Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Uncharted – I feel like the rights for this video game property from developer Naughty Dog were optioned by Sony so long ago with multiple stars attached at some point or another but I guess it just took their golden boy Tom Holland’s influence to get the film going finally. Mark Wahlberg had been attached to the lead role for a long time and had director David O. Russell behind the camera but now steps into the supporting role to Holland’s Nathan Drake and Venom director Ruben Fleisher at the helm. The story follows a young version of the street smart character as he is recruited by seasoned treasure hunter Victor “Sully” Sullivan to recover a fortune amassed by Ferdinand Magellan and lost 500 years ago by the House of Moncada. The film has the formidable Antonio Banderas in the lead role and looks to be an action-packed and fun ride with some really cool-looking sequences, just the sort of thing I’m looking for right now. There may become a time when we tire of Tom and his leading roles but it’s not here yet.

Ambulance – Looking to blow things up in the biggest ways possible with the story usually being a secondary motion, Michael Bay is back on the scene with this new action thriller that only has my attention because of the lead stars of Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul Mateen III who are always incredible on screen. I used to be into the “Bay-hem” of this action pioneer but have been dulled down by too many Transformers films and the cacophonous noise of his style but maybe the low bar will work out in my favour. The film follows two desperate men who pair for the biggest bank heist in Los Angeles history with a take of $32 million. Of course, things go wrong and they hijack an ambulance with a wounded cop clinging to life and an ace EMT on board, played by Baby Driver’s Eiza Gonzalez. With it being a Michael Bay film, besides explosions, it will be full of insane camera twirling, sunkissed shots of the Los Angeles cityscape and more of his trademarks but I’m hoping that the acting elevates this one because he has some heavyweights. The movie is also a remake of a 2005 thriller out of Denmark as was Gyllenhaal’s previous film, The Guilty, which is fantastic and on Netflix right now.

Dog – Channing Tatum knows who he is and knows that the women and men will flock to the theatres because he oozes sexuality and charm. As gross as it was for me to say ooze there, I know this is the case and I really also enjoy him as an actor but to bring a dog along for your new film in the co-star seat seems a bit like stacking the deck I think. Co-directing this film as well with the Magic Mike franchise writer Reid Carolin, he plays one of two former Army Rangers who are paired against their will on the road trip of a lifetime, the other one just happens to be a Belgian Malinois named Lulu. Together they buckle into a 1984 Ford Bronco and race down the Pacific Coast in hopes of making it to a fellow soldier’s funeral on time while pushing each other’s buttons, breaking a small handful of laws and narrowly avoiding death along the way. I’m intrigued to see what Tatum is capable of as a director and I usually have a soft spot for road trip films, especially as this one is shot by Newton Thomas Sigel, the guy behind The Usual Suspects, Drive and most recently Da 5 Bloods. This might be a sleeper heartwarmer for audiences heading into spring.

The Cursed – When I was working at a video store I came across an indie film from a young Irish filmmaker named Sean Ellis called Cashback and I’ve been hooked ever since. His movies come across as creepy and fantastical but always play in a different pool of the mystery-thriller genre but for his new film he goes full-on gothic monster horror and it’s pretty awesome. Originally called Eight For Silver, the story is set in rural 19th-century France as a mysterious and possibly supernatural menace threatens a small village causing John McBride, a pathologist, to come to town to investigate the danger and exorcise some of his own demons in the process. The gore is immediately present and the darkness of this almost Lovecraftian levels of despair, this was quickly my type of movie about fifteen minutes in. Not to give any spoilers but there is a scene in this film that was so bold in its heightened horror that it caught me off guard and it reminded me of the great body scares John Carpenter brought to his The Thing remake. This movie will only appeal to a certain part of the horror community but those who are into it will love it immensely.

Ted K – Movies about serial killers have a certain hotness to them which extends beyond horror fans and I understand how gross that was to read as it was equally bad to write. It seems the same serial killers get the movie treatment over and over again like Ted Bundy or even the influence like Ed Gein for Psycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Jeffrey Dahmer for you Hannibal Lector like characters but the Una Bomber has been left untouched until now. The film has the great character actor Sharlto Copley in the lead role in an exploration of Ted Kaczynski’s life in Lincoln, Montana in the years leading up to his arrest as the infamous mailbox bomber. Copley is such a chameleon of a performer and I had the opportunity to chat with him after making the action flick Hardcore Henry and see what process he takes to get into anyone he is playing’s head. His dedication is always present which is why I have the utmost faith that he pulls this film off.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre – The new hotness in horror franchises is to ignore the subsequent sequels that have been released and just pick up after the original movies in a sort of retconning. It worked for Halloween which was worked into a finale trilogy and now The Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe director Fede Alvarez is giving the same treatment to Tobe Hooper’s blisteringly iconic southern terror fest. Yes, after nearly fifty years of hiding, Leatherface returns to terrorize a group of idealistic young friends who accidentally disrupt his carefully shielded world in a remote Texas town. Even better, the group that descends on this ghost down to meet their grisly demise are a bunch of social media influencers which will give the audience a bit of glee when they are dispatched. This is by far the highest body count this franchise has ever seen and the gore is flying from the get-go which makes this movie an insane amount of fun to watch. I also really loved that there are no hero moments in this film and it gets almost comical. This is obviously geared at a certain audience and you already know who you are.

Streamline – Another film hitting me in my weak spot, there is a brand new Australian melodrama on the books this week and it also happens to have Jason Isaacs in a very background supporting role but still one that shows off his gravitas. The film also features young actor Levi Miller in the main role who was supposed to be a huge star after the blockbuster Pan which basically was a glittery bowl of diarrhea with no coherence behind it and I really hadn’t seen him in anything until now. This film is inspired by a true story and has Miller playing a gifted 15-year-old swimmer who is on the brink of the biggest swim meet of his life that could allow him to qualify for the Olympics. Pushed by his ruthless coach, and his mother Kim, it’s unclear if he actually wants the life he’s seemingly being forced to chase but when his estranged father is released from jail, his fight to escape his past to Olympic glory becomes even more dangerous. The movie is a first-time feature from writer and director Tyler Wade Johnson who has such a great command of dramatic performances that feel a little rough around the edges which really adds to the realism of the story. Miller is absolutely jacked now, really leaning into the swimmer’s body build, which might have been helped along by Aussie Olympic hero Ian Thorpe, also known as the Thorpedo, who was the executive producer of this movie. This is a solid film that sadly won’t get a lot of attention I think.

President – With all the post-election events in the United States since the 2020 results and frankly the attacks on our own current government in Canada over the last few weeks, there’s something about this new documentary that just hit harder. Playing very much in a compiled real-time with no narrator and a few subtitle cards to help you along the way, this documentary became a quasi horror film that saw the slaughter of democracy in an African country. The film follows a young and charismatic leader named Nelson Chamisa who takes on the corrupt ruling party in Zimbabwe’s 2018 presidential election. Early on and with no blatant hiding of the corruption, he sees the delay in the tabulating of votes by the Zimbabwe Elections council and the writing is on the wall from pretty much the beginning. While the end results are far darker and less hopeful than the start, to see the fight in the streets from the people of Zimbabwe is equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking and director Camilla Nielsson catches it all like a fly on the wall. I felt at the beginning that it felt a bit dry in its approach but as the ball gets rolling it all becomes a fascinating education in how our first world corruption bleeds into all other nations.

The Beatles And India – Months ago I brought a documentary about the Fab Four’s trip to India and the spiritual awakening they found there but it turned into a more lopsided affair of being about the effect it had on the filmmaker to experience this alongside them but this documentary is far more straightforward. Debuting on the Britbox streaming platform, In the debut feature from two brand new filmmakers, this is a unique historical chronicle of the enduring love affair between The Beatles and India that started more than half a century ago. Rare archival footage, photographs and eye-witness accounts, along with location shoots across India, bring alive the fascinating journey of George, John, Paul and Ringo from their high-octane celebrity lives in the West to a remote Himalayan ashram in search of spiritual bliss, a time that inspired an unprecedented burst of creative songwriting. This is the first serious exploration of how India helped shape the evolution of the iconic band, and how they helped bridge two vastly different cultures. As a huge fan of this band and their effect, not just on music but the entire zeitgeist, I’m always interested in seeing all I can about them. This time I wasn’t duped into experiencing someone else’s journey along the way.

Fistful Of Vengeance – We get a couple gifts from the martial arts movie gods this week and one of them comes through the conduit of a Netflix release but, be warned, it’s not on the same level of a film like The Night Comes For Us, and if you haven’t seen that yet, fix that now. This one does feature the genre cred of having The Raid star Iko Uwais who always delivers jaw-dropping fight scenes so that is the draw immediately. Also starring Mortal Kombat star Lewis Tan, the story follows Uwais as Kai Jin, a young Chinatown chef in present-day San Francisco, who becomes entangled with the Chinese Triad’s pursuit of deadly ancient powers known as the “Wu Xing. Interestingly, the film doesn’t come from any martial arts director but the man they got is a bit action-heavy as Netherlands born filmmaker Roel Reiné has done episodic television like Black Sails and Wu Assassins as well as a string of direct to video action sequels like The Condemned 2, 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded and The Man With The Iron Fists 2. Not to say any of those are great or even good but keep in mind that this is our chance to check him out before his episodes of Halo air later this year.

Too Cool To Kill – The second martial arts film of the week has quite the title to live up to but has no bankable stars in it so it really is an attempt from the ground up. The film is made by first-time filmmaker Xing Wenxiong who manages to make a comedy-infused fight-action-heavy production that Jackie Chan would smile at knowingly. It follows Wei Chenggong, a normal dude with a dream of becoming a comedian that receives an invitation from famous actress Milan to play her leading man, “Killer Karl.” However, unknown to Mr. Wei, the new gig has landed him directly in the middle of a dangerous conspiracy and, as the brutal truth inches closer and closer, he is left to rely on only his good luck and (somewhat questionable) acting skills to survive. The creator of this film obviously has some deep love for all the action tropes that got the genre there as it feels, at times, like a satire on indie flicks like Robert Rodriguez’s debut film El Mariachi as well as a lot of John Woo homages, the master of high octane Hong Kong action thrillers. I was very surprised by this movie but I think it won’t land with a lot of people in theatres.

Blu-Ray:

Eternals – It’s sad to say that this ambitiously made origin story of a new hero group in a hugely stacked Marvel Cinematic Universe got some of the worst reviews that have come out of this franchise in its over ten-year run but here we are. I have to say that I don’t really agree with it and many of them are frustratingly based on its inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters but it comes from Academy Award-winning director Chloe Zhao and, if anything, all of her films have something deeply fascinating about them and are always so beautifully shot. The film directly follows the events of Avengers: Endgame when an unexpected tragedy forces the Eternals, ancient aliens who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years, out of the shadows to reunite against mankind’s most ancient enemy, the Deviants. The cast of this movie is damn solid with two Game Of Thrones cast members in Richard Madden and Kit Harrington, who really only bookends the film, Atlanta’s Bryan Tyree Henry, the brilliant Barry Keoghan, the now totally jacked Kumail Nanjiani and the iconic Angelina Jolie and that’s definitely not everyone. I will definitely concede that there are aspects that drag in this film and it does seem quite bloated in its run time but the things that it sets up, the charisma of some of the stars and the sweeping vision of Zhao keep me coming back to the positives of this big and pivotal MCU story piece. 

Wolf – It’s insane to think that actor George MacKay isn’t already a huge megastar like Timothee Chalamet or Tom Holland because the guy knocks it out of the park every time, like his performances in the Viggo Mortensen drama Captain Fantastic or the one-shot World War I epic 1917 but this arthouse film likely won’t get his name at the poster just due to its niche quality. That said, writer and director Nathalie Biancheri’s sophomore feature gives MacKay a new complexity to work with and he totally runs with it. He plays Jacob, a young man who fully believes he is a wolf trapped in a human body and eats, sleeps, and lives like one, much to the shock of his family. When he’s sent to an experimental clinic, Jacob and his animal-bound peers are forced to undergo increasingly extreme forms of ‘curative’ therapies. However once he meets the mysterious Wildcat, played by Lily-Rose Depp, their friendship blossoms into an undeniable infatuation and he is faced with the decision to renounce his true self for love or to give himself fully over to his baser nature. This movie is beautifully shot but all hinges on the performances of MacKay and Depp as well as their oppressor, the cold and surgical Zookeeper played by Paddy Considine. I was absolutely astounded by this film.

Monday – Sebastian Stan is on a lot of people’s minds right now due to his current series Pam & Tommy running on Disney+ right now but this little film that slipped under the radar in theatres might do well on Blu-ray and video on demand. As far as mainstream marketing goes, he is the big draw here as co-star Denise Gough hasn’t quite landed internationally, at least until the Star Wars spinoff Andor debuts, and writer and director Argyris Papadimitropoulos hasn’t hit it big international but he really knows how to film his home country of Greece beautifully. The story follows two Americans in their mid-thirties living in Athens, who meet in the heat of summer one whirlwind weekend. When Chloe’s time in Greece is drawing to a close, she decides to give up her high-flying job back home and explore whether one weekend’s passion can stand the reality of the inevitable Monday. Stan is absolutely incredible in this film, as is Gough who makes a memorable turn in this, but the characters are written very inconsistently and the payoff is nowhere near as good as the setup. The film is a little bogged with diminishing returns on viewer investment and, as gorgeous as everything looks, the romantic chemistry feels really strained for a large stretch of the movie. It’s almost like they knew it was a one-weekend stand before the audience did. a bit disappointing.

Seobok: Project Clone – If you follow these write-ups regularly, you know my deep love for South Korean cinema so when Well Go USA hooked me up with a brand new one I was pretty giddy about it. Even better, it is a dramatic sci-fi story involving clones so it’s going to be overly stylish, overly emotional and definitely unpredictable. The story follows ex-intelligence agent Ki Heon who is tasked with safely transporting Seo Bok, the first-ever human clone, who holds the secret of eternal life. Several forces try to take control of Seo Bok to serve their own agendas because the robotic clone holds the secret to immortality. I found this movie deeply fascinating because it refuses to be held down by the genre pitfalls and actually has something to say beyond the bare plot and even gets a bit philosophical from time to time. Writer and director Lee Yong-Ju is a new voice to me in South Korean film and I really can’t wait to see what he has in store next. Again, hook me up Well Go USA!

The Three Musketeers – Time for some classic Warner Archive this week as I was given their sole release and it is even more classic and iconic in a literary sense because it is also an early adaptation of the most famous work of Alexandre Dumas. Yes, D’Artagnan and his musketeers ride high in a blockbuster of the late forties featuring a renowned cast including Gene Kelly, Lana Turner, June Allyson, Angela Lansbury and, a personal favourite, Vincent Price as the villain. For those who don’t know the Musketeers and their story, it follows the hectic adventures of D’Artagnan, a young provincial noble who came to Paris to become a Musketeer and forms the indestructible friendship with the three other Musketeers Athos, Porthos and Aramis as they thwart the plans of Cardinal Richelieu to usurp King Louis XIII’s power. This was a big thing for these actors at the time as it went on to be Kelly’s favourite non-musical performance as well as Turner’s first time in a colourized film but it was also the first time that the Dumas novel was adapted in its entirety rather than just cherry-picking snippets from it. Of course, we would get some great Musketeer adaptations that all stem from this cinematic first and we, as movie lovers, are grateful for it. On the other hand, we did get 2001’s The Musketeer and the 3D debacle of Paul W.S. Anderson’s version so there is a rough trade-off there.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Over The Top – Sylvester Stallone takes his son on a road trip across America, wrestling people for money and the love of a truck and it was directed by the man behind Cannon Films, a guy that spent way too much movie on movies that turned out to be garbage. This all sounds like a made-up farce of a tale but this one is a real movie and it is celebrating its thirty-fifth anniversary this week and I’m ashamed to say that I watched this one a lot when I was growing up and had my mom rent it numerous times and that for which I am very sorry today. Even Stallone didn’t want to do this movie, even though he wrote it, but Menahem Golan, the director, kept offering more and more money until Sly couldn’t fathom turning it down. Man, the eighties must have been an insane time fueled by cocaine and bad decisions and looking back at this trainwreck now I can’t even imagine what about it was appealing. At best, this is a fun movie to mock alongside your friends and if you don’t believe me there is a fantastic episode of How Did This Get Made that commands to be listened to.

Factory Girl – This movie and the subject herself, Edie Sedgewick, both suffer from the same malady of not being appreciated at the time of their peak and even worse Sienna Miller gives a career performance that absolutely flew under the radar of the mainstream. Playing Sedgewick, the one-time muse of artist and pop culture icon Andy Warhol, this film tells the story of her rise to socialite level and the sad decline into drug addiction as all those friends around her slowly abandoned her. As good as Miller is in this movie, Guy Pearce gives an incredible turn as Warhol, a role that has so many eyes of the idiosyncrasy of that very real character. The film was directed by George Hickenlooper, a filmmaker with a really original eye that sadly passed away just a few years after the film’s release. I think he would have been one of the top a-list filmmakers today and that this was merely just a jumping point. As far as biopics go, this is a real gem.

Super Troopers – Broken Lizard arrived on the scene with this pretty simple concept comedy and quickly cemented themselves as the new comedy troupe on the block and one to take note of and then we just sort of abandoned them on their next feature, Club Dread, which I think is just as good if not better but I digress. Twenty years ago this week five Vermont state troopers hit the big screen to terrorize those on the road for their own enjoyment, give us new catchphrases but most of all introduce us to a group of great and dedicated comedy character actors. The story is an easy lay-up, a station house that is forced to save their jobs and outdo the local police department by solving a crime, something they’ve never managed to do. This movie still holds up comedy-wise today and still has me almost on the floor with laughter

Television:

LOL: Last One Laughing Canada (Prime Video) – This one feels like the reason it is on this list is that it is hosted by my friend Jay Baruchel but there is more to it than that because I think the concept is really great and it’s already been done internationally, gotten great reactions and now we get our own Canadian version of it. This six-part competition series pits ten of the best comedic talents against each other in a showdown where anything can happen and this cast is a mind-blowing mix of the best Canadian funny people alive like Colin Mochrie, Tom Green, Jon Lajoie, Debra DiGiovanni, K. Trevor Wilson and so many more. I’m usually not into reality competition shows but this one seems to be playing directly into things that I love. It could prove me wrong and not come through with the hype but I doubt it.

Space Force: Season 2 (Netflix) – Who knew that a joke created from a very real announcement and creation of an outer space military by a buffoon of a president should gain so much weight but this Steve Carell and Greg Daniels created comedy series survived it’s debut season and now gets its follow up. Carell stars in the lead amidst a great cast including John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, Tawny Newsome, Jimmy O. Yang and more and, to be honest, it hits as much as it misses sometimes. The show follows Carell as General Mark Naird, a disgraced lifelong military man who is given one last chance to achieve legendary status to his peers by commanding the Space Force, a sect in the defensive forces that is aimless at best. I think I dedicated to watching the first season to see the final performance of Fred Willard, who plays Carell’s dad in this, as when the first season came out he had just passed away. Now that he isn’t in it anymore I hope that the second season can play a bit better than the first did because if you are expecting The Office calibur writing you will be sorely disappointed.

Severance (AppleTV+) – For the people that love quirky and weird storytelling, like all my fellow Twin Peaks fans out there, it looks like Ben Stiller and lead star and producer Adam Scott have a little gift for you on AppleTV+. From the mind of new showrunner Dan Erickson, this series is unlike any I’ve seen and it makes me appreciate the streaming platform even more as they seem to be giving ideas chances that would never exist anywhere else. The plot follows Mark, an employee for the mysterious Lumen that leads a team of office workers whose memories have been surgically divided between their work and personal lives. When a mysterious colleague appears outside of work, it begins a journey to discover the truth about their jobs and if they can escape the disgruntled feelings they have while they’re in the workplace to reconcile them in the real world. I don’t want to give any more away about it than that but the first episode is a wild ride of reveals hurtling towards a cliffhanger that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I’m unsure if this is a limited series or part of something bigger but I loved every second of it.

jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy (Netflix) – As much as I don’t want to celebrate this very smart and gifted artist that is going through a massive mental health crisis that goes unchecked, unmedicated and totally unbalanced day after day but there is a morbid curiosity about it that I can’t shake. The guy definitely has kept himself in the public light with his very front page divorce from Kim Kardashian, his social media attacks on her new boyfriend Pete Davidson and his other weird feuds that he’s trying to start with Billie Eilish and Kid Cudi so the fact that he has a Netflix docu-series isn’t that surprising. Obviously told in three episodes, the show follows the life of Kanye West in an intimate portrait as he builds his way from singer to businessman and becomes a global brand. Kanye gives a crazy amount of access to the filmmakers on this but I think it may also guard the viewer against his more obsessive tendencies so it doesn’t really tell the whole story. Even still, it is a fascinating and totally engrossing watch and the series is done before you know it and your evening’s gone.

The Marvelous Ms. Maisel: Season 4 (Prime Video) – After crashing through the first three seasons in quick fashion, both my wife and I have been not so patiently waiting for the new season to debut. We have such a huge cliffhanger at the end of the last season with a massive falling out between Midge and her friend, boss and popular recording artist Shy Baldwin that may affect her rising comedienne status. For those who have yet to jump on board to one of the crown jewels on Prime Video, this show is an award-winning story about a wife, mother and busy New Yorker who has a dream to be on the stand-up stage in the 1950s. Created by Gilmore Girls Amy Sherman Palladino and Daniel Palladino, the show is well cast with Rachel Brosnahan, Tony Shalhoub, Alex Borstein, Michael Zegers and more but also has a script that flies so fast that you’re just recovering from one great laugh and the next one hits you. Sometimes the hyped shows don’t live up to the word of mouth but this one is a rare exception. Friday can’t come soon enough!

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