Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

The Secret Life Of Pets 2 – Illumination Entertainment brings out this new sequel, one that isn’t connected to their Despicable Me franchise and all without the problematic Louis CK providing the lead voice, this time around being replaced by one of the good guys, Patton Oswalt. All the other favorites have returned including Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate and Kevin Hart along with newcomers Tiffany Haddish and Harrison Ford, so all the kids should be happy and I actually thought the first movie was pretty fun so I have good expectations for this follow-up. Illumination could be looking at their next monster franchise if all goes well.

Dark Phoenix – I haven’t had any faith in an X-Men movie since Bryan Singer ripped the reigns of the franchise back from director Matthew Vaughn after First Class, which was phenomenal, to make Days Of Future Past which was a film that crumbled under the weight of simply deconstructing it after my viewing. Then came Apocalypse, which was a dismal piece of convenient plot piece garbage and now we have this new film, the end story to this long-running Marvel created story and directed by producer Simon Kinberg, who I think is the reason, along with Singer, that this series took such a nosedive. So, where are my hopes with this movie? About ankle height. Yes, this may be total crap again.

Pavarotti – I’m really hit or miss with the narrative films of Ron Howard but as a documentarian, more importantly, a music documentarian he is making some seriously great movies. After his last one, Eight Days A Week, he focuses on the life and work of opera legend Luciano Pavarotti and I have to admit that my knowledge of and even appreciation for opera is quite low but the passion and joy that flows through the man in archival and rehearsal footage and home movies is almost infectious. Howard also uses Pavarotti’s concert footage in a way that helps tell the story of his work, his creative mind and his personal relationships. This is a great watch for any music lover with a broader mind in their tastes. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

The Tomorrow Man – Two stellar actors in John Lithgow and Blythe Danner lead this lighthearted romantic drama about two ageing people who have seemed to have given up on love and friendship. Lithgow plays Ed, a recluse who is constantly preparing for the end of the world, constantly buying provisions to stock in his bomb shelter at the local grocers, the place he spots Blythe Danner’s character Ronnie, who works at the local knick knack shop, buying things she will never use. Ed eventually steels up enough nerve to ask Ronnie out and the odd relationship of feeling out each other’s quirks begins. The story feels a bit standard but these two veterans are really what the draw is here because they make every moment of the film feel so deeply meaningful. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

The Souvenir – This is a really interesting film as it has Tilda Swinton playing mother to her real-life daughter Honor Swinton Byrne in a story about a young film student in the early 80s who becomes romantically involved with a man who sends her life into chaos. Coming of age dramas can be hit or miss but the narrative moves a bit differently in this movie as it is a semi-autobiographical film for director Joanna Hogg. Swinton Byrne feels like an established veteran already, handling the emotional heavy lifting that shows the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree or other metaphors of that nature. (Only opening in Vancouver)

Wild Nights With Emily – This is without a doubt one of the weirdest approaches to a biopic I’ve ever seen but Molly Shannon plays famed recluse poet Emily Dickenson in this film that hugs the line of being an odd duck hysterical comedy and a life story. First off, that “recluse” stuff seems to be a complete and utter fabrication according to this movie, lies to smear the gifted writer and prevent her works from being published, another false rumor that this movie seeks to dispell. Featuring a brilliant performance on the opposite of Shannon, Amy Seimetz plays Mabel, her nemesis whose only goal is to destroy her reputation through misinformation. This movie is odd, quirky and totally fascinating, something that would pair perfectly with Cynthia Nixon’s portrayal of Dickenson in Terence Davies A Quiet Passion. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Framing John DeLorean – We all known the DeLorean as Back To The Future made it such a huge part of our pop culture that you really need to live under a rock to not know about it but is the rise and fall of the DeLorean Motor Company as common of knowledge? This film is the only film to be made on the man who had a dream and screwed everyone in the process to keep it alive as four different films were optioned but never came to fruition, one produced by DeLorean himself. This documentary takes a fascinating approach of being a linear story told about the rise of an idea, the execution and then the scandalous fall through bad deals and a cocaine bust with re-enactments starring Alec Baldwin. The final result is ambitious and engrossing, such an interesting way of telling a real story. (Only opening in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Barrie)

Blu-Ray:

A Madea Family Funeral – Tyler Perry is moving onto the next phase of his life and in order for him to do that he needs to put a merciful end to him dressing up as an old woman like he was basketball star Larry Johnson playing Grandmama in the nineties, so, naturally you’d have a funeral. You know it’s a really slow week when this film is your big release but here we are. I don’t really expect any sort of deviation from your regular Madea film, I’m just glad we aren’t lampooning horror anymore and that Perry can put his oldest character, as well as the other three he plays in this series, to bed.

Gloria Bell – This is sure to be a great film just based on the track record of Chilean director Sebastian Lelio alone. Winner of last year’s best foreign Oscar for his amazing film A Fantastic Woman and also the man behind the acclaimed drama The Club, it’s really cool to see him continue his rise in the mainstream with his latest, a remake of one of his own. The film follows Julianne Moore as a woman seeking love in the clubs of Los Angeles in her 50s and co-stars the great John Turturro, so that’s two tried and true actor’s actors.

JT LeRoy – Before even really paying attention to what the premise was for this film, I was captivated by the two lead stars Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern, although the name JT Leroy seemed so familiar. It turns out that this soul-wrenching and inspirational writer who turned out to be a total fraud was behind a movie that astounded me years ago, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, the debut of Asia Argento as a filmmaker. Well, this movie is about exactly that, the creation of a false persona to be used in public by the writer behind Leroy, Laura Albert, and the woman that was used to be “his” body, Savannah Knoop, who wrote the book this movie was based on. And yes, they cover the Argento movie with Diane Kruger playing that character in a possibly detrimental way to the real-life person. I found this film absolutely fascinating and it is a damn fine chemistry of performances from Dern and Stewart.

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.

The Haunting Of Sharon Tate – This year is going to be a big one when it comes to anything dealing with Charles Manson and Sharon Tate as we’ve already had former Doctor Who Matt Smith play him in Charlie Says and next month we had Margot Robbie taking on the Tate role in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood. The thing to know about this movie in particular right away is that it isn’t good. Hilary Duff plays Tate in this film and, well, she’s just not very good and neither is her co-star Jonathan Bennett. Usual television documentarian Daniel Farrands writes and directs this film, one of his three true crime adaptations and I really wish, for everyone’s sake, that he didn’t.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan: Season 1 – It’s been a movie lifetime of ups and downs for the government agent character of Jack Ryan as he rose to fame as Alec Baldwin, sustained it for a couple of films with Harrison Ford then plummeted with Ben Affleck then Chris Pine. Now, with this Amazon Prime produced series, he’s back on the upswing with John Krasinski in the role. The show is very solid and I’ve always wanted this character to succeed in some fashion and had no idea this would be it. Season two is probably going to be just as great too.

I’ll Take Your Dead – Another horror original from Shout Factory, this movie is also a Canadian one from Ontario writer and director Chad Archibald. The story is about a father and daughter who live in a farmhouse in the county where he disposes of dead bodies from gang-related murders in the nearby city and the daughter Gloria is convinced that some of the victims that have been dropped off are haunting their house. The movie suffers a bit in the script department but the blood, the atmosphere and the general plot keep you on board.

A Star Is Born: Special Encore Edition – 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. I know I’ve said all of this before, the only difference with this version of the movie is that all of the performances have been extended, adding another eleven minutes on to the movie.

Mighty Morphin Power Ranger The Movie – I can’t lie, when I opened the package from Shout Factory and saw this staring up at me my childhood screamed in excitement and, yes, I spent money to see this in theaters. The original incarnation of the iconic space ninjas hit the big screen in this mid-nineties hit to take on the dastardly Ivan Ooze and we were all here for it. Whether we were still rabid fans of the show, had a crush on Pink Ranger Amy Jo Johnson or just thought Tommy the Green Ranger was the coolest, this movie had you hooked and Shout Factory knows how to play into that nostalgia so brilliantly. This is one of those “gotta have it” nerd buys for sure.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:

The Iceman Cometh – A classic film released by Kino Lorber, this is a pretty interesting find just based on all the pieces involved. For one, it’s my first Lee Marvin movie in my collection, which is crazy that I don’t own Dirty Dozen or something yet. It was both the final film of The Wild Bunch’s Robert Ryan and The Best Years Of Our Lives actor Frederic March as well as a last minute lead for Marvin who was stepping in for Jason Robards. The movie is an adaptation of a popular Eugene O’Neill play and also has Jeff Bridges in an early role, one he had turned down initially before being berated by his former boss, The Last American Hero director Lamont Johnson.

The Vault – The weirdness in this thriller is off the chain and I absolutely love it. The main overarching story is about a bank robbery but that is merely just the tipping point of the story. The real intrigue comes from WHO’s bank they are robbing and WHAT is contained in the vault. Taryn Manning, Clifton Collins Jr. and James Franco star in The Signal director Dan Bush’s brand new horror mystery that has a trailer that will blow your hair back and the details of the plot are best kept under wraps as this is a story that evolves in some crazy directions. This is a genre mash-up that won’t rope in everyone but for those who want something a little different it will definitely quell that urge.

Brighton Beach Memoirs – Another one of those great entries into the Shout Select series from Shout Factory, this is a special film to fans of stage plays, screenplays and teleplays as this is a loosely autobiographical story from one of the greatest writers in history, Neil Simon. Jonathan Silverman made his onscreen debut as Eugene, a teenager recollecting his upbringing in a tight-knit Jewish family, going through puberty, sexual fantasies and having absolutely no space in a crowded house to call his own. The supporting cast features Blythe Danner and was part of the most productive part of Simon’s career where he made eleven straight films with producer Ray Stark including Biloxi Blues, Murder By Death and The Goodbye Girl.

Warning Sign – With Chernobyl dazzling audiences on HBO and The Hot one just debuting on Nat Geo, I thought it was a perfect time for me to bring this Shout Factory release starring Sam Waterston, Kathleen Quinlan and Yaphet Kotto. The plot follows an outbreak of a virulent bacteria in a secret government laboratory, which seals everyone inside after the security agents act on “protocol one”. Waterston’s character is the nearby town’s sheriff whose wife is locked in the facility and he is on a desperate rampage to get her out. Without giving too much away about this movie, I think it is pretty massively underrated and holds up the paranoia horror genre quite well.

The Grand Duel – A new special edition that I received from Arrow, I was really excited to get my hands on this one for a big reason. The film stars Lee Van Cleef, the legend who was in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly and Escape From New York. Better than just having him in the movie, he’s the hero, a gruff ex-sheriff who throws his hat in with a wrongly convicted man to take on the band of outlaws who framed him. Quick, simple and right to the point in an iconic feeling western storyline. Funny enough, for trivia sake, the music from this film was used by Quentin Tarantino in his Kill Bill movies.

Television:

Pure: Season 2 (Superchannel) – Making it’s shift to a brand new platform on Superchannel, this show is a homegrown series that should be on serious television enthusiasts lists. It’s the story of Noah Funk, a newly-elected Mennonite pastor, who is determined to rid his community of drug traffickers by betraying a fellow Mennonite to the police and Victoria actor Ryan Robbins excels in the lead role, the drawing point for every Breaking Bad fan to jump on it, he’s just that great. Christopher Heyerdahl from Hell On Wheels also features in this as well.

Fear The Walking Dead: Season 5 (AMC) – Let’s face it, at this point Fear is the best zombie show on television as the original incarnation of this series needs a little shot in the ass to get going again. The cast is flying on all cylinders with Lennie James’ Morgan being my absolute favorite at the moment but don’t let that take away from how stellar Alycia Debnam-Carey is on a consistent level. In a ramble of names, this show is always getting the best of the best as Garret Dillahunt, Jenna Elfman and Matt Frewer are still feature roles and the breakout star, Colman Domingo, is still killing it as Victor Strand.

NOS4A2: Season 1 (AMC) – From the mind of writer Joe Hill, the son of horror master Stephen King, comes this brand new series to bring vampire lore to a whole new level. Zachary Quinto plays Charlie Manx, an immortal vampire who feeds off the souls of children who finds his ultimate nemesis in a woman with a special ability that could threaten his entire existence. I’m already on board with the mere mention of Hill’s name, being that I’ve been waiting years for an adaptation of his popular comic Locke & Key, but even cooler is that this all takes place in the Stephen King universe, complete with small references to Maine towns and King-verse happenings. I’m psyched to see where this series will go.

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3 (Bravo) – The hit Margaret Atwood series returns again and will certainly keep it’s perch on top of the pack when it comes to award season because, let’s face it, Elisabeth Moss is just that damn good. My favorite trivia about this show (because you are going to watch it whatever I say) is the actresses have said that the head coverings they wear when they go outside are like blinders, completely cutting off their peripheral vision. The actresses can’t see each other unless they’re looking directly at each other. They have to act largely based on what they can hear. Fascinating.

Luther: Season 5 (BBC America) – I just love that DCI John Luther is a role that Idris Elba will always come back to because, besides The Wire, this role is one of my absolute favorites. The sad thing is that it looks like the four-episode season will be all we see of him in this tortured performance as that’s all they have in the cannon at this point, aside from a possible movie. I’ll take what I can get as this is a show that always delivers.

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