Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Brahms: The Boy II – How we have a sequel to a horror movie that, as far as I know, totally bombed in theaters is beyond me but here we are. Without the star of the first movie, Luren Cohen, we get Katie Holmes playing the mother of a young boy who moves into the Heelshire Mansion with her husband where her son discovers a creepy little boy doll who becomes his new friends, communicating to his on a ghostly level. The film was directed by the director of the first film William Brent Bell but it must also be noted that this same guy who did The Devil Inside one of the worst cop-out ending horror films I have ever seen in my life. This storyteller has yet to impress me on an original idea movie yet and I’m doubting that this one will change my mind.

The Call Of The Wild – Harrison Ford is the ultimate draw to this story based on the iconic frontier story of the same name, written by Jack London, a film that has been made many times before in 1935, 1972, 1997 and as a series in 2000. The story is one of friendship and survival with frontiersman John Thornton and a sled dog that changed his life in the wilderness of the Yukon. I would be totally into this movie, as I really enjoyed the Disney+ movie Togo a lot, but the fact that this is a totally obvious CGI created dog is kind of a cinematic turn-off. It doesn’t matter to me that director Chris Sanders is the creator of Lilo & Stitch, the big screen herald of How To Train Your Dragon and a wizard of animation, this dog is still very unsettling to me. Just check out the trailer to see what I’m talking about.

Ordinary Love – Liam Neeson and the always great Leslie Manville star in this romantic drama, from little known directing duo Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn, and it looks to be a movie that is destined to get your tears out of you in a quick fashion. The story follows a middle-aged couple in the midst of the wife’s breast cancer diagnosis which shines a light on their relationship as they are faced with the challenges that lie ahead and the prospect of what might happen if or when she passes away. This movie encompasses the tough reality of planning for tragedy and has Manville giving a performance which should again put the spotlight on a career actress who is constantly forgotten during award season, well, unless she does a Paul Thomas Anderson movie that is. With stellar reviews, this movie is a diamond in the rough this week. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Terra Willy – An animated import from France, it’s a wonder if the creators of this movie had paid attention to any of the children’s television shows and movies that had been released in North America in the last ten years because there are some striking similarities to this film, that is also known as Astro Kid. The story follows a kid named Willy that lives on a space travelling research center, just like the Disney Junior show Miles From Tomorrowland. When an asteroid field destroys the ship, Willy and his parents are separated into two different escape pods and Willy’s lands on an uncharted planet, the pod containing a droid to help him survive. The movie is bright and vibrant for the kids but I always take issue with dubbing on foreign films as it feels like I am missing something. This movie passed before my eyes with zero excitement so I don’t expect it to become a hit. (Only opening in Toronto and Vancouver)

Blu-Ray:

Jojo Rabbit – I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand how Taika Waititi is able to be such a deeply adorable man, even when he plays Adolf Hitler, but here we are. This is the story of a young boy growing up in Nazi Germany, enrolled in the Hitler Youth program, with designs on becoming the fuhrer’s best friend. All of young Jojo’s ego and courage comes from his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, played by the aforementioned Waititi in the most hilarious way possible. To truly enjoy this movie you really have to throw away any offended feelings you have because the film is the height of pure satire. That in mind, the performances from everyone are so top-notch, which includes Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell and Leave No Trace standout Thomasin McKenzie and now that this has won Taika an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay you certainly have to call this a must-see now.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood – Tom Hanks secured himself an easy Academy Award nomination by playing the most wholesome man to speak kids from the television set ever, Fred Rogers. This film follows the long friendship between Rogers and journalist Tom Junod, played by The Americans’ Matthew Rhys, a jaded magazine writer who was assigned to do a character piece on the PBS host. As his friendship with Rogers broadens, he overcomes his skepticism and starts to learn about empathy, kindness, and decency from America’s most impassioned children’s entertainer ever. I think this movie is an easy slam dunk for great films and I love that it is directed by Marielle Heller who made the great movies The Diary Of A Teenage Girl and Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a filmmaker who improves with every film she does. I want to point out that this is largely Rhys’ film to carry and, yes, Hanks is the support role in this movie and there are moments that are completely uncanny between him and the real Fred Rogers. This is a gem of a movie that will have you openly crying.

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 and this one follows suit because the guy couldn’t make believable human contact for the life of him. The film capitalizes on what Emmerich does best, engaging and dazzling looking special effects, so the dogfight scenes of fighter pilots diving and tailing their enemy is exhilarating but everything in between serves to drag it down constantly. I will say that Woody Harrelson was perfectly cast in his role, looking very much like Chester W. Nimitz but it was a total bust.

21 Bridges – Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman reteams with the minds behind the last two epic Avengers films, The Russo Brothers, who act in the producer capacity for this new police action thriller. Boseman plays an NYPD detective, the son of a slain police officer, who now dedicates his life to tracking down cop killers when two killers start a police war that starts to take over the entire city. Co-starring Taylor Kitsch, If Beale Street Could Talk’s Stephan James and Sienna Miller, this is exactly as cookie-cutter as it looks with every character delivering tired dialogue that you’ve heard before, playing up the machismo from every angle. The movie could be interesting but it gets so lost in trying to be tough and gritty that it falls into a predictable rut that even its attempt at a big reveal can’t help it out of. It also features a terrible performance from Sienna Miller who hams it up to an awful degree.

Another Day Of Life – War journalism is a level of bravery, resolve and strong constitution that few people have and that even fewer can maintain without cracking up. This animated film I was sent by Shout Factory give you an almost crash course into the hell of a war-torn country, in this case, Angola, the gripping story of a three-month-long journey that renowned Polish reporter Ryszard Kapuscinski took across the country, ravaged by a war in which the front lines shifted into a brand new horror from one day to the next. The film itself is an astounding achievement, blending a computer animation and the freedoms there with documentary beats that show the real people involved, giving their first-hand accounts of their encounters with Kapuscinski. This is a very special film that took these filmmakers a decade to make.

The Twilight Zone: Season 1 – It seems like everything that Jordan Peele has touched in genre storytelling has turned to gold so why not take the iconic Rod Serling serial series that creeped out the generations before and give it a bold kick in the ass on CBS’s All Access streaming services. There are some redone gems in here, like “Terror At 30,000 Feet” with Adam Scott stepping in for Shatner and one of my best friends ever Katie Findlay co-starring, as well as some brand new mystery like the phenomenal premiere “The Comedian” with Kumail Nanjani, an episode that got him nominated for an Emmy. Friends, this box set is a home run and it allows you to watch each episode in black and white. How cool is that?

Avatar The Last Airbender: Complete Series – It feels like only six months ago I received the complete series of Avatar The Last Airbender which was released on Blu-ray back in June and now I double up with a gorgeous steelbook version of the complete set, without the accompanying Legend Of Korra. This is a massively popular anime series produced with the help of Nickelodeon that had both the fan support behind it from the beginning as well as some big critical acclaim. We just won’t speak of the M. Night Shyamalan garbage that was derived from it.

Antonio Gaudi – I am completely nerding out about this arrival because it is the first review copy I have received from the Criterion Collection, which is a very prestigious releasing company that just focuses on the greatest pieces of cinema, pressing editions that are the definitive versions of these films. My first entry as press for this company is this documentary made by Japanese New Wave director Hiroshi Teshigahara, who was nominated for an Oscar in 1964 for Woman in the Dunes. This film is about its title subject, a Catalan architect, ceramist, and sculptor with Teshigahara’s camera taking the viewer over, under, around, and into buildings and a park designed by the great Antonio Gaudi.

Deadly Manor – More Arrow Video means more unheard of horror for you to check out. This B-grade find came out in 1990 from writer and director Jose Larraz, a name that has gotten more than a few mentions in the history of this blog, in a story about a group of teenagers who take refuge in an old, deserted mansion. Of course, the members of the group start turning up dead and the teenagers realize that they’re not alone in the mansion as a homicidal maniac is satiating his blood lust just like Larraz likes to show off. This is going to satisfy the horror fans who love to take a look into the hidden gems of the 80s and early 90s but those who aren’t genre embedded will fail to see the appeal of this one whatsoever.

Steve’s Blu-Ray and DVD Geek Out:

Betty: They Say I’m Different – Controversial, totally original but ultimately forgotten, this documentary is about Betty Davis, an American funk and soul singer that arrived in the 70s with so much promise to break boundaries for women with her daring personality, iconic fashion and outrageous funk music. A close friend of Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, she wrote songs for some of the biggest acts of the time and then married wild man musician Miles Davis, influencing his change of genre as well. She was soon banned and boycotted, but still went on to become the first black woman to perform, write and manage herself. but suddenly at the top of her game, she just vanished. This is a great look into an artist that has been described as “Madonna before Madonna, Prince before Prince” by Miles Davis himself.

House By The Cemetary – From those weirdos at Blue Underground releasing I have received another classic horror film from one of the great Italian fright makers, Lucio Fulci. Released in 1981, this film is about a New England home that is forever tainted by a series of murders and, unknown to the new inhabitants of the home, there is a gruesome secret that is the catalyst for everything hiding in the basement. This is the third part of Lucio Fulci’s “Gates Of Hell” trilogy also including City of the Living Dead from 1980 and The Beyond which was also made in 1981, utilizing some of the same locations and sets. The cutting for the VHS of the film was erratic and confusing, ruining the cohesion of the plot but with this new Blu-Ray the sequencing has been corrected and you can now watch this madness how it was intended.

About Time – A romantic comedy that feels like it has been largely forgotten, save for the few fans like myself that continually champion it, this movie is so much more than just your standard love story and also is the touching tale of the bond between a father and son. The film stars Domnhall Gleeson, Bill Nighy and Rachel McAdams and is about a man who on his twenty-first birthday finds out that he has the inherited power of being able to time travel to change the direction of his life for romantic reasons, family reasons and even some superficial ones. Written and directed by the immensely talented Richard Curtis, this might be my favorite rom-com of all time. I adore this movie.

Django Unchained – With Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood finishing off its award season run with a Best Supporting Actor win at the Oscars, I picked up Quentin’s first foray into westerns for myself and, coincidentally the first time he worked with Leonardo DiCaprio. For those who don’t know about this movie, the story follows a freed slave who sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner with the help of a German bounty hunter posing as a dentist. Jamie Foxx is badass, DiCaprio is so much fun and Christoph Waltz won an Academy Award for this movie in addition to Tarantino’s Screenplay win. The best thing about watching this movie now is that you can doubleheader it with the next movie this great auteur did, The Hateful Eight.

Penelope – With Natalie Wood’s name trending recently on Twitter after the death o Kirk Douglas for dastardly reasons, it’s really neat that I received this movie that puts the gifted actress that was stolen from us in the main spotlight. Part of the “She’s Entertainment” series of films, this is a comedy about a flighty, bored, kleptomaniac wife of a banker who robs her husband’s bank of sixty thousand dollars and goes on the lam. The film was made in 1966 by Love Story director Arthur Hiller but was the final straw for Wood and Warner Bros., as she was very unhappy with her multi-year contract and bought herself out of it for $175,000, and fired her staff of agents, managers and lawyers. She didn’t make another film for 3 years which would be Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice which kicked off another four-year hiatus until The Candidate.

Television:

Hunters: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – Jordan Peele executive produces this new show that has a secret group of people who are dedicated to hunting down Nazi war criminals in the seventies and I am so very excited to check it out, something I have been waiting for ever since I saw the first trailer. The cast is phenomenal, led by the Academy Award-winning Al Pacino and featuring Fury’s Logan Lerman, Lena Olin, How I Met Your Mother’s Josh Radnor and more, this might be that new Amazon series that catches fire like Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or Jack Ryan. Don’t quote me on this but the show looks awesome enough to hook a large audience.

The Last Thing He Wanted (Netflix) – Ben Affleck and Anne Hathaway topline this new feature film from Dee Rees, the critically acclaimed director of Mudbound, a political thriller about a veteran D.C. journalist who loses the focus of her own story when a favor for her father thrusts her from byline to unwitting subject in the very story she’s trying to break. The word from the festival circuit is that Rees dropped the ball a little bit with this film but the supporting cast of Willem Dafoe, Toby Jones and Rosie Perez, who was recently awesome in the Birds Of Prey movie, has me still very much interested in checking this out.

Star Wars The Clone Wars: Season 7 (Disney+) – It was never known how completely inclusive the new Disney+ service was going to be to the pre-existing shows under the umbrella of the “House Of Mouse” what with all the reboots and reimagines we have gotten or that were announced so far which is hat makes getting a new season of Clone Wars that much more exciting. Now, thanks to these wonderful producers, definitely including the great Dave Filioni, we get some closure on the early war stories of Anakin Skywalker and his padawan apprentice Ahsoka Tano who very quickly became one of my favorite characters in the Star Wars universe. Yeah, I’m definitely ready for this.

Gentefied: Season 1 (Netflix) – A new half-hour comedy-drama, this series comes from showrunner Marvin Lemus and is based on his internet series of the same name about three cousins who band together to keep their Grandfather’s popular Boyle Heights taco shop in business as the neighborhood becomes more gentrified. The cast is all unknown to me other than the grandfather who is played by Joaquín Cosio from the Del Toro FX series The Strain and Wilmer Valderrama who plays the building owner. The show is well written and original and it looks like Lemus capitalized on the much higher budget from Netflix because this show looks great.

Babies (Netflix) – A brand new Netflix produced series that explores one of life’s biggest mysteries, human babies. In a huge docu-experiment, this series follows fifteen babies from birth through to their first birthday and the science in how much an infant’s body and mind transform in that time sitting, eating, crawling, eventually talking and walking. So basically the cute will be overwhelming and you’re going to cry a lot especially with the amount of crying you will see on screen. I only meant to just watch the first episode of this and ended up being engrossed in three straight.

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