Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Tenet – This is the movie that it feels like the pandemic was robbing us of most as Christopher Nolan returns with another mind-bender of a film that looks very akin to one of his previous masterpieces, Inception. With Blackklansman star John David Washington leading a stellar cast including Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Kenneth Brannagh and Michael Caine, not much is really known about the central plot is that if follows our protagonist armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world who journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real-time. This description is a whole thing to unlock on its own and if you’ve seen the trailer you know the intense intricacies that it only gives you a taste of. My belief is the best way to enter this movie is without really any knowledge at all and let the brilliance wash over you.

The New Mutants – I was starting to get to the point that I thought this movie was a big deep state lie or something that I had made up in my mind as it was supposed to come out years ago and now finally its hitting theaters with little notice almost like Disney is just trying to show this Fox property off a ledge. A spin-off of the X-Men, the film follows five young mutants, just discovering their abilities while held in a secret facility against their will, who fight to escape their past sins and save themselves and features a great cast of then-rising stars who are now very established with Game Of Thrones actress Maisie Williams, Stranger Things actor Charlie Heaton and The Witch’s Anya Taylor Joy. I’m also really excited to see the genre bend director Josh Boone has done with this film as it is definitely a horror film with superpowered characters and a shift for him as a filmmaker, the guy behind The Fault In Our Stars. It’s also a great precursor heading into his next project, the long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand.

Bill & Ted Face The Music – Being a pretty much lifelong fan of the two Bill and Ted movies we’ve received so far I am more than overjoyed that we finally get a full trilogy of the continued time travel stories Bill S. Preston and Ted “Theodore” Logan, Esquire, though it is with a twinge of sadness that George Carlin is no longer here to play their guide, Rufus. Now, over thirty years after the original movie, the two would-be rockers from San Dimas, California find themselves as middle-aged dads still trying to crank out a hit song and fulfill their destiny, once told they’d save the universe. This movie seems like a pass off for the daughters played by Ready Or Not’s Samara Weaving and Atypical star Brigette Lundy-Paine to take over the franchise and I’m totally on board for that because they’re both really great in this and their new guide Kristen Schaal is fantastic as always. No matter how this movie turned out I was going to love it unconditionally, like my own child, and to see that it is truly “excellent” makes me feel the warmth of a nostalgic hug.

You Cannot Kill David Arquette – As a huge wrestling fan, I feel like the built-in audience for this movie to find, although beyond that the story of the underdog in David Arquette should be broader in it reach to everyone because I found this documentary so compelling and wholly endearing towards Arquette himself. Regarded mainly in the wrestling fan community of the guy who “killed World Championship Wrestling”, AKA WCW, by winning their heavyweight championship in the early 2000s, this is a story of redemption as Arquette attempts a rocky return to the sport that stalled his promising Hollywood career entirely and left him fighting for scrap roles in B and C grade movies. At first, the mental trauma of the fallout of his first pro wrestling foray is something he wants to correct and as the reimmersion in the industry starts he is bitten by the bug of taking it all seriously for a real run on the independent scene. I absolutely adored this movie and ran the rollercoaster of emotions that it evokes. This might go down as one of my favorite movies this year.

The Eight Hundred – A late addition to the list this week, this Chinese made film hit some controversy when it was initially released earlier this year in China as it was originally scheduled to premiere June 15, 2019 but was called off one day earlier, citing ‘technical difficulty’, with premiere date unannounced but media outlets argued the cancellation was due to producers’ lack of political sensitivity as this year marks the seventieth anniversary of the Communist Party victory against the Nationalists, which is a large piece of this film. The producer company’s stock price also fell by 8% the day the premiere was called off. The film is largely a war epic, set in 1937, following eight hundred Chinese soldiers fighting under siege from a warehouse in the middle of the Shanghai battlefield, completely surrounded by the Japanese army. Beautifully shot, this film is awe-inspiring to behold, and the budget is certainly on display.

Fatima – This is a big movie in my mind as it is an anomaly of sorts, a faith-based film depicting Bible events that is actually, wait for it, good. Not just that but I’d dare to venture that this movie is great. Director and former Game Of Thrones cinematographer Marco Pontecorvo brings us the story of three young shepherds in Fátima, Portugal, who reported visions of the Virgin Mary, inspiring believers and angering officials of the Church and the government, who try to force them to recant their story. The film’s cast features Harvey Keitel, a giant of an actor that I have been missing for a while now and while I contend that this movie will not work with everyone, it takes some bold chances that largely work out for it. It’s either that or I’ve been dulled down by faith-based movies so much that any improvement looks almost… miraculous.

VOD:

Uncle Peckerhead – Demonic horror-comedy rears it’s head this week with this pretty ingenious little film that seriously knocked me through a loop. Featuring a title that will get a large number of giggles that will probably turn a lot of people away from it, the film follows a punk band who scores their first tour, but life on the road proves to be supremely difficult when they are joined by a man-eating demon as their roadie. Now, how weird of a story is that to tackle? You know this movie wasn’t made by any large studio, as no one would take the chance on that but, oh boy, did I love this movie. The film doesn’t feature anyone you’ve heard of or even anyone I have, but it’s fun, deeply evil and disturbed and, best of all, it’s gory as all hell. This is totally a movie that is geared to please genre fans like me, and I sort of expect that this will find a cult status like love, sort of how Return Of The Living Dead did in retrospect.

My Days Of Mercy – You can immediately sell me just by involving Ellen Page in a movie because I have been a massive fan of hers ever since Juno and, yes, I know that she was in Trailer Park Boys too but, really, what did she do in that? Co-starring House Of Cards alum and former Invisible Woman, Kate Mara, this film is an LGBTQ story following the daughter of a man on death row who falls in love with a woman on the opposing side of her family’s political cause. The cast around these two is phenomenal, including Amy Seimetz, fresh off her brilliant film She Dies Tomorrow, one of my favorite movies this year, Elias Koteas and Brian Geraghty and the direction from Tali Shalom-Ezer is another notch on the proving ground of a promising career, telling stories from the fringe that deserve to be more forefront in our eyes, just like the heterosexual romances we see almost weekly.

Tito – Oh boy, I have to say I really enjoy my job when I’m able to bookend a section on here with films like Uncle Peckerhead and this movie as it ultimately delights the genre movie side of me and is a great way to showcase the movies and filmmakers who take chances that almost look like a leap of faith over a pool of razor blades. This film is written and directed by Grace Glowicki who makes her feature debut here which she also stars in, about a desperate man who seeks refuge from the predators hunting him by befriending an oddly cheerful intruder. Featuring another Canadian director in the lead role Ben Petrie, and, yes, this is a Canadian film, this is a truly original and unique film that hinges on these two’s performances which I think they knocked out of the park. If you want something deliciously different then I seriously suggest you check this one out.

Blu-Ray:

The King Of Staten Island – It’s been almost five years minus a month and a few days since Judd Apatow gave us a redemption story of an up and coming comic and comedian basically playing themselves in an over two-hour movie and we are now moving on from the now megastar of Amy Schumer to the rising stardom of Pete Davidson. The film features the Saturday Night Live writer and cast member as Scott, a do-nothing stoner in his mid-twenties who lives with his exhausted widower mom on Staten Island, appalling around with his friends and a childhood pal who has now become a sexual relationship. Deep in Scott’s psyche are the issues left when his firefighter father died in a fire when he was seven, which sort of informed his whole life but through that hurt, his redemption can be seen. This film’s biggest issue is that it feels so bloated, with Scott’s turn as a dynamic character not even hinting at itself until almost an hour and a half in. That said, Davidson is funny at times but it’s the rest of the cast that shines brighter around him. While I wasn’t a huge fan of this movie, it is definitely better than Apatow’s This Is 40 but sits below even a movie like Funny People.

The Trip To Greece – I spent my whole Victoria day 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 then, 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 Burnt Orange Heresy – Slow burn is the key to this new thriller which has The Square star Claes Bang playing an art dealer who is thrown into a scheme to nab a painting from a reclusive and eccentric artist, embodied brilliantly by the legendary Donald Sutherland but the role was originally written for Christopher Walken and it really shows. This film, directed by Berlin Station lead Giuseppe Capotondi, largely didn’t work for me as Bang’s character’s devious and paranoid underbelly feels constantly on display, making the intrigue part a bit transparent, but Widows star Elizabeth Debicki is the main draw here and is absolutely fire every moment she is on screen.

Yes, God, Yes – Every now and then I come across a movie where I think “where the hell did this come from?”, something that completely flew under my radar. This is another one of those films, a comedy set in the early 2000s starring Stranger Things actress Natalie Dyer and is one of those rare coming of age films for a woman, following the star as a Catholic teenager who discovers masturbating after an innocent AOL chat turns racy and struggles to suppress her new urges in the face of the indoctrinated punishment of possible eternal damnation. This movie really surprised me, especially based on its premise, for being so sex-positive in its message and Dyer is so fantastic in the film, giving such nuance to her character. The film is the debut behind the camera for Obvious Child writer Karen Maine who continues her knack for creating believable and endearingly fallible female characters. This is a must-see I think this week.

Infamous – An actress on a hot streak with her own very large base is definitely Bella Thorne, hitting on many different platforms with multiple films in the bank, books published, her directorial debut on Pornhub and now her own OnlyFans set to make her millions, I would say that this is an under the radar film of hers but that’s simply untrue if you’re social media savvy, which is where she is queen. This film is an action thriller that has her and co-star Jake Manley from the recently cancelled Netflix series The Order playing two young lovers who rob their way across the southland, posting their exploits to social media, and gaining fame and followers as a result. Probably not the greatest message for the easily led by the nose influencer wannabe but the movie is a pretty entertaining thrill ride with some good twists and turns to keep you going. The film comes from writer and director Joshua Caldwell who takes a page out of the book of hyperactive filmmakers like Joseph Khan or Ariel Shulman and Henry Joost for this.

Without Love – Got some real classic stuff this week from Warner Archive with some old Hollywood hitting Blu-ray for the first time. It all kicks off with this film, a romantic comedy with the star power of Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn and Lucille Ball about a woman living in Washington, D.C. during World War II who enters a loveless marriage with a scientist and ends up becoming his assistant which eventually brings them closer. The movie was released in the mid-forties and, funny enough, Tracy hated making this movie but did it as a favor to Katharine Hepburn, who had starred in the play and who it was really a passion project for and ended up becoming a sizeable box-office hit, making $619,000 which, adjusting for inflation, works out to be about $8.4 million these days. This is the third time Tracy and Hepburn were paired together in their total of nine times they shared the screen, the final film of director Harold S. Bucquet who passed away the following year.

Pat And Mike – It’s now time for the second round of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn films with this film, another romantic comedy, which saw an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay, co-written by actress Ruth Gordon who would go on to star in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, which she would win an Academy Award for, and, of course, one of my favorite movies ever made, Hal Ashby’s Harold And Maude. This film weaves a sports angle into it, following Hepburn as Pat, a fantastic athlete who dominates every sport she is a part of unless her domineering fiancé is around which causes her new devious manager Mike, played by Tracy, to find new ways to keep them apart but quite obviously starts to develop feelings for her. Of the nine movies she made with Spencer Tracy, this was Katharine Hepburn’s favorite and their chemistry beams off the screen with the first meeting of their characters and it’s also interesting to note that this is the debut of The Rifleman star Chuck Conners. It’s no wonder that Hepburn was an easy sell for this role as she was an avid golfer, which is on display when Cate Blanchett played her in The Aviator.

Hell Bent – The classic flicks aren’t over yet as I’m taking you way back to 1918 for this western, harkening to a time when movies didn’t go over an hour-long, probably because the cost of filmmaking was probably exorbitant. The story is simple as most frontier films were back in that day, following a cowboy that must save his girlfriend from captivity and then cross the desert on foot with a single waterhole on the way. Starring a massive western star at the time, Harry Carey who also co-wrote the film, this was an early production of one of the founding fathers of cinema, John Ford, who went by the young name of Jack Ford for this movie. This restoration is one that almost never happened because the original print of it had vanished and then resurfaced in the film archives of Czechoslovakia and now has the glorious distinction of being completely restored for blu-ray by the geniuses at Kino Lorber. this is for those deep historian buff types, for sure.

Reginald Denny Collection – All the movies just seem to get older and older this week as Kino Lorber also sent me this collection of films all featuring actor Reginald Denny, a giant of film in his era during the 1930s with three of his closest regarded movies, The Reckless Age, Skinner’s Dress Suit and What Happened To Jones?. All of these films give deeper insight into the man behind them, a guy who was a jack of all trades in any side of the production and was an avid aviation enthusiast who even used his knowledge many times to help out the military. I really enjoy getting all of these throwback productions as it gives a deeper understanding into the history of a medium I love and shows some of the founding structures that got us there. Again, this stuff may bore a lot of the layman to cinema out there but I know cinephiles will possibly take a keen eye to these films.

Gamera: The Complete Collection – Want a six-disc set of crazy Japanese monster flicks full of city-destroying action? Well, those beautiful people at Arrow Video have meticulously put together this brand new set of films that has all twelve of these celebrated creature features for the first time ever in a worldwide release. This limited edition collectors’ set traces the decades-long evolution of Gamera, from the “friend of all children” in his more lighthearted earlier films to the Guardian of the Universe in the groundbreaking 1990s reboot series, often hailed as three of the best kaiju films ever made, the inspiration for Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim, for sure, a movie I love so very much. These movies run the gamut of either being fun or gritty and action-filled and make for an entertaining ride as you go through the films from it’s inception in 1965 to the final film in 2006 which almost becomes a sort of “my monster and me” story of Gamera’s friendship with a young boy. It’s distinctly Japanese but oh so entertaining.

SEAL Team: Season Three – Even though the series ended fifteen years ago I will always see David Boreanaz as the brooding vampire with a soul Angel from the Joss Whedon created Buffy spinoff and that’s even after twelve seasons as Seeley Booth on Bones. His new series is going very well though, a series that follows the lives of an elite Navy S.E.A.L. team as they train, plan and execute the most dangerous, high-stakes missions for the American government. Created by first-time showrunner Benjamin Cavell, this series has compelling characters and has the potential to get better in this vein if they can steer away from being a mission by mission procedural. I have now thoroughly enjoyed every season that Paramount sent me and I look forward to more as this was another easy pick up for a fourth season on CBS.

Gunsmoke: Movie Collection – Well, they’ve sent me most of the back end of the entire series of this long-running western that formulated the frontier filmmakers of yesterday and today so now it’s time for the movies to get their time on home release with three films that played on television well after the end of the show. debuting between the years of 1987 and 1992, this trilogy consists of the films Return to Dodge, The Last Apache and To the Last Man, the first film made at the behest of Matt Dillon himself James Arness who wanted a reunion badly. The second film, The Last Apache, is more of a storyline tie-up from an episode during the 1973 season that actually brought back an actor from that plot, Michael Learned, and the final film, To The Last Man, was made as a tribute to the show’s original creator, John Meston, and to give then retired Marshall Matt Dillon. As a kid who watched these shows with my dad, I was totally into receiving these as the nostalgia just breathes off the screen.

Are You Afraid Of The Dark? – Getting classic with this series who us Canadian kids remember watching on the kid’s television channel YTV and wishing that we could be part of the storytelling group of the “Campfire Society”, a group of kids who love to terrify each other with ghostly tales. This is a total revamp of that show for a modern era and features Blindspotting writer and star Rafael Casal in a three-part, self-contained limited series about the newest member of the Midnight Society, her first scary tale, and what happens to the group when the terrifying events of her story start to actually happen in their small town. Made by Nickelodeon, this is a great way to scare the kids on a level that is accessible for them and won’t scare them for life like some of the scary shows from my childhood. I say this although it definitely helped with my insatiable penchant for horror movies. I actually thank the original series for giving me this love.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekout:

Bush: Live In Tampa – Being a total product of the nineties when it comes to my beginnings of finding the music sound I liked, I definitely was a huge fan of Gavin Rossdale and his band Bush, notably the album Sixteen Stone, a record I could probably sing along with from front to back. Needless to say, when this live album box set that consists of a blu-ray, a DVD and an audio CD of the entire show recorded at the MidFlorida Amphitheater in Tampa both my wife and I were ecstatic, putting the CD into our car immediately and have been listening to it ever since. Being a big fan of live albums, this one definitely is a new favorite and features classic Bush hits like Machinehead, which kicks off the show, Comedown, Everything Zen, The Sound Of Winter and. of course, the song that makes you want to sing, Glycerine.

What She Said: The Art Of Pauline Kael – Being a film critic, we definitely feel the brunt of backlash when our opinions of movies or television set people off just simply for the fact that we don’t like said film or that our thoughts don’t jive with the status quo but when you get to certain notoriety the acceptance level is higher. This is the case when it came to Pauline Kael, a controversial and totally outspoken critic and one that helped shape the model of 20th-century filmmaking with her influence. Agree with her opinions or not, Kael is arguably the greatest film critic to grace newspapers and television and is really the model for what all of our work stands on. This documentary is fascinating and well deserved for this legend who was at the top of her game for four decades.

Laurel & Hardy – After Shout Factory hooked me up with the complete set of Abbott and Costello movies I thought I had a pretty good chunk of the classic comedy collection until this definitive set landed on my doorstep, the complete works of combined comedic genius of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, two giants of which everyone else seems to stand in their shadows. For fans of comedy origins, this is a great one to pick up as it features new 2K and 4K digital restorations from original 35mm nitrate of all of their classic comedies in the best quality since their first release, which to me is pretty insane. Two feature films and seventeen shorts, including the legendary pie-fight silent film The Battle of the Century, a massively iconic moment in their career which is making its video debut and nearly complete for the first time in over 90 years. This stuff is totally landmark here.

Batman: Year One – Continuing my new Batman purchases from last week, it really is fitting that I talk about young Batman this week after talking about the old Caped Crusader last week. Again based on a graphic novel from the legendary ad and revered comic writer Frank Miller, this is the story of Batman’s emergence in Gotham City to rise and become the figure that the criminal element fears, all from the point of view of Commissioner Gorden, voiced in this animated feature by Walter White himself, Bryan Cranston. With beautiful animation, headed up by the director of a lot of these DC animated features, Sam Liu, I really liked this adaptation and thought it did a faithful job of bringing the darkness of Batman’s beginnings and Gotham star Ben McKenzie, who played a young James Gordon in that series, ironically voices the world’s greatest detective and Bruce Wayne in this one, a movie that was birthed from Darren Aronovsky’s failed live-action adaptation. I’m glad we got some semblance of this story.

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug – Why mess with a good thing unless you are super greedy? This is a broad question to all Hollywood studios but for this purpose, I aim this question at Warner Bros. who decided to rope Peter Jackson into doing more J.R.R. Tolkien adaptations by having him do The Hobbit as a follow up to the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Getting hypnotized by more millions, they also had him split the one book into three movies and completely dilute everything of any substance. Yes, you can tell I didn’t like this movie so why own it? Well, it was cheap and rewatching the barrel sequence, which is overly too long, the scene really tests out your home theater in all the best ways including that insane frame rate. I know this part of the blog this week is pretty underwhelming but I just made lemonade from lemons in front of you. Tada!

Television:

Trinkets: Season 2 (Netflix) – This is kind of my wild card this week because it’s a teen drama so it could really go either way depending on your tastes but the first season was really great. Brianna Hildebrand, who played the angsty Negasonic Teenage Warhead in the Deadpool movies, stars in this series as a grieving teenager who finds an unexpected connection with two classmates at her new high school when they all land in the same Shoplifters Anonymous group. The reason I dug into this one was that it kind of gives me a Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist vibe, which is fitting as the creators directed Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, which was based on a book by the same author. Now that the show has been axed and will not get a third season, this season gets more focused on these three girls’ futures beyond school and what goodness possibly awaits them there. I will say already that this series was cut far too short for my liking.

All Together Now (Netflix) – The name of director Brett Haley might not be a household name but, damn, has he made some great films with great actors that deserve far more acclaim than they have been getting. Whether is a Blythe Danner story of rediscovery like I’ll See You In My Dreams, a Sam Elliott led story about mortality or a father and daughter musical duo with Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons, Haley makes character films and that’s what he’s done with this new film featuring Moana herself, Auli’i Cravalho and comedy legend Carol Burnett. Cravalho plays an optimistic high schooler with musical aspirations who must learn to accept help from her friends to overcome her personal hardships and fulfill her dreams. The film has a fantastic supporting cast to it and looks like another notch on the board for Haley who will one day get that top name billing he should get. Mark my words here, he’s phenomenal.

Cobra Kai (Netflix) – Remember that school of bad guys from the Karate Kid movies? Well, they’ve had their own series running for two seasons as a YouTube original and now with this third season, they get the high profile and bigger budget release on Netflix to bump it up to the next level. Featuring a lot of the original cast from the movies, including William Zabka, Martin Kove and even Daniel-san, Ralph Macchio, this Emmy nominated series takes place decades after our mains have had their 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament bout, following a middle-aged Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence who again find themselves martial-arts rivals. This is your chance to get fully acquainted with this critic and audience lauded series all at once and hopefully secure it another season and it’s damn worthy of that.

The Binge (Crave) – I kind of have this really deep love for Elseworlds stories, something off of the beaten path that ventures the question “what if?” just like this one does set in a world where all drugs and alcohol are illegal but the only day anyone can participate in the excess to gain from that is on what’s called “Binge Day”. Leave it to the weirdos at Amazon Prime to greenlight something as wacky as this but, besides the young cast, Vince Vaughn and the hilarious Hayes MacArthur co-star in this series from one of the minds behind the great James Van Der Beek show What Would Diplo Do? a massively underrated show itself. Just looking at the trailer I have high hopes for this one, no pun intended, so it better not let me, or most importantly you, down.

Aggretsuko: Season 3 (Netflix) – I never thought that I would relate so much to an animated red panda but here we are. Yes, Retsuko was a graduate who had everything going for her coming out of university but a mere five years later she sees herself in a thankless job, overworking herself for a sexist boss who minimizes all of her accomplishments causing her to bottle her red hot rage to unleash it every day at the karaoke bar, screaming out death metal songs. Yeah, this show was totally made for my consumption and with the third season landing, it’s there perfect time to pull more of you onto the bandwagon of underappreciated Japanese transplants. Each episode is short, sweet and weirdly intuitive, especially if you’re in the nine to five work grind that makes you feel a little off-kilter. I highly recommend this show, it’s so ingenious.

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