Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Sonic The Hedgehog – After a delay in release to repair a horrendous looking lead character with teeth and muscle structure that will give you nightmares, we finally get to see this video game adaptation that is hotly anticipated for a rabid fanbase. For those who have lived under a rock for decades, Sonic is a speedy blue hedgehog with a cocky attitude who, in this film, befriends a small-town police officer played by James Marsden to join him in a battle against an evil genius, the villainous Dr. Ivo Robotnik who wants to do experiments on it. My excitement comes from the fact that the big bad is played by one of my favorites of all time, Jim Carrey, who I hear is the best part of the movie. I initially thought that this movie was going to be garbage but from what I’m hearing now, this might be the movie that definitively ends the video game to movie curse. This could be a “gamechanger.” Sorry, I couldn’t help it.

Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island – Talk about a massive genre shift as the classic series Fantasy Island starring Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaize gets a Blumhouse horror makeover and as much as I’m weirded out by this, having seen many episodes of the show, I’m strangely attracted to this film as a genre fan and especially because the park is now run by an evil Michael Pena and I kind of love that. What doesn’t excite me about this movie is it comes from director Jeff Wadlow who as yet to make a movie that doesn’t fall apart like dried playdough. He bobbled a great potential franchise with a lackluster Kickass 2 and his last horror film Truth Or Dare is a ridiculous mess of bad filmmaking. Maybe he can right his own ship with an idea that feels so off the wall that it could only come from the twisted factory of Blumhouse.

The Photograph – This movie, although heavily under-marketed, could be a sleeper of a hit just due to the red hot appeal of its stars, Issa Rae and Lakeith Stansfield, both actors making all the right moves at the moment. The film is a romantic drama, fitting for a Valentine’s Day opening, about the estranged daughter of a famous photographer who falls in love with the journalist assigned to cover her late mother. The film comes from writer and director Stella Meghie who earned some critical acclaim with her features The Weekend in 2018 but faltered in her last studio feature Everything, Everything so hopefully, with some proven star power, she can make a mainstream feature that connects. I love both of these actors so I’m really excited to see this one. (Not opening in Kamloops or Oshawa)

Downhill – The penchant for Americans to remake absolutely perfect foreign films is a trend that frustrates me to no end and this one is no different as they are redoing one of my favorite films of 2014, Ruben Ostlund’s Force Majeure. This is a double edge to this one as it has the always fantastic Julia Louis Dreyfuss but it also has the extremely hit and miss Will Ferrell in a story that really doesn’t need outlandish comedy as it is all about subtlety. The movie is about the turmoil driven into a marriage when a family is put in danger of a potential avalanche and the father’s flee instinct is too overwhelming and he temporarily abandons them. The original is amazing and highly recommended as I don’t think it could ever be reproduced. Prove me wrong, The Way, Way Back directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. (Not opening in Hamilton, Kamloops or Oshawa)

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire – I really wish I had seen this movie at the Vancouver International Film Festival or at least before the end of the year as it definitely would have made my “Best of 2019” list because this movie is an absolutely astounding film and has a final scene that will resonate with me cinematically for the rest of my life. The film takes place at the end of the eighteenth century and follows Marianne, a painter employed to do a portrait of the daughter of a rich aristocrat. As the sessions go on, the two women fall in love with each other, a forbidden secret that could destroy both of their lives. Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel are incredible together in this film, a clinic in how just one glance can say volumes. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Ford v Ferrari – This new biopic should definitely be at the top of your list to buy because it is another tour-de-force performance from Christian Bale as well as another incredible piece of cinema from director James Mangold, a true story of a seemingly impossible task put in the hands of two real-life larger than life characters. Matt Damon plays American car designer Carroll Shelby with Bale starring as driver Ken Miles, the two employed in an uphill battle of corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford that could challenge and beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. This movie is crammed with charisma, has a smart and snappy script with the cast to deliver it and definitely is a total crowd-pleaser. You missed out on the big screen and even bigger IMAX experience but don’t let it pass you by now on your home entertainment sound surround.

Roma – Coming off this year’s Academy Awards, it’s a great time to look at last year’s big winner in the international department now that it hits Criterion Collection this week. Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron digs deep with this slice of Mexico City life in the early 1970s following Cleo, a housekeeper for a couple and their four children. Her employer’s marriage starts to crumble at the same time Cleo is forced with a life changer, making the two women’s bond closer and closer. Cuaron’s autobiographical connection to this film adds to the heart of it combining with the technical brilliance in its construction and cinematography. I spent many a moment slack-jawed over beautiful dolly shots, framing and use of reflection. This one is very special.

First Love – A head turner any time he makes a film, writer and director Takashi Miike returns with a movie that is not just satisfying his large fan base but is getting huge acclaim from the cinema world in general. In his heightened vision of a Yakuza run Tokyo, Miike crafts the story of a young boxer and a call girl who get caught up in a drug-smuggling scheme over the course of one night. The movie digs into the type of stories we love from Miike, brutal antihero led tales with blood streaking every scene and it’s very cool to see people who usually aren’t into this genre picking it up and giving the filmmaker another renewal in his popularity. Maybe this will lead to an uptick in the viewings of Ichi The Killer or Sukiyaki Western Django, although I highly doubt it on that second totally underrated gem.

My Bloody Valentine – One of the greatest Canadian slasher films ever gets a beautiful new collector’s edition from Shout Factory and I’m so happy to add this movie to my collection alongside the original DVD I have and the 3D remake from 2009. The movie is a simple horror plot structure, taking place in a small mining town where decades-old folk tale surrounding a deranged murderer killing those who celebrate Valentine’s Day turns out to be an actual factual legend when a group defies the killer’s order and people start turning up dead. I love this movie, one that Quentin Tarantino considers the greatest slasher of all time, a classic horror with some iconic shots that I hold in the all-time greats list.

Gunsmoke: Season 18 & 19 – More Gunsmoke has made its way into my collection, one that’s fattening up with old western classics by the month it seems. For those who don’t know about the show, this is the story of Marshall Matt Dillon and his town Dodge City one that he governs and keeps safe from all the lawless townfolk and bandits that roll through. This series ran for a total of 20 Seasons so we are at the penultimate seasons of it and a lot of the original characters and actors had moved on from the series, including Miss Kitty who starts her bow out in season nineteen. Still, this is a great show to go through for nostalgic reasons and see how episodic serial television was done in its first golden age.

Shutter Island – A massively underrated Martin Scorsese team up with Leonardo DiCaprio, this Dennis Lehane adaptation didn’t really get the love it deserved when it came out and I was definitely included in the detractors at the time, a feeling I regret now having let it resonate for ten years and after a recent viewing. The story follows a U.S. Marshal and his partner who are investigating the disappearance of a murderer that escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane on a remote island and that’s just the bare bones of this total mind twist of a film that frustrated me in theaters but is actually really genius especially when it comes to the end game of it. The movie also features a stellar supporting cast including Mark Ruffalo, Sir Ben Kingsley and Michelle Williams.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

High Strung Free Dance – A dance movie from Steve on his Geek Outs list? Yes, I didn’t think this would be anything I was interested in but the movie is very visually engaging and the sheer muscle talent is mind-boggling even if the acting isn’t really up to the same level. The movie, a follow up to High Strung, a film lampooned in great fashion by the fantastic podcast How Did This Get Made?, this one follows a young dance choreographer hoping that the big break he just gave to two fledgling dancers will pay off but things get complicated when the two fall in love. The glossiness of the story and acting maybe a little bit of a turn off here but, as I stated earlier, the performances are pretty great.

Television:

Narcos Mexico: Season 2 (Netflix) – Continuing the spin-off of the massively popular Netflix series, Narcos, this show continues to document the rise of the Guadalajara Cartel as an American DEA agent learns the danger of targeting narcos in Mexico. Starring Michael Pena and Diego Luna with narration from Scoot McNairy, this show has more than enough star power to keep me engaged and I’m really excited to see where this show is going, especially with the chaos and tension of season one’s finale. Hopefully, the momentum keeps up, which feels like an easy bet as neither this nor the original series really has had a lull point. Get ready for the binge, everybody!

Kidding: Season 2 (Showtime) – This show is absolutely amazing and definitely my favorite series in the last year. Jim Carrey stars as Mr. Pickles, a Mr. Rogers like character in every way. Has loveable puppets, beautiful and catchy songs and a way to really speak to children. Jeff, the man who portrays Mr. Pickles, is the main face of a multimillion-dollar brand, a father grieving the tragic death of his son and a husband dealing with the separation from his wife. The reunion with Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind filmmaker Michel Gondry is brilliant on all levels as this series hits emotionally with humor and that incredible artistic flair we love from this acclaimed auteur. This is must-see television and season two has taken so long to get here that when I saw it on the calendar I actually exclaimed out loud.

3 From Hell (Shudder) – I have to admit, as much as I wanted a sequel to The Devil’s Rejects and House Of 1000 Corpses, the chronicling of the murderous Firefly family the greatest creation of rocker turned filmmaker Rob Zombie, I didn’t feel the need for another piece of the story or the avenue for it because, spoiler alert, they all died at the end of the last one. That said, I am totally in for more bloody mayhem with Otis, Captain Spaulding and Baby especially because this kind of looks like Zombie’s take on a pulpy Oliver Stone Natural Born Killers approach and there’s even courtroom scenes in this. The trailer is nuts and I’m so intrigued.

Mustang (Criterion Channel) – One of the greatest international films from the last decade, this is a movie that is begging to be seen and heard. Guaranteed to drain every tear out of your body, as it did a friend of mine who I brought to the original screening, this is the story of five orphaned Turkish girls who are sold off in marriage by their guardians. This is a beautiful and heartbreaking film of sisterhood and the destruction of innocence, a movie that will leave its mark on you like a belt lashing. This movie was nominated for an Oscar but ultimately lost to Son Of Saul in a year of incredibly tough competition. The release was bobbled badly here in Canada so this is a great opportunity to check it out.

Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (Netflix) – I have made it no secret that I adore everything Aardman puts out. Just like Laika Studios, their films have an original charm to them that I love on a consistent level and I know that extends to my kids as well because every time I put on one of the movies they are immediately captivated. One of the favorites is Shaun The Sheep, the television series being a big hit and that last movie is absolutely adorable. Now we get the return to the big screen of Shaun and his farm friends, this time the gang encountering an alien with amazing powers who crash-lands at their home and pushes everyone to go on a mission to shepherd the intergalactic visitor home before a sinister organization can capture her. This is exactly everything the trailer sets it up to be, nothing more, nothing less, but damn it looks enjoyable.

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