Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Possessor: Uncut – Let’s mess you up right out of the gate as David Cronenberg’s son Brandon returns with his second feature, a violent sci-fi film that proves once again he is his father’s son and the body horror runs in the family. The film stars Andrea Riseborough, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Christopher Abbott and it follows an agent who works for a secretive organization that uses brain-implant technology to inhabit other people’s bodies, ultimately driving them to commit assassinations for high-paying clients. Riseborough’s character, a veteran assassin is starting to suffer psychotic breaks in her “outside” life which breaks wide open with her latest client. I’ve already had a chance to see this movie and it blew my mind entirely. Disturbing in visuals, this chaotic film is another showcasing of Cronenberg’s boundless imagination and the incredible prowess that cinematographer Karim Hussain has.

Spontaneous – Coming of age is hard as I remember it. Budding sexuality, hormones, high school cliques, exploding bodies… wait, exploding bodies? Yes, this is the direction that this teen horror from com goes in The Babysitter writer Brian Duffield’s directorial debut and although the story seems insane he makes it work for the entire duration. Starring the “it” girl of right now, 13 Reasons Why’s Katherine Langford alongside Charlie Plummer, they play seniors Mara and Dylan two newly found lovebirds who struggle to survive in a world where each moment may be their last as students in their school begin exploding like balloons full of blood. The dynamic of the film is so interesting as the explosions at first come off as comical but when you start putting faces behind the victims the seriousness arises along with the stakes to keep everyone alive. I was honestly surprised by how much I liked this film and the script and lead stars are definitely what keep it afloat.

Save Yourselves – Nothing like a good sleepy little hipster comedy to give you some laughs and make you think about existence but this one has a bit of a twist. Coming from first time writing and directing duo Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson, the story follows Jack and Su, a hip Brooklyn couple who, like many of their friends, find themselves dependent on technology and unable to put down their phones. Fearing their mindless scrolling may impact their connection with each other, they seize the chance to head to an isolated cabin in the woods, vowing to unplug from the outside world for a week. Sheltered from texts and push notifications, they are blissfully unaware that the planet is under attack and real danger looms just outside their door. As strange events unfold, the couple must figure out a way back to civilization, or what’s left of it in one of the most surprising comedies of the year. The script of this film is hilarious and although I only recognized the female lead from GLOW, the whole cast delivers no matter how big or how small their role is.

Eternal Beauty – To be honest, the first thing I think of when the name of actor turned writer and director Craig Roberts is his role in the Seth Rogen movie Neighbors in which he was a fraternity pledge nicknamed Ass Juice. Not flattering, I know, but the reality is that he made a great first movie with Just Jim and this new film is nearly a masterpiece. The film stars the amazing Sally Hawkins as Jane who, after being left at the altar, had a breakdown spiralled into a chaotic episode of schizophrenia lasting twenty years in which love, both real and imagined, and family relationships collide. Things change when she begins a darkly comic romance with Mike, played by David Thewlis, a failed musician and fellow lost soul. This movie is intense in its delivery and deliciously shot like it’s completely from Jane’s point of view which gives such a deeper insight into her affliction. Again, Hawkins bats for the fences with a fierce performance that demands to be seen.

On The Rocks – Sofia Coppola has returned during this odd year of movie delays with possibly my favorite movie this year and she brought Bill Murray back with her and I couldn’t be happier with it. The film stars Rashida Jones as a young mother who reconnects with her larger-than-life playboy father, played by Murray,  and they embark on a mission to see if her workaholic husband, played by Marlon Wayans, is having an affair. The chemistry between Jones and Murray, first displayed in the Netflix Christmas special A Very Murray Christmas, is so palpable that you just want them to star in absolutely everything together. The script is so snappy and fun, The film charms you in every moment and I would be perfectly content in watching this film every day for weeks on end, I loved it that much. This is a true gem of a movie and I highly recommend it.

The Trial Of The Chicago 7 – If one writer gets me hook, line and sinker every time he writes a movie or television series, it’s Aaron Sorkin. I’m just addicted to his stories. For his latest film, that he directed as well as wrote, he takes a bite out of Chicago history as well as adding his own spin with sardonic humor and grandiose moments of grandstanding with a phenomenal cast that includes Oscar-winners Eddie Redmayne and Mark Rylance, recent Emmy winners Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jeremy Strong as well as Joseph Gordon Levitt, Frank Langella, Sacha Baron Cohen, Michael Keaton and more. Yes, this is a heavyweight. The film is about the fallout after the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago where there were massive demonstrations against the Vietnam War, which was reaching its peak. When a curfew was finally instated, this led to even further protests, eventually leading to a police riot. and following this, seven of the demonstrators, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seale, John Froines, Tom Hayden, Lee Weiner, and David Dellinger, were tried for conspiracy. The meat and potatoes of this film are the trial that followed. This is a big recommendation this week because, though it is heavy on talk and exposition, this could go down as one of the best films this year and when it debuts on Netflix in two weeks it will be the must-watch movie, trust me.

The Boys In The Band – Everywhere you look these days on Netflix you can’t really go through a row of releases and not find a Ryan Murphy written, directed or produced film or television series as the deal he signed with the streaming service must be massively lucrative. This new film feels like it was a long time coming and brings in a cast of actors that have been working with Murphy for quite a while now and it’s an adaptation of a famous gay play and one that was adapted by acclaimed filmmaker William Friedkin way back in 1970, a hugely different and more taboo time for the subject. The film is set in that same time, 1968 New York City, when being gay was still considered to be best kept behind closed doors, following a group of friends gather for a raucous birthday party hosted by Michael, played by Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons, a screenwriter who spends and drinks too much, in honor of the sharp-dressed and sharp-tongued Harold, played brilliantly by Zachary Quinto, who could double for Elliot Gould. Other partygoers include Michael’s former flame, Donald, Larry, a promiscuous commercial artist living with a school teacher, Hank, who has just left his wife, Bernard, a librarian tiptoeing around the bro codes of friendship alongside Emory, a decorator who never holds back an opinion to his detriment and a guileless hustler dressed as a cowboy hired to be Harold’s gift for the night. Everything gets upended when Alan, Michael’s straight-laced college roommate, shows up unexpectedly and each man is challenged to confront long-buried truths that threaten the foundation of the group’s tight bond. This film is all about the performances and the dialogue will remind you that it was all based on a play so sometimes the theatrics do hit the ceiling. For those looking for a well put together conversational drama, this is it.

2067 – Self-contained sci-fi and lower budget sci-fi, it can either be great and captivating or it can leak air for ninety minutes and make you wonder why you got into it in the first place. This film hits somewhere in the middle, starring former X-Men’s Nightcrawler Kodi Smit McPhee and former True Blood star Ryan Kwanten and is set, obviously from the title, over forty years into the future following a man sent on a dangerous mission to an unknown world to save the human race when Earth’s air becomes unbreathable, only on the prodding of a mysterious message that was sent out. The film has a detailed plot with several intriguing mysteries at its core but that may be the biggest issue being that it has so many strands going outward that it can’t resolve or make sense of most of them besides our main character’s increasing existential quandaries. It’s still a bold film for former VFX artist turned director Seth Larney to take on.

The Glorias – One of my favorite visual storytellers of all time, Julie Taymor, returns after a ten-year absence to tell a true story in her own way that I feel is sorely needed right now, especially when women’s right once again hold so delicately in the balance. This is the story of feminist icon Gloria Steinem’s itinerant childhood’s influence on her life as a writer, activist and organizer for women’s rights worldwide as told through multiple timelines, the later two in life played by Academy Award winners Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore. This film is a visual feast, as all of Taymor’s movies are, which at times distract from the reality of the story at hand but the powerfulness of the message is never dulled and the imperative anger that should never stop in the treatment of women is always on display. For whatever shortcomings the film has, and it has more than a few, this movie is massively important and will have a guttural effect on any forward thinker that sees it.

Blu-Ray:

Rogue – For a while, Megan Fox was the it girl, one of the hottest women on screen who made us sweat during Transformers movies until her franchise ending riff with Michael Bay stopped that and I still think her horror film Jennifer’s Body is still a hidden gem. Well, for years she’s been making these little films that don’t get much publicity and this time she made an action film that even critics are saying has some merit. In this new film, she plays O’Hara, a mercenary leading a squad of soldiers on their mission to rescue hostages in a remote part of Africa when, unfortunately, the mission goes wrong and the team are stranded, forced to survive against the local rebels. I was completely shocked by this movie as Fox shows an emotional depth that I honestly thought she was incapable of and, even a production that can’t really shake that B-movie feeling, it all is still effective filmmaking. I also love that a female director was behind the camera for this, MJ Barrett who my favorite work of hers is all the Ash vs The Evil Dead episodes she did.

The Silencing – After the last weirdo film that former Game Of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was in, the deliriously entertaining thriller Exit Plan, I’m feeling like I can finally be on board with each of his projects afterwards because it has wiped the taste of that awful De Palma movie he did. This new action thriller has him playing a reformed hunter living secluded in a wildlife sanctuary after the disappearance of his teen daughter years ago who saves a young girl from being killed by a serial killer but gets caught in a deadly cat-and-mouse game with the deranged man he foiled plans for. His path crosses with the town’s sheriff, played by The Mummy’s Annabelle Wallis, who also seems to bring the serial killer to justice after the discovery of a dead body of a teen girl. The story feels like a retread of the familiar but all in all, I still found myself sucked into the film and Coster-Waldau when he has something to work with, always seems to deliver.
The Legend of Tomiris – We’re going international now for this new blood and sword epic from Kazakhstan to get some serious storytelling done before Borat arrives later in October and we’re all sort of mocking them by going “my wife” and other lines. This is the story of the life of the great queen of the steppe, the legendary Tomiris, a woman destined to become a skillful warrior, survive the loss of close people and unite the Scythian and Saka tribes under her authority, simple as that. Lead star Almira Tursyn is fierce in her action scene, as the choreography is quite good and works with the cinematography well, but the dialogue scenes come off a bit cringeworthy at times and maybe that’s just the language barrier or her inexperience as a front and center role. Still pretty entertaining but definitely very long, clocking in at over two and a half hours.

Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own – Got to get some sort of informative documentary to this week and this intimate portrait of an artist is a great way to do it, also as a cool way of inspiration. The film is the story of Ursula von Rydingsvard, a woman who has struggled for years to overcome the hardship of her upbringing and to follow her true calling to become an artist and live her dream of painstakingly crafting public sculptures in New York. Sophomore documentary filmmaker Daniel Taub does a great job in giving Ursula the necessary backstory of her plight to the audience but also going fascinatingly in-depth on her process to create her works as well as the scrutinizing harshness that artists always seem to put on their shoulders. This documentary will really only speak to a certain crowd but for them, it will speak volumes.

The Secret: Dare To Dream – Remember that self-help book that everyone was raving about years ago that was supposed to fix your life through the easy steps of listening to the world’s secret messages? It was something like that, I honestly don’t remember but they put out a movie based on that, direct to video and now there’s this one, starring Katie Holmes and Josh Lucas for some reason, that follows a widow struggling to get by who meets a stranger that subscribes to a philosophy of positive thinking and messages of hope, compassion, and gratitude. Needless to say, this movie was awful in every sense, much like a faith-based film, it’s clunky in dialogue, overreaching and overbearing in its need to hammer home the message and a complete was of time if you don’t feel the urge for a browbeating of indoctrination. Holmes may have escaped Scientology but she still landed herself in The Secret which I can’t say is really any better.

Genesis II/Planet Earth – Warner Archive is aiming for those deep Star Trek fans with this new double set of forgotten films that Gene Roddenberry wrote in the mid-seventies. Genesis II follows a scientist, Dylan Hunt, who has been preserved in suspended animation in a NASA cavern in 1979 and wakes up to find himself in a primitive society in the year 2133 because during the 154 years he had slept, war has broken out and the world’s scientists rebelled against the war-loving military and developed a society known as the Pax, whose goal is to keep the spirit of mankind alive. The sequel, Planet Earth, follows Hunt awakening from suspended animation again and awakens in the twenty-second century where women rule the world and men are slaves called Dinks. He is captured and sold as a slave, but escapes and hooks up with a male rebel movement. It’s campy but undeniably from the mind of a science fiction genius.

Variety – Have you ever wanted to see the flip side of Taxi Driver and see the seedy underbelly from a troubled woman? This is sort of what Bette Gordon’s 1983 drama is, following Christine, played by Sandy McLeod, who takes a job selling tickets at a porno theater near Times Square and, instead of distancing herself from the dark and erotic nature of this milieu, she develops an obsession that begins to take over her life. a story of this nature was definitely a taboo of its time and I would argue that the film would still come off as massively controversial today but it is affecting and undeniably hard to look away from, a total forgotten gem of a movie. It was shot by Jim Jarmusch’s guy Tom DiCillo and scored by John Lurie and fits in the pantheon of dirt and seedy New York City films near the top. A must-see.

Penny Dreadful City Of Angels: Season 1 – A pretty sizeable fan base is very excited to get the spinoff to the popular Showtime series that started back in 2014 and ran for three seasons. While the original series followed explorer Sir Malcolm Murray, American gunslinger Ethan Chandler, scientist Victor Frankenstein and medium Vanessa Ives as they combated supernatural threats in Victorian London, this series goes ahead in time to a late 1930s Los Angeles at a time that city expansion was aggressive and pushing out the Latino community and the rise of the Nazi ideals were taking hold in the city. The kick is that an evil and godly entity is responsible for pushing the weaker-minded humans into furthering the agenda of the destruction of humanity. The show stars Game Of Thrones alum Natalie Dormer, Nathan Lane and It Follows and Don’t Breathe actor Daniel Zovatto and I loved episode one. Looking forward to what’s next.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

The Captain – I’m bringing some Asian cinema this week with the newest film from Andrew Lau who is the guy who shot the entire Infernal Affairs trilogy as well as directed the very cool action flick Initial D. Playing back into the action-adventure, this film is based on a real-life incident in May 2018, when the cockpit windshield of a Sichuan Airlines flight shattered while the plane was flying 30,000 feet above the Tibetan Plateau and the co-pilot was sucked halfway out of the cockpit as passengers started losing consciousness due to low pressure, causing our title character to step up and be the hero. The character development and script of this film are definitely lacking but the action and suspense of it keep you on track from beginning to end and some of it seems too crazy to believe. A wild ride but slightly forgettable.

Hiroshima – Coming from Arrow Academy, the classier side of the Arrow Video releasing, this film is an updating of the 1953 film that detailed the day the Americans dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. In the focused plot of the film, it is the story of Hiroshima seen through the eyes of the targeted civilians, but mostly the children in particular, as they live amidst the war, then as victims of the atomic bomb, and subsequently as they try to subsist in the aftermath on a pile of ash, rubble and corpses. Even made almost seventy years ago, this film is still affecting, tragic and comes packed with world messages and morals all seen through the eyes of youth.

Brute Force – I’m bringing a double shot of Criterions this week because I’m a total geek for them and they’re the definitive versions of the film, those most important to cinephiles like me. Both films coming from director Jules Dassin, this film features Burt Lancaster and Hume Cronyn and follows Joe Collins, a convict in the State penitentiary who decides he’s had enough and wants to break out. Fed up with the Captain of the Guard, Mr. Muncey, who uses both physical and psychological torture to get his way with the men, Joe and his cellmates are assigned to work in the drainpipe located just outside the prison gate which Joe uses a tactic from the US military during World War II in Italy as the basis of a breakout. This film is incredible but was not well received at the time of release in 1947 due to the brutal violence of it which turned audiences off. The new Blu-ray transfer is gorgeous and I was astounded by this absolute classic

The Naked City – My second Jules Dassin film this week to geek out on, this is an excellent representation of classic film noir and the inspiration for so many filmmakers who make homages to it all the time. The film, at its heart, is a murder mystery, as somewhere in New York’s bustling post-world-war-two metropolis, a beautiful blonde and a former model, Jean Dexter, has been found dead in her apartment, drowned in the bathtub. With the news of her death spreading like wildfire across the city, Irish homicide Detective, Lt. Dan Muldoon, and his young protégé, the rookie Detective Jimmy Halloran, smell out clues all over Manhattan’s tangled asphalt jungle, as the deceased’s crafty boyfriend, Frank Niles, becomes the prime suspect. So many guilty lies and a string of unsolved jewellery robberies cloud Jean’s mysterious case and the two must make or break the case by tossing aside their emotions to keep the city safe from more crime. Again, this is a product of the time so it’s best to keep an open mind about it but I will say that the intrigue of the mystery still holds up over seventy years later.

Television:

Warrior: Season 2 (Crave) – I can’t believe this show flew under my radar as it is based on stories written by Bruce Lee and comes from director Justin Lin, which is great being that he directed the Lee centric comedy satire Finishing The Game, a solid movie if you haven’t seen it. The actors aren’t known but the story will grab you, set during the Tong Wars in the late 1800s, following a martial arts prodigy originating from China who emigrates to San Francisco and ends up becoming a hatchet man for the most powerful boss in Chinatown. The action is phenomenal and the attention to detail feels impeccable. The first season was a great Blu-ray pick-up, a ten-episode series and if you’re a classic martial arts fan then they made this show for you.

Fargo: Season 4 (FX) – It’s honestly funny how much mud I slung at this show before the first season aired saying “why would they do a remake of a perfect Coen brothers movie?” and each season has proved me more and more wrong, each series is a self-contained new story, told masterfully by showrunner Noah Hawley and an ever-changing cast of great performers. The fourth season is set in 1950 in Kansas City and the story follows two crime syndicates as they vie for control. The cast is led by Chris Rock, who plays Loy Cannon, the head of a crime syndicate made up of black migrants fleeing the Jim Crow South who have a contentious relationship with the Kansas City mafia and the supporting cast has I’m Thinking Of Ending Things’ Jessie Buckley, Jason Schwartzman, Ben Whishaw and Jack Huston. I have a good feeling that this season will be incredible and awards caliber as well.

Gangs Of London (AMC) – As a network that generally has made great decisions for its line up by picking up British programming like Quiz most recently, they have done it again by nabbing this gritty crime series from the UK network Sky. Coming from the man behind The Raid movies, Gareth Evans, this series tells the story of London being torn apart by the turbulent power struggles of its international gangs and the sudden power vacuum that’s created when the head of London’s most powerful crime family is assassinated. The only recognizable stars in this are Joe Cole who featured in the other British crime saga Peaky Blinders and Colm Meaney who was O’Brien in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine but it’s shot so beautifully and the story is absolutely fascinating for fans of these crime family series.

The Comey Rule (Crave) – I really love these true story political films and television series like Game Change, Vice or The Loudest Voice and the producer of that last one has made this new series, based on the book by James Comey. Emmy winners Jeff Daniels and Brendan Gleeson star as former FBI Director James Comey and President Donald J. Trump in this limited event series that tells the story of two powerful men, whose strikingly different personalities, ethics and loyalties put them on a collision course. Part one follows the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and their impact on the election while part two is an account of the first months of the Trump presidency where allies became enemies, enemies became friends and truth depended on what side you were on. As it seems the world was paying close attention to everything at this time in history, all of this comes off as an interesting but horrifyingly real as you want to say that it is all satire but it is all terrifyingly true and getting worse by the day.

Monsterland (Crave) – This looks like a really fun new series from Hulu which is still, to this day, unavailable to us Canadians unless Crave decides to pick it up, so my fingers are crossed on this one. The series features Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever, Luke Cage’s Mike Colter and Orange Is The New Black’s Taylor Schilling in an anthology show about encounters with gothic beasts, including fallen angels and werewolves, and broken people who are driven to desperate acts in an attempt to repair their lives, ultimately showing there is a thin line between man and beast. The esthetic is awesome and I’m honestly a real sucker for these types of shows like Creepshow, Tales From The Crypt and Masters Of Horror so this one is definitely up my alley.

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