Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New on VOD:

Slay The Dragon – During this time of self-containment and quarantine, it’s a time where we are binge-watching all different television series and catching u on movies but it is also an opportunity to learn and expand our minds which is exactly what this documentary did for me. The film tells the story of the Voters Not Politicians party that was started in Michigan for the express purpose of ending gerrymandering in America, a political strategy of grouping voters into districts that would ensure victories for the Republican Party GOP. I learned some of the basics of this democracy shredding act on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver but this film brings it home in a way that shows how this directly affects every working American and the generations to come. In my opinion, this is a massively important film that should be mandatory in the education of the whole nation especially heading into an election.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always – After the infuriatingly blind and misinformed faith-based film Unplanned was released last year and then screened by churches for most of 2019, I’m really happy to see this new movie, produced by Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins, getting its release even if it is only directly to video on demand. The story follows Autumn, a rural Pennsylvania teen who is dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, a secret she keeps from her family and something which is only known to her best friend. With her help, the two take a trip to New York City to an abortion clinic and find more maturing in their lives as they are left to live off of the streets for the time they are in the Big Apple. Both actresses, Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder are phenomenal in this film and keep the story so grounded in reality which definitely comes from writer and director Eliza Hittman who astounded me years ago with her film Beach Rats. This is a fantastic film and I hope it gets some love in its release.

Blu-Ray:

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker – The end to the whole original saga, one that has almost formed a new religion since it’s inception in 1977, is finally available for us to watch in the comfort of our own quarantines and has taken us on a total emotional journey as part of the fandom and the new movies have definitely divided us. Say what you want about Rian Johnson’s previous installment The Last Jedi, a movie I very much enjoyed, but now J.J Abrams and the cast are sort of throwing him under the bus a bit to appease the slighted fans and it really bothers me that the creator solidarity isn’t there. That said, there are pieces I enjoy in this movie and the rewatch has opened up brand new things to me but I’m ultimately still feeling like the easy route was taken and after ambitious movements that The Last Jedi had taken, this movie moves back into a predictable rut.

The Current War: Director’s Cut – Coming off such a loved film like Me, Earl And The Dying Girl, a movie that had critics and audiences in agreement about how thoroughly charming it was, a lot of people were wondering what director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon would do next and the battle for the patent of the lightbulb I’m sure wasn’t on anyone’s list but here we are. Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon play Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, two of the innovators of electricity who were in an escalating war to get their products into the World’s Fair first. Think about the war between Microsoft and Apple and you have a good idea of what this looks like. Honestly, it’s a good thing that Gome-Rejon makes this movie so dynamic and interesting to look at, using It cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung’s eye-popping work, because the story feels painfully dull above both actor’s impeccable character work and yes, Edison is just as unlikeable as you think he is. Also, I’m unsure of why “director’s cut” is so implicitly stated as I’ve seen no other cut of this movie in circulation.

The Assent – Some exorcism horror for your at-home viewing hits the shelves this week with this film starring Pacific Rim’s Robert Kazinsky and a usual John Carpenter staple, the greatly underrated Peter Jason. Kazinsky plays the single father of a young boy that is both struggling to make ends meet and is faltering mentally with the day to day struggle. When he feels an ominous presence in his house that starts to appear in his son, he begins to believe that a malevolent danger is set to destroy his little family and this causes him to turn to a trained exorcist, enter Peter Jason. This movie oozes atmosphere and has great production design and incredibly creepy creature effects which keeps everything on track even if it feels a bit cliched and predictable. Kazinsky’s descent into despair has all the great qualities of a Lovecraftian madness and Jason chews the scenery in such a solid way that I really found myself enjoying this and even got caught by a couple of jump scares.

Munster, Go Home! – Taking another classic kooky and spooky television comedy family’s big-screen debut and throwing it to those geniuses at Shout Factory for an all-new collector’s edition, I can now introduce my family to the Munsters, the iconic monster brood with Ed Gwynne as the patriarch, Herman Munster, a Frankenstein’s creature as well as the loving father of a werewolf son and Lily, who I’m not sure what she and her mom were supposed to be. Vampires? Anyways, this is the 1966 movie that was made which sent Herman and the family to England when he discovers he’s the new Lord of the Munster Hall leading to classic television antics in a whole new environment. I used to watch the show all the time as a kid so I feel really nostalgic about this one.

Tommy Boy – One of the greatest comedies of all time celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary this week and gets the great honor of being the newest Paramount steelbook, a glorious way to collect blu-rays. Starring one of the best comedic duos ever, Chris Farley and David Spade, this movie, if you didn’t know, follows the fat and lazy son of an auto parts tycoon who teams up with a bitchy accountant to go on a cross country trip to save the company after his dad passes away. Farley and Spade are so iconic in this movie and Rob Lowe, the Saturday Night Live movie resident bad guy, is so great and villainous in this film, doing it all for the love of Tommy’s stepmom, Bo Derek. This is one of my favorite movies of the 90s and one that still makes me laugh hysterically every time and, to be honest, that’s exactly what we need right now.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Lost In America – Without anything being sent to me on the regular like usual, I have to rely on different ways to pick my geek-outs and anniversary films are an easy pick and I love that I’m starting out with this Albert Brooks classic. Co-starring Airplane’s Julie Haggerty as his wife, the two play a couple in their thirties that decide to quit their jobs on a whim and drive their Winnebago across America to realize the quintessential American dream. Directed and written by Brooks, this hilarious film turns thirty-five this week and it is available on a beautiful Criterion edition that was released during the summer of 2017.

Tank Girl – One of my favorite movies of the 90s for totally cult reasons, this movie was made in a time that comic book adaptations were a total gamble and were basically hated by studios. Enter Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare’s director Rachel Talalay and lead star Lori Petty to take on Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett’s post-apocalyptic madness into this brash and colorful action film that is crazy fun from start to finish and totally pulpy the whole way. Unfortunately, streaming services haven’t locked this movie down yet but there is a beautiful blu-ray and DVD combo that Shout Factory put out in 2013 that is available to order and I highly recommend it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Now that we’re all in lockdown with the family and kids it’s a great opportunity to show them all the nostalgic things from your childhood including this classic from 1990, a live-action big-screen version of one of the greatest Saturday morning cartoons ever made in my opinion. This is the first of two times they got the Ninja Turtles correct, Judith Hoag was a great April O’Neal and Elias Koteas is the best and most badass Casey Jones that we have seen, all apologies to Stephen Amell who was decent in Out Of The Shadows. The great news is that this and the two sequels are in a blu-ray three-pack easily available on Amazon.

While We’re Young – Now after all the attention around the Netflix released Noah Baumbach film Marriage Story has died down a bit this is a great opportunity for people to check out a film he did five years ago that paints another portrait of a directly relatable time in life for everyone, that transition from being young and hip to older and out of touch. Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play a middle-aged couple who find themselves socially attracted to a young bohemian couple played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. The wife and I saw this film just before it came out and absolutely loved it, another great script and a well-executed microcosm of a story from Baumbach. This one is easily available at your fingertips on Netflix and I totally recommend you checking it out, especially for the acting debut of Beastie Boy Adam Horowitz.

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter – A relatively unheard of independent film that was one of my favorite films of 2015, this lockdown is a perfect chance to check out this zany drama featuring an incredible performance from Pacific Rim actress Rinko Kikuchi. She plays a trouble Japanese woman who is convinced that her VHS copy of Fargo contains a treasure map to a buried fortune in Minnesota prompting her on an insane journey halfway across the world. Directed by David Zellner and co-written by his brother Nathan, this movie is always so grounded in the human experience while being a story of a complete oddity that keeps the movie in an ever-changing shift of inspiration and total tragedy. Order this one on Blu-ray, it is totally worth it.

Television:

The Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show (Netflix) – After releasing a few stand up specials on the world’s most popular streaming service, comedian Iliza Shlesinger was been given her own show to do whatever the hell she wants and, to be honest, just like her comedy, some works and some definitely does not. Shlesinger and her cast take on subjects like gender politics, dating dynamics and airline pries and policies just to name a few and while the nectarine board room skit did nothing for me, the “Female Jackass” has me laughing as instead of stunts they would have girls confront ex-boyfriends or be the awkward uninvited guest at a house party. Don’t expect anything highbrow but there are some great moments to be had.

Nailed It!: Season 4 (Netflix) – Comedian and host Nicole Byers returns with a brand new season of her insane baking show which takes everyday home bakers and puts almost impossible looking tasks in front of them, mostly involving cake sculpting and fondant crafting usually to hilarious and sometimes horrifying results. Yes, the point of this show is to “nail it” without actually doing it. Alongside her trusty sidekick, master baker Jacques Torres, and the helpful hand of her trusty stagehand Wes, Nicole welcomes a plethora of brave guest judges to help her find out the true chef who really nails it to hilarious results. This woman is truly a gift to comedy and I’m sometimes surprised that she is able to keep herself PG on this show. That said, my seven-year-old daughter may be the biggest fan I know of this and probably Byer’s youngest fan.

Tales From The Loop: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – A streaming service that I touch on every now and then, Amazon is coming through this week with probably my most anticipated new series this week and mostly because I love weirdo sci-fi. Featuring a cast that includes Rebecca Hall, Paul Schneider and Oscar nominee Jonathan Pryce, this series follows the townspeople who live above something called “The Loop,” a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe, experience things previously consigned to the realm of science fiction. Weird, right? The trailer has a whole bunch of “WTF” moments in it that just ramp up the intrigue of this show for me and it comes from the mind of Nathaniel Halpern who wrote on the FX Marvel mind trip Legion and the excellent murder mystery series The Killing, which is must-see and on Netlfix if you haven’t seen it yet.

Dolphin Reef (Disney+) – Usually around this time isney would be gearing up to release their yearly nature documentary as Earth Day is just around the corner on April 22nd but with this year being all but cancelled they are instead rolling out not one but two of them and they’re all premiering on their streaming service which has been quite busy in the last few weeks. Accompanying the Megan Markle narrated Elephants is this new film dives under the sea to play with some of the planet’s most engaging and intelligent mammals, dolphins. Narrated by Natalie Portman, the story to it centers around a dolphin named Echo, which makes me geek out on a Sega gamer level. With schools out right now, this is a helpful and educational movie to plunk the kids down in front of and feel no guilt.

Coffee And Kareem (Netflix) – This looks like a bit of a low bell to ring, doing the “Odd Couple” action movie pairing, and the director of this film, Michael Dowse, just did one kind of like this with the Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista underrated comedy Stuber but still I feel pretty on board with this. The story follows twelve-year-old Kareem Manning who hires a criminal to scare his mom’s new boyfriend, police officer James Coffee, but it backfires, forcing Coffee and Kareem to team up in order to save themselves from Detroit’s most ruthless drug kingpin. The story seems dumb but the cast is great, featuring Ed Helms, GLOW’s Betty Gilpin and Taraji P. Henson which makes me think that it will be some mindless entertainment but the keyword there is “entertainment”.

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