Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Aladdin – This movie gives me deep worries as it feels like it moves through a total minefield of things that could tank it in my opinion. Yes, Disney has been making so many of these live-action updates but something about this one feels so sacred, firstly the fact that we all have such reverence for Robin Williams’ performance as the Genie. That aside, I want to believe in this movie because it is directed by Guy Ritchie but his last film King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword was such a horrible mess. I’m so conflicted about this.

Booksmart – We may have one of the best comedies of the year right here as all advanced word I’ve heard about this movie is overwhelmingly positive. Olivia Wilde makes her directorial debut with this story of two academic overachievers who decide to let loose in a big way on the eve of their graduation. Starring Kaitlyn Dever from Justified and the hilarious Beanie Feldstein from Lady Bird and Neighbors 2, this movie looks like the smart girl version of Superbad, which is fitting as Feldstein is the little sister of Jonah Hill. I’m all in for this movie.

BrightBurn – Coming from the mind of the brilliant writer and director James Gunn, this movie poses the question “what if Superman didn’t take the path of good?” Yes, deeply a horror film, the movie has an alien boy crash land on earth, adopted by a small town family but snaps when bullying and life’s problems get too much and he learns of his extraordinary powers. The film isn’t directed by Gunn but his style is all over the script and the trailer is so deeply satisfying to genre fans such as myself. This one could be really cool.

All Is True – Director Kenneth Branagh reimmerses himself in something that is comfortable and must feel like second nature to him, the works of Shakespeare. It comes with a twist this time as he takes on the story of the man himself and even dons the role to do so. The film depicts the final days of the iconic playwright, exposing his demons and his damaged relationship with his daughter. Co-starring Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellan, this movie may seem very longwinded for anyone just jumping into the story uninitiated but I found the movie fascinating, especially from the point of view of all of Branagh’s work behind him. It really feels like a capper to this portion of his career, like he is ending this story with the end of William Shakespeare himself.

I’m Going To Break Your Heart – This brand new documentary absolutely floored me, especially with my absolute love of Canadian music. The film follows Our Lady Peace’s Raine Maida and his wife Chantal Kreviazuk as they fly to a snowy coastal France village to write their collaborative album together, something they’ve been trying to do for half a decade. Tensions are already a bit high as the two are in a bit of a volatile place in their marriage and the added strain of both of their creative methods cause them to butt heads even more. This movie is gorgeous in look, subject matter and the music that comes from it, playing like a very real version of the Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova movie Once. If you have ever been a fan of either of these Canadian stars then this is a must-see movie.

Blu-ray:

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – 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 adored this final piece of the story that gave a one-two punch of beautiful visuals and emotional beats that you can never prepare yourself for. Also, the ending of the movie gives such a resonant closure to it that you really feel how special the whole trilogy was.

The Upside – Based on the very popular French film from 2011, this film has Bryan Cranston playing a quadriplegic billionaire who hires Kevin Hart’s character, an unemployed former criminal to be his caregiver. I am definitely on record more than once saying that Kevin Hart’s comedy feels stale but this is the kind of partially dramatic turn that piques my interest as I don’t think he’s ever done this kind of film. I’m also drawn in by the film being helmed by Neil Burger who’s put out great movies like The Illusionist. That being said, unfortunately, the movie bombed badly with reviews dogging it, saying the film is unnecessary with date jokes and cliched moments, none of which appear in the original movie. Cranston isn’t enough to save this one it seems.

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 but there are a few people on my friends list including a noted film critic really liked it. I don’t know, maybe it’s enjoyable. My low bar may be a good thing!

Big Brother – If you’ve been reading my blogs since I’ve started writing them it should be no surprise that I’m a definite fan of martial arts superstar Donnie Yen. The guy is just flawless and even if the movie isn’t great his performance is usually jaw-dropping and worth the time you put into it. Well, for his new film he is shifting the genre a little bit and adding some comedy in a story about a soldier-turned-high school teacher who uses unusual methods to reach to a class of poor students. Adding to that he also finds himself dealing with a greedy entrepreneur and his gang of fighters as well as the government because nothing can be simple, even a run of the mill action movie. Even better news on this movie is that it is really entertaining.

Drunk Parents – After watching the trailer for this new comedy starring Alec Baldwin and Salma Hayek I really find myself baffled by the title. They play two parents who send their daughter off to college just as they enter a severe financial crisis. Their solution is to follow through on a handful of hair brained schemes including renting out their neighbor’s house to a registered sex offender played by Jim Gaffigan. The cast, which includes Joe Manganiello, is impressive enough to garner some interest but the fact that this comes from the producers of the Grown Ups movies loses any positivity I have towards it.

A Dark Place – From Shout Factory’s theatrical pickups, this mystery seems to have everything going for it. Deep, broody and starring Sherlock’s Andrew Scott, the movie follows a local dump truck driver who decides to jump in and play detective when a young boy in his small town goes missing which puts him in the crosshairs of the citizens in the sleepy village, the law enforcement and other people with dark intentions. The movie hit a middle ground in reviews with the majority of critics really enjoying the performance from Scott but plot holes and the straightforward nature of the story bogging it down.

The Seduction – It’s time to get steamy with the Shout Factory special edition of this Morgan Fairchild erotic thriller from the writer and director of the man who would later bring us Puppetmaster and Crawlspace, two classics on the horror fringe. The movie has Fairchild as a popular television news anchor who is being hunted be a menacing stalker and came out during a seemingly endless batch of these type of films including Body Double and Visiting Hours. Honestly, this may have been a lesser one as Fairchild isn’t a great actress.

Earthquake – Before disaster movies became a norm that we would see pretty much yearly since Pierce Brosnan was running from volcanoes and the world was being blown up on Independence Day we had this movie, a star-studded television event that captivated North America in 1974. Led by Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner and George Kennedy and written by The Godfather’s Mario Puzo, this movie also inspired the famous Universal Studios experience ride. The Shout Factory collector’s edition is two discs and features the original television version as well as an alternate cut.

Steve’s Blu-ray Geek Outs:

Born In East L.A. – Being a huge Cheech Marin fan, even at a young age, this movie was an absolute treasure to me and not just for Narin but the hilarious Paul Rodriguez as well. The feature debut of the Cheech and Chong star as a director, this movie is the hysterically funny story of an American born Latino man who is mistakenly deported to Mexico which is probably much less humorous in today’s immigration climate. Even so, this movie will always be a nostalgic classic to me and this Shout Select edition is a treasure.

Ned Kelly – A forgotten Australian remake of a Mick Jagger film that may be equally as forgotten, this movie is an underrated gem of an outlaw story starring Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom and Naomi Watts. Ledger plays the titular character, the head of the Kelly family and an innocent man who was once a war hero, pushed too far by the Victorian government and into a violent lifestyle of crime. Made by director Gregor Jordan, I really enjoyed the movie when it was released but no one seemed to really be digging it. I’m not sure how you couldn’t with the cast it alone.

Terra Formars – I must admit that I knew absolutely nothing about this movie until I received my screener from Arrow Video then I started my research on it. It’s a massive Japanese sci-fi action film about the human race attempting to colonized Mars five hundred years into the future and discovering that it has already been inhabited by a bloodthirsty menace that grew from cockroaches, gaining strength at a rapid speed. As odd as that sounds, the best part of this movie is it was made by mad man director Takeshi Miike who is responsible for such game changers as Audition and Ichi The Killer among many others. This one looks just great, I recommend the trailer.

Lovers And Other Strangers – Kino Classics hooked me up with this ensemble comedy from 1970 that has Bea Arthur, the film debut of Diane Keaton, Cloris Leachman, Ben Stiller’s parents Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara and Holly Genero herself (from Die Hard if you don’t get the reference) and won an Academy Award for best song. The story takes place at a wedding with a happy couple but miserable guests. The groom’s brother is in the midst of a divorce which upsets the deeply Catholic mother whose husband is having an affair with the bride’s older sister. It’s one of those zany convoluted comedy romps but it was really well received when it came out and in my opinion, holds up as one of the better mostly single location films.

The Minion – Being a fan of eighties action movies Dolph Lundgren was always an actor I was willing to give some of my viewing time to but this one definitely didn’t cross my path. This movie tries to be so big and ambitious, about the unearthing of an ancient Celtic skeleton accidentally by New York subway construction that unleashes The Minion on earth. Lundgren plays a warrior monk of the Knight’s Temple who is the only hope of destroying this parasitic beast as it moves from host to host. Want to know why you’ve never heard of it? It was only released theatrically in South Korea, South Africa, Indonesia and Syria. Probably for the best because it isn’t good by any means but it’s definitely fun for mid-nineties action schlock.

Netflix:

What/If: Season 1 – A brand new limited series from the creator of Revenge, this show has a solid cast to lead it including Renee Zellweger, Jane Levy, Dave Annable and Blake Jenner and looks like the perfect convoluted story to get people hooked. It works as an anthology series with each episode tackling a different morality tale but all revolving around the same characters, focusing o the ripple effect that important decisions by these characters have on the world around them. What interests me is that this is the first major television role for Zellweger so something must have really drawn her to the ruthless role she plays.

After Maria – A brand new short documentary getting a massive push on Netflix, this is thirty-five minutes that everyone in the Trump administration should watch. The events take place after the devastation of Hurricane Maria, focusing on a few different families who had their lives destroyed by the storm and then were failed by FEMA and the American government as they cut off aid before anything was rebuilt. This documentary will make you cry both tears of pain for these people as well as rage. Absolutely be aware of this trigger warning.

Alta Mar: Season 1 – A brand new international acquiring from Spain for Netflix, this show has enough going for it to pull in a pretty decent audience I think. The show follows the launching of an ocean liner in the 1940s, with high profile guests travelling from Spain to Brazil. After a series of murders occur just days into the trip two sisters start to discover a disturbing family connection to the events that are unfolding before them. For fans of Agatha Christie and most notably Hercule Poirot this may be something off the beaten path that will intrigue them entirely.

Joy – A brutal new film that was picked up by Netflix, this is the straightforward drama from Nigeria about a woman forced into sex work in order to survive. With an unflinching eye, we see her show the ropes of the trade to a new young recruit, one who is completely unable to come to grips with the nature of what she does as well as her possible fate. This is a powerful film that is out to expose its truth through its main character, painting a horrible world that passes everyone by without notice. This movie could be the best new release on here all week.

Rim Of The World – What’s this? Another end of the world sci-fi action movie? Well, I’m game. For this movie, we combine a little of the Stranger Things element to the mould as the story follows a group of kids whose world is thrown upside down when a massive alien invasion hits the earth and they are humanity’s only hope of surviving due to the satellite key they are entrusted with along the way. The script seems fun, the effects are big and flashy and it comes from the guy behind the gonzo film The Babysitter which you can also see on Netflix. Heck, make it a double bill!

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