Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Space Jam: A New Legacy – I feel like a sequel or reboot of the NBA and Looney Tunes collaboration fantasy action film Space Jam was inevitable and with Lebron James being the modern equivalent to Michael Jordan, sidestepping Kobe Bryant who was another player in that echelon, and with King James being so involved in movies these days, he’s the logical choice to lead the charge. The film is about a rogue artificial intelligence that kidnaps Lebron’s son and he must get them home safe by leading Bugs, Lola Bunny and the whole gang of notoriously undisciplined Looney Tunes to victory over the A.I.’s digitized champions on the court made up of a powered-up roster of professional basketball stars. It’s really what you would expect from a reboot but just modernized and with so many other Warner Bros. properties in the background. I think that’s the most fun in the trailer, pointing all of them out. I think I even saw A Clockwork Orange in the crowd which is kind of inappropriate. Will the film be any good though? I think it’ll be passable but not great.

Gunpowder Milkshake – It’s a lady led action extravaganza this week on Netflix with a new film that I think looks totally bad assjust based on the trailer alone. The cast is incredibly likeable as well, with Karen Gillan, Carla Gugino, Angela Bassett and Lena Headey facing off against Paul Giamatti and it looks like the stylishness of the film matches the impeccable casting. The film follows Sam, a hardened assassin who was led down the same path of her cold-blooded hitman mother who abandoned her as a child. After a high-stake mission spins out of control, putting an innocent 8-year-old girl in the middle of the gang war she has unleashed, Sam has no choice but to go rogue which ultimately leads her back to her mother and her former hitwomen sidekicks, who all join forces in an avenging war against those who took everything from them. The film comes from writer and director Navot Papushado who follows up his fantastic horror thriller Big Bad Wolves from 2013 and the antipation is huge for those who know his work.

Fear Street Part 3: 1666 – The Fear Street trilogy concludes this week after dazzling us with two decade specific slasher movies preceding this movie that felt like it was channeling a bit of Robert Eggers’ The VVitch but with that same teen centric energy. Utilizing all of the cast from the last two movies but in setter era roles, he origins of Sarah Fier’s curse are finally revealed as history comes full circle on a night that changes the lives of Shadysiders forever. To be honest, some of the back story is a bit of a slog to get through, no matter how necessary it is to the overarching story but the third act goes back to 1994 and it gets totally crazy and I really loved it. The story does get a full resolution but there is a part of me that wants another Fear Street trilogy, a series or even just one movie and the stinger at the end sort of indicates that we may get it. Horror fans got a sweet little gift with the last three weeks and, by the numbers Netflix has projected, it looks like we’re all grateful.

Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions – The original film to this horror sequel was actually a huge surprise to me as I thought it was going to be a badly written cash grab that was honing in on the escape room craze that still runs rampant all over the world. What we got was a cool sort of horror adventure as we see the characters go from elaborate trap to trap in an unpredictable and totally thrilling film. So, was I looking forward to this follow-up? You bet your ass! Joining forces with two of the original survivors, the story follows six people who unwittingly find themselves locked in another series of escape rooms, slowly uncovering what they have in common to survive. AS they move room to room, they soon discover that they are all survivors of a previous game and are now playing on a sort of “championship” level. I’m here for the unique set pieces and the mystery so hopefully, this one can keep it going and we get a franchise out of it.

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain – When Anthony Bourdain committed suicide in June of 2018 it, without hyperbole, shook the world. I swear that most people were shaken by the loss of one of the greatest chefs on the planet who took his love of food out of the kitchen and into and all across the world with his incredible travel shows that went much deeper than the surface level in every way. This documentary is an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at how an anonymous chef became a world-renowned cultural icon known to us also as a writer, adventurer and provocateur. The film comes from Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville who curates thousands of hours of footage of Bourdain, dating back to the late nineties, to create a portrait of an absolute legend with the help of his close friends as well. The film never shies away from the darkness and impulsiveness that peppered Bourdain’s life and gives an incredible well-rounded resolution to his story without softening the blow of his end. This movie was incredible.

The Misfits – Well, I got duped pretty bad but the good thing is a knew pretty quickly that I had been but the bad thing is that I had to grit my teeth and continue through it just to see if it improved at all. Spoiler alert, it did not. The interest came with the cast of this con man centric film that includes Pierce Brosnan, Tim Roth, Nick Cannon and Jamie Chung in a Renny Harlin production, the guy behind so many action blockbusters in the 90s, most of them underrated. The film follows renowned criminal Richard Pace who finds himself caught up in an elaborate gold heist that promises to have far-reaching implications on his life and the lives of countless others after being recruited by a group of unconventional thieves. The movie is corny and utterly lazy from the get go, relying on Cannon’s cliche filled narration to impart a false and unearned sense of coolness that the audience never feels. I felt totally bored by everything I was seeing on the screen and as the nonsense of the plot got dumber and dumber I just wished for the merciful end to the film and credits to roll. I dare say I hated this movie.

Pig – It’s a weird week in the new release section as we’ve got two films that are completely pig centric and in a fashion that would surprise no one that knows me, we are starting with the Nicolas Cage movie. The legendary and iconic actor adds another incredible performance to his recent renaissance in his career with a film that fits neatly in the caliber of films like Joe, Mandy and Color Out Of Space, giving me more ammo to call him one of the greatest. The story is fairly simple at first, with Cage playing a truffle hunter who lives alone in the Oregonian wilderness that must return to his past in Portland in search of his beloved foraging pig after she is kidnapped in the middle of the night and the assailants leave him for dead. The story opens itself up as it begins the second act leading to a totally brilliant finale, all with Nic alongside his benefactor, played by Alex Wolff in an equally great performance. This movie had me on the edge of my seat and not just because it is a Nic Cage film but because it was so well presented by writer and director Michael Sarnoski who guides this story with veteran precision. This movie is so damn good.

Gunda – The simplicity of this dialogue free and humanless documentary may not win a lot of favour from the mainstream audience but both my daughter and I found ourselves absolutely captivated from the beginning to its tragic but business as usual ending. This is, without a doubt, experiential cinema in its purest form, as the film chronicles the unfiltered lives of a mother pig, a flock of chickens and a herd of cows with incredible intimacy, shot beautifully in a textured black and white. Director Victor Kossakowsky really invites the audience to slow down and experience life as his subjects do, taking in their world with a magical patience and an otherworldly perspective in a story that asks us to meditate on the mystery of animal consciousness, and reckon with the role humanity plays in it.

The Call – Two horror legends take the shoulder weight of the clout in this new addition to Shudder’s line-up this week as genre favourites Lin Shaye from the Insidious movies and more and Tobin Bell, Jigsaw from the Saw series, feature in this new thriller that was definitely written for them. The film is set in the fall of 1987 and follows a group of small-town friends who must survive the night in the home of a sinister couple, played by Shaye and Bell, after a tragic accident brings them to the couple’s door. This movie only succeeds on the two veterans’ ability to make anything work like the rest of the film gets tied up in tired slasher tropes, predictable reveals and other horror cliches that consistently bring the smaller productions down to their knees. IT’s still awesome to see a Lin Shaye freakout scene and I suspect that will never change.

A Classic Horror Story – Netflix is doubling down on horror this week with not only the conclusion of their high profile trilogy but this little film that features Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz who kicked so much ass the in the bloody and violent film Revenge. The story follows five carpoolers who are traveling in a motorhome to reach a common destination but when night falls, and to avoid a dead animal carcass, they end up crashing into a tree. When they come to their senses, they find themselves in the middle of nowhere and the road they were traveling on has disappeared, leaving only a dense, impenetrable forest and a wooden house in the middle of a clearing, which they discover is the home of a spine-chilling cult. This movie goes balls to the walls for it’s first two acts before kind of faltering with it’s finish but it all still ends up being pretty chilling and original in it’s thrills. If you want a good horror tale that is off the beaten path a little bit, this is a solid bet.

The Loneliest Whale: The Search For 52 – With Gunda finally rolling out this week, it managed to make it in good company of nature documentaries as this beautiful ocean film gets it’s time in a wider release after a small limited one last week. AS much as nature documentaries make you feel uplifted, this film gave me a rollercoaster of emotions that didn’t stop for the entire ninety minute duration. The film is a cinematic quest to find the “52 Hertz Whale,” which scientists believe has spent its entire life in solitude, calling out at a frequency that is different from any other whale. As we search for this elusive creature, we will explore the phenomenon of human reaction to its plight, while revealing its connection to the growing epidemic of loneliness in our interconnected world. This movie is not just an overarching insight into a world of nature that is awe inspiring but also a showcase of a dedicated documentary crew led by writer and director Joshua Zeman who has already brought us amazing Netflix shows and the unshakeable Cropsey which needs to be seen to be believed. This was such a special movie and I feel lucky that I got to experience it.

Blu-Ray & DVD:

Mortal Kombat – Oh man, we are starting with one of my guilty pleasures this year arriving on blu-ray and a revamp of a property that means a lot to me. Why? Well, it may have something to do with how ravenous I was about the original movie, which I saw in theatres multiple times. It may be my disappointment in the sequel to said movie, my insane love for the video game franchise or my whetted appetite that the Legacy YouTube series gave me but, you get the point, I’m into this. The film follows MMA fighter Cole Young, a warrior accustomed to taking a beating for money who is unaware of his heritage and why the mythic Outworld’s Emperor Shang Tsung has sent his best warrior, Sub-Zero, played by The Raid’s Joe Taslim, an otherworldly Cryomancer, to hunt Cole down. Fearing for his family’s safety, Cole goes in search of Sonya Blade at the direction of Jax, a Special Forces Major who bears the same strange dragon marking Cole was born with. Soon, he finds himself at the temple of Lord Raiden, an Elder God and the protector of Earthrealm, who grants sanctuary to those who bear the mark. Here, Cole trains with experienced warriors Liu Kang, Kung Lao and rogue mercenary Kano, as he prepares to stand with Earth’s greatest champions against the enemies of Outworld in a high-stakes battle for the universe. This movie is so much fun and I feel like I love it in a Godzilla vs. Kong way where I can just appreciate it for what it is and be dazzled by it. I mean, Sub Zero stabs a dude with a sword made from frozen blood! How awesome is that?

Separation – I have to admit, when I saw the name William Brent Bell attached to this new horror film as it’s director I immediatly had a sort of post trauma stress flashback of having to sit through his films Stay Alive, The Devil Inside, The Boy and it’s awful sequel. Seriously, the guy has made the worst cringe inducing schlock and in not even close to a fun way. For this one he’s got a good lead in actor Rupert Friend, playing the father of a little girl who is processing the lost of her mother by claiming that she can see her ghost everywhere. Co-starring Golden Globe winner Brian Cox and Mamie Gummer, this movie proves it again that Bell is a dreadful writer, an uninteresting director and a creator incapable of making a believable character. I feel like I’m making a long list of times that I want compensation for wasting when it comes to this filmmaker. I don’t want to say that I’m better, having never made my own movie, but I feel like I’m dangerously close.

No Man’s Land – I’ve always stated my man-crush on tough guy Frank Grillo so when this film popped up you just know I’m going to nab it on my list and give it the rundown even though I didn’t know much about it beyond his involvement. The film was written by the Allyn brothers and Conor Allyn took his place behind the camera while Jake puts himself in the lead role for this new border patrol action thriller. The film is a modern Western that is inspired by the real-life “no man’s land” areas along the Texas-Mexico border and follows a father and son border patrol who get into an altercation that results in the son killing an illegal immigrant child. When the father tries to take the blame for the killing, the son flees south on horseback, becoming a “gringo” or illegal alien himself in Mexico. Chased by Texas Rangers and Mexican Federales, he journeys across Mexico to seek forgiveness from the dead boy’s father only to fall in love with the land he was taught to hate in a film that broad bravado makes for a bid of a tedious drama. As great as Grillo and co-star Andie MacDowell are in this movie it isn’t enough to keep a mediocre script afloat and the bloated runtime starts to show more cracks in its foundation. I guess there was a reason I hadn’t heard of this one.

Held – Having been in some form of lockdown isolation for more than a year, it really makes horror based in isolated areas so much more chilling at the present time and this new horror thriller hopes to prey on that weakness. The story follows a couple whose marriage is losing its spark and, in an effort to reconnect, they vacation to a remote high-end rental, complete with automated smart house features and integrated security. However, after suspecting a nighttime intruder they decide to flee, only to become forcibly trapped inside by the automated security system. Emitting from the house, an unknown voice watches their every move through an array of hidden cameras, revealing an intimate and unsettling knowledge of their relationship. While the situation grows increasingly brutal, the couple must work together to uncover the truth and find a way out before it’s too late. This movie was a hidden surprise that has great twists throughout and a crazy ending that I can’t even begin to describe, nor would I want to because it is incredibly satisfying on a storytelling level. This is truly a special film.

A Cinderella Story: Starstruck– Remember the Hillary Duff and Chad Michael Murray film that kicked off this whole elongated franchise and, by no means, was ever supposed to be the basis of a direct to video empire? Well, you might not as that film came out over fifteen years ago but have no fear rapidly aging person because we’re going western with this story in 2021. This new film follows Finley Tremaine, a small town farm girl who longs to spread her wings and soar as an aspiring performer. When a Hollywood film crew arrives in her sleepy town, she is determined to land a role in the production and captures the attention of handsome lead actor, Jackson Stone. Unfortunately, a botched audition forces her to change course. Now, disguised as cowboy “Huck,” Finley finally gets her big break but her evil stepmother and other shenanigans threaten to have her fairy tale come crashing down around her. See what I did here with the “fairy tale” thing? It’s much more attention than this movie deserves as it is really just for the pre-teen girls and it is pretty lame overall.

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street – For all the kids that grew up under the tutelage of the Children’s Television Workshop, like me, get ready for a rollercoaster of nostalgia and sweet memories with this new documentary that takes us on the wild ride of our on-screen education. Coming from Mad Hot Ballroom director Marilyn Agrelo, this film takes the viewer inside the minds and hearts of the Sesame Street creators to help us understand not only how they produced this groundbreaking show, but also what it was like to be at the center of a cultural and social phenomenon. Street Gang concentrates on the most experimental and groundbreaking period of Sesame Street with the original surviving creators and archive interviews with those who have since passed to weave together personal narratives and with never before seen behind the scenes footage to reveal how they collaborated to push every boundary that confronted them, changing television and changing the world. Many times in this movie I felt tears of memory and joy rolling down my cheek as I saw the little sketches and vignettes that helped form my childhood brain and then the part dealing with Mr. Hooper came on and I lost it all emotionally. I can’t stress how much I recommend this wonderful movie.

My Fair Lady 4K – Paramount is giving more of the 4K treatment to another classic film that moulded a whole generation with this Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison iconic musical. Now, I’m definitely not a musical fan by any standard but I do recognize that this move is revered by a hugely vocal audience and it did win eight Academy Awards of the twelve it was nominated for, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Cinematography, no small feat at all. The story follows a pompous phonetics professor named Henry Higgins who is so sure of his abilities that he takes it upon himself to transform a Cockney working-class girl into someone who can pass for a cultured member of high society. His subject is the lovely Eliza Doolittle who agrees to speech lessons to improve her job prospects and as the process deepens and the clashes surface, the bind between the two strengthens until it is all threatens by a new aristocratic suitor. I can’t really say anything bad about this film as it is a masterpiece of classic musical cinema, inspired so many more like it and it looks so great in the full 4K transfer.

Almost Famous 4K – One of my favorite movies of all time has gotten the full 4K remastering treatment and it makes it that much better to watch! Honestly, if you’ve never gotten the chance to see Cameron Crowe’s very autobiographical film that has just reached the milestone of a twentieth anniversary this year then you are depriving yourself of one of the greatest music driven cinematic experiences in history I believe and, oh man, just the cast alone should sell it. For those trapped under a rock for two decades, the film follows a high-school boy who is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming rock band as he accompanies them on their concert tour. Featuring Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Lee and many more, the script, the music, the performances and the aesthetic all converge for a completely unforgettable film that should be talked about forever. I love this movie.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Camino – Zoe Bell is an Aussie bad ass that should be name on everyone’s lips when it comes to the best action stars, male or female, who can deliver believable fights because they are actually trained fighters. The big reason that Bell should be notable is that she was Uma Thurman’s stunt double in Kill Bill and has an incredible sequence in Deathproof that is still breathtaking but this film is all hers. This film has her playing a photographer on assignment in the Columbian jungle following a group of missionaries as they bring meds to the poor. When her lens captures the leader conducting a cocaine deal and murdering a child witness, the group turns on her and orders her death, sending her on a run for her survival. Bell is so awesome in this movie that is pulse pounding and intense with a great villain turn from Nacho Vigalondo who is usually behind the camera in a directors role.

Horrorpops: Live At The Wiltern – MVD Visual is always sending me interesting films and documentaries and one of the regular installments I get are these three disc sets of live concerts, a lot of the time featuring bands that I’ve heard of fleetingly but never actually heard their music. The Horrorpops are one of them. Horrorpops are a Danish punk band formed in Copenhagen in the mid nineties who’s sound is rooted in psychobilly, rockabilly, and punk rock. What drew me to them immediately was bassist Patricia Day who fronts the band as a vocalist as well and plays a stand up bass which makes me think of one of my favorite bands, The Violent Femmes. I also love some rockabilly like The B52s, The Brian Setzer Orchestra or the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies so this didn’t take a lot to sell me as I was basically into this about two or three songs through the concert. Add to that the gradiosity of The Wiltern as a venue and it’s a pretty damn cool show no matter how you look at it.

The Daimajin Trilogy – Thanks to the creative geniuses at Arrow Video, I have an all new box set full of niche filmmaking to grace the geekouts with and this series of films from 1966 Japan. It starts with Daimajin about a giant stone statue that comes to life to protect the residents of a small town against the depradations of an evil warlord, followed by Return of Daimajin with the giant statue exacting revenge upon those who conquer its worshippers, then it finishes off with Daimajin Strikes Again or Wrath Of Daimajin about the mysterious statue attacking an evil warlord that invades a peaceful lakeside village and enslaves the villagers. These are very cool movies to take in if you like Japanese cinema and it almost feels like a little offshoot of the Godzilla or Gamera movies that started gaining popularity at the time. I also love the artwork on this boxset which is eye popping to say the least. Arrow always rocks their collector’s editions and this one is no different.

Resurrection – I can’t believe I’m putting this one into the geekouts but it was a late arrival from Warner Bros. and I didn’t want to anger the gods of distribution by not talking about a movie they sent me about the son of God. That makes sense, right? I hope so, because it’s going to get terrible now. Featuring veteran actresses Joanna Whalley and Greta Scacchi, the film follows the followers of Jesus who are being mercilessly hunted for their devotion. Their only salvation is the rising of Jesus from his grave which formulates the believe and devotion to him and blah, blah, blah. Sorry, I honestly couldn’t hold it together anymore because this movie was a dreadful mess and it’s all thanks to the producing hands of Touched By An Angel’s Roma Downey and Survivor’s Mark Burnett. As soon as you see that faith based power couple’s names you should probably back out slowly. I wish I did.

Television:

Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes (Crave) – A new documentary series arrives this week and usually I bring the murder filled ones to occupy your sick little minds but this time I’m bringing something far more focused and important and it is all thanks to Ronan Farrow and HBO Max. The show is a six parter that brings Farrow’s intimate and revealing interviews with whistleblowers, journalists, private investigators and other sources to the screen in a never before seen larger platform. If you are already an avid reader of all of his column and pieces then nothing new will be revealed here but I found the approach to the series so fascinating and it opens the door for Farrow to tackle more opportunities in the future and maybe a bigger bombshell will land in a future season. I feel like the ceiling for this show is absolutely limitless and I would love to see many more tyrants brought to their knees. It’s time for it.

McCartney 3,2,1 (Disney+) – Being a huge Beatles fan, you just know that I have been chomping at the bit to check this one out, a documentary series that centers around one of the last living members of the greatest group ever, along with Ringo Starr. The film has legend and acclaimed producer Rick Rubin interviewing Paul McCartney on his work with the Beatles, Wings, and as a solo artist, including stories about his personal relationships that inspired his songwriting. As a fans who believes he knows it all, this show blew my mind with new information and new stories about the songs I have been enjoying for my entire life as well as Paul’s process as a singer and songwriter and how that has evolved up until this point. This is a special six episode series that will long live in my memory and may even get a repeat viewing a few months down the road.

Never Have I Ever: Season 2 (Netflix) – From producer Mindy Kaling comes the second season of this smart, funny and John McEnroe narrated teen comedy drama that I fell in love with quickly into the first season. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan leads this show about the life of a modern first-generation Indian American teenage girl navigating love, friendship and sexuality, all based on the formative years of the show creator, Kaling. The second season has Devi now involved in a love triangle and still in the “shunned zone” with her friends Eleanor and Fabiola after her very selfish acts in the latter half of the season. I absolutely love the writing in this show that constantly makes me laugh and smile but also can bring the real drama, the power of loss and grieving and the simple notion that Will Smith taught us all those years ago and that’s the fact that parents just don’t understand.

Schmigadoon (AppleTV+) – I hate musicals, I haven’t ever made a secret of that but someone must have been listening and made a character out of how I feel and plunked them into a musical series as this show speaks to my soul. Starring Cecily Strong, Keegan Michael Key and many more and co-created by Strong as well this show follows a couple in a lull in their relationship who go on a backpacking trip, end up getting lost an then stumble upon a magical town in which everyone acts like they’re in a musical from the 1940s like a bright eyed and sweethearted Twin Peaks. I absolutely love Key’s standoffishness about everything he’s experiencing around him in this show and the biting comedy the lies under each tongue in cheek song had me totally howling, It will keep me watching every episode religiously and I’m probably the most surprised about my drive to watch a musical series.

Wellington Paranormal (The CW) – As a big fan of everything that Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi and their insane New Zealander comedy stylings, I have been waiting for this series to hit North American television screens as it has finished it’s entire run in it’s native country. Following on the heels of the phenomenal What We Do In The Shadows, the series follows Sergeant Ruawai Maaka of the Wellington Police who enlists the aid of Officers Minogue and O’Leary to tackle paranormal events in New Zealand’s capital city. In a police reality show style, the six part series follows these kiwi cops as they investigate cases such as the demon possession of a teenager, a noise complaint at a haunted house and a blood bank robbery in completely irreverant comedic fashion. Seriously, New Zealand might be the funniest country on the planet and I’m pretty sold on that opinion. Prove me wrong, other countries!

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