Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

The Angry Birds Movie 2 (Opened on Tuesday) – From mobile game to big screen adaptation, this Rovio product of simple catapulting birds into structures to foil a bunch of green pigs has proved to be a massive property and truth be told I didn’t mind the first movie at all which is a good thing because my kid loves the movie and TV show. This new movie has the birds and pigs teaming up to take on a new threat located on an undiscovered island in their area and the voice talent is definitely present for this one including the returning Jason Sudekis, Josh Gad and Danny McBride as our main heroes as well as Sterling K. Brown, Bill Hader, Awkwafina and many, many more. That’s the element that keeps me interested.

Blinded By The Light (Opened on Wednesday) – Music driven comedies haven’t had the greatest un this year with Danny Boyle’s world without Beatles movie Yesterday making a pretty short stumble at the box office. Hoping to break that mould of 2019, this film takes it in a different direction with a teenager learning to live life, understand his family and find his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen in n 1987 during the uptight days of Thatcher’s Britain. Right away the blue-collar American nature of The Boss’s music with the sensibilities of a Hindu British family is a very interesting dynamic and the movie looks so charming. It also should be noted that this film comes from the writer and director of Bend It Like Beckham so this isn’t her first kick at this sort of story. I think it will be great. (Not opening in Hamilton)

Good Boys – The basic premise here is preteen Superbad, rude, crude and lewd. This might make you a little uncomfortable or you will have the bandwidth to say that, hey, this is a movie and just take it in as such. Vancouverite Jacob Tremblay joins his buddies Keith L. Williams from The Last Man On Earth and Boardwalk Empire’s Brady Noon in this film about three sixth grade boys who ditch school and embark on an epic journey while carrying accidentally stolen drugs. Along the way, they are hunted by teenage girls all while trying to make their way home in time for a long-awaited party where they may kiss a girl for the first time. The advance reviews for this movie are really positive and the movie may find itself in the same conversation as the movie I compared it to but in calibre and not just subject matter.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged – Shark movies, it should be standard to have one each summer, right? I mean, just to keep Spielberg’s Jaws legacy alive and remembering where we got our blockbuster culture from. This year’s shark movie is a follow up to the Mandy Moore starring film from a couple of years back that honestly wasn’t that bad. This time we get all new characters in this story about four teen girls diving in a ruined underwater city who quickly learn they’ve entered the territory of the deadliest shark species in a claustrophobic labyrinth of submerged caves. Made by the same guy who did the first film, as well as the great Strangers sequel from last year, this looks to ramp up the shark fear and intensity on a bigger scale but will it work or will it just be laughably ridiculous? (Not opening in Kamloops)

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – I feel like it’s been a while since we’ve seen a Richard Linklater film and I have been going through with drawls without his cinema sensibilities on the big screen. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true but it has been two years since Last Flag Flying and the simple fact that this pairs him up with Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett had me salivating for this movie as soon as it was announced. The film has her as a mom who becomes compelled to reconnect with her creative passions after years of sacrificing herself for her family. This takes her on an epic adventure that jump-starts her life and leads to her triumphant rediscovery with her family chasing along behind her. Co-starring Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer and the great new star Troian Bellisario, this movie showcases what Linklater does best, deeply human stories in a contemporary setting. (Not opening in Hamilton, London, Kamloops or Oshawa)

Cold Case Hammarskjöld – This is one of those interesting documentaries of the discovery of a deeper subject while investigating something that only turned out to be scratching the surface. Told by Danish director Mads Brügger as he dictates the events of an investigation into the death of a UN secretary-general to a typist, the film gives a point by point visual aide to a localized conspiracy with global implications. As their investigation closes in on some undeniable truths on the murder, they uncover a series of crimes far worse than that perpetrated by a government-created agency of mercenaries tasked with carrying out white supremacist orders in Africa. Although the approach to telling this story made it a tough watch for me, the information given in this film is grossly fascinating and absolutely terrifying in every way. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

After The Wedding – Writer and director Bart Freundlich is a pretty ambitious filmmaker with his new film as he has taken on the task of adapting the great Susanne Bier and her 2006 drama starring Mads Mikkelsen. Swapping the genders of the lead three characters, the film is about a manager of an orphanage in Kolkata who travels to New York to meet a benefactor who has promised them a massive boost to their funding. When she arrives there she is invited to attend the wedding of her potential angel investor’s daughter, which begins a revelation that changes everyone’s future. The film is nowhere near the calibre of its source material but the emotional moments land with sledgehammer weight through the powerful performances of Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore and Billy Crudup. This is a serious actor’s clinic. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Luce – With his first movie out of the gate being Cloverfield Paradox, the third piece in the J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot monster universe, it was hard to get a sense of what kind of filmmaker Julius Onah is. Now with his second feature, he taps into a dramatic side with a married couple who is forced to reckon with their idealized image of their adopted son after an alarming discovery by a devoted high school teacher about his former life in a war-torn country threatens his status as an all-star student. The cast is deep, featuring Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts, Tim Roth and It Comes At Night star Kelvin Harrison Jr. as the title character. PArt of me geeks out because this is the reunion of Watts and Roth as a married couple following the remake of Funny Games. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am – Heading into this documentary, my knowledge of Toni Morrison’s work was slightly limited. I was a huge fan of the Jonathan Demme directed film Beloved, based on her novel and knew she was the frequent author of choice for Oprah’s famous book club. This film gave me a crash course in this gifted and important literary voice and Nobel Prize winner and, most importantly, it all comes from Morrison herself who tells her story to the camera, leaving no stone unturned. Including interviews with friends like Black Power activist Angela Davis, writer Fran Lebowitz and Oprah Winfrey herself, we get a full portrait of how pivotal she is to black literature, the preservation of it and the need to keep it on the forefront of history. As far as biographical documentaries go, this one is top notch. (Only opening in Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Avengers: Endgame – It’s finally on Blu-ray so I can relive it again and again and again! After over ten years of movies and one of the most devastating cliffhangers in any mainstream movie ever we were gifted the fates of the Earth’s mightiest heroes and the end or new beginnings for a large part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as both Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. have stated, no spoilers involved, that this is their final times in these bigger than life roles. Yes, Spider-Man: Far From Home is currently in theaters, Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 3, The Eternals, Black Widow, Shang Chi and more sequels for Black Panther, Thor and Doctor Strange are still coming but the timeline going forward is still unknown. I have many thoughts and speculations to what could happen but I don’t want anything I say to be construed as a spoiler so get watching the home release so I can talk freely in about six months.

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.

Unplanned – This movie was released a while back in the states, months ago to be accurate, and given its subject matter the timing of the film is both horrifying and fascinating. The movie is a pandering faith-based film with nothing more than an agenda to be brainlessly consumed by their base. The plot follows a woman who becomes one of the youngest Planned Parenthood directors in the US. After she is asked to assist in an abortion at thirteen weeks she instead resigns, becoming a pro-life activist. I’m usually against banning films or boycotting it as I feel its pretty limiting in the art field but this is a movie that I hope earns no box office numbers whatsoever. No movie should be used as a political weapon or one that confused people with fiction disguised as fact. This honestly makes me mad.

Shadow – Usually I’m on board with acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s work from the get-go, whether it’s the high concept action set pieces like Hero or House Of Flying Daggers or thee stilled emotion of Raise The Red Lantern or Coming Home. As a viewer, he always has me in the palm of his hand but this new feature had to play a bit for me to get some foothold. Set during China’s Three Kingdom’s era, this is the story of a king and his people who will be expelled from their homeland if they don’t fight back to keep it. The king, his general and the women of the palace struggle to find redemption in a world where they have no place as a commoner called “Lord of all the world” might be the one to take them all down. For however long I struggled to make this movie work in my mind, the second and third act make up for it with crazy and bloody action all filmed with breathtaking expertise. Yimou is a master and he never lets you forget that.

New Amsterdam: Season 1 – Let’s face it. When it comes to medical procedurals they are kind of a dime a dozen and get instantly compared to Grey’s Anatomy or House M.D. and kind of brushed off. That’s what I thought when I received this new show from Universal, as, from the outset, it has that formula written all over the cover. Not to be confused with the Nickolaj Coster-Waldau series from over ten years ago, this show has BlackkKlansman’s Ryan Eggold as a new medical director who breaks the rules to heal the system at America’s oldest and most rundown public hospital, all while dealing with terminal cancer. The pilot was very intriguing and it also features Maple Ridge’s Tyler Labine in a plum role as a hospital administrator. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen so far and it earned the pick up for season two.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:

Silent Hill – Without a bit of hyperbole, I can say that this movie is the greatest video game adaptation ever made. The source material freaked the hell out of me when I had originally played it on Playstation and the film had the same effect on me when I saw it opening weekend in theaters. The atmosphere, the sound design, the visual effects, all brilliantly crafted by French director Christophe Gans to give you an experience you won’t forget. Now, thanks to those sweethearts at Shout Factory, we have a brand new collector’s edition because they know their fanbase and know that we needed this incredible movie back in our lives with all the goodies of great special features.

Shortcut To Happiness – Sometimes I am sent movies that I am literally looking at for the first time and usually they are films from before 1970, which is a weak point in my movie knowledge. Then there are movies like this one which I feel like I should have known because of the cast which includes Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin and Bobby Cannavale. The movie is about down-and-out writer Jabez Stone, played by Baldwin who also directs the film, that sells his soul to The Devil in the form of Jennifer Love Hewitt for the purpose of fame and fortune. Why haven’t we heard about this? Well, according to Alec Baldwin, this movie was re-edited after it came into the possession of Bob Yari Productions, and no longer is anything true to its original form or to the Benet short story, The Devil And Daniel Webster. Baldwin requested that his name be removed from the credits as director and producer and instead this movie is credited to Harry Kirkpatrick. The end result though is kind of a hilarious trainwreck in all the worst ways.

The Chill Factor – Oh baby, early nineties horror, what a treasure trove this can be because it predates the resurgence that Wes Craven gave the genre in the middle of the decade, although this movie was never in the popular category. Starring no one you know, this is about a group of snowmobilers who become trapped on a lake and hole up in an abandoned camp. What they don’t know is that the camp was once used by a satanic cult for its rituals, and is still infested by demons, who begin to kill off the group. Yeah, this is like a cheesy demon movie made for B-movie fans like myself and a big reason why I’m so happy I liked up with a company like Arrow Video. They just get me.

Television:

Mindhunter: Season 2 (Netflix) – I feel like we’ve been waiting forever for this creepy look into the minds of serial killers at a time law enforcement was getting into profiling them. Executive produced and sometimes directed by the incredible David Fincher, this is the type of series that will keep you up at night. Starring Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany, the show puts these two agents on real cases with real killers being portrayed and this season will bring in notorious names like Charles Manson to the fray. I seriously can’t wait.

Straight Up Steve Austin: Season 1 (USA) – Usually I wouldn’t bring a reality show to this part of the write-up but I am a wrestling fan and this is led by the biggest badass to enter the ring, Stone Cold Steve Austin so deal with it. The show has Austin in his element, hosting an interview-based series, chatting with some of his celebrity friends in exciting surroundings like Rob Riggle in a tank, Impractical Jokers’ Sal Vulcano getting some just desserts from the Rattlesnake and even some ATVing with “The Man” Becky Lynch. All of this is geared totally towards me so maybe this one is a little self-serving.

The Terror: Infamy (AMC) – It’s an all-new story for this sleeper AMC hit and I’m really excited for it because season one of this show is an absolute frozen gem that will chill you to the core with its monstrous tale. The second season takes place on the west coast of the United States during World War II and follows an uncanny spectre that menaces a Japanese-American community from its home in Southern California to the internment camps to the war in the Pacific. The reviews haven’t been as great for this season but the focus I find fascinating, especially as a fan of Asian horror. With George Takei and Torchwood’s Naoko Mori starring in it, I still have high hopes.

Succession: Season 2 (HBO) – I used to be so in tune with whatever HBO was releasing because everything had such a stellar quality to it that it was all can’t miss television so the fact that this one has flown outside of my radar is a bit sad. It follows the Roy family who controls one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world and their lives as they start to make power moves in the hopes that their ageing father begins to step back from the company. It stars Brian Cox as the patriarch of the Roys as well as Kieran Culkin, Nicholas Braun and Jeremy Strong but the standout for me is Hiam Abass as Cox’s wife who constantly delivers knockout performance after performance. This is a winner for sure.

Lodge 49: Season 2 (AMC) – We definitely need more quirk in our comedy dramas and this show is totally indicative of that and I’m sure a large part of the mainstream audience has zero clue of its existence. Starring Wyatt Russell as the lead, Sean ‘Dud’ Dudley, a character that finds himself one day on the steps of Lodge 49, a dusty fraternal order that offers cheap beer and strange alchemical philosophies on the modern world, this show blew me away within twenty minutes of the first episode. The show is a fascinating blend of existential despair, wild ideas and a bit of redemption and I’m so happy to see it got a chance to further its odd folk tale. This is an odd one, so take it with an open mind.

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