Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New on VOD:

Capone – It’s been awhile since we’ve heard the name Josh Trank, the director of the now infamously bad last Fantastic Four movie, a project that he was fired from during post production and was hacked to pieces by producers. Now, almost five years later he is back with this biopic about the most notorious gangster of all time Al Capone. Tom Hardy takes the lead role, which sweetens the deal considerably, focusing on the crime boss at forty seven years old, fresh off a ten year stint in jail and reflecting on his life as his memories start to slip away from him. The initial reviews of the movie are really not grat but I’m really into a good Hardy character piece but I have been horrible duped before with these factors. I’m looking directly at you Cray Brothers biopic, Legend.

Scoob! – Another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Warner Bros. made the choice to move this animated reboot of a beloved franchise to VOD for the kids, just like Universal was forced to with Trolls: World Tour. The good news is that Universal managed to get Trolls to $100 million in three weeks in this method and now WB is hoping for the same with a movie that has a pretty endearing trailer and delves a bit into the origin stories of the Mystery Machine occupants, how they met and of course how the bond between Shaggy and Scooby-Doo started. My biggest disappointment is that Matthew Lillard isn’t doing to voice of Shaggy, my favorite to ever do the role but instead, they went with Will Forte who I really do love. I have good hopes for this movie and it looks to bring so many Hanna Barbera cameos which has the cartoon nerd in me very excited.

Red Rover – Canadian movies can be very hit or miss but for the most part, this character-driven dramatic piece worked for me. Starring Kristian Bruun from Orphan Black and last year’s breakout horror hit Ready Or Not, this film follows a man who hasn’t a shred of anything to keep him going. His girlfriend left him for the unemployed Aussie that lives in the suite above him in the house him and his ex own together, his job constantly works him to the bone under the threat of being made redundant and he is spiralling into mass depression when a mysterious girl turns his attention to the Red Rover project, one that will have his rocketed to Mars to help develop the planet for human survival. With a new potential lease on life, he starts to come out of his shell and live again. I enjoyed this movie for the most part with Bruun giving a good “every modern man” performance that is totally relatable but the last ten minutes became so massively formulaic that it dispelled any originality.

Porno – With all the movies that are debuting on VOD right now there seems to be a myriad of different titles making their debut of various genres and calibres but the horror side has been fun and this one probably will make it onto my favorites of 2020 list. The story is about a Christian run movie theater in the mid-nineties who’s employees stumble upon a secret passageway that reveals that the theater used to be an X-rated venue years before. Hidden in the discovered room is a film reel that unleashes a succubus looking to create world domination through blood and severed genitals. This movie is absolutely insane, a bit tongue in cheek with the satire and contains one gory scene that will haunt me for the rest of my days. This is a bold debut for director Keola Racela and I really can’t wait for what is next from him.

Blu-Ray:

Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn – The DC Cinematic Universe continues on its upswing with this new film that washes the taste of Suicide Squad out of your mouth like an extra-strong Listerine as this is the second kick at the can for Margot Robbie’s version of Harley Quinn, now shedding the shackles of the abusive Jared Leto Joker and looking to be a force for good alongside the rest of the Birds Of Prey. Who are they? Well, we have the supersonic ass-kicker of Black Canary, played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Huntress, an assassin played by Ramona Flowers herself Mary Elizabeth Winstead and the iconic Rosie Perez playing Gotham City detective Renee Montoya, a comic favorite. Together they take of Ewan McGregor’s villain character who is definitely having an insanely good time playing this bad guy. The movie is brash, R-rated but a fund vibrant style that encompasses the whole run time, shot by one of the best cinematographers in Hollywood today, Matthew Libatique, who did Black Swan and A Star Is Born, nominated for an Oscar for both.

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 named Buck that changed his life in the wilderness of the Yukon. Director Chris Sanders, the creator of Lilo & Stitch, the big screen herald of How To Train Your Dragon and a wizard of animation helmed this film and decided to go te full CGI route with the animals of the movie and while this looks weirdly unsettling in the trailer I felt myself get over this fact very quickly and actually get drawn into the character of Buck who I felt life and soul come off of palpably. I fully expected to hate this movie but in the end, I really enjoyed it and the third act emotional beat pretty much crushed me so thanks a lot you sappy dog movie!

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 it is just plain weird to go into this wheelhouse having seen many episodes of the show. The initial feeling was high as a genre fan and especially because the park is now run by an evil Michael Pena and I kind of love that but what immediately kills 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. Usually, I’m a big celebration of the projects that Blumhouse picks, the chances they take and the franchises they have revived but this is a comedically bad miss that devolves into twist upon twist which serves to turn the whole thing into nonsensical mush. They even have the audacity to tease a sequel. For shame!

The Photograph – This movie, although heavily under-marketed, is a total sleeper that is going to pass people by and not just due to the red hot appeal of its stars, Issa Rae and Lakeith Stansfield because both actors making all the right moves at the moment. The film is a romantic drama 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 but this film connects in every way with rich characters, a touching love story from both time periods and beautiful shot after shot from cinematographer Mark Schwartzbard who lensed the Aziz Ansari series Master Of None. I had no idea when I put on this blu-ray that I would be watching one of my favorite films of 2020 but here we are.

The Traitor – A brand new sprawling look into the Cosanostra and Corleone mafia families, writer and director Marco Bellocchio has no time or patience to lower you into this story but instead throws you in at breakneck speed as person after person is murdered in brutal fashion all in the introduction of our main character Tommaso Buscetta, played brilliantly by veteran Italian actor Pierfrancesco Favino. His performance is the driving force of a film that feels erratic in its execution, making the whole story feel very scattered in its storytelling. That said, when Buscetta is giving his testimony against the family that is trying to kill him, it gets tense and very interesting.

Lost Transmissions – Simon Pegg and Juno Temple lead this new drama from writer and director Katharine O’Brien in her first feature film and she really knocks it out of the park with a great script, exquisitely shot with powerful performances, especially from Pegg who’s final five minutes of this movie shakes the earth and left me slack-jawed. The film follows a young singer and songwriter named Hannah who strikes up a friendship with Theo Ross an acclaimed producer who wants to help bring her music to the next level. She quickly learns that he suffers from severe schizophrenia when he goes off his medication and ends up having to be committed by his group of friends. All of this shakes Hannah’salready medicated and shaky psyche as some of Theo’s delusions start to make sense to her. This film is incredible and woefully under talked about, a pretty damning look at mental care in the US against a backdrop of a grey looking Los Angeles. This is a must-see.

Vivarium – This movie is totally something geared to my twisted likes as it feels like one of those nightmare Twilight Zone episodes and I ate up every second of it. Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg star as Gemma and Tom, a sweetheart couple looking to purchase their first home together. Stepping into a condo sales store, they have a very unsettling meeting with a salesman who implores them to get in their car to follow him to the neighborhood itself. Guided into a disturbingly uniform community that looks like it was designed on a computer, the salesman disappears, abandoning them in a maze of condos they can’t leave and that’s just the setup. Poots’ performance in this film is astounding as she starts to crumble with the reality around her and the direction from Lorcan Finnegan is fantastically striking all the way up until the end. This may be a total niche movie but I thoroughly loved it.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Lifeline/Clyfford Still – Some documentaries are made to be skewed to their own respective audiences and this new artist’s portrait is definitely one of those. Focused on the man at the center of a massive portfolio of work, this film looks at American impressionist artist Clyfford Still, a creator that was often linked with another troubled artist, Jackson Pollock, who he had an often volatile friendship with but that seemed to be both of these men’s appeal. Through this film, it’s interesting to see that all of his work had the same piece that ran through it, a single line that connects all of his pieces ad the construction of this movie actually serves to make sense of impressionist work in an almost educational way. I honestly felt like it was a bit of an Art 101 and I was on board for it.

Army Of Shadows – Newly released on a beautiful Criterion Collection with a brand new restored picture, this is a brilliantly executed story of the French Resistance fighting back against the Nazi regime in World War II. The film is adapted from Belle De Jour author Joseph Kessel’s book of the same name by acclaimed filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville who is no stranger to the Criterion Collection as he is featured a few times there and this movie has an astounding Metacritic score of 99 which is pretty much unheard of these days. With tracking shots that blow the mind and tension so thick that a samurai sword couldn’t cut it, there is so much to unpack with this film that may be one of the greatest wartime spy movies ever made.

The Grand Budapest Hotel – This might be Wes Anderson’s crowning achievement at this point, which I say because we have The French Dispatch on the horizon which looks incredible. This film that was the winner of four Oscars in the technical departments for make-up, production design, costumes and music is now available in a beautiful Criterion Collection, as all Anderson’s films eventually do, and is a must-see if you haven’t already. Ralph Fiennes plays the lead in an amazing ensemble about the overachieving concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel who is the lead suspect in the death of the hotel’s owner. This movie is hysterically funny and beautifully shot in only the way a Wes Anderson film could be. What a movie this is!

Television:

Trial By Media (Netflix) – Another new true-crime documentary arrives on Netflix to steal our attention from everything and this one has a bit of a twist to it as it focuses on a new subject each episode. The show is about the modern media-driven world since the debut of the “court television” introduced to us with the O.J. Simpson trial in which now real courtroom dramas have increasingly been transformed into a form of entertainment. The series reflects on some of the most dramatic and memorable trials in recent history like the Rod Blagojevich trial, the subway vigilante and the murder committed after a crush reveal episode of Jenny Jones. This show is fascinating and totally jaw-dropping in some instances. I only really meant to watch the first episode to get a feel for it for review but ended up doing all six episodes in one sitting. It’s highly addictive.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend (Netflix) – One of my favorite insane comedies returns for what I’m assuming is a final special but this one has a little twist as it is an interactive journey, one of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories like Black Mirror did with Bandersnatch. For this special, Kimmy is now engaged to a member of the British Royal family, played by Daniel Radcliffe, but the wedding is in trouble as Kimmy is still legally married to her former captor, the Reverend played hilariously by Jon Hamm. The choices can sometimes lead you to a dead-end in this but unlike the Black Mirror episode that just rolls credits, this one will bring you back to the choices screen for a second stab at it, almost like this one was made for beginners. I’m okay with that as I really wanted to see all of the outcomes as I absolutely love this show. A fun and funny ride to distract you from the outside world for a bit.

A Confession (Britbox) – The British seem to have a real penchant for making deeply enthraling but wholly depressing crime procedurals and now a new one rolls out with Sherlock and The Office star Martin Freeman and Harry Potter actress Imelda Staunton. Told in multiple storylines that all intersect at one point or another, the series follows Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher mainly, who intends on catching a killer of a missing woman, even if that may cost him his career and reputation as a close colleague is being investigated by internal affairs as well. Given the moodiness and lack of levity in this show, this will only appeal to those Criminal Minds type fans or regular British programming buffs but I really like the wide scope of this procedural as well as the attention to character detail. Hopefully, it earns a second series as it is only six episodes long but each show runs an hour.

I Know This Much Is True (Crave) – Mark Ruffalo extends his dramatic reach in this brand new HBO produced limited series playing twins in this true story adapted by Blue Valentine filmmaker Derek Cianfrance. Based on a book by Wally Lamb, this is the story of Dominick Birdsey recounts his troubled relationship with Thomas, his paranoid schizophrenic brother, and his efforts to get him released from an asylum and after one episode I’m hooked. Ruffalo is incredible in both of these roles and to see the treatment of those suffering from mental issues around 1990 is horrendous and the knowledge that not much has changed is absolutely depressing. If there was one theme to emerge from the blog this week it has to be that we are failing our citizens every day in horribly damaging ways. We want people to speak up yet do almost nothing for them when they do.

The Wrong Missy (Netflix) – That big Adam Sandler and Happy Madison Netflix deal has paid off for his buddy David Spade as this new comedy puts him in the lead role alongside the very funny and totally goofy Lauren Lapkus. Spade plays Tim, a recently single career-driven guy, who goes on a blind date with Missy, the date from hell. After he escapes that he meets Melissa by chance at the airport, the girl of his dreams and when a work retreat comes up to a tropical island he decides to invite her. Of course, he has been texting the wrong woman the whole time and the wrong “Missy” gets invited and supposed hilarity ensues. The film has a smattering of laughs in it but largely relies on slapstick, gross-out and the lowest of brows in humor to get it’s point across. I love Lauren Lapkus but this feels beneath her quite a bit.

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