Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

The Last Duel – Given that masterful director Ridley Scott has probably made just as many bad movies as he has good ones over his storied career, I’m inclined to be a bit standoffish about this new medieval film and with the trailer for his next film after, House Of Gucci, looking borderline awful, it worries me even more. That said, he did make the incredible Kingdom Of Heaven, the descriptor is reserved for the director’s cut only, and this is the sole reason that I feel any sort of excitement for this one besides the cast. Starring Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer and Ben Affleck, the film is based on a true story amid the Hundred Years War about France’s last sanctioned duel between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, two friends turned bitter rivals. Carrouges was a respected knight known for his bravery and skill on the battlefield and Le Gris was a Norman squire whose intelligence and eloquence make him one of the most admired nobles in the court. When Carrouges’ wife, Marguerite, is viciously assaulted by Le Gris, a charge he denies, she refuses to stay silent, stepping forward to accuse her attacker, an act of bravery and defiance that puts her life in jeopardy. The ensuing trial by combat, a gruelling duel to the death and I have to say the trailer is pretty damn intense but Affleck’s hair in it makes me laugh every time. I’m willing to put aside the absence of French accents aside to give this one a fair shake.

Halloween Kills – It’s the most wonderful time of the year, especially if you’re a horror fan because Halloween is the gift that keeps on giving and October is full of genre spoils for us including this franchise follow-up that we should have gotten last year. Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode, a badass survivor who is looking to eliminate some family baggage before it nabs her. Picking up minutes after Laurie, her daughter Karen and granddaughter Allyson left masked monster Michael Myers caged and burning in Laurie’s basement, Laurie is rushed to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, believing she finally killed her lifelong tormentor. But when Michael manages to free himself from Laurie’s trap, his ritual bloodbath resumes and, as Laurie fights her pain and prepares to defend herself against him, she inspires all of Haddonfield to rise up against their unstoppable monster. The Strode women join a group of other survivors of Michael’s first rampage who decide to take matters into their own hands, forming a vigilante mob that sets out to hunt Michael down, once and for all. That story sounds so killer and it all sets up the finale, Halloween Ends, which is said to be a definitive ending to the franchise. I know that my appetites are going to be more rampant when the credits hit for this middle piece, I’m ready for it.

Mass – Usually comedic actor and writer Fran Kranz makes a dramatic turn in this film, his debut as a director, and the buzz behind it is huge. It also helps that he has a damn good cast assembled for it that includes Jason Isaacs, character actress Ann Dowd and former Goonie Martha Plimpton. The film follows the meeting between two sets of parents, years after an unspeakable tragedy tore their lives apart. Agreeing to meet privately for a discussion to hopefully gain some closure, the story is one of grief, anger and acceptance by coming face-to-face with the ones who have been left behind in the aftermath. For a first feature, Kranz lands with such an emotional resonance that I felt like a truck had run me over and all I could do was sit in stunned silence. I still don’t know when I will be fully able to unpack all that I saw, it is that heavy.

I’m Your Man – Dan Stevens is an actor that I have such an aversion to as he has done so much incredible work in all different genres and variations. This is why I immediately gravitated towards this German film that also features a role with actress Sandra Huller who’s film Toni Erdmann is still one of my favourite European-made comedy dramas ever. Seriously, seek it out if you haven’t seen it or heard of it. This movie is an odd choice, a sci-fi romantic comedy with relationship science at its core. The story follows a scientist who accepts an offer to participate in an extraordinary experiment to obtain research funds for her studies. For three weeks she is required to live with Tom, a humanoid robot designed to be the perfect life partner for her, tailored to her character and needs. What results is a playful romance about relationships, love, and what it means to be human in the modern age in a film that is incredibly thought-provoking and original in every way. I started at the top of this raving about Stevens and Huller but it is lead actress Maren Eggert who stunned me in this, an absolute revelation of a star. This movie is such a hidden gem in my opinion.

The Velvet Underground – One of the most influential groups of all time and the conduit through which we got the idiosyncratic stylings of the incomparable Lou Reed and the wild Nico, it’s so cool that AppleTV+ has given us this deep look in documentary form. The film is a spotlight on a group that created a new sound that changed the world of music, cementing its place as one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most revered bands. It shows just how the group became a cultural touchstone representing a range of contradictions: the band is both of their time, yet timeless; literary yet realistic; rooted in high art and street culture. The film features in-depth interviews with the key players of that time combined with a treasure trove of never-before-seen performances and a rich collection of recordings, Warhol films, and other experimental art that creates an immersive experience into what founding member John Cale describes as the band’s creative ethos: “how to be elegant and how to be brutal.” Directed by acclaimed director Todd Haynes, this played directly into my love of music documentaries, classic music and bigger-than-life personalities and I loved every second of it.

Fever Dream – I have a pretty solid love for Chilean films as I have been stunned by some great ones like the works of Pablo Larrain, Sebastián Lelio and Sebastian Silva but the limited knowledge I had of director Claudia Llosa didn’t connect with me in her film Aloft with Jennifer Connolly. This one looked like a great second chance, a beautifully shot, Terrence Malick-like twisted experience into mystery and the descent into death. This movie is damn near impossible to describe on paper but follows two women and their kids who seem to be on a purgatorial transition to the next plane in one form or the other. The film is about parental protection, loss and letting go and seems to catch everything in the prism of a fantasy mystery in the mind of Llosa through the novella it was based on, The Rescue Distance, which is the name of the film in Spanish. I feel like this isn’t a recommendable film but it kind of captured my art film eye in the end. 

Blu-Ray:

Free Guy – It feels like we had been waiting a long time for this Ryan Reynolds video game-centric film to hit theatres and that’s really because it was supposed to come out more than a year ago and the first trailer for it was probably almost two years prior. The film was originally scheduled to release on July 3rd, 2020 but was delayed to December 11th, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic before being shelved indefinitely in November. After getting rescheduled another two times this Shawn Levy comedy has done its theatre run and is on home release for everyone to see and enjoy. It follows a bank teller who discovers he is a background player in an open-world video game who decides to become the hero of his own story when a user shows him the reality of his world. The movie did not at all suffer from building it up in our minds for two years and gave a happy and fun ride that plastered a smile on my face for the whole time. Reynolds is charming as always, Jodie Comer and Joe Keery are great and Taika Waititi damn near steals the movie as he usually does but this time in a villain role. This is such a fantastic movie and I highly recommend it.

The Green Knight – This was one of my most anticipated films of the year and holy hell did it ever deliver and, unbeknownst to me, it was a Christmas movie which the trailers do not let you know. I guess I have a new one to occupy the shelf with Die Hard. The film is a mesmerizing looking blood and sword epic art film from Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and A Ghost Story director David Lowery and the almost literally left my jaw on the floor at my local theatre after the credits and end credit stinger finish. Yes, it has one of those. Starring Academy Award nominee Dev Patel, Oscar winner Alicia Vikander and Joel Edgerton, the film is an epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend that tells the story of Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men. Gawain contends with ghosts, giants, thieves, and schemers in what becomes a deeper journey to define his character and prove his worth in the eyes of his family and kingdom by facing the ultimate challenger. This movie is easily my favourite movie of the year although I feel like it isn’t accessible for a mainstream audience. To be real on that, most of my favourites aren’t anyways.

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 Snake Girl And The Silver Haired Witch – Arrow Video is giving us a new collector’s edition for a classic piece of Japanese cinema that was nowhere near any North American theatres. Even more fascinating, this was an early comic book adaptation because it came from a horror manga series and even featured an early form of special visual effects that still look pretty cool now. The story is about two rival, shape-shifting sisters who are on less than good terms but when an evil creature threatens to destroy both of their existences they have to overlook their differences and join forces to battle it. This movie seems to transcend the time in which it was made, the late sixties and is a fun thrill ride that clocks in at less than an hour and a half. I have to think that the influence level of this film is huge.

The Haunting Of Bly Manor – With his first series based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Mike Flanagan proved once again that he is a horror director at the top of his game and the perfect fit for this series that took in many of Netflix subscribers. Now, we head into his next series that will be sure to give you nightmares just like Hill House did for me, shot in Vancouver, this series once again follows Henry Thomas’ character Henry, who hires a young American nanny to care for his orphaned niece and nephew who reside at Bly Manor with the chef Owen, groundskeeper Jamie and housekeeper, Mrs. Grose. Soon after arriving at the Bly estate, she begins to experience strange occurrences and a grim history starts to unravel. This series is full of emotion and atmosphere and it is really neat to see Flanagan pivoting off of Jackson’s classic into this version of The Turning Of The Screw. Also, like the first series, there are so many hidden ghosts to be spotted in this season, one of my favourite things about Hill House.

The Flash: Season 7 – Wow, it’s crazy to see the DC Comics television universe still alive and well after Arrow, the original kickstart to this small screen franchise, has been gone for a year now. This season is all about change too as two series regulars say goodbye and the dynamic shifts a little bit. The show picks up after last season’s cliffhanger which saw the brilliant and powerful Eva McCulloch victorious and still-at-large in Central City and Barry must regroup to stop her and bring back his missing wife. With help from the rest of Team Flash, Barry will ultimately defeat Mirror Monarch and reunite with Iris West-Allen but, in doing so, he’ll unleash two more devastating threats, one that could tear his marriage apart and another that will lay waste to Central City and change the future forever. I love this show and the depth of the characters and the care to the source material is next level.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

A Clockwork Orange 4K – My favourite film of all time, number one with a cockney bullet and an incredible adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel (which I have read) by the greatest cinematic master to ever grace the earth Stanly Kubrick, is nowhere in glorious 4K. Yes, this is the film responsible for my deep love of film and basically, the reason that I talk to all of you here and on the air every week so this is a pretty special film to bring to the blog this week. For those who don’t know this Malcolm McDowell-led film, it follows protagonist Alex DeLarge, an “ultraviolent” youth in a futuristic Britain. As with all luck, he eventually runs out and he’s arrested and convicted of murder and while in prison, Alex learns of an experimental program in which convicts are programmed to detest violence. If he goes through the program, his sentence will be reduced and he will be back on the streets sooner than expected but Alex’s ordeals are far from over once he hits the streets of Britain and his consequences come to implode what’s left of his world. This movie is pure perfection, always incredible looking and the 4K just adds so much more to it. This is like a sliver of pure gold to me and I couldn’t be more excited to possess it.

Inglourious Basterds 4K – This one was cool to receive as I already have it on blu-ray but I have become a bit obsessed with the even higher format of 4K, especially with modern shot films, as they seem to add a little bit more to the fun. This is a great one to try it out on, Quentin Tarantino’s one and only World War II action flick with that same great dialogue style with an incredible cast, all led by a commanding performance from Brad Pitt. For those unaware, the film is set in the first year of Germany’s occupation of France, following Pitt’s character of Allied officer Lieutenant Aldo Raine who assembles a team of Jewish soldiers to commit violent acts of retribution against the Nazis, including the taking of their scalps. He and his men join forces with Bridget von Hammersmark, a German actress and undercover agent, to bring down the leaders of the Third Reich and their fates converge with theatre owner Shosanna Dreyfus, who seeks to avenge the Nazis’ execution of her family. This is one of my favourites of Tarantino’s films and I’m even cool with him shifting history a bit and those who have seen the film know what I’m talking about.

Another 48 Hrs. – One of the originators of the buddy cop slash mismatched partners action comedies, I have such a deep place in my heart for all of these films that came out of eighties Hollywood cinema including the first film this Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy pairing. That said, I think the sequel is pretty damn solid and I was really happy to see it arrive in blu-ray form on my doorstep. The film picks up again with Nolte’s Jack Cates, who has been after an unidentified drug kingpin who calls himself the “Ice Man” for the last four years. Jack finds a picture that proves that the Ice Man has put a price on the head of Eddie Murphy’s Reggie Hammond, who is scheduled to be released from prison on the next day. Jack tries to convince Reggie to help him clear his name and find the Ice Man, but Reggie says he won’t help well, at first, but you know the drill. Action legend Walter Hill directed this film amid a hot streak of genre filmmaking and, although it is nowhere near perfect, this movie is still really entertaining and both stars have phenomenal chemistry. 

Oculus – We’re doing double duty this week when it comes to Mike Flanagan mentions because I just picked up this little beauty of a horror film for a great price and wanted to share it with everyone. This movie is always regarded as his debut feature when it was the film Absentia that kicked off this horror master’s career but this is a damn good one to remember. Starring Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Karen Gillan and Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff, the film follows adult siblings, Kaylie and Tim who are struggling to rebuild their relationship, still haunted by the violent demise of their parents ten years earlier. Kaylie suspects that their antique mirror, known as the Lasser Glass, is behind the tragedy as the seemingly harmless reflections contain a malevolent, supernatural force that infects the mind of anyone who gazes into it. As Kaylie gets closer to the truth, the siblings become caught in the mirror’s evil spell in a horror story that is so effective that it seemed to slip into my dreams after watching which was super creepy. If you haven’t seen this one, it’s a perfect choice for Halloween time.

Television:

The Babysitters Club: Season 2 (Netflix) – This series of books is so classic that I remember the original series sitting in my elementary school’s library and now my kid reads the revamped book series as I write this right now. She’s a total fan. She’s also a good source of information because I can tell you that the series so far is playing exactly how the book series outlines it to be so it is faithful to the source material. The story is pretty simple and follows a group of friends that form a business to babysit for families in their neighbourhood. There they have to contend with their new responsibilities, conflicting ideas, mature choices for their future and even competition claiming ideas as their own. The show is well done and the target audience seems to love it. I’m still trying to get over the fact that Alicia Silverstone plays the main character’s mom in this.

You: Season 3 (Netflix) – This creeper thriller gets another new season, proving the audience lust still is at a fever pitch, as Penn Badgley reprises his role as Joe Goldberg, a bookstore manager who you hate but can’t keep your eye off of. Now the question of season three is “How much further can Joe go for his version of love now that he’s found it?” and according to the star, this season, again, was tough to pull off without repeating themselves, and it’s a character he has a hard time playing as he is so massively unlikeable. Who knows? Maybe this is the season that fails to connect with the massive audience the first pulled in. I love that Joe was pretty unable to dupe his new love interest, played brilliantly by Victoria Pedretti who broke my heart in The Haunting Of Hill House, and she even added a new element to his trajectory which I can’t even begin to talk about for spoiler reasons.

Just Beyond (Disney+) – R.L. Stine has something new to chill you to the bone with and this comes on the heels of his seventy-second birthday which means that this dude has no room for slowing down his creative juices. As a big Fear Street reader and a guy that pushed his fair share of Goosebumps onto a younger audience, I’m all about taking in some new horror from a master. to the young adult audience. He, again, goes anthology-style because he’s damn good at it, and tells a series of journeys of supernatural self-discovery through the worlds of witches, aliens, ghosts, and alternate dimensions. Having gotten the chance to watch a few of these I have to say that your Halloween with the kids would be perfectly capped off with a viewing of one or two episodes of this before sending them to bed. It definitely will tickle their brains as it did mine.

Chucky (Showcase) – As an old-school fan of the Child’s Play series and especially when it went more horror comedy and just did away with all the rules, I have been looking forward to this new iteration of it in series form ever since it was announced. Even better, the show was created, written and run by the original guy behind it all, Don Mancini, so you know that everything is going to go just right for all you Chucky fans. In this TV series adaptation, a vintage Chucky doll turns up at a suburban yard sale, and an idyllic American town is thrown into chaos as a series of horrifying murders begin to expose the town’s hypocrisies and secrets. Meanwhile, the arrival of enemies and allies from Chucky’s past threatens to expose the truth behind the killings, as well as the demon doll’s untold origins as a seemingly ordinary child who somehow became this notorious monster. I have no idea if this all turned out for the multitude of fans out there but I do know that I will certainly be tuning in to gleefully watch the mayhem started.

Legends Of The Hidden Temple (The CW) – This is kind of a cool new reboot and it is especially cool for us Canadian kids who never got to experience the original Nickelodeon-made series. The show was the thing of epic memories that put kids during an Aztec jungle obstacle course to make their way to the finish for cash and prizes. Now the show has been supersized and stultified for its reboot and I’m happy because now I still have a chance to compete in it unless they are barring Canadians. Again. That said, I’d probably lose spectacularly but that’s all the fun I think.

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