Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Ghostbusters: Afterlife – The Ghostbusters have had a dicey ride through the reboot or continuation prism as the film from 2016 wasn’t well received at all, with many fans deriding it as destroying their childhoods and other such lame opinions. Now, the son of original director Ivan Reitman, Jason Reitman has continued the family legacy by making a film that looks like it continues and celebrates the franchise in all the best ways. This film follows a single mom and her two kids who arrive in a small town and begin to discover their connection to the original Ghostbusters and the secret legacy their grandfather left behind as a Doomsday level paranormal event starts to form under their feet. The film has an interesting cast to it that features the ever loveable and Sexiest Man Alive, Paul Rudd, The Nest’s phenomenal lead Carrie Coon and Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard and I feel that judging from the trailers, they have managed to give the same feel as the original films but in an updated way. I am beyond excited for this movie and am so happy it is finally here.

King Richard – Will Smith might be coming to join the Oscar race this year just judging by the trailer and it has been a long time since we have even considered this notion, which I gauge to be 2006’s The Pursuit Of Happyness. He has the Academy on his side as this is a biopic of Richard Williams, the father of tennis phenoms Venus and Serena Williams and the voting board eats those up. The film follows Richard as he nurtures his young daughters’ burgeoning talent, taking unconventional avenues to bring them to superstardom and against all the adversity they face for being young poor black Americans. The film has a great line in the trailer where Richard says he has not one but two of the next Michael Jordans. It makes me chuckle every time. I’m looking forward to this one.

tick, tick… Boom! – I’m going to put everything out on Front Street here with my latest Lin-Manuel Miranda opinion and that is that I wasn’t over the moon about In The Heights like everyone else was. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, the Miranda songs are catchy and Anthony Ramos is a total star but I thought it was a bit bloated and dragged here and there. That said, with his directorial debut here, he knocks a home run and Andrew Garfield is the MVP. The film follows Jon, played by Garfield, a young theatre composer who’s waiting tables at a New York City diner in 1990 while writing what he hopes will be the next great American rock opera. Days before he’s due to showcase his work in a make-or-break performance, Jon is feeling the pressure from everywhere, like his girlfriend Susan who dreams of an artistic life beyond New York City and his friend Michael who has moved on from his dream to a life of financial security all amidst an artistic community being ravaged by the AIDS epidemic. Garfield is incredible in this movie and his performance will be remembered for years to come, possibly his crowning achievement. There’s also a show-stopping number in the middle that had even a musical cynic like me in absolute delight. That’s a winner to me.

Blu-Ray:

Jungle Cruise – The Rock is getting his Johnny Depp style franchise film with Disney as he too is now part of the theme park-inspired movie with this new adventure that was supposed to come out last fall but because of the pandemic it all got delayed. Proving that he has such good chemistry with everyone they pair him with, he stars in this film alongside the loveable Emily Blunt who is on a continuous roll after the phenomenal A Quiet Place Part II which I’ll speak about later on. Playing wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton respectively, the story follows Lily as she travels from London, England to the Amazon jungle and enlists Frank’s questionable services to guide her downriver on La Quila, his dilapidated but dependable boat. Lily is determined to uncover an ancient tree with unparalleled healing abilities–possessing the power to change the future of medicine and, thrust on this epic quest together, the unlikely duo encounters innumerable dangers and supernatural forces, all lurking in the deceptive beauty of the lush rainforest. But as the secrets of the lost tree unfold, the stakes reach even higher for Lily and Frank and their fate and mankind hang in the balance. This movie is so much fun with exhilarating action and great chemistry between The Rock and Blunt and Jack Whitehall is so great as the comedic foil brother. This one is well worth seeing.

Candyman – For horror fans, we were pretty much robbed of getting the renewal of the Candyman franchise last year due to the pandemic and the buzz around the film made the sting even more intense as it was produced by Jordan Peele and it comes from director Nia Decosta who booked a Marvel gig out of the deal with her now helming Captain Marvel 2 as we speak. That said, there are huge shoes to fill with this movie and the fact that Tony Todd doesn’t reprise his role in any shape or form is an immediate mark against it. This film is set in the present day, a decade after the last of the Cabrini towers were torn down, following Anthony and his partner who move into a loft in the now gentrified Cabrini. A chance encounter with an old-timer exposes Anthony to the true story behind Candyman and anxious to use these macabre details in his studio as fresh ideas for paintings, he unknowingly opens a door to a complex past that unravels his sanity and unleashes a terrifying wave of violence. I loved this film a lot which not only presented itself with such reverence for the original film but also built on it while creating new lore within that served its rebirth. The film acts quite a bit like an art-house film within the horror genre which may turn many casual viewers off but it hooked me in, pun intended. That final shot may also be my favourite this year.

The Protege – When I initially saw this trailer on the big screen before F9 I have to admit that it did nothing for me at all. You can tell me it’s from the producers of John Wick and use a cool version of Amy Winehouse’s You Know That I’m No Good but you can’t take the generic dime a dozen contract killer action trope out of it, I feel like I’ve seen it all before. The film has a pretty solid cast with Maggie Q, Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson following Anna who was rescued as a child by the legendary assassin Moody, played by Jackson, and trained in the family business to become the world’s most skilled contract killer. When Moody is brutally killed, Anna vows revenge and is entangled with an enigmatic killer (Keaton with all his greatest nuances) whose attraction to her goes way beyond cat and mouse. This movie quite easily annoyed me as it is just as cookie-cutter as it looks and comes from an older world adage of the only way a strong female character like this can be made is to have her be a femme fatale. I’m so sick of this and it ruined everything about a film that, besides that, doesn’t have an ounce of originality and a dumb script to match it.

The Eyes Of Tammy Faye – With a tale as wild as televangelist couple Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, I’m really surprised that it took this long to get a biopic of God and money-driven power couple that had a storied rise and a scandalous fall. Now that it’s here, I have to address the boldness of Jessica Chastain taking the lead role alongside Andrew Garfield as Jim because I didn’t see how it could work and now, after seeing the trailers, I couldn’t unsee it. The film is an interesting move from The Big Sick director Michael Showalter who gives an intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. In the 1970s and 80s, Tammy Faye and her husband, Jim Bakker, rose from humble beginnings to create the world’s largest religious broadcasting network and theme park and were revered for their message of love, acceptance and prosperity. Tammy Faye was legendary for her indelible eyelashes, her idiosyncratic singing, and her eagerness to embrace people from all walks of life but it wasn’t long before financial improprieties, scheming rivals, and scandal toppled their carefully constructed empire. The film largely skates by on a fantastic performance from Chastain who carries the film on her back, which may earn her some awards praise. The issue is, much like Renee Zellweger’s turn in Judy that won her a few golden statues, the rest of the film isn’t that great. To be honest, it’s a bit bloated and could have tightened up a bit more as it drags in many spots.

Flag Day – Sean Penn returns to the director’s chair for the first time on a feature film since 2016’s The Last Face which was not well received. I’m hoping that he gets back to the form he was in for Into The Wild and this one is really interesting because it features his daughter Dylan as well who co-stars alongside him in pretty much the main roles. The film has the senior Penn as a father living a double life as a counterfeiter, bank robber and con man to provide for his daughter who struggles to rise above the wreckage of her past while reconciling the inescapable bond between her and her father. Unfortunately, as good as the performances are in the film, Penn keeps falling into the trappings that dogged his last one and that is just plain bad melodrama trying to adhere these talents into something cohesive. I’m still waiting for Penn’s directorial renaissance it seems.

Prisoners Of The Ghostland – It’s now common knowledge if you regularly read my blog, listen to me on The Shift or follow me on any of my social media accounts that I adore the talent of Nicolas Cage. I am aware of his bad films and others but the man takes chances and I love him for it, something he certainly does here. This film is from gonzo director Sion Sono he plays a ruthless bank robber who is sprung from jail by the wealthy warlord The Governor in the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town to find his adopted granddaughter Bernice that has gone missing. The Governor offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway and, strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within three days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman and his path to redemption. Co-starring The Kingsmans’ Sofia Boutella and The Devil’s Rejects’ Bill Moseley, this film is like a frenetic samurai art film inserted into a post-apocalyptic landscape. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t but you can tell that Cage is having a fantastic time and he has stated this in interviews about it already. If you enjoy the man’s work, you’ll appreciate this one.

Caveat – There is something about subdued and creepy little stories out of the United Kingdom that grab me and this year has had some beauties like Corinna Faith’s The Power and Prano Bailey-Bond’s Censor to chill you to the bone and just before we close out 2021 writer and director Damian McCarthy wants to have his say as well. His film follows a lone drifter suffering from partial memory loss who accepts a job to look after a psychologically troubled woman in an abandoned house on an isolated island. The catch to his new babysitting job? He must be secured into a security vest fixed with a chain to limit where he can go in the house and he can’t leave unless it’s unlocked. This film is freshly original, makes incredibly atmospheric uses of darkness and keeps you on the edge of your seat with fantastic sound design. McCarthy makes a riveting debut and I’m interested to see what his next project is.

Yakuza Princess – On the outside of this new action flick and comic book adaptation, it should be an easy and stylish slam dunk. Based on the indie series Samurai Shiro, this film comes from the guy who did the crazily fascinating horror Motorrad and features singer MASUMI, 13 Assassins actor Tsuyoshi Ihara, and lifelong bad life boy and middle-aged trainwreck Jonathan Rhys Meyers and, on paper, has a damn cool storyline. The plot follows an heiress to half of the Yakuza crime syndicate who forges an uneasy alliance with an amnesiac stranger that believes an ancient sword binds their two fates. With his help, she reluctantly must unleash a war against the other half of the syndicate who wants her dead. I wish the execution on this film was as good as the setup because the movement of this story always feels a little half-baked and not thought out and none of the action scenes feel that exciting or well shot no matter how many moments of good blood and gore that we get. I was left feeling very underwhelmed by this one.

Our Ladies – This new comedy-drama out of the United Kingdom has proven to be elusive because, as of the writing date right now, I have been unable to track it down for review which is frustrating as it looks like my kind of movie. Beyond that, it may have legs with a lot of North American viewers as it reminds me a bit of the Netflix show Derry Girls which has become a little bit of a hit here. Like that series, this film is set in the nineties but in Scotland and follows a group of Catholic school girls who get an opportunity to go into Edinburgh for a choir competition but they’re more interested in drinking, partying and hooking up than winning the competition. The film is said to be a bit misconstrued when it comes to its approach to sexuality but the casting is great, the script is punchy and fun and the friendships within are endearing and soulfully warm. I love British films and I don’t feel like I’d be misled for checking this one out if I ever can.

Steve’s Blu-Ray and DVD Geekouts:

Mad Love – My geekouts are a bit focused this week and they kick off with a classic from the vaults of the Warner Archive that has some star power to it with the leading man, Peter Lorre. The film is also cinematically notable as it comes from Austrian director Karl Freund who directed the original The Mummy starring Boris Karloff and was the cinematographer on the legendary Metropolis from Fritz Lang. This film is set in Paris and follows surgeon Dr. Gogol who falls madly in love with stage actress Yvonne Orlac and his forwardness about that disturbs her quite a bit when he discovers that she is married to a concert pianist, Stephen Orlac. Shortly thereafter, Stephen’s hands are badly crushed in a train accident and rendered beyond the power of standard medicine. Knowing that his hands are his life, Yvonne overcomes her fear and goes to Dr. Gogol to beg him to help. Gogol decides to surgically graft the hands of executed murderer Rollo onto Stephen Orlac, the surgery is successful but has terrible side effects and murderous consequences. It’s interesting to note that Charlie Chaplin called Lorre the best film actor after seeing this movie, which was his first performance in an American production. Peter Lorre was under contract to Columbia Pictures in the United Kingdom but agreed to be loaned out to MGM for this film if Columbia would do a film version of Crime and Punishment next with him in the role of Raskolnikov. This was fascinating trading from the early heavyweight studios.

The Loud House: Season 3 Volume 2 – Some crazy Nickelodeon cartoons for your children to feast their eyes on that also might drive you nuts as a parent has made its way down to the geekouts this week as we’re stretching here a bit. Well, let’s look at the voices and creators so we can have some sort of latching on point for the adults that suffer along in this show about Lincoln Loud, an eleven-year-old boy who lives with ten sisters and with the help of his friend Clyde to find new ways to survive in such a large family every day. Any voices you would know? Well, Batman The Animated Series’ Grey Griffin features in it as well as Bender himself, John Dimaggio but aside from quick guest spots by Wayne Brady, Phil Lamarr and the late and so great Fred Willard, that’s about it. The show was created by Chris Savino, a long-time writer on The Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Laboratory, so you can see where this show is aimed at.

Television:

Cowboy Bebop (Netflix) – Not being a major anime fan, there are still some titles that break into the mainstream pop culture like Akira, Ninja Scroll, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and this stylish little series. The casting couldn’t be any better too as the main character of Spike is portrayed by the deceptively young-looking John Cho and newcomers Mustafa Shakir and Daniella Pineda as Jet Black and Faye Valentine. The series is a space Western story that follows Spike Spiegel and his rag-tag crew of bounty hunters, or Cowboys, as they try to capture the galaxy’s worst criminals and survive the unexpected dangers they encounter throughout space, sometimes saving the world in the process but always leaving millions in damages. With a simmering jazz beat and stylish direction that is always giving nods to its source material, I’ve been enjoying the hell out of this show, against my usual distaste for anime. In my eyes, this one is a winner.

Star Trek Discovery: Season 4 (Crave) – Look, I’m not fully caught up on everything in this series yet so for my research I just went as spoiler-free and vague just so I wouldn’t spoil everything for myself but I will say that fans of Star Trek aren’t too happy with the series. I’m enjoying it so far as I’m not as invested in it as everyone else but I can get people’s issues with it. The show is set ten years before Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise, as the USS Discovery discovers new worlds and lifeforms with one main Starfleet officer learning to understand all things alien both about herself and those around her starting at the disadvantage of being an accused mutineer for her brash actions. Great casting, exciting adventures and inner politics and an infinite ceiling due to being on the CBS All Access streaming service, I like what they’re doing with this show and the possibilities are endless to where they can go. To gauge where I’m at for those who care, I’m just rounding the bend to the finish of season two.

The Great: Season 2 (Amazon Prime) – Elle Fanning, Nicholas Hoult and The Favourite writer Tony McNamara are back for the follow-up season of this great series that is filled from top to bottom with fantastic character work, beautiful set pieces and brilliantly dark humour that will tickle you if you liked McNamara’s Yorgos Lanthimos film as much as I did. The show follows a royal woman living in rural Russia during the 18th century who is forced to choose between her happiness and the future of Russia when she marries an Emperor. I love that this series takes the stuffiness out of the usual period piece and allows each character to breathe with dialogue that feels quick and sardonic. My question is how quickly will this earn the pick-up for a third season. Maybe it has already been greenlit and at this present writing time, I have no idea about it. That’s entirely possible.

The Wheel Of Time (Amazon Prime) – So many shows claim to be the next Game Of Thrones and it really almost feels exhausting at this point to even try and continually make these comparisons but here we go again because this new series is based on a beloved series of books from late author Robert Jordan, some of which I have read. The show is set in a high fantasy world where magic exists, but only some can access it, following a woman named Moiraine, played by Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike, who crosses paths with five young men and women that, together, sparks a dangerous, world-spanning journey. The series is the debut of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Chuck writer Rafe Judkins as showrunner and it has that Amazon Prime money backing it so this might be very cool and a good tide over until the Lord Of The Rings series makes its debut.

Tiger King 2 (Netflix) – Remember when Tiger King became our must binge garbage television during the beginning of the pandemic? I certainly do and it feels like a lifetime ago that it happened but here we are at the start of another season of it. I remember thinking after I had completed the original series that there was nothing more to say but I was wrong. Within the first episode of this five-part follow up the wild real characters of the show are now dealing with the fallout, whether it’s the villainization of Carol Baskins, the newly created stardom of Joe Exotic or the questions regarding Jeff Lowe’s business operations, this is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new scandals being revealed in the community of big cat owners. Trash television is back again to fill the internet and workplaces with nonsensical banter and Joe Exotic will again be the redneck and flamboyant poster child for it. Save our souls.

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