Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Death On The Nile – Agatha Christie is something of a forgotten era of filmmaking but Kenneth Branagh seemed to pull it off well with his remake of Murder On The Orient Express and why shouldn’t he be successful? this is the guy who did a multitude of Shakespeare adaptations. Now he is returning with another Christie mystery and slipping back into the role of master detective Hercule Poirot. This film follows the Belgian sleuth vacationing aboard a glamorous river steamer when it turns into a terrifying search for a murderer after a picture-perfect couple’s idyllic honeymoon is tragically cut short. Set against an epic landscape of sweeping Egyptian desert vistas and the majestic Giza pyramids, this mystery has a killer cast in it including Gal Gadot, Annette Bening, Russell Brand and more and I have a good feeling for it to be a fun flick, especially for a totally classic whodunit being retold.

Blacklight – Liam Neeson has a death grip on these geriatric action films and while I really feel bad for calling it one and now feel that Neeson has put me on his mental shitlist to fight at a later date, he did say he was retiring from them unless I made that up in my brain. It would be acceptable if the action movies he was making beyond this fake retirement were any good but most of them don’t resonate beyond the end credits and feel like constant retreads. This one has him playing Travis Block, a government operative coming to terms with his shadowy past when he discovers a plot targeting U.S. citizens and now finds himself in the crosshairs of the FBI director he once helped protect. The film comes from writer and director Mark Williams who has apparently found his action-thriller comfort zone is constantly working with the Taken action hero as he has had a hand in three of Neeson’s films since 2020 with this one included. I enjoy that former nineties heartthrob Aidan Quinn is the formidable foe for Liam to fight but nothing about the trailer or story seems like any new territory for audiences to discover.

Marry Me – I feel like this movie is just an elaborate ruse to release a new JLo single because the premise is totally ridiculous and campy and I can’t see anyone putting down money to go see this in theatres. The worst part of it all is they dragged the charming and befuddled Owen Wilson along for the ride and I hope it was against his will. The story follows music superstar Kat Valdez who is planning to get married to her fiance Bastian, another recording star in a huge concert venue in front of a global audience of fans. But when Kat learns, seconds before her vows, that Bastian has been unfaithful, she decides to marry Charlie, played by Wilson, a stranger in the crowd, instead and drags him into her bigger than life world and, obviously, they fall in love for real because these movies are so damn predictable. I get it that with the timing this movie is poised to earn all the Valentine’s Day box office but there has to be something better than this which feels like the lowest of hanging fruit. Heck, even JLo should feel that she’s better than this garbage unless, as I said, it’s all a vehicle for a new single.

I Want You Back – Charlie Day is a guy who I discovered through his involvement in films like Horrible Bosses rather than his long-running comedy series It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia which I am really late to the game on but has amassed a huge following with its fans over the last decade and a half. That said, I love the guy and when I saw that Amazon Prime had this new romantic comedy with the equally funny Jenny Slate I was pretty much over the moon about it. The film has the pair as Peter and Emma, newly dumped thirty-somethings who team up to sabotage their exes’ new relationships and hopefully win them back for good, hence the title of the movie. With a great supporting cast including Scott Eastwood, Gina Rodriguez and The Good Place’s Manny Jacinto, I’m interested to see what director Jason Orley does with the premise as it does seem. a little been there done that. He had a low-key hit with his debut Big Time Adolescence starring Pete Davidson so he is on the good side of it all plus it comes from the writers of Love Simon so I feel that the heart will be in the right place.

Kimi – With The Batman less than a month away, Zoe Kravitz is preparing to have a big year of being the new Selina Kyle and Catwoman but she’s getting the year started with this drama thriller courtesy of HBO Max and the incredible Steven Soderbergh who directs it. As usual, all of the actors line up to work with this must-see filmmaker and the cast rounds out with Erika Christensen, Rita Wilson, Robin Givens and more But it’s the reliability at its heart in this pandemic age that hooks your eyes. Set during that aforementioned COVID-19 outbreak, the story follows an agoraphobic tech worker who discovers evidence of a violent crime while reviewing a data stream and is met with resistance and bureaucracy when she tries reporting it to her company. To get involved, she realizes she must face her greatest fear by venturing out of her apartment and into the city streets, which are filled with protestors after the city council passes a law restricting the movements of the homeless population. Soderbergh does so well with these really contained thrillers, as was on display with the Claire Foy film Unsane all shot on his iPhone and I expect no less from this movie. I know all the pandemic thrillers are a little triggering and we could kind of do without them at this point but this man is one of the masters and the way it was used for the story looks so very compelling.

The Sky Is Everywhere – To be honest, this movie had me at the mere mention of Jason Segal but the dreamlike filter which it was shot gets me all sorts of indie film feelings even if the story is a bit sad. I’m also very intrigued by the fact that it’s the new film from director Josephine Decker who puzzled me with her sleepy thriller Madeline’s Madeline but totally won me over with her creepy little biopic drama Shirley. An adaptation of the novel by author Jandy Nelson, the story of this film follows Lennie, a shy teenage musician whose life is shaken by the death of her talented older sister and finds herself torn between the seductive Toby, her sister’s boyfriend who shares her grief, and Joe, the new boy in town who bursts with life. Each offers Lennie something she desperately needs and the character renaissance truly lies in the performance of Grace Kaufman who leaves that crappy CBS sitcom Man With A Plan starring Matt Leblanc in the dust. It was big shoes marketing-wise for her to fill as the role was originally Selena Gomez’s who remained on the production as an executive producer. Playing on AppleTV+, hopefully, this gets a lot of attention as CODA did, now an Oscar-nominated movie. 

The In Between – An actress I have been seeing in movies and television from a young age, actress Joey King has consistently been making all of the right moves as she transitions into adulthood, even getting huge praise for her based on a true story series The Act with Patricia Arquette. Now she has this new sci-fi-themed romantic drama that features Kyle Allen, the star of the surprisingly great The Map of Tiny Perfect Things which debuted on Amazon Prime last year. The film is a supernatural love story that centers on a teenage girl, Tessa, , who, after bouncing around in foster homes for most of her childhood, doesn’t believe she deserves her own love story. Everything changes after she has a chance encounter with Skylar, a senior from a neighbouring town who’s a true romantic. As her heart begins to open, tragedy strikes when a car accident takes Skylar’s life, while Tessa survives. As Tessa searches for answers in the aftermath of the accident, she soon believes Skylar is attempting to reconnect with her from the afterworld. With the help of her best friend and a newfound belief that love never dies, Tessa attempts to contact Skylar one last time, in order to give their love story the epic ending it deserves. The movie was made by director Arie Posin, who made a really promising debut with his drama The Chumscrubber in 2005, another teen drama, and I hope he channels some of that feeling for this outing. I also like that the film has supporting work from John Ortiz and Kim Dickens who are always great character actors and deliver every time they are brought out.

National Champions – Sports movies can be a multiple-choice answer when you watch them. It can be a dime a dozen affair where you can predict all the dramatic beats, a well-acted and dynamic story that keeps you on the edge of your seat or a badly cast and put-together film that has you looking for the exit. This film is a mixed bag of all three, following a star quarterback who ignites a player’s strike hours before the biggest game of the year in order to fight for fair compensation, equality and respect for the student-athletes. What kept my focus in the film is the phenomenal cast assembled around lead star Stephan James including J.K. Simmons, Timothy Olyphant and Tim Blake Nelson but seems to pull the rug out from under it at all the worst times with a cringe-worthy script. It takes a lot for Simmons to come off like a cheeseball and director Ric Roman Waugh does it multiple times. It’s sad because his last film Greenland was such a pleasant surprise by being good and utterly depressing too.

Parallel Mothers – Pedro Almodovar makes cinema with every flourish of his being. It may not be relatable or something in your particular wheelhouse but it is evident that he comes from the school of the greatest international auteurs and he also has that classic loyalty to his stars like Penelope Cruz who leads this film as well. Co-starring the incredibly stunning Rossy de Palma, the story sets out with two women, Janis and Ana, connecting in a hospital room where they are going to give birth. Both are single and became pregnant by accident with Janis, a middle-aged who doesn’t regret it and is excited for the journey and the other, Ana, an adolescent who is scared, repentant and traumatized by the whole experience. Janis tries to encourage her while they move like sleepwalkers along the hospital corridors and with only a few words exchanged between them in these hours, it will create a very close link between the two, which by chance develops and complicates, and changes their lives in a decisive way. The film is always vibrant and colourful but it is the eyes of both women that get a focus that pulls you into the drama of the situation as well as the dread felt when secrets and revelations come to light but aren’t immediately spoken. The film fills an international niche that might be widely sought but the fans of this style will eat it up like a well-prepared meal.

The Worst Person In The World – Fresh off getting a Best Foreign Academy Award nomination, one of my studio publicist contacts emailed me about this new well-received drama, the next masterpiece from writer and director Joachim Trier who has not only not mad a sub-par film but has yet to make one that was any less than amazing. All over film Twitter, people have been going crazy for this movie and I can now say that I agree with them. The film is a modern dramedy about the quest for love and meaning in contemporary Oslo, chronicling four years in the life of Julie, a young woman who navigates the troubled waters of her love life and struggles to find her career path, leading her to take a realistic look at who she really is and make decisions that could paint her to others as a horrendous human being. Lead actress Renate Reinsve is absolutely electric in this movie, giving her journey resonance and purpose, putting us on an odyssey of finding her perfect center which includes a mind-bending mushroom hallucination that could be one of my favourite scenes I’ve seen this year. This is a special movie and, damn the subtitles, people need to watch it.

Big Bug – I’m a sucker for French films big time but it’s the director of this movie, Jean Pierre Jeunet that really got the ball rolling for me big time, creating my favourite romantic film of all time, A Very Long Engagement as well as many other weirdo and eccentric projects like Delicatessen. This new film leans harder into the weird side of his filmography and I’m totally here for every second. Once again featuring actor Dominique Pinon, a staple of all of his films, this one goes for the sci-fi comedy vein, following a group of arguing suburbanites who find themselves stuck together when an android uprising, causing their well-intentioned household robots to lock them in for their own safety. With an exploding colour palate, incredible idiosyncratic cinematography and an unpredictable plot, Jeunet has carved into his own niche for another delightfully odd story that will become instantly loved by his fans like me. Film after film, this guy just gets me right in my cinematic sensibilities.

Compartment Number 6 – Conversational movies are a really hard sell to most mainstream audiences at best but when it is a foreign film with a whole bunch of subtitles, it can be worse. I’m a guy who cut his teeth on films like Singles and Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy so when a film like this comes out it feels like it is directly in my wheelhouse. The film follows a young Finnish woman who escapes an enigmatic love affair in Moscow by boarding a train to the Arctic port of Murmansk. Forced to share the long ride and a tiny sleeping car with a Russian miner, the unexpected encounter leads the occupants of Compartment number six to face the truth about their own yearning for human connection and the real feelings of loneliness that have clouded them for longer than they can remember. The fascinating thing about this film is the archetypes which it deals with because, in a focused European way, they seem cliched but this is only on the surface. Laura is an introvert yearning to be a bubbly and outgoing person which could cure her ennui while Ljoha is a brash Russian who replaces anger with vulnerability but also has a soft spot for love stories like Titanic. Most won’t have the patience to see the glow within this movie but those who can will feel totally rewarded.

A Week In Paradise – Malin Ackerman is an actress I really enjoy and have since I saw her for the first time In Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle, but it’s someone that probably should take some more caution in her role choosing. I was duped last year by her fight club comedy Chick Fight that felt so horrendously underwritten and dude logic heavy and I will say that everything about her new film turns me off as a viewer. The film co-stars Connie Nielsen and Phillip Winchester and follows an international film star whose world collapses when her film director husband is outed by the paparazzi as having a baby with his new young leading lady causing her to seek a break from it all at a Caribbean boutique hotel resort. The film comes from filmmaker Philippe Martinez who is mostly known for doing direct to DVD action flicks with Jean Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal so this feels a bit out of left field or that he wanted to make a movie predominantly set at a vacation destination. Either way, Malin and Connie are not enough to keep me engaged watching her get her groove back or live under a Tuscan sun or even eat, pray or love… again.

Catch The Fair One – At a quick breakneck speed, this less than an hour and a half of intense redemption got me hooked right away and I knew absolutely nothing about it when I pressed play. It feels like I’m jumping into descriptors on this film early but that is to sell how out of nowhere great this movie was and how compelling its newcomer lead star is, Kali Reis, who also wrote the story. The story follows a former champion indigenous boxer battling her demons of addiction and family estrangement that embarks on the fight of her life when she goes in search of her missing sister, to bring her home to her mother and earn some sort of redemption. The grit of this movie shakes off in every scene as Reis’s portrayal feels real and the inexperience of her character drives the inexperience and, above all, the reckless abandon of her objective. The violence is explosive but the emotion is just as palpable leading to a third act that delivers an ending that will sit with you for more than a moment.

Cosmic Dawn – Just looking at the poster for this new alien-centric sci-fi thriller filled me with so much wonder and speculation, a beautiful colour burst that reminded me of a SpectreVision film like Mandy. On closer inspection, the film almost operated like a forgotten child of that production company and, with the limited reach of its marketing, will probably find a good home with the after-release cult status. The story follows Aurora, a woman who dealt with the abduction of her mother by aliens when she was a child by joining an alien worshipping cult. Now moved on from the cult, Aurora is forced to confront her past and pursue the ultimate truth about The Cosmic Dawn, and the effect that cult has left on her. The film earns its creepy factor right away and while steering a bit towards the horror genre it never gets to that level of terror so it’s kind of safe from people who hate scary movies. Actress Camilla Rowe, a kick-ass presence in the indie world, delivers a hell of a performance in this through the studious work of writer and director Jefferson Moneo who is only two feature films deep but is already operating on a veteran level.

A Cops And Robbers Story – This is one of those crazy stories that I had only heard briefly on the internet but in the metropolis of New York City it was massive news. Largely involving the NYPD, this film is definitely under a microscope now given all the Black Lives Matter protests in the last few years as well as the push on police reform but this one brings it back the other way a bit, more fuel to the fire of blatant racism in the organization. The documentary tells the story of Cory Pegues, a man embroiled in a life of crime as a member of New York City’s infamous Supreme Team gang in the 1980s. After a near-death gang confrontation, Pegues flees the city, only to return years later as a rising star in the NYPD. When Pegues speaks publicly in support of police reform, he becomes a target within the department and details of his former life are thrust into the spotlight. The discotomy better gang banger and supposed protector of the streets are so interesting s is the way that Pegues is described by his peers and the media before and after his past life has come to light is absolutely fascinating and Romanian filmmaker Ilinca Calugareanu frames it all just perfectly with in-depth interviews and a catalogue of video that puts everything in a clear perspective. It all begs the question can a person be defined only by the way the path started or where it ended up? The astounding good that Pegues had done in his policing tenure seems to outweigh the bad in reality but sadly, with racism in America being what it is, it all comes off as inconsequential.

Flee – Some. of the most important filmmaking out there has to be the documentary, a style much maligned for being boring or dull but they continue to push the boundaries of exploration, information and ideas. The other interesting thing about them is how subversive they can be and how they can blend into almost every genre as this new critically-lauded film does. Animated beautifully, the film tells the extraordinary true story of a man named Amin who, on the verge of marriage, is compelled to reveal his hidden past for the first time. What results is the first-hand account of a refugee’s story with no flinches away from the darkness and harrowing experience contained within as well as the trauma that comes through later in life? This film is truly special and is reminiscent of a film like Waltz With Bashir, which has now done some Academy Award history for itself by earning a Best Animated nomination as well as a Best Documentary one as well.

Blu-Ray:

Encanto – Disney has arrived again with a movie to replace the songs and dialogue of Moana for parents who have had to endure it over and over again, if not give them a bit of a reprieve and of course, it is once again thanks to Lin Manuel Miranda and his songwriting skills. The film tells the tale of an extraordinary family, the Madrigals, who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia, in a magical house in a wondrous place called an Encanto. The magic of the Encanto has blessed every child in the family with a unique gift from super strength to the power to heal every child except one, Mirabel. When Mirabel discovers that the magic surrounding the Encanto is in danger, she decides that she, the only ordinary Madrigal, might just be her family’s saviour. The voice cast is a great line-up of Latino stars including Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz, the veteran and always welcome John Leguizamo and many more and the story is just as vibrant as the visuals you are seeing on screen and “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” will constantly be sung in your household and not just by the kids because the song is so damn catchy. Miranda has to be one of the most gifted creators out there and he is always showing that off.

King Richard – Will Smith might be coming to join the Oscar race this year because he has given a performance that is just career rejuvenating and I have to say 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 where Richard says he has not one but two of the next Michael Jordans. It makes me chuckle every time but the way the story is able to break away from being about the father to the struggle and strife of his daughters just adds to a film that is already fascinating from the get-go. Don’t sleep on this movie, it is worth every moment of its runtime.

Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City – When the first adaptation of Resident Evil hit theatres in 2002 I have to admit I was definitely a fan but I did feel like it wasn’t a close enough realization to the video game which is something I would love to see. I do see that it was more made as a vehicle for Milla Jovovich to have her own action franchise but I wanted something more faithful and we now have it with a film that explores not just the first game but the second as well. This one is set in 1998 and explores the secrets of the mysterious Spencer Mansion and the ill-fated Raccoon City which was once the booming home of pharmaceutical giant Umbrella Corporation. Now a dying Midwestern town, the company’s exodus left the city a wasteland with great evil brewing below the surface and when that evil is unleashed, the townspeople are forever changed into bloodthirsty creatures and a small group of survivors must work together to uncover the truth behind Umbrella and make it through the night. The film features Crawl’s Kaya Scodelaerio, Code 9’s Robbie Amell and Ant-Man And The Wasp’s Hannah John-Kamen as franchise favorite players and the mood, aesthetic and set pieces that look pitch-perfect but as a horror movie, it all falls flat. Nothing is scary, everything feels telegraphed and before you know it you’re in a rushed third act and a lacklustre finish. I feel so conflicted on this one and am still waiting for it to be done properly I guess.

The Beatles: Get Back – Master filmmaker Peter Jackson is known for a plethora of reasons in the film world. At first, he was an originator in schlock horror, making splatter films in New Zealand for years. Then he was the Tolkein guy, adapting both the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and The Hobbit and also did a great job of King Kong in my opinion. Finally, he pivoted to documentary filmmaking with a hell of a World War I film called They Shall Not Grow Old. Now he’s made a Beatles fan like me overjoyed with this three-part docu-series that follows the Fab Four as they regroup to record and rehearse fourteen new songs that would become the album Let It Be and prepare for their unforgettable rooftop concert at London’s Savile Row, their first live performance in two years. As a person that holds this group so close to his heart, as does the rest of my family, this series is so special and it’s jaw-dropping to see this footage restored to look like it was recorded yesterday. I’m grateful to Jackson and his team and I feel like other Beatles fans will be as well.

The Hating Game – Romantic comedies have a lot to overcome to get me on board and I probably have to credit all the bad Kate Hudson, Katherine Heigl and numerous other actresses’ streak of making these films as the catalyst. The Hating Game is a fitting description of my feelings on the genre but I sat down to get punished by yet another one, expecting absolutely nothing. The story follows Lucy Hale as, well, Lucy, an ambitious go-getter who embarks on a ruthless game of one-upmanship against cold and efficient nemesis Joshua but tries to do it while achieving professional success without compromising her ethics. Of course, the rivalry gets complicated when she starts to have feelings for him because it wouldn’t be a rom-com without it. As familiar as this movie feels, I will say that Hale is a charming actress and gives some of these lines a great levity that translates well. On the other hand, Austin Stowell is someone I felt was a bit wooden and I was really wanting more of a Robbie Amell type who I think would have fit this role beautifully. All in all, I felt a bit of a surprise with this one but the genre’s pitfalls are a little too much to overcome.

Out Of Death – This week seems like a bad Bruce Willis movie Christmas and it all comes down as fitting as well because the Razzies have made a category for the “in it for a paycheck” actor and both films I’m talking about are on the nominee breakdown. All of them are so incredibly formulaic, badly written and reek of a Willis phoned in performance but even that level of terrible becomes an art form within itself. This one, complete with a terrible title, ropes in the beautiful Jaime King unfortunately and follows her as part of a corrupt Sheriff’s department in a rural mountain town that comes undone when an unintended witness, played by Willis, throws a wrench into their shady operation. Everything the former Die Hard actor does in this hamfisted action thriller makes him seem like he’s absolutely exhausted and ready to retire and, as the viewer, I felt the same. Time to hang it up, McClane, or get a better agent. Oh well, let’s move on to the next one.

Apex – The next one is Willis doing boredom again but this time in a hi-tech setting and he’s dragging along Neal McDonaogh for the ride and, sadly, for him, the bad movies are a little more common for such a great character actor who does a hell of a villain role. The constant here is Bruce is totally checked out. In a play on Surviving The Game, this film has six elite hunters who pay to hunt down a man on a deserted island, only to find themselves being picked off one by one courtesy of the guy they were supposed to bag. What an obvious twist! This one might be the cream of the crap because as fun as you can make this premise, it never rises above a dull roar and even becomes tedious in many spots. They definitely aren’t paying Bruce for his enthusiasm because the guy is devoid of it and apparently has been for a while. Man, this stuff is so sad.

Catwoman: Hunted – Brand new DC Comics animated films make Steve a nerdy and happy boy and this one gets super female-centric with not just the titular character of Catwoman but the badassery of Batwoman and her flaming red hair to add to the mix. Also, as a Brooklyn Nine-Nine fan who sourly misses that series with all of his heart, hearing Stephanie Beatriz’s voice in this just warmed my heart. Always clocking in at just an hour and fifteen minutes, this short adventure follows Catwoman in an attempt to steal a priceless jewel which puts her squarely in the crosshairs of both a powerful consortium of villains, Interpol and Batwoman. I think this one is especially cool for the former Rosa Diaz as Beatriz openly campaigned for the live-action role of Batwoman when Ruby Rose stepped away from the CW series so the fact that she gets to do the Kate Kane role in some capacity is a bit of a full-circle moment. All that and these films are always so much fun for a comic book nerd and chocked full of references that we devour.

Ailey – This was a midnight hour addition to the releases this week that was so close to not getting on this blog but I love my PR person at Elevation and wanted to make her happy. This one’s for you, Kate! I’m really glad I did get this one as it comes from Neon, a company I really love and is an incredibly immersive and beautiful-looking movie that I did not know heading in. The film is a portrait of Alvin Ailey, a visionary artist who found his own personal salvation through dance. Told in his own words through the creation of a new commission inspired by his life, evocative archival footage and interviews with those who intimately knew him, this is a documentary that centers on the Black American experience with grace, strength, and unparalleled beauty. Sometimes a movie lands in your lap and it feels like a gift from the movie gods and this was my happy piece of that this week.

The Year Of The Everlasting Storm – Over the last couple of years we have all been going through a shared trauma due to pandemic measures, fear of getting sick and now a renewed fear of the general public but that last one may just be me. I have been hoping that the whole thing wouldn’t be fodder for bad storytelling but some of the documentaries that have come out of it have been fascinating and this is definitely one at the top of the pile. Featuring seven stories from seven auteurs from around the world, the film chronicles this unprecedented moment in time and is a true love letter to the power of cinema and its storytellers which plays directly into my heart. This film beautifully shows how uncontained the human spirit can be even if we have to isolate it for a while and was constructed by some of the greatest filmmakers in current cinema-like Jafar Panahi and David Lowery, you know, the director of the greatest film from last year, The Green Knight, which just got snubbed by the Academy! Okay, the serenity this movie gave me has now dissipated.

Little Girl – A character story made in the microcosm of a secular documentary is always a fascinating thing to behold but when it comes through the filter of an eight-year-old’s naivete it becomes something different and special. That was the goal of French writer and director Sébastien Lifshitz. He isn’t a stranger to these life-in-a-bottle style documentary stories as he did Adolescents a couple of years ago, a film that focuses on two teen best friends but this one is boiled down to little Sasha, the only way we see her billed. The film is the touching portrait of eight-year-old Sasha,  a girl who questions her gender and in doing so, evokes the sometimes disturbing reactions of a society that is still invested in a biological boy-girl way of thinking, something that feels like a daily fight on social media and must be hell for anyone going through this struggle. What I find most incredible about it is that we hear all the venom and vitriol and the pleading for acceptance but never on the level of discovery like this. It is played with a sweet innocence but also attempts to frame the negativity and hostility as well. It served to make what I thought to be an important film about gender identity.

Gold Diggers Of 1933 – A little bit of Warner Archive arrives this week and we’re going further back than we have for a while as the year of this film is in the title, the actors are really unknown to me but all that said it did end up earning an Academy Award nomination out of the dead, as it got a technical nod for best sound which may have just been a novelty back in those times. This movie was a really big deal at the time though and one of the neon-outlined violins used in the Shadow Waltz number is on display in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. The story follows Carol, a struggling woman with her fellow showgirls who try to navigate the Great Depression when it closes all the Broadway shows. Wealthy songwriter Brad saves the day by funding a new Depression-themed musical for the girls to star in, but when his stuffy high-society brother finds out and threatens to disown Brad, Carol and her gold-digging friend’s scheme to keep the show going, hooking a couple of millionaires along the way. I will admit that the era this was made and the scope in which it’s filmed makes it very hard to get into and it really can only be appreciated as being history by a viewer like me but the beginnings of big Broadway cinema are here and it’s really neat to see the effect of a catastrophe like the Great Depression. There was also the classic infighting of Hollywood creators and producers that marred the end result a bit too but it all rolls into that classic cinema history that we marvel at now.

Stargirl: Season 2 – After the rollout of the first season of this bit of a left-field character for the average comic fan, I found myself really satisfied with the outcome of that first batch and have been really looking forward to this follow-up. The show is about a teenage girl named Courtney Whitmore who discovers the cosmic staff and becomes the inspiration for a new generation of superheroes who eventually become the Justice Society Of America and the potential for this series’ expansion is so big just knowing that Arrowverse creator Greg Berlanti and comic legend Geoff Johns are the showrunners for this. With the DC Universe really needing something to keep it afloat, their television department could really do some cool things for them in the way that they can finally obtain that Marvel Studios-like prestige they’ve been wanting for so long. I also really like that there is a bit of a horror theme that runs through these new episodes with the DC Frankenstein-like character of Solomon Grundy showing up to make his big bad mark.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

The Collector – I bought some horror for myself so I had to bring it along as it comes from the guys who did the killer monster flicks Feast as well as took over the Saw franchise and added their grizzly tidbits once James Wan and Leigh Whannel had moved on and Darren Lynn Bousman was looking for new ideas. This is a slasher movie on a grand scale that follows an ex-con who plots a heist at his new employer’s country home, desperate to repay his debt to his ex-wife, but is unaware that a second criminal has also targeted the property, and rigged it with a series of deadly traps. This movie is sadistic, viscerally gory and unrelenting in its violence, sometimes to a shocking degree. It had originally been planned as a trilogy, had a second film coming out called The Collection but it had its third film abruptly cancelled during filming which is a massive bummer. I love these movies and wish more people shared my passion for them.

Billy Connolly: Journey To The Edge Of The World – Scottish comedian Billy Connolly will go down in history as one of my favourite funnymen to grace the stage and it’s a place in my heart that will never change as he has since retired, sadly due to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. That said, this series, while containing some comedy, was more about Connolly being a tour guide for his viewers and a fantastic one at that. Released in 2009, Connolly braves the elements in this adventurous journey from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, via the legendary Northwest Passage on a custom-made trike-style motorcycle that will absolutely blow your mind. Complete with his warm and endearing sense of humour, Connolly will make you wish that he was in more nature and travel shows because his charisma just leaps off the screen.

The Messenger – With the Academy Award nominations just being in the entertainment news this week, I thought I would talk about this film from 2009 I picked up, one that was half ignored by the Oscar voting body even though it featured two of the best performances of that year in the form of Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson and only the latter got the recognition. Let’s face it, both of these guys give their all everytime they walk out but this one had something special to it. Foster plays a soldier injured in Irag who returns home to finish the rest of his tour of duty in the Army’s Casualty Notification service. He is paired with veteran officer Tony Stone, played by Harrelson, and tries to come to terms with his own pain while dealing with the cold realities of his new mission which opens new wounds and exposes him to more trauma of loss. Written and directed by Oren Moverman, this movie has me in tears so many times with the soulful performance from Foster that slowly bleeds out over the duration as well as Harrelson’s portrayal of Stone and his coping mechanisms. I could never stomach the responsibilities these men had to handle and it is emotionally gripping to see them do it.

Television:

Raised By Wolves: Season 2 (Crave) – This is a new series produced by Ridley Scott for HBO Max that I think a lot of people slept on for the first season but they will pay attention now that the second season is making it’s debut. It has massive intrigue surrounding it and I have a Westworld feeling that it may really catch on through word of mouth and, honestly, if you just gave episode one a good go you’d probably be hooked, faithful reader, especially if you’re a deep sci-fi fan. The show stars Vikings’ former leading man Travis Fimmel and takes place on a mysterious plant where androids are tasked with raising human children when they crash land, fleeing the oppressive human race who have reverted back to commanding with the force of religion. There’s a lot to unpack here but it was created by The Red Road’s showrunner Aaron Guzikowski and the ten-episode first season had an incredible imagination and stunning imagery to it and gives a fascinating look into the scope of artificial intelligence against the backdrop of belief and faith. I will warn you that when the violence kicks off it gets decidedly gory but you know me, I loved it.

Dollface: Season 2 (Disney+ and Crave) – Kat Dennings is a forever dreamgirl to me, from the first time I saw her, and I’m married now and she’s engaged to rocker Andrew W.K. but she’s a cutie and my crush still stands. That said, I really disliked her sitcom, 2 Broke Girls, a laugh track driven sitcom that ran for years but the good news is that is over and when she’s not popping up in the MCU on WandaVision she’s doing this comedy series for Hulu and I adore it. She plays a woman that reconnects with her old clic of girlfriends when she is brutally dumped by her long-time boyfriend. Her social awkwardness and naivete about dating, club and etiquette in the single world as well as her trying to relearn what being a close friend is feels adorable and relatable and Dennings nails everything about it to the wall in a fantastic lampooning. The show is a first-time creation from Jordan Weiss and features a really great cast around Kat like former Disney girl Brenda Song and the hysterically Esther Povitsky just to name a few. I hope it gets renewed for a third season, it’s just so damn good.

Disenchantment: Part 4 (Netflix) – Matt Groening’s third original series and his first with Netflix enters into its the fourth piece of its story, following Princess Tiabeanie or ‘Bean’, voiced by Broad City’s Abby Jacobsen, a royal in a world of fantasy that wants desperately to shed the shackles of what a princess is supposed to be, yearning for action and adventure. After meeting Luci, a demon, and Elfo, an elf, she gets more than she wished for in a series that is honestly a bit hard to get into through the first four episodes. Towards the end of the first season the show kind of finds its footing so I really hope that this new season builds on that from the get-go because, honestly, it feels slow and we are talking about an animated series here. That said, the supporting voices of Eric Andre and Matt Berry are what keep me coming back to this one for more.

Inventing Anna (Netflix) – Julia Garner is on a hot streak after becoming a fan favourite character in Ozark and now, as the series brings itself to a close with a two-parter season, she is on the look for a new project and she may have found it in Shondaland. Yes, Garner is the enigmatic focus of this new Shondra Rimes created series that actually is taking a true story and embellishing a bit in her own way. The series focuses on former My Girl and Veep star Anna Chlumsky as a journalist trying to recover from a career blunder who investigates the case of Anna Delvey, the Instagram-legendary German heiress who stole the hearts of New York’s social scene as well as a lot of money and unearned prestige. The show has the gloss of a Grey’s Anatomy or Scandal-like primetime show but it’s the supporting cast in Chlumsky’s journalist clic that gets me with Oz’s Terry Kinney, veteran character actors Jeff Perry and Anna Devere Smith and even Workaholics’ Anders Holm that keeps me engaged. The mystery is there too but I feel like the guts of it are more than a few episodes in. Hopefully, she knows how to end it eventually because isn’t Grey’s on like season fifteen or something?

Rick And Morty: Season 5 (Adult Swim) – It’s been a crash course in a cartoon that I was way late to the game for but I will say that I was onboard so quickly because the writing is so good I get euphoric with its brilliant complexities. So, in that spirit, let’s renew a celebration of Rick And Morty Day, an acknowledgement of one of the more fucked up paternal relationships that probably changed young Morty for the worse and possibly made him a monster. Wait, is this the sentiment I’m going for? The show, now available in a season one to four box set as well as individually, is set to debut its fifth season tonight on Adult Swim and fans are drooling for it with creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon wringing their hands in excitement. The best news is that there are another fifty episodes commissioned beyond this and the show seems like it will continue indefinitely. Even better news, and don’t hate me for this, but I’m kind of new to the show and am still in season one so I am discovering all the “schwifty”, Szechuan sauce and Pickle Rick references beyond the times that they’ve become viral memes across the internet. Soon, I will be caught up and still kind of behind all the references. The point is, I’m receiving the Adult Swim education and goddamn is Chris Parnell great, right?

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