Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Shazam! – The DC Universe looks to continue on their upswing with a movie that I know I have been waiting for. The story follows an orphan named Billy Batson who is entrusted with the powers of the wizard Shazam. What does this mean? Well, once the word “Shazam” is said he turns into a grown-up superhero. Warner trusted this to be in the hands of horror filmmaker David Sandberg who saw success with the films Lights Out and Annabelle Creation and with star Zachary Levi in the driver’s seat I am hoping for big things from this movie and so far from advance reviews, we are in for a treat.

Pet Sematary – One of the staple Stephen King novels gets its turn at the remake treatment and the advance word on it is that it is actually terrifying. No, this isn’t just the buzz word to get your butt in a seat, it’s an actual factual from reviewer friends of mine that saw it at South By Southwest. The movie is the story of a family that moves to rural Maine and discover an old burial ground in the woods behind their house that’s soil can reanimate the dead. I was always a fan of the original and, of course, the book so I’m just salivating for this movie.

Sunset – Almost four years ago Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes made a film that will sit in my top movies of the last twenty years, the Soterkommando Holocaust story Son Of Saul, a stunning piece of cinema. Now he returns with this per World War I drama following a woman hoping to get a position at a legendary hat store in Budapest as a milliner but it also leads to her discovering dark secrets about her family’s past. The film is always hovering on the lead played by Juli Jakab, never leaving her side but cinematographer Matyas Erdely differs from his close shoulder squared approach in Saul and allows the distance to breathe which works well in this drama that often feels like a taut thriller. (Only opening in Vancouver)

Acquainted – On first glance at this film you might pass over it without a thought. It has no notable stars, it’s a small contained little drama about two passing ships in the night and, seemingly the biggest deterrent for mainstream audiences, it’s Canadian which is the kiss of death. Underlying, this film is able to cut through those pitfalls to give a two character back and forth in a consistent changing dynamic but only if you’re patient enough to get through it. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Carmine Street Guitars – A new documentary that screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival last year and plays the Hot Docs festival this year, this film is a story told over five days at the legendary Greenwich Village guitar store Carmine Street Guitars, an establishment that has seen customers like Bob Dylan, Lou Reed and Patti Smith. The movie isn’t one with that broad of an appeal but those who have music ingrained in their soul and love the history of New York will definitely pick up on this film, which breezes by at less than an hour and a half. Those who don’t will find it a bit of a slog but I’m on the in-between of that and found it enjoyable. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver. Opens in Hamilton on April 16)

3 Faces – One of the most important international filmmakers of today, Iranian director Jafar Panahi’s evolution has been fascinating. I learned of his work with his comedy-drama Offside but with his last film Taxi and this one he has interjected himself into a documentary narrative like no other, surrounding himself with his subject. In this film, he employs three actresses of three very separate generations as they travel to the west of Iran. The takeaway from Panahi’s films is how thoughtfully observational they are and this one may be his most yet. (Only opening in Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

At Eternity’s Gate – Willem Dafoe plays Vincent Van Gogh. That leading sentence should get any film fan into a theatre seat. Adding to that, this is the latest film by Julian Schnabel, the director of The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, my favorite French film possibly of all time. This film follows the period of time that the famously tortured artist lived in Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise, France, his relationship with his brother Theo and his colleague Paul Gauguin, played by the great Oscar Isaac. We also get Van Gogh looking for solace with a priest played by Mads Mikkelsen. Yeah, this one is stacked, and the film, although rather inaccessible to a casual view, has some astonishing beauty to it, mimicking Van Gogh’s own work but incorporating Schnabel’s on the go and always moving and close up approach in style. An astounding film.

Vice – Let me start this one out by saying it’s a simple fact Christian Bale literally turns into another human being altogether, beyond simple acting. His portrayal of Dick Cheney is so chameleon-like that it’s hard to believe this is a scripted film. Don’t let my praise of Bale’s work sell anyone else short as the entire cast is brilliant in their respective roles, the finest ensemble of 2018, each picking up on subtle nuances. Written and directed by Adam McKay, the anger and frustration of nearly twenty years of political exhaustion is felt in every frame of this movie and it is glorious. The narrative chances this movie takes pay off in every way and makes this your must-see movie to end the year.

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 actually awesome and removes 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 movie and have finally a restored feeling of pride when I talk about the franchise. Imagine that.

The Mule – Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this film about a ninety-year-old war vet who has an insanely dangerous way to make money: trafficking cocaine for a Mexican cartel. The trailer looks intense and nerve-racking with Bradley Cooper and Laurence Fishburne playing the DEA agents looking for the prominent mule in the area, putting Eastwood’s character in a precarious balance between the law and the brutal enforcers that the cartel employs. Oddly enough, Warner didn’t ship this one around for award season and didn’t even prescreen it which is never a good sign. From what I hear, this movie moves between being a drama and a comedy, although I don’t think it was intended to be funny.

A Silent Voice – More anime arrived on my doorstep this week and this actually came from the same creator as the last one I reviewed, Liz And The Blue Bird. This film is about a young man who finds himself a pariah at his school after bullying a deaf girl. Years afterward, he seeks to right his wrongs and must seek out the girl, now a woman, for his path to redemption. Again, the reviews are solid for this and it looks gorgeous but there is some sort of disconnect that I’m having a hard time getting around and the melodrama is so heightened that it is so hard to get past.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Phantom Lady – I’ve got more film noir this week to geek out on with this mystery about a secretary that risks life and limb to locate a woman who may be a key witness that could exonerate her boss in the murder charges against him. The film was made in 1945 and was the subject of some infighting with the writers over screen credits, on that would lead to a $20,000 lawsuit, big money at the time.

The Prisoner – Moving up ten years to 1955, this drama features a megastar at the top of the cast, the legendary Sir Alec Guinness. He plays a Cardinal that is on trial for treason against the Church but has the backing of his people being a hero after World War II, protecting many against the Nazis. The movie comes from the same filmmaker who directed Peter O’Toole in Beckett and was actually banned from screening at the Venice and Cannes Film Festival due to its subject matter but it wasn’t enough to ban it in the UK where it was nominated for five BAFTA awards.

211 – You best believe that if I get sent a Nicolas Cage movie, no matter how bad it is, I will bring it for a geek out because good, bad or downright terrible, damn, he is entertaining. In this film, he plays a police officer in the final days of his career that, along with his partner and a ride along, gets caught in the middle of a violent standoff with a group of dangerous mercenaries robbing a bank. Is this movie good? Well, Cage is the only recognizable actor in it, it was filmed in Bulgaria and in the ending credits the words “vice principal” is misspelled, so, no. Is it entertaining? Hell yes, it is and Nic broke his ankle for this film so you respect him like he was Tom goddamn Cruise.

Netflix:

Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina: Part 2 – This hit Vancouver shot series returns for the second half of its debut season, hopeful to anger the Church of Satan again like it did last year. Kiernan Shipka is perfectly cast as Sabrina and I absolutely adore Lucy Davis as Aunt Hilda, which shows you that not just the name of Sabrina keeps this show in the popularity ranks but talent, good cast chemistry and the writing of showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa does.

Our Planet: Season 1 – If you loved Planet Earth and Blue Planet the Netflix is giving you a big old hug with this brand new documentary series and, yes, Sir David Attenborough is the narrator so all your comfort pieces are in line. Eight episodes make up this new limited series including frozen worlds, jungles, coastal seas and forests and as a fan of everything Attenborough puts his lovely voice behind I am so excited to watch every minute of this and so is my family.

Persona Collection – Some high concept international cinema arrives on Netflix with this South Korean project that has four directors employing the same lead actress in four very different short films that range from comedy to romance to mystery and sometimes all three. As a fan of pretty much everything that comes out of that country film related, I’m really intrigued to see how this will all shake out. Definitely not for everyone.

Roman Empire Caligula: The Mad Emperor – I honestly had no idea this series ever existed, a hybrid of historical documentary and re-enactment, this being the third iteration of it. The focus is one of the most screwed up parts of the Roman Empire history, Caligula, and, to be honest, all I know about this figure is the knowledge I got from the Malcolm McDowell movie from the seventies that was written by Gore Vidal and produced, famously, by Penthouse. I’m sure this one will have more substance to it.

Unicorn Store – Brie Larson makes her directing debut and stars in the film alongside Samuel L. Jackson, her third time doing so after Kong: Skull Island and Captain Marvel. The story is about an artist who has given up her dream and now works a menial office job. Everything changes for her when she is given an invitation from a mysterious salesman to come to “the store” which offers her a chance to purchase her childhood dream, a real unicorn. This movie looks whimsical, strange but also filled with a beautiful childlike heart. I’m hooked on its trailer but I’m also intrigued that it comes from one of the writer’s of Wyatt Cenac’s show People Of Earth.

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