Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Venom: Let There Be Carnage – After many delays and release date shifts we finally get the follow-up to a non-MCU-connected franchise that still manages to include Spider-Man and, yes, I know that this is all convoluted and confusing. That all said, the first Venom movie was a stupid amount of fun and Tom Hardy really brought his A-game to the absurdity and now we get the fan-favourite villain of Carnage to join the antics. The sequel follows Eddie Brock as he still struggles to adjust to his new life as the host of the alien symbiote Venom, which grants him super-human abilities to be a lethal vigilante. Brock attempts to reignite his career by interviewing serial killer Cletus Kasady, who becomes the host of the symbiote Carnage and escapes prison after a failed execution. With Andy Serkis taking over directing from Ruben Fleisher, I feel like the special effects will see a step up and it looks like Naomie Harris is in the role of another symbiote creature, Shriek, so I’m pretty excited about this one as a total comic book nerd.

The Many Saints Of Newark – The anticipation of this new prequel story to possibly one of the greatest television shows ever made is huge and for me, situated in Penticton, my disappointment couldn’t be greater as we aren’t getting it in my small town. That sadness aside, I find it fascinating that James Gandolfini’s son Michael is taking the young Tony role in this film and I’m so excited to see how his compatriots in Paulie Walnuts, Silvio, Big Pussy and even his uncle Junior are handled. The film follows young Anthony Soprano, growing up in one of the most tumultuous eras in Newark’s history, becoming a man just as rival gangsters begin to rise and challenge the all-powerful DiMeo crime family’s hold over the increasingly race-torn city. Caught up in the changing times is the uncle he idolizes, Dickie Moltisanti, who struggles to manage both his professional and personal responsibilities and whose influence over his nephew will help make the impressionable teenager into the all-powerful mob boss we’ll later come to know, the infamous Tony Soprano. The reviews that have been pouring in so far are mixed but the consistency in all of them is that this movie was made for the fans and we’ll all eat it up like a plate of gabbagool.

The Addams Family 2 – We’re already at a second animated feature of the kooky, ookey and spooky family that was done so well in live-action form by Barry Levinson in the nineties. Heck, I didn’t even know that the film had done well enough for a sequel but I guess this is our new Hotel Transylvania in a way. Once again featuring Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron as Gomez and Morticia Addams, now distraught that their children are growing up, skipping family dinners, and totally consumed with “scream time” so, to reclaim their bond, they decide to cram Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester and the crew into their haunted camper and hit the road for one last miserable family vacation. Their adventure across America takes them out of their element and into run-ins with their iconic cousin, It, who is “voiced” by Snoop Dogg but he doesn’t really talk though, does he? This is pure entertainment for the kids based on an IP that we all know and love within different generations who loved the movies or the original television show. I’m just in it for the adult references.

The Guilty – Jake Gyllenhaal and Antoin Fuqua reteam after their boxing flick Southpaw for a remake of a Danish thriller that really comes off as a better final product than their first collaboration. Gyllenhaal is doing all the powerlifting in this film as the whole film is just essentially him on the phone for the entire duration but it really does work. The film takes place over the course of a single morning in a 911 dispatch call center with call operator Joe Baylor trying to save a caller that says she has been kidnapped, propelling him into an intense race against time as he feverishly attempts to locate her and get her to safety all from his desk. Adding to the mix of emotions, he is on the eve of finding out his fate in an incident that took him off the streets and put him in the office he works out of now. Gyllenhaal displays some of his best characteristics in this film that he could have made or broke. I wouldn’t have believed that great tension and suspense can be made in this format but Fuqua excels with every edgy scene we get. A great audience-pleasing thriller.

Mayday – This is an oddball of a movie but it really works in a crazily existential way. What immediately drew me to the film was the cast which features the young stars, Grace Van Patten, from the currently running Nine Perfect Strangers, Mia Goth from High Life and French actress Soko from Her and all anchored by the veteran prowess of Juliette Lewis. The story centers around Ana who is transported to a dreamlike and dangerous land where she joins an army of girls engaged in a never-ending war. Though she finds strength in this exhilarating world, she realizes that she’s not the killer they want her to be and struggles to find her exit from the conflict. The film looks gorgeous and the plot is engaging but it is vapidly fleeting by introducing so many elements that it has no intention of wrapping up or even fleshing out. I wanted to love this film but it leaves you cold in so many different ways.

Titane – Well, it’s twice in a row the little town I live in deep in the beautiful Okanagan has pissed me off by not having a sought-after film playing but this one I can understand because it’s foreign, a really niche indie and it is decidedly messed up. The film comes from writer and director Julia Ducournau who’s last movie, Raw, became one of the most talked-about horror movies of the decade. For this one she’s going further out there, telling the story of a father who is reunited with the son who has been missing for 10 years following a series of unexplained crimes. That doesn’t sound immediately weird but it’s almost just the basic bullet point of what the basis is. This film is deeply cerebral body horror mixed with an uncompromising and unpredictable journey into provocative filmmaking that I can’t wait to get my eyeballs deep into. The buzz made my anticipation for this hit a fever pitch and now all of you lucky people get to see it before I can.

Adventures Of A Mathematician – On the surface this movie sounds incredibly boring, it’s not easy to sugar coat that one at all. It’s a German, Polish and English collaboration on a true story of a renowned mathematician and it doesn’t feature any actors that I can recall seeing before. Snorefest, right? Coming from writer and director Thor Klein, it is the story of Polish immigrant and mathematician Stan Ulam who moved to the U.S. in the 1930s and helped to create the hydrogen bomb and the first computer while deals with the difficult losses of family and friends at the same time. It felt so hard to keep engaged with this movie as the character story seemed to get lost in a muddied telling of history that felt so lacklustre in its presentation that it couldn’t elevate above how boring I already felt the subject matter to be. This movie felt punishing and it was only just over an hour and a half long.

Blu-Ray:

The Forever Purge – They’re still making these movies? Yes, of course, they are because they make money, cost little and even spawned a television spin-off. Also, it seems like everyone in America kind of wants to kill each other already so the thirst for a horror film about a one-night mass killing spree is still pretty appealing. This installment has the fallout from the events of the previous film and instead of improving the world through the main characters heroic actions and the exposing of the elite who created it, all the rules are now broken as a sect of lawless marauders decides that the annual Purge does not stop at daybreak and instead should never end. The imagery is totally gnarly with all of the Purge costumes and this aesthetic is what always brings me back to these movies as a glutton for punishment I guess. That said, the implications from all of the previous installments hit a fever pitch in the story of this one as the franchise moves closer and closer to a believable America which might be the most chilling take away from it. I really enjoyed this one, a favourite in the series.

Blithe Spirit – Dan Stevens is such a great actor in anything he does that no matter what project he is a part of I will still give it the infinite time of day to watch. That includes this pretty silly ghostly comedy that is not getting any good word of mouth whatsoever. The film has him playing a married crime novelist suffering from writer’s block who hires a spiritualist medium to hold a seance that accidentally summons the spirit of his deceased first wife, which leads to an increasingly complex love triangle with his current wife of five years. Co-starring Dame Judi Dench, Leslie Mann and Isla Fisher, the film has the foundation to be great but falls into slapstick and contrived trappings that do everything but engage you on the level this cast has done before. Even at a run time of an hour and a half, it feels like the script has been stretched and warped into a longer form of storytelling which just does not work in any capacity. These stars deserved better.

Twist – Got to love a weird choice in the reimagining of a classic story and that is exactly what we got right here. The story of Oliver Twist has been told in many different ways by many different and accomplished filmmakers through the film age, including one by controversial director Roman Polanski, but none quite like this. This one goes for the “inspired” route, an action-fueled crime-thriller set in contemporary London that follows the journey of Twist, a gifted graffiti artist trying to find his way after the loss of his mother. Lured into a street gang headed by the paternal Fagin, played by Michael Caine, he is attracted to the lifestyle and to Red, an alluring member of Fagin’s crew but when an art theft goes wrong, Twist’s moral code is tested as he’s caught between Fagin, the police, and a loose-cannon enforcer played by the formidable Lena Headey. All of this sounds original and cool but unfortunately, this film is the equivalent of a thick skull with no brain, hard-hitting action with zero substance underneath. It’s targeted at a younger crowd that doesn’t have any reverence for the source material, not that it was necessary to have that in the end.

Children Of The Corn 4K – Some classic Stephen King gets the collector’s edition treatment this week from Arrow Video and even better it gets the full 4K update to show this chilling story in all of its glory. It was so great to see Peter Horton and a young Linda Hamilton, the same year The Terminator would be released, in this adaptation of a short story I read way too young. For those who never had the privilege but have for sure heard the name or reference, the story is about a young couple who enter into a desolate midwestern town where all the adults are apparently dead and the children, led by a creepily charismatic boy, have formed a cult that worships a malevolent force in the cornfield, He Who Walks The Rows. This movie is iconic and a major piece of “creepy kid” cinema that is always brought up in the best of the eighties horror. The ending is a beautifully hopeless downer that feels so ballsy to do but really speaks to the power of King’s storytelling.

Steve’s Blu-Ray & DVD Geekouts:

Beverly Hills 90210: The Ultimate Collection – *bu-nuh-nuh-nuh* *bu-nuh-nuh-nuh* *clap-clap* Yeah, I still know the Beverly Hills 90210 theme song opening but that’s because my mom and I watched it originally so when I got this massive box set that includes the original series as well as the revival limited series she texted me as soon as she saw me Instagram it. My wife was equally as static as this is a big show in her upbringing as well, a seminal moment in our coming of age. In a show about a group of friends living in Beverly Hills, California making their way through life from their school days into adulthood, we all had our favourites, our crushes and our favourite episodes and it seems to connect all of us nineties teens and the older viewers who may have gotten pulled into the fan vortex as the show continued it’s run. Does it work now? Probably not with all the weird fads, clothing choices and lack of technology but it never hurts to try and indoctrinate the next generation. Now, let’s continue to rock out to the theme song.

District 13 Ultimatum – Sometimes it’s a good opportunity to watch some mindless action with cool sequences and the barest existence of a plot. That is exactly where this film fits in, the sequel to a French action flick that seems like more of an excuse for mega-producer Luc Besson to show off some parkour-style fighting and dazzle people with crazy stunts. Five years after the original, vigilante justice-keepers Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) and Leito (David Belle) are back in the outer-Paris ghetto of District 13 to save the impoverished, violence-riddled community. Controlled by fiYve ruthless gang bosses jostling for ultimate power, District 13 is in dangerous decline and, to save those living within, Damien and Leito must restore peace before the city’s secret law enforcers take measures into their own hands. The subtext of this installment gets needlessly political and it starts to drown in the bigger story it’s trying to tell but that aside the action still rocks and it has sequences that will constantly have you rewinding and wondering how the hell they did that.

Young Sheldon: Season 4 – With the main series of The Big Bang Theory long in the rearview now, this 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 even standing apart from the show it spawned from.  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 its Sheldon Cooper lore without any new encumbrance or retcon. That and it doesn’t have a laugh track, an instant killer with me.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – One of Terry Gilliam’s troubled productions has now landed itself in my collection finally and it’s a film that will largely be remembered as the one that Heath Ledger died during the production but it really deserves to be recognized on its own merits. It is really classic Terry Gilliam at its core ad immediately gives remembrance to films like The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King and Brazil from his phenomenal filmography. Starring Christopher Plummer in the lead role, the leader of a travelling show and the harbourer of a dark secret. Thousands of years ago he traded the soul of his daughter, Valentina, to the devil and now the devil, played brilliantly by Tom Waits, has come to collect his prize. To save her, Parnassus must make a final wager to see whoever collects five souls first to gain possession of Valentina. Tony (Heath Ledger), a man saved from hanging by Parnassus’ troupe, agrees to help collect them, but deviously has his eye on marrying Valentina himself. This film is crazy and ballsy in a way that only Gilliam can deliver with his idiosyncratic form of storytelling. Filmed in Vancouver, it’s insane how much it looks like dirty old London.

Mona Lisa – Bob Hoskins is a character actor that never really got his due but featured in some of the best films from over thirty years of work and this movie is definitely part of the greatest roles he ever played. Mona Lisa was a Neil Jordan film that was nestled in the middle of a four-year stretch that included Brazil, A Prayer For The Dying and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? which informed a really cool era in his career but this one was something special on its own. He plays a man just released from prison who manages to get a job driving an expensive call girl from customer to customer. Initially, they don’t get along, and he doesn’t fit in with the high-class customers Simone services but the two slowly form a bond that extends to being a protector from the outside elements as well as those in control, like the kingpin in charge, played brilliantly by Michael Caine. This film now gets its own praise in the form of a Criterion Collection release and after taking it in again, it wholly deserves this honour. Jordan’s authentic filmmaking shines through in a film that is, from top to bottom, a total masterpiece.

Television:

Attack Of The Hollywood Cliches! (Netflix) – We all know the horrible cliches that Hollywood films love to throw at us time and time again without learning a thing. The romantic comedies that have a mad dash through the rain to reunite for a kiss, the cool guys that don’t look at explosions, the constant belittling of ethnic minorities, the list goes on and on. Now Netflix is going to shine a little light on it through host Rob Lowe in a special that features some of the most famous films along with screenwriters, academics and critics like Andie MacDowell, The Lucas Brothers, Andrew Garfield, Amy Nicholson, John August and many more as they guide through the funny, weird and controversial clichés which appear on the screens. Some of them were super obvious to me but some of them I cling to going “no, no, no, not Garden State” but, yes Steve, that is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope and it is a massive cliche. Sigh, my heart is broken.

Maid (Netflix) – Coming from Orange Is The New Black and Casual writer Molly Smith Metzler in her debut as a creator and showrunner, this new series had me intrigued right away as it has the real-life mother and daughter tandem of Andie MacDowell and Margaret Qualley in the same production for, I believe, the first time. The show was inspired by the New York Times best-selling memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land and follows a single mother who turns to housekeeping to make ends meet as she battles against poverty, homelessness, and bureaucracy. Also escaping a brutally abusive relationship, this is an interesting story of one woman’s struggle to empower herself against all odds and Qualley is the perfect actor to portray it with a simmering intensity that boils over from time to time. I’m really enjoying it so far.

Seinfeld (Netflix) – What can I say about this show that you really don’t know already? It debuted on NBC in the late eighties and had a huge run, inspiring so many along the way ad still is consistently quoted to this very day. Heck, creator Larry David is still kind of living off of it as Curb Your Enthusiasm is a direct offshoot of it and even did a reunion series within the HBO show. For fun though, why don’t I give you a synopsis? Running for nine seasons, Jerry Seinfeld stars in this television comedy series as himself, a comedian. The premise of this sitcom is Jerry and his friends going through everyday life, discussing various quirky situations, to which many can relate to (especially if you live in New York City). The eccentric personalities of the offbeat characters who make up Jerry’s social circle contribute to the fun. That’s it in a nutshell and, damn, reliving these episodes, what an incredible ride it was and I can appreciate it a lot more than I did when it originally aired.

The Problem with John Stewart (AppleTV+) – I feel like we’ve all been waiting for it and it’s finally here as The Daily Show originator and beloved host John Stewart returns with a brand new show without any tether or constraint as he has the freedom of the AppleTV+ platform. The series is less comedy and more Stewart tackling issues that affect Americans the most, with Stewart in discussion with the people who are impacted by each issue, as well as those who have a hand in creating the impact and, together, they will discuss tangible steps that can lead to a solutionary path forward. This may not be the kind of return you’re looking for and, honestly, if you want that I think Trevor Noah is doing a great job with The Daily Show. This is something needed, something cathartic and something Stewart needed to do with the cloud that he had. This is special television right here.

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