Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Rocketman – After Bohemian Rhapsody’s success last year, this Elton John biopic has been hotly anticipated although it is less of a straightforward film than the Queen movie was, instead taking more of a musical route. Taron Egerton stars as Elton with Jamie Bell playing his co-writer Bernie Taupin in a film that has the advanced word of hugging the line of being fantastical and serious in the same beat. It’s interesting to note that Egerton did all of his own singing in the film and they released the soundtrack and it really is quite good. This looks like a movie that will live up to the hype and can’t be tarnished by having a creep director.

Ma – This looks like a great little thriller that reteams Octavia Spencer and The Help director Tate Taylor in a genre movie that is far different then either of them has done, aside from Spencer’s quick scene in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II. In this film the Academy Award winner plays someone only known as Ma, a lonely woman who befriends a group of students, letting them party at her house. Slowly, the kids begin to realize that Ma isn’t quite right and the friendship shifts to murderous obsession. The trailer for this is creepy and effective making me think that this might be a character-driven horror film that may surprise some people.

Godzilla: King Of The Monsters – Five years ago Gareth Edwards rebooted the giant Japanese monster that has headed the longest running franchise in history with Jordan Vogt-Roberts placing the next piece with Kong: Skull Island, a prequel. Now Krampus and Trick r Treat director Michael Dougherty furthers the story with this highly anticipated rumble pitting Godzilla against the most devastating monster in existence King Ghidorah. A massive effects-driven film, this movie is going to blow everyone away from what I’ve read in reviews with each shot being something you could print off the movie screen and display on the wall like art. I am so excited for this.

The Fall Of The American Empire – If you are a Canadian film fan, most notably of the French-Canadian side of cinema, then you should have this movie on your radar as it is the return of writer and director Denys Arcand, the mind behind The Barbarian Invasions and The Decline Of The American Empire. This film continues that same blend of comedy and melodrama with a story about a shy and insecure delivery driver who stumbles upon a robbery in progress and decides to take the large bag of money left at the scene. Two tough Montreal cops and his new mail-order bride serve to complicate his life further, proving that money really might be the route of all evil. I have high hopes for this movie as I think Arcand is a Canadian treasure.

Photograph – A couple of years ago I was introduced to the work of director Ritesh Batra with his British melodrama A Sense Of An Ending, a film that totally caught me off guard with how much I enjoyed it. Now he returns to his native India after over half a decade for this story he wrote as well about a street photographer who convinces a passerby to act as his fiancee in order to get his doting grandmother off his back. In a complex drama about two seemingly lost souls, the two start to develop a connection with each other that is beyond any whirlwind romance and strikes to the core of what makes them individuals. The film is shot beautifully and features two lead actors, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Sanya Malhotra, who consistently serve to make each other more interesting.

Blu-Ray:

Greta – This is fantastic and already totally underrated! Chole Grace Moretz stars as a woman who finds a purse and ID card on the subway and returns it to the owner Greta, played by a favorite of mine Isabelle Huppert. From what I can tell you without hitting the dreaded spoiler territory, Greta is a lonely woman who uses the ploy of returning these lost belongings as a lure from young women into an obsessive trap and I am definitely here for it. Directed by Neil Jordan as well as co-written, the notion that this comes from the mind behind The Crying Game tells you how experienced the man is with blowing your hair back with reveals. Grab this one, you won’t regret it.

Climax – If the name of director Gaspar Noe is familiar to you then you know how prepared you have to be for one of his movies. Whether it’s the first few minutes of Irreversible, that insanely long assault scene in the middle or the last few minutes of Enter The Void, it’s fair to say I’ve been shocked and pushed to the limits by this acclaimed director before and his new film does just that while, at the same time, being one of his more restrained movies. Don’t take that as him going easy on you because he doesn’t. This movie is about a dance group rehearsing in a snowy building when they come to the slow realization that their sangria has been spiked with LSD. As the drug takes hold they descend into a madness that strips away all of their humanity in this hypnotic and dread filled journey all to an incredible soundtrack of beats. Highly recommended but know what you’re getting in to.

Lords Of Chaos – This looks like a movie totally geared to someone like me as it features Norweigan black metal, horror and a bit of truth to it. Coming from Spun director Jonas Akerlund, this film follows an ambitious teen in the early nineties what wants to launch his own special brand of music in Oslo which goes south in a big violent way. Starring Rory Culkin, Brooklyn star Emory Cohen and Val Kilmer’s son Jack, this movie has been getting a lot of love from the horror critics and I’m personally a huge fan of Akerlund’s work, going back to his music video days like The Everlasting Gaze by Smashing Pumpkins and Porcelain by Moby. His art is very striking and engaging.

A Vigilante – Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart is currently in theatres and a must see but you can check her out in the comfort of your home with this crime thriller playing a tough vigilante who helps women escape their abusive domestic partners. This is the feature debut for writer and director Sarah Daggar-Nickson and the trailer has a fantastic look to it that has me hooked in. I feel like the subject matter is so pertinent and it really makes me want this film to be good and fortunately the reviews back that up. This may be the beginning of a bright future for Daggar-Nickson.

Outlander: Season 4 – For years now this Starz adaptation of the popular Diana Gabaldon written series of novels has had a rabid audience and many friends have told me repeatedly to check it out. Well, friends, Sony sent me the fourth season and I have set off on my journey and, you know what? You guys were right, this series rocks. In a nutshell, the show is about a married World War II nurse in 1945 who finds herself transported back to 1743 Scotland which whets my appetite for time travel. Adding to that, the showrunner is Ronald D. Moore who was the guy behind Syfy’s update of Battlestar Galactica, a personal favorite, as well as the weirdo and kind of gross-out sci-fi horror series Helix. Yeah, this is worth your binge time.

Boom! – The first Elizabeth Taylor movie in my collection, Shout Factory released this film as one of the kick-off pieces to their Pride month releases. From 1968, this film features Taylor alongside her two-time husband Richard Burton in a story about the confrontation between a lonely woman who has everything material and a penniless poet who has nothing but the ability to fill this wealthy woman’s needs. Based on a play by Tennessee Williams, the playwright said that this was his favorite adaptation of his work but unfortunately the paying audience thought differently as the movie was a complete bomb.

To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar – I have always adored this movie ever since I first saw it on VHS and it’s all about the beautiful chemistry between stars Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo, all playing way outside their usual roles at the time as glamorous drag queens. This new Shout Select collector’s edition is such a gift to me including a brand new retrospective featurette and deleted scenes because I never had the chance to pick it up on DVD and I think it was pretty bare bones.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

The Witches – Remeber the movie The Witches? No, not the Anjelica Huston nightmare inducer, I’m talking about the 1966 horror film starring Joan Fontaine that was so panned in its release that she quit the business after receiving the disastrous box office results. A novel she shepherded to the big screen, the story has her as a schoolteacher who movies to a small village in England after having a near death experience with the occult in Africa. She soon discovers that she can run but can’t hide as the evil black magic finds its way to terrorize her again. Released through Hammer Films, this is just another great example of Shout Factory shedding light on some interesting horror movies from the past.

Suppose They Gave A War And Nobody Came? – Kino Lorber is bringing their own brand of classics with this comedy satire film with a sizeable cast including Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine and Don Ameche. The movie is about a small town who find themselves in some tense moments with the local army base which has the potential of blowing up into a little skirmish coming to a head with the dance organized by the citizens. The film was made by director Hy Averback, the man behind The Great Bank Robbery and countless episodes of television including M*A*S*H and The Rockford Files and was the final film of Don Ameche until he did Trading Places thirteen years later.

The Greasy Strangler – Mixing a bit of the oddness of a cult film, some horror elements and a serial killer story, this movie is destined to only please those who look for movies with a quirk. Written and directed by Jim Hosking, this movie doesn’t have a single recognizable star but the story is what grabs you, following Ronnie, a guy who runs a disco walking tour with his son. When a client’s striking beauty causes both men to fall for her, the two vie for her affections just as a killer starts making his mark in town. The movie’s production was spearheaded along by writer and director Ben Wheatley and actor Elijah Wood and did pretty well on the festival circuit. Check it out if you want something decidedly weird.

Vengeance: A Love Story – That’s right, I’m bringing you guys another Nicolas Cage movies because that’s what I do when they are available. This one has him playing a cop who helps form a group of protectors to help a single mother exact some justice of those who raped her. The movie, at one point, was actually supposed to be directed by Cage, his first since his only other one, Sonny in 2002. He stepped aside for Johnny Martin, the guy behind the dismally terrible Al Pacino thriller Hangman, one of the worst review movies of that year. I think I would have loved to see Cage direct this personally.

Keoma – I received another Italian spaghetti western and it features the legendary Franco Nero so you know this makes me happy. The film is loosely about a mixed race ex-Union gunfighter who returns to his plague-ridden home to protect it against the racist white side of his family led by a ruthless and bloodthirsty Confederate general. I say loosely because the film really had no script save for a small outline of the story and was mostly improvised on set. This led to some very bad opinions of the final product but getting a look at this almost fifty years later it’s a pretty cool template for a lone hero western movie.

Television:

Good Omens: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – After the success of American Gods, Amazon Prime is doubling down on the Neil Gaiman properties with this much-anticipated adaptation, co-written by Terry Pratchett, of an angel and demon buddy story with two of Britain’s best, Michael Sheen and David Tennant in those respective roles. They team up to save the world from an eleven-year-old anti-christ who may or may not doom existence and a doomsaying witch who may hold the prophecy to shift reality. It all sounds like a ripping good time to me.

When They See Us: Season 1 (Netflix) – Following up the documentary 13th, Ava Duvernay directs this limited Netflix series that chronicles the true story of a notorious case of five black teenagers who were convicted of a rape they did not commit. This was the group branded as The Central Park Five, the same ones that Donald Trump took out the full-page New York Post ad on, infamously calling for their execution. I don’t have to stress how important this series is and as far as Duvernay’s work goes, it will be a great palate cleanser after A Wrinkle In Time.

Swamp Thing: Season 1 (DC Universe) – This is a new DC Comics series that could go one way or the other. The reports from the entertainment sites paint a picture of creative differences that forced the series to be scaled back in the number of episodes produced, giving the notion that we may not see a second series even if the show is great. Personally, I’m excited for this one as I adore the comic, most notably the Alan Moore written saga which I’m hoping this borrows from. Beyond that, the design on Swamp Thing himself is absolutely awesome and I will be watching this whole series just to see the lengths they went through to make this in a practical way.

Always Be My Maybe (Netflix) – Toplined by two of the funniest comedians working today, Randall Park and Ali Wong star in this new Netflix original movie about two childhood friends that realize as adults that they are made for each other. The movie was directed by Fresh Off The Boat executive producer Nahnatchka Khan and has a script that really lets these two stretch their legs comedically. It also has Keanu Reeves in it and was filmed in Delta, British Columbia but you really had me at Keanu as usual.

Deadwood (HBO) – The long, long, long anticipated conclusion to the greatest western series ever made is here as we finally get some closure on the characters of Seth Bullock, Al Swearengen and all the other people in the infamous outlaw town. It’s bittersweet as I really wanted another series instead of a movie but creator David Milch was finally able to get his crowning achievement finished and out to the masses after years of building it up and his recent and tragic diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. This is going to be something truly special and I can not wait.

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