Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

It: Chapter Two – Stephen King is a special writer in my life because e is a big reason why my reading level started to excel when I was a preteen as I ravenously ate up everything he had written in chronological order. His novel It was among my absolute favorites and after the TV movie in 1989 I was hoping that a big-screen version would come and I’m so happy director Andy Muscetti nailed it in the first chapter, released two years ago, and now we get the follow-up and I’m so excited to see it. We get the adult versions of the Losers Club this time as they look to put away the evil of Pennywise the Dancing Clown who has lurked in Derry, Maine for decades and, although I may be a bit biased, I think this could be one of the biggest horror events of the year.

Blu-Ray:

Men In Black: International – Seven years after the attempt to bring this franchise back with the lacklustre Men In Black 3 we are going for the reboot treatment with really no returning cast members except for Emma Thompson who only appeared in the last film. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson reunite to take on intergalactic threats which may tie back to a mole in their own organization. I enjoy both actors a lot so I really want this film to work and rejuvenate this story but the trailers leave me with absolutely nothing aside from a hopefully funny animated side character voiced by Kumail Nanjani. I don’t really have enough faith in director F. Gary Gray to pull this off either.

Booksmart – To start this off, I think this is one of the best comedies of the year right here and I have yet to find someone who saw this and didn’t fall a bit in love with the story of friendship between two brilliant friends, Amy and Molly. 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, almost in the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg Superbad way which is fitting as Feldstein is the little sister of Jonah Hill but I feel like that descriptor undersells it a bit. Starring Kaitlyn Dever from Justified and the hilarious Beanie Feldstein from Lady Bird and Neighbors 2, this movie is a fantastic blend of a fantastic script, dutiful and grounded direction with an incredible pair of performances form these two ladies. Now that the movie is on Blu-ray you have no excuse not to see it and fall in love.

Ma – This new thriller 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 Sue Ann, a lonely woman who befriends a group of students, letting them party at her house, nicknaming her “Ma”. Slowly, the kids begin to realize that Ma isn’t quite right and the friendship shifts to murderous obsession. The film features some really stellar character work form Spencer but after all of the reveals are given to her real motive I honestly felt a little bored by its simplicity and wanted far more from it. In the end, the movie, although not bad, is just forgettable.

Mary Magdalene – Lion director Garth Davis takes on another ambitious project with this film following the story of Jesus Christ but from the perspective of one of the closest to him, Mary Magdelene. Rooney Mara takes the lead role with Joaquin Phoenix playing the “lord and saviour” but as much as the film breaks the mould of faith-based movies and showing some filmmaking guts I couldn’t really get engaged with this one and felt bored for the most part. Both actors usually impart such a deeply gratifying charisma that just seems to be lost in the void in a story that feels too long and sparse to be called a good film. It’s sad because Joaquin was and still is on such a great roll.

Nightmare Cinema – Being raised on films like Creepshow, Cat’s Eye and Tales From The Darkside, I am a huge fan of anthology horror films are we’ve gotten some pretty cool modern cinema ones like Trick r’ Treat, VHS and Southbound, so this new one crossing my path was certainly welcomed. Put together by five incredible directors, Alejandro Brugués (From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series), Joe Dante (Gremlins), Ryûhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train), David Slade (30 Days Of Night) and Mick Garris (The Stand), this is about five strangers who stumble upon a haunted movie theater owned by The Projectionist (Mickey Rourke). Once inside, the audience members witness a series of screenings showing them their deepest fears and darkest secrets over five tales. Look, like other films like this some stories are better than other but oh man do some of these stick out as great moments in horror with great chills and insane gore. Plus, Mickey Rourke is a creepy special effect himself.

Cold Blood – A brand new action thriller starring a favorite of mine, Jean Reno, I had no idea this movie even existed, which is a fail on my part. Reno, settling into some familiar territory like Leon The Professional, plays a hit-man that lives by himself in a cabin at the edge of a lake who takes an injured woman in who arrives in front of his house one day, possibly putting himself in danger of being discovered by past enemies. This film is so unknown that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page but it has Across The Universe’s Joe Anderson in a supporting role as well as Canadian actress Sarah Lind as Reno’s protectee and former Ms. Moneypenny Samatha Bond. You should also read into the fact that this is writer and director Frédéric Petitjean’s first feature film and it has a big fat zero on Rotten Tomatoes.

Santana: Live At US Festival – I really love classic rock but honestly Carlos Santana’s older catalogue of music is something I never really delved into. Of course, I do know probably his biggest hit Black Magic Woman by name but the others I can’t even really remember titles for. That aside, getting this concert Blu-ray was something very cool for me. Taking a full look at one of his greatest performances ever, at the US Festival in 1977, I got a full scope of why Santana is considered one of the greatest guitar players ever ad the cool thing is he introduces and talks about each song in retrospect, giving a whole new quality to this classic concert. Any music fan will want to get their hands on this and crank that surround sound loud so you feel like you were there.

NCIS: Season 16 – Holy crap, Season sixteen? Yes, I fully acknowledge that I have been rining a season a week of these shows for the last three weeks but it all ends of with this show that started it off, well, after it had spun off of J.A.G. but you get the point. Mark Harmon plays Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, the leader of the Major Case Response Team in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and rocks possibly the worst haircut in television. This season treads new ground as it is the first season without series mainstay Pauley Perrette after her very public exit that seems to be because of bullying from the lead himself. Although we are without the fan-favorite of Abby in the lab, the show has added Wilmer Valderrama and Maria Bello over the last few seasons to make it better.

Bull: Season 3 – Look, this show may feature a former NCIS star in lead Michael Weatherly but it has more in common with Dr. Phil than it does that crime procedural as this is a show based on the famous television psychiatrist’s life although, I assume, very loosely. Weatherly plays Dr. Jason Bull a brilliant, brash, and charming observer of jurors, attorneys and witnesses to get the pertinent edge his firm needs to defend their clients and, in some cases, condemn them. Unfortunately this show has the stink of the bad conduct the star showed towards at the time possible co-star Eliza Dushku but I actually enjoyed the handful of episodes I’ve got through so far and it featured some pretty good guest stars like Mercedes Rheul, Jill Hennessey for a couple of episodes and former Bond girl and Law and Order original Carey Lowell.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Lust For A Vampire – Shout Factory digs deep in their vaults of screams for this new special edition of this 1971 b grade horror film by one of the biggest pieces of the Hammer Film empire, Jimmy Sangster. The movie is about a rich Count and Countess who conduct a satanic ceremony to resurrect their daughter, which has an effect on the entire lands around their Karnstein castle which includes nearby Finishing School rife with nubile women for the taking. The film was originally supposed to star Hammer staple Peter Cushing who asked to bow out shortly before filming so that he could continue to look after his ailing wife. The person who was cast in his place, The Horror Of Frankenstein’s Ralph Bates, has said that this is his most hated performance.

BoJack Horseman: Season 1 & 2 – I feel like whenever I review anything that is available of Netflix I have that majority of readers wondering why they would even bother with picking up a physical copy of a title you could easily stream. I get it entirely, especially if you’re only in it for the one watch and are done with it. A show like this animated brilliance I really want as a part of my collection and I’m glad that Shout Factory has now put the first twenty-five episodes in this box set with full cast and crew commentaries for each one as well as extensive behind the scenes featurettes and storyboard to screen comparisons. It’s more than enough to keep a television nerd like myself happy.

The Island – Another great resource with reviewing Blu-ray, Well Go USA has been very kind in gifting me brand new films that I wouldn’t have had the chance to see like this Chinese comedy. The film is about a man with dreams of striking it rich finds himself stranded on an island with a multitude of different people from different walks of life in sort of a light-hearted Lord Of The Flies. The movie is the directorial debut of actor Bo Huang who is a sizeable star in China, starring in hit films like Journey To The West and No Man’s Land and has it’s moments although some of the comedic moments get lost in translation a little.

The Swindlers – Being a huge Korean film fan, I was very excited to receive this new movie from Well Go USA as the stylishness of their cinema is something I always look forward to. A bit of a con man mystery film, this movie has unlikely allies from different sides of the law working together to achieve the common goal of trapping the world’s most legendary con man. Expect double-crosses and moments of devious outsmarting in this film but as much as the style will keep you engaged visually, I felt the plotting pretty flimsy and the twists a little predictable. While this movie is not in the realm of bad movies it doesn’t rise to the occasion of being a good con movie.

S.W.A.T.: Season 2 – Revivals and remakes of classic properties have been pretty lucrative for television with the successes of Hawaii Five-O, MacGyver and Magnum P.I. and with this show it is relying on its past as a series that ran from 1975 to 1976 but a Colin Farrell led movie as well. The new incarnation of this show has ex-Criminal Minds and soap opera superstar Shemar Moore playing a locally born and bred S.W.A.T. lieutenant who is torn between loyalty to the streets and duty to his fellow officers when he’s tasked to run a highly-trained unit that’s the last stop for solving crimes in Los Angeles. A procedural, yes, but one that has a really good cast behind Shemar with Jay Harrington from the cancelled way too early Better Off Ted and Kenny Johnson from The Shield and Saving Grace and if you have a good cast I’m willing to give your show a chance.

Television:

Paper Champions: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – This week I’m not just starting with some Canadian content but some homegrown local stuff to me as Vancouver’s Matt Ewart and Brady Roberts bring this new web series to life. The show follows Aubrey, a woman that has to shoulder a large responsibility when her father passes away as she must oversee his indie wrestling promotion in middle Amerca. You can see that involving wrestling plays right into the things I love and Roberts is a pro wrestler himself as cast member and friend of mine Paul “The Mauler” Lazenby and former ECW, WCW and WWE legend Lance Storm who also plays in this movie. The series is funny, well written and showcases one of my favorite pastimes and I hope to see more of it.

Mayans M.C.: Season 2 (FX) – Sons Of Anarchy fans, myself included, still have something to cling to as this series enters its sophomore season and is reportedly Kurt Sutters last as a showrunner, leaving it to co-creator Elgin James. The show has now established it’s new Jax, EZ, played by JD Pardo, a character that starts his journey from the bottom as a prospect which adds to a different dynamic in the show. I love the supporting cast like Edward James Almos and Tudors star Sarah Bolger and the returning actors Ray McKinnon and Emilio Rivera in their Sons of Anarchy roles, this all taking place in a post-Jax Teller world. As a merchandise owning fan of the original series, I will ride with this show until the wheels fall off. Heck, I even watched the entire series of The Bastard Executioner for Kurt Sutter, this is far better.

Untouchable (Hulu) – This may not be exactly a television series but it’s new to Hulu this week and it is both important and completely relevant as it this figure was really the accused that pushed the Me Too movement. This documentary is a look at the rise and fall of disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein featuring interviews with former colleagues and those who accused him of sexual misconduct which makes this film, to me, absolutely fascinating. Weinstein is now known to have blocked the careers of Ashley Judd, Mira Sorvino, Rose McGowan and many more and to see this catalogued in a tell-all film makes this one can’t miss and a really interesting conversation to have.

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