Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan – A glorious bright spot in a year of pretty much constant doom and gloom, I have no idea how Sacha Baron Cohen did it but he has gifted us the follow up to his wildly successful first film and given us a renewal on saying things like “very nice” and “my wife” in his insane Kazakh accent. In this follow-up film to the 2006 comedy, this once again centers on the “real-life” adventures of the fictional Kazakh television journalist Borat as he attempts to restore the image of his country that had been so soiled by his first film by taking his daughter on a trip to the United States to find her a husband and hopefully his lost dignity. I have no idea what we can expect for this movie but I feel like the sky and the deepest mankini are really the limit. I’m looking forward to it no matter what.

The Empty Man – Based on the graphic novel from writer Cullen Bunn, this is an adaptation I was looking forward to without even knowing it as I love the book but didn’t know it had been greenlit to be made. Starring James Badge Dale from The Departed and Stephen Root from Newsradio, this is the story of an ex-cop on the trail of a missing girl who comes across a secretive group attempting to summon a terrifying supernatural entity. The book is incredibly stylish and absolutely chilling so I am very excited to see if the debuting director and screenwriter David Prior has done justice to the source material. Honestly, we need a really killer supernatural horror this Halloween, I think we all deserve it to take our minds off the crappiness that is 2020.

His Master’s Voice -If you’re looking for some weird Eastern European tinted conspiracy sci-fi then have I got a movie to tell you about as this new film landed in my inbox and I’m really still trying. to make heads or tails out of it, meaning I’m not even sure if I even liked it but it was… something. In an extreme nutshell, to keep all the twists and turns hidden, the story follows a young man who is searching for his father after he disappears while working on a highly classified project for the United States government that involves aliens. More questions lead to more questions as the final result stretches out farther than his own family and involves a world-ending danger. This movie is absolutely fascinating to look at, with some of the most surprising and crisp cinematography that reminded me a bit of Moorhead and Benson’s work on The Endless. I’m still on the fence whether it’s good or not but it’s worth watching.

Memories Of Murder – The second feature film by Academy Award winner Bong Joon-Ho finally makes it’s North American debut just a mere seventeen years after its release in South Korea, but no big deal, it’s not like I’ve been obsessed with his work since 2006’s The Host. Oh wait, I totally have been! This film, a very personal story, is set in 1986 in the province of Gyunggi, South Korea, following two brutal and stupid local detectives without any technique who are investigating the murder of a young and beautiful woman, the second found dead, raped and tied and gagged with her underwear. Using brutality and torturing the suspects, without any practical results, the investigation picks up steam when a detective from Seoul comes to the country to help and is convinced that a serial-killer is killing the women, proven when a third woman is found dead in the same “modus-operandi”. This movie is intense, so incredibly well plotted and lays the incredible groundwork of the inticracies of why we love Bong’s work. It also has Parasite star Kang-ho Song in a lead role, who is riveting as usual. This is a highly recommended one.

Blu-Ray:

Cut Throat City – Wu-Tang Clan legend the RZA returns behind the camera for this third directorial feature, this film being a heist action thriller taking place in New Orleans after one of the biggest natural disasters in recent memory, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The film is the story of four boyhood friends in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward who return after Hurricane Katrina to find their homes decimated. Out of options with no jobs and no help from FEMA, they reluctantly turn to a local gangster who offers them one shot at turning their situations around by pulling off a dangerous heist in the heart of the city. When the job goes bad, the friends find themselves on the run, hunted by two relentless detectives and a neighbourhood warlord who thinks they stole the heist money. The cast is pretty sizeable with Dope’s Shamiek Moore, Alita: Battle Angel’s Keean Johnson leading the film and T.I., Ethan Hawke, Terrence Howard and Wesley Snipes lending some supporting work but the result is just above middling with the conclusion of the movie not quite meeting the calibre of which it sets up. Still an entertaining watch though.

The Great – Elle Fanning, Nicholas Hoult and The Favourite writer Tony McNamara combine for this new series that is filled from top to bottom with great character work, beautiful set pieces and a brilliantly dark humor that will absolutely ticle you if you liked McNamara’s Yorgos Lanthimos film as much as I did. The show follows a royal woman living in rural Russia during the 18th century who is forced to choose between her own personal happiness and the future of Russia, when she marries an Emperor. I love that this series takes the stuffiness out of the usual period piece and allows each character to breathe with dialogue that feels quick and totally sardonic. With a second season on the horizon, this may be a dark horse here in Canada as it originally aired on Hulu.

The Vanished – Okay, I have a new mystery thriller here but the more I describe it, the worse it sounds honestly. So, the film stars Thomas Jane, who I like, Anne Heche, who I also like, and Jason Patric, another great one, but all three of them have been bogged down with garbage projects for more than a decade and Patric still hasn’t really atoned for Speed 2: Cruise Control. The film is the story of a husband and wife that will stop at nothing to find her missing daughter, who disappeared on a family camping trip and when the police don’t catch any leads, the duo take over, vigilante style. This whole movie feels tired and lame, like a retread of thrillers we’ve seen before time and time again and this film had nothing to it that sparked any excitement at all. It’s really unfortunate as it comes from Peter Facinelli who I really enjoy as an actor but I guess not so much as a writer and director.

No Escape – More horror hits the shelves this week, exactly what you would expect for the lead into Halloween and this one is definitely stylish and totally caught me off guard. Also called Follow Me, the story follows a social media personality who travels with his friends to Moscow to capture new content for his successful VLOG. Being strangers in a strange land doesn’t stop this group from always pushing the limits of their content and catering to a growing audience as they enter a cold world of mystery, excess, and danger but when the lines between real life and social media are blurred, the group must fight to escape and survive. This movie caught me off guard as I wasn’t familiar with writer and director Will Wernick’s debut Escape Room, no the big-budget Sony version but another one, and this movie got me right away. It is also coincidentally released the same week as star Denzel Whittaker’s other film Cut Throat City.

Quiz: Season 1 – This new series on one of the most popular American networks for new original programming comes from Britain and looks into one of the most popular game shows of the last thirty years, how it was created and how it was hacked by its contestants and, the best thing about it, it makes it all into the most insane piece of biting satire since the US made satire ironic. Starring Matthew Macfadyen, Aisling Bea and Michael Sheen in another incredibly chameleon-like performance, this is the story of the creation and rise of the show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? but beyond that, it focuses on Charles Ingram, a former British army major, who caused a major scandal after being caught cheating his way to winning £1 million. After one episode, I can say that this is definitely intriguing enough for me to continue.

NOS4A2: Season 2 – From the mind of writer Joe Hill, the son of horror master Stephen King, comes the creepy second season of this awesome series, bringing vampire lore to a whole new level. Zachary Quinto plays Charlie Manx, an immortal vampire who feeds off the souls of children who finds his ultimate nemesis in a woman with a special ability that could threaten his entire existence. I was already on board with the mere mention of Hill’s name, being that I’m a huge fan of his work including his popular comic Locke & Key, but even cooler is that this all takes place in the Stephen King universe, complete with small references to Maine towns and King-verse happenings such as Salem’s Lot, a movie that still gives people the shivers That floating kid outside the window? Still scary stuff. I’m psyched to see where this series will go in its third season as AMC keeps knocking it out of the park.

Hard Kill – It’s time once again for what movie is Bruce Willis going to phone in this week as yet another one of his direct to home video action flicks strikes the shelves this week, also starring former heartthrob Jesse Metcalfe, directed by filmmaker Matt Eskandari who has already put me through the stinkers of Trauma Center and Survive The Night this year, both starring Willis in a totally listless couple of performances. Heck, Trauma Center only features him at the beginning and the end. This film has Willis playing tech billionaire CEO Donovan Chalmers whose work is so valuable that he must hire mercenaries to protect it and eventually a terrorist group kidnaps his daughter just to get their hands on it. Another quick paycheque for Bruce results in another total dud that is borderline unwatchable and I couldn’t even enjoy former WWE diva Eva Marie in this because it was so terrible.

The Owners – It’s honestly crazy that I’m only learning about this new horror film especially because it stars former Game Of Thrones star Maisie Williams, who I absolutely adore, as well as former Doctor Who Sylvester McCoy in a film that just sounds so deliciously entertaining in a total genre story. The story follows a group of friends in the 1990s who think they found the perfect easy score, an empty house with a safe full of cash, but when the elderly couple that lives there comes home early, the tables are suddenly turned and a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues with the would-be thieves fighting to save themselves from a nightmare they could never have imagined. This film is vicious, violent and gory with some satisfying twists and turns that keep it entertaining and sort of make up for its weaker points, which it definitely has.

House Of Shadows – If you’re not into horror movies then this month must be a real drag for you as we have yet another genre film making its home release debut this week and it’s even another ghostly story to give you the spooky vibes in this later part of October. A British made film with no stars of note, the story follows a woman who visits a mysterious house she has inherited, hoping to learn more about the deaths of her mother and late sister. Haunted by ghosts, she must uncover the truth behind the curse of the house, or become the next victim because the house is definitely hungry for more souls. This movie definitely misses the feel of having a solid budget behind it and in a week that we have the blockbuster version of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting Of Hill House it was for sure noticed. Don’t let that take away any excitement for this because, much like the sleeper scarefest Hell House LLC, this one has it’s thrills and chills aplenty.

The Haunting – Coincidentally, I received this new entry into the Paramount Select collection as I had just been rewatching Mike Flanagan’s incredible Haunting Of Hill House Netflix series which is exactly what this 1999 Jan de Bont ghostly thriller is based on. Starring Liam Neeson, Lily Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen Wilson, the story follows a team of paranormal experts who look into strange occurrences in an ill-fated house, the Hill House. Through the course of the night, they all fight for their lives as the house begins to manifest everything it can to doom them for eternity. I saw this film when it originally landed in theatres and absolutely loved it so I was ecstatic to get this new blu-ray update of it.

Sunrise At Campobello – Getting some serious Warner Archives classics going on this week with this film from 1960 and it gels well with this upcoming election in the United States as it is about one of the most revered presidents in history and one that occupies a space on Mount Rushmore, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The story starts with Roosevelt’s bout with polio at age 39 in 1921, following how his family and especially wife Eleanor coped with his illness. from the moment he was stricken with it while vacationing at Campobello to his triumphant nominating speech for Al Smith’s presidency in 1924. The film focuses on the various influences on his life and his determination to recover, adapted from the award-winning Broadway play of the same name. The film would end up being nominated for four Oscars that year, ultimately losing to Spartacus, Butterfield 8 and The Alamo.

The Plot Against America – In a time of heightened and emboldened racism in the U.S. and, heck, around the world, we get this brand new “what if” historical drama from one of the great creators of television today, HBO. Starring Winona Ryder, Zoe Kazan, John Turturro and more, this series follows an alternate timeline America that lives in a world that saw Roosevelt defeated in the 1940 race for presidency by Charles Lindbergh, a man who has strengthened ties to Nazi Germany. A six-episode limited series, this show has great creators behind the camera with The West Wing’s Thomas Schlamme directing the lion’s share and The Wire’s David Simon and Edward Burns writing it. This could be the best miniseries of 2020 so I’d give it a look.

Steve’s Home Release Geekouts:

Young Sheldon: Season 3 – With the main series of The Big Bang Theory finally being over and done, we still have a piece of the Chuck Lorre created series with this spin-off about the childhood years of Sheldon Cooper, a show that Jim Parsons narrates naturally and has been doing great ratings for CBS for two straight seasons. This show could have been a real bust but a weird thing happened after I watched a few episodes and that was a simple notion that I was enjoying it and Annie Potts plays his “MeeMaw”! Sold! The second season proved that this show is beyond a flash in the pan sophomore hit as it takes that groundwork laid out by the original series and puts it in an almost Wonder Years like filter and now it can continue it’s Sheldon Cooper lore without any new encumbrance or retcon. That and it doesn’t have a laugh track, an instant killer with me.

Undergrads: Season 1 – Growing up in Canada, my formative and later teen years were punctuated by Teletoon’s late-night line up which included Clone High, Mission Hill and this delightful college set animated series that always made me laugh and smile no matter what my day looked like prior. The show was created by Pete Williams and follows the misadventures of a group of childhood friends who keep in touch even while they go to separate colleges, still maintaining a roommate relationship. The heart of the show is Nitz, the most regular of the guys, who learns that there are new experiences and friends to have and meet that will profoundly refashion his friendship with Gimpy, the reclusive computer geek, Rocko the dumb jock and Cal the effeminate ladies man. This show is a forever favourite and my lovely wife scoured the internet until she found me the sealed box set that I’m essentially bragging about here. Also, it should be noted that Williams has a Kickstarter set up to fund a possible movie to wrap up the cliffhanger of this series.

Television:

Long Way Up (AppleTV+) – Thirteen years after their last trip, Long Way Down, best friends Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman reunite for a long-overdue motorcycle trip and as a huge fan of the last two series, both of which I own in my collection, I have been tearing through this new season as fast as I can. This one is a little different as Ewan and Charley decide to travel on electric Harley-Davidsons to make their thirteen thousand mile trip from the tip of Argentina up through Central and South America and Mexico to their final destination in Los Angeles. This is an engrossing docuseries that is made that much more endearing by their beautiful friendship and a real tale of recovery for Charley who suffered two horrendous motorcycle accidents in the years since the last show. This is really feel-good television right here.

On The Rocks (AppleTV+) – Sofia Coppola has returned during this odd year of movie delays with possibly my favourite 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.

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman (Netflix) – I’m not going to start this little piece here by slamming Stephen Colbert because I really love what he does but I think we can all easily say that his Late Show is very different than the man who created it all, David Letterman’s Late Show. That said, I really miss having Letterman on the desk as he was a huge piece in my television upbringing. This is why the new Netflix series he has is so phenomenal as it allows the legendary talk show host to explore interviews in a more engrossing fashion and do things he is incredibly good at, just talking to people on a secular human level. This latest batch has a handful of great episodes, kicking it off with Kim Kardashian-West in a surprisingly interesting chat and the great Robert Downey Jr., who is just so massively charming that it’s hard not to have a goofy smile on the whole time. This is truly great talk show stuff and I can’t wait for more.

Rebecca (Netflix) – The trio of director Ben Wheatley, cinematographer Laurie Rose and composer Clint Mansell have collaborated for a second time to make a complete masterpiece of a film again and after doing an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s High Rise, a project that the legendary Stanley Kubrick once said was impossible, they set their sights on this Alfred Hitchcock remake. Starring Lily James, Armie Hammer and Kristen Scott Thomas, this story follows a young newlywed woman who arrives at her husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast and finds herself battling the house’s domineering headmistress as well as the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy lives on in the house long after her death. This movie just pops out of the screen at you from the get-go, a beautifully crafted piece of cinema and with the story and plot twists to match. This might easily be one of my favourite films of the year.

The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix) – Smart kids is the name of the game of this new Netflix original that is based on the works of The Hustler ad Color Of Money novelist Walter Tevis, shepherded to the screen by Nicholas Roeg’s writer Allan Scott and overseen by The Lookout writer Scott Frank who already has the phenomenal western Godless under his belt. Starring a personal favourite, Anya Taylor- Joy, the series is about Beth Harmon, an orphan who is quiet, sullen, and by all appearances unremarkable. That is until she plays her first game of chess and her senses begin to grow sharper, her thinking clearer and, for the first time in her life, she feels herself fully in control. By the age of sixteen, she’s competing for the U.S. Open championship but as Beth hones her skills on the professional circuit, the stakes get higher, her isolation grows more frightening, and the thought of escape becomes all the more tempting. The show has style out the yin yang and with a whip-smart dialogue to match, this may easily become a high brow hit.

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