Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

No Time To Die – It feels like we’ve been waiting forever to see Daniel Craig’s swan song as cinema’s most famous super spy and now it is here and it looks glorious. There’s a lot to make up for as the last installment, Sam Mendes’ Spectre, was a complete and utter disappointment that blew the great casting of Christophe Waltz as Blofeld and gave us a lacklustre paint by numbers action film instead of the Bond that had been set up for us in Skyfall. At least he’s back for another go as the most iconic Bond villain and it is now helmed by a filmmaker with a perfect record, True Detective’s Cary Fukunaga. The story picks up with Bond having left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help but the mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology, played by Rami Malek in a role that I’m pretty sure is Dr. No. The trailers look awesome for this and at a runtime of close to three hours< I really hope it is jam-packed with breathtaking moments.

There’s Someone Inside Your House – This is a movie I have been looking forward to ever since it was announced and it was just because it comes from director Patrick Brice, the guy who made the Creep movies for Netflix, two delicious little fright fests that people should watch this month. Honestly, I feel like this new teen slasher film would fit great with a marathoning of the new Fear Street trilogy so keep that in mind to give yourself a solid Halloween this year. Based on a novel by Stephanie Perkins, the story follows the graduating class at Osborne High who are being targeted by a masked assailant, intent on exposing the darkest secret of each victim, and only a group of misfit outsiders can stop the killings, so it’s kind of like Fear Street in that sense. I love the aesthetic of the killer wearing masks modelled after the victims’ faces which gives it a stylish edge in my opinion and the reveal might be a bit telegraphed but it is still a satisfying conclusion and the cinematography is great.

Night Raiders – As far as Canadian films go, this one is sitting at the top of my anticipated watches of the year and not just because it is a notable Indigenous made production but purely based on the involvement of lead actress Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers who blew me away in Jeff Barnaby’s zombie thriller Blood Quantum as well as writing, directing and starring in her first narrative feature The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open which is must-see for anyone and everyone. This new film is a sci-fi, written and directed by Danis Goulet in her feature film debut, set in 2043 with a military occupation that controls disenfranchised cities in post-war North America. The main thread follows a desperate Cree woman who joins an underground band of vigilantes to infiltrate a State children’s academy and get her daughter back. A female-driven dystopian drama about resilience, courage and love, this movie looks like an intense piece of cinema that brings the indigenous voice to a deep genre story.

Defining Moments – Burt Reynolds was a legend no matter how you feel about him. A guy that was a sex symbol in the seventies and a badass that took no crap from anyone for his entire life. When we lost him a few years back he has so much unreleased work because, unfortunately, he had done a lot of lower budget work as the man worked up until he died. This is the final film of his, a story of eight very different people who are at a crossroads in life and must make decisions that will forever change who they are. Jack must decide to spend the rest of his life with his girlfriend Terri. Marina must reconnect with her ageing father. Laurel must embrace her new pregnancy and come to terms with her father’s early Alzheimer’s, and Dave must learn why life is worth living. Burt plays the father suffering from Alzheimer’s and it feels bittersweet because this is a final performance where we will remember this and not the natural causes that he went out on. Again, love him or hate him, he went out on his shield.

Summertime – Carlos López Estrada is a director that has had a hell of a diverse filmmaking career already. I first saw his work as the phenomenal tale of Oakland gentrification with Daveed Diggs and Raphael Casal’s Blindspotting, which was one of my favourite movies that year. Already this year he did the incredibly gorgeous Disney animated film Raya And The Last Dragon and now his film from last year finally gets its time to shine. This film is another dagger into the reality of society, set over a hot summer day in Los Angeles, following the lives of twenty-five young Angelenos as they intersect. A skating guitarist, a tagger, two wannabe rappers, an exasperated fast-food worker, a limo driver-they all weave in and out of each other’s stories and through the poetry they express life, love, heartache, family, home, and fear. Although, one of them has simple goals in life and just wants to find someplace that still serves good cheeseburgers. This is another fantastic film from Estrada and without hugely notable stars in this, weaves and crafts a narrative that bonds you to each of the characters. This is one special filmmaker.

The Rescue – It’s documentary time, so listen up because it’s time to learn, feel and take something away from some hard-hitting film. This one also got a recent boost from Moonlight filmmaker Barry Jenkins who called it must see. The film chronicles the enthralling, against-all-odds story that transfixed the world in 2018, the daring rescue of twelve boys and their coach from deep inside a flooded cave in northern Thailand. Using a wealth of never-before-seen material and exclusive interviews, filmmaking duo E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the geniuses being Free Solo and Meru, keep viewers on the edge of their seats as they bring alive one of the most perilous and extraordinary rescues in modern times, shining a light on the high-risk world of cave diving, the astounding courage and compassion of the rescuers, and the shared humanity of the international community that united to save the boys. This is another incredible piece of work from two documentarians who bring amazing insight into all of their projects.

V/H/S/ 94 – Nothing gets me going more than a cool anthology movie and especially one in the horror department. This series has been going for a little bit as we’ve gotten two releases then a sort of spin-off called Viral, a short television series and now this throwback to when the VHS format was in high gear and we all got frustrated with tracking. The main story revolves around a police S.W.A.T. team that investigates a mysterious VHS tape and discovers a sinister cult that has pre-recorded material that uncovers a nightmarish conspiracy. The stories within are helmed by three interesting filmmakers like newcomer Chloe Okuno, rising star Ryan Prows and current horror favourite Simon Barrett so, working in the short film format, this could be another cool collection of chilling little stories.

Blu-Ray:

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 the most fun is pointing all of them out because I even saw A Clockwork Orange in the crowd which is kind of inappropriate. After all, the result is a soulless dragging of many Warner Bros intellectual properties with no other weight than just showing them off and doing nothing with them. This could have easily been missed in my viewings and I wouldn’t have thought more of it.

Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions – The original film to this horror sequel was 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 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.

Six Minutes To Midnight – This is a slight Bond connection here with a former M taking center stage in this new historical-based drama as Dame Judi Dench and the great Eddie Izzard have a little piece of World War II-centric story to tell you. Set in the summer of 1939, the story follows the influential families in Nazi Germany who have sent their daughters to a finishing school in an English seaside town to learn the language and be ambassadors for a future looking National Socialist. A teacher there sees what is coming and is trying to raise the alarm, predicting the horrifying future, but the authorities believe he is the problem. This movie plays out interestingly at first but then the story starts to slide in an unbelievable direction, causing me to frantically look up the real story to fact check and, lo and behold, this is a completely fabricated plot. That kind of thing bothers me as there are so many real tales in this time and made-up ones feel unnecessary in my opinion. It is great to see Izzard and Dench on screen together though.

Broken Diamonds – Oh no. Not another Ben Platt movie, I don’t know if I can take it. The good news is Platt isn’t playing a teenager and it comes from Peter Sattler who did the phenomenal Kristen Stewart drama Camp X-Ray, which gives it a bit of an immediate boost. The story has Platt as a twenty-something writer who, in the wake of his father’s death, sees his dream of moving to Paris put in jeopardy when he’s forced to temporarily take in his wildly unpredictable, mentally ill sister, played by Mistress America’s standout stat Lola Kirke. Let’s just say that the Dear Evan Hansen actor only redeems himself a small amount with a movie that sometimes hits with its dark comedy and handling of mental illness but nothing sticks around enough to be memorable and at the end, it felt very dime a dozen for damaged guy dramedy films.

Fried Barry – Leave it to South Africa to make the most twisted alien odyssey that still manages to channel some of the sweetest-hearted moments from Amblin Entertainment like classics of the eighties and make you feel sort of dirty for connecting them. This is exactly what writer and director Ryan Kruger does with this insane body possession sci-fi horror, his feature-length debut and a statement maker if there ever was one. The story is pretty simple at its core, following Barry, a drug-addled, abusive bastard who, after yet another bender, is abducted by aliens and takes a backseat as one of the visitors assumes control of his body and takes it for a joyride through Cape Town. What follows is an onslaught of drugs, sex and violence as extraterrestrial tourist enters the weird and foreign world of humankind. This movie is insane and after a quick introduction of the characters, grabs you by the collar and directs you on an unpredictable journey with the oddest of drivers in actor Gary Green who was chosen for his unique look. The brilliant crosscutting gave me Edgar Wright comparisons but Kruger is looking at grand pictures here and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Night Of The Animated Dead – As we are in the beginnings of October it’s cool to see this cartoon reimagining of a horror classic that also gets a little chance to expand on some of the violence and gore that the time and technology limited when one of the original masters of the genre, George A. Romero first told us this story in 1968. As in the original, the film follows siblings Barbara and Johnny as they visit their father’s grave in a remote cemetery in Pennsylvania when they are suddenly set upon by zombies. Barbara flees and takes refuge in an abandoned farmhouse along with stranded motorist Ben and four local survivors found hiding in the cellar. Together, the group must fight to stay alive against the oncoming horde of zombies while also confronting their fears and prejudices in a movie that never loses the substance of what is at heart or, in this case, the brain meat of the message. What I could have used was a better animation style as this felt a little cheap and underdone, like it was driven to be a forgotten direct to blu-ray title. At the end of the day though, nothing will tarnish the lustre that this story contains.

Universal Classic Monsters 4K – Usually Shane gets a tad exasperated with my long list of horror films I bring to the show but these are absolute classics and it says so in the title. If it wasn’t for these four iconic movie creatures we wouldn’t have the films we have today and I’m not just talking about the horror genre. This set, bringing every film to the high definition platform of 4K, has all four of the startings to the most famous movie monsters with Bela Legosi’s Dracula, Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein’s Monster, Claude Rains’ Invisible Man and Lon Chaney’s Wolfman. These are films I can even show my nine-year-old, who hates horror but is pretty fascinated by the origins of it. This is a damn cool set, I think.

The Nevers: Season 1 Part 1 – This new HBO series already leaves a bad taste in my mouth as it was shepherded to the television screen by the former nerd messiah and current Hollywood pariah Joss Whedon and episode one has the markings of him all over it which, up until Justice League, wasn’t a bad thing. Hell, we used to celebrate it! How times have changed. The series is set during the last years of Queen Victoria’s reign in a London that is beset by the “touched” group of people, mostly women, who suddenly manifest abnormal abilities, some of them charming but some are very disturbing. Among them are Amalia True, a mysterious, quick-fisted widow, and Penance Adair, a brilliant young inventor. They are the champions of this new underclass, making a home for the Touched while fighting the forces of every malevolent force that crosses their path to make room for those whose history as we know has no place. I will say that I have hopes that the show will improve as the acting is great and the production value is stellar but the world-building is sluggish, disjointed and kind of nonsensical in moments.

Steve’s Blu-Ray & DVD Geekouts:

NCIS: Season 18 – I’m starting to lose any sort of time gauge on this show as season eighteen has rolled around now and it’s still a juggernaut for the old folks with no sign of slowing down? In this spin-off of J.A.G., as you all must know after almost twenty years of episodic television, Mark Harmon plays Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, the leader of the Major Case Response Team in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and rocks possibly the worst haircut in television. The latest season kicks off with a mystery as Gibbs disappeared at the end of season seventeen and, through the international intrigue and investigations, the show hit episode four hundred this season, a huge milestone. I seriously can’t believe the show is still going at full steam, those ratings must be big enough to keep them going well.

The Shawshank Redemption 4K – One of the greatest films ever made and probably the best Stephen King adaptation to date, this Frank Darabont-directed prison story finally makes its glorious debut on beautiful 4K. As a huge King fan, the author that got me heavily into reading, this is a story I read before I saw the movie and it will forever have a place in my heart as the most faithful translation I have ever seen. For those who have never had the privilege, the story chronicles the experiences of a formerly successful banker as a prisoner in the gloomy jailhouse of Shawshank after being found guilty of a crime he did not commit. Over the years, he retains hope of freedom and eventually gains the respect of his fellow inmates, especially longtime convict “Red” Redding, a black marketeer, and becomes influential within the prison. This movie is incredible and the performances from Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are the driving heartbeat of it that keeps you so engaged. This is such a special movie and now you can have it in its best possible format.

Mommie Dearest – This movie is a batshit film that goes to huge levels dramatically and all of this is even more insane when you realize that this is supposed to be a true story. Faye Dunaway turns in a role that has to be recognized in her career as a tent pole, playing the real-life diva and actress Joan Crawford. Based on a book written by her adopted daughter Christina Crawford, the film follows Joan as she decides to adopt children of her own to fill a void in her life, yet, her problems with alcohol, men, and the pressures of show business get in the way of her personal life, turning her into a mentally abusive wreck seen through the eyes of Christina and her brother Christopher, who unwillingly bore the burden of life that was unseen behind the closed doors of “The Most Beautiful House in Brentwood.” Dunaway’s performance in this film was so big and over the top that the bad reviews effectively derailed her career. She believes that she should have won an Oscar for it and to this day the mere mention of the film sends her into a rage and she refuses to talk about it. That is the ingredients for a cult classic.

Television:

On My Block: Season 4 (Netflix) – Deep within the catalogue of all the many Netflix original programming are shows that have been going on multiple seasons and have just flown under the radar in a large mainstream way. This is one of those shows and one that showcases some of the diversity that can be seen on the streaming service but I believe this might be the final season of it which may be bittersweet for anyone discovering it now. The series is a coming-of-age story about four bright, street-savvy friends navigating their way through high school in the gritty South Central Los Angeles while trying to get their friend out of a gang and navigating the battlefield of all types of relationships, friendships and those that turn into something more. The show got me with the writing as it features a couple of writers who found their footing here when they paired up with Awkward creator Lauren Iungerich who is excelling as a showrunner.

Muppets Haunted Mansion (Disney+) – If you have Muppets doing anything, well, I’m easily swayed to be on board and this is a full-on special so it has my attention. That said, I start to recognize the new voice of Kermit The Frog more and more as I watch newer Muppet productions and it does throw me off but the heart is still all there for sure. This special borrows a little bit from the Muppets now being owned by Disney and has Gonzo being challenged to spend one full night in the infamous Haunted Mansion. Simple and effective, this special has all of your favourite Muppets plus Will Arnett, Danny Trejo, the late Ed Asner in a final performance and more. Let’s face it, even if I said it was awful, you’d watch it anyway because it’s the Muppets. I get it.

The Walking Dead World Beyond: Season 2 (AMC) – The first season of this second Walking Dead spin-off arrived on blu-ray a couple of months ago, just as the final season of the original series has been gearing up to close the first television bloodline of a now-massive entity and this one has a different vibe to it as it seems to combine the themes of Lord Of The Flies a little bit with the shambling flesh, brain and entrail eating ghouls we are oh so familiar with these days. Featuring Nico Tortorella from Scream 4, this series focuses on the first generation to grow up during the zombie apocalypse, centred around a trio of characters and judging by the trailer it looks suspenseful and will carve a new side in this new zombie lore. So far it’s great, though not as good as Fear The Walking Dead but I will continue to immerse myself in Robert Kirkman’s imagination as season two is on the horizon and the first ends with such a great cliffhanger. Of course, with Kirkman behind it, I will say that it’s not for the faint of heart at all.

Escape The Undertaker (Netflix) – This one is really simple so I won’t spend too much time describing it. The WWE signed a deal with Netflix to produce content and so far we have gotten a now-cancelled sitcom with The Big Show, a family film about a magical luchador mask and this new interactive Halloween special. The story has you playing as the eleven-time tag team champion team The New Day as they go through the Undertaker’s mansion to find his mysterious urn to add it to their Power of Positivity. Yeah, it will only appeal to wrestling fans and only the st decade current fans at that. I know where I stand on this.

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