Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Dune – It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for this Denis Villeneuve take on a Frank Herbert-written epic that I have read, as well as all the sequel books that follow. This means I’m fully in the know of a complex story that David Lynch had issues bringing to the screen in the mid-eighties, but did an interesting job, and a series of Sci-Fi Channel movies that were pretty solid but only really targeted at the fans. The gist of this movie’s synopsis is it tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence-a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential-only those who can conquer their fear will survive. The cast is big, with Timothee Chalamet leading the way with Zendaya playing his romantic lead and the surrounding cast of Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Fergusson, Jason Momoa, Dave Batista and Stellan Skarsgaard to fill out this science fiction epic. My excitement is at fever pitch, even with the so-so reviews I’ve seen so far.

Ron’s Gone Wrong – Disney brings their next computer-animated feature film to the big screen and I have to say that the effectiveness of the non-Pixar works that they have released, which include Wreck-It Ralph, Moana and Raya And The Last Dragon, has me very excited for this one. The voice cast, which includes Luca’s Jack Dylan Grazer, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms and Olivia Colman, have me really looking forward to a fun and funny film and the premise just seems like something that will deliver. It is the story of Barney, a socially awkward middle-schooler and Ron, his new walking, talking, digitally connected device, which is supposed to be his ‘Best Friend out of the Box’ but unfortunately, he came out of his packaging defective. The trailer is adorable and absolutely hilarious so I’m hoping all of the good parts weren’t crammed into the ads for it and it pans out as a feature idea.

The French Dispatch – We have been waiting a long time for the next Wes Anderson film, due to the shutdown caused by the pandemic, and even more since the newest live-action story from the idiosyncratic filmmaker as his last feature in this regard was the Academy Award-winning Grand Budapest Hotel in 2014. Again boasting a huge cast that has Timothee Chalamet, in his second film this week, Léa Seydoux, Christophe Waltz, Jeffrey Wright and Elisabeth Moss making their Anderson debut alongside staples like Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson and Bill Murray, this is another of the most anticipated for me. In a nutshell, the film is a love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional twentieth-century French city that brings to life a collection of stories published in “The French Dispatch Magazine”. The movie has been described as “quintessentially Anderson” which illustrates to me that I’m going to love it so if you’re a fan of this very original storyteller’s work then you will be into this one as well.

Night Teeth – With a terrible title like this, I really wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into with this Netflix-produced horror thriller but it is a vampire flick and we are mid-October so why the hell not? I was even letting the fact that the credits said “and Megan Fox” because Machine Gun Goofball wasn’t in it and she appears only for one quick scene. The film follows a college student who fills in for his older brother as a nighttime chauffeur and his night consist of picking up two mysterious women for a night of party-hopping across LA. When he uncovers their bloodthirsty nature, their dangerous, shadowy underworld and their plans to shake it to the ground in a series of city-wide stops, he must fight to stay alive and see the morning sun. This movie is corny, underwritten and absolutely dull and boring in many spots throughout. Bumblebee star Jorge Lendeborg Jr. doesn’t appear to have the charisma to hold your interest or the script has betrayed his talent because, either way, this was pretty painful to get through and that ending really filled me with all sorts of regrets.

Jackass Forever – What can I really say about this one in a broad sense because I feel like the target market knows exactly who they are. As a fan of the Bam Margera led CKY series and the original MTV produced Jackass series, I was into all of these movies as well and as I’ve gotten older the appeal is still there in a nostalgic sense but I am ready for it to come to an end, which I believe is the goal of this one as the tagline says that eleven years after the last movie it’s time for finality. Again, not much of a descriptor other than these guys go through insane stunts and pranks, just like always, and it looks like someone tricks Machine Gun Kelly, which I am so here for. Those who know will love it and those who don’t will stay away. Simple as that.

The Capote Tapes – Just seeing the name Capote gives me flashbacks to fifteen years ago and being a video store clerk as two competing Truman Capote films arrived on video, one featuring Toby Jones in the role and the other was an Academy Award-winning turn from Philip Seymour Hoffman. This film is not a dramatic recreation of his In Cold Blood writing process though and instead is a documentary that gets deeper into the man’s psyche than any narrative film could. Using the tapes, animation, and new on-camera interviews with people who knew him, this film explores the impact of Capote’s explosive unfinished novel “Answered Prayers”, something I knew nothing about. It was meant to be Truman Capote’s greatest masterpiece, an epic portrait of New York’s glittering jet-set society but, instead, it sparked the downfall of the iconic author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood. As far as documentaries go, I was totally intrigued by this film as the man himself was a bigger-than-life being who lived his life without apology which fascinates me, given the time and place he lived in.

Christmas At Cattle Hill – Now, this film is both a testament to how much I love my kid and my dedication to my reviewing craft because, to be quite honest, it is an animated Scandinavian Christmas movie with a terrible overdubbing and it was excruciating on my soul. Okay, maybe that was pretty melodramatic but I really was feeling the minutes of my life falling through the hourglass of time as this film slowly ticked by. Originally titled Jul Pa Kutoppen, something I don’t want to pronounce, the story follows Klara the Calf, excited to spend her first Christmas on Cattle Hill with her father but when they arrive at the farm, she is disappointed to see he has not attempted to decorate for the holidays. When her father is unexpectedly called away for work, Klara sees it as an opportunity to make Cattle Hill a Christmas paradise with the help of the cheeky Christmas elf who lives on the farm, but as Klara finds out it is about being together at Christmas which is the most important. Yes, we can’t have a holiday film without the main moral being “you forgot about the spirit involved” because if it isn’t present, does it count? This movie is not at all good for any sentient adult but the kids will love the Christmas flavour. That said, isn’t it way too early for holiday movies?

Blu-Ray:

Snake Eyes – It’s been a bit of a tough go for the IP of G.I. Joe, known by fans for decades as the greatest American heroes, as the film versions, besides the animated one in the eighties, have all kind of flopped on the world stage in live-action form. There were cool elements in them like Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Cobra Commander which never got fully realized and the inclusion of box office Viagra The Rock as Roadblock in the sequel but nothing fully came together to make an awesome franchise. They’re now going back to the origins of this new film that focuses on the fan-favourite of Snake Eyes, a tenacious loner who is welcomed into an ancient Japanese clan called the Arashikage after saving the life of their heir apparent. After he arrives, the Arashikage teaches Snake Eyes the ways of the ninja warrior while also providing something he’s been longing for, a place to call home. Unfortunately, when secrets from his past are revealed, Snake Eyes’ honour and allegiance will be tested as he turns to fight against those who had taken him in. Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding takes the title role of this film that is supposed to have him go silent and never reveal his face again by the conclusion of this film and doesn’t. Instead, they try to ensure a follow-up movie that will never happen as this movie has really nothing going for it and even bobbles the action sequences that are confusing, close-up and devoid of any martial arts coherence whatsoever. What an absolute disappointment this reboot turned into and they even totally wasted the inclusion of Samara Weaving’s Scarlett.

Old – After the fizzling third act of his Unbreakable trilogy with the slightly underwhelming Glass, the trickster and twisty filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan returns with a film that looks like straight-up horror and the film looks so deeply disturbing and equally intriguing. Of course, this movie is all contingent on if Night can keep the story going but the cast is really solid with Gael Garcia Bernal, Rufus Sewell, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, Abbey Lee and more so I feel a hit here. The story is about a family on a tropical holiday who discover that the secluded beach where they are relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly reducing their entire lives into a single day. Guess what? M. Night can’t even keep it going from the get-go as this script is one of the most frustrating pieces of garbage I’ve had to sit through this year. Absolutely no one talks like this and it feels like everyone is repeating their name and occupation throughout the first half of the movie. The elements that form the general idea are pretty cool and I liked some of the cinematography but everything else conspired to make me hate the entire duration of the movie. Shyamalan is on a downward skid right now and it’s not pretty.

Needle In A Timestack – Usually when you see an Academy Award-winning writer’s name attached to a movie you build a little bit of interest, based on it being the works of an internationally renowned creator but beyond that, with this title, I thought it might be a time travel story and, lo and behold, it is. The concerning thing is John Ridley, who both writes and directs this fantasy drama, hasn’t had anything of interest theatrically since 12 Years A Slave and I guarantee he wants to forget Ben-Hur. The story follows Nick and Janine (Oscar® nominees Leslie Odom, Jr. and Cynthia Erivo), a married couple who live in marital bliss until Janine’s ex-husband (Orlando Bloom) warps time to try to tear them apart using Nick’s college girlfriend (Frieda Pinto). As Nick’s memories and reality disappear, he must decide what he’s willing to sacrifice in order to hold onto or let go of everything he loves. I am a total sucker for a time warp film but even with great performances featured in it the movie never takes advantage of that sweet little sci-fi twist and it all ends up being mediocre or worse. The tension is non-existent, the pacing makes it feel overly long and I just keep begging for directors to use Erivo and Odom Jr. properly.

No Man Of God – It feels like there are so many different films and documentaries made about serial killer Ted Bundy at different times during his killing spree or arrest, so much so that it’s a wonder if anything new can come out of this chilling figure. Well, it turns out there is still a little bit to wring out of the story as this new film tries to do exactly that, using Lord Of The Rings actor Elijah Wood and The Marvelous Ms. Maisel’s Luke Kirby in two of the best performances this year. The film follows FBI analyst Bill Hagmaier who is given unprecedented access to Ted Bundy through a series of interviews as he sits on death row, awaiting his execution, in the hopes of understanding the psychology of the serial killer and providing closure for the victim’s families. As Hagmaier delves into Bundy’s dark and twisted mind, a strange and complicated relationship develops that neither man expected. This movie absolutely floored me, not with any new information on Bundy but simply the performances put forth. I already loved Wood but Kirby’s chameleon-like ability is something that should be celebrated.

The Survivalist – Oh no, Jonathan Rhys Meyers is back for another poorly thought out career decision and it seems that he’s dragged a two-time Oscar nominee into it as John Malkovich co-stars. Malkovich may be the biggest draw to this film as writer Matthew Rogers is a newbie to the feature film game and Joe Keeyes hasn’t made anything notable yet, although he has worked with his critically acclaimed supporting star before. The story is set a year and a half after the fall of civilization due to a viral outbreak, which is too familiar for my liking, following a former FBI agent who is forced to protect a young woman immune to the disease from a dangerous gang leader hunting her. Despite the efforts of the actors, which includes Happy Death Day’s Ruby Modine, nothing about this movie fully comes together to be anything original or even interesting. Ben isn’t a good enough character to get behind and the white knight valour of his drive seems contrived. I like seeing Meyers utilized but he can’t seem to find something that sticks in our brain.

Injustice – Something I always look forward to, being teamed up with Warner Bros. for their animated home releases, is receiving all of the DC Animated movies as they are the absolute pinnacle of comic book adaptations. This new film also has the added fun of being based on a video game that I love which, not ironically, also has a comic book of its own. It takes place on an alternate Earth, as the Joker tricks Superman into killing Lois Lane which causes a rampage in the hero. Superman decides to take control of Earth with an omnipotent martial rule and Batman and his allies will have to attempt to stop him by any means necessary as heroes start dying left and right. I’m going to say it now, this is probably the worst of the DC animated library and I thoroughly hated it. The animation was lacklustre and wooden, the usually impeccable casting was bland and everything felt incredibly generic against the backdrop of what this studio has already done. With a few new releases on the horizon for the DC Comics animated films, it’d probably be best to forget about this one.

Crime Story – When you think of a title like this, Richard Dreyfuss is probably not the first name that would pop into your head but here we are with a gritty thriller starring him and Mira Sorvino. With that in mind but with a pretty inexperienced writer and director, we at least get to see the veteran actor play in a different sandbox this late in his career and get some movie blood on his hands. The story has him as an ex-mob boss suffering from cancer who is targeted in a home robbery which sends him on a deadly rampage of vengeance that puts his family at more risk. As dull and unoriginal as this movie largely comes across, Dreyfuss is the anchor that holds your interest as his simmering intensity leaps off the screen even with a bad script. The movie only clocks in at just over an hour and a half but it felt like it had some room to make more of the heavier moments work but sort of leaving them in the dust of mediocrity. Not a lot to redeem this one.

The Old Ways – This little horror flick snuck its way onto Netflix a while back and really didn’t raise any awareness for itself but now that it is on home release and I got my hands on it, it has me wondering why not because I absolutely loved it. The film comes from director Christopher Alender who, up until this point, was known to me as the guy who did The Muppets Now series for Disney+ but now is this interesting eye for a new vision in the horror genre. The film follows Cristina, a journalist of Mexican origin, who travels to her ancestral home in Veracruz to investigate a story of sorcery and healing but when she arrives there, she is kidnapped by a group of locals who claim she’s the devil incarnate. This movie is at its heart a possession film but it has the wherewithal to set up its characters well in the first act so you really have deeper care for Cristina and the challenges she faces and the demise she may or may not be hurtling towards. It also has some really dark humour to it that honestly caught me off guard ad drew me into the script even more. This film is a total surprise and I hope more and more people pick up on it.

Ratcatcher – Got to love Criterion for bringing the smaller films that we never had the chance to see in a widely accessible format which generally includes the first works of, now, very established filmmakers and that’s what we have here. Lynne Ramsey is a gifted and thoughtful storyteller that has made absolutely unforgettable cinema like the Tilda Swinton chiller We Need To Talk About Kevin and the simmering intensity of You Were Never Really Here with Joaquin Phoenix but this is where it all started. This film is what I like to call the humble Harmony Korine/Gummo beginnings as the story follows a naïve young boy who navigates the dirty squalid streets of 1973 Glasgow and the poor youth around him. This film is a fascinating story of a sliver of fascinating timing in a coming of age tale, told against the backdrop of a brutal garbage strike, with trash flying through the air in a way that would make that American Beauty kid cry. Ramsey had established herself as a powerful voice in cinema prior to the year 2000 and definitely before the first film I saw of hers, Morvern Callar. I feel educated on that now.

Superman And Lois: Season 1 – With Arrow ending its run almost two years ago and Black Lightning and Supergirl both calling it quits this year, I was really surprised to see that we were getting a new Superman series which is actually a spin-off from his cousin Kara-El’s show. With Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch sticking to their titular DC universe roles, the world the mega-producer Greg Berlanti has crafted continues on its path with this show that follows the world’s most famous superhero and comic books’ most famous journalist as they deal with all the stress, pressures, and complexities that come with being working parents in today’s society. Oh, did I not mention that they had a super baby? Well, I guess you should have boned up on Supergirl before starting this one which is not me mocking you, just a real prerequisite to actually being able to enjoy this because following it would be pretty easy. I’m just happy for this to erase Dean Cain from my mind because that dude is a real waste of space these days.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Survive The Game – Bruce Willis is back on your home release shelf again and, if you go by his expression on the cover, he’s bored as hell in the process too. He also returns to reteam with One Tree Hill alumnus Chad Michael Murray for his second movie with two more on the horizon with the same director as this one, James Cullen Bressack. This action thriller follows Willis as a veteran cop who is injured in a drug bust gone wrong causing his partner to pursue the two criminals who shot him to a remote farm owned by a troubled vet, played by Murray. As the two try to plot their defence, more of the gang arrives, along with the wounded partner, and, outnumbered, the three heroes must use stealth, smarts and marksmanship to take down the drug-dealing mob. As expected, this film was all sorts of terrible and it lets you know how bad it is from the start. Willis has ceased to care about anything he does for an unestablished name and it has to be frustrating for a filmmaker. He also seems to find ways of lessening the workload for him by only appearing sporadically in films he is top-billed in. I don’t know if I’m annoyed or impressed by that cunning ability.

Television:

Inside Job (Netflix) – After the critically well-received and kind of cult hit of Gravity Falls, a kids series that picked up a large adult following which grows every day, everyone was wondering what creator Alex Hirsch would do next. Now, after signing a deal with Netflix, we know what his follow-up is and it feels like a show fueled by the headlines of at least the last five years. The show follows anti-social genius Reagan Ridley and her dysfunctional team who work for Cognito Inc. as employees of the Deep State where conspiracies aren’t just theories they’re fact and keeping them a secret is a full-time job. Even in a workplace filled with reptilian shapeshifters and psychic mushrooms, she’s seen as the odd one out for believing the world could be a better place and she could be responsible for it, if only she could manage her unhinged, manifesto-writing father, her irresponsible coworkers, and finally snag the promotion she’s been dreaming about. This show is a bit slow going but Lizzy Caplan is really funny as Reagan’s voice and Christian Slater being cast as her dad is kind of a stroke of genius. My progression through the show is slow going but still enjoyable.

Locke & Key: Season 2 (Netflix) – One of my favourite modern comic series ever, a little piece of haunted mystery from the minds of Stephen King’s son Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez, this show made its way onto Netflix after a long and rocky road of an adaptation process and totally floored me with being a totally original show as well. The story follows three siblings who move into their ancestral estate after their father’s murder and discover their new home has magical keys that must be used in their stand against an evil creature who wants the keys and their powers. Knowing the endgame of the comic book, I am so excited to see the progression of the live-action telling will bring this story as it has already deviated a bit. I think it has already grabbed a pretty sizeable audience and will continue to do so, especially with all the people who have finished Midnight Mass and want to keep things in sort of the same vein.

Adventure Beast (Netflix) – This is such a weirdly chaotic but soft-spoken little animated comedy that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. The good thing is the episodes are short, at a run time of fifteen minutes per episode and very reminiscent of the Adult Swim original programming. The show comes from co-creators Mark Gravas and writer, former paratrooper, adventurer, strongman, television presenter, and the world’s highest-selling humorist Bradley Trevor Grieve who takes center stage in animated form as the leader of this show. He plays himself, a brave zoologist, who, along with his spunky niece and anxious assistant, explore the world while saving wild beasts at the same time. This show kind of charmed me by having zany misadventures all the while imparting weird and wonderful nature factoids that were sometimes absolutely fascinating. It’s really what kept me going through each episode.

Invasion (AppleTV+) – More sci-fi programming for AppleTV on the heels of Foundation becoming a huge hit and earning a second season renewal and I’m sure the creators of this show, X-Men producer Simon Kinberg and Hunters showrunner David Weil, would love to piggyback on that. The story takes place in real-time through the eyes of five ordinary people across the globe as they struggle to make sense of the chaos unravelling around them when Earth is visited by an alien species that threatens humanity’s existence. I’m always into some mysterious sci-fi and the world destruction angle is all too intriguing so I have taken in the first episode and quickly saw that Golshifteh Farahani and Sam Neill were series regulars. Right there, I was sold on this. I’m a man of simple “I like that person” tastes sometimes, what can I say.

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