Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

The Eyes Of Tammy Faye – With a tale as wild as teleevangelist couple Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, I’m really surprised that it took this long to get a biopic of the God and money driven power couple that had a storied rise and a scandalous fall. Now that it’s here, I have to address the boldness of Jessica Chastain taking the lead role alongside Andrew Garfield as Jim because I didn’t see how it could work and now, after seeing the trailers, I can’t unsee it. The film is an interesting move from The Big Sick director Michael Showalter who gives an intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. In the 1970s and 80s, Tammy Faye and her husband, Jim Bakker, rose from humble beginnings to create the world’s largest religious broadcasting network and theme park, and were revered for their message of love, acceptance and prosperity. Tammy Faye was legendary for her indelible eyelashes, her idiosyncratic singing, and her eagerness to embrace people from all walks of life but it wasn’t long before financial improprieties, scheming rivals, and scandal toppled their carefully constructed empire. The reviews pouring in a pretty solid and are celebrating Chastain in a big way and we know Oscar likes the biopic performances so expect this one to be in the mix when the award season kicks off.

Cry Macho – Clint Eastwood returns to not only direct another film but star in it as well but I have to admit that I really dislike the title. It’s smashy and I saw a tweet that said they heard it as “Crime Nachos” which sounds like a way more intriguing film but I digress. The story has Eastwood as a one-time rodeo star and washed-up horse breeder who takes a job to bring a man’s young son home and away from his alcoholic mom. On their journey, the horseman finds redemption through teaching the boy what it means to be a good man in a film that looks like it’s beautifully shot, as it comes from cinematographer Ben Davis who did Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Guardians Of The Galaxy. Where do my expectations lie? Eastwood has declined in his consistency to make solid films but his last outing, The Mule, was great in my opinion and I do have hopes for this one because of that.

Copshop – Joe Carnahan is a gritty action filmmaker who I generally enjoy in his more bombastic stories like Smokin’ Aces, The Grey and his adaptation of The A-Team. Just from the trailer alone I feel like this new flick is going to be one that fits nicely into the better side of his work. Starring Frank Grillo, Gerard Butler Toby Huss and newcomer Alexis Louder, the film follows a wily con artist on the run from a lethal assassin who devises a scheme to hide out inside a small-town police station but when the hitman turns up at the precinct, an unsuspecting rookie cop finds herself caught in the crosshairs. The trailer for this looks violent and darkly funny with all three of these experience character actors throwing their all into their roles with Huss looking like the standout. I can’t imagine this movie having a lot of substance to it, just high octane and fast paced fun.

Blue Bayou – Justin Chon is a Korean American actor, writer and director who is now coming through with his fourth feature film and, although not being a badly reviewed filmmaker, he might break through to the mainstream with this character driven drama that features him alongside an Academy Award winner. The film follows his main character, a man raised in the Louisiana bayou who works hard to make a life for his family but suddenly must confront the ghosts of his past as he discovers that he could be deported from the only country he has ever called home. Reviewer friends of mine have told me that they loved this movie when it was press screened and I don’t think there is any sort of a ad campaign behind it so word of mouth is going to help in immensely. I love little dramas like this os I’m certainly on board.

Best Sellers – Two things immediately drew me to this movie and it started with the casting of Aubrey Plaza in the lead role but not just because my wife and I binged the entire series of Parks And Recreation recently but from her incredible performance in the indie film Black Bear. The second thing is it also stars Sir Michael Caine in a great wheelhouse of his, the crotchety and angry old man performance type. Plaza plays Lucy Standbridge, the daughter of a famed publisher who has inherited her father’s publishing house, and the ambitious would-be editor has nearly sunk it with failing titles. She discovers she is owed a book by Harris Shaw (Michael Caine), a reclusive, cantankerous, booze-addled author who originally put the company on the map decades earlier and, in a last-ditch effort to save the company, together release his new book and embark on a book tour from hell that changes them both in ways they didn’t expect. As much as I loved both performances in this film, and I do, it just felt like this film was missing something in between and starts to drag before it becomes a little formulaic. This isn’t to say that I disliked it, I just wanted a little more from it.

Prisoners Of The Ghostland – It’s now common knowledge if you regularly read my blog, listen to me on The Shift or follow me on any of my social media accounts that I adore the talent of Nicoals Cage. I am aware of his bad films and others but the man takes chances and I love him for it, something he certainly does here. This film from gonzo director Sion Sono he plays a ruthless bank robber who is sprung from jail by the wealthy warlord The Governor in the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town to find his adopted granddaughter Bernice that has gone missing. The Governor offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway and, strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within three days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman and his own path to redemption. Co-starring The Kingsmans’ Sofia Boutella and The Devil’s Rejects’ Bill Moseley, this film is like a frenetic samurai art film inserted into a post apocalyptic landscape. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t but you can tell that Cage is having a fantastic time and he has stated this in interviews about it already. If you enjoy the man’s work, you’ll appreciate this one.

Nightbooks – On first glance this might not be a film that hits exactly in my wheelhouse as it fplays more on the family side of horror but when I saw that it was from Brightburn director David Yarovesky and it stars Jessica Jones herself, Kristen Ritter in the villain role, well, I changed my tune. The story follows a young boy named Alex who becomes the prisoner of a witch and, to avoid certain death, he convinces her to let him tell her a scary story every night. Upon meeting the witch’s servant, Yazmin, the two must use their wits to escape her apartment, a magical labyrinth filled with various dangers, before the witch kills them both. The trailer makes this look like a lot of fun and it has great flow to it thanks to the camera work from cinematographer Robert McLachlan who just did six episodes of Lovecraft Country and some really great episodes of Games Of Thrones just to name a few. This could be a slick little family hit.

The Mad Woman’s Ball – French actress and filmmaker Melaine Laurent is probably best known to a wide audience as the revenge seeking Shoshanna in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds but she has also made four notable feature films behind the camera and now comes to Amazon Prime with her fifth and another one on the horizon. This thriller is the story of Eugenie, a luminous and passionate young girl at the end of the 19th century who has the ability to see and hear the dead. When her family discovers her secret, she is taken by her father and brother to a neurological clinic at La Pitié Salpêtrière, un by the eminent Professor Charcot, with no possibility of escaping her fate. She then plots to escape with the help of one of its nurses, played by the director herself. The attention to detail, both in character nuance and historical accuracy, help bring a richness to the film and continues to pull you into the drama until it’s conclusion. A very solid film.

Schumacher – If you’re looking for a sport biopic documentary to get immersed with, Netflix has heard your call out into the wild and has a film about an undeniable giant in his industry. I will be forefront in saying that I’m not really a racing fan myself, not even casually, but I do know exactly who Michael Schumacher is. Followed by millions worldwide, his strong will and triumphant fight to win against all odds put Michael Schumacher at the centre of global attention but there is a lot more than motor racing to the success of this very private man and his self-doubt and insecurities complete the picture of a sensitive and reflected being. Through exclusive interviews and archival footage, this documentary traces an intimate portrait of seven-time Formula 1 champion through a trio of talented German filmmakers. I’m looking forward to this one.

Saint-Narcisse – One of the Canadian films that is getting a lot of indie buzz right now, the mind and work of Bruce La Bruce was already in my mind after seeing his film L.A. Zombie from over a decade ago. This film is decidedly less zombified in it’s horror and instead opts to tell a very character driven story which plays out in totally unpredictable fashion. Set in 1972 Canada, the film follows twenty two year old Dominic, a man that discovers a deep family secret when his loving grandmother dies, that his lesbian mother didn’t die in childbirth and he has a twin brother, Daniel, raised in a remote monastery by a depraved priest, held captive against his will. Charged with a new life goal to reunite his family, he sets off to complete the seemingly impossible and wrestle his twin from the grips of indoctrination. This film is a boundary pusher from the get go and the ability to understand the characters and their motivations may not be apparent but it is absolutely captivating the entire time.

Blu-Ray:

Black Widow – It’s been over a year since we were robbed of the next installation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a film that was a long time coming and, honestly, show have been made years earlier. Yes, Scarlet Johansson finally gets her own solo Black Widow movie and I am happy to have it, especially with the supporting cast of Florence Pugh, David Harbour and Rachel Weisz and the emergence of Marvel villain Taskmaster. The film follows Natasha in a story that precedes Infinity War and Endgame as she confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger. The action is fast and hard-hitting, the characters are well fleshed out and this is exactly the Black Widow story we have been waiting for and I hope it becomes a massive hit because it really deserves to. This is the real welcome back to theatres thanks to the legends at Marvel and, sadly, with Scarjo seeing for her fair payment in the box office earnings, I hope it doesn’t hurt the legacy of a very entertaining movie.

The Boss Baby: Family Business – Dreamworks Animation is definitely looking to snag that supposed post pandemic family movie money as they kept this one out of theatres and off of VOD the whole time, patiently waiting for theatres to re-open, to a smaller box office pull unfortunately. It may not look like any sort of an entertaining film but I really enjoyed the first movie about a little businessman baby voiced by Alec Baldwin and that’s probably due to how much I love his 30 Rock Character Jack Donaghey and how he seems to channel it with this character. The sequel picks up with the Templeton brothers, Tim and his Boss Baby little bro Ted, who have become adults and drifted away from each other. Tim is now a married stay-at-home dad and Ted is obviously a hedge fund CEO. The adventures reignite when a new boss baby with a cutting-edge approach and a can-do attitude aims to bring them back together which starts with a quick de-aging process, reverting them to babies. The animation is goofy and fun and the script feels like a snappy improv of throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks which I really like but audiences can sometimes be cold to. It makes me think of how much I was into the Andy Samberg film Storks and how much everyone else hated it.

Zola – The anticipation for this movie was absolutely huge for me as the festival and critical buzz has been looming all over social media since the Sundance Film Festival and now that it’s here I am happy to say that it doesn’t disappoint. The crazy thing, and an indicator of where we can get film stories now, the inception of this story came from Twitter and a story told through a series of one hundred and forty eight tweets that laid the whole insane narrative out. “Y’all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out? It’s kind of long but full of suspense.” These are the words that start this Florida odyssey, following Zola, a Detroit waitress who strikes up a new friendship with a customer named Stefani that seduces her to join a weekend of dancing and partying in Florida. What at first seems like a glamorous trip full of “hoeism” rapidly transforms into a 48-hour journey involving a nameless pimp, an idiot boyfriend, some Tampa gangsters and other unexpected adventures. This movie is crazy and jaw dropping with it’s developments but still holds on to a rough command of cinema that puts it into the same category as the Sean Baker masterpiece The Florida Project. Oh man, I loved this movie so much.

Censor – Horror is a varied genre and one that has a high level of over saturation to it, much like action films, but when you strike with a fresh new idea and spin the ideas to an unpredictable level, this is where new experiences and new voices shine the brightest. This is definitely the case with this new brilliant piece of cinema that comes from Wales and showcases not just the brilliant filmmaker Prano Bailey-Bond in her debut but lead actress Niamh Algar whose performance has you glued to your seat. The story follows film censor Enid, a professional who takes pride in her meticulous work, guarding unsuspecting audiences from the deleterious effects of watching the gore-filled decapitations and eye gouging she pores over in films listed as “video nasties” in the eighties. Her sense of duty to protect is amplified by guilt over her inability to recall details of the long-ago disappearance of her sister, recently declared dead in absentia. When Enid is assigned to review a disturbing film from the archive that echoes her hazy childhood memories, she begins to unravel how this eerie work might be tied to her past as her reality starts to crumble around her. This film is a mind-bending experience with an ending that left me reeling and thinking deeply about it ever since. This is one of my favourite films this year.

Out Of Death – Guess who is doing more direct to blu-ray work? That’s right! Bruce Willis is back to collect a quick pay cheque but this time he gets to play around in a villain role possibly in a film that looks formulaic even if you just watch the trailer. Starring Sin City star Jaime King in the lead role, this thriller that follows a corrupt Sheriff’s department in a rural mountain town that comes undone when an unintended witness throws a wrench into their shady operation and leads a retired forest ranger to help a woman after she witnesses a crime. This movie has a zero on Rotten Tomatoes which gives you an immediate indication of whether to pick this one up right away or wait for a streaming service to inevitably pick it up for you to watch in the background as you do chores, laundry or anything that you don’t need to dedicate both of your eyes to.

Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage The Cowardly Dog – What can I really say about this new movie for the kids other than it combines the long and storied history of Scooby-Doo, Shaggy and Mystery Incorperated and combines it with some deep nineties nostalgia that I don’t think kids will get these days. Simple put, the movie involves Scooby-Doo and his friends finding a strange object in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas, which just happens to be the backwoods hometown of Courage and his owners, Eustace and Muriel Bagge. How wild! A Courage The Cowardly Dog crossover! Who knew it was possible? Anyways, this is for the kids and a very niche audience. That should be obvious.

Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman – I get an odd little excitement from the sets that Arrow Video puts out from time to time as they are usually cult hits that they dug deep for and have deeper meaning in our own zeitgeist now as they have somehow inspired art we see today. This one is a definite deep dig as it celebrates the work of Sam Katzman, one of the most versatile producers of his time, focusing on four films that defined his career. A mob boss hires an ex-Nazi scientist to reanimate his dead thugs in Creature with the Atom Brain, an auto-accident survivor is used as an experimental subject to create a vaccine for nuclear fall-out with hair-raising side-effects in The Werewolf, treasure hunters get more than they bargained for in the search for a cargo of diamonds that went down with a sunken ship when they discover the zombified crew members are guarding the loot in Zombies of Mora Tau and lastly an enormous bird from outer-space descends to chow down on the people of planet Earth in The Giant Claw. With the origins of creature horror and suspense in the lens here, this is definitely a cool set to check out.

Death Screams – The other release from Arrow Video this week is another throwback movie, although it is not as old as the box set I just talked about. This film is as straight up American as we can get in it’s era of the early eighties as it is an old school slasher film as you love to see them. The story is very simple, following a small town who is in for a night of chaos as a machete wielding pyschopath descends on the town to off teenagers during the last night of the carnival. This feels like one of those forgotten horror films that didn’t get it’s due in 1981 as it just got lost in the shuffle of so many like it getting released and now, with the loving guidance of the Arrow Video collector’s edition, gets a sort of new life. Very cool to discover in my opinion.

Magnum P.I.: Season 3 – Against all my beliefs that they could work, CBS has managed to reboot a handful of their classic line up from decades ago and has made them work. Hawaii Five-O has just ended their run a while backand actually featured this show’s main character, MacGyver has been sort of a runaway hit and, really, Magnum has done good numbers for them as well, especially in that aforementioned crossover, palling around with McGarrett and Dann-O. Not sporting the Selleck mustache for this, Jay Hernandez steps into the role of Thomas Magnum with a gender switch for his sidekick Higgins in Ready Player One’s Perdita Weeks as it follows the ex-Navy SEAL as he returns from Afghanistan to use his military skills to become a private investigator in Hawaii. It’s your basic procedural, as you would expect it, and Hernandez kind of makes the show his own. I see it getting another few seasons as it’s doing well in the demographic.

Mare Of Easttown – HBO does limited series stuff so well and one of the shows I really liked from years ago was Mildred Pierce which featured Kate Winslett. Well, they’ve pulled her in again for a brand new show and if the first episode may be something to gauge the rest of the show on we might have ourselves the best new show of 2021 here. She plays Mare Sheehan, a small-town Pennsylvania detective who investigates a local murder as life crumbles around her. The series is an exploration into the dark side of a close community and an authentic examination of how family and past tragedies can define our present while showing a care and fully rounded dimension of each person that doesn’t seem to be present in other shows like this. Maybe it’s that the show comes from Craig Zobel who has had such a storied film career in the “human behaviour” department with Compliance, Z For Zachariah and the blood dripping satire of The Hunt.

Steve’s Blu-Ray and DVD Geekouts:

Rugrats: The Complete Series – This is a huge blast of nostaligia for any kid that grew up in the nineties as this is probably a show that binds us together in a cohesive memory of the Pickles family and their family and friends. Yes, we all sat around and watched YTV as Tommy, Angelica, Chuckie, Phil and Lil and more grew up over multiple seasons of the show and now we can relive it again with our own children. Need a refresher? Running from 1991 til 2006, the show is about four babies, Tommy Pickles, Chuckie Finster, and Phil and Lil Deville as we see their lives unravel and get to hear them talk. On the sidelines are Tommy’s mean cousin Angelica, their friend Susie Carmichael, the same age as Angelica, and everybody’s parents. My kid immediately fell in love with the show which lends more credibility to it’s draw and shows that we were right to love it as much as we did.

The Loud House: Season 3 Volume 1 – Absolute Madness – More crazy Nickelodeon cartoons for your children to feast their eyes on but is it going to drive you nuts as a parent? Well, let’s look at the voices and creators so we can have some sort of latching on point for this show about Lincoln Loud, an eleven-year-old boy who lives with ten sisters and with the help of his friend Clyde finds new ways to survive in such a large family every day. Any voices you would know? Well, Batman The Animated Series’ Grey Griffin features in it as well as Bender himself, Joh Dimaggio but aside from quick guest spots by Wayne Brady, Phil Lamarr and the late and so great Fred Willard, that’s about it. The show was created by Chris Savino, a long time writer on The Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Laboratory, so you can see where this show is aimed at.

In The Good Old Summertime – I’ve got two super classic films to bring this week that will seem odd against two Nickelodeon made shows but bear with me. First up I have a musical from 1949 that featured two of the biggest stars of the time, Judy Garland and Van Johnson. The story is set in turn-of-the century America and follows Andrew and Veronica, two co-workers in a music shop who dislike one another during business hours but unwittingly carry on an anonymous romance through the mail. This film is a beloved classic that many of the big stars, including Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and June Allyson, were all vying to play in. It also features an early performance from Liza Minnelli as a toddler.

Shadow Of The Thin Man – I know I have already brought a couple Thin Man films to this blog before so this is just another addition to that pile thanks to the greats at Warner Archive. Released in 1941, this movie had more to it than just being another early franchise hit as it was also the debut of starlet Ava Gardner. The story follows famous detective Nick Charles and his wife Nora as they investigate the death of a jockey that has been shot dead at the race track, where the two happen to be on the scene. The eleventh of fourteen films pairing lead stars William Powell and Myrna Loy, this movie was amazingly filmed in only two weeks by director W.S. Van Dyke, living up to his nickname of “One-Take Woody” and would b popular enough to spawn two more sequels. This movie is the fourth in the Thin Man series for those keeping track.

American Gods: Season 3 – Coming from the mind of the great Neil Gaiman, this series is one that honestly never got it’ due until t was far too late and got cancelled before it’s time. The show is essentially led by The 100’s Ricky Whittle but features incredible performances from veterans like Ian McShane, Orlando Jones and Gillian Anderson as well as an unforgettable turn from Sucker Punch’s Emily Browning. To get the goods on it, the series follows Shadow Moon, a man serving three years in prison who is given an early release and is hired as the mysteriously knowledgable Mr. Wednesday’s bodyguard. He quickly finds himself in a hidden world where a battle is brewing between the Old Gods and the New Gods to a cataclysmic end. This show is totally bad ass and was brought to us by Hannibal and Pushing Daisies showrunner Bryan Fuller before he left for other things, as he always does. Don’t let that deter you, this show is seriously great.

Television:

Scenes From A Marriage (Crave) – Two of the best and brightest on the A-list get their own HBO show this week and for Jessica Chastain, it’s her second appearance on the list besides the top new release and her co-star, Oscaar Isaac, had an absolutely incredible film hit theaters last week under the eye of the great Paul Schrader. A new series from In Treatment creator Hagai Levi, this show is an ambitious adaptation of Ingar Bergmann’s classic 1973 Swedish TV miniseries about a marriage falling apart and re-examines the original’s iconic depiction of love, hatred, desire, monogamy, marriage and divorce through the lens of a contemporary American couple. I really didn’t hear about this until recently but Isaac and Chastain burning up the red carpet together at the Venice Film Festival has ignited a total fever for this show. Folks, it’s sure to get hot.

American Rust (Crave) – To paraphrase my mother in law who was a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, “If it has Jeff Daniels in it, I’m watching it. They should just have his face on the poster, no words. I’d still watch it. Yes, that’s a big endorsement, I think. Based on Philipp Meyer’s celebrated debut novel, the show is a compelling family drama that will explore the tattered American dream through the eyes of complicated and compromised chief of police Del Harris (Daniels) in a Rust Belt town in southwest Pennsylvania, which forces him to decide what he’s really going to do to protect the son of the woman he truly loves when he is accused of murder. The other part that has me excited for this is it stars Maura Tierney who was celebrated for her performance in another Showtime series, The Affair. This one has great buzz around it and I think it’ll live up to it.

The Morning Show: Season 2 (AppleTV+) – Jennifer Aniston returned to television and it was a huge deal even if audiences at the time weren’t exactly sure what AppleTV+ is and how they can get it. Well, this kicked it off and Ted Lasso has certainly roped more in as this series continues into it’s sophomore season. The first season featured an amazing cast including Steve Carell, Billy Crudup, Mark Duplass, Bel Powley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Reese Witherspoon, and took an inside look at the lives of a nationwide morning show, exploring the unique challenges faced by the men and women who carry out this daily production. The unfortunate thing is the initial reviews of the show call it a vanity project for Aniston, a story that goes over on surface value and never digs into anything interesting but, let’s face it though, the audience won out and it was massively watched by the current subscribers just salivating at the launch of this platform. I expect more of the same for this new season as well as a quick pick up for a third.

Sex Education: Season 3 (Netflix) – This British comedy series got a huge boost with geat numbers when the first season debuted and after the second season roped more fans in and because a huge trending hit for Netflix, it was a no brainer for another pickup. The show stars Gillian Anderson and Asa Butterfield and is about the teenage son of a sex therapist who decides to use the smarts he’s learned from her to run his own “practice” in his high school with the help of the edgy girl in his class. The script for this series is so snappy and smart with both Butterfield and Andeson giving some of their best work and the best thing is how incredibly unpredictable the storyline is. Honestly, it is so good that I can’t get even a toe into spoiler territory because I would hate myself for it. Just watch it.

Chicago Party Aunt (Netflix) – With the words “from the producers of Big Mouth and Paradise PD” comes a double edged sword because, while I love Big Mouth and everything it does to make it’s audience uncomfortable, I absolutely despise Paradise PD and all of it’s easy and bottom feeding jokes. This new series tries to hit a middle ground by having some really funny dialogue but still languishing it utterly irredeemable characters. It’s pretty simple at it’s core and follows Diane Dunbrowski who is always the life of the party, and also known as the “Chicago Party Aunt”, a neighborhood figure who uses her own style to help her fellow Chicago residents and get wasted at the same time. After one episode, I have to say that it has promise but is nowhere near the caliber of a show like Big Mouth that pushes boundaries in a fresh and original way while still creating a conversation. Maybe I’ll be proved wrong as I continue through the rest of it.

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