Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

The Lost City – Sandra Bullock has a good penchant for picking good co-stars to feature in her comedies which is a genre she fits in best because, well, Sandy is always charming. I feel like her characters are always just a millimetre away from the true lady. While the movies aren’t exactly ones that stick in your memory, like The Proposal with Ryan Reynolds, they are always entertaining at the time and I expect the same from this new film with Channing Tatum in the co-pilot seat. Bullock plays an adventure romance writer who is kidnapped by a young and ruthless treasure hunter played by Daniel Radcliffe. This prompts the cover model of her books to prove that he is a real-life hero to her and heads into the jungle to rescue her. The trailers for this honestly look pretty funny, relying on the two stars’ onscreen chemistry and proven acting chops to get the audience a satisfying film that will remind us of the Michel Douglas and Kathleen Turner film Romancing The Stone and the sequel Jewel Of The Nile. Also, I have to mention that Brad Pitt is in this too and looks hilarious in a long hair action hero spoof role.

Everything Everywhere All At Once – After the insanity and soulful beauty that was Swiss Army Man, a must-see film for any arthouse fan, I’ve been waiting for the next collaboration between the two-headed creation team which is Daniels. Always idiosyncratic and entirely on their own path, the films that they created separately have been wildly original as well so they are seemingly on a constant hot streak in my opinion. For their new mind-bender, they’ve enlisted Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Lee Curtis and former child star Ke Huy Quan for this story about an aging Chinese immigrant who is swept up in an insane adventure, where she alone can save the world by exploring other universes connecting with the lives she could have led. Yes, it might be reminiscent of the sci-fi action flick The One with Jet Li from the early 2000s but I know that Daniels is going to give this story a whole new spin. The trailer makes my draw drop to the floor and I can’t even begin to consolidate my expectations which, at this point, are set from here to the moon. I can not wait and it may be on my best-of list at the end of the year.

Gold – Zac Efron’s most recent adventures were documented in his Netflix docuseries Down To Earth which had him travelling around the world with wellness expert Darin Olien in search of healthy, sustainable ways to live but it must have also been to help prepare him for this new survival thriller because it really seemed to pay off. Interestingly enough, he almost died making the reality show so it’s even more fitting that this film takes place in one of the most deadly places on the planet as well. The film is set in the not-too-distant future and follows Efron as a drifter travelling through the desert who discovers the largest gold nugget ever found with his driver who is reluctantly escorting him through the harsh terrain. While his new business partner treks off to find an excavator to dig up their find, the drifter is left to his own devices to guard it against thieves amid harsh conditions and wild dogs while waiting for his meal ticket to return. Beautifully shot but dour and depressing, this movie is as harsh as they come and shows, without any flinching, a man whose body is torn apart by the elements he faces. Efron is put through the absolute wringer in this film and I felt captivated the whole time. The viewer takes a beat, albeit far less than the character on screen, but it is quite the journey.

Moonshot – Cole Sprouse has left all of that Zack and Cody Suite Life stuff behind him as he has been in this new emo phase of his career ever since the fan loved Archie reimagining on The CW, Riverdale. The fans will certainly be following him over to the Crave streaming service via the conduit of HBO Max for this new romantic drama and I’m digging that it has a bit of a sci-fi edge to it plus it has Zach Braff so that guarantees it getting my time. Co-starring Lana Condor from Alita: Battle Angel, the film is set in a future where Mars is terraformed and colonized by the best humanity has to offer and two very different college students wind up joining forces to sneak onboard a space shuttle to the red planet in order to be united with their significant others. The film comes from filmmaker Christopher Winterbauer whose first feature Wyrm invoked comparisons to other nuanced directors like Yorgos Lanthimos and Todd Solondz which just adds to the pile of things that fascinate me about this film. I enjoy the weirdness in cinema, as evident from a lot of the recommendations I’ve given so I see this as being no different.

You Are Not My Mother – There is something about British, Irish, Scottish or Welsh-made films that automatically makes me gravitate towards them but the horror side of things really gets my attention because they are always so incredibly crafted. Last year had the Welsh mind twister Censor and the British chiller Caveat and it’s right in between those great films where this simple and slightly monstrous horror tells its compelling tale. Not featuring any cast members that are known on a global scale, this film is set in a North Dublin housing estate where a young teen named Char’s mother goes missing. When she returns Char is determined to uncover the truth of her disappearance and unearth the dark secrets of her family as she starts to see weird behaviours in her mother that she has never seen before and her grandmother seems both wary and knowledgeable about the whole situation. This film is immensely satisfying in its incredible atmosphere that draws you in deeper and deeper into the mystery that surrounds Char and her family with subtle little flashes of pure terror that will get under your skin. What I love about horror is it can be made for relatively nothing and still be effective with every frame, as this film shows off with class.

Run Woman Run – Immediately when I saw the premise for this new film I was reminded of the Jillian Bell comedy-drama Brittany Runs A Marathon which has the simple basis of a woman wanting to try the simple thing of running every day and it slowly starts to change her life. This one has a very loose similarity but I’m excited to talk about it as it is another piece of filmmaking from the indigenous community and it features Lorne Cardinal from Corner Gas. The Story follows Beck, a single mother who learns how to reclaim her dreams, family and honour her life, all thanks to an unlikely coach who forces her on the path to a better life. The film has already been screened for First Nations communities across Canada to great acclaim and it will be cool to see what the rest of Canada thinks now that it is in a wider release. It was written and directed by Zoe Leigh Hopkins who is fast becoming a rising storyteller n Canada and I look forward to what she’s coming out with next. 

Blu-Ray:

Nightmare Alley – It feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve gotten a Guillermo del Toro film because it has been four years since his Best Picture-winning The Shape Of Water divided audiences. Full disclosure here, it’s a fantastic film. One of the greatest cinema masters today, he returns with a remake of a classic film noir and it’s a timepiece of a film that speaks out from the exact era that it is voicing with a knowledgable tone. The film stars Bradley Cooper as an ambitious carny with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words who hooks up with a female psychiatrist, played by Cate Blanchett, who is even more dangerous than he is. Featuring a supporting cast of Toni Collette, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Willem Dafoe and Ron Perlman, this movie is a phenomenal character ride that drips with that del Toro style that just leaps off the screen thanks to the work of his many time collaborator and stalwart cinematographer Dan Laustsen. I really would love to see this film released in the same black and white style that the original film was made in because I think it would play really well, just like Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist did.

Fortress – Now for the periodically fun portion of this blog sometimes maybe, it’s time to look at the latest direct-to-video entry from Bruce Willis and a glimpse of what he’s lazily lining his pockets with. This sounds very harsh but it is only because I’ve been driven to this point by again and again being subjected to his mediocrity. The film has Willis as Robert, an ex-CIA agent, who lives in a hidden woodland resort that serves as a retirement community for former spies. His estranged son Paul is a cryptocurrency entrepreneur who has run into trouble and needs to ask his old man for help but, unfortunately, Paul’s plans aren’t as secret as his father’s location which leads a group of criminals hellbent on revenge to Robert’s doorstep. The film co-stars Chad Michael Murray and Jesse Bradford, two actors who have worked with Willis on a direct to video film here and there and is directed by James Cullen Bressack, a super nice guy on Twitter but, woof, is this movie ever bad. I think the issue is Willis who seemingly couldn’t give an ounce of energy to any line reading to save his life or the plot’s integrity. Just ho-hum level of delivery on everything. He’s now pathetic.

Ted Bundy: American Psycho – Really, another Ted Bundy story? Unfortunately, we can’t leave this serial killer story alone it seems and Chad Michael Murray makes his second appearance in a row but it is just as bad as the first one, sadly. Also known as the “American Boogeyman”, a terrible title, the film follows FBI agents Kathleen McChesney and Robert Ressler as they organize one of the largest manhunts in history to apprehend America’s most infamous serial killer, Ted Bundy, played by the former One Tree Hill star. I don’t know who this movie was made for because even the most season serial killer movie fans have seen this Bundy story played out over and over again and remarkably better so as well. This movie is hobbled from the get-go, playing hard into schlocky tropes with little to no pay off and the acting is truly dreadful on all levels. I know that the horror genre isn’t usually where one would go for some good line deliveries but there has to be a bar set and this film doesn’t even come close to even meeting it.

Come Drink With Me – Arrow Video is going back to their seemingly neverending well of Japanese cinema that carved a huge path for itself, creating impressions and inspirations on many of the Japanese filmmakers today. I’m loving all of these new collector’s editions because many of these films never made it to North America in any sort of a wide release until now. This one is a crime-action story that follows a ruthless band of thugs who kidnaps a young official to exchange for their leader who has been captured by the opposing organization. Golden Swallow is sent to take on the thugs and free the prisoner who also happens to be her brother and, though she is able to handle the overwhelming odds, she is hit by a poison dart and gets help from a beggar who is really a kung-fu master in disguise. With his help, she forms a plan to get her brother back in some really killer action sequences. The film was made by King Hu, a major piece in the Shaw Brothers releasing studio with films like A Touch Of Zen. Interestingly, this film is rumoured to be an early appearance of Jackie Chan as one of the child singers near the beginning of it although lead actress Pei-Pei Cheng denied this in the audio commentary to the Hong Kong DVD release of the film. Still, the film is listed among Chan’s acting credits on his official website and autobiography.

The Godfather Trilogy 4K – One of the greatest series of films of all time get their 4K release is coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of the adaptation of the first Mario Puzo written novel. Yes, I do concede that the third movie is pretty bad and only improved to a good movie through the recently mad Coda version but it definitely has the greatest sequel ever made with The Godfather Part II. Of course, for those who don’t know, this is the saga of the Corleone family through the eyes of Don Vito and then through Michael, the reluctant heir to the throne who descends down the path that eventually destroys him. Nestled in there is the brilliant origin of young Vito played by Robert De Niro which is, in my opinion, one of the greatest performances of all time. There is so much to love about this Francis Ford Coppola-directed trilogy and I’m so happy that I now own it in the best possible format other than having the original reels themselves.

Captains Of The Clouds – Warner Archive swooped in this week and gifted me with a brand new throwback edition of something from Golden Age Hollywood and it brings us to the era of the early forties, a few years before World War II ended. It features a giant of the times, the iconic James Cagney, not opting to play a gangster or a cop this time around but instead he does the hero thing. Set in a time that had the Ally Canadian nation inspired by Churchill’s Dunkirk speech, the film follows brash, undisciplined bush pilot Brian MacLean and three of his friends who enlist in the RCAF but are deemed too old to be fliers and that’s just the beginning of the story. Yes, that’s right, this is a Canadian story about the Royal Canadian Air Force, some national pride flavour from a classic movie era. The film was also made by director Michael Curtiz, one of the most sought after filmmakers of the time, responsible for films like The Adventures Of Robin Hood, Casablanca, which came out the same year, and White Christmas which came later but adds a whole new sense of credibility to this classic war story.. 

Dexter: New Blood – The Sopranos used their chance to satisfy their fans who were let down by the infamous fade to black that angered many but I really loved with a prequel movie that kind of disappointed more people. Dexter gets to do the same thing now by kind of retconning the last terrible season of the acclaimed series or, who knows, maybe they keep it in place as a “screw you, we did it” sort of thing. The series is set ten years after Dexter Morgan went missing in the eye of Hurricane Laura at the end of the final season and he is now living under an assumed name in Upstate New York, Iron Lake, far from his original home in Miami. We definitely should assume his “dark passenger” is still along for the ride but what is his son Harrison like now and does he have his own darkness to satiate? Also, Jennifer Carpenter, who played his sister Deb, is in this revival as well and, given her fate in the series, what role does she play now? There are so many questions swirling around this new revisit to an old friend and I’m definitely excited to check it out.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Outs:

23rd Century Giants: The Story Of Renaldo & The Loaf – When I get weird stuff after street date I always relegate them to this part of the weekly blog and that’s why this is the sole entry this week but it’s a decidedly weird one as well which gives me a little excitement. Even better than that, this film is one of those music documentaries that I cherish so much and about a couple of artists I have never heard of before. The film lays out a decades-long friendship that drives an architect and a biomedical scientist to make the weirdest music you’ve ever heard in your life, and thanks to the Internet, they became more popular than they could ever dream of. Brian Poole and David Janssen, aka Renaldo and the Loaf, are an avant-garde duo who have been creating strange and captivating music together since the ’70s and this documentary dives deep with interviews with the duo and virtually every key figure in their musical lives, unseen photos, unheard music, and comedic cutout animations that make this film embody the weirdness of its subject. After just learning about Sparks last year, I feel like these guys are my big discovery this year.

Television:

Halo (Paramount+) – It’s been a long and rocky road for the video game adaptation to find any sort of footing in Hollywood. At first, it was going to be executive produced by Peter Jackson, the mind behind everything J.R.R. Tolkein on the big screen, written by Alex Garland, the filmmaker behind Ex Machina, Annihilation and Dredd albeit afterwards and director Neill Blomkamp, the eyes behind District 9 and Elysium. At one point even the great Guillermo Del Toro, was mentioned for the second time this week, but the point is that many were gunning for this to happen. Well, Showtime actually went ahead and made the series but got cold feet and Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment took over and here it is, living big on Paramount+. The series really has ll you want from it if you are a Halo fan. Master Chief is there, the Covenant are launching their universal attack, Cortana is referenced, all of that good stuff. Now is where we see if that goodness is sustainable and I will say that some of the CGI with the Spartans is a bit dodgy but I’m having fun with it.

Bridgerton: Season 2 (Netflix) – Shondaland is bringing back the horny again this week because the famed production company has landed on Netflix with the second season of its randy little bodice ripper that can’t wait to show partial nudity and get swearing immediately. Created by one of Shonda Rhimes’ main dudes Chris Van Dusen, this series is set in the backdrop of Regency era England as seen through the eyes of the powerful Bridgerton family in their follies of wealth, lust, and, of course, betrayal. The young cast is young, attractive and relatively unknown, aside from Jonathan Bailey from Broadchurch, Nicola Coughlan from Derry Girls and Freddie Stroma, AKA Vigilante from the fantastic HBO Max and DC Comics series Peacemaker but it’s veteran inclusions like Rome’s Polly Walker and the legendary actress Julie Andrews that gives this one any weight. You’ll know quickly if this show is for you and I say that over the first season it had me and lost me multiple times but I do understand its appeal.

Parallels (Disney+) – Since the Netflix success of original shows like Stranger Things and picking up the Danish made series Dark which blew the minds of many who discovered it ad shepherded it on by word of mouth, I know all the streaming services are looking for their own pre-teen thrillers and Disney+ seems to have netted their own with this show that was a hit in it’s native France. The show dabbles in sci-fi more than it does in the horror genre but I love these types of shows so it is no bother to me. The main story follows four teenage friends, on the French-Swiss border, whose lives are turned upside down by an experiment of the LHC, the world’s biggest particle collider. Torn from their reality and deposited into four different alternate worlds, each of them must do everything possible to understand what exactly happened and look for a way to return to their original homeworld. The special effects in this look very cool and it seems to be a series that the whole family can enjoy, almost like a new type of Sliders and I’m not talking about those mini-burgers. The only thing it’s missing is Jerry O’Connell but, even though I’m bummed about that, I doubt he knows how to speak French fluently enough for a good role in this.

Atlanta: Season 3 (FX) – It’s been a long time since Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry and Lakeith Stanfield have reprised their characters on this hit FX series and, seriously, a lot has happened since the end of the second season almost four years ago. Glover’s Childish Gambino is one of the hottest acts on the planet, Henry is now a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Stanfield is an Academy Award-nominated actor for Judas And The Black Messiah but they all found time to come back for this season and the subsequent fourth one which will be its final one. For those who have never had the pleasure of seeing it, the show follows Earn and his cousin Alfred as they try to make their way in the world through the rap scene. Along the way, they come face to face with social and economic issues touching on race, relationships, poverty, status, and parenthood all to varying degrees of comedy and harsh realities. This is easily one of the best shows of the past twenty years and I think it will be talked about years after it ends.

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