Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

As heard on The J’Lyn Nye Show on 630 CHED in Edmonton, here’s a breakdown of the things to get you through at least the weekend!

Movies:

Tigertail (Netflix) – Parks and Recreation producer and Master Of None co-creator Alan Yang makes his feature directorial debut with this movie that he wrote as well. Starring Vancouver based actor Tzi Ma, this movie moves through the life of Grover, a Taiwanese born American citizen who is going through the motions of grieving for his recently deceased mother, the template for the man he became, a former factory worker who achieved the immigrant’s dream. This lineage has been passed onto his daughter, a life long overachiever who now wants to follow her heart more than what is expected of her. The performances in this film are powerfully felt through how muted they are in what they aren’t saying and Tzi Ma shoulders the majority of it beautifully. Also, as a Twin Peaks fan, it was an incredible treat to see Joan Chen in this movie.

Blood Quantum – Soaked in blood and dripping with style, writer and director Jeff Barnaby follows up his astoundingly great Indigenous film Rhymes For Young Ghouls with this zombie horror that feels familiar only in the basics of its mechanics. The film takes place outside the isolated Mi’gMaq reserve of Red Crow when the dead start to rise, observed first as a gutted salmon resurrects. Soon everything spirals out of control leading the survivors to isolate in an impenetrable structure made from scraps that are barely holding together as arguments for leadership rage on. The story feels a little disjointed here ad there but I loved the execution of the plot points and the gore is beautifully slick. I’m excited to see what Barnaby does next as he is a great filmmaking voice in the indigenous community that has a real chance to leap to the mainstream.

The Willoughbys (Netflix) – An animated film without the backing of a huge company like Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks or Illumination, I hadn’t heard of this movie until it landed o my pre-screening row on the Netflix bar and I have to say that I was completely blown away by it. Featuring a great voice cast including Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Terry Crews and Ricky Gervais, this movie follows the Willoughby children, a quartet of kids that are convinced they’d be better off raising themselves and hatch a sneaky plan to send their selfish parents on vacation or death, whatever comes first. This is a movie that hilariously hugs the line fo being darkly comedic and a sweetheart story that is bursting with rainbows. So many moments had me laughing so hard and the fact that Gervais narrates as the neighborhood cat is just the cherry on this sundae.

Little Women – Louise May Alcott’s book is an iconic story that has been read to many and adapted a few times as well, three times in the last twenty-five years to be precise, including this one. So, why is Greta Gerwig’s version of this story so important? It’s because Gerwig seems to encapsulate the consistent marginalization and generic rut of the female species and show it as the handcuffing of personal growth, free-thinking and creation that it really is. Featuring a stellar cast including Saorise Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet and Tracy Letts, this feels like the definitive screen version of the story, a beautifully created piece of cinema that shows the growth of Greta as a filmmaker between Lady Bird to now while her cast brings such life to a wonderful script, in one of my favorite ensembles from last year.

Circus Of Books (Netflix) – Yes, I’m bringing a documentary yet again this time but the subject matter on this one is so interesting I couldn’t resist. Produced by Ryan Murphy, this is the story of Karen and Barry Mason who, in 1976 Los Angeles, had fallen on hard times and were looking for a way to support their young family. They answered an ad in the Los Angeles Times for Larry Flynt who was seeking distributors for Hustler Magazine which led to their becoming fully immersed in the LGBT community as they took over a local store, Circus of Books. A decade after that they had become the biggest distributors of gay porn in the US and the community grew immensely for years after that. This documentary is a sweet human interest story that has a great message to it and some loveable people at the center. This is one of my favorite releases this week.

Extraction (Netflix) – Chris Hemsworth leads this film that was produced from Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame filmmaker’s The Russo Brothers limited comic series Ciudad, a phenomenal book. Led by new director Sam Hargraves, this is the story of a black market mercenary named Tyler Rake who is employed to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord in an extraction that is definitely a suicide mission. This movie is pulse-pounding action from start to finish with bloody violence, bullets flying, explosions booming and fight scenes that will quicken your heart rate. This movie kicks ass almost constantly and I loved every second. If you dig movies like John Wick, you will love the hell out of this one.

Underwater – Being buried in the first month of the year, any horror or action movie is usually something the studios want to bury as they’re generally not very good and that’s what happened to this one. Hell, we didn’t even get it here in Penticton. The story is about a crew of aquatic researchers who have a desperate struggle to get to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory but, worse than that, something has been released from the cracks underwater that starts to pick them off one by one. So, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, it’s got Kristen Stewart in it and, yes, I’m a big fan of her post-Twilight work, hate me for it if you want.  The movie was directed by William Eubanks who made the awesome sci-fi thriller The Signal, a film I stumbled upon and absolutely fell in love with and this movie is satisfying on the level of “Hey, I’d love to see a sort of mash-up between The Abyss and Alien” which it kind of ends up being. The creature design looks really cool and I will take scowling KStew in a tough as nails survival film any day. Enjoy this one for what it is.

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project – This is a fascinating documentary about a driven obsession with information through the visual media of televised news. Marion Stokes was an activist being groomed to become a communist leader in America who decided that her crusade would be to expose the truth of unfiltered media in what could be assembled into a comprehensive library of documented history. With everything that is currently going on in America and the media, this movie is an engrossing look at the path that led us to this point with Stokes herself making some very bold predictions of the future back in the 1970s that are chillingly coming to fruition today. A great movie for documentary fans.

Bad Boys For Life – It’s been seventeen years since we last saw Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s characters of Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett and after so much teasing and collapses of this third film it is now finally here without Michael Bay behind the camera and even though this is pretty much the only franchise I have love for some “Beyhem” in, this movie still worked the same with fresh blood behind the camera. This film teases the two cops’ “last ride” as they confront their ageing into different roles of law enforcement and the creation of their own squad which gets put to the immediate test with the emergence of a new enemy, Armando Armas, the vicious leader of a Miami drug cartel. This is the big-budget debut of the directing duo of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah and they bring that same frenetic action bombastic craziness we have come to expect every time Lowrey and Burnett take on a case. If you liked the previous movies you will definitely like this one.

The Gentlemen – Writer and director Guy Ritchie has returned to the roots of the type of cinema that got him popular, the gangster flicks like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. For this film, he grabs a huge cast with Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell and more for the story of a drug lord looking to get out of the game and sell of his empire to the highest bidder which sets off a bloody war in the London underworld, a place that Ritchie knows as well as he knows himself. This movie probably won’t draw in a new audience but will satisfy the hordes of fans of this genre he made famous, all of us salivating for him to do another movie with great dialogue and loud gunfights, all of which he brings for this. Got to hand it to him that he can make all of these already cool actors to an even higher level of coolness. That is some serious talent there.

Television:

Chris D’Elia: No Pain (Netflix) – One of my favorite stand up comedians of the last decade returns with a brand new set that I seriously can’t miss and will chase away your quarantine blues. This show, recorded in Indianapolis, Indiana, has D’Elia coming to grips with the notion that improving as a stand-up comedian is making him a worse human being in public, his vendetta against a mall baby and the fact that he had too much of a good upbringing to capitalize on any hardships for comedy. D’Elia’s comedy always feels so directly relatable which is one of the main reasons I always laugh to the point of hurting myself every time I watch one of his sets. So, I guess the title is a lie because there will be some pain.

The Innocence Files (Netflix) – True crimes docuseries have been the hotness everyone has been raving about on Netflix for a few years now and although it doesn’t have the trashy allure of Tiger King, I really feel like this series should be on peoples radars. Told in three hour-long episodes, this series details the personal stories behind eight cases of wrongful convictions that the Innocence Project and organizations within the Innocence Network have worked to highlight and overturn. The set up to this show is brilliant, as the first episode covers the wrongful conviction of two black Mississippi residents who are thrown into life sentences on the shakiest of evidence. This show with have you shaking your head in disbelief over how the justice system can be so flawed that basic logic has been thrown out the window in favor of opinion. Riveting stuff.

Hollywood (Netflix) – Ryan Murphy seems to have the stranglehold on Netflix during this whole pandemic as we get no only the two documentaries over the last couple weeks but this brand new scripted series that brings us to the golden era of post World War II Hollywood. The movie focuses on a bunch of aspiring actors, actresses, writers and directors who are desperate to make their big break into the industry at any cost to their soul. The show features a great young cast including American Crime Story’s Darren Criss, Spider-Man Homecoming’s Laura Harrier and Ready Or Not’s breakout star Samara Weaving as well as veterans like Holland Taylor and Dylan McDermott who is no stranger to Murphy’s world. Racy and always pushing the envelope, this series has the stuff to make it big, see, it’s gonna be a star!

What We Do In The Shadows: Season 2 (FX) – Following up a hilarious movie with the first season of a heavily anticipated series that delivered on all levels, we have been not so patiently waiting for the return of our favorite vampire roommates. Created by the star of the original film, Jemaine Clement, this show follows a different cast, led by the brilliant Kayvon Novak and one of my favorite current British comedic actors Matt Berry, the story simply follows three vampires and their night lives living on Staten Island, their home for a century. This is by far one of the most clever new comedies on television and their return is so welcome at this crazy and unpredictable time.

Looking For Alaska – Teen dramas usually skate a fine line between being annoying or cheesy and totally sappy but it seems that author John Green has the adolescent voice hammered down because, in my opinion, the previous adaptations of his work, The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns, are pretty damn good. Now, in a longer series format for Hulu, his first book Looking For Alaska gets the adaptation treatment, following a guy named Miles who has enrolled in a private school in the woods called Culver Creek Academy, a decision that will change his life and hopefully give him a deeper perspective on life. Not a popular kid at his previous school, Miles immediately strikes up a friendship with his roommate known as “The Colonel” who then introduces him to Alaska Young, the girl of his dreams. This young cast, including rising star Charlie Plummer and new faces like Kristine Forseth and Denny Love, give this show a charisma that intrigues me and characters I felt like I immediately cared about and that has to be due to it being shepherded to the screen by The OC’s Josh Schwartz.

Middleditch & Schwartz (Netflix) – Capturing three nights of their North American tour, this show gives you the brilliance of comedic actors Thomas Middleditch, a native of Nelson, British Columbia, and Ben Schwartz as they do hour-long shows completely made up on the spot with just a few suggestions from the audience. With the kick-off episode entitled Parking Lot Wedding, the pure brilliance of these two is fully on display as I was laughing my butt off from beginning to end. The callbacks, memory gaffs and motions to the audience all combine to hopefully elevate the hilarious improv that these two pull off. I definitely want more episodes added as three doesn’t feel anywhere close to enough.

After Life: Season 2 (Netflix) – Whenever I hear the name Ricky Gervais I am automatically interested, especially in series form, as this is the man who brought us The Office, Extras and Derek, plus the countless other things he has been a part of. This series might be my favorite he has ever done as it comes from deep in the heart and soul but sheds away the humanity of saying whatever the hell you want to people and, although it looks like it will play on some heavier themes like his last one, I think it has broad appeal. The series follows a man that goes from Mr. Nice Guy to social terror with a don’t give a shit attitude when his wife dies. A good cast around Gervais with The Strain’s David Bradley playing his father, It’s All Gone Pete Tong’s Paul Kaye as his therapist and his Extras co-star Ashley Jensen as his father’s caretaker.

Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels (Crave) – A pretty sizeable fan base is very excited to get the spinoff to the popular Showtime series that started back in 2014 and ran for three seasons. While the original series followed explorer Sir Malcolm Murray, American gunslinger Ethan Chandler, scientist Victor Frankenstein and medium Vanessa Ives as they combated supernatural threats in Victorian London, this series goes ahead in time to a late 1930s Los Angeles at a time that city expansion was aggressive and pushing out the Latino community and the rise of the Nazi ideals were taking hold in the city. The kick is that an evil and godly entity is responsible for pushing the weaker-minded humans into furthering the agenda of the destruction of humanity. The show stars Game Of Thrones alum Natalie Dormer, Nathan Lane and It Follows and Don’t Breathe actor Daniel Zovatto and I loved episode one. Looking forward to what’s next.

Upload: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – After the mind-twisting darkness of Devs, Amazon Prime is going for a lighter approach to the online gaming world with this new sci-fi series from Greg Daniels, the creator of the American version of The Office and Parks And Recreation. Starring Robbie Amell, this ten-episode series follows a man who gets to electronically pick the new world he inhabits after his untimely death. This is a show that has been long in development for Daniels as he started writing it right after the series finale for The Office. I’ve been seeing trailers for this everywhere for months and I really hope it is as good as it looks.

Betty: Season 1 (Crave) – A couple of years ago I fell in love with a little New York shot indie story from writer and director Crystal Moselle called Skate Kitchen about a teenager new to the area that falls in with a group of skater girls. It’s really great that HBO feels the same way I do, if not more, as they have produced, with Moselle directing, a new six-episode series putting us right back into the skatepark and I am very excited for possibly the most underrated shows of 2020 that will hopefully get some eyes on the original film.

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