Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Abominable – After Warner Bros. made some middling money for their animated yeti movie Smallfoot, Dreamworks now throws their snow caked hat into the ring with this new adorable looking film featuring Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Chloe Bennet. The story has her character Yi discovering a magic yeti that she needs to get to its home before a wealthy businessman with the voice of Eddie Izzard and his zoologist sidekick can get their way. It would seem that the push isn’t very big behind this movie, one of the few big studio releases of this month, the reviews seem to be really backing it up and giving me the impression that this might be a film with some great original ideas and something the whole family will enjoy. The director previously did Open Season for Sony so she’s a winner in my books as I love that movie.

Judy – Ever since Rene Zellweger returned to the spotlight for her third Bridget Jones movie, I have been waiting for her to nab a juicy role that would put her back into the position of being an award hopeful like when she won an Oscar for Cold Mountain. Yes, I root for Rene and now I think she has landed in a movie that I think will garner the awards talk as the season kicks off. She plays the legendary Judy Garland in this biopic about the troubled and tragic actress from True Story director Rupert Goold, focussing on her series of sold-out concerts in London during the winter of 1968. Although this movie and Rene were publicly denounced by Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli, the word has been good and the film received a huge standing ovation at TIFF. I think this will be the one to look out for in the Best Actress conversation so make note of it now.

Blu-Ray:

Yesterday – Imagine a world where you were a musician that was the only person who could remember the existence of The Beatles and their music. That is the premise of this new Danny Boyle directed film starring Himesh Patel and the lovely Lily James and as a huge fan of the Fab Four myself I was really excited for it as it celebrates the music of one of the greatest bands to ever live but I wanted to keep my bar low to not be disappointed. I’m happy to report that the movie exceeded my expectations, a sweetheart of a story that’s just loony enough to be some ridiculous fun with a steadily beating heart underneath it. Patel’s performance is so earnest and kind of a star-maker so I hope to see more of him in the future.

Child’s Play – I really don’t know how to feel about this remake or reboot as I really enjoyed the direction that this Don Mancini created series was going with the comedy horror angle. Chucky, for me, is one of those iconic horror staples, especially with the voice of Brad Dourif but I’m willing to give this movie a shot, and not just because it was all shot in Vancouver. The “Buddi” doll in this new film is computer programmable, a gift that a mother (Aubrey Plaza) gives her son that gets possessed by an evil entity with the voice of Mark Hamill. That latter part is another reason I’m giving this movie a chance and, hell, the reviews were actually pretty good.

Shaft – In the attempt to reboot a franchise Shaft gets the whole grandfather, dad and son treatment with Richard Roundtree and Samuel L. Jackson reprising their roles as John Shaft I and John Shaft II respectively as they mentor John Shaft Jr., played by Independence Day: Resurgence star Jesse T. Usher. The twist is that Shaft Jr. isn’t a tough guy like his dad and grandpa but a cybersecurity genius and MIT graduate who must use his skills to solve the murder of a close family friend, prompting every cliched “what a pussy” moment to come flying out of Sam Jackson’s mouth. The film is directed by Barbershop and Fantastic Four director Tim Story and while this movie is more playing to his style of comedy, the real Shaft moments just come across as totally cringe-worthy to a degree that I wonder why Warner Bros. went ahead with this film based on its script alone. Also, the third act has a moment that reeks of a desperate attempt for the writers to scream “hey, we’ve got more!” I’m sure they do, just no one is interested.

The First King – It’s pretty rare for me to receive something from Well Go USA that isn’t an Asian film so it was surprising when I got this co-production between Italy and Belgium and, oh man, what a film it is. It is the story of Romulus and Remus, two brothers living in peace near the Tiber river. Remus believes that he is bigger than their God’s intentions for him and is meant to become king of a city he will create together with his brother. What ensues is a incredible journey that leads the two brothers to creating one of the greatest empires the world has ever seen, the Romans. This movie is bloody, visceral and horrifically violent but always entertaining with some incredible shots but beware this movie gets pretty gross.

In The Aftermath – More forgotten 80s stuff courtesy of Arrow Video, as this one features no one you know and is directed and written by a guy who has made nothing you’ve ever heard of and maybe because its one of those great Ozploitation films. This one is fascinating as it blends the end of the world with religious allegory as it follows the survivors in a post apocalyptic world who see a beacon of salvation when an angel descends from heaven. The story is a cool sounding one but there’s a twist to this film as it uses an animated element from the Japanese anime movie Angel’s Egg to help the film along, blending animation with the live action story in a move that feels absolutely crazy pills. This movie is so hidden in its history that there is pretty much no information on it to be found.

John Carpenter’s Vampires – Anyone who knows me knows that I have a deep love for the Master of Horror, John Carpenter, and when the collector’s edition for this movie was announced I was immediately stoked because I think this movie is one of his many underrated films. Starring James Woods in his most badass role ever, the film follows the leader of a group of vampire slayers after his entire team has been decimated by one of the most powerful vamps they’ve ever come up against, the deadly Jan Valek. In a last-ditch effort to save humanity, he must recover a Catholic relic that would spell doom for existence if the bloodsuckers got their hands on it. This movie was horribly panned when it was released but I think it is massively entertaining due to its western style approach and possibly the greatest James Woods performance ever. Trust me, this is a collector’s edition to get excited over.

The Major And The Minor – We’re heading back to the era of 1940s cinema with this new collector’s edition from Arrow Academy in a movie written and directed by the legendary Billy Wilder. Starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland, the story to this romance is very simple, a woman disguises herself as a child to save on a train fare and is taken in charge by an army man who doesn’t notice the truth, so, you know, your standard rom-com. This role was very close to Rogers as she used to pretend to be younger by rolling her stockings down and holding her old dolly to look like a young child in order to get a cheaper fare when she was part of her family’s vaudeville act. Honestly, the stories about this movie get crazier, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 – Back when Wes Craven was first scaring audiences for the first time with The Last House On The Left and The Hills Have Eyes, he wanted to make a sequel to the second movie, which he filmed the majority of before his star-maker A Nightmare On Elm Street was made and released. After that success, the producers wanted him to finish the movie, which wasn’t possible with what he had and with no more budget to rely on, he had to cut in pieces of the first movie to pad it up and hated the finished product and subsequently disowned it. Well, now that movie is a collector’s edition with Arrow Video and a perfect piece of any horror fan’s collection no matter what Wes thought of it. Plus it has the only flashback sequence from the point of view of a dog in cinema existence. How’s that for a selling feature?

Madam Secretary: Season 5 – A political drama which looks into the life of the Secretary of State as she tries to balance work with family. With a really great supporting cast that includes Tim Daly, Geoffrey Arend, Zeljko Ivanek and, a personal favorite, Keith Carradine, this show is a really solid political drama that plays off of some real-life happenings. Yes, this season picked some sides between the whole Trump versus Hillary debate, which was revealing when Hillary herself appeared on the show, but I really love that our art mediums are choosing to be transparent in this way with the writing. Between this and The Good Fight, we are really getting some fiery anti-Trump talk which is, in my opinion, completely warranted.

Billions: Season 4 – U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades goes after hedge fund king Bobby “Axe” Axelrod in a battle between two powerful New York figures. The battle of heavies played perfectly by Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti, two of the best character actors working, continues in this new season, as the tables turn on some of our characters and new alliances are formed for financial survival. For the first time, and in an uneasy way between Axe, Chuck and his lawyer wife Wendy form an uneasy alliance against a Russian billionaire played by John Malkovich, the COO of a rival investment firm, Rhodes former right-hand guy and the attorney general of the United States. The stakes are definitely high in this season.

Holocaust – Paramount reaches deep into the vault for this television event that originally aired on NBC in the spring of 1978. Starring the now high profile actors James Woods, Meryl Streep and former Law & Order leading man Michael Moriarty, this is a harrowing miniseries which recounts the events leading to the Holocaust from the perspectives of a fictional German Jew family named Weiss and that of a rising member of the SS, who gradually becomes a merciless war criminal. This movie got lambasted by critics when it was released, NBC themselves being accused of being exploitative and trying to commercialize the story of the holocaust. This was even with a companion show that would follow, featuring a panel of historians who answered questions from people phoning in, which seems like a great way to get some real information across after a series that features some embellishment and fiction. It’s good that audiences have softened now. Haha, just kidding.

Stephen King’s The Stand – When this adaptation originally aired in 1994, I was deliriously excited because this is my favorite book of all time, the ultimate battle of good and evil on the battlegrounds of a plague-ridden world. The series played really well for me and, although some dodgy special effects and television grade acting hamper it quite a bit, the four-episode miniseries holds up. This new restored Blu-ray edition looks absolutely gorgeous and features audio commentary as well as a featurette on the making of the show. This is a good tide over as the new adaptation is currently in production with filmmaker Josh Boone at the helm.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Ladyworld – This is one of those weird little films I’ve never heard of getting sent to me that is, out of nowhere, a pretty damn good watch. Featuring a cast of definite up and comers, this is the story of eight teenage girls who become trapped in an endless birthday party after a massive earthquake that triggers a time anomaly event and the girls’ sanity and psyches dissolve as they begin to run out of food and water. The young cast of this show is what grabbed me immediately, featuring Ariela Barer from Runaways and Atypical, Annalise Basso from Captain Fantastic, the always great Ryan Simpkins and the fast-rising star of Maya Hawke. Writer and director Amanda Kramer has such command over these actresses which shines through with the screenplay and this is only her second feature. I see big things in her future as well as all these gifted ladies.

Television:

Stumptown: Season 1 (ABC) – One of the best comics in the last ten years, Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth’s limited series was modern-day detective noir following a bisexual female private investigator with a gambling problem. I was very intrigued by a series adaptation of this, although I was hoping for a cable or streaming company to do it given the creative freedom, but as soon as Burnaby’s own Cobie Smulders was cast in the lead role I had more confidence in the show even though ABC would be making it. The supporting cast is solid too, with Michael Ealy, The Practice’s Cameron Manheim, who I feel like I haven’t seen in forever and The New Girl’s Jake Johnson plus Greg Rucka is the showrunner too as well as the original creator.

Creepshow: Season 1 (Shudder) – With my love of anthology horror being large as well as my adoration of the first two Creepshow movies, you best believe I am more than excited for a brand new series of disturbing horror stories led by The Walking Dead showrunner and gore specialist Greg Nicotero. First off, the list of directors on this show is insane, including David Bruckner, one of the guys behind another anthology film Southbound, for four episodes, Tales From The Darkside: The Movie director John Harrison for two episodes, the incredible new talent of Roxanne Benjamin, Makeup master Tom Savini and more and then the cast, holy crap. There’s a mix of older stars and new as we get people like Adrienne Barbeau, Tobin Bell and Jeffrey Coms as well as rappers Big Boi and Kid Cudi and fan favorites like David Arquette and Dana Gould. Oh man, this is going to be fun.

Crank Yankers: Season 1 (Comedy) – Remember that show from years ago that had prank phone calls recreated by puppets? Well, that show has returned to Comedy Central because, you know, whatever was old is new again, right? The original series, which took it’s final call about twelve years ago, featured the voices of Fred Armisen, Jimmy Kimmel, Sarah Silverman and Dane Cook whereas this new season brings in the voices of Tracy Morgan, Adam Carolla and Aubrey Plaza or at least for the first episode. This show was a large part of my 2000s favorites alongside Wonder Showzen on MTV2 so I’m kind of hoping that the caliber of comedy is still there. Otherwise, why else even try this?

In The Shadow Of The Moon (Netflix) – A totally underrated filmmaker with great films on his resume like Cold In July and Stakeland, Jim Mickle returns with this off-kilter crime mystery with a sci-fi thread in it. Starring Boyd Holbrook, Michael C. Hall and The Last Man On Earth standout Cleopatra Coleman, this movie is about a Philadelphia police officer’s struggle with a lifelong obsession to track down a mysterious serial killer whose crimes defy any earthly explanation, causing him to look like the department quack. I love the atmosphere that Mickle has brought to all of his movies and the film features David Lanzenberg as the cinematographer who dropped my jaw with his work on the sci-fi film The Signal so I’m basically counting down to when this is on Netflix.

The Unicorn: Season 1 (CBS) – A brand new series with The Righteous Gemstones star Walton Goggins in the lead and its a sweetheart comedy? Oh hell yes, sign me up! This brand new show has him playing a widower who is eager to move on from the most difficult year of his life and try and meet someone new. He quickly realizes that he’s utterly unprepared to raise his two daughters on his own and at the same time equally unprepared for the dating world where he’s suddenly a very sought after guy. The show co-stars Rob Corddry and Omar Benson Miller, both from the HBO show Ballers, and was created by two of the guys behind 3rd Rock From The Sun. Wait, was that too old of a reference?

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