Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Happy Death Day 2U (Opened Wednesday) – The fact this sequel exists kind of infuriates me as I absolutely hated the first movie. In sort of a Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls story, the movie was about Tree, a girl that relives her birthday over and over, the day always ends with her murder at the hands of a figure in a baby mask. The new film returns to that trope but looks to be bigger and badder, roping her friends into the equation. A Lot of my friends loved this first film so maybe I’m missing something?

Isn’t It Romantic – Rebel Wilson is now in the lead role after playing supporting roles in the Pitch Perfect franchise and the middling hit How To Be Single. This film takes a little of that It’s A Wonderful Life approach but genre specific as Wilson plays a woman disillusioned with the dating life and wakes up in a corny rom-com. Co-starring Liam Hemsworth and Priyanka Chopra, this movie doesn’t have a lot of potential in my opinion, either being mildly chuckle-worthy or absolutely awful and cringe infused. This could be this year’s I Feel Pretty and yes, I’m setting the bar low.

Alita: Battle Angel – This movie has had a long and arduous journey from the pages of manga to the big screen. James Cameron bought the property over fifteen years ago before the Avatar films had taken hold of his creative mind. Delayed due to the development and production of that movie, Alita didn’t really begin it’s development process until Robert Rodriguez was hired to direct in 2016 and after another release delay, as it was supposed to come out in July last year. Now it is here and has some middling reviews. It tries hard to build a universe to make more films from, which may deter some viewers, but those who love good sci-fi will be all over this one. I am hyped.

Arctic – An absolutely harrowing survival drama, this entire film rests on star Mads Mikkelsen’s shoulders as he is pretty much the only actor in it. He plays a man that crashed his airplane in the middle of the frozen arctic. Stranded for weeks, he musters up the courage to try and make his way across the brutal landscape for rescue. The tension of this movie as he moves from one life-threatening situation to the next keeps you wound up from the start with great direction and beautiful cinematography. This is one of those atmospheric adventure films that will play great on the big screen. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver. Expands to more theaters next week)

Blu-ray:

Bohemian Rhapsody – A chronicle of the years leading up to Queen’s legendary appearance at the Live Aid (1985) concert. This is the movie that fans have been waiting for but it does kind of run through things in a sort of greatest hits of the band’s career. Rami Malek is a total force in the film and no matter how many issues I have with hearing Freddie Mercury’s voice come out of anyone other than himself, he does deserve the acclaim and awards he’s receiving for the role. I don’t believe that this is a best picture worthy film at all those, there are so many that could occupy that spot and the fact that it already took the Golden Globe and is an Oscar frontrunner is a bit baffling. The cool thing about the Blu-ray is that Live Aid performance I mentioned at the top of this is included in its entirety on the special features.

The Front Runner – American Senator Gary Hart’s presidential campaign in 1988 is derailed when he’s caught in a scandalous love affair. Coming from director Jason Reitman about a really hopeful political figure who was smeared into failure, I thought this might get a lot of attention for lead star Hugh Jackman but it really just fizzled during awards season. I think this story is an interesting one to look at in the current political climate and I really like Jackman and Reitman individually so I’m intrigued by what they could do as a team.

Nobody’s Fool – A woman is released from prison and reunites with her sister. She soon discovers that her sister is in an online relationship with a man who may not be what he seems. This doesn’t look like a Tyler Perry movie or feel like one but it is in a weird almost gross-out comedy at times, the most “mature” humor I think he has ever been in his career. The driving force and saving grace is Tiffany Haddish, spreading her wings in the quasi-lead role getting the lion’s share of the focus the majority of the movie. This is until a large part of the third act doesn’t even seem to feature her, really only fleetingly. This movie also feels largely overstuffed with one contrived plot point after another. At least I got a handful of laughs along the way.

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.

Band Vs Brand – For as long as I can remember in music the longevity of a musician or bands career is hinged on the quality and push of their brand, something more important than the actual music itself it seems. This documentary, through the participation of a few members of the rock and heavy metal scene of the 80s and 90s like Dave Lombardo of Slayer and Dave Ellefson of Megadeth, help break these components down in lay man’s terms. What are the royalties like, the continuations of bands after members have died and dealing with the family’s estates? What kind of permissions are given with tribute bands and, an interesting one with me, what is the deal with hologram performances? The thing going against this documentary is the low quality of production but the content is all there and it’s informative for sure.

Steve’s Blu-ray Geek Out:

10 To Midnight – As an old action movie fan I’m so excited to own my first Charles Bronson movie and what better one than a film with him racking down a deranged serial killer. Shout Factory debuts it’s collector’s edition of a classic but horribly reviewed, Roger Ebert giving it a zero, the actioner with the Death Wish star comes from the esteemed director of Cannon’s King Solomon’s Mine if you can remember that special little movie. It’s so weird to think that Bronson had plastic surgery to look younger for this movie.

Cobra – Speaking of my childhood obsession with action films, this one was without a doubt a top ten favorite growing up. Sylvester Stone stars as Marion Cobretti also known as Cobra, a no-nonsense cop with a cool truck and even cooler weaponry (it had lasers!) who finds himself up against a cult of bloodthirsty serial killers carving up his city as he tries to protect the star witness. This comes from Rambo: First Blood Part 2 and Tombstone director George P. Cosmatos, the father of the man who gave us Mandy, Panos Cosmatos. I can only say that when this one crossed my doorstep I felt a sense of happiness that is too nerdy to describe. I also own the DVD.

De Niro & De Palma: The Early Films – Arrow releasing might become my new favorite distributor with Shout Factory as they are obtaining properties that are massively intriguing to a film buff like myself. This is a brilliant coupling with last years documentary De Palma, a retrospective look at the great filmmaker’s career, but the film starts with a look a the college films he did with his friend and lead actor Robert De Niro, Now, through this release, we get a look at those films, The Wedding Party, Greetings and Hi Mom!, the movies that put both of these future legends on their path.

Netflix:

Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy – A brand new documentary series, this follows Borat and Bruno director Larry Charles as he seeks out comedy in war-torn countries, bad neighbourhoods and with those who have gone through incredible strife. The show looks pretty intriguing with it’s quest to find the funny in the most unusual of situations. I really like that Netflix picks up such a diverse selection of docu-series.

The Breaker Upperers – A brand new movie from New Zealand comedy duo Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek, this is also produced by What We Do In The Shadows own Taika Waititi which already has me watching this immediately. The story has a couple of friends who run a business of brutally breaking up with people for their clients. The trailer is really funny and shows that snappy and awkwardly quirky dialogue that I come to expect from the Kiwis. I’m a huge fan of their film and television.

The Departed – Get out your deep Boston accent as this brilliant adaption form Marty Scorcese of a fantastic Hong Kong crime action thriller. Winner of the best picture, director, screenplay and editing at the 2007 Academy Awards, this movie is a beautifully intricate story of two different undercover informants in the FBI and Boston mob, the later led by Jack Nicholson, playing a character based on Whitey Bulger. If you haven’t seen this movie it is a must, the film I think responsible for the next needed push in Leonardo DiCaprio’s career. I haven’t seen it in years so I will definitely rewatch it.

The Town – Keep that Massachusetts way of speaking locked in because those great people at Netflix added this heist film, one of those rare movies that make that genre mark like Michael Mann’s Heat. Ben Affleck wrote, directed and starred in when I am pretty sure is the crowning achievement in his career. I’ve watched this one many times and it’s great with each and every time.

The Umbrella Academy: Season 1 – This brand new Netflix original is based on the comic series from My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way and is sort of like if Addams Family crossed Charles Xavier’s School For The Gifted from X-Men had a fifteen-year reunion. Starring a very cool cast of Ellen Page, Misfits’ Robert Sheehan, Colm Feore and even Mary J. Blige. Yeah, I’m really excited for this one, Just check out the trailer and you see the fun I’m talking about.

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