Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

Movies:

Extra Ordinary – Take the quirky attitudes of both new Academy Award winner Taika Waititi and combine it with the sombre middle American weird comedy of a Jared and Jerusha Hess movie like Napoleon Dynamite and ad a splash of British bumbling charm and you have this new horror-comedy. The film has unknown actress Maeve Higgins as a medium that has given up talking to ghosts because of the role she thinks she played in her father’s death. Now begged back into the job by a man who has a daughter that is being supernaturally groomed to be a sacrifice to the devil for a burnt-out rock star looking for a comeback. Aside from Higgins, the film also has Barry Ward in a comedic role, a weird movie after his Loach movies and the hilarious Will Forte as the villainous rock star. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie, a gut bustlingly hilarious story that will keep you laughing until the hysterical final moment.

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.

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.

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.

Arkansas – Usually known from comedic roles, Clark Duke makes his feature directorial debut with this modern noir story that he wrote as well, adapted from a book by John Brandon. It stars Liam Hemsworth and Duke as two smugglers working for a mysterious Arkansas based kingpin named Frog that they’ve never met. When their in-between is killed after being followed home, the two are thrown into the crosshairs of their boss as the errors stack up. Both Hemsworth and Duke are fantastic in this movie and Vince Vaughn carries the other half of the film as Frog as well as some great supporting work from Josh Brolin’s daughter, Eden. I really liked this film and I’m looking forward to what’s next from Clark Duke.

Tigers Are Not Afraid (Shudder) – This movie has a couple of things working against it coming out of the gate. Firstly, this is an independent film so if you want it to hit the big time it needs to have that word darling attached to it. That’s not going to happen because the second deterrent from that additive title is that this s a horror film as well. Hopefully, Guillermo del Toro calling this Issa Lopez written and directed movie one of his favorites of the last year can help because I found this movie to be incredibly special. The film is a dark tale about a gang of five children trying to survive the horrific violence of the cartels, led in a way by a girl who can see the ghosts created every day by the drug war, spirits looking for vengeance. Lopez’s style breathes right off of the screen and sort of reminds me of the earlier del Toro film The Devil’s Backbone, signifying that she has a huge future ahead of her.

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.

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind (Crave) – Natasha Gregson Wagner takes it on herself to set the record straight with this beautiful portrait of her mother complete with interviews with all of the remaining family including her biological father Richard Gregson, who has now since passed away and the father who raised her, Robert Wagner. What results from this film is an intimate look at a one of a kind and special talent that we may never see the likes of again. Natalie Wood was powerful, driven and always willing to stand up for herself in every way, push forward women’s rights in the industry in every facet she could. This type of documentary is an easy sell with me but I think everyone should check it out, it’s phenomenal.

The Invisible Man – The Dark Universe from Universal Pictures may have died a dismal death after the failure of Tom Cruise’s The Mummy but from the ashes of that mess this property was floated over to Blumhouse and they put filmmaker Leigh Whannell, one-half of the minds behind Saw, at the helm of it and the final result is absolutely fantastic. Elisabeth Moss stars as the survivor of an abusive relationship who believes the news of her ex’s suicide is a hoax and this is reinforced when she realizes that she is being hunted by an unseen force. This movie is awesome, thrilling, unpredictable and always able to get under your skin by simply panning over to an “empty” side of the room. Whannell is quickly rising up the ranks of must-see filmmakers and it is so deserved.

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.

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.

Television:

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (Netflix) – I am pretty sure that even though its series is pretty unpredictable in its scope I can figure out what doesn’t happen at the end and that’s Jeffrey Epstein killing himself. All jokes aside though, this show is like a disgusting pile of sludge that you can’t help but paw through as it goes deep into the allegations against him with first-hand witness accounts and episode one gets that pesky question of “why are these ladies only coming forward now?” out of the way with the simple fact that they were bullied and threatened into not saying anything. There will be a lot of gasping, angry shouts and slack jaws in disbelief as this limited series goes through every piece of Epstein’s disturbing sexual proclivities in excruciating detail. This is a can’t miss documentary series.

Dead To Me: Season 2 (Netflix) – Two of my favorite actresses lead this dark comedy as one of my childhood crushes, Christina Applegate, plays a recently widowed woman who meets a new friend, played by Linda Cardellini, at the grief support group, not knowing that she is the one responsible for her husband’s death. This series is so well written and while this new season takes it in a crazy different direction in some senses but doesn’t quite hit that level that Weeds did where it became completely unbelievable and kind of ruins some of the characters in the process. The show was created by Liz Feldman who made the short-lived Elisha Cuthbert sitcom One Big Happy but has really hit her stride with this show and the deeply sardonic and mean character for Applegate is so perfect. I love this show.

Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill (Netflix) – One of the greatest living comedians on the planet is back with this new hour-long stand up set and I don’t know what it is about Jerry but I’ve always been a fan, dating back to his book Seinlanguage which I read three times when it came out. Not a huge accomplishment as it’s pretty short. This new special digs into the mundane nature of life as he always does, the fervour of going out just to want to go home, the annoying nature of friends and the headache to make new ones and the fact that dads are embued with the same natural instincts as mothers. Seinfeld proves that even now he can get the laughs and is still the measuring bar of stand up comedy and will be for years to come.

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.

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.

Creepshow: Season 1 (Shudder) – 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.

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.

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.

Snowpiercer (Netflix) – Adapted from Academy Award winner Bong Joon-Ho’s mind-boggling sci-fi thriller, his English language debut, I would usually start my write up on this by saying how disappointing it is that Americans have to pounce on popular foreign properties but this one is different. With Bong on board as executive producer along with fellow Korean film master Park Chan Wook and horror director Scott Derrickson, this show has the immediate source material love and care I wanted for it and it shines, especially with Blindspotting’s Daveed Diggs as the lead, one of the best actors working today. For those who don’t know, the show is a post-fall of humanity story about a divided remainder of people, either the poor or the elite, that live on a train that constantly zooms around the frozen landscape of Earth. With Jennifer Connolly playing the opposition in this show, it can only get better. The show will be updated weekly by Netflix but two episodes are available now.

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