Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Cyrano – The story of Cyrano De Bergerac has been told many times with many different actors taking the role like Gerard Depardieu and Jose Ferrer being the notables but when I saw Game Of Thrones star Peter Dinklage and Atonement filmmaker Joe Wright attached to this, I got immediately interested. What turns me off of it a little bit is that it is a musical but I’m willing to push that aside for a well-made movie. The story follows the title character, a man ahead of his time who impresses everyone with ferocious wordplay at a verbal joust or with brilliant swordplay in a duel but, convinced that his appearance renders him unworthy of the love of a devoted friend, the luminous Roxanne, Cyrano has yet to declare his feelings for her and Roxanne has fallen in love, at first sight, with Christian. The film is getting fantastic reviews and most of them praise Dinklage’s performance which this rests solely on in a lot of places but the help of supporting roles from Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Ben Mendelsohn definitely elevate it as well. It was also shot by Seamus McGarvey who makes absolute gold with Wright time after time.

The Lost Daughter – Maggie Gyllenhaal returns to work but this time behind the camera with one of my favourite actresses today, Olivia Colman, and the advance reviews are really great for it, only ramping up my excitement more. It also features Jessie Buckley from I’m Thinking OF Ending Things as the younger version of Colman’s character and I love everything she has made to this point. The film follows Leda, a middle-aged divorcée who has devoted her life to her work as an English teacher and to her two children. When her daughters leave home to be with their father in Canada, Leda anticipates a period of loneliness and longing but instead, slightly embarrassed by the sensation, she feels liberated, as if her life has become lighter, easier. She decides to take a holiday by the sea, in a small coastal town in southern Italy but after a few days of calm and quiet, things take a menacing turn as Leda encounters a family whose brash presence proves unsettling, at times even threatening. When a small, seemingly meaningless event occurs, Leda is overwhelmed by memories of the difficult, unconventional choices she made as a mother and their consequences for herself and her family and the seemingly serene tale of a woman’s pleasant rediscovery of herself soon becomes the story of a ferocious confrontation with an unsettled past. Gyllenhaal lands with a film that would be a striking debut for any filmmaker with an actress who commands the screen at every moment. I feel like this one might be in the running for a lot of awards in 2022.

Death To 2021 – Following last year’s Netflix special “Death To 2020”, the streaming service is doubling down and making a second one because I believe it was one of the most-streamed things at the time of its release. The faithful booming voice of narrator Laurence Fishburne is back as is Hugh Grant, Joe Keery and Tracey Ullman but instead of the Queen, she is playing at Jeannie Pirro-style talking head. Once again, this is a sarcastic, biting and sardonic recap of the year that was in a scathing send-off where some comedic bits work better than others. It welcomes in Stockard Channing, William Jackson Harper, Lucy Liu and more who add some deep state characters and a possibly alien social media mogul and largely I thought it worked. The fact that Nate from Ted Lasso is the voice of the director may trigger some fans from the finale of that show’s latest season but I really hope they continue these because it’s a fun way to spend an hour.

Blu-Ray:

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, 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.

Mayday – This is an oddball of a movie but it really works in a crazily existential way. What immediately drew me to the film was the cast which features the young stars, Grace Van Patten, from the currently running Nine Perfect Strangers, Mia Goth from High Life and French actress Soko from Her and all anchored by the veteran prowess of Juliette Lewis. The story centers around Ana who is transported to a dreamlike and dangerous land where she joins an army of girls engaged in a never-ending war. Though she finds strength in this exhilarating world, she realizes that she’s not the killer they want her to be and struggles to find her exit from the conflict. The film looks gorgeous and the plot is engaging but it is vapidly fleeting by introducing so many elements that it has no intention of wrapping up or even fleshing out. I wanted to love this film but it leaves you cold in so many different ways.

Castle Falls – Always keep a lookout for the janitor, especially in a heist situation! It seems to become a cliche that the unassuming nobody of a character is always the downfall in any high stakes job crime film but we keep eating them up and I will say that Scott Adkins is the draw to this little direct to video film, much more than his counterpart, Dolph Lundgren who also directed it. The story follows Mike Wade, an over-the-hill MMA fighter who starts a new job as part of a demolition crew stripping Castle Heights hospital. During the demolition he finds three bags with cash and with the building due to be dynamited in 90 minutes, he returns solo for the money. However he is unaware that two other parties are also moving in to retrieve the cash, prison guard Richard Ericson, who needs to finance his daughter’s cancer treatment, and gang kingpin Deacon, out to secure the loot on behalf of his incarcerated brother. The film is a bit sluggish getting off the ground but Adkins and Lundgren have good enough on-screen chemistry to keep it all going. Some cool action and great execution from the massively talented lead star make the end result thrilling but not overly memorable.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:

Maniac Cop 2 & Maniac Cop 3: Badge Of Silence – Got to bring the campiness to the last week of 2021 with two films from the early nineties that bring all of the ultra-violence with no substance to it at all. I’m not bringing the original film in this series so let’s proceed like you know of it already and, heck, this first sequel has Bruce Campbell in it. Following the events of the first movie, Officer Matt Cordell, the undead cop, returns from the grave again but this time he is after the criminals who murdered him in the prison, in a revenge plot that is sadistic and brutal, just like the filmmaking. The second sequel, subtitled Badge Of Silence, is Officer Matt Cordell’s third ride from beyond the grave and has him looking for a girlfriend. His ideal date should be nice, tender, and dead but as soon finds one in the person of a female officer she is brutally killed by shop robbers which sends him into that maniac stuff we’ve grown to love. These are fun movies to sit around and mock sort of mercilessly but I will say, with the second movie, director William Lustig does horror flourishes that are still admired to this day.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within 4K – This is really cool to receive this new 4K edition of this early 2000s computer-animated sci-fi adventure even if it was supposed to be the Escape Room sequel that I still want to see. Funny enough, this was also one of the two of the first DVDs I ever purchased as well so it has added sentimental value. Produced by SquareEnix in their first film venture and loosely based in their video game world, the story is set in 2065 with the world as a barren wasteland invaded by alien life-forms known as Phantoms. Determined to stop them for good, a beautiful woman named Dr. Aki Ross must find the seven spirits to destroy the Phantoms once and for all as she is dying from a fatal Phantom-related sickness. Accompanied by the Deep Eyes Squadron and her mentor Dr. Sid, they make a last stand to save what’s left of humanity. I always thought this movie rocked but it ended up being a box office disaster and closing down Square’s film division which is so unfortunate. To think of the films that could have been done! Even so, this movie’s move to 4K is absolutely stunning and demands to be seen.

Television:

Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer (Netflix) – For those looking for their serial killer documentary to ring in the new year with, Netflix once again has you covered with that true crime sickness in the form of this new series. It comes, once again from producer Joe Berlinger, who has already given the streaming service multiple projects including a documentary and biopic on Ted Bundy and a series on the Cecil Hotel incident from a few years back that had people on the fence for the most part. In a continuing piece of the Crime Scene series, this show brings us back to 1970s NYC, a time when the “Torso Killer” preyed on sex worker women to fulfill his grotesque fantasies while disposing of evidence with fire and eluding police at every turn. The show is a step up from the Cecil Hotel and really had me engaged for the whole duration. Maybe it’s not a “let’s watch this at midnight” thing but it’ll be great for the next day.

Cobra Kai: Season 4 (Netflix) – It’s so crazy to think that the bad guys from the Karate Kid movies have come full circle in the last few years and transitioned to fantastic new series with an all-new breath of life. After two seasons running as a YouTube original and a third season that saw the high profile and bigger budget release on Netflix to bump it up to the next level, the much anticipated fourth season is here. Featuring a lot of the original cast from the movies, including William Zabka, Martin Kove and even Daniel-san, Ralph Macchio, this Emmy nominated series takes place decades after our mains have had their 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament bout, following a middle-aged Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence who again find themselves martial-arts rivals. It’s once again time to sweep the leg, never give up, never surrender and check out Zabka’s bitchin’ Firebird again in what I hope starts to be a New Year’s tradition.

Letterkenny: Season 10 (Crave) – The boys of Letterkenny are back in what is definitely now a holiday tradition of receiving a brand new season of this rural comedy and all of its hijinx. Lots of comparisons are made to Trailer Park Boys for this show but I firmly believe those comments are made by people who have never seen it. For those who are new to it, the series showcases the antics of the residents of Letterkenny, a small rural community in Canada. Siblings Wayne and Katy run a small farm and produce stand, with Wayne’s friends Daryl and “Squirrely” Dan helping out. Many of the town’s inhabitants fall into one of several groups, which include the farmers, or “hicks,” the out-of-towners on the local hockey team, the local drug addicts and the “natives,” who are members of the local First Nation. The sophistication in the writing of this series is on a whole other level and I always laugh until my sides hurt every episode. That’s a damn good track record.

The Book Of Boba Fett (Disney+) – It’s been a year since the Mandalorian, Grogu and his counterparts have left us in the season or maybe series finale of that show but we get to head back into the Star Wars universe with a familiar… um… helmet. Yes, after reintroducing Boba Fett back into the modern Star Wars pantheon, we get a focused series about him and his partner Fennec Shand played by the phenomenal Ming Na Wen. The seven-episode series will follow the legendary bounty hunter Boba Fett, played by Temuera Morrison, as he navigates the underworld of the galaxy with mercenary Fennec Shand when they return to the sands of Tattooine to stake their claim on the territory formerly ruled by the deceased crime lord Jabba the Hutt. The show has a killer lineup of directors like Robert Rodriguez, Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni and Bryce Dallas Howard, who all delivered great episodes of The Mandalorian, plus it has What We Do In The Shadows Matt Berry as a droid. I don’t even need to say how excited I am for this, it should be obvious.

Jimmy Carr: His Dark Material (Netflix) – Jimmy Carr is a stand-up comedian that is mostly known in his hosting role on a lot of British programming and some American stuff here and there but the stage on in his own special is where he shines. Carr is one of the most ruthless but satisfyingly upper brow while toying with shit if that makes any sense. This special features Jimmy’s trademark dry, sardonic wit while plumbing the darkest of places and includes some jokes which Jimmy calls “career enders”. If you like a good stand-up special and want to try something new and aren’t easily offended, Jimmy Carr is your distinguished and dapper man masking some soul blackness that will curl your toes.

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