-of-age Comedy finally surfaces on Netflix and the timing is perfect with many of our grads missing out on their Proms this year, being at home. Directed by Kay Cannon, BLOCKERS centers on three girls about to graduate high school, making a sex pact together to each lose their virginities. Their parents get involved after learning of this and try to intercept this from happening. We see their adventure unfold as the parents try to find out where they each are headed to after Prom. Fantastic performances by our three teen leads Kathryn Newton (Julie), TIFF International Rising Star Geraldine Viswanathan (Kayla) and Gideon Adlon (Sam), and our three adult leads John Cena (Mitchell), Leslie Mann (Lisa) and Ike Barinholtz (Hunter). The jokes are relentless as the fumbling parents desperately try to go undercover and understand the lingo, but ultimately the Film is heartfelt and about each of the girls finding themselves. Blockers is so much more than a raunchy Comedy.
LAST MOMENT OF CLARITY (VVS FILMS) By Justin Waldman
First-time Writer/Director Duo Colin and James Krisel come together to bring Last Moment of Clarity to our viewing pleasure. While there are strong performances from the Cast, the familiarity of plot points and themes, along with a truly head scratching turn leaves the audience slightly dumbfounded. Sometimes the best mysteries would be the ones that are left unturned or without the resolution desired by the protagonist, however then one would always be chasing that final answer.
The Movie focuses on Sam (Zach Avery), who is living in Paris, goes to a local cinema and sees his assumed dead partner, Georgia (Samara Weaving) as an actress in the Film and this causes him to question the world he left behind, and, if Georgia is actually dead. Upon launching his own private eye investigation, he runs into old acquaintance Kat (Carly Chaikin) as she tries to help him uncover the mystery.
What makes Last Moment of Clarity work well are the performances by Avery, Weaving and Chaikin. Avery is determined to find out if the woman he assumed was dead, is actually alive and stops at nothing from uncovering the truth, Samara’s performance is grounded and incredibly-focused, and Carly’s desire to reconnect and help her old friend is precise and heartwarming. The action that flows in the Movie while keeping you locked in suspense, including up to the last frame of the Movie, keeps you captivated, but the big plot twist, later explained by a Hitchcockian means, is a bit far-fetched. VVS Films release LAST MOMENT OF CLARITY on-demand June 5, 2020, and DVD/Blu-rayJune 30, 2020.
ABE (MK2 | MILE END)
We didn’t expect much from coming-of-age Dramedy ABE, but it was a pleasant surprise. The Film centers on a 12-year-old boy (Stranger Things’ Noah Schnapp) with a love of cooking, who must reconcile the conflicted feelings brought upon his grandparents. One side of his family is Palestinian, the other side Israeli and this is a recipe for disaster as family dinners often end in both sides not seeing eye-to-eye when it comes to harbouring past political and religious resentment. With him reaching the age for a Bar Mitzvah in the near future, Abe must choose which side of his heritage he will adopt. Abe‘s parents enroll him in a summer cooking camp which he realizes quickly is well below his skill set, and he winds-up studying under a professional Chef, Chico (Seu Jorge) without his parents knowing. Will his new skills help him prepare a meal that will being both sides of his family together at last? What happens when his parents find out he’s been hiding this secret?
Schnapp is wonderful in the titular role and the Film takes a genuinely-touching turn when the adults are forced to examine their deep hatred of one another. Abe examines the conflicted reality of growing-up with mixed heritage, the pressures of conformity and also the process of finding one’s self. All the while, Director/Writer Fernando Grostein Andrade presents the story in a fun, lighthearted way with plenty of mouthwatering moments. ABE will be available (to be confirmed) at virtual Imagine Theatres.
QUEER EYE: SEASON 5 (NETFLIX)
The Fab Five are back at it and hit-up Philadelphia this season and true to brand, they hit all the right feels at moments. We meet a diverse range of those in need of help including a Pastor grappling with his church and his sexuality; a Pet Groomer whose boyfriend cheated on her and is in desperate need of business advice; a hunky Jersey Shore DJ in his late thirties who has some growing-up to do; a teen Activist with a nervous energy looking to improve her living space and have people take her more seriously; a Seafood Shop Owner ready to launch a restaurant, coming at the cost of being there for his family; a Pediatrician who feels guilty not spending enough time with her daughter; and a mother and wife who is dealing with her husband’s ALS diagnosis. The latter is the emotional high point where we see the Fab Five connect with her on a level deeper than any other, revealing a raw, visceral truth about appreciating our past and present. We can never grow tired of these transformations and love that they aren’t about changing these subjects as much as they are about making them elevated versions of themselves. A perfect celebration of Pride, released in a timely manner!
SURVIVE THE NIGHT (VVS FILMS) By Justin Waldman
From Director Matt Eskandari and first-time Writer Doug Wolfe, comes Survive the Night, which at times feels aptly-named. Despite some brief moments of tension and action, sadly, even a solid Cast which features Bruce Willis, can’t salvage this.
The Movie focuses on brothers Jim (Shea Buckner) and Matty (Tyler Jon Olson) as they’re robbing a gas station and things go awry and Matty gets shot. They’re both worried about getting caught, but end up going to a hospital and following disgraced doctor, Rich (Chad Michael Murray) home. This is where they threaten his family, Frank (Willis) and Jan (Lydia Hull) included, so Rich can operate on Matty and save him, or his family will become collateral damage.
In addition to a lack of cohesion, we don’t feel these characters have enough at stake, which is baffling considering half the Cast is either trying to save their family or save their own skin and at times we felt this is a Film we’ve already seen. VVS Films release SURVIVE THE NIGHT, out now on-demand and on DVD/Blu-ray July 21, 2020.
THE POSTCARD KILLINGS (VVS FILMS) By David Baldwin
After traveling to London to identify his daughter’s mutilated body, New York detective Jacob Kanon (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) decides to stick around and help with the investigation. He quickly learns that a serial killer is on the loose, murdering people and setting their bodies up in positions similar to popular art pieces. The killer also seems to be sending out postcards to journalists – suggesting where they might strike next – and Kanon is eager to join the chase around Europe to find them.
The Postcard Killings is stylish and looks great. But for the most part, it feels very cold, clinical and by the numbers. Save for one shocking moment in the middle of the Film, everything plays out exactly as you would assume and it was almost too obvious to predict the Film would be based on a book with the way it moves from scene to scene. It makes for a Film that is neither thrilling nor dull – just one that strikes the balance somewhere in the middle. Morgan shines as the cop reeling from a tragedy, but he only gets a few precious moments to breathe life into the character. I wish the same could be said for Cush Jumbo (of The Good Fight/The Good Wife), who does a lot of heavy lifting yet seems to be playing a heroine character cribbed from any number of other thrillers. VVS Films release THE POSTCARD KILLINGS on-demand and digitally nowand on DVD/Blu-ray June 23, 2020.
STEALING SCHOOL (GAME THEORY FILMS)
Director/Writer Li Dong examines racial injustice and deep dirty Academia secrets in Satire STEALING SCHOOL, where we see a bright young Chinese-Canadian student named April (Celine Tsai) defend her innocence before a tribunal, when an obsessive Teaching Assistant (Jonathan Keltz) accuses her of plagiarism. As the plot thickens, we learn of a darker web of corruption and the lengths others will go to sway the ruling and what’s in it for them. Despite this not being an issue of April’s race, it comes to the forefront the deeper we go and we realize things might not have been what they appeared at first. We’re afraid to reveal exactly why as it would be giving too much away, but everyone’s hiding something from the past here. Dong manages to keep us in suspense the whole ride with theatrics and a bit of melodrama from its lead characters, telling this story which at times feels more Drama than Comedy, neat and concise. Game Theory Films release STEALING SCHOOL on Vimeo-on-DemandJune 19, 2020 and Apple TV/iTunesJune 23, 2020.
BUFFALOED (VVS Films)
Zoey Deutch delivers pure fire in Tribeca Film Festival selection BUFFALOED from Director Tanya Wexler. Set in the chaotic, cut throat world of Debt Collection, we meet Peg (Deutch), just about ready to get into college and onto a bright future till she realizes she’s got to pay for tuition. Making the wrong choices to do just that, she pays her dues in prison only to come out and land a job where she realizes she has the strength of persuasion and is actually good enough to compete against her awful misogynistic boss Wizz (Jai Courtney). What ensues is a turf war between them and we wonder if Peg‘s gotten in over her head, so much that her family gets implicated in some of her sketchy dealings. While the Dark Comedy gets a bit rowdy at times, Deutch manages to capture our interest the entire way with her sheer charisma and despite its absurdities, the Film is making a statement about debt the debt crisis in America today facing every day people like you and me, struggling to afford rent, mortgages and medical bills and the greed that can destroy us. VVS Films release BUFFALOED on-demand June 16, 2020.
DA 5 BLOODS (NETFLIX)
Iconic Filmmaker Spike Lee is back with his latest Feature on Netflix, DA 5 Bloods. We meet four former Vietnam vets: Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis) and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) who return to there on a search to find the remains of and some of the gold their fallen Squad Leader Norman (Chadwick Boseman) had helped them hide back then. The story follows these men, who had several loose ends untied, including coping with PTSD. The Film even explores some of the complexities and resentment locals have towards American soldiers still, being responsible for the deaths of their families in the war. Entering the picture is Desroche (Jean Reno), a Frenchman looking to buy gold off the Bloods and matters get complicated when they find their lives on the line in the name of completing their mission as things get bloody. Performances are very strong from this tight Ensemble, led by Lindo and at moments it feels too long. Lee always has something to say and it is incredibly-timely that he ties it all together in a Black Lives Matter framework, and once again displays his remarkable ability to tell the complicated stories, humanizing his characters with great detail in the African-American voice.
We still don’t believe she’s gone. We’ve been meaning to catch this 2018 Documentary about our beloved Whitney Houston and after watching it finally we only had regrets we didn’t see it sooner. Filmmaker Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) gives us a very intimate look at the troubled life of this famed international Superstar who had it all. He also asks some very uncomfortable questions to those who were closest to her, exploring pressure for her to make her life seem perfect to the world. Macdonald interviews everyone from her ex-spouse Bobby Brown, who is uncomfortable discussing her drug use still, to those who worked closely with her like Tiffanie Dixon, her Hairstlylist who found her dead. One thing that is crucial for a Documentary about someone this high-profile to succeed is that it uncovers details that weren’t known prior and some shocking revelations are made about her family which are heartbreaking. This story, painted with a backdrop of her powerful catalog of hits makes this an empathetic, truthful portrait of the Whitney we never got to know.
DATING AROUND SEASON 2 (NETFLIX)
I’ll preface this by saying I dislike Dating Shows – the artifice and song-and-dance that comes with them. But I actually really enjoyed the fly-on-the-wall, unforced approach this very inclusive and diverse Series on dating takes. Each episode we follow along with a new person and their slate of potential suitors on dinner and drink dates. Sometimes you really feel the sparks, sometimes it’s just plain awkward and you’re begging for the date to end. By the end of each episode each subject picks the one person they choose to date again and sometimes these are shocking, sometimes not. We love the vast array of people we meet of varying orientations and ethnicities and that everyone is being as close to an authentic version of themselves as possible. We enjoy that uncomfortable subjects sometimes are brought to light in their conversations and we get why some people still remain single! Now in its second season, DATING AROUND was a quick and easy watch and a totally fresh take on a clichéd genre of Television.
(Photo/video credit: Netflix/Apple TV+/VVS Films/A71/Amazon Prime Video/MK2|MILE END/Game Theory Films)
2019 was a remarkable year in Cinema. More than ever are we seeing Netflix and female Directors at the forefront and you will see this in the Team’s year’s best. Once again we are thrilled to share our favourites with you and would love to see how these align with your own personal faves. If you haven’t caught-up yet on your 2019 viewing, we hope the Team gives you some inspiration for your Holiday viewing!
Enjoy the rest of your Holidays and to an even more amazing 2020!
Team Mr. Will
L to R: Jonathan Godfrey, David & Alyssa Baldwin, George Kozera, Justin Waldman x Mr. Will
(There in spirit: Amanda Gilmore, Siobhán Rich)
A farewell to beloved Thompson Diner, where we held our 2019 Holiday Brunch.
In my opinion, this year has been one of the strongest years in Film for a VERY long time. We had amazing diverse creative talents in front and behind the camera who have worked together to make outstanding work, which is precisely why making this Top Ten list has been extremely difficult for me. I would love to write a Top 30 list if I was allowed, but sadly I’m not. Because of this, I have made my list according to my favourite films of the year that I could also re-watch multiple times for years to come. I have also added some honourable mentions because let’s face it, this year was flipping awesome!
DISCLAIMER: I have yet to see 1917 at the time of writing this list.
The Films below are listed in alphabetical order, they are not ranked.
Booksmart Honey Boy Jojo Rabbit Joker Knives Out Late Night Little Women Marriage Story Parasite Us
Honourable Mentions: The Peanut Butter Falcon: an extremely touching and unique coming-of-age story. Ready Or Not: an inventive thriller with one wickedly funny and badass female lead. Rocketman: I LOVEElton John and this film was a knockout!
Written in order the release, the following are my faves for 2019: winter began with If Beale Street Could Talk, a tale of struggle set to a mesmerizing score. Next, Alita: Battle Angel, a great anime adaptation with mesmerizing MOCAP (Motion Capture) work. Spring brought Toy Story 4, a 3D spectacle for the ages; and Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, another spectacular Script from Tarantino. IT Chapter 2 scared me silly this summer, and A Hidden Life was my TIFF ’19 darling. Fall brought with it a Trilogy of favorites: the powerful performance piece, Joker; the breathtaking animation of Frozen 2; and of course, a forever favorite, Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. Winter has returned, and with it, Little Women, a wondrous adaption to warm this holiday season. I have high hopes for 2020, including: Dune, Tenet, Mulan, No Time to Die and Bill & Ted Face the Music.
2019 was a banner year for me, watching movies in a darkened theatre. I saw many impressive features from either first-time Directors or from established awards winners. Netflix, the little distribution company that could, released movies that were eclectic in genres and superior in quality and for the second year in a row, one of its offerings made my list as Number One. I saw movies that bored deeply into my skin and heart and mind and soul. It is with apologies to the Christmas releases that I have yet to see (Little Women, Bombshell, 1917, Uncut Gems) and too many Honorable Mentions to list that I submit my Top Ten of 2019:
1. Marriage Story 2. Jojo Rabbit 3. Waves 4. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood 5. Parasite 6. The Irishman 7. Knives Out 8. The Last Black Man in San Francisco 9. Joker 10. Rocketman
2019 has certainly been an interesting year for movies. We saw the end of The Skywalker Saga, the warfare between Netflix and Distributors continues to grow increasingly-tense, Scorsese and Iger are teasing a conversation. Movies had more surprises this year, and there have been some genuinely heartwarming and enlightening movies this year. In alphabetical order here are my top 10 movies to end out the decade.
Booksmart Olivia Wilde directing Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever may have been the most unexpected, most hilarious thing I have seen all year but this Movie is endlessly-fantastic. It is the only Movie I have seen countless times this year, it became an instant classic for myself, that will be adored for the ages.
Jojo Rabbit Taika Waititi in my mind can do no wrong when it comes to filmmaking. Ragnarok, What We Do In The Shadows,and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Waititi constantly delivers genuinely heartwarming and hilarious movies. Jojo Rabbit is no exception to that, the WWII satire is everything I expected of it and more.
I love some brilliant Joaquin. I love me some Joker. I just love this Movie. It is haunting and ingenious, but please for everything that makes this great, do not make a Sequel.
This Whodunit was one of the biggest questions from this Agatha Christie-esque film. It was marvelously-acted, packs a punch, and let’s face it, were all obsessing about knitted sweaters now.
I couldn’t begin to tell you what I thought I was getting myself into when I went to see this. All I can tell you is that it is one of the strangest, brilliant movies I’ve seen all year and I still think about it all these months later.
Moment of truth, this was my first Little Women and what Greta Gerwig manages to do with it is nothing short of inspiring. However when you have Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep and Saoirse Ronan its also hard not to be delighted the entire time.
This was horrifying. Ari Aster still manages to haunt me with his brilliant Horror Film. The Director’s Cut is significantly better than the theatrical cut as well, as well as more haunting when you pay attention to the background. There is nothing else to say.
If you’ve seen it, you know EXACTLY why its on the list. If you have not, why are you waiting? Stop reading immediately and go see the Movie. There is literally no reason not to. It is brilliant and deserves all the acclaim.
Give Sandman everything. This Movie is neurotic, anxiety-inducing acid and you cannot look away. I felt dirty after watching the Movie, but I can’t shake it. Adam Sandler has never delivered a better performance.
This Movie broke me, is the easiest way to put it. It is beautiful, it is tragic, it is heartwarming, it is heartbreaking. This Movie launches a rocket right into the feelings and explodes on impact.
2020, you’re the start of a new decade, you better deliver as well as if not better than 2019.
1. Parasite 2. Jojo Rabbit 3. Marriage Story 4. The Farewell 5. Us 6. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood 7. Honey Boy 8. Blinded By The Light 9. 1917 10. Booksmart
2019 will go down as one of the best years for Film this decade – maybe even the singular best one. There is so much to say about these ten brilliant Films, and even more to say about the multitude of films that did not make this list. Yes, many will remember this year for the end of The Avengers and Star Wars Sagas. But others will remember it for the magnificent new discoveries that were made, for the masters making some of their best work to date and for the actors we completely wrote-off giving us plenty of reasons to remember them again. I lived, breathed and loved so many movies this year. And know that with the impending birth of my first child, that so much about next year and the next decade of my filmgoing life is going to be so drastically different. So it might just be the nostalgia talking, but I doubt I will ever see another exquisite year of Cinema like this ever again.
Honey Boy is the impressive screenwriting debut of Shia LaBeouf and is an autobiographical depiction of his relationship as a child actor with his emotionally and physically-abusive, alcoholic father.
This is an emotionally-driven film that features enormously-powerful, layered performances from its three leads. First and most memorable is LaBeouf in the role as his own father. He throws himself into this portrayal even further than his prior work making this standout. Then there is Noah Jupe, who plays LaBeouf as a 12-year-old child actor. Jupe’s performance is truly heartbreaking and his scenes with LeBeouf are raw. Finally, there is Lucas Hedges as LaBeouf in his 20s. Hedges becomes the PTSD effected Shia during his stay at a court-ordered rehab. There is no trace of Hedges because he captures LaBeouf stance, walk and voice inflections.
Honey Boy screens at Sundance on Jan 25 at 3:30PM AT Eccels PC, Jan 26 at 12:15PM at Grand SLC and 10PM at Redstone 2, Jan 27 at 9:15PM at Ray PC, and Feb 2 at 11:30AM at The MARC PC.