Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark – Adapted from a classic book that gave me the serious creeps as a kid, this quasi-anthology horror film was shepherded to the screen by Guillermo del Toro and directed by Troll Hunter and The Autopsy Of Jane Joe filmmaker André Øvredal. To give a bit of story to this, it all takes place in the late sixties and follows a group of kids who find a book of scary stories in an abandoned house. When each of the stories starts to come to life they find that there is some larger evil that is responsible for it. The trailers for this film are unsettling, terrifying in it’s imagery and downright gross for one scene and I think it’s holding back on what the full theatrical vision is. I’m excited for this.

The Kitchen – Based on a graphic novel from Vertigo Comics, a subdivision of DC Comics, this movie is going to be a great one. The directorial debut of Andrea Berloff, one of the writers on Straight Outta Compton, this film boasts a great cast led by the solid trio fo Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elizabeth Moss in roles that are decidedly different for these gifted actresses. They play the wives of New York gangsters in Hell’s Kitchen in the 1970s who continue to operate their husbands’ rackets after they’re locked up in prison, so picture a bit of the plot of Steve McQueen’s Widows from last year with a handful of aesthetic changes. I’m really looking forward to this one and the trailer is dynamite.

Dora And The Lost City Of Gold – It feels like a long time coming for this educational kids franchise to make the leap to the big screen as I’m unsure what the popularity of this Nickelodeon show is at these days. Sicario: Day Of The Soldado star Isabela Moner stars in as the title character who is in a transitional time in her life as she is being sent out of the jungle and into the public school system to try and normalize her a bit. This is until her parents are captured by greedy treasure hunters and Dora nad her new friends must save them while searching for, you guessed it, a lost city of gold. All I can say in closing is you’re either going to take your kids to this or you won’t but please don’t read the Hollywood Reporter review of this movie because the critic went to some weird and inappropriate places with his thoughts. (Not opening in Hamilton)

The Art Of Racing In The Rain – In the next film of using dogs as manipulation, This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia stars in this story about a formula one race car driver who buys a golden retriever puppy to accompany him on his journey through life. That sounds cheesily grandiose but that is really the film in a nutshell. I will say that this movie looks like a better told story than any of the Dog’s Way Home and Dog’s Journey films and we are spared the voice of Josh Gad this time but an inner dog monologue from Kevin Costner? I’m completely unsure about this and I don’t see it being any better than middling but there is a pretty sizeable built-in audience for this so I may be completely wrong about the want for this type of story. (Not opening in Hamilton or Kamloops)

Mike Wallace Is Here – In this time of demonization of the mainstream media and the vilifying of the truth from the big orange tyrant to the south, a film like this documentary is so important as it is the portrait of a giant among journalists Mike Wallace, a man with conviction that would ask all of the right questions whether his subject was prepared for it or not. He truly was the last gunslinger as far as unflinching journalism goes. This film floored me with Wallace’s incredible work showcased from his beginnings doing ad run television to his breakthrough show Nightly on ABC then to his life’s work heading the groundbreaking newsmagazine 60 Minutes. All the while I was watching this, and just like the Watergate documentary I had just ingested two weeks ago, the parallels to the current events is truly chilling. This is must-see right here. Get educated. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

David Crosby: Remember My Name – A story of remorse and regret built into a lifetime of brilliant music, many out there hate David Crosby including a lot of his former closest friends and collaborators and he is completely aware of that. Making no excuses, Crosby leads us through his life with his interviewer being director and former Rolling Stoner writer Cameron Crowe as they drive through Los Angeles and notably Laurel Canyon recounting his days in The Byrds, CSN, CSNY and his descent into ego, explosive rage, love, loss and eventually drug addiction. This is a deep dive into David Crosby’s psyche pulling back every emotional aspect of his life for examining. I was totally blown away by this documentary and to be honest I’ve been listening to his whole discography since. Damn, this has been an incredible year for music documentaries. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Light Of My Life – Probably one of those “hey man, this movie is thematically problematic for you” but Casey Affleck has made a movie where he exists in a world with no women. Yes, you read that right and he not only stars in it but wrote and directed it as well but let’s take a deeper look. He plays a parent who must protect his 11-year-old child journey through the outskirts of society a decade after a pandemic has wiped out half the world’s population. So, automatically if has that The Road feeling for me, which I’m completely on board for, but I get people’s trepidation with Affleck as the allegations are very damaging. I try to skirt away from this opinion but I still really enjoy Casey’s work but I feel in no way like a sort of Woody Allen apologist, I usually keep this kind of stuff to my self. I got a little revealing in this write up I guess. (Only opening in Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

UglyDolls – I have to be honest about this one because when I first saw the trailer for this animated kids tale I couldn’t even find a thread of story to it. Now that we’ve gotten a little more information on it, the larger picture being that this is a big movie version of the popular stuffed animal line, I still have no plot beyond that. It seems to be a big vehicle for this cast that includes Kelly Clarkson, Pitbull, Blake Shelton and Gabriel Iglesias to sing vapidly catchy songs and spread the message of acceptance, that last part not being a bad thing just find a better way to deliver it. I don’t have high hopes obviously.

Poms – When I initially saw the premise for this new comedy my eyes rolled so hard that I was in danger of losing them from my skull, never to return to my ocular cavities again. Diane Keaton, Jackie Weaver, Pam Grier and more star in this hoping to be an inspirational film about a bunch of retirees who decide to form a cheerleading troupe in their retirement community. There might be a slight chance that this movie has a bit of charm to it, directed at a certain age demographic, but I have yet to find a Diane Keaton film in the last decade that was really worth the time and I highly doubt that this is the film to break that mould. It just looks awful.

Tolkein – Almost two decades after the Lord Of The Rings became a massive theatrical franchise from Peter Jackson, we get the biopic of the man who’s mind that Middle Earth came from, J.R.R. Tolkien, played in the film by Nicholas Hoult. Not looking into the years where he was exploring the battle for the one ring, this movie focuses on his formative and college years, looking into him finding love and his friendship with an outcast group of art students who would eventually inspire him as they would for a “literary secret society” together. Overall, I enjoyed the film and Hoult’s performance is well done as he continues his popularity climb in Hollywood but I felt like the focus of the story was so meandering and I was unsure what the goal was. Is this a story about the friendships he cared so deeply about, the love story he shared with who would become his wife or the formation of a language and universe that he would become known for. It all feels a bit like a mishmash of these points.

Pokemon Detective Pikachu – To be completely honest, Pokemon was really more popular with the generation after me but I still have enough of a knowledge of the massive video and card game franchise to totally nerd out when I saw the trailer for this and especially the Mewtwo reveal in the final preview. Now I feel like I lost a lot of you so I’ll bring you all back with Ryan Reynolds providing the voice for the titular detective as the main human of the film, played by Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s Justice Smith, who is the only person who can actually understand him. All of that aside and fan of the show or not, this movie is actually pretty spectacular with non-stop action, beautiful imagery and a really fun script that will pull everyone in. Heck, after this movie you might just impress some kids with your new knowledge of the Pokemon universe.

The Curse Of La Llorona – Existing in the Conjuring universe from executive producer James Wan and company, we get a new ghostly horror film that takes place around the time of the first Conjuring movie with a connective tissue to the first Annabelle film as well. The story, set in 1970s Los Angeles, follows a social worker who finds her and her family under attack from a malevolent spirit who had previously terrorized one of the clients in her caseload to their demise. I like that the film stars Linda Cardellini, a huge draw for me but I really have to give some love to longtime supporting actor Raymond Cruz, who played Tuco in Breaking Bad, finally getting his first top billing in a feature film. Both of them are great, even if this film is a tad predictable, and even with that working against it I found the movie wholly engaging, stylistically interesting and featuring some very solid jump scares. With director Michael Chaves now being the guy to make the next Conjuring film I feel like the franchise is in the right hands.

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.

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.

What We Left Behind: Looking Back At Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – I am definitely not a big Trekkie by any extent but the one series that has always earned my love is Deep Space Nine and so much so that I consider it one of the greatest television series to ever hit screens. This documentary, co-directed by the creator of the show Ira Steven Behr, is a love letter to the third ever Star Trek series and, at the time, the most maligned and hated show by its fan base. It was obvious that the fans were obtuse to all the changes to what Star Trek was all about exhibited in the show, like no exploration, no real prime directive and the soap opera nature of the show but this seven season journey is a groundbreaker for the current golden age of television storytelling we have today. Fan or not, this documentary is fascinating and I didn’t even get to the original writers making a hypothetical follow up series decades later. So good.

Penguin Highway – More anime from Shout Factory and GKids with this new movie and this one is a bit more mature in its scope. The movie follows a fourth-grader named Aoyama-kun who investigates the mysterious reason behind the sudden appearance of penguins in his village, which is somehow related to special power from a young woman working at a dental clinic. Weird, right? Well, it gets more coming of age then that as at one point he questions why the young dental assistant’s breast makes him feel differently than his mother’s and he has odd run-ins with the local bully that goes in very strange directions. Honestly, this movie was the closest to me enjoying an anime fully but then it kind of lost me at the same time. Oh well, on to the next one.

Alice Sweet Alice – A brand new special edition that I received from Arrow Video before street date, this is a creepy little horror film from 1976 that was actually the debut of actress Brooke Shields. The film takes place in 1961 suburban New Jersey about a withdrawn adolescent girl who is suspected of her younger sister’s brutal murder during her first communion, as well as a series of stabbings that follow. The common ground with Arrow and this film is this is the same company that brought out the special edition of Bloody Birthday, another movie about homicidal kiddies, this rounds out a really great double feature in my opinion.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:

Winter Passing – This film was a discovery I made as a video clerk, the debut of writer and director Adam Rapp, a story about an actress played by Zooey Deschanel who returns to her hometown in Michigan to secure the rights of a book of love letters her father (Ed Harris) had written to her mother. What she finds is he has rented his house out to a couple of odd grad students and is living his life without a care for his ailing health. The movie came out during a period that supporting star Will Ferrell was doing phenomenal dramatic work like Stranger Than Fiction and this movie resonated with me beautifully. So happy to see this one on Blu-ray.

Fatso – I had never heard of this comedy-drama led by the great Dom Deluise but that is the great thing about these Shout Factory Select titles, as they give a spotlight to classic films that may not have been on anyone’s radar. Deluise plays a man who has a deep love for eating that must make some drastic life changes when his cousin dies from health complications due to a lack of exercise and improper diet. The movie delves into the struggle of following a new diet, figuring out the proper exercise routine and the brutal sweat of temptation. Co-starring Anne Bancroft who also wrote and directed the film, this movie is groundbreaking in that she used Brianne Murphy as the cinematographer, the first woman to shoot a major studio, union picture and it was released with Mel Brooks’ production company Brooksfilms.

The Green Inferno – This is a passion project fro writer and director Eli Roth that had a hell of a time securing a theatrical release and when it did it was out of theaters within two weeks, a total tragedy for horror movie fans. In an homage to Cannibal Holocaust and its director Ruggero Deodato, this film follows a group of student activists travelling to the Amazon to save the rain forest who soon discover that they are not alone and are captured by a tribe of cannibal natives looking for their next feast. This movie is sick, twisted and definitely not for the faint of heart at all which may have led to its early box office bow out but I really love this movie just because Roth is totally unflinching in what he will show on screen and his cinematic knowledge and love is always evident with every shot. I feel like this one will become a deep cult classic just like the movie it was trying to emulate and I think Shout Factory feels the same way I do.

Mojin: The Worm Valley – I was really wanting this movie from Well Go USA as it seems to be combining two things I really like, martial arts movies and monster movies but little did I know that it was a follow up to an earlier film, Mojin: The Lost Legend. The story follows legendary tomb explorer Hu Bayi on a dangerous mission as he seeks out the Tomb of Emperor Xian, located on an island of monstrous creatures. Everything about this sounds cool, a mishmash of cool genres directed at people who just want to be entertained. There are no huge stars and the director isn’t hugely experienced so just go into this one with an open mind and there is a book series this is based on as well for those who want a deeper dive.

Hold Back The Dawn – We’re getting some classic cinema in this batch of geek outs this week with this film that features Casino Royales’ Charles Boyer, mega Hollywood starlet Olivia de Havilland and Charlie Chaplin’s star Paulette Goddard. The film is about a man hoping to gain entrance into the U.S. from Mexico by marrying a citizen in basically Donald Trump’s nightmare film dating back to 1941. For a tidbit of cool old Hollywood trivia, this was the last script that the legendary Billy Wilder wrote and didn’t direct. Due to liberties taken with the material, he decided he would take control of his art so it was never altered again. Wilder was a genius and I love his resolve.

Television:

GLOW: Season 3 (Netflix) – I feel like I’ve been waiting for the latest season of this Jenji Kohan created show to arrive and it is finally here. To give a little insight into what it is all about, it follows Ruth, a struggling actress in 1980s Los Angeles who was having a hell of a time finding work until she came across the opportunity to be part of something new and different with the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling, an all-women wrestling promotion. Now having found success, the whole group movies to Las Vegas to hit the big time and I can’t wait. As a wrestling fan already, I’m preconditioned to love this show but I think it has a lot of appeal beyond that because it is such a well-done show with everyone knocking their role out of the park, especially Betty Gilpin and Marc Maron. Get on board the GLOW train immediately, it’s fantastic.

Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling (Netflix) – For any of you nineties kids out there, the alarm bells must have gone off when you saw the title Rocko’s Modern Life and I applaud you for it because I loved that show too. This show is the jumping point for the creators who would later bring us Spongebob Squarepants and would prepare us for the insanity within that franchise by giving us the craziness that is Rocko and his pal Heffer. Now, twenty-six years after the original series debuted we get the return that sees the return of our favorites from space to resume their mundane and more modern life. This will only excite a certain demographic but consider me part of it.

Free Meek: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – I love a good documentary series and this one is very interesting as it involves a high profile court case that captured North American with people arguing for either side even though it looks pretty clear cuts as far as verdicts go. The show chronicles Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill’s transformation from chart-topping rapper to the unflinching face of criminal justice reform. We also see Meek, his family and his legal team fight for his freedom while he was incarcerated due to a court system rigged against him and a judge trying to prove a moral point as well as reinvestigating his case which was filled with allegations of corruption. This is going to be a solid courtroom drama that has serious real-life ramifications.

BH90210: Season 1 (Fox) – Television fans from the nineties are going to be salivating for this show, including my own wife who is almost shaking with excitement. Although it is a bit bittersweet without the inclusion of the late Luke Perry, it’s pretty cool just to see everyone reunite for a little more closure, Aaron Spelling style. The series will focus on the original cast members of Beverly Hills, 90210, Jason Priestley, Jennie Garth, Ian Ziering, Gabrielle Carteris, Brian Austin Green, Tori Spelling, and Shannen Doherty, playing heightened, fictionalized versions of themselves. Having parted ways 19 years after the original series ended, they reunite to get a reboot up and running and must reconcile their new lives with the complications of their histories together. Seems weird in a way, right? From what I understand, Tori Spelling and Ian Ziering were the main force pushing to get this going so I just hope it was wall worth it.

Preacher: Season 4 (AMC) – One more kick at the can for Jesse, Cassidy and Tulip as they look to resolve all of their issues through as much violence as possible and really give it to God for unleashing Genesis on Earth and potentially ruining our heroes’ lives. This season will include some of my favorite plot points from the comic series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, a book I consider one of the best ever, as they head to the darkest swamps in Louisiana to seek out their answers. Seriously, this show is an adaptation I could only dream of and how well it has transitioned to the screen under the eyes of Sam Catlin, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg is more than enough to make this fanboy incredibly giddy. Can wait to see how it will all shake out by the end.

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