Skip to content

Inside Out 2022 Review: Pat Rocco Dared

June 4, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2022 Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival runs from May 26th to June 5th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

In their new documentary Pat Rocco Dared, co-directors Morris Chapdelaine and Bob Christie offer an enjoyable introduction to groundbreaking gay filmmaker Pat Rocco. Rocco was not only a pioneering figure in queer cinema, but also at the forefront of the gay right’s movement, capturing footage of the first ever Pride Parade held in Los Angeles to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, and filming Harvey Milk’s speeches.

Rocco’s films had ample male frontal nudity that was quite daring for the 1960s and ’70s, with such images as a naked man running down the freeway, and a nude dude jumping up and down on a pogo stick set to the Lawrence Welk music (you get the idea). But his arthouse skin flicks (which were often dubbed “cock danglers”) had a romanticism to them along with the eroticism, including a sweet portrait of male-male love filmed on the fly at Disneyland.

The documentary is framed around an interview between Rocco and Canadian queer filmmaker Charlie David, conducted at his home in Los Angeles. These moments, with the veteran filmmaker showing off his large collection of film reels and talking about specific scenes from his movies, are the best in the film. David’s interviews with Toronto artist and activist Syrus Marcus Ware and professor Whitney Strub, help to contextualize the history of Rocco’s work, but also feel somewhat overly academic.

But with plenty of tantalizing archival footage from Rocco’s many films, Pat Rocco Dared serves as an entertaining, informative, and ultimately surprisingly touching portrait of a filmmaker who truly broke down barriers through his work.

Screenings:

Saturday, June 4th – 11:45 AM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

The film is also available to stream virtually from June 4th to June 5th across Canada.

Inside Out 2022 Review: Tramps!

May 31, 2022

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

The 2022 Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival runs from May 26th to June 5th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

Directed, written and produced by Canadian filmmaker Kevin Hegge, Tramps! is a documentary that explores the history of the New Romantics, a British collective of artists, dancers, musicians and filmmakers who emerged in the wake of the punk rock movement in the 1970s and ’80s.

Inspired by punk bands like The Clash and The Sex Pistols, though more glam and fashion-forward than their anarchic predecessors, the New Romantics were at the forefront of counter-culture in Thatcher’s London, including many gay and gender non-conforming folks who found community in the underworld art scene. Prominent figures in the movement included the underground film director Derek Jarman, Australian performance artist Leigh Bowery, and the Neo Naturists, a naked performance troupe who covered themselves in body paint.

Hegge mixes archival footage and talking head interviews with various creatives from the era like Princess Julia, Scarlett Cannon, and Duggie Fields and Judy Blame (who both passed away before the film was completed), keeping more famous figures like Boy George mostly on the periphery. The point is to give voice to lesser known members of the movement, but the film at times feels like it lacks a wider focus. It doesn’t really capture the larger culture around the New Romantics, making us feel a bit lost without the added context, and giving it a sort of “you had to be there” energy.

It packs a lot into a roughly hundred minute running time and does move at a quick clip, but it has no real time to breathe and almost doesn’t allow us to get to know these subjects on a deeper level. The film also gets into the darker aspects of the movement, including the devastating impacts of drug abuse and the AIDS epidemic, but these points feel somewhat rushed at the end. Still, Tramps! offers a decent and slickly assembled introduction to this counter-cultural movement, providing a good enough overview to make us curious to learn more.

Screenings:

Tuesday, May 31st – 7:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

The film is also available to stream virtually from May 31st to June 5th across Canada.

Inside Out 2022 Review: Unidentified Objects

May 27, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2022 Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival runs from May 26th to June 5th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

A gay dwarf named Peter (Matthew August Jeffers) is roped into taking his sex worker neighbour Winona (Sarah Hay) on an impromptu road trip from New York to Canada in a bright pink car, so that she can meet with the aliens who first communicated with her as a teenager. This is the premise behind Colombian filmmaker Juan Felipe Zuleta’s solid feature directorial debut Unidentified Objects, and it’s one heck of a logline.

Peter has access to a vehicle, and Winona offers cash that he needs to pay his bills, in exchange for taking her to the “bridge people” who will let her live on their planet. From here, Unidentified Objects plays out as a classic road trip narrative that mixes comedy and drama with some quirky and fantastical touches, and I don’t know if every element of the film works equally well. But, at its heart, Zuleta’s film delivers an unconventional and surprisingly moving story about grief, friendship, and trying to find acceptance in a judgemental world.

Peter’s bitterness and anger at society for constantly making him feel like an outsider due to both his height and sexuality serves as a compelling through-line, and Jeffers, an Off-Broadway actor who has gotten some TV roles and is now making his feature debut, carries the film with an exceptional performance. Jeffers delivers several moments that are designed to break your heart, including a couple of piercing monologues, with the centrepiece being a remarkable interlude in a small town Canadian bar set to Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” For her part, Hay ensures that Winona is a sympathetic figure, instead of just the prototypical eccentric, unstable one.

If Unidentified Objects can feel a bit rough around the edges, and has a reach that occasionally exceeds its grasp, the screenplay by Leland Frankel, who developed the story with Zuleta, has clear affection for its characters. The film takes us on a journey that is almost always interesting and engaging to watch, with a mood that is enhanced by strong music choices and cinematography, and punctuated by scenes like the one in the bar that take us by surprise and show real promise for Zuleta as a filmmaker. It’s an ambitious debut feature that boasts strong performances from its two leads, and offers moments of raw power that leave a lasting impression.

Screenings:

Friday, May 27th – 7:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

The film is also available to stream virtually from May 27th to June 5th across Canada.

Review: Top Gun: Maverick

May 26, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

It’s been 36 years since the release of the original Top Gun, but watching the new legacy sequel Top Gun: Maverick, which sees Tom Cruise reprising his iconic role as hot shot fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, it’s almost hard to believe that this much time has passed.

Because Cruise, now in his upper-fifties, looks as if he has barely aged since 1986, and getting to see the actor do his own flying and stunts is the main selling point of director Joseph Kosinski’s belated follow-up to Tony Scott’s original. The result is a classic summer blockbuster that demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible, and proves without a shadow of a doubt that Cruise is still every inch a movie star.

Cruise’s movie star charisma is evident right from the opening scenes of the film, when Maverick, now a test pilot for the U.S. Navy who is at risk of being replaced by unmanned drones, defies orders and takes a new fighter jet out for a spin. Not to be outdone, he pushes the jet to its limit by bringing it over Mach 10. It’s a thrilling, gleefully entertaining sequence that, like the recent Mission: Impossible movies, serves as a wonderful showcase for Cruise’s love of delivering death-defying stunts with a true showman’s flair for wanting to entertain his audience.

It also does a great job of setting the stage for what is to come. Both as punishment for his stunt and as begrudging admission of his unmatched skills as a pilot, Maverick gets called back to train graduates from the Top Gun flight school to carry out a special mission, that involves a series of risky maneuvers to take out a specific target (the location of said target is never specified, though alluded to be somewhere in Russia). Among the recruits is Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s late partner Goose. Rooster is resentful of him for a variety of reasons, but Maverick, who has no children of his own and still feels survivor’s guilt over Goose’s death, feels a duty to protect the kid.

Since Top Gun: Maverick is a legacy sequel, it’s fitting that the screenplay, which is credited to the writing trio of Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Cruise’s frequent collaborator Christopher McQuarrie, puts a heavy focus on legacy. The film really embraces its designation as a “dad movie” by crafting a heartfelt story about father figures, doing an especially nice job of connecting the present to the past. This includes a new love story between Maverick and old flame Penny (Jennifer Connelly), an admiral’s daughter who was only referenced but didn’t appear in the first film, and is now a single mother who runs the bar where the rookie pilots hang out.

There are a lot of big and little callbacks to the first film, which always feel earned, including the beautifully handled return of Val Kilmer as Iceman, in one of this sequel’s most genuinely poignant scenes. In addition to doing his own stunts, Cruise has to sell the character moments like this as well, and the more emotional scenes remind us how good of a dramatic actor he can be. Kosinski does an excellent job of building suspense and raising the emotional stakes over the course of the 131 minute film, building to an exciting finale that keeps finding ways to top itself.

In an era of blockbusters that are shot on sound stages and rely heavily on green screens and computer-generated visual effects, Top Gun: Maverick especially feels like a breath of fresh air. Utilizing real F-18s and F-14s, with the actors having undergone training to do their own flying, the flight sequences here are spectacular. The high-flying cinematography by Claudio Miranda (who won an Oscar for Life of Pi) not only breathlessly captures the planes zipping through the air, but also puts us right in the cockpit with the characters.

Since the soundtrack was one of the most iconic elements of the original, it’s worth noting that Top Gun: Maverick lives up to it in that regard as well. The iconic Kenny Loggins track “Danger Zone” of course makes an appearance, in addition to elements of Harold Faltermeyer’s synth score. But we also get the very good new Lady Gaga song “Hold My Hand,” a soaring power ballad that plays over the bittersweet final moments.

The film offers everything you could possibly want from a Top Gun sequel (if the original’s latent homoeroticism isn’t as prominent this time around, we do still get a shirtless football game that pays tribute to the classic volleyball scene). It serves as a surprisingly heartfelt tribute to the original, while also building upon it with thrilling action sequences and a new story that is completely satisfying on its own terms. See this one in a theatre if you can. It’s the real deal.

Top Gun: Maverick opens exclusively in theatres on May 27th. It’s being distributed in Canada by Paramount Pictures.

4K Ultra HD Review: The Batman

May 24, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

It’s been a decade since Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy came to a close with The Dark Knight Rises in 2012 and ended Christian Bale’s run as the character, with Ben Affleck taking over as the Caped Crusader in the interim for a couple of films before stepping back from the role.

Now we have a new Batman in Robert Pattinson, who takes on the role in The Batman. Like Joker, this is a unique film in the DC cinematic universe in that it isn’t connected to any previous films, and is also a much darker movie than the usual comic book fare.

Directed by Matt Reeves (who helped reinvigorate franchise blockbuster filmmaking with the one-two punch of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes), The Batman is a dark and grimy detective story, that plays more like a superhero take on David Fincher’s Se7en or Zodiac. Pattinson’s take on the character is instantly unique, playing him as a loner who has no real life as Bruce Wayne, and just lives by night in the shadows as Batman, as a way to work through the trauma of losing his parents as a young age.

Pattinson’s Batman gets his anger out by donning the cowl and cape to beat up criminals and gang members, obsessively seeking revenge (“I am vengeance,” he growls while pummelling a gang of thugs who ask his name), and keeping a diary of his late night crime-fighting. It’s a different approach from other iterations where Wayne was a sort of rich philanthropist by day, and Pattinson makes this more emo portrayal work, complete with his stringy hair, dark eyeliner, and sunglasses during the day from being up all night.

This is a radically different take on the character than we have seen in other movies; instead of an altruistic billionaire, this is Detective Batman who slinks around in the shadows looking for clues. The main villain is The Riddler (Paul Dano), a different sort of masked vigilante who is murdering Gotham City’s elites to root out corruption, and leaving behind elaborately staged crime scenes with clues as to his next move. The film is intended to show the duality between hero and villain, and Dano’s take on Riddler is similarly a much grittier portrayal of the character than we have seen before; he is a sadistic serial killer who wraps his head in plastic wrap and live-streams his crimes.

Working alongside Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and the Gotham Police Department, who aren’t all happy with his unofficial involvement, the case brings Batman into contact with a number of iconic villains. This Rogue’s Gallery includes the Penguin (Colin Farrell, unrecognizable under layers of makeup), who runs an underground club populated by corrupt politicians; mob boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro); and Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), a cat burglar who dispenses her own form of vigilante justice by stealing from the rich.

With an aesthetic inspired by ’90s grunge culture (including the use of Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” over a moody early sequence), and a story that begins on Halloween and unfolds over the week following the holiday, Reeves has crafted an atmospheric film that is darkly absorbing right from the start. And this is a dark film, both visually and thematically (it’s almost shocking that it isn’t rated R, but since they keep visible blood to a minimum, they are able to get away with some pretty disturbing stuff within the confines of a PG-13, a rating clearly designed to sell toys).

The film is essentially a police procedural that finds Batman being methodically dragged from one clue to the next, and the grittiness of this Gotham City feels palpable in every scene. The cinematography by Greig Fraser (who just won an Oscar for Dune) has a captivating neo-noir look to it. Much of the film takes place at nighttime, including a rainy car chase with the Batmobile that is thrilling in terms of both aesthetic and execution. The visuals are matched by Michael Giacchino’s thunderous musical score.

There are a few pacing issues with the 176 minute film, and some of the supporting characters aren’t that well developed. The story unfolds against the backdrop of a mayoral election, and the main challenger, a young woman named Bella Reál (Jayme Lawson), feels frustratingly underwritten, presented as a sort of vague force for good with no real weight behind her. The film also doesn’t quite land its big finale, and the tension starts to fizzle out a bit in the final few scenes (the film still has studio demands to meet and expectations to set up a sequel to contend with, after all).

But The Batman is at its best when fully embracing its place as a dark and grimy detective story. For the first two-thirds of the nearly three hour running time especially, the film works as a thrilling aesthetic piece that draws us into its world, locking Pattinson’s Batman and Dano’s Riddler in a deadly game of cat and mouse. The screenplay by Reeves and Peter Craig also has some interesting elements exploring how lone-wolf extremists are able to gain online followings of like-minded people.

The film will inevitably draw comparisons to Nolan’s 2008 sequel The Dark Knight, which remains a definitive work both within and without the comic book genre, and Reeves doesn’t quite reach those heights. But The Batman works in its own right as a moody and darkly compelling take on the iconic character, offering an often striking audio-visual experience (heightened by the capabilities of the 4K format to show increased clarity and contrast). Reeves has crafted a solid, story-driven superhero film that lets us live in its world for a few hours, bolstered by some strong performances.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The 4K set comes with a regular Blu-ray of the film, as well as a third Blu-ray disc where all of the bonus features are held. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which ships with a shiny black slipcover.

Looking for Vengeance (4 minutes, 57 seconds): Pattinson and Reeves talk about the inspiration for Batman’s gritty, street-fighting style in the film.

The Batman: Genesis (6 minutes, 9 seconds): A general look at some of the aesthetic choices behind the film and Pattinson’s Kurt Cobain-inspired iteration of the character.

Vengeance Meets Justice (8 minutes, 4 seconds): Pattinson, Dano and Reeves discuss their versions of these characters and the dualities of Batman and The Riddler in the film.

Becoming Catwoman (8 minutes, 36 seconds): A look at Kravitz’s take on Catwoman, and how they approached introducing her in a very grounded way.

The Batmobile (10 minutes, 51 seconds): An in-depth look at designing and building the Batmobile seen in the film, and getting it to perform the stunts.

Anatomy of the Car Chase (6 minutes, 8 seconds): Like a continuation of the previous piece, looks at the logistics and planning that went into the big chase in the rain.

Anatomy of the Wing Suit Jump (6 minutes, 29 seconds): Takes us behind the scenes of the wing suit jump set-piece, from the creation of the suit to shooting the scene.

Vengeance in the Making (53 minutes, 41 seconds): The most substantial of the bonus features is this nearly hour-long “behind the scenes” featurette, which covers a variety of different aspects of the production.

Unpacking the Icons (5 minutes, 47 seconds): A slick overview of the different iconic characters, and how they are presented in the film.

A Transformation: The Penguin (7 minutes, 59 seconds): A glimpse at the truly astounding makeup work that was done on Farrell to turn him into the Penguin.

Deleted Scenes (Play All – 7 minutes, 47 seconds): A pair of decent scenes that were cut from the film both for length and story purposes, presented with and without director’s commentary.

Scene 52: Joker / Arkham (5 minutes 53 seconds)

Scene 56: Selina Gets 44 Below Keycard (1 minute, 53 seconds)

The Batman is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 176 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: May 24th, 2022

Review: Into the Weeds: Dewayne “Lee” Johnson vs. Monsanto Company

May 20, 2022

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

The latest documentary from Canadian filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal, Into the Weeds: Dewayne “Lee” Johnson vs. Monsanto Company examines the massive coverup that agrochemical giant Monsanto engaged in to hide the fact that glyphosate, the key ingredient in their weed-killer Roundup, was carcinogenic to humans.

The film, which recently opened the Hot Docs film festival, finds its main through-line with the story of Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a groundskeeper from California Bay Area who developed Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014. Johnson was spraying Ranger Pro, a highly concentrated version of Roundup used on commercial properties that he was told was “safe enough to drink,” and ended up getting doused in the stuff when a hose broke.

Despite wearing a full Tyvek suit, it soaked through his clothes and got onto his skin, and he started to notice lesions forming on his body shortly after. Johnson was left with few options but to take the manufacturer to court for not properly addressing the risks involved in using the herbicide, seeking damages for his cancer diagnosis. Baichwal’s film mainly focuses on the court case, introducing us to members of the large legal team behind Johnson.

They were tasked with going back through thousands of old emails to prove that Monsanto (much like the tobacco companies) knew for decades that their product could cause cancer, and lied about it by covering up the science with their own ghostwritten toxicity reports omitting the fact that it was causing tumours to grow in mice. This information became the subject of a document known as The Monsanto Papers, which was released during the trial and helped publicly expose the company and its hold over the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that was supposed to be holding it to account (and sparked worldwide protests that are glimpsed in the film).

In streamlining all of this information surrounding the court case into just under a hundred minutes, at times the film feels a bit too methodical in its approach. The most underdeveloped story thread involves Elder Ray Owl from Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation in Ontario, who co-founded the Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Elders Group. He is fighting to stop the aerial spraying of glyphosate on territorial lands, which is brought up here but not really focused on enough. The film also briefly shows us the researchers who are studying insects to see how the use of these herbicides is impacting the larger environment.

But Baichwal’s film is at its strongest when putting a human face on those behind the legal battle, both through Johnson’s story and several other plaintiffs who are briefly introduced, some of the thousands involved in a mass tort against the company. They are mainly farmers who developed cancer after spending years spraying their crops with Roundup to dry them out and make them easier to harvest, allowing them to increase narrow profit margins.

If Into the Weeds feels a bit dry, and could have used more of a human focus with Johnson’s own story feeling sidelined at times, it still serves as a decent and largely informative exposé of how glyphosate is poisoning us and our environment, and the corporate coverup that has allowed its continued use.

Into the Weeds: Dewayne “Lee” Johnson vs. Monsanto Company is now playing in limited release at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto. It’s being distributed in Canada by Mongrel Media.

Disney+ Review: Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers

May 19, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is technically the latest in Disney’s long line of live action reboots, reviving the fan favourite Disney Channel cartoon series. But in the hands of director Akiva Schaffer (from comedy troupe The Lonely Island), this one serves as a satirical sendup of the sorts of nostalgia-driven, cameo-filled, IP-fuelled reboots that have become the norm in Hollywood.

The result is an entertaining reboot (or comeback?) that has fun doubling as a meta sendup of one. Set in a world where humans and cartoon characters live together, the film reimagines Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (The Lonely Island’s Andy Samberg) as washed up actors, who met as kids in school and became big stars on the show Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, but had a falling out when Dale tried to go solo and the show got cancelled.

In present day, Dale has gotten “CGI surgery” that has given him a 3D makeover, and now spends his time doing fan conventions. Chip, on the other hand, is still his old 2D self, and sells life insurance for a living. The two chipmunks are brought back together when their old co-star Monterey Jack (Eric Bana), who developed a bad cheese habit and owes money to underworld crime bosses, becomes the latest toon to go missing. With Monty at risk of getting “bootlegged” and sold off to be used in cheap, overseas ripoffs, Chip and Dale must play detective again in order to find him.

This all, of course, calls to mind the 1988 Robert Zemeckis classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which famously did the whole toons and people living together thing so well. This film has been drawing a lot of comparisons to Roger Rabbit (who even has a brief cameo!), but one of the things that made that film work so seamlessly was that it had a committed human performance from Bob Hoskins, who played it completely straight against the toons. Kiki Layne struggles to fill that role here as a police detective who was a fan of the Rescue Rangers growing up, with her performance feeling like a distraction. She doesn’t really sell the illusion of acting alongside animated characters, and it comes across as overacting.

The story itself feels a bit basic, and borrows a little too heavily from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (though this might be meant as another in-joke). Still, the screenplay by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand has a lot of funny one-liners and references to the original show and our current reboot-driven culture, with Chip often griping about the prospect of coming back for a reunion. The most inventive aspect of the film is how it blends different animation styles (including a trip through the “uncanny valley”) into a live action world. The film also has fun with its sense of scale, with the chipmunks living in tiny little houses that are built beside bigger ones.

Schaffer’s film is simply chock full of amusing little details and in-jokes. This is the sort of comedy that throws a lot at the wall, and while not all of it lands, a surprising amount of it does stick. Even if the numerous cameos and callbacks occasionally feel like too much, this is all part of the joke; we are living in IP-obsessed times, with many fans simply wanting a barrage of references and appearances from their favourite characters. But it’s self-referential in a way that something like Space Jame: A New Legacy wasn’t. This film delivers a lot of the same “oh look, it’s that character!” fan service, while also poking fun at the concept, sort of like having its cake and eating it too.

If you were somehow worried that Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers wouldn’t have enough of The Lonely Island’s signature style, than you have nothing to worry about, because this is every inch a Lonely Island movie (albeit a family-friendly one). The irreverence is here, but also a genuine love for these characters and their friendship, with the voices of Mulaney and Samberg matching them perfectly. The result is a better than expected (though still by no means perfect) reboot that has a good time poking fun at itself for being one.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers will be available to stream exclusively on Disney+ as of May 20th.

Disney+ Review: The Valet

May 18, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

A well-meaning parking valet in Beverly Hills gets roped into a scheme pretending to be the boyfriend of a famous movie star to hide her affair with a married man in the new romantic comedy The Valet, which serves as a surprisingly charming remake of the 2006 French film La Doublure.

The valet is Antonio (Eugenio Derbez), who lives with his elderly mother (Carmen Salinas) in a cramped apartment, and is still trying to win back the ex-wife (Marisol Nichols) with whom he shares a son (Joshua Vasquez).

The movie star is Olivia Allan (Samara Weaving), whose “feminist” Amelia Earhart biopic is about to premiere, but she is in the midst of having an affair with married real estate tycoon Vincent Royce (Max Greenfield), which threatens to upend the press tour if it gets out.

Enter Antonio, who ends up appearing in the same paparazzi photo as her when she is storming out of Vincent’s hotel room, and he happens to be passing by on his bike. The pictures get out, and Vincent hatches a scheme to hire Antonio to act as Olivia’s boyfriend, so that his wife Kathryn (Betsy Brandt) won’t find out about the affair. Antonio and Olivia both agree to go along with their just for show relationship, but also find themselves starting to enjoy each other’s company.

In adapting Frencis Veber’s original film for American audiences, screenwriters Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg transport the action to the States, and hone in on the specifics of the Hispanic and immigrant communities in California that Antonio inhabits. This cultural specificity is what makes The Valet feel fresh despite its mostly familiar plot (in addition to being a remake, it also has shades of Notting Hill and the more recent Marry Me).

The film sets up a number of subplots, the most heartwarming of which involves the relationship between Antonio’s mother, who only speaks Spanish, and their landlord Mr. Kim (Ji Yong Lee), who only speaks Korean. Neither one understands the other’s language, but have formed a close bond, with their children translating for them. There’s also the amusing and surprisingly sweet “bromance” that starts to form between Stegman (John Pirruccello) and Kapoor (Ravi Patel), a pair of private detectives who are trying to expose Olivia’s “fake” relationship

At two hours, The Valet threatens to feel bloated, but director Richard Wong helps ensure that the film’s somewhat disparate elements come together in mostly satisfying ways. Despite the slight sitcomishness of it at times, Wong also keeps the film feeling mostly grounded, including through a moment of genuine emotion in the last act.

Derbez, who also serves as producer, carries the film with his charming performance as a man who is well-meaning to a fault and learning how to value himself more. Weaving compliments him nicely, and adds depth to her character as she starts to view the superficiality and emptiness of her own life against the less flashy but more loving life that Antonio has with his family.

While it hints at themes involving immigration and the gentrification of the neighbourhood (Vincent is involved in a scheme to buy up and redevelop the local businesses), The Valet doesn’t go that deep and mostly keeps things light, though this isn’t really a fault. It’s predictable, sure, but also surprisingly sweet. The film is simply enjoyable enough and satisfying enough to work, and for a streaming option, that counts for a lot.

The Valet will be available to stream exclusively on Disney+ as of May 20th.

4K Ultra HD Review: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

May 17, 2022

By John Corrado

John Ford’s great 1962 Western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which brought together iconic screen stars John Wayne and James Stewart for the first time, is turning sixty years old this year, and Paramount Home Entertainment is celebrating by releasing the film for the first time on 4K Ultra HD this week.

Stewart stars as Ransom “Rance” Stoddard, a Senator who returns to his old town of Shinbone with wife Hallie (Vera Miles) for the funeral of Tom Doniphon (Wayne). The film mainly unfolds in flashbacks, as Rance recounts the story of his old friend, and the dangerous outlaw known as Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin).

The film was shot on Paramount’s sound stages, as opposed to on-location like Ford’s other big Westerns including The Searchers, and there are arguments over whether the black-and-white cinematography was a cost-cutting decision by the studio or a purely aesthetic choice by the director (it does help patch over the illusion of the actors playing both the older and younger versions of their characters). But these choices add a stripped down sense of intimacy to the film, which is more focused on characters and themes than big shootouts.

Based on a 1953 short story by Dorothy M. Johnson, adapted by screenwriters James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance feels innovative in its narrative structure, telling a story that is about storytelling, myth-making, and how history chooses which heroes to remember (this is brought home by the film’s famous line “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend”). There is a great sense of poignancy to the story, which in some ways serves as a deconstruction of the Western mythos. This poignancy has only grown over the years, and the film has aged like fine wine.

The film, which was Ford’s last movie to be shot in black-and-white, looks exceptional in 4K. The format allows us to really see the textures of the different sets and Edith Head’s Oscar-nominated costumes, and the clarity on faces is striking. It’s an often stunning remaster that offers a wholly satisfying viewing experience, doing justice to the production design and powerful performances of the film’s leads.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

There are no bonus features on the 4K disc, but the set comes with a regular Blu-ray that includes a number of legacy bonuses, along with a new Filmmaker Focus featuring Leonard Maltin. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which ships with a slipcover.

Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (7 minutes, 37 seconds): Maltin offers a nice overview of the film’s history, touching on the careers of Ford and key actors, and noting how this particular picture has grown in stature over the years.

Original Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes, 45 seconds)

Selected scene commentary with intro by Dan Ford along with his archival recordings with John Ford and Lee Marvin:

Stagecoach Holdup (3 minutes, 10 seconds)

Bringing Injured Ransom Back to Town (2 minutes, 10 seconds)

Showdown at Peter’s Place (7 minutes, 14 seconds)

Town Meeting (8 minutes, 17 seconds)

Ransom Shoots Liberty (54 seconds)

Who Really Shot Liberty Valance (1 minute, 31 seconds)

Leaving Shinbone (1 minute, 18 seconds)

The Size of Legends, The Soul of Myth:

Chapter 1: Changing of the Guard (2 minutes, 54 seconds)

Chapter 2: The Irascible Past (4 minutes, 43 seconds)

Chapter 3: The Hero Doesn’t Win, The Winner Isn’t Heroic (10 minutes, 41 seconds)

Chapter 4: Most Things Happen By Accident (13 minutes, 55 seconds)

Chapter 5: The Great Protector (5 minutes, 19 seconds)

Chapter 6: Spotlight – Lee Marvin (8 minutes, 4 seconds)

Chapter 7: Print the Legend (5 minutes, 58 seconds)

Feature Commentary by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, along with his archival recordings with John Ford and James Stewart

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 123 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: May 17th, 2022

4K Ultra HD Review: Beverly Hills Cop II: 35th Anniversary (1987)

May 17, 2022

By John Corrado

In honour of the film’s 35th anniversary this year, Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing the 1987 action comedy sequel Beverly Hills Cop II for the first time on 4K Ultra HD this week.

This follow up to the 1984 smash hit Beverly Hills Cop sees rough and tumble Detroit cop Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) returning to Beverly Hills, and re-teaming with the buddy cop duo Taggart (John Ashton) and Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) to stop an organized crime ring that is committing a series of crimes corresponding to the letters of the alphabet.

While the first one (which received its own 4K upgrade in 2020) remains the better movie, I had forgotten how well this film still holds up. The plot gets a bit muddled at times, and is somewhat of a rehashing of the first one, but Beverly Hills Cop II delivers a series of strong set-pieces, matched by precise editing and another propulsive synth score by Harold Faltermeyer.

Directed by the late Tony Scott (who was hot off the massive success of Top Gun a year earlier), taking over from the original’s Martin Brest, Beverly Hills Cop II is a more purely action-oriented film. This is evident right off the bat from the opening jewellery store heist, with its quick cuts setting the rhythm for the film (the sequel also notably plays out in widescreen at 2.39:1, a marked difference from the first’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio). Though Murphy’s motor-mouthed delivery, and the deadpan supporting roles of Ashton and Reinhold, still ensure that there are laughs throughout (the late, great Gilbert Gottfried also leaves his mark in a brief appearance).

Despite receiving mixed reviews at the time, with many critics comparing it unfavourably to the much better received first film, Beverly Hills Cop II still became one of the highest grossing movies of 1987, and received an Oscar nomination for the song “Shakedown.” It may not quite reach the heights of the first one, but works in its own right as a slick and very entertaining Tony Scott action movie.

The 4K retains a nice filmic look to it, while adding increased definition. The colours pop, including the shine of Axel’s red Ferrari in the opening credits sequence, and there is great clarity in terms of skin tones and texture, especially in close-ups on Taggart and Rosewood’s faces in the car. It’s all around a very fine upgrade, that provides a visually pleasing viewing experience.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The disc includes no bonus features. But a code for a digital copy is included in the package, which ships with a slipcover.

Beverly Hills Cop II: 35th Anniversary is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 102 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: May 17th, 2022

%d bloggers like this: