Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:
Tom And Jerry – For the kids of this generation and, well, those born in say the mid-nineties and beyond, this new animation and live-action hybrid may be new to them but as a child of the Saturday morning cartoon generation, I know Tom and Jerry quite well and really grew up on those shows along with my Hanna Barbera. Hopefully, this will work out for the current generation as the two iconic cartoon frenemies hit the big screen for the first time, starring with real human Chloe Grace Moretz in this adaptation that serves as more of an origin story, revealing how Tom and Jerry first meet and form their rivalry. From the outside, this is definitely a family geared story that looks to occupy its demographic of small children but I’m really hoping that it took some of the cues from last year’s Sonic The Hedgehog and gives it some substance to give the long-suffering parents something to cling to. 

Minari – For months I have been hearing the accolades and awards rumble for this new film following a Korean family on the search for the American dream as well as the praise for lead star and former Walking Dead actor Steven Yuen but as far as awards season goes, the Hollywood foreign press already dropped the ball by marginalizing it to just the foreign category. Now, having seen it, I can join the massive chorus celebrating this film because it is a perfect drama in every way. The story is about a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm to carve out their own piece of paradise. The family home changes completely with the arrival of their sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother, which leads to a stand-off relationship with the family’s youngest, David. This movie is a little slice of real people that are constantly engaging and endearing as you become deeper and deeper with your emotional attachment to these characters. I adored this movie and could watch it over and over again.

Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry – Oh boy do I love myself a good music documentary and already being a fan of the young Billie Eilish, I was already so on board with this film. This well-crafted film tells the coming-of-age story of the multiple Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and her rise to global superstardom alongside her producer and bandmate brother Phinneas from award-winning filmmaker R.J. Cutler, the guy behind the recent biographical documentaries Belushi and The World According to Dick Cheney. This documentary offers a deeply intimate look at the extraordinary teenager’s journey, at just 17 years old, navigating life on the road, on stage, and at home with her family, while writing, recording and releasing her debut album “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? all from the point of view of home videos and behind the scenes tour footage. I was blown away by this film, watching her process, dealing with her mental quirks, darkness and even Tourettes and even reacting to a longtime crush she’s had on Justin Beiber. Seriously, their first meeting is worth watching the film by itself. I loved this movie.

Nose – Hear this in a Derek Zoolander voice: “what is this? A documentary for nasals?” Okay, maybe that sounded better in my head but this film is not a documentation of the nasal passage or that thing that occupies the space between your mouth and eyes but about some of the more pleasant aromas that permeate it, notably perfume. It’s actually a pretty special and groundbreaking film as, for the first time in a documentary feature, the prestigious House of Dior opened its doors to its perfume creation process and let some of its secrets out. Travellers at heart, filmmakers Arthur de Kersauson and Clément Beauvais followed François Demachy for two years and over fourteen countries, from Grasse to the other side of the world, in his search for inspiration and the most precious raw materials. It’s really fascinating how much this film pulls back the curtain on a very secretive process but, unless you have some interest invested in this industry, some of its components may feel a bit dry to you.

Blu-Ray:
The Croods: A New Age – Heading into this brand new Dreamworks sequel I was already at a huge disadvantage as I hadn’t and still haven’t seen the first movie of this caveman-centric animated franchise that has already spawned a Netflix television series. I knew I liked the cast though which has Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke and Cloris Leachman and adds Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann and Kelly Marie Tran to the mix for this continuing adventure. This film has the prehistoric family discovering a lush utopia that was formed by the more evolved family, the Bettermans, who invite the Croods to stay with them under the one rule, don’t pick the bananas. This movie surprised the hell out of me as I laughed from beginning to end with a big goofy smile on my face. Its great fun for the whole family and Cage goes insane in his vocal performance and it’s worth every second.

The Last Vermeer – I wonder if Claes Bang’s agent has him only auditioning for art-related projects because, besides his turn as the titular character in the miniseries Dracula, he’s done three films revolving around the subject with The Square, The Burnt Orange Heresy and now this. Bang stars here as Joseph Piller in this dramatic thriller set just after WWII about a soldier investigating renowned Dutch artist Han van Meegeren, played by Guy Pearce, the total reason to watch this film, who is accused of conspiring with the Nazis. Despite increasing evidence, Piller becomes increasingly convinced of Han’s innocence and finds himself in the unlikely position of fighting to save the life of the most beloved man in the country who has a very mysterious past. The film is a very dry and monotone film so the term “thriller” is very loose in my opinion but the film is gorgeously shot throughout by cinematographer Remi Adefarasin, who also shot both of Cate Blanchett’s Elizabeth movies. History buffs will definitely dig into this one.

Redemption Day – Remember Gary Dourdan? He played the fan-favourite Warrick Brown on CSI and before that he was in Alien Resurrection but he screwed it all up by being a heavy drug addict and a brash loudmouth that got him canned from the popular series without the possibility of returning as they iced his character with finality. So, when I say he has a new movie the bar is ultra-low because who would employ him, right? In this aptly named film he plays war hero Brad Paxton, who is in a race against the clock to rescue the love of his life who is kidnapped and held for ransom by terrorists in a daring and deadly operation that pits him against the most powerful and shadowy forces. Co-starring veterans like Andy Garcia and Martin Donovan as well as Canadian actress Serinda Swan, the action to this movie is awkward and dumb constantly and every character is a generic template of a bland action flick character making the entire film feel like a waste of time.

Wrong Turn – As a big fan of the original 2003 film which featured awesome effects from the Stan Winston special effects department, I looked at this reboot or reimagining as total blasphemy and it made me clutch my DVD copy to my chest in anger. The film tries to play it more straight forward without weirdo mutants playing a factor at all and instead just go forward with a simpler backwoods terror about a group of friends who set out to hike the Appalachian Trail and, despite warnings to stick to the trail, the hikers stray off course and cross into land inhabited by The Foundation, a hidden community of mountain dwellers who use deadly means to protect their way of life. Under siege and fighting for survival, the group seems headed to the point of no return unless the main character’s father can reach them in time. This film tries so hard to carve out its own story while bastardizing another that it veers constantly into doing ridiculous things to set itself apart that usually doesn’t work out. It’s kind of a crapshoot of a movie.

Silk Road – Nothing sells me on a movie quicker than having Nick Robinson lead it. I loved Kings Of Summer, Love, Simon, and, hell, he was even fun in Jurassic World and this movie not only has him but stalwart actor Jason Clarke too. Starting awesome, I think. This film is inspired by a true story and has Robinson as Ross Ulbricht, a philosophical twenty-something driven to succeed who creates the internet’s first unregulated marketplace, Silk Road. Business hits a wall when it becomes a multimillion-dollar pipeline for illicit drugs, Ross is set on a collision course with Rick Bowden, played by Clarke, a disreputable and dangerously unpredictable DEA agent, who will use any means necessary to take him down. The film is interesting in its full story scope but all of the characters feel like paper-thin representatives of real people and it does nothing for the increased drama and thrills that are thrown at you with both the actors I named being kind of lost in the shuffle.

Last Call – Sometimes the timely manner of the release of a movie can totally seem like it’s capitalizing on tragedy but the awareness for suicide and dark thoughts isn’t a new one but it’s about time that a film focused on those who are literally there to talk people off of ledges. This new Canadian filmed production had the fortitude to do it, telling the tale of a bitterly alone man named Scott who thinks he is calling the Suicide prevention hotline but accidentally gets through to Beth, a janitor with nothing to do with the program who now has the task of saving someone’s life. This is an intensely personal feeling film from writer and director Gavin Michael Booth who co-writes this with his lead actor Daved Wilkins in an exercise that almost looks like catharsis. The film never feels like exploitation or a marginalizing of the suicide mentality as everyone’s struggle is vastly different and Booth and Wilkins know this implicitly. What it feels like in the end is a stand-up to take charge of these crippling thoughts, a cry to check on your friends and family no matter what their strength or fragility is and just to help take care of each other as a society. It’s a message that I will proudly wave a flag for.

Pump Up The Volume – One of the most iconic films of the 1980s and a brilliant time in lead actor Christian Slater’s career, my first question is why the hell did it take so long to get a good release of this movie on home release. A favourite with many friends of mine, this Allan Moyle-directed story of rebellion follows Mark, an intelligent but shy teenager who has just moved to Arizona from the East Coast. His parents give him a short-wave radio so he can talk to his pals, but instead, he sets up shop as pirate deejay Hard Harry, who quickly becomes a hero to his peers while inspiring the wrath of the local high school principal. His new path of bringing his message to the people is put to the test when one of Harry’s listeners commits suicide and chaos breaks out at the school and the authorities are called in to put a stop to Harry’s broadcasts. If you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing this forgotten gem, this Warner Archive edition is perfectly timed in a time where we largely feel silenced and ignored, bringing forward an absolutely timeless message.

Lady Sings The Blues – With a Billie Holiday biopic currently playing at festivals this year and, from what I hear, not getting great reviews this is the perfect time for Paramount to bring out this new reissue that puts a legend in the place of another legend with the great Diana Ross playing the iconic Lady.  Beginning with Holiday’s traumatic youth, the film depicts her early attempts at a singing career and her eventual rise to stardom, as well as her difficult relationship with Louis McKay, her boyfriend and manager played by one of the coolest men to ever grace the screen, Lando Calrissian. Sorry, I meant Billy Dee Williams and, to be fair, this was eight years before he would take that role. Continuing on the description of this one, the film depicts a shadow over Holiday’s brightest moments as the vocalist’s severe drug addiction deepened, which threatened to end both her career and her life and those in the know have the story of what the outcome was. The film would be nominated for five Oscars but was ultimately dominated by Cabaret which pulled in eight Academy Awards that year. 

On Moonlight Bay – And so begins Doris Day week or so Warner Archive has deemed it with not one but two new remasters of her classic films starting with this well-received musical that paired her with Backfire star Gordon MacRae. Coming from It Happened on Fifth Avenue director Roy Del Ruth, the story follows the Winfield family who moves into a new house in a small town in Indiana and quickly tomboy Marjorie Winfield begins a romance with William Sherman who lives across the street. Marjorie has to learn how to dance and act like a proper young lady but, unfortunately, William Sherman has unconventional ideas for the time, as the film is set in the era of World War I and his ideas include not believing in marriage or money, which causes friction with Marjorie’s father, who is the local bank vice president. This movie proved to be so popular that the studio immediately filmed By the Light of the Silvery Moon for release two years later, which is a direct sequel with all the actors playing the same characters, something that was very unusual at the time.

Show Boat – I was pretty excited to receive this new release from Warner Archive as it was a giant film for its time and features one of the most legendary actresses of that era, Ava Gardner. Helmed by Annie Get Your Gun director George Sidney, the film follows Julie LaVerne and her husband Steve Baker who is forced to leave the showboat Cotton Blossom after their marriage is declared illegal because of Julie’s mixed blood and their places are taken by Magnolia Hawks, the Captain’s daughter, and Gaylord Ravenal, a gambler. Magnolia and Ravenal fall in love, marry, leave the boat and move to Chicago, where they live off Ravenal’s earnings from gambling. After they go broke Gay feels guilty and leaves Magnolia, not knowing she is pregnant. Yes, it’s all a convoluted folly of relationship mishaps in musical fashion but it earned two Academy Award nominations but lost both awards to An American In Paris. Maybe if they nabbed the original star Judy Garland they would have curried some Oscar sympathy.

My Dream Is Yours – Let’s finish out these golden classics with the second Doris Day film, which was notable for having not just Casablanca’s Michael Curtiz behind the camera but legendary animator Friz Freleng in an uncredited directorial role as well. The story follows a radio agent named Doug Blake who decides to find a new personality to replace conceited singer Garry Mitchell when he refuses to renew his radio contract and, in New York, he finds Martha Gibson, a single mother with a great voice and the perfect candidate. He arranges for her to move to Hollywood, but then has a problem trying to sell her to the show’s sponsor and while trying every trick he can think of to make Martha a star and as the two work more closely, he falls in love with her. Martin Scorsese has cited this film as a primary influence on his own downbeat musical, New York, New York, which I didn’t know until after watching this one and it made me love it even more, a weird notion as I really hate musicals.

John Hughes 5-Movie Collection – The filmmaker that was instrumental in putting me on the path to adoring movies is finally getting the celebration he deserves as some of his greatest accomplishments have been loaded into this collection of films and it’s so satisfying to go through them. It starts with the Steve Martin and John Candy road tripper Planes, Trains and Automobiles, then the Matthew Broderick high school skipping Ferris Buehler’s Day Off, to the adorable Jersey Girl inspiration She’s Having A Baby before the Molly Ringwald led Pretty In Pink and then it all finishes off with the underrated Some Kind Of Wonderful. Honestly, this kind of sells itself so I’m really just bragging here that I got the early hold on a treasure chest full of gold in movie form. Be jealous, everybody but only until you buy your copy.

Scooby-Doo!: The Sword And The Scoob – It looks like I’m on the Fury Road of owning every piece of the Scooby-Doo library and thanks to my friends at Warner Bros. I get closer and closer every time something is released. Featuring my favourite voice cast for these characters, with Frank Welker, Grey Delisle, Kate Micucci and the best Shaggy of all time Matthew Lillard, we get a brand new adventure as, of course, Shaggy unwittingly pulls out Excalibur from a nearby stone to cut a block of cheese and now no one is sure who the rightful ruler is. The legendary wizard, Merlin, appears and explains that the throne of Camelot must be determined through “trial by combat” which must have made Rudy Guliani ecstatic. Our heroes pull out all the stops to try and win the tournament, break the witch’s hold on King Arthur, and find a way back to the present in this adaptation that puts Scooby Doo right in King Arthur’s Court.  What can I really say about this one, it’s Scooby-Doo! You kind of know what to expect from it in this format. Zoinks, “you meddling kids”, credits. Right?

Inside Amy Schumer: The Complete Series – I don’t need to go on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook to know that Amy Schumer’s comedy is divisive and a lot of people do not like her brand of humour. It’s plain as day. I will tell you here that I’m not one of them and have really enjoyed her work ever since I saw Trainwreck and was absolutely delighted to have this complete box set show up on my doorstep with three hysterically funny seasons from the mind of one of the funniest women on the planet. Yes, she is. Deal with it. With memorable sketches like 12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer with a jury of men debating if Amy is “fuckable”, her Friday Night Lights parody Football Town Nights or Last Fuckable Day which sees her meet up with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Patricia Arquette and Tina Fey to send off Fey on her last maiden voyage, it’s all so hilarious and, according to my wife, infinitely relatable. I’ll take her word for it but I enjoy the hell out of it.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:
The Parallax View – Hell yes, Criterion has brought some classic Warren Beatty this month and I had my heart set on grabbing a copy of it to review when it came out but now I’ve got it and it is every bit as great as I wanted it to be and pretty pivotal to filmmaking in general. Released in 1974, this thriller follows Joe Frady, a determined reporter who often needs to defend his work from colleagues prying from it but after the assassination of a prominent U.S. senator, he begins to notice that reporters present during the assassination are dying mysteriously. After getting more involved in the case, Frady begins to realize that the assassination was part of a conspiracy somehow involving the Parallax Corporation, an enigmatic training institute and then decides to enroll for the Parallax training himself to discover the truth. The film comes from masterful All The President’s Men filmmaker Alan J. Pakula two years before he did that one and is a forgotten piece of journalist intrigue that set the table for many great films in this vein to come. It was also shot by one of the greatest cinematographers of all time, Gordon Willis, which is even more of an incentive to go buy this.

Accepted – There was a period in time at the end of the nineties to the mid-2000s when the high school or college-age comedy was king and just a few were at the top of the pile, soaking up the love, while some languished in obscurity but still had a deeply loving fanbase and this one is a perfect example of that. Justin Long played the brilliantly named Bartleby Gaines, a high school slacker who’s been rejected by every school he applies to so he opts to create his own institution of higher learning, the South Harmon Institute of Technology (check that acronym), on a rundown piece of property near his hometown and, oh man, this movie is hilarious and was the jumping point for a few that are huge stars now like Blake Lively and Jonah Hill as well as some great veterans like Lewis Black who really steals the show in parts. I saw this film at Walmart on sale for the first time on Blu-ray and it was a no-brainer to pick it up.

Total Recall 4K – “Get your ass to Mars!”, “See you at the party, Richter!”, “Baby, you make me wish I had three hands.”. Just a few of the great lines that this Arnold Schwartzenegger action classic that comes from the mind of science fiction legend by way of the balls to the walls direction of the mad man Paul Verhoeven and I feel like a lot of my peers have this same love for the film that I do. For those who have never had the pleasure and are just crawling out from under a rock, the story follows Douglas Quaid who is haunted by a recurring dream about a journey to Mars. He hopes to find out more about this dream and buys a holiday at Rekall Inc. where they sell implanted memories but something goes wrong with the memory implantation and he remembers being a secret agent fighting against the evil Mars administrator Cohaagen. Now, this awesome ride has been updated to the pristine 4K and it looks better than ever and, to add even more to the pile of gold this is, the special features disc is crammed with great behind-the-scenes stuff and retrospectives. This movie influenced so many and I had so many epiphanies about it on my recent rewatch.

Death Of Me – I’m bringing the Hemsworth this week. Chris? No. Liam? No. Luke. You don’t know Luke? Alright, if you’re not watching Westworld or an Australian then I can understand that but he stars with the beautiful Maggie Q in this new horror mystery thriller from Darren Lynn Bousman, the bloodthirsty man behind a good majority of the Saw franchise. In a further bid to stop people from going on destination adventures forever I guess, the film is about a couple named Neil and Christine vacationing on an island off the coast of Thailand who awake hungover and with no memory of the previous night. They find footage on Neil’s camera, and watch, horrified, as Neil appears to murder Christine. With twenty-four hours until the next ferry and a typhoon threatening the island, Christine and Neil attempt to reconstruct the night’s events and are snared in a web of mystery, black magic and murder. As intriguing as the premise is, the film never manages to take full advantage of its solid groundwork and instead dives into the seas of cliches that pepper horror mysteries and cool gore isn’t enough to keep it afloat.

The Swordsman – Thanks to Well Go USA I have a brand new martial arts action to spread my geek voice about as I really do love this genre of film. From one of my favourite foreign producers of film, South Korea, this is the debut feature from writer and director Jae-Hoon Choi and is a story about three different swordsmen,  a swordsman who is going blind, the best swordsman in Joseon Dynasty and the best swordsman in Qing Dynasty who aspires to be the best even in the Joseon Dynasty. Together, they must take on political forces that have kidnapped the blind man’s daughter and prove to the gods above that they are the most dangerous warriors in the world. The movie is filled with engrossing performances and pulse-pounding swordplay action sequences that keep you on the edge of your seat throughout and the cinematography behind it is absolutely mind-blowing. I love when a new South Korean discovery lands in my lap, like a gift from the big cinema man upstairs. You know, Stanley Kubrick… or Orson Welles.

Television:
Ginny & Georgia (Netflix) – I thought this show was going to be so terrible just based on the trailer and you can witness yourself below this blurb but by the end of episode one, this voice in my head spoke up and said” you should watch more” and, you know what? I did. The show follows angsty and awkward fifteen-year-old Ginny Miller who often feels more mature than her thirty-year-old mother, the irresistible and dynamic Georgia Miller. After years on the run, Georgia desperately wants to put down roots in picturesque New England and give her family something they’ve never had, which is a normal and relatable life but it’s not all suburban dreams and high school crushes as Georgia’s past threatens her and her family’s new way of life and Georgia will do anything to protect her family which becomes very evident in the final twist of episode one. The show comes under inexperienced showrunner Sarah Lampert and operates like a sort of ungrounded Gilmore Girls which is actually a real joke from the series. As I said, I was surprised by this one and you might be too. 

Superman & Lois: Season 1 (The CW) – With Arrow ending its run almost two years ago and Black Lightning and Supergirl both calling it quits this year, I was really surprised to see that we were getting a new Superman series which is actually a spin-off from his cousin Kara-El’s show. With Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch sticking to their titular DC universe roles, the world the mega-producer Greg Berlanti has crafted continues on its path with this show that follows the world’s most famous superhero and comic books’ most famous journalist as they deal with all the stress, pressures, and complexities that come with being working parents in today’s society. Oh, did I not mention that they had a super baby? Well, I guess you should have boned up on Supergirl before starting this one which is not me mocking you, just a real prerequisite to actually being able to enjoy this because following it would be pretty easy. I’m just happy for this to erase Dean Cain from my mind because that dude is a real waste of space these days.

The Walking Dead: Season 10 (AMC) – Time to pick up where we left off with the survivors in a world that has moved on and left the dead to roam the earth. Really, I’m eloquent when I need to be but this show is now firmly in the double digits of seasons as I believe we travel on to the end I see coming in season eleven but not until these last six episodes see off series regular Danai Gurira and her fan favourite, both in the series and in the comic, the samurai sword-wielding Michonne. Where zombies feel like sort of a hard horror trope to get over originally these days, I’m surprised the steam for this series has remained at this much of a fever pitch but I know that the wheels are starting to fall off and the writing is beginning to present itself on the wall that it’s time to call it quits. I’m alright with that but only if Darryl and Carol walk off into the sunset together. Those are my non-negotiable terms.

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