Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Last Night In Soho – October is a damn good month for movies this year as we have yet another week that features one of my most anticipated films of the year and it happens to be one from a filmmaker who makes nothing but gold. Yes, Edgar Wright could be considered possibly my favourite current working writer and director who hasn’t let me down yet with a perfect track record and he already has a film that came out this year with his music-driven documentary, The Sparks Brothers. This puts him back into the narrative driver seat with a darker story about an aspiring fashion designer who is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer. The glamour is not all it appears to be and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something darker as she is increasingly in more and more danger of not returning to her world. The cast is stellar in this with The Queen’s Gambit’s Anya Taylor-Joy, Jojo Rabbit’s Thomasin Mackenzie and former Doctor Who Matt Smith and the editing, scope and music will guarantee to be top-notch as that is where Wright always excels. Buckle up because this one is going to get crazy.

Antlers – Guillermo del Toro returns to creep us out this Halloween but only from the writer’s chair as Hostiles and Out Of The Furnace director Scott Cooper helms this monstrous tale that, just from the trailer, has me swiftly onboard. It feels like this film was announced so long ago and, with the pandemic being the time suck it has been, I had completely forgotten that it was coming but I love how much gothic substance it seems to ooze. The story is set in an isolated Oregon town and follows a middle-school teacher and her sheriff brother who become embroiled with her enigmatic student whose dark secrets lead to terrifying encounters with a legendary ancestral creature who came before them. The advance reviews are interesting for this, some calling it an arthouse monster movie which has me salivating for it because it reminds me of Brian Bertino’s The Monster, a film that didn’t get enough love. Maybe this will be the same and become a deep genre favourite.

Army Of Thieves – I feel like I have to armour myself before I head into this review because the Zack Snyder army is brutal, unforgiving and very interested in everyone else’s opinions so I have to be careful here. That being the case, I’m pretty glad that this prequel for Army Of The Dead decided to focus on one of the more interesting characters but given his fate in the movie that follows, I’m confused as to why this wasn’t released first. The film focuses on German safecracker Ludwig Dieter but more on his origin story as an uber-fan named Sebastian who posts his love letters to safe creators on his YouTube channel. Through an international jewel thief that finds his videos, he is recruited into a group of aspiring thieves on a top-secret heist to unlock three legendary safes during the early stages of the zombie apocalypse. The film was directed by the lead actor Matthias Schweighöfer as well and he is the only thing that is keeping this paint by numbers action thriller alive alongside actress Nathalie Emmanuel who does marginally better genre films with the Fast And Furious movies. I didn’t hate this movie just really questioned its point for existing.

Hypnotic – After her stellar work for her husband, writer and director Mike Flanagan, in Hush, The Haunting Of Hill House and the recent Midnight Mass, Kate Siegel is one of my favourite genre actresses working right now and this new film has me interested just based on her being the lead. The film comes from directing duo Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote who’s the last film The Open House had a lot of promise to it then had a hard time keeping the tone right and sticking the landing. With Siegel on board, I have more faith in this story of a young woman seeking self-improvement who enlists the help of a renowned hypnotherapist but after a handful of intense sessions, she discovers unexpected and deadly consequences that spiral her life even more out of control. A strong trailer keeps my interest flowing in this horror story and I’m compelled by it being written by Richard D’Ovidio who did the Dark Castle remake of Thirteen Ghosts, a film that I loved in theatres and one that has a little cult love of its own over the years. I’m not expecting that level of insanity or even something like Malignant but something fun nonetheless.

A Mouthful Of Air – Without a big ad campaign or any trailers that I had seen leading up to now, Sony seems to be trying to sneak this Amanda Seyfried drama past us which seems kind of odd as it has a bit of a built-in audience with it. The film comes from writer Amy Koppelman whose book I Smile Back was adapted into a hell of a movie and now she makes her directorial debut with this. Seyfried plays bestselling children’s author Julie Davis who’s work’s main focus is for kids to unlock their fears, a piece of advice she hasn’t taken to heart herself. When her daughter is born, that trauma is brought to the fore, and with it, a crushing battle to survive and persevere for her family’s future. Koppelman manages to keep her first foray into filmmaking grounded enough and small enough to excel in a great character story, showing the groundwork she gave Sarah Silverman in I Smile Back wasn’t a one-time thing. The result is a raw and real performance from Amanda Seyfried and a film that gives hefty reasoning as to why it should be watched.

13 Minutes – I can’t lie, when I saw country music star Trace Adkins name top lining this new film I almost panned it as completely uninteresting as I hate country music that much. Sorry, it may be a possible character flaw but I’ve made peace with that. The fact that Thora Birch, Amy Smart, Anne Heche Peter Facinelli and Paz Vega brought me back into it as all these actors were enjoyable for me but have largely disappeared, save for the rare film like this. The film focuses on a very real and concerning thing for everyone in the world and distills it into the story about four families in a Heartland town who are tested in a single day when a tornado hits, forcing paths to cross and redefining the meaning of survival. As interesting as this story could be, the production value fails it out the gate because everything looks cheap and therefore corny which is a dagger of death in any disaster movie. It’s not even cheesy in a fun Sharknado way either and everyone in this movie is dreadful and I’m not sure that it could just be blamed on the writing. Nothing is redeeming about this one.

Snakehead – It feels like the career of Sung Kang has been kind of overshadowed by his involvement in the Fast & Furious series, which he joined when his friend Justin Lin got to helm Tokyo Drift. Even after the death of Han, he didn’t get to explore anything else movie-wise but we cheered like hell when Han was brought back for F9. Well, this is a little bit of showcasing of the actor I have enjoyed since Better Luck Tomorrow, playing a supporting role in a gritty tale of a Chinese immigrant who gets caught up in an international crime ring of human smuggling while attempting to make a better life for her family. The film is violent and dark with an almost depressing finale to it that will stick with you and that is definitely through the documentary-like closeness that the cinematography exhibits and I look forward to the next one from writer and director Evan Jackson Leong. This was quite an impressive narrative feature debut.

Blu-Ray:

The Suicide Squad – James Gunn jumped ship from Marvel temporarily when Twitter came out to attack him but the great thing is Warner Bros. and DC Comics snapped him up immediately to do a little course correction with a team that had so much potential and flopped badly The Suicide Squad. Well, he’s got some of the original players like the brilliantly cast Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Joel Kinneman as Rick Flagg, Viola Davis as the formidable Amanda Waller and more and adds his flavouring with Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn to surround the great new additions of Idris Elba and John Cena. This sequel follows supervillains Quinn, Bloodsport, Peacemaker and a collection of nutty cons at Belle Reve prison who reluctantly join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X as they are dropped off at the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese in a mission that could only be described as one-way. This movie rocks so hard, shlocky and gory in a way that shows off the foundation of Gunn’s career as a Troma Entertainment filmmaker, and is darkly hilarious, brash and unpredictable. Let’s just say that you shouldn’t form any attachments to any of the characters. That said, everyone kind of gets their moments to shine within the chaos.

Stillwater – Matt Damon thrillers still intrigue as he always picks stories that compel and make you think and this one is no different as it is based on a true story. The other thing that immediately grabs my attention about this film is Spotlight director Tom McCarty, who always seems to bring it in these high drama films, which makes me forgive him for making an Adam Sandler dud like The Cobbler. The story has Damon as unemployed roughneck Bill Baker who travels from Oklahoma to Marseille to visit his estranged daughter Allison that is imprisoned for a murder she claims she did not commit. Focusing on a new tip that could exonerate her, Allison presses Bill to engage her legal team and eager to prove his worth and regain his daughter’s trust, he takes matters into his own hands. Quickly roadblocked by language barriers, cultural differences, and a complicated legal system, he gets the help of a French actress and single mother who helps him navigate a path to his daughter’s freedom. The film is a great vehicle for Damon to show some of his worried dad chops and I thought it was a better than average story but I just wish that it steered away from the Amanda Knox comparisons in its marketing because the two are very different stories.

Don’t Breathe 2 – A few years after the breakout hit and original thriller from Evil Dead remake director Fede Alvarez blew our minds, his long-awaited follow up is now on our doorstep and even if Fede is taking a back seat in this one and producing it his fingerprints are all over it. Now, as far as I see, we don’t get the return of Jane Levy in this but we do get the awesome and formidable Stephen Lang reprising his role as the terrifying old blind man and the trailer gives me goosebumps. The film picks up with his character who has been hiding out for years in an isolated cabin and has taken in and raised a young girl who lost her parents in a house fire. Unfortunately for the perpetrators, their quiet existence is shattered when a group of kidnappers show up and take the girl, forcing the Blind Man to leave his haven to rescue her. I expect the same sort of shocking ultra-violence to permeate this film thoroughly but what I find interesting is that the Blind Man has been shifted in his role as the antagonist in the first movie and now is an almost anti-hero we root for in this one. Honestly, when I think about the original film the turkey baster scene always rises to the top so I hope there is just as memorable of a scene in this one.

On The Rocks – Sofia Coppola has returned during this odd year of movie delays with possibly my favourite movie this year and she brought Bill Murray back with her and I couldn’t be happier with it. The film stars Rashida Jones as a young mother who reconnects with her larger-than-life playboy father, played by Murray,  and they embark on a mission to see if her workaholic husband, played by Marlon Wayans, is having an affair. The chemistry between Jones and Murray, first displayed in the Netflix Christmas special A Very Murray Christmas, is so palpable that you just want them to star in absolutely everything together. The script is so snappy and fun, The film charms you in every moment and I would be perfectly content in watching this film every day for weeks on end, I loved it that much. This is a true gem of a movie and I highly recommend it.

New Order – Just the lead into this new thriller is utterly fascinating as it has almost a “High Rise” like the collapse of society to it which makes it fit into today’s overhanging feeling. A Mexican and French-produced drama that was originally conceived six years ago, this is a near-future dystopia that takes place amid a protest that rages in the streets while Marianne’s high society family prepares for her wedding. At first, only splatters of green paint and the appearance of Rolando, a former employee seeking emergency medical funds, intrude on the festivities but soon the party is unable to keep the reckoning at bay, and what follows is a swift disintegration of law and order defined first by class lines, then by disastrous government recapitulation. The reviews on this film are off the charts with so much praise being heaped on the excellent acting, cinematography and editing, I am salivating to get my eyes on it, personally. This film feels almost Kubrickian by comparison.

Dinner At Eight – I got a handful of Warner Archive this week and they are all classic from different eras and of varying genres as well. This movie kicks it off, a film with an incredible powerhouse cast that features the top stars of the thirties with John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Billie Burke, Jean Harlow and more. The story follows affluent couple Millicent and Oliver Jordan who throw a dinner for a handful of wealthy and well-off acquaintances, each of whom has much to reveal. Contends with financial woes and causing a lot of tension between the couple, the couple tries to keep their secrets from bubbling to the surface while mining for the dirt on everyone else. The film was remade in the late eighties for television and featured John Mahoney, Mrsha Mason and Charles Durning but this one here is the real deal, a great farce comedy.

Children Of The Damned – Let’s get spooky in the classic sense and we’re doing double duty in the Warner Archive department starting with this chiller. This one is cool because it is the precursor to Village Of TheDamned, a film that got remade in an almost comedic way by the Master Of Horror, John Carpenter. The story follows six impossibly intelligent children from all over the world with dangerous psychic powers that hide in a church in England after the military tries to experiment on them. Besieged, they warn the military to back off before unleashing the worst of their abilities and creating absolute carnage. Interestingly, this film is a sort of LGBTQ+ story in a way as actors Ian Hendry and Alan Badel play two flatmates in the film who were a gay couple. As it was made at a time when homosexuality was illegal in the United Kingdom, there could be no inference that they were anything other than platonic friends. Each country’s film histories are so rich so it’s interesting to hear of the old international filmmaking through titles like this.

Mary Stevens, M.D. – This reissue of classic 1933 drama is really interesting because the first time this was attempted for a re-release just three years later, it was denied, allegedly, based on its topics of marital infidelity and unwed motherhood.  The film was that forward-thinking at the time and tried to dispel a lot of societal issues that were barred from being on the silver screen by producers. The story follows Mary (Kay Francis) and Don (Lyle Talbot) who graduate from medical school together, and, while Mary has a crush on Don, he has eyes for only Lois (Thelma Todd), the daughter of a prominent politician. Mary devotes herself to her medical practice while Don wastes his talents in favour of booze and high society but when the two meet again sometime later, they have an affair, and Don promises to leave his wife. After Mary discovers she is pregnant and Don finds that divorce is not simple, tragedy occurs and this is where the film gets a little controversial. This movie is largely not talked about so it’s pretty fascinating that Warner Archive has stepped in and brought it to the masses again.

Eye Of The Devil – Some more classic horror to finish off my Warner Archive stuff this week and this one has some Halloween brilliance to it as it features a pre-Dr. Loomis Donald Pleasance well over a decade before he would take that iconic role. The rest of the cast is pretty great too with David Niven, Deborah Kerr and the sadly foreboding presence of Sharon Tate. The film is about vineyard owner Marquis Philippe de Montfaucon who is called back to his castle Bellenac because of another dry season. He asks his wife, Catherine de Montfaucon, and children to remain in Paris but they still come after him. and soon discovers that her husband is acting mysteriously and that his employees are following old pagan rituals that call for the life of the Marquis to save the crops. The film was helmed by storied genre filmmaker J. Lee Thompson who had to endure the firing of original star Kim Novak and protect Tate in her first role last the studio wanted to replace her constantly. These old Hollywood stories nestled within these productions are so interesting.

Deep Red 4K – Look, we can’t have a proper Halloween without the inclusion of Dario Argento in some capacity. I don’t make the rules, I just enforce them and follow them to a T. I will be the first to admit that this isn’t the best of his catalogue but it is dripping with blood, gore and his sinister and colourful style plus it has Goblin doing the music again and Arrow Video knows how much we need this right now and have presented it on 4K now. The film stars David Hemmings and Argento’s consistent collaborator and wife Daria Nicolodi and is about a jazz pianist and a wisecracking journalist who is pulled into a complex web of mystery after the former witnesses the brutal murder of a psychic. Getting to experience this at the Vancouver International Film Festival a couple of years back with Goblin there to play the live score, I formed a new appreciation of this kind of sub-par flick but I feel like the high definition release may win a few more fans over. It is pretty damn cool.

Star Trek: The Original Series – The coolest thing with being hooked up with Paramount’s home release division is all the Star Trek stuff I have gotten which includes all of the new CBS All Access series like Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks, all of the original crew films and now the complete original series to accompany it. This series is iconic, has episodes we all know and has influenced science fiction ever since it debuted in the 1960s. Even better, this box set is on blu-ray and has completely revamped all of the original films and updated it in high definition. It also has hours and hours of featurettes and the set itself is all three seasons in gorgeous steelbooks that would be cherished by any Trekkie who got their hands on it. Yes, this is an idea for the upcoming holiday season so get on it now.

Superman: The Complete Animated Series – When this series originally aired, coming on the heels of the greatest animated comic book series ever put together, Batman: The Animated Series, I was captivated by it. Ignoring the protesting of the people that say X-Men is the best, I’ll continue by saying that I own both shows on DVD but to receive this complete series on blu-ray is something special because the writing on it is so phenomenal and maybe the best interpretation of the character that we’ve ever gotten. It bums me out that whenever the conversation of best Superman is brought up that Tim Daly, the voice of the big blue boy scout in this, is never part of the choices even though Kevin Conroy, the iconic voice of Batman, is always part of the Caped Crusader best of. Maybe people can rediscover this one and we can get some more love for this iteration of the Man Of Steel.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:

Legend – Arrow Video came through with some collector’s edition gold a few weeks back and it just hit my doorstep this week and it is the perfect title to geek out on and an even better one to kick it off with. It’s pretty funny that I talked about a Legend movie just a couple of weeks ago but this is the superior movie that used that title. Directed by Ridley Scott and scored by Tangerine Dream, the film is a magical adventure which features elves, demons, and other mythical creatures and the Lord of Darkness, played by Tim Curry and the personification of evil at the heart of it, planning to disperse eternal night in the land by killing every unicorn in the world. Although he looks unbeatable, Tom Cruise’s Jack and his friends are disposed to do everything to save the world and Princess Lili, played by an early Steve dream girl, Mia Sara, who Darkness intends to make his wife, from the hands of this evil goliath. This movie was so hated at the time of release but I feel like views have softened towards it and, as a guy who has always loved it, I am overjoyed at that prospect. Also, this set is so freaking gorgeous and people need to have it on their shelves.

Audrey Hepburn 7-Movie Collection – One of the most important actresses of an entire era and the inspiration to many, Audrey Hepburn commanded an entire genre of filmmaking and they are all celebrated in this new Blu-ray set. Let’s list them off, shall we? Truman Capote’s Breakfast At Tiffany’s follows a young New York socialite who becomes interested in a young man who has moved into her apartment building but her past threatens to get in the way. Funny Face is about a shop clerk who is discovered as a new fashion model during an impromptu fashion shoot at a book store. Paris When It Sizzles is about a Hollywood screenwriter whose young assistant helps him over his writer’s block by acting out his fantasies of possible plots. Roman Holiday is a famous Christmas film that you have most likely seen on television before, Sabrina is a classic romantic comedy that was remade with Harrison Ford, War And Peace is an adaptation of the classic Lev Tolstoy book and I have covered My Fair Lady on 4K before so you can title search that one on stevestebbing.ca. There’s a lot of movies in here so I had to blow by some of them. If you know these movies, you know what they’re about, right?

Edge Of Darkness – This film was made during the time where we knew what Mel Gibson was really like as a person so I can understand why people mostly skipped this film and for good reason. That said, I feel like this one is definitely in the underrated column and has a great performance from Gibson, studious direction from Martin Campbell and is based on a pre-existing television series on the BBC in the mid-eighties. The story follows Gibson as a grieving homicide detective who is investigating the murder of his activist daughter when he uncovers a corporate cover-up and government conspiracy with her at the center that attracts an agent tasked with cleaning up the evidence and eliminating everything in his path. Adapted by the phenomenal William Monahan, this film has fantastic character work and a compelling plot that keep you gripped for the entire duration. Buying it for, under ten dollars, I feel like I scored big time.

Television:

Insecure: Season 5 (Crave) – Issa Rae returns with the next season of the HBO series that put her on the map and, honestly, I just started getting into it ahead of its fifth season premiere and I’m kind of kicking myself for not being on the bandwagon sooner. The show was co-created with The Office and The Daily Show’s Larry Wilmore and follows the awkward experiences and racy tribulations of the modern-day African-American woman from the perspective of two female protagonists, Issa and Molly who have been best friends with each other since their college days at Stanford. The writing in this show is both hilarious and biting in its nature, never quite steering you into a false narrative, which reminds me quite a bit of Aziz Ansari’s show Master Of None but notably, the Lena Waite led recent season. I’m so excited to get caught up to the current season as it has been a little while since season four.

Colin In Black And White (Netflix) – Colin Kaepernick will most likely never see another NFL game in his lifetime and the sad realization of that has become more and the seasons since he’s been gone even though, heck, a lot of teams would be lucky to get him. He’s damn good. The best thing now for him is to get his story out there and use his platform to educate and that’s what this series is all about. Teaming up with Ava Duvernay, the show explores Kaepernick’s high school years and the experiences that led him to become an activist. It kind of plays like a very serious version of Chris Rock’s Everybody Hates Chris but with a very pointed message at all times and Kapernick narrating the whole thing. My issue is that the actual reenactment of his life comes off so goofy and underacted, even with Mary Louise Parker and Nick Offerman in prominent roles. I was honestly not too impressed after episode one and have yet to continue.

Star Trek Prodigy (CTV Sci-Fi) – The collective zeitgeist is probably looking at CBS All Access and thinking they’re milking the Gene Roddenberry created universe of smart science fiction for all it can get and, yes, that’s almost exactly what producers are thinking but it is paying off. They have a straightforward series with Discovery, a call-back show with Picard, a comedy series with Lower Decks and now this inbetweener. The series is a teenager aimed animated story that follows a group of teenagers who steal a derelict Starfleet vessel and use it to explore the galaxy. The show signals the return of Kate Mulgrew’s Captain Janeway and Robert Beltran’s Captain Chakotay from Voyager, which makes me far too happy for a guy who isn’t a Trekkie.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 11 (Crave) – Larry David is back to make awkward and uncomfortable moments and to walk away relatively unscathed and, for this, we love him, a definite American treasure. This previous season had much of the same sort of hijinx you would expect, like Larry going head to head against a coffee bar, bringing the wrong date to a destination wedding and more things that he has to make amends for eventually, you know, in his way but each season seems to end in a crescendo that could end it all. Maybe he likes it that way? An easy out. Last season had one of my favourite Curb episodes though with Larry using the MAGA hat to get out of social situations and road rage so this one better have a pretty, pretty pretttttttyyyyyyyyy good one to up the ante on that.

Love Life: Season 2 (Crave) – Anna Kendrick returns for another awkward trip into bad dates, blind encounters one night stands and horrible relationships after a surprisingly good first season that slowly nabbed many Crave viewers after debuting in the States on HBO Max as one of their original launch series. Season two is a bit of a swerve as I feel like it will pull away a bit from Kendrick’s character of Darby and instead takes a focus on Marcus Watkins, played by William Jackson Harper from The Good Place, an actor with absolutely brilliant comedic timing. I’m looking forward to seeing him take on something a little less crazy and something more grounded, relatable and most likely full of cringe-worthy moments. Let us see if this series can best the sophomore slump.

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