Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New On VOD:

The Roads Not Taken – Javier Bardem and Elle Fanning star in this new drama from The Party and Ginger And Rosa writer and director Sally Potter that tells a personal story that is a sort of composite story of her own experiences. The story follows a day in the life of Leo, played by Bardem, who’s chaotic mind is making it hard for him to live his day to day in New York City which causes his daughter Molly (Fanning) to constantly be by his side, guiding him through existence, sacrificing her own for his. Leo is also caught up in scenarios that could have been, which haunt him and start to cause behaviour in his own reality. The film is interesting on the outset but fails to go anywhere within the construct of a real story and it began to frustrate me. By the end of the film, I felt nothing was accomplished besides great performances, especially from Bardem, and I’m sure some deep catharsis for the filmmaker.

Body Cam – When this was sent to me, a direct to video horror movie, I have to admit, I didn’t look at it as anything that would interest me at all because the cover looks so B-grade but I found myself mildly surprised. The film stars iconic R&B star, Mary J. Blige, as a Los Angeles police officer who finds herself in a bad position as the department is being scrutinized for some of the citizen deaths which have been questionable. When an unseen force starts to kill some of her fellow officers she takes it upon herself to investigate why these are happening. The scares are here, with some pretty effective jump ones, but I was really disappointed with how light they were on actually showing anything on screen and the mystery thread of the film was pretty predictable. That said, it was way better than I was expecting.

The Trip To Greece – I just spent my whole long weekend going on trips with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they tour restaurants and wineries in this Michael Winterbottom series that goes from England to Italy to Spain and now finally to Greece for what looks to be the final one. In one of the most consistent franchises ever made, in my opinion, Coogan and Brydon’s friendly rivalry of constant impressions, arguments of career stature and even who knows more about the places they are visiting is always so hysterically funny that I revisit it to see parts that I had missed because I’m laughing so hard. These are two of the funniest actors on the planet and I will continuously be doing Michael Caine, Mick Jagger and Roger Moore impressions because of it. I also really hope they keep making more.

Military Wives – Coming from the director of The Full Monty, this film has all sorts of great uplifting British feeling in it and it all starts with the odd couple at its heart, the prim and proper character played by Kristen Scott Thomas and the more free-thinking but frazzled one played by Sharon Horgan. The two are the organizers for a group of army wives looking for an outlet when their spouses are sent to Afghanistan for their tour of duty in the form of a choir. When the group gets selected to perform at the Royal Albert Hall in London, the pressure rises and tempers flare as both ladies try to lead the group while also dealing with issues at home. I felt the warm heart of this movie constantly, a cheerful “alls well that ends well” story that honestly feels like a cozy cinematic hug that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Painter And The Thief – This movie blew my mind completely, an unexpected genius piece of cinema that combines the reality of a documentary with the emotional narrative of two yearning inner psyches. The film follows a young Czech painter named Barbora Kysilkova who paints in a beautiful photorealistic style whose work is stolen by two addicts. Feeling devastated to her soul and unable to recover what she has lost, she approaches one of the culprits in court and demands to paint him. What results is a journey that changes both of their lives and bonds their lives together in a repair of their souls. This movie was an astounding watch and a beautiful look at the goodness in humans and how we can be the guiding light to those in need in dark times. This was exactly the movie I needed right now. Highly recommended.

Alone Across The Arctic – This is a movie that seriously makes you look at yourself and say “what are you doing with your life?” because compared to writer and adventurer Adam Shoalts, I really feel pretty inadequate. Part of the Canadian Film Festival that will be airing on the Superchannels, this is the documentation of Adam’s solo journey of an estimated four thousand kilometre journey across the Canadian Arctic by canoe and on foot and, although we don’t feel the peril of say Free Solo or the like, we do get the urgency of the timeline of Adam’s trip as he gets more and more grizzled looking and a bit thinner. The film comes off as a beautiful look at a landscape that many will never see, untouched by the machines of man or the grip of industrialization, it’s actually a really calming film in many ways.

Blu-Ray:

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 initial excitement came from the fact that the big bad is played by one of my favorites of all time, Jim Carrey, and he honestly does almost steal the entire show. I initially thought that this movie was going to be garbage but I had a hell of a lot of fun with it, the references to the classic pieces of the videogame are all there and the love for this character and the world it comes from is all there. I really hope that this leads to a full-on franchise because me and my family would definitely be interested in more, especially after that stinger at the end.

Onward – Disney and Pixar are back with their next most likely award-nominated feature, pairing the very likeable duo of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt in the lead roles. Set in a world where fantasy elements like orcs, gnomes, unicorns and other mythical creatures exist in a modern world, this story follows two brothers who find a mysterious magical staff that belonged to their late father. After a spell cast through the staff resurrects the bottom half of Dad, they must embark on an adventure to find the real magic still remaining on the world to bring their family back together. This movie is really funny and has some great world-building, as Pixar needs a new franchise to put its hat on, and the heart of this story is displayed prominently on its sleeve. The whole family is going to love this movie and it definitely needs a rewatch for all of the “easter eggs” to be found.

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.

Emma. – This may be the first time I’ve looked at one of these movies and thought “I want to see that” so I guess it’s time to revisit some Jane Austen and maybe get the Gwyneth Paltrow version off our palate while also showing some of those nineties kids where Clueless came from. One of my favorites, Anya Taylor Joy plays the lead in this film, an intrusively nosey and selfish socialite who prides herself on being the matchmaker for all of her friends for better or worse. I feel like a lot of us already know this story so any other description moves into redundancy rather than spoilers so I will instead mention that this is the feature debut of director Autumn De Wilde, known previously for her work on music videos for Florence + The Machine, The Raconteurs and Beck so the look of this movie feels very fresh and every shot of the film is absolutely exquisite, a thing I kept marvelling at. Honestly, this might be the best looking film to come out this year so far. Joy also totally owns this film but the rest of the supporting cast gets their time to shine and it’s always a treat to get a Bill Nighy performance.

The Way Back – Ben Affleck definitely felt some catharsis in this new drama, directed by the director of one of his last movie The Accountant, the very capable Gavin O’Connor. Affleck plays a former high school basketball star who’s life has deteriorated from alcoholism and bad choices who finds his redemption in returning to his former school to coach the current team, one with potential but no winning push to it. This movie is definitely full of emotion which pushes through the very formulaic feeling main plot and themes of redemption with Affleck putting his whole soul ion display as the driving force and damaged heart of the story. I also really enjoyed the supporting work from stand up comedian Al Madrigal as the assistant coach in this, an actor that has been excelling in these dramatic roles.

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, Lauren Cohen, we get Katie Holmes playing the mother of a young boy who moves into a house near the Heelshire Mansion from the first film 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. I did a back to back viewing of both Boy movies and it’s frustrating to note that Bell changes the events of his previous film to fit the new narrative of this movie and, oh god, why do these movies exist? Truly the bottom of the barrel when it comes to mainstream horror.

Color Out Of Space – This movie is a sweet cinema story just in its mere existence as it is the return of director and screenwriter Richard Stanley in a narrative feature role since he was fired from The Island Of Doctor Moreau by Paramount in 1996. Even better, the movie is an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation led by a Nicolas Cage performance that is completely unhinged from the get-go. The movie follows a family whose world is thrown into chaos when a meteor crashes on their farm, emitting a sinister purple hue and changing the world around them. This movie is unsettling and awe-inspiring with its look and execution, Stanley getting right back into that unique style he exhibited with Hardware and Dust Devil. This movie is definitely not for everyone but if you loved Cage in Mandy as I did, you will love this movie.

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War – Little did I know when I was watching this newest piece of the DC Comics animated universe that it was meant to be the final installment of these movies which kind of makes me sad but, let’s face it, we’ve had a hell of a run. This film starts you out in a quagmire of problems as the entire Justice League has been decimated by Darkseid and his army of Apokolips and those who haven’t been outright murdered on-screen in surprisingly bloody fashion have been turned into mindless slaves by their conqueror. It is now up to a powerless Superman to convince a drunken John Constantine to take up a fight in the battle and he is voiced by the great Matt Ryan, who I believe should always play his role going forward because he’s damn good, no offence, Keanu. My only issue with this movie, definitely not a kid’s one, be warned, is that the animation seemed a little lesser than it usually is, almost like they had rushed it. That said the action is great, the story is surprising and, oh boy, is the ending ever bleak with only a hint of hope.

Promare – It’s time for another engaging adventure of Steve tries to understand and access anime as a total outsider. The title is long and I’m working on it but this new film is pretty dazzling to look at but even in that vein I had some issues. The story is a pretty massive expanse of world-building and character building, some things which led to a lot of my confusion about the plot but to put it all in a simple sentence the film is mainly about a futuristic firefighting mecha service that is created to protect the world from a separate race that has fire powers that will burn up the entire Earth. The animation is a crazy blend of a 2D style along with a polygon centric style that gives all the action scenes this crazy vibrant quality but at times lets the voices talk over an almost static unmoving picture that feels kind of lazy. In the end I feel no closer to understanding this medium, although I was entertained by it here and there.

Top Gun – This has to be at the top of Tom Cruise’s greatest films of all time, right? I remember as a kid being totally obsessed with this movie, Tom as the bad boy fighter pilot Maverick always butting heads with his rival the Iceman all to the sunbleached beat of a Kenny Loggins soundtrack. Then, when it all gets sensual under a cool blue filter for some love with Kelly McGillis we get the iconic tones of Berlin and the track Take My Breath Away, oh man, the memories. Well, with the sequel Top Gun: Maverick in the chamber and ready to fire, it is the perfect time for this 4K version to hit shelves and it is truly beautiful and the film has never sounded or looked better.

Days Of Thunder – The middle of the Tom Cruise trifecta this week, Cruise took a ride on the Nascar circuit for this exhilarating racing film which reteamed him with Top Gun director Tony Scott, a movie that Cruise himself wrote the story for which was then written for the screen by legendary writer Robert Towne, you know, the guy who did Chinatown and Shampoo. Again, Tom Cruise got to play the slick hotshot with a cocky smile, this time with his then-wife Nicole Kidman playing the love interest, a personal favorite, Robert Duvall as his pit boss and a stellar supporting cast including Michael Rooker, John C. Reilly, Cary Elwes and even a role for coked-up producer Don Simpson to join in the fun. Again, with that 4K restoration, the windows will be rattling like crazy for this beautiful transfer and you will be swept back to the adrenaline speed of the year 1990 for this killer flick.

War Of The Worlds – This has to be one of Steven Spielberg’s most bleak films he has ever made but I still hail it as a low key favorite of mine in his filmography. It’s a big deal to take on a story of this historical magnitude, given the stature of the H.G. Wells story that was shepherded to the radio airwaves and later movie screen by Orson Welles but Spielberg was the most fitting person to do it. The scenes of destruction as Tom Cruise and his kids, played by Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin, desperately try to make to away from the mass genocide perpetrated by the alien invaders will always stick in my mind seeing it in theaters and hearing the low blast of the sirens and the visuals of victim’s clothes sailing on a wind of dust that used to be humans. This film is a truly incredible achievement and to have it now on the best way to see it, this brand new 4K edition is truly awesome. Watch it again and tell me how fantastic the bits between Cruise and Tim Robbins are. Chef’s kiss to that scene.

Dance, Girl, Dance – I am over the moon to have received a brand new Criterion Collection edition as the warehouse for distribution has been closed for months due to COVID-19 and I feel myself waiting at the window for packages from them like a wartime wife waiting for her husband to come home. What I received is an absolute classic, going back to 1940 for a comedy musical with Maureen O’Hara and Lucille Ball, a film that led to the two becoming inseparable friends while shooting this film and they remained lifelong friends until Ball’s death in 1989. Lucille also met Desi Arnaz while making this film about an unemployed dance who takes up burlesque to pay the bills. I’m kind of a stranger to a lot of these classic movies but this one feels like a very pivotal piece of 1940s cinema and Criterion has made a beautiful edition out of it.

Creepshow: Season 1 – With my love of anthology horror being large as well as my adoration of the first two Creepshow movies, you best believe I have more than a little love for this brand new series of disturbing horror stories led by The Walking Dead showrunner and gore specialist Greg Nicotero. First off, the list of directors on this show is insane, including David Bruckner, one of the guys behind another anthology film Southbound, for four episodes, Tales From The Darkside: The Movie director John Harrison for two episodes, the incredible new talent of Roxanne Benjamin, Makeup master Tom Savini and more and then the cast, holy crap. There’s a mix of older stars and new as we get people like Adrienne Barbeau, Tobin Bell and Jeffrey Coms as well as rappers Big Boi and Kid Cudi and fan favorites like David Arquette and Dana Gould. The first episode is a great jumping-off point with a Stephen King short story adaptation, reaching back to his book Skeleton Crew.

The Loud House Season 2 Volume 2: Absolute Madness – More crazy Nickelodeon cartoons for your children to feast their eyes on but is it going to drive you nuts as a parent? Well, let’s look at the voices and creators so we can have some sort of latching on point for this show about Lincoln Loud, an eleven-year-old boy who lives with ten sisters and with the help of his friend Clyde finds new ways to survive in such a large family every day. Any voices you would know? Well, Batman The Animated Series’ Grey Griffin features in it as well as Bender himself, Joh Dimaggio but aside from quick guest spots by Wayne Brady, Phil Lamarr and the late and so great Fred Willard, that’s about it. The show was created by Chris Savino, a long time writer on The Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Laboratory, so you can see where this show is aimed at.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Out:

Me And You And Everyone We Know – Back when I was a video store employee I came across this debut feature from writer, director and actress Miranda July and I totally fell in love with it. Co-starring the always underrated John Hawkes, this film is about a lonely shoe salesman and an eccentric performance artist who strikes up an unorthodox relationship, finding a connection on a higher level than who they are in society’s eyes. This film is a deep drama about the simple condition of being human and trying to find your place in it and Criterion has the same love that I do for it as it is one of the newest pieces in the collection and deservedly so. This movie is captivating and a beautifully shot first film from an incredibly gifted filmmaker in the independent world of cinema.

Television:

Homecoming: Season 2 (Amazon Prime) – Oh man, this show is so weird on so many levels and just watching the first episode of the first season will discombobulate you to what this show is about but it is led by the superpower of Julia Roberts who also produces it. The show, for at least the first season, follows Heidi (Julia Roberts) who works at Homecoming, a facility helping soldiers transition to civilian life. The story also splinters into years later as she has started a new life in a small coastal town working as a waitress when the Department of Defense questions why she left Homecoming and Heidi starts to realize there’s a whole other story behind the one she’s been telling herself. This one is so strange in its mysterious scope, insane acrobats in tracking shots and the shifting of its aspect ratio making it one of the most intriguing mainstream television show on the streaming services right now.

The Lovebirds (Netflix) – A casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic which was supposed to hit theaters at the beginning of April, Paramount made a quick deal with Netflix and now we get this brand new comedy starring two red hot stars, Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae. Coming from director Michael Showalter, following up The Big Sick which was written by and starring Kumail, this film is about a couple who has literally just broken up when they get put right in the middle of a murder conspiracy forcing them to run from the law. The chemistry between Nanjiani and Rae is phenomenal and the lines are hilarious even if this is a far lesser movie than The Big Sick. If you’re looking for a hilarious movie to kill an hour and a half then I highly recommend this one because it had me laughing throughout.

Stargirl: Season 1 (The CW) – The latest new series from the DC Universe online streaming service is a bit of a left-field character for the average comic fan but it has so many good things going for it in for me not to get optimistic. The show is about a teenage girl named Courtney Whitmore who discovers the cosmic staff and becomes the inspiration for a new generation of superheroes who eventually become the Justice Society Of America and the potential for this series is so big just knowing that Arrowverse creator Greg Berlanti and comic legend Geoff Johns are the showrunners for this. With the DC Universe really needing something to keep it afloat, their television department could really do some cool things for them in the way that they can finally obtain that Marvel Studios like prestige they’ve been wanting for so long.

Patton Oswalt: I Love Everything (Netflix) – One of my favorite voices on Twitter has unleashed his newest special on the mighty Netflix and it is as funny and sweet as the person delivering it. Patton gets deep into his own life and existence, especially with him recently turning fifty and all the pitfalls that it brings with it. He also digs into the fact he found happiness with his new wife Meredith Salinger after the sudden of his wife a few years back, stressing that there is a light at the end of a horrible tragedy. While stand up comedy specials and comedians usually hug onto pain, pet peeves and disagreements, Patton’s show feels like such a breath of fresh air and positivity in a time that I think we need it the most.

The 100: Season 7 (The CW) – Shot in the beautiful forests of British Columbia for seven fantastic seasons, this post-apocalyptic and completely unpredictable adventure action series draws to a close and I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed it’s run ever since that explosive first season. There is already a prequel series planned to go ahead next year but this has definitely been a rise in notoriety for showrunner and creator Jason Rothenberg who is undoubtedly on The CW’s fast track to make any series he wants along with the Arrowverse’s Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim. I feel lie The CW doesn’t get a lot of the praise it should as more of the successful shows are seen on this network and the burnt-out procedurals that seem like a carbon copy of all those that have come before it air on networks like CBS and ABC. Is the CW the only one taking chances besides cable and streaming services?

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