Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (Only opening in Vancouver) – The epic trilogy of Hiccup and toothless comes to an end with this film. After discovering each other in the first film and bonding the relationship of dragons and Vikings in the first movie, leading Hiccup to the role of leadership in the second one, this movie brings it all home with Toothless finding that he is not the last of his kind and there is a subterranean world of dragons for him to join. These movies are done beautifully and in feature length, have not depreciated in how entertaining, endearing and full of love they are. I expect this one to close out the trilogy on a fantastic note.

Fighting With My Family – Being an absolutely massive wrestling fan it feels like I’ve been waiting for this film since last Wrestlemania in April because, well, I have since that’s when we got our first trailer. This is the story of Paige, the youngest women’s champion ever in WWE and the daughter of Nick and Saraya Knight a kickass wrestling family out of the UK. When Paige and her brother Zak are offered tryouts for the top company in the world, WWE, they are put to the test in a make or break competition against the others selected. I am excited to see that the reviews for this one are actually pretty damn good.

Never Look Away – It’s been almost nine years since Best Foreign Academy Award-winning director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck made his English language debut with the cringeworthy but somehow Golden Globe-nominated The Tourist, a movie that left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Now he’s back in his native Germany for this true story melodrama about an artist whose past was marred by Hitler’s Germany when his sister was condemned to death for being diagnosed with Schizophrenia. The biggest problem with this movie is the bloated runtime of three hours and ten minutes which makes pacing a serious issue. The acting is great and there are many very special scenes and cinematic moments but due to the monstrous length of the story, I felt my connection to characters was a bit fleeting.

Everybody Knows – Real life couple Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz star in this brand new film from acclaimed director Asghar Farhadi, his much anticipated follow up to the Oscar-winning film The Salesman. The film follows Cruz as the mother of two from Buenos Aires who head back to her small hometown outside of Madrid for the wedding of her sister. Through a series of unfortunate events, all of her past secrets and motivations for leaving are thrust into public light. For those who don’t know, Farhadi is a director of serious momentum, making masterpiece after masterpiece, and it seems like this is his first stumble as the word is that no matter how good acting and directing holds in this film, it just doesn’t add up to a satisfying experience.

Blu-Ray:

A Star Is Born – A musician helps a young singer and actress find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral in this third remake. This is an excellent movie, punctuated by brilliant performances from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga with great music that will get caught in your head plus pacing and direction that keeps you engrossed, also by Cooper with the eye of master cinematographer Matthew Libatique. There’s such a pent up soul running throughout this film and feel it does real justice to the story, even if it’s one we’ve seen three times before. This may be a bit crazy for some but I think that this might be my favorite.

Overlord – The story of two American soldiers behind enemy lines on D Day. From producer J.J. Abrams, this movie was originally going to be released as a Cloverfield movie but now we get this badass looking action horror that has style and some cool gore special effects, all with an edge to it that will have old computer gamers like me thinking of Wolfenstein for the PC. Another great selling point is the film stars Wyatt Russell, channelling a bit of McCready for his character. Definitely a fun and bloody ride.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? – When Lee Israel falls out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception. An adaptation of the memoir Can You Ever Forgive Me? the true story of best-selling celebrity biographer Lee Israel, Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant deliver brilliant performances in this dark dramedy about two pretty damaged individuals who found friendship with each other by doing the bad deeds of duping literary collectors. Both actors are well deserving of their award accolades and nominations and for McCarthy it puts her into a whole new echelon of dramatic work that she obviously has more than enough talent for. I also have to mention that director Marielle Heller followed up Diary Of A Teenage Girl with another stellar outing, this time using a script from another great writer, Nicole Holofcener.

Robin Hood – This movie got savaged in reviews. Seriously, just look one up. Another adaptation of Robin Hood we didn’t need with Taron Egerton, unfortunately, falling victim to a bad movie because, honestly, I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything he’s been in, Jamie Foxx’s Little John is, at one point, sporting Air Jordans from what friends tell me which should tell you all you need to know about this retread that I only want to be entertaining given the cast involved but I’m sure to be disappointed.

Iceman: The Time Traveler – If you have a martial arts film and it stars Donnie Yen then you bet I’m interested in watching it, even if I haven’t seen the first one in the series as is the case with this one. This movie is cornball as it gets when it comes to its story and as far as production value goes it seems to range from high budget in the set department to laughably low when it comes down to simple computer effects. I also had a hard time gauging what audience it was being aimed at as it feels goofy and lackadaisical at times the pretty violent and a bit bloody at other times.

The Mermaid: Lake Of The Dead – This movie is definitely not The Little Mermaid but more of an evil mermaid who tries to lure a man into her dark underwater kingdom. A film from Russia that was picked up by Shout Factory, this one predicates itself on the jumps scares entirely which is a sort of pet peeve of mine along with really bad dubbing, another shortcoming of this movie. The sad thing is the film isn’t necessarily a bad film from a horror film stance but the issue is that it feels restrained from really going off the rails in any degree which damages it wholly.

F.W. Murnau’s The Haunted Castle & Finances Of The Grand Duke – My first review copies from the company Kino Lorber, these are now the oldest films in my collection as the movies were made in 1921 and 1924 respectively. The Haunted Castle is a murder mystery about a group of aristocrats waiting to confront a rich Baron about the death of his brother. The second film is a comedy about a financially failing Duke who is looking for big ways to refill his bank account. Both of these films come from German director F.W. Murnau, most famous for his film Nosferatu.

Steve’s Blu-ray Geek Out:

Screamers – Based on a Philip K. Dick story, I vividly remember the trailers for this Peter Weller sci-fi horror film and now Shout Factory has picked it up for a new special edition. The story follows a group of soldiers who are in the midst of negotiating the end of an intergalactic war when they discover that the robots that they had designed to destroy the enemy have gone rogue, trying to eradicate both sides. This is an interesting commentary on drone warfare way ahead of its time. The reviews at the time weren’t great but it really is just a fun and vapid film that has a lot of action and violence.

Suburbia – This is the true debut film of Wayne’s World director Penelope Spheeris, an angry punk commentary on the society of the time, based off of the “Decline Of Western Civilization”. Shout Factory put together this great anniversary edition of a movie that pushed boundaries in its inception, creation and release but has been sadly forgotten since. Something really cool is you can see the Red Hot Chili Peppers bass player Flea in this one, credited as Mike B. The Flea, long before the California band hit mainstream status. Spheeris credits this as “a time when I was a good filmmaker before I sold out”, a quote included in the commentary on the Blu-ray.

Gosford Park – One of the masters of ensemble dramas the late Robert Altman crafted an incredible film with this story about the separation of class between aristocrats and servants when murder strikes a dinner party in 1932 England. An Academy Award winner for Best Original Screenplay, this was the jumping point for writer Julian Fellows to craft Downton Abbey, the massively popular BBC series that gets a feature film later this year. Arrow Releasing nails this special edition, providing a 2K transfers, separate commentaries with Altman, Fellows and historians and brand new never before seen interviews and Q&As.

Netflix:

Paddleton – This one looks like a great little indie darling about two quirky neighbors that form a shaky relationship when one of them is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Starring Mark Duplass and Ray Romano, the film has been getting some solid reviews based on the chemistry between the two stars and the emotional wallop it contains. One of the leading hits for this week I think.

Paris Is Us – I am definitely always in for some experimental French cinema and that is exactly what this looks like. The story is almost Final Destination-like as it is about a woman who skips a flight to Barcelona that ends up crashing, killing everyone aboard. Her existence afterwards seems to become ethereal in the notional that she narrowly avoided death. The trailer for it is pretty hypnotic.

Suburra: Season 2 – Delving into the international series side of Netflix, this is a mafia story in the motherland of Italy, a young and brutal Sons Of Anarchy filtered iteration of the genre series. Entering its second season, there are now a total of twenty episodes of this heightened gangster saga and, so far, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve seen. It was also created by Michele Placido, the director of a killer little Italian film from almost fifteen years ago called Romanzo Criminale.

Gomorrah: Season 2 – It’s really a week for international Mafia shows as this series makes it’s Netflix return for another season for another twelve episodes with a third that just finished airing and a fourth premiering at the end of next month on Sundance TV. Like Suburra, this is another violent gang saga, this time following a bloody battle for power as the main character Ciro strives for control of his crime syndicate.

The Drug King – I seem to be playing up a theme right now but his film comes from a different country this time, South Korea, so it also puts it right into my wheelhouse of foreign favorites. The story follows a drug smuggler creating his empire in 1970s Busan and looks deliciously stylish and something I can not wait to start watching.

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