Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New On VOD:

The One And Only Ivan – Disney Plus rolls out another pretty big feature film on the platform to try and snag some more subscribers before Mulan hits next month and what better way to do it than with a star-studded talking animal movie. The film is based on the novel by Katherine Applegate and follows a gorilla named Ivan voiced by Academy Award winner Sam Rockwell who tries to piece together his past with the help of an elephant named Stella with the voice of Angelina Jolie as they hatch a plan to escape from captivity. Featuring the on-screen star power of Bryan Cranston and Chaka Khan as well as the additional voices of Helen Mirren, Danny Devito and The Florida Project star Brooklynn Prince, it’s definitely an ambitious second film for Me Before You director Thea Sharrock to take on but the trailer looks solid and I think that the kids will really gravitate towards this one. Heck, they might even read the book after and occupy themselves for longer. It’s a thought.

Summerland – Consistently, British actress Gemma Arterton has been the main selling point for me to watch pretty much anything, a versatile performer who has done great genre films, comedies, historical dramas and romances and for this new film she combines those last two. Writer and director Jessica Swale makes her feature-length theatrical debut with this story, set during World War II, following an Englishwoman who opens her heart to an evacuee after initially resolving to be rid of him when the two realize they have more in common in their pasts than she had once assumed. Arterton is without a doubt the best reason to watch this movie, delivering another stellar performance, further proof that she is one of the most underrated leading actresses today. For another example of this in the same sort of setting, what the film Their Finest, released four years ago.

Euphoria – Another couple of names that will put my ass in a seat for the duration of a movie, no matter what genre, is Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander and the always incredible Eva Green but, that being said, I felt this one was a bit regrettable. The third collaboration between Vikander and Swedish writer and director Lisa Langseth, this is the story of two sisters on a trip through Europe where they try to get close to each other and approach the tough questions in life but seem to be constantly at each other’s throats as only bickering siblings are. I wish I could report back on how fantastic this movie is but as much as the two stars have undeniable chemistry together the movie never seemed to gel with me and all of the drama came across very vapid and without any sort of substance. The setup to the whole story is great but they seem to waste all of that potential very quickly afterwards.

Blu-Ray:

The Outpost – Right from the get-go this brand new war movie feels like it has some lineage to it as it has Clint Eastwood’s son Scott in a lead role, Mel Gibson’s son Milo, Mick Jagger’s son James, Richard Attenborough’s grandson Will and Alan Alda’s grandson Scott Alda-Coffey in supporting roles who all look so much like their famous parents and grandparents. Beyond that, this is an intense and grittily realistic Afghan war story from Rod Lurie, the guy who had the balls to remake Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. Also starring Orlando Bloom and Caleb Landry-Jones, this is the story of a small team of U.S. soldiers who battle against hundreds of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan from a base nestled into the bottom of a massive mountain. For the entire duration of this movie, you feel like you’re being piggybacked by the characters you follow and it’s tragic we didn’t get to experience this in theaters. Optimize your home theater, this one is worth it.

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 “all’s well that ends well” story that honestly feels like a cozy cinematic hug that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Sometimes Always Never – This one is a simple film, a story of a father and son, estranged for years, reconnecting to possibly identify the body of Michael, another estranged son who stormed out after a game of Scrabble. Now seemingly obsessed with the game, Nighy’s character is constantly lost in the pieces but is using it to connect with his obtuse son but also the open mind of his grandson. This is basically just a film for Nighy to chew the scenery, which he does brilliantly thanks to the script from Tristram Shandy: A Cock And Bull Story writer Frank Cottrell Boyce against some gorgeous and vibrant backdrops. Richard Stoddard’s cinematography is definitely the second star of this movie.

Prevenge – Want to see some new killer kid horror with a significant twist on it? Well, writer, director and actress Alice Lowe has a doozy of a story to tell you in her filmmaking debut, no stranger to this genre with her work with her roles in Ben Wheatley’s Kill List and Sightseers as well as appearing in the recently released Get Duked! and the totally oddball Aaaaaaaah!. This crazy film follows Lowe as a widow named Ruth who is seven months pregnant when, believing herself to be guided by her unborn baby, she embarks on a homicidal rampage, dispatching anyone who stands in her way. If that doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what will but the best thing about it is that the film is fantastic, so well written, darkly funny and beautifully shot by cinematographer Ryan Eddleston. This is one of those films that will get bandied around by word of mouth leaving you agape after going “why did I just now get told about this?” Get on the bandwagon now, it’s totally worth it.

CRSHD – Something that always feels few and far between when it comes to coming of age teenage romance films is the plight of teenage girls, a complex field of biology, emotion, clique hierarchy and a healthy dose of reality for men that we get it supremely easy. This new film from debuting writer and director Emily Cohn attempts to tell a story of personal growth but with an LGBTQ+ angle to it and for a first time feature filmmaker she has landed with promise. The story follows Izzy who, on the last night of her college freshman year, tries to lose her virginity with the help of her two best friends, their only hope being getting into an exclusive, invite-only “Crush Party.” For a guy that’s been out of the teen lingo for a long time now, this film feels like it has the finger on the pulse of this generation as every line and interaction feels real, sometimes to an almost painful degree. The young cast is also phenomenal with Isabelle Barbier leading the way, an actress with a bright future ahead of her.

Clara’s Heart – Some late eighties goodness this week in new release form from Warner Archive as this Whoopi Goldberg drama hits Blu-ray for the first time and it gave us something else that we didn’t know we needed in the entertainment world at the time, the one and only Neil Patrick Harris who was introduced in this film. Harris plays the lead role, David, a teenager whose parents are in a deteriorating marriage after their infant daughter dies and Goldberg stars as Clara, a chambermaid at a Jamaican resort who’s hired to be a housekeeper. She and David develop a close bond, opening his eyes and heart to new experiences, and eventually leading to a disturbing secret in Clara’s past. This was the penultimate film from To Kill A Mockingbird director Robert Mulligan and it earned NPH a Golden Globe nomination, which is crazy to do in your first time on screen and even crazier sitting on an award-worthy performance as it was filmed in 1986 and not released until two years later.

Blue Bloods: Season 10 – Now that I’ve finished my year for NCIS releases doesn’t mean I’m done with CBS shows or with the traditional procedural, as I now move onto more primetime crime dramas with this Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg led show that is now solidly the double digits in seasons now though with the Black Lives Matter movement in full effect it’s scope show be dramatically different going forward after this. Basically, for those uninitiated into this police show, this is like the Charles Bronson series of made for television movies A Family Of Cops but told much better as we have Tom Selleck as the patriarch of the family and also the commissioner of police, his sons Wahlberg and Will Estes as a detective and police sergeant respectively. The cast rounds out with Bridget Moynahan as the sister, an assistant DA, and the great Len Cariou as the grandpa, a former commissioner himself and the show is actually very solid and its long tenure is indicative of that. I know that when I post on social media that I have it, fans come out of the woodwork to like it.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:

Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy – Oh yeah, bringing some of that Hong Kong action this week and yes, it is a sequel and kind of runs like a weaker Infernal Affairs trilogy. For those who are confused by that one, those are the movies that Martin Scorsese adapted to make The Departed. This film deals with the fallout of the first movie in which a deep conspiracy of police corruption was exposed, the film picking up with three cops caught up in the events and trying to figure out who can be trusted as they look to cut off the head of the monster that’s dragging down the law enforcement in Hong Kong. The film is a slick and stylish action flick, just like it’s predecessor, and feels almost like an ode to the high octane films of Asian cinema’s past like all the Chow Yun Fat and John Woo collaborations and I enjoyed both films on that level.

The Cat And The Moon – I feel at a total loss that I had no idea about this movie’s existence, especially as it is the debut of Hereditary actor Alex Wolff as a feature film writer and director. Led by Wolff and also starring Mike Epps, The Righteous Gemstones’ Skyler Gisondo, Krampus’ Stefania LaVie Owen and Moonrise Kingdom’s Tommy Nelson, this film follows a teenager named Nick who comes to New York City to stay with Cal, a Jazz musician friend of his late father’s while his mother seeks treatment in rehab. The film is very Big Apple driven as Nick discovers the metropolis through innocent eyes and it looks really great on high def. I really like this movie and it’s interesting to note that Alex Wolff began writing the script for this film at age 15 and several scenes were shot at the real high school that he attended as a kid. For a first time director, he has the absolute poise of a veteran and I really look forward to whatever project he has next.

Unintended – Another indie flick from the guys at FilmRise, this new film comes from writer and director Anja Murmann, a filmmaker who hasn’t made a new feature in over twenty years and returns with this new psychological thriller. Delving into the psychiatric battlefield of emotional trauma and guilt, the film follows a young woman who had repressed the memory of having killed someone when she was twelve years old and thirteen years later that memory comes back, breaking her mental world wide open. The film stars Elizabeth Lail, who’s on a hot streak after her breakout performance on Netflix’s You, and Nathan Keyes who starred in Kings Of Summer, a movie I absolutely adore, and this movie works based on their fantastic performances, the driving force of it. This is a very self-contained film but those looking for a great drama filled with pretty intense reveals this is very recommended.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – It took me a while to finally get around to it but thanks to a friend’s shrinking blu-ray collection I landed myself a few Batman centric picks that I thought I would bring to this section because, why not? Batman is awesome. Case in point, this animated movie that takes arguably the great non-canon story of the Caped Crusader written by the king of comics, at the time, the legendary Frank Miller. This story, told over two films, follows a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne who is forced back into the cape and cowl after a ten-year absence when a new breed of criminal ravages Gotham City and coaxes out his greatest foe for a final showdown. This movie is absolutely awesome with former Robocop Peter Weller donning the cowl for a pitch-perfect rendition of the Dark Knight in a massively satisfying animated feature, one of the best of the whole series.

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice – Let’s get this out of the way. I saw this movie at an IMAX press screening and totally hated it, so much so that I was seething as I came out of the theater doors and couldn’t even talk to the Warner Bros. rep to give my opinion. That said, in a self-deprecating need to own everything Batman, I somewhat gladly accepted this film into my collection and gave it a rewatch and, yes, it’s still awful but has some really iconic picturesque moments that make you feel like a fan in between all the terrible writing, nonsensical plot, horrible filmmaking and complete character misreads. Of course, there’s the defining horrendous “Martha” moment that should be ridiculed until the end of time but at the end of the day and the end of the rant, this is an impressive watch to behold on a great home entertainment system. Never take this as praise for Zack Snyder. I would never do that.

Television:

Random Acts Of Violence (Shudder) – Canadian star Jay Baruchel returns to his seat behind the camera for his second film after the sequel to the hockey comedy Goon, Goon: The Last Of The Enforcers but this unrelenting and visceral horror film has been in gestation for almost a decade before finally being made. Based on a graphic novel by acclaimed creators Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, the story follows Todd, a comic writer struggling to finish his magnum opus who goes on a book tour and is subsequently followed by a sadistic murderer who is reenacting all of the kills from his book. This movie is balls to the wall and unrelenting in its brutality in an ethereal way that makes you question the reality of these characters. This movie is not for everyone and gives a grindhouse-style that would make the originators of the genre very proud. I loved every moment of this madness but it plays totally into my weirdo proclivities.

High Score (Netflix) – For my YouTube obsessed little daughter this show was a fascinating feast of information on her favorite subject, video games and their history, and a total godsend for me, a father totally sick of hearing her videos yell and scream about Minecraft, Roblox and a myriad of Mario games. Narrated by the voice of Super Mario himself, this series traces the history of classic video games, featuring insights from the innovators who brought these worlds and characters to life like Space Invaders, PacMan and of course the arrival of Mario and Luigi and beyond. The show is filled with deep interviews with the originators of the industry as well as all that they influenced and it is a really fascinating series, even for the old school gamers who feel like they’ve lost touch with the medium. No, I’m not there yet so I can’t relate.

Hoops (Netflix) – Jake Johnson, Ron Funches, Natasha Leggero and Rob Riggle lend their voices to this vulgar and vile new animated series made directly for Netflix and get ready for those Big Mouth vibes because I don’t think there’s a line this show wouldn’t cross but at least the writing is better than that absolute dreck that is called Paradise PD. The show has Johnson voicing Coach Ben Hopkins, a hot-headed, foul-mouthed high school basketball coach who thinks turning around his god awful team will take him to the “big leagues” and will do anything to get them there, including getting the tallest person in high school a hooker just to join the team. The first couple episodes might be a bit of a hard sell but this show starts to hit its stride in the fifth one and Johnson’s delivery of lines is hysterical and it doesn’t feel like he gets to stretch his R-rated legs enough. The Little Man Tate references in the first episode alone had me laughing hard.

Lucifer: Season 5 Part 1 (Netflix) – The show that the fans keep having the ability to revive enters what I thought was going to be the finale for it, split into two parts with the first one debuting this week. The Tom Ellis led series has preemptively earned its sixth season now and the current season will focus on Lucifer’s lineage, his past and those close around him getting the truth of what he is revealed to them. There is also a killer guest spot of 24’s Dennis Haysbert showing up as, wait for it, God himself. Yes, I’m so behind President David Palmer portraying the thing that makes people do the stupidest thing, worship Donald Trump as the savior of the world. Yeah, boom! I just went political but it really was worth it. Let me know on Twitter how much you hated it!

Lovecraft Country (Crave) – This is definitely the most anticipated new HBO shows of the year, with anticipation behind it that is on par with the excitement us television fans had for the Watchmen limited series. Created by Jordan Peele and Underground creator Misha Green, simply put, the series follows a young African-American travelling across the U.S. in the 1950s in search of his missing father but it’s definitely going to get way deeper and far sinister given that Lovecraft is in the title which usually means to me that it will be a continuing spiral of despair and suffering that leads to doom and death. So, yeah, not going to be bright and sunny but it has Birds Of Prey’s Jurnee Smollett Bell and The Last Black Man In San Francisco’s Jonathan Majors in it and after episode one, holy crap, am I ever hooked! Get on the train now for this because you will love it.

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