Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Doctor Sleep – As we near the end of the year we come to the last remaining films on my most anticipated list and this movie is at the top of it and it’s definitely ambitious in its subject matter. Based on a novel by Stephen King, this is the follow up to The Shining, which has both the distinction of being one of the greatest horror stories and films of all time as well as being one of Stanley Kubrick’s greatest works. Ewan McGregor takes the role of an adult Danny Torrence who has to protect a young girl from an evil cult known as The True Knot who prey on children with powers to remain immortal, an ensuing battle that will definitely lead to some sort of a showdown at the Overlook Hotel. The reviews have just started rolling in and they are very positive so far, which has me very excited.

Last Christmas – I heavily dislike Christmas movies and to make matters worse this film’s title is my most hated Christmas song ever so it is really a bad omen for me and this romantic comedy already. Hopefully, the fact that the film is lead by the Mother Of Dragons Emilia Clarke and Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding can save this movie but the story already feels a bit cheesy. The story has Clarke playing a desperately single woman with a disastrous love life who meets the man who may be the one when she takes a job as a department store elf during the Christmas season at the mall. Actually having to write all of that makes me think this movie will be terrible. Prove me wrong.

Midway – One the outside, this movie looks like a slam dunk, a World War II fighter pilot story about the infamous Battle Of Midway with Woody Harrelson, Patrick Wilson and Dennis Quaid anchoring a good cast of young stars. When you look closely at this movie you will notice the name Roland Emmerich attached to this as director, a filmmaker who hasn’t made a hit film since The Day After Tomorrow fifteen years ago and that movie wasn’t very good. I really want this movie to be entertaining and action-packed, which I’m sure it will be as Emmerich is the guy who blew up the White House in Independence Day but also tanked us all with Resurgence, so I ave a prediction of all-flash and zero substance. (Not opening in Hamilton)

Playing With Fire – John Cena hits the kids movie point of his rise as a Hollywood actor and most notably an action star but the good news is, just like The Rock, Cena has a great command of his comedy chops and this movie may not be totally brutal. He plays one of the all-business members of a crew of rugged firefighters who meet their match when try to rescue three endlessly troublemaking kids and the fact that this film is made by Paul Blart Mall Cop 2’s Andy Fickman may tell you all you need to know. Well, actually Fickman made the Amanda Bynes comedy She’s The Man which I quite liked so the jury may still be out on this one. (Not opening in Kamloops or Oshawa)

Klaus – Time to get animated ahead of the holiday season with this new Christmas feature that will be making it onto Netflix in the next few weeks after this gets a bit of a theatrical run. The film is about an inexperienced postman who is having a rough time in his new position that resolves a massive rift between sides in the Arctic Circle almost by accident when he befriends a school teacher and the two discover a mysterious carpenter who lives alone in a cabin full of handmade toys named Klaus and I bet you can guess who that is. The film has a really solid voice cast including Jason Schwartzman, Rashida Jones, J.K. Simmons and John Cusack and looks like a really great animated holiday story against all of the terrible ones that are usually released at this time. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Fast And Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw – With just one look at this trailer, you would know how obsessed I am with this movie from the moment I first got my eyes on it. The first spinoff from the Fast & Furious series features The Rock’s character of Luke Hobbs who is forced to team up again with Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw to take on a cyber-enhanced threat in the form of Idris Elba bent on destroying humanity. This movie is big, crazy and full of ridiculous action and I loved every moment of this over two-hour extravaganza. The Rock and Statham are both walking and talking fireworks of charisma, as is the big baddie Elba, and Vanessa Kirby, an actress I only knew from a quick part in Mission Impossible: Fallout, is one of the best newcomers of the year. This movie is just fun and recommended.

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 its 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 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 is 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? It really gives the dog a weirdness of having way too much knowledge, especially when he is spouting off racing statistics, almost used as a crutch to distract you from how corny and sappy the movie can become at times. I will say that director Simon Curtis makes some bold moves in the film to separate itself from the pack and not all of them work.

The Kitchen – Based on a graphic novel from Vertigo Comics, a subdivision of DC Comics, this movie had so much potential. 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 of Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth 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. That’s as far as the good news goes as this movie is a mess of bad acting, bad script writing and just bad decisions altogether. I wanted to like this movie but ended up despising it greatly.

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.

Undercover Brother 2 – When I received this movie, yet another unnecessary sequel to a middling Universal Pictures production, I feel like it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. This follow up to a 2002 comedy that I thought was funny but definitely lower than low brow looks terrible just getting a gander at the cover art but the reality of the situation is that it’s much worse than that. I won’t even try to give you an outline of a plot because there really isn’t one but I will start out by saying this film didn’t even have enough money to get Eddie Griffin back to star, instead putting Black Dynamite’s Michael Jai White in the lead, who should have been making a sequel to his own brilliant blaxpoitation movie. This is just bad on all accounts and should be burnt with fire.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Jezebel – Getting some real classics now by adding the Warner Archive division to my review list and this one is a great one to start with as it stars one of Hollywood’s biggest stars of the time, Bette Davis. Made in 1938, this film has Davis as Julie Marsden, a spoiled Southern belle who loses her fiance with her awful behavior, making a horrible scene at a major social event and vows that she will win him back by any means necessary. This is one of Davis’ most popular roles, winning her an Oscar as well as her co-star Fay Bainter for Best Supporting Actress. This movie is a shining example of classic Hollywood and is a very interesting watch.

The Chambermaid – I’m really excited to bring some international cinema to the segment this week with this Mexican drama about a maid in Mexico City’s most luxurious hotel. This movie is the offical selection from Mexico for next year’s Academy Awards and, although it is largely unknown to a large audience, this may be a good bet to at least earn the nomination. This is the feature debut of writer and director Lila Aviles who crafts an incredibly intimate character piece that gives insight to the working class of the country and how that class can clash with those of a wealthy means. The movie is quiet, reflective but full of compassion for its subject.

Television:

His Dark Materials: Season 1 (HBO and BBC) – I’m going to say something controversial here and reveal that I really like the Chris Weitz made Golden Compass film from 2007 which was the first kick at the Phillip Pullman written series of books and I really wanted to see more. It’s a damn great thing that HBO and BBC joined forced to do a faithful adaptation of these books and cast Dafne Keen, who astounded audiences alongside Hugh Jackman in Logan, as the lead character of Lyra. The potential of this series is limited and while being compared to Game Of Thrones is becoming a bit tiresome, the comparison feels a little more real with this one as the book series is popular and perfect for this style of adaptation.

The End Of The Fucking World: Season 2 (Netflix) – This show was a little bit of a sleeper hit for me, a misfit teen road trip with a young man who definitely has more than a few screws loose and the cool girl in school who has her share of daddy issues who embark on a journey to find her real father. This show takes nihilism to a whole new level and I sort of adore it for doing that because it feels like it takes a lot of gutsy chances in its narrative style. Season one was all about introducing these characters and fleshing their development out so I’m excited to see the furthering of their story beyond that and I’m looking forward to the continued longevity of the show.

Paradise Beach (Netflix) – This is an interesting one and a return to international picks in this segment with this film about a team of former robbers who arrive in Phuket, southern Thailand, a total paradise on earth. Now living new lives as traders, they are living happy and luxurious days until, Mehdi, a loose cannon who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for their previous robbery comes to get his piece of the pie. There are no recognizable stars in this movie, so the acting isn’t incredible or anything, but the intrigue of the central plot and the amazing scenery of the location is really cool to look at.

One Child Nation (Amazon Prime) – I’m bringing the informative narrative of documentary this week to my television section with this new fascinating film about childbearing in China. This one is a direct story as Zhang Lynn, the film’s director, uncovers the untold history of China’s one-child policy and the generations of parents and children forever changed by this social experiment after she has a baby of her own. Garnering fantastic reviews, this is an unflinching look into a law that is barbaric and limiting in today’s progressive society and the futility of fighting it in a country that has no want to grow in this manner. This is definitely one of those watercooler talk movies.

The Apollo (HBO) – To close out this week I am bringing another documentary but this one is from those pros over at HBO, a deep look at the legendary Apollo Theater in New York City, a bigger than life venue that has been a catapult to stardom for many comedians over the years. The film was directed by Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams and has been getting some serious love from critics, many calling it an enthralling history lesson as well as a gift for those who love the art of live performances. I’m into it for the HBO affiliation as their documentaries are always stellar.

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