Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

Annihilation – My current favorite film of 2018 is now on Blu-ray! There are so many reasons that this sci-fi film is the must-see film of this year and it all starts at the top with director Alex Garland. Following up his directorial debut Ex Machina with this adaptation of the first novel in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, Garland solidifies himself as one of the best visionaries in science fiction today. The story has a meteor striking the earth causing an atmosphere “shimmer” that expands and starts engulfing large areas which are then classified as “Area X” by the military. Natalie Portman stars in the lead role as the wife of the leader of the first unsuccessful expedition and, really, beyond this synopsis that is as accessible as this film gets. In sort of a beautifully haunted version of “The Thing”, Garland leads us on a journey of discovery in a world we can’t even begin to understand. The most unfortunate thing is the studio and controlling producer didn’t understand it either, making the theatrical release of Annihilation one of the biggest blunders in recent memory. The fact that this film didn’t get a worldwide release is criminal.

The Evil Dead – This week marks thirty-five years since the original Sam Raimi film came out and as someone with a nickname like Stevil Dead, you know what kind of reverence I have for this movie. An absolute gross-out classic and the spark of a cult franchise, this film is fun through and through mostly because you can tell it was made by a group of friends that loved what they were doing. It’s also the launching point for both an iconic character, Ashley ‘Ash’ J. Williams, as well as one of the greatest B movie stars of all time, Bruce Campbell. Sam Raimi would, of course, go on to make many fantastic films in his career as well but producer Rob Tappert, who would produce shows like Xena: Warrior Princess, with his wife Lucy Lawless, and the more recent Spartacus series.

Menace II Society – “I got these cheeseburgers, man.” That’s the first thing I think about when it comes to this gangster classic which turns twenty-five this week. Not only was this the debut film for writing and directing duo of The Hughes Brothers but it was also the first starring role for one of their mainstays, Larenz Tate. Interestingly enough, of all the urban gangster films to come out during this time, Menace had to be the peak as it had many actors cast for authenticity, the set was shot up by the Hacienda Bloods at one point and the original lead, Tupac Shakur, physically attacked Allen Hughes on set before getting fired. This film will be long remembered as one of the best indie films of all time and the beginning of all great and not so great South Central thug movies to come.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space – The insanity of this Chiodo Brothers classic was unleashed on the world thirty years ago this week. The premise of this film is all in the title really but what is unforgettable is the terrifying look of all the creatures, especially my favorite, the King Klown, which was affectionately named Klownzilla on set. I’m amazed to learn that Stephen and Charles Chiodo spent the entire two million dollar budget on production costs and had to foot the creature effects themselves. Even crazier than that the cost was actually pretty small for them and, though not a hit when it was in theaters, the film has since become a cult classic and made revenue in action figures, DVDs, and t-shirts. It makes them sort of break even in the end, right?

Cliffhanger – With my love and adoration for action films of the 80s and 90s, there was no way I was missing out on talking about this Sly Stallone classic, especially with John Lithgow as the main villain. Released twenty-five years ago this week, this film is one of the best of director Renny Harlin’s career and features the costliest aerial stunt of the time, forcing Stallone to scale back his salary as the price tag was over a million dollars. This film may not age like a fine wine but it is still the exhibitor of the action tropes I grew up on and loved. The only thing that would have been better is if the originally cast Christopher Walken had made an appearance but WITH Lithgow as well. I ask for too much, I know.

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