Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Jackass Forever – I’m going to get the ball rolling here and call this one a must anticipated sequel which may sound weird coming from a forty-year-old dude like me but, to be honest, I grew up into my adulthood with Jackass the series, the movies and the CKY or Camp Kill Yourself videos that came before it. I am a longtime fan that even wore a wristband from the second film until it all but deteriorated off my body. Now having proven my fandom, we welcome this new and final film that brings back all but Ryan Dunn, who sadly passed away and Bam Margera who has been going through some notable drug and alcohol issues as well as severe mental health ones. What to expect from this one? Well, what do you usually go into these gross-out and low-bar series of stunts and practical jokes? Just go in with the brainpan closed off to any smarts and laugh your jackass off. That’s what I’m doing!

Book Of Love – Sam Claflin is becoming the low-key dependable leading man for romantic comedies and dramas and Amazon Prime is getting in on that action first hand with this new Mexico set rom-com. The film is the next English language film from writer and director Analeine Cal y Mayor whose last widely released film was the unfortunately named The Boy Who Smells Like Fish but this one has a higher platform and will probably be better received. The film has Claflin as young, uptight and unsuccessful English writer Henry whose flop of a novel becomes a big hit in Mexico. His publicist insists he travel there on a promotional tour and when he arrives he finds out the reason it was so popular as Mexican translator Maria has rewritten his dull book as a steamy erotic novel. With Henry furious and Maria reluctant, they must now travel together on a book tour across Mexico and as tempers flare and sparks begin to fly, the two begin to find love and lust despite themselves. Pretty standard rom-com stuff and Claflin has the comedic chops to keep it afloat. I am new to leading actress Verónica Echegui so hopefully, they have some onscreen chemistry together.

The Long Night – Some occult horror hits the screens this week with the scream queen of Scout Taylor Compton, an actress that was given her start with Rob Zombie in his remake of Halloween. Beautifully shot and with some insanely insidious imagery, the film would be a perfect fit for a company like SpectreVision, nestled against other movies like Mandy and Color Out Of Space. The story follows Compton as New York transplant Grace who returns to her childhood southern stomping grounds with her boyfriend, searching for the parents she’s never known and following a promising lead on her family’s whereabouts. Upon arrival, the couple’s weekend takes a bizarre, terrifying turn as a nightmarish cult and their maniacal leader terrorize the pair en route to fulfilling a twisted ancient apocalyptic prophecy. So many creepy animal skull masks but surprisingly low on the gore angle. It still does have its fair share of blood but the scares come from the atmosphere of it all and the creepy drone to the musical score. I also have to hand it to the director by doing a full-on intro that mirrors the opening of Kubrick’s The Shining and I think it even uses the same music which is probably public domain now.

Clerk. – I am a Kevin Smith guy, through and through. I have loved everything from the man, seen him live multiple times and wouldn’t be a podcaster if it weren’t for the effect that he had on my life. One of my most anticipated upcoming films is his follow up to Clerks II more than fifteen years afterwards and while we’ll be waiting a little bit longer for that to hit theatres, his friend, director of Drawing Flies and Small Town Gay Bar and Canadian Malcolm Ingram, has something to tide us fans over. Simply put, this is a retrospective documentary that outlines the life and career of the indie filmmaking icon like only a close friend could and features interviews with friends, family, filmmaking peers, and fellow icons of the film, comedy and comic worlds while teasing the forthcoming movie. Kev screened this in Vancouver at the Rio, following it with a Q & A that I sadly missed but this is the next best thing and thanks to my pal Mark, I got it!

Gamestop: Rise of the Players – With all the murder stories or even cautionary tales of being screwed over for money, which even appears on this list further down, it’s neat to see a documentary where the everyman gets a little bit of a windfall. That is kind of what this new film is about, examining. a crazy phenomenon that kind of took the internet by storm for a bit. From the makers of the must-see film Console Wars, this is the origin story of the Gamestop stock market happening, featuring exclusive access to the original players who lit the fuse on a historic amateur investor uprising. Spotlighting the human side of a sensational business drama, Gamestop: Rise of the Players is a David vs Goliath tale about ordinary people waking up to the power they have in numbers. When this was transpiring I remember thinking that I’d love to see it broken down into a layman’s terms from the beginning, to see what can be learned from it and how an ordinary person could try and manipulate stocks for his or her own gain. It is definitely way too intriguing of thought for me not to be evil with.

Who We Are: A Chronicle Of Racism In America – With the daily events of the world, it is clear that we all still need a deep education into the understanding of race relations, the inequality and prejudices but the history of how we got there as well. In Canada, the indigenous plight and the atrocities that the white man has put them through must be shown in the spotlight to reveal everything but that is a conversation for another movie as this one focuses on the black experience in America, as told by civil rights lawyer Jeffrey Robinson. Through interweaving his lecture in front of an audience, personal anecdotes, interviews, and shocking revelations, he is able to draw a stark timeline of anti-Black racism in the United States, from slavery to the modern myth of a post-racial America. The film presents the facts with Robinson trying to steer away from personal commentary as much as he can unless it’s pertinent. I was fascinated by the things I didn’t know, the things that aren’t taught in school and the genocides buried from the American eye like the Tulsa Massacre in the 1920s. I felt like this movie was required watching the deeper I got into it and at the end, I feel like people must watch it to be fully educated on what’s important.

Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliche – As a huge fan of music documentaries, I get really excited every time one comes up on the schedule and when I haven’t heard of the artist involved I get even more curious because it could be more new music in my library to discover as I did with Sparks last summer. This one also happened to be a bit tied into the White Riot documentary I saw last year which followed the Rock Against Racism movement that was created in 1976 in the United Kingdom and Poly Styrene was a part of that. This film is a biopic on her, from the point of view of the daughter of punk icon and X-Ray Spex frontwoman Poly Styrene who put herself on a journey through her mother’s archives after the outspoken icon’s death in this very intimate documentary. Reconciling Both the cultural resonance, the music, the writing and her mental illness, of it collided with her feelings about her mother as a parent and when she took away from the experience, good and bad. As a music documentary, this is fascinating but as a human character study, it is absolutely engrossing.

The Other Me – This is a weird one as it takes an all-time favourite of mine, the brilliant and totally eclectic David Lynch, and pairs him with the leading star of Across The Universe’s Jim Sturgess for a new mystery feature film. Granted, Lynch is only serving as an executive producer but anything he puts his name on has to have a distinctive mark, which sort of earns the project its trust for me. The story follows an architect who is diagnosed with a rare eye disease, entering him into a surreal reality in which he sees people’s true motives. As the visions become intolerable, he falls for a mysterious woman and confronts the truth about his own identity in a film that is a pretty well-constructed brain twister shepherded to the screen a documentary short film director Giga Agladze in his feature debut. This is definitely a film off the beaten path that won’t get a lot of recognition as it doesn’t even appear on Rotten Tomatoes at all but I think it deserves some clout I think.

The Tinder Swindler – As I understand it, dating in itself is a field of soul-crushing landmines that can set you back emotionally for years. This was definitely my experience before I met my wife and I was dealing with the archaic nature of Plenty Of Fish at the time but just imagine not only getting a bad date experience but also getting bilked out of your cash as well. That’s the focus of this new documentary which tells the sordid tale of a con man who attracts women using the popular dating app Tinder and tricked them out of millions of dollars. The cool thing this that this isn’t just the story of many victims but also the closure of being a revenge tale in the final act which careens it off that sob-ridden road of being cautionary. Obviously, things here and there will be exaggerated and embellished but the bones and structure are all there, just portrayed through a Netflix filter.

Torn – The National Geographic side of the Disney+ streaming service was already full of some of the most compelling documentaries and it has just grown in the two years it has been around for. The film The Rescue recently has been picking up a lot of notice and bringing subscription numbers up, as has the harrowing film Free Solo which gave me some serious anxiety and this week they roll out this new one. We head back into the perilous mountains for this new documentary that follows the tragedy of climber Alex Lowe’s ill-fated final climb but then it continues into his son’s arduous journey to return to the spot where his father perished. This looks to be a fascinating film about the child of a huge legacy and him coming to terms with a man that he lost before he even became a teenager. There’s a lot to unpack here and reconcile and Max Lowe takes the entire production load on his shoulders for his debut feature film and one that the viewers will resonate with afterwards. 

Blu-Ray:

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 felt the love and adoration for the foundation in which these beloved movies came from. The audience seems a little divided on this but I really had a lot of fun with it, Mckenna Grace damn near steals the whole film and there’s a scene at the climax of the film that had me in total fanboy tears. Yes, I’m a big fan of this one. 

Clifford The Big Red Dog – A film that has been, to be totally pun-filled, dogged by the pandemic, this adaptation of a beloved kid’s book has been constantly rescheduled, shelved and moved into what the studio thought would be a more profitable position. The fact that Paramount Pictures thought that this was going to be a runaway hit is a little telling in the smarts department because I didn’t think it would be and it wasn’t but they protected themselves a bit by debuting it on Paramount+ as well. The film is exactly as you know it if you got to read these books in school, following a girl and her family that adopt a little red dog who doesn’t stay little for long and grows to an enormous size and hijinx definitely ensue. The expectations are that the kids will love it and the parents will have a break for an hour and a half. I do like that British comedian Jack Whitehall is getting more work after Jungle Cruise, play the dad here, but director Walt Becker has made nothing but crap since his debut with Van Wilder.

Zeros And Ones – Auteur visionary storyteller Abel Ferrara isn’t a man that lets anything slow him down. This is a guy who did Bad Lieutenant, Ms. 45 and Driller Killer in the rise of making his name and has made many films that cusp on biographical with Willem Dafoe in the most recent of his catalogue. At over seventy years old, he’s not going to let a pandemic slow him down either as he did this new terrorist thriller with Ethan Hawke that was created within the whole ongoing COVID disaster. The film has Hawke in dual roles, first off as an American soldier stationed in Rome who embarks on a hero’s journey to uncover and defend against an unknown enemy threatening the entire world when the Vatican is blown up, spurred on by ideals from his revolutionary brother. Ferrara’s style of lingering on almost still moments is definitely at play here but what is more fascinating is his use of the empty streets of Italy to illustrate the times and his leaning into using drone technology to get some gorgeous cinematography in from Good Time shooter Sean Price Williams. This is an odd one because I’ve never seen a film bookended by the real actor explaining the process and, in the end, almost evaluating it but Abel has done it and I thought it worked.

The Spine Of Night – It’s clear that the brilliant works of animator Ralph Bakshi and the expanded world of creator Frank Frazetta still make impressions on filmmakers and storytellers today as this new animated feature is an absolute indicator of that. Done in a classic rotoscope animation style that brings back the feelings of game-changers like Wizards, Heavy Metal or the original adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings, filmmakers Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King have collaborated to make something both fantastical and not for the weak of heart. An ultra-violent and epic fantasy set in a land of magic, it follows heroes from different eras and cultures battling against a malevolent force when ancient, dark magic falls into sinister hands. The film is a bit splintered in its plotting which may throw the casual viewer off, I thought the film was a crazily gory thrill ride that does leaps and bounds to make itself a standout original in the animation field while being something that the foundations of the art form would be proud of. I must stress how much this movie is not for everyone and is a little hard to even recommend.

Deadlock – Bruce Willis is at it again in yet another direct to blu-ray action thriller release where he puts half the effort in for a full paycheck and it’s super frustrating. This time he co-leads with former soap actor star Patrick Muldoon who, for me, is most memorable for being in Starship Troopers and having his brain sucked out by a giant worm but I digress. This film has Willis changing it up for the villain role as Muldoon plays Mack, an ex-military man working at a Georgia power plant who has to rely on his old training to prevent disaster when a group of rogue soldiers gain control of the plant and take the employees hostage. This movie is really frustratingly constructed with a terrible script full of nonsensical motivations, lazy cinematography and fight choreography and a score that feels like it was lifted from another better film that is still terrible in calibre. This just seems like another notch of work for the former John McLane who seems to be pumping these out like crazy but as the guy who has to take them all in, I’m exhausted.

Superhost – If you are a horror fan and have not yet gotten yourself a Shudder subscription then you are seriously missing out on some of the best that the genre has to offer and beyond all that the streaming services has acquired, the documentaries and shows as well, are the films that they have helped produce themselves. So many are little goldmines and this one is another to add to the list and I have to give it to actress Gracie Gillam for making it such a must-see. The film’s plotting has a foundation of the extreme reality of YouTube influencers as the story follows travel vloggers Teddy and Claire who try to combat a dwindling follower count by pivoting to creating viral content around their most recent AirBnB owner or “superhost,” Rebecca, who wants more from the duo than a great review and set them up for a weekend of survival against a person that is bloodthirsty and unhinged. Writer and director Brandon Christensen sets you up with a character expose of these two characters first before their host is introduced and lets it marinate a bit before throwing them in the deep end. The film also features horror icon Barbara Crampton who is always an incredible joy to see onscreen even if she is eventually covered in blood.

Wayne’s World: 30th Anniversary Edition – One of the greatest comedies of all time is hitting the three-decade mark in February so Paramount has hooked the fans up with a beautiful new steelbook edition to fawn over and it is really worth that reaction, friends. This is a movie that has been quotable since its release and I think it is the most successful film ever made that was based on a Saturday Night Live sketch. For those who have bafflingly never heard of this movie, it follows two friends, Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, who think they’ve hit the big time when their cable access show is picked up by a major network by a sleazy producer. This is a movie I have seen countless times and will always stop and watch if I pass it on television. To get the upgrade to Blu-ray is an absolute treat and one I will treasure in my collection. I have a feeling that this will be a solid seller for Paramount all over again but, please, we really don’t need any more sequels or a reboot.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Red Angel – I’m bringing a double shot of late arrival Arrow Video releases this week and I’m kicking it all off with some classic Japanese cinema from the mid-sixties that haven’t ever made their way to a mainstream North American audience. This one is based on a famous novel from author Yoriyoshi Arima and contains some gruesome sequences of surgery without anesthetic and the removal of limbs with saws, which made it extremely controversial at its time and still a bit today. The film is set during the Sino-Japanese War and follows a young army nurse who gives selfless sympathy to all her patients and finds herself falling in love with an impotent doctor who’s addicted to morphine. It was brought to the big screen by director Yasuzô Masumura who isn’t a stranger on my blog at all as I covered a box set that Arrow Video released of his last year. He was a very progressive creator and storyteller that pushed boundaries and more often than not, found himself at odds with producers and executives in Japan. It’s sad that decades after his death he is now celebrated because he really wasn’t when he was around to appreciate it.

Shock – In addition to some absolutely niche Japanese cinema, Arrow Video is coming through with some classic Italian horror from a couple of the masters, Mario and Lamberto Bava, and one that would sadly be his final feature film as he passed away three years after it’s release in 1977. That aside, this one has even more cool Italian horror credibility to it as well with Daria Nicolodi starring in the lead role. She plays Dora Baldini, a woman who, after a stay in a psychiatric institution, moves back to her old memory-ridden house with her young son Marco and her new husband Bruno. It’s been seven years already since her first husband’s gruesome death, and now an eerie supernatural presence emerges which starts affecting innocent Marco as well as sending violently-vivid hallucinations to torment Dora, sending her to the brink of insanity. Americans got the raw deal of this film being released as Beyond The Door II with zero connection to the original film but now we get it all restored to the originally intended version from 1977. Honestly, the U.S. distributors had no idea what to do with some of these great Italian chillers.

Television:

Raising Dion: Season 2 (Netflix) – This is a show that I really only found out about the week of its first season but it turned out to be pretty interesting and something that is just PG and watchable with the whole family. The show is about a widowed young mother whose life is thrown into disarray when she discovers that her son has superpowers and tries to figure out how to raise him safely and responsibly. The special effects are a little noticeable on a high def television and the score gets really cheesy at times, as does the acting, but it is cool to see Dion discover and evolve his powers in an origin style story that definitely has a hell of a lot of nods to comic stories. There is one recognizable star in a very supporting role as Michael B. Jordan plays Dion’s dad who mostly appears in flashbacks but also serves as the show’s executive producer. Now that Lost In Space has finished its run and people are looking for some family-friendly sci-fi to watch, I think this one may pick up some attention.

Pam & Tommy (Disney+) – I feel like this new limited series will speak two a few specific generations but I know where I reside in that microcosm, the burgeoning teenager that was coming to age as the lovely Ladysmith born Pamela Anderson was in her “it girl” prominence. Even more focused, it was also the time of her and at the time husband Tommy Lee had their private sex tape stolen, released by a porn company and paraded in front of the whole world. Co-starring Seth Rogen and produced by his Point Grey film company, this series has Sebastian Stan and Lily James impeccably playing the title roles of Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson in two performances that will need to be brought up during the next television awards season. The series is a brash and unflinching telling of their notorious relationship, going back to the whirlwind romance that started with them marrying after only knowing each other for 96 hours in 1995. The series has rock star antics, seedy and nefarious deals both brokered and broken, gratuitous nudity and even a full-on talking penis. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I started it but I really was unaware that I could be watching the best new show of the year.

Murderville (Netflix) – At this point, Will Arnett has to be regarded as the king of Netflix. He had Bojack Horseman, Flaked and Arrested Development, the series that a lot of us were introduced to his brilliance, got its revival on the streaming service as well. Now he has a brand new series that has a really great twist to it as he plays a bumbling homicide detective who has a hard time keeping partners so he enlists a new celebrity every week to tag along but they have no script, have to improve everything along the way then implicate the killer each episode. It is hilariously well done and features Ken Jeong, Kumail Nanjiani, Marshawn Lynch and more and kicks off with a hilarious episode with Conan O’Brien. I can not undersell how great this show is and I will say that six episodes is really nowhere close to enough. I require more, immediately.

We Need To Talk About Cosby (Crave) – Comedian W. Kamau Bell is tackling the heart of an issue that I think we’ve all been skirting and just making jokes about, the change from beloved father of America to rapist monster that Bill Cosby went through when the spotlight was placed on the evil that he has perpetuated for decades. At first, the documentary was a straightforward one that Bell assembled many interviews for with friends and colleagues coming to terms with the monster that one of their inspirations was revealed to be. Then, after all the interviews were completed, the game was changed when Cosby was released from prison back into society with no change to his demeanour. I think this caused the documentary movie to be splintered into a docu-series with a wider scope to it and, after episode one, I have to say it is a fascinating watch. To see all the warning signs in the disgraced comedian’s history examined as well as the way the rest of pop culture seemed to brush it off, I really can’t wait for the rest of the series to get released. Engrossing stuff and it will make you feel all kinds of ick at the same time.

Reacher: Season 1 (Amazon Prime) – Tom Crusie was way too short to play Jack Reacher. We knew this but we accepted it because, let’s face it, the first movie really rocks. The second film, on the other hand, was a formulaic bore-fest that was predictable and wasted the star’s talent but it paved the way for this Lee Child adaptation to get a new life as an Amazon series. Former Ninja Turtle Alan Ritchson gets a crack at the character, a dude very formidable in stature, following the character as he battles for his life to remain outside of a military prison after being accused of murder. The show was made by some new show writers and execs but it looks to have some promise to it and at least will have all the bone-crunching action sequences that Christopher McQuarrie and Cruise champion through both of their big-screen versions. I didn’t realize how popular this book series was until all the attention this show got online. I know my father-in-law loves the books.

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