Just a few weeks left of summer, but there’s plenty of action and thrills to enjoy at home on digital, on-demand and via streaming. See what’s out!
BLACK WATER: ABYSS (levelFilm)
By David Baldwin
A group of five friends set out to go spelunking through an uncharted cave deep in the Northern Australian forest. As they begin exploring, a tropical storm sets in, flooding the cave and leaving the group trapped. And survival will not be easy with a crocodile swimming around close by.
Black Water: Abyss is a small, claustrophobic Thriller that works best when it focuses on the increasingly cramped spaces around our group of friends. The cave is small, the water is gradually rising up around them and swimming through some of the caverns could mean death by crocodile. It all makes for a handful of terrifying and breathless sequences, but it comes at the price of some daft underwater cinematography and less than ideal creature effects. Worse, it is hard to care about any of the characters living or dying when they are saddled with a stereotypical soap opera storyline that you will predict the outcome of instantaneously. The film would have benefitted from Director Andrew Traucki – who Co-Directed the first Black Water film – spending less time lingering on specific dialogue and items that will obviously come up again later, and more time on the precarious situation these friends find themselves in.
levelFILM release BLACK WATER: ABYSS on On-Demand on Tuesday, August 10, 2020.
THINGS I DO FOR MONEY (Raven Banner Releasing)
By David Baldwin
Eli Yaguchi (Theodor Aoki) is a cellist trying to get into a prestigious musical conservatory. He needs to rehearse with his brother Nick (Maximillian Aoki), but Nick is more invested in working at a bar with some local gangsters. But when Eli finds a big bag of money, the brothers get entangled in a plot involving a kidnapping, a heist and some seedy characters with their own agendas.
As a Hamilton boy born and bred, I love seeing Hamilton on screen as Hamilton (and not Detroit or any other American wasteland). Co-Writer/Director Warren P. Sonoda is a Hamilton boy as well, and his love for the city is on full display throughout Things I Do For Money. The Film is a very personal story right from the start, even if it is about crime, violence and all the sordid types of things we do for the ones we love. I was afraid after a few initial scenes that it would be overly artsy, but the Film has a slick look and feel that blends nicely with the beautifully-shot and often intense cello playing scenes. While I wish the dialogue was a bit less clunky and that the acting was a bit stronger (to be fair, many of the actors here are first timers – including our leads), Things I Do For Money is a well-made and enjoyable Canadian picture.
Raven Banner Releasing release THINGS I DO FOR MONEY on Digital and On-Demand on Tuesday, August 10, 2020.
PROJECT POWER (Netflix)
By Mr. Will Wong
Paranormal Activity Co-Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, join forces again in high-octane Action-Thriller PROJECT POWER. The Film set in New Orleans, centers on an ex-soldier, Art (Jamie Foxx) with a vendetta and out to rescue his daughter; a cop named Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) on a mission, teaming with a teenage drug dealer, Robin (Dominique Fishback). The trio’s stories intersect as a highly-coveted drug surfaces in New Orleans, givings its users superhuman ability for the span of five minutes. You might turn invisible, you might become bulletproof, you might die. With the drug being responsible for an influx of crime in the City, the power is in this trio’s hands to fight those responsible for the dangerous drug.
Time passes rather quickly in this action-packed ride loaded with some cool CGI, which has us rooting for these three. In many ways, the story is a reflection of the vicious cycle of crime in the inner city and speaks to the oppression of black people in the most timely manner. Fishback whom you might remember from 2018’s The Hate U Give, is back and steals the show as a girl wise beyond her years, yet still embodies a naiveté that acts as a vessel which connects us to this dark, fiery underworld.
PROJECT POWER streams on Netflix Friday, August 14, 2020.
YOU CANNOT KILL DAVID ARQUETTE (Elevation Pictures)
By Mr. Will Wong
David Arquette rose to prominence in Hollywood in the mid-90s with major hits like the Scream franchise, Never Been Kissed, See Spot Run and more. Coming from a family rich in acting pedigree with siblings Rosanna, Richmond, Patricia and Alexis all actors also. Arquette made headlines after crossing into the world of Wrestling, being crowned WCW World Heavyweight Champion in 2000, drawing outrage from fans. This Documentary co-directed by David Darg and Price James follows his return to the sport. This time around, he really has something to prove to himself and wrestling fans – that through hard work and cutting his teeth like a real wrestler, that he too can be competitive. The Actor after suffering a heart attack goes on a journey to get fit and we meet his family, including his wife and kids who have no choice but to be supportive no matter how embarrassing this is for them.
The Film goes a level deeper in giving us an understanding of some of the mental issues he is coping with and his comeback at times is scary and goes to some near-death situations. We thoroughly were entertained and Arquette isn’t unlike most of us. Acceptance and approval means something to many of us.
In addition to premiering at the Fantasia Film Festival (coverage to come), YOU CANNOT KILL DAVID ARQUETTE is available on Digital and On-Demand via Elevation Pictures Friday, August 28, 2020.
TARGET NUMBER ONE (eOne Films)
By Mr. Will Wong
A story so twisted, it had to be true. Based on a true story set in 1989, Daniel Roby‘s TARGET NUMBER ONE (known as MOST WANTED in the U.S.), centers on a Canadian investigative journalist named Victor Malarek (Josh Hartnett) who is in pursuit of the truth after a former heroine junkie Daniel Léger (Antoine Olivier Pilon), is sentenced suspiciously to 100 years in jail in Thailand. The story works its way backwards where we learn the series of events that led to Léger‘s conviction and the people behind his demise, namely a drug dealer named Glen Picker (Jim Gaffigan). Picker convinces Leger to go to Thailand, framing him to authorities as a major player in international drug trade overseeing a major shipment. This in turn sets Picker up for a big pay-off in exchange for this information. Léger winds-up serving eight years in a Thai prison subject to several abuses, before making his way back to Canada thanks to Malarek whose choices are less than supported by his wife (Amanda Crew).
Clocking-in at 2 hours and 15 minutes, there certainly was room for a bit more judiciousness in editing, but thankfully the story here is compelling enough to retain our interest. Hartnett delivers some of his best work yet and Léger, whom we saw last in Xavier Dolan‘s award-sweeping Mommy, delivers a commendable performance. Funnyman Gaffigan gives us something new but in a way that is familiar as the calculating and conniving Picker, full of one-liners, like “Keep your shirt on, this isn’t a gay cruise!”. We’re still laughing about that.
eOne Films release TARGET NUMBER ONE, opening in Ontario theatres Friday, August 14, 2020.
By David Baldwin
Six friends in lockdown decide to hold a séance with a medium over a Zoom chat. While they are initially skeptical of the things the medium says, things quickly take a turn when it becomes clear a demonic spirit has begun haunting their homes.
Host is a movie of the moment, and one that will scare the hell out of you – especially if you tend to have your daily work meetings over Zoom. It is not a particularly original idea (the film taking place in real time “over a computer screen” gimmick has been done), but rarely has this filmmaking style been used as effective as it is here. Director Rob Savage introduces us to our characters, jumps right into the action and finishes all in 56 ridiculously-brisk and well-paced minutes. He does not waste a single second. Where other films would take a moment to breathe, Host keeps moving relentlessly, lining up and knocking down one breathless, terrifying set piece after the next. The deliberately consumer grade look of the Film amplifies the scares, using the limitations and our knowledge of our phones, laptops and Zoom itself to its advantage. Even when it is at its most artificial and predictable, Host fires on all cylinders.
Now I just need to log into my work computer and cancel all of my Zoom meetings, ASAP. HOST streams on Shudder now.
ALMOST LOVE (Netflix)
By Mr. Will Wong
This Ensemble Comedy directed and written by Actor Mike Doyle centers on a group of thirtysomethings who either are single or falling-out of love. We meet Cammy (Michelle Buteau) who falls for a homeless guy Henry (Colin Donnell); Haley (Zoe Chao) who is seduced by her student Scott (Christopher Gray); Adam (Scott Evans) and Marklin (Augustus Prew) who are growing apart; and Elizabeth (Kate Walsh) who seldom has trouble meeting guys. While each of these characters goes through their own messy situations, Doyle takes us on a journey which each of them and what he captures well is their tight-knit bond. We only wish it went to deeper places or had them exploring more about struggles in their own friendships with one another. Even despite some questionable choices, their bond remains unbreakable. There are some very solid performances from this Ensemble led by Buteau and Walsh and what amounts is a mildly-dramatic watch.
DIRTY JOHN: THE BETTY BRODERICK STORY (Netflix)
We absolutely love tales of obsession and people on-the-verge and this is everything we hoped for. We’ve always enjoyed Amanda Peet but she slays it in the lead role here of Betty Broderick. This season of the Series based on true events in the mid-80s, sees this Socialite’s world crumble when she is growingly-suspicious of her lawyer husband Dan(Christian Slater) cheating on her, eventually shut-out from her kids’ lives and driven to murder. While the Series literally starts at level 11 on a scale of 10 in terms of chaos, the story works its way backwards a bit and we witness that build-up in tension before it erupts into a relentless fire. Peet is effective start to finish, managing to deliver a sympathetic performance even if Broderick’s choices ultimately are horribly-wrong. Slater is growingly-loathsome as the story progresses which means he did his job just right. These eight episodes flew-by so quickly and we loved it!
If you’re braving the theatres this weekend, check-out our Review of UNHINGED which is now in theatres.
Hot off its rounds on the Festival circuit comes the release of THINGS I DO FOR MONEY by Canadian Filmmaker Warren P. Sonoda. Check out the Trailer!
Bold in its execution and a historic addition to the Canadian crime cannon, Things I Do For Money is a dynamic thriller, set to the full-bodied sounds of the cello. Eli and Nick Yaguchi, two Japanese-Canadian cello-playing brothers from Hamilton, Ontario (played by real-life virtuoso brothers Theodor and Maximilian Aoki in their film debuts) inadvertently steal a bag of money. And yes, trouble ensues, starting with a lethal Vancouver hit man that turns out to be their estranged uncle Just Jimmy (played by their actual father, Edward Aoki). Through a confluence of events and massive bad luck, they also have to save their father’s life, steal an $8 million dollar painting and fight for their lives to get into a prestigious music conservatory. Along the way they discover that everyone has a price and that family never bails on family, no matter the cost.
Rounding out the cast is Yodit Tewoderos (Laura), Rhett Morita (Tosh Yaguchi), Jennifer Lynn Walton (Mary Yaguchi), Dax Lough (Alexi Raduli), Danilo Reyes (Gonzo), Colette Zacca (Brenda Mickel) and Ali A. Kazmi (Cossy).
The film also features some of Canada’s best recording artists, The Arkells, July Talk, Jane’s Party and the legendary, iconic, The Northern Pikes whose titular song anchors the film’s most intense scene. Not to mention the phenomenal original score, composed and performed by acting leads and brand-new film composers, Maximilian and Theodor Aoki. This original soundtrack for THINGS I DO FOR MONEY – will be released through IndieCan Records later this year.
See the Trailer:
THINGS I DO FOR MONEY is available via Raven Banner Releasing Tuesday, August 11, 2020. It will be available on iTunes (pre-sale August 4, 2020), Bell, Cineplex, Cogeco, Rogers, Shaw, Telus, and Vimeo.