Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Mary Poppins Returns (Opened Wednesday) – Who would have thought that we’d see a sequel to one of the most iconic Disney films of all time and for a new actress to take on one of the most recognizable characters ever but here it is. The charm is all here as director Rob Marshall has crafted a movie that has exactly the feel of the original, down to atmosphere, sets and set pieces. In all honesty, it may be too close to the 1964 original to forge it’s own identity really but Emily Blunt knocks this performance out of the park, the kids don’t come off as incredibly annoying and Lin Manuel Miranda is totally charming and even rings his own terrible Dick Van Dyke like British accent. And yes, we get a Hamilton rap influenced scene.

Aquaman – We have gotten to the point that we sigh and roll our eyes when it comes to any announcement of a DC universe film, no matter how much we can say that Wonder Woman was a solid piece of it. Now with this movie, we have to battle that popular opinion along with the long-standing stigma that Aquaman is a lame superhero. As a fan of the character, I’m really happy to see that the film is getting pretty favourable reviews, which I believe comes with the allure that actor Jason Momoa brings to the role as well as the creative control director James Wan was granted. Either way, I’m super excited to see this one as is my little one.

Bumblebee – Again, just like the DC comics issue, the Transformer series has gotten to the point of “oh god, why another one” as, since the release of the first live-action film, this franchise has depreciated in value one by one until the point that it feels like Mark Wahlberg is starring alongside the clanging of pots and pans. Luckily this new prequel looks to smooth things over thanks to the mind of Kubo And The Two Strings filmmaker Travis Knight who takes on of the more loveable characters and pairs him with the great talents of Hailee Steinfeld. Lo and behold, this movie is getting some excellent reviews and is removing the spins and tinnitus that Michael Bay has been giving to you for over a decade. As a long-suffering Transformers fan, I am delighted by this news and totally willing to give into my daughter’s demands to see the movie.

Second Act – A movie where we have to take Jennifer Lopez as a downtrodden department store employee, this is the story of a woman who looks for more out of her career then is thrust into the world of big business after a massively embellished resume catapults her to financial stardom. Yeah, this movie is not one I personally would be running out to see but there still exists a large niche that made Maid In Manhattan a hit so I believe there is still room for Jennifer Lopez box office. It is pretty cool to see her real-life best friend Leah Remini starring in this one as, you guessed it, her bestie.

Welcome To Marwen – When I first saw the trailer for this movie I was totally intrigued by this story of a photographer who was brutally assaulted by a group of skinheads and new tells his storys through realistic dolls and created sets that come to life through the magic of the Robert Zemeckis computer animation company Imagemovers. The use of the Foo Fighters song Learning To Fly I thought was a miss play and, through no fault of the song, made me lose interest a bit. Steve Carell, I think, is up to the task of moving past bad marketing and the rest of the cast, including Leslie Mann and Janelle Monae, has enough allure to make me hope for a great film. Plus that CG looks amazing as always.

Ben Is Back – Whoever is managing actor Lucas Hedges career is seriously as gifted as this young star is because he is making all the right moves in Hollywood. Look at his resume and you’ll see. This time around he plays a young man returning home from rehab to his loving mother played by Julia Roberts. His addiction and actions before going away caused a deep rift between mother and son but, wanting to make up for his past, he ends up falling back down the path which almost destroyed him to get final closure. I’m not usually a big Julia Roberts fan but the story of this film has me very interested as well as the always stellar work Hedges brings to his performances.

The Favourite – Director Yorgos Lanthimos returns to astound after The Killing Of A Sacred Deer and The Lobster, this time directing a film that he had no hand in writing at all. The movie has The Crown actress Olivia Colman playing Queen Anne, frail and descending into madness during the 18th century. Her closest friend, played by Rachel Weisz, dotes on her constantly and handles the business portion of her rule but things are put to the test when a new servant arrives in the form of Oscar winner Emma Stone and a jealous battle ensues. This film is absolutely amazing, like a dark comedy version of Stanley Kubrick’s Bary Lyndon, and deserves all the accolades it is getting. All three women are incredible, Colman hopefully will break through to the A-list after the clout from this one. This is my new number one for 2018.

Shoplifters – Acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda returns with another slice of life in Japa but this time from a very different part of the societal ladder. The film follows a group of criminals stealing and grifting to put minimal food in their bellies and, although they’re not really related, together they form a family of sorts. Koreeda once again crafts an incredible mosaic of characters, this time on a path that will never turn out well for any of them. The focus of the film, young Shota, a boy who was discovered as a baby in an abandoned car, moves from childhood innocence to the harsh realities of the world quicker than he should and the result is heartbreaking. The emotional depths this story plums is beautiful and it’s an incredible send-off for actress Kirin Kiki who passed away a few months ago.

Mirai Of The Future – Let’s get this bit of information about me out of the way; aside from a few select films, I am not really an anime fan. I won’t go out of my way to watch them but if it has the awards clout that this one does I will definitely sit down and give it a go. Nominated for a Golden Globe, this film follows four-year-old Kun, a little boy whose world is shaken up when his parents bring home his newborn sister Mirai, causing him to act out in anger especially when he’s feeling the lack of usual focus from mom and dad. Whenever Kun ventures out into the garden he is exposed to a magical world where anything could happen, including his grown-up sister Mirai coming to him and guiding his decisions to shape their family’s path. This movie is impressive with its message, a perfect film to show any child that is about to experience a new addition to their family. At the same time, for me, the film still has many of the things that pull me out of the film, most dealing with the grandioseness in emotions, something indicative of the genre. Even still, I could see around these issues and I think this is one of the 2018 notable movies.

Blu-Ray:

The Predator – This movie makes me incredibly sad because it once again pits the filmmakers again the producers and studio and we all know who comes out on top in that battle. Director and writer Shane Black teams with long missed Monster Squad guy Fred Dekker for a Predator film that feels full of action, gore and references to the original film but is devoid of a real soul, has huge pieces that feel disconnected and obvious blanks in creating a bigger picture. This one screams foul about a vision that was taken away.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls – The one thing that kept throwing me off about this family genre horror film was the simple fact that it came from torture porn guy Eli Roth but, through the producer guidance of Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment, we get a fun gothic style haunted mansion movie with Jack Black being his kooky self and Cate Blanchett chewing the scenery in a delightful performance. This movie totally surprised me and I found myself really liking it almost immediately. Adding Kyle Maclachlan as the villain just makes it all infinitely more awesome.

A Simple Favor – Paul Feig’s follow up to the mulch fanboy maligned Ghostbusters remake, the ad campaign on this film is what really caused the total intrigue as we really had no idea what it was all about. The movie has Anna Kendrick playing a single mom who strikes up a friendship with a socialite mom who has kids at the same school, Blake Lively touching on a bit of that Gossip Girl experience. A little while into their friendship Lively goes missing, throwing Kendrick into a mysterious web of secrets. This has to be one of those sleeper films because when it came out the reviews were good and audiences really took to it. All of this is enough to get me, plus it has Henry Golding who was really great in Crazy Rich Asians.

Assassination Nation – This movie is an insane and hyper-real satire on our social media obsessed world, as a hacker preys on a small town by fabricating rumors, exposing secrets and destroying lives in the small town of Salem. When all the exposure gets to a fever pitch, the town falls into a chaos of violence pitting the four main characters in a battle for their lives. This movie is driven by the performances from these young ladies, Odessa Young, Abra, Suki Waterhouse and Hari Neff, and the quick cut and harsh filters of filmmaker Sam Levinson, son of Academy Award winner Barry, to go with his unflinching and brutal script. This one will only really appeal to a certain niche but it will hit them like a bullet. I loved this one.

Life Itself – Guaranteed to be going for your emotions, This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman moves to the big screen with this new drama starring Oscar Isaac. Continuing with what looks like his trademark style, Fogelman crafts a story of a young couple’s journey to a family as they fall in love, get married and have their first child. Obviously, there is far more to it than that and, while the Tomatometer is dismally low for this movie, the audience rating is very favorable. This means that if you want something to tide you over until the next episode of This Is Us then you have just found it.

Fahrenheit 11/9 – It upsets me that this movie didn’t get as much attention as it should have because it really is Michael Moore at his angriest. The documentary filmmaker looks at the Trump era we are currently living in and gives us a timeline of how the hell we even got here in the first place and everything in between. He covers Parkland, the pushing aside of Bernie Sanders for Hilary Clinton and, for a large portion of the film, goes home to Flint, Michigan where they have been living without clean water for over five years. This documentary will educate, infuriate and push you to look at what you can do and how you can add your voice. This is an important one.

Little Women – No, this isn’t the Greta Gerwig remake of this classic story that I’m waiting for with bated breath but a modern telling of the film starring Lea Thompson in the matriarch role. With this wholesome and pretty well-known story as the basis, you would expect nothing less but a well fleshed out film, especially since we haven’t seen a feature-length telling of this story since the early nineties. Unfortunately, the film falls into the category of underdeveloped direction, one dimensional Hallmark movie level characterizations and a totally weak continuity altogether. Forget this one ever existed folks and wait for the real thing in 2019.

The Jerk – One of the greatest Steve Martin films of all time is forty this year and gets the whole anniversary edition treatment from Shout Factory. For those who don’t know, the movie has Martin playing a bumbling idiot who stumbles from adventure to adventure in St. Louis almost by mistake every time. I adored this film since the moment I saw it and to get this new edition is such a treat. The new update includes a brand new 2K transfer of the film, a conversation with Steve Martin and director Carl Reiner and more. Any fan is going to want this one immediately.

Our Cartoon President: Season 1 – Coming from Stephen Colbert and the writing staff of The Late Show, this animated series brings you into the insanity of the White House at least from a lampooning point of view and, as far as the caricatures of each member of the Trump family and administration goes, is absolutely spot on. The issue comes with the relentlessness of the writing sometimes and the one trick pony nature of digging at one point fruitlessly. With so many little nuggets to dig at within this circus I really expected more from Colbert and company. I have a feeling that Comedy Central’s own version, The President Show, may have the edge plus it was developed and released first.

Howard Lovecraft And The Kingdom Of Madness – This one is a film I’m totally excited to receive for a purely personal reason as one of my best friends is part of the voice cast. The third movie in the trilogy of young Howard Lovecraft, the Necronomicon and all the creatures hidden within with the voices of Christopher Plummer, Mark Hamill, Re-Animator’s Jeffrey Combs and Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard.

Elizabeth Harvest – This one comes from Shout Factory, a movie I had previously never heard of. The plot has Mad Max: Fury Road’s Abby Lee playing a woman newly wed to her scientist husband. Once she moves into his lavish mansion she begins to find out he harbours some well-guarded secrets. Directed by Sebastian Gutierrez, this one leaves me with a bit of trepidation as I’ve never connected with his previous work like Women In Trouble.

In Harm’s Way – Emile Hirsh stars in this film that look’s to be a loose remake of an old John Wayne movie, at least in the basic story. It follows a pilot named Jack Turner who crashes near the Chinese province of Zhejiang during the U.S. retaliation for Pearl Harbor in the 1940s. There, he falls in love with a Chinese widow who risks her life to hide him from government officials. I have to say that I’m really appreciating Hirsh as he matures into a seasoned actor and pairing with two time Palme d’Or winning director Bille August is a great move. Those who are into the sweeping romance drama will take to this one.

Netflix:

Bird Box – This movie looks absolutely fascinating and is getting a massive push from Netflix right now. Starring Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich, this is a post-apocalyptic film reminiscent of A Quiet Place but instead, the main drive of the creature element is through vision making the characters blindfold themselves for survival. This film comes from Suzanne Bier, the director of The Night Manager, and was written by the guy behind Arrival and looks incredibly intense from the trailer. I’m looking forward to digging into this one over the holiday weekend.

3Below: Tales of Arcadia: Season 1 – Master visionary Guillermo del Toro doubles down on his Netflix kids shows by following up Trollhunters with this sci-fi adventures about three aliens trying to assimilate into human life to study and research it. That sounds a lot like the plot of 3rd Rock From The Sun, doesn’t it? I’m really liking the voice cast for this one which includes Netflix mainstay Uzo Aduba, Glenn Close, Nick Frost, Hayley Atwell, Kelsey Grammer and many many more. If Del Toro’s precedence says anything, I expect this one to get picked up for a second season pretty quickly.

Derry Girls: Season 1 – A brand new series out of the United Kingdom centring on four teen girls attending Catholic school in the nineties. Yes, I was sold on this show just from the mere description. The trailer has me wanting to check it out more with the dedication to the time period with great music and the girls getting into issues way over their head. I may be totally biased when it comes to British programming but I also may have stumbled onto a real sleeper hit.

Diablero: Season 1 – Ready for more international television from Netflix? Well, this one comes from Mexico and has a feel that will make Supernatural fans feel right at home. The series follows a demon hunter, a priest and a woman who has the ability to be a vessel for demons as they band together to save the world from invading dark and destructive forces. The show looks incredibly stylish and with Netflix, you know the rules are thrown out the windows. This one could be a lot of fun.

Perfume: Season 1 – This new French series has to be connected to the 2006 Tom Twyker film Perfume: Story Of A Murderer as this is a mystery series about a serial killer who is killing women and distilling them into a perfume. The film takes place in 18th century France, while this series is set in the present day as if the killer was inspired by the murderer all those years ago. I really loved that film so any connection to it really intrigues me and the trailer looks really solid, even if it is lacking that gorgeous style Twyker brought to his feature version.

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