Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Hellboy – I must start this off with the heartbreaking reminder that we will never see the final piece of the Guillermo del Toro directed and written Hellboy series with Ron Perlman in the role he played so beautifully. That said, this reboot from the looks of it turned out way better than I could have ever imagined and David Harbour from Stranger Things seems to be the perfect person to take over this fan favorite comic book role. It also doesn’t hurt that Neil Marshall, the guy who made the killer films Dog Soldiers, The Descent and Centurion as well as some of the pivotal Game Of Thornes episodes helmed this movie. I am really amped for this one so I hope it doesn’t let me down.

Missing Link – I’ve been waiting for Laika Animation Studios to follow up their brilliant and resoundingly beautiful film Kubo And The Two Strings and now it is here. Zack Galifianakis voices the titular character, also known as Mr. Link, a legendary creature who lives in the Pacific Northwest, one that might also be called a Sasquatch or Bigfoot. An investigator named Mr. Lionel Frost, with the voice of Hugh Jackman looks to bring Mr. Link and his story to the masses in this film that looks charming, hilarious and brimming with pure heart. This isn’t one you’ll want to sleep on.

After – What can I say, teen romances and my viewing experiences are sometimes like oil and water, it just doesn’t mix. Every now and then though, something can breakthrough with enough originality behind it to change my mind. So, let’s look at this one, about a young woman who falls for the dark new stranger that crosses her path, which deviates her direction from marrying her high school sweetheart and living her pre-planned life. Yeah, there’s not enough originality to hold me here, an adaptation from a novel that seems to put a lot of these stories out. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops or Oshawa).

Little – With last weeks DC Universe movie Shazam! we got a superhero version of the Tom Hanks comedy Big, complete with a little homage involving a giant piano and this week we get the reverse of that movie. The film stars the massively popular star of Insecure Issa Rae and Regina Hall about a ruthless executive who is transformed into her younger self to teach her a lesson about her attitude and how she treats people. I don’t expect a hell of a lot from this movie but I will afford it some higher praise than last month’s What Men Want although the director of this film Tina Gordon actually wrote that movie as well.

The Best Of Enemies – On the outside, this film looks really interesting as it stars Golden Globe winner Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell as civil rights activist Ann Atwater and Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan C.P Ellis respectively about the showdown between the two in Durham, North Carolina over school integration in 1972. The film comes from a first-time filmmaker and should excel by the sheer power of the leads alone but it just kind of fizzles I think. This may be due to the fact that, although this is a true story, the take on it and the treatment of that reality seems so far off of anything that is easy to swallow. It just feels whitewashed, wrong and forcing us to feel any sort of redemption for Ellis is, at its core, completely ridiculous. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver).

Amazing Grace – Sadly, we lost the legendary and bigger than life singer Aretha Franklin just last August at the age of seventy-six so it was inevitable that we would get a documentary about her life and we do get a little glimpse of that here. Focusing on her performance with the choir at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles at the beginning of 1972, we follow Aretha at the top of her game, a thrilling time for any of her fans. The movie is being called one of the greatest concert documentaries ever and you’d have to think that the film has been in development for a long time as one of the co-directors, Sydney Pollack, passed away in 2008. Well, in reality, Pollock was the guy who shot the whole thing in ’72, passing it off in 2007 when he became too sick to continue this film’s crusade to the finish line. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver).

Mary Magdalene – Lion director Garth Davis takes on another ambitious project with this film following the story of Jesus Christ but from the perspective of one of the closest to him, Mary Magdelene. Rooney Mara takes the lead role with Joaquin Phoenix playing the “lord and saviour” but as much as the film breaks the mould of faith-based movies and showing some filmmaking guts I couldn’t really get engaged with this one and felt bored for the most part. Both actors usually impart such a deeply gratifying charisma that just seems to be lost in the void in a story that feels too long and sparse to be called a good film. It’s sad because Joaquin was on such a roll. (Only opening in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver).

Stockholm – You know what, if you put Ethan Hawke in any movie you know I’m going to give it a chance immediately because he just makes great cinematic choices and this one is such an interesting one. Based on a true story that is absolutely crazy, the plot follows a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden in 1973, that had the hostages of the historic incident siding with the robbers, something that was famously documented as “Stockholm Syndrome”. Alongside Hawke is the great talent of Sweden’s own Noomi Repace and the always great Mark Strong and the feel from the trailer is so intriguing< I can’t help but be fascinated with this, Ethan Hawke aside. (Only opening in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver).

Mia And The White Lion – A film straight out of South Africa, an element you are fully aware of the moment the first character speaks, this film looks like a lovely family story from the outside. It follows Mia, a transplant from London who is not adjusting well to her new farm life, her school or the kids around her. She reluctantly starts to warm up to her new direction when a white lion cub named Charlie arrives at the farm. As Charlie grows, so does Mia’s affection and friendship with him and she begins to acclimate to her surroundings. When Charlie gets to be a dangerous size and age, the friendship with his human best friend is frayed by the protection of her parents. This film takes some dark turns that may be very tough for younger kids to follow, digging into themes of death and animal poaching but the movie is actually pretty enjoyable although the acting isn’t great. Above all that though, this lion is the greatest animal actor I have ever seen, no joke.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote – After a long twenty-five years of trying to get his white whale, a Don Quixote movie made, one version of it documented in the tragically hilarious documentary Lost In La Mancha, his vision has finally arrived for us. The movie has Adam Driver as an entitled commercial director who returns to the Spanish village he shot a low budget Don Quixote film in only to find his lead star still living the role. As he joins him for an insane adventure, he begins to feel the connection to the land, the story and the life of Quixote that he had long forgotten. I think the biggest problem with the movie is that it comes after a decade and a half of anticipation and its never going to be exactly what you wanted. IT feels disjointed and haphazard at times with erratic cuts and seemingly odd plot holes but it exudes Gilliam’s charm and originality as a filmmaker and for that reason alone I celebrate this achievement. He finally did it and I’m proud of him. (Only opening in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Barrie).

Blu-Ray:

Holmes & Watson – For a long time we comedy fans have been waiting for a follow up to Stepbrothers or Talladega Nights just to get Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly on screen again as some of our favorite characters. So instead we get them playing versions of the greatest detectives of all time Sherlock Holmes and John Watson? Yes, it’s quite confusing to me as well as I don’t think anyone really wanted a more absurd and slapstick version of Without A Clue but here we are. I want to have even the slightest hope for this movie but the trailer is just god awful, I don’t even think I cracked a smile, and the move cleaned house at an award show but it was the Razzies so that is a kiss of death. I’m so disappointed.

A Dog’s Way Home – Anytime I see a new dog related movie I feel a little bit worried that I’m going to step in a big old pile of canine crap because it’s really hard to get one of these stories that work without sickening amounts of sappiness, bad acting and animal frolicking B roll. This may just mean I’m still angry since Ken Marino’s Dog Days. Anyways, this film doesn’t look any better than the Dennis Quaid movie A Dog’s Purpose, a film that was so bland but still gets a sequel that is currently filming. I guess there’s a market for this but don’t watch the trailer because it is essentially the entire film condensed.

On The Basis Of Sex – The Oscar-bait movie was definitely the intention with this one, following Ruth Bader Ginsberg and her struggle against her own peer equality to fight for equal rights culminating in her first fight in the Supreme Court. This film is punctuated by great performances from Felicity Jones as RBG and Armie Hammer as her husband Martin but it feels like the script and the direction where what kept this one from connecting with me. The Hollywood gloss was felt over and over, giving it a whimsical and very formulaic feeling. I may be on the minority thumbs down side of this but I just wanted more, especially after the stellar RBG documentary last year.

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 stories 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 mistake and, through no fault of the song, made me lose interest a bit. Steve Carell, I think, is the draw of moving past bad marketing and the rest of the cast, including Leslie Mann and Janelle Monae, has enough allure to make this an entertaining film, plus that CG looks amazing as always. Although, if you have seen the documentary the film is based on you may wonder why some of the more dramatic pieces are delivered in a more Hollywood glossy and overly melodramatic way, devoid of the emotional weight they deserve.

Mirai – 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 and an Oscar, 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.

We Die Young – As a kid, I was a huge action movie fan and that included the top guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and the muscles from Brussels, Jean Claude Van Damme. Some of this past fandom still takes hold as I will find myself still gravitation towards these films even though Van Damme has gone to direct to video route through a large part of the last twenty years. This one is no different as he plays an Aghan war veteran who returns home to Washington, D.C. and finds himself mentoring a teen and his young brother who are headed down a dangerous path to gang life. Look, the movie isn’t going to wow a lot of people but it is the rare opportunity for Van Damme to flex more than just muscles and try on a role that calls for a deeper pool of emotion. I’m still intrigued.

The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires – You’ve got to love Shout Factory for giving exposure to forgotten films of the past, whether its B grade horror movies, 90s slashers, steamy erotic thrillers and martial arts gems but this one has a great twist. In a combination of genres, Peter Cushing stars as Professor Van Helsing, professional vampire hunter, who teams with seven kung fu trained brothers to reclaim their small village from an ancient vampiric evil that has taken over. Sadly, the movie almost featured a prominent role for Cushing’s usual adversary Dracula played by Christopher Lee but he turned down the role leaving John Forbes-Robertson to do it. This is also Cushing’s last time playing Professor Lawrence Van Helsing.

Ray Donovan: Season 6 – One of the coolest men on television, Liev Schreiber, is back for another season of his hit Showtime series and, admittedly, being so embroiled in watching all the movies I can, this show slipped by me. The story follows Ray, a professional “fixer” who is employed by the who’s who of Los Angeles in secret. The problem is his own family, played by Eddie Marsan, Dash Mihok and the legendary Jon Voight, create even more problems than he can deal with given his extra workload. The new season is solid and has Ray trying to repair his life in New York City after a massive fall from grace, both physically and professionally. The addition of Susan Sarandon to the cast is also a great selling feature.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

The Legally Blonde Collection – Look, this series is definitely not my thing. I avoided watching it since they were released, as I did with a lot of Reese Witherspoon’s back catalogue, but with a new film on the horizon, a musical the just debuted and this brand new Shout Factory box set now on my shelf, I really had no choice but to give in and give them a watch and, you know what? They are actually really entertaining movies. Elle Woods is blonde, yes, but it’s all arbitrary as her character is methodical, driven and a fantastic role model for any girls watching. I would feel happy to let my own daughter watch this when she gets older because to be like Elle is to be focused in a moral direction of success and what’s wrong with that?

Used Cars – I’m a huge Kurt Russell guy but more during his action movie phase in the 80s and 90s. Even still, I was really excited to get my hands on the new Shout Select edition of this comedy which has him playing a young go-getter used car salesman who has to take the whole car dealership on his shoulders when the owner is killed and the lot faces foreclosure. This pits him face to face with his late boss’s brother, a rival salesman played by the formidable Jack Warden. It should be noted that this is Back To The Future filmmaker Robert Zemeckis’s second film, which he wrote with that series’s co-creator, Bob Gale. The importance of this movie is unfathomable.

Sister Street Fighter Collection – A few weeks back I was geeking out heavily about the Shout Factory boxset for Sonny Chiba’s Street Fighter Collection and now Arrow Video has added to that excitement with the feminine side of that early franchise. Included in this glorious boxset is every movie in the series that spanned from 1974 to 1976 with the ass-kicking films Sister Street Fighter, Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread, Return of the Sister Street Fighter and Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist. Where the Street Fighter series has the formidable hero of Chiba these films relied on the talents of Etsuko Shihomi who kicked some serious ass. Seriously, she is the first lady of martial arts in my opinion.

Netflix:

A Land Imagined – A brand new Chinese film, this looks like a taught but sombre little thriller. It focuses on a detective who is starting to see a trend in disappearances in the land reclamation industry of Singapore and decides to dig deeper, uncovering a larger conspiracy. Losing sleep and getting erratic in his demeanour, he tries to put himself into the mindset of the common worker but as he furthers his rogue investigation he finds his own life in more and more danger. This movie looks seriously great but it probably won’t get a lot of viewer attention.

Colette – Keira Knightley gives a solid performance and is the ultimate draw in this biopic about Gabrielle Sidonie Colette, a writer who made a mark in Paris by creating a bestselling series of books but the pen name was that of her husband. As her husband was celebrated for her talents, Colette began to discover who she was emotionally and sexually, eventually pushing her to fight for the ownership of her art. The film is driven fully by the strength of Knightley’s fire but unfortunately didn’t prove to be memorable this past award season, I don’t even think it was on anyone’s radar honestly.

Huge In France: Season 1 – French comedian Gad Elmaleh stars as a heightened or actually maybe lower version of himself, a comedy star who is massively popular in his home country but is heading into the belly of a “what have you done lately” beast, the U.S.A. In an attempt to try and reconcile a relationship with his estranged son, the “Seinfeld of France” has many obstacles in his way like the fact that his child is pursuing the vapid world of modelling and has nothing he can relate to his father with and the competition of his ex’s new man, a hard body gym rat that is as intimidating as he is intense. This looks like it could be really funny, almost in a Larry David Curb Your Enthusiasm or Rick Gervais Extras sort of way.

The Silence – A brand new original horror film hits and this could go one of two ways: it could arrive and be awesome or it could land and be, well, Bird Box. The cast is solid with Stanley Tucci and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina stars Kiernan Shipka and Miranda Otto plus the book it is based on has a lot of fans. The downside is it comes from the director of the first Annabelle movie, which isn’t great like the sequel is, but the guy shot The Conjuring, a gorgeous looking horror film, so my hopes are still there. I can’t help but think that this is a lot like A Quiet Place though just looking at the trailer.

Special: Season 1 – Adapted from the memoirs of its star Ryan O’Connell and executive produced by The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons, this show looks to be a niche breakout hit I think. Ryan is a gay man living with cerebral palsy, two elements of his life that he is very unconfident in. Things change for him when he decides to live his life without a safety net. He moves out of his mother’s house into his own apartment, gets his first real job working for a high-end magazine and, his biggest step, puts himself out there in the dating world. This show looks adorably character driven but beyond that looks sweetly inspirational. This is going to be great.

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