Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

The Northman – Following his incredible films the VVitch and The Lighthouse, this new feature film from writer and director Robert Eggers is easily one of my most anticipated films of 2022. The atmosphere and the approach to the subject matter are always one of a kind. The simple fact that he is tackling the Viking era with this film and a cast that is familiar to him and some outstanding new additions make me even more excited. The story follows Prince Amleth, played by Alexander Skarsgaard, who is on the verge of becoming a man when his father is brutally murdered by his uncle, who kidnaps the boy’s mother. Two decades later, Amleth is now a Viking who’s on a mission to save his mother, kill his uncle and avenge his father in a viscerally violent art film that will most likely be on my best-of list at the end of the year even though I haven’t seen it yet. With a cast around Skarsgard featuring Anya Taylor Joy, Willem Dafoe, Ethan Hawke, Claes Bang and even Bjork, this is going to be one hell of an experience.

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent – Being a huge Nicolas Cage fan, which is no secret to any regular readers of my work, this seems like the ultimate goal for this legend to hit at least once in his career, playing an ultra version of himself. Add to that the added charm of starring The Mandalorian himself, Pedro Pascal, which gives this comedy even more of a draw and my anticipation for it is huge. In the film, he plays a cash-strapped Nick Cage who agrees to make a paid appearance at a billionaire super fan’s birthday party but is really an informant for the CIA since the billionaire fan is a drug kingpin and he is forced to live up to his own legend, channelling his most iconic and beloved on-screen characters in order to save himself and his loved ones. The onscreen chemistry between Cage and Pascal has me laughing so hard whenever I see the trailer and the addition of Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz as the CIA agents in question adds so much more to the hilarity as well. So excited for this movie too. What a movie week this is!

The Bad Guys – Based on a series of best-selling kids’ books, I knew nothing about this new Dreamworks animated movie but my daughter seems to know everything so when it comes to the subject of this new film I will just defer to being a fan of the voice casting in this. Led by an always charming Sam Rockwell, this film also has Marc Maron, Awkwafina, Richard Ayoade, Craig Robinson, Anthony Ramos, Zazie Beetz and many more, which would make a great adult comedy so I’m looking forward to what they do for the children and the parents who have to watch it along with them. The story follows notorious criminals Mr. Wolf, Mr. Snake, Mr. Piranha, Mr. Shark and Ms. Tarantula who are finally caught after a lifetime of legendary heists. To avoid a prison sentence, the animal outlaws must pull off their most challenging con yet, becoming model citizens. Under the tutelage of their mentor, Professor Marmalade, the dubious gang sets out to fool the world that they’re turning good. The animation style looks very cool and original, playing on a noir style almost with a dynamic shading to it which now looks confusing as I’m writing this but it really gives it a unique style. I’m sure that Dreamworks is hoping that this strikes with the reader fan base but as I haven’t heard of it before it might be smaller than they think.

Charlotte – As a big fan of foreign and European films, I really have a deep love for all French cinema and I have to say that their animation offerings are always so deep and have so much more to say than the mainstream pushed North American ones do. Instead of focusing on Shrek or whatever new Pixar commodity is up next, these films generally delve into something more real and totally grounded and this new film just happens to come from the creators of The Triplets Of Belleville, an incredible film from close to twenty years ago now. This film is based on a true story and is an account of German-Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon living in the south of France between 1941 and 1943. Fiercely imaginative and deeply gifted, she dreams of becoming a celebrated creator and her first love applauds her talent, which emboldens her resolve. Sadly, the world around her is changing quickly and dangerously, limiting her options and derailing her dream. When anti-Semitic policies inspire violent mobs, she leaves Berlin for the safety of the South of France. There she begins to paint again and finds new love but her work is interrupted, this time by a family tragedy that reveals an even darker secret. Believing that only the extraordinary will save her, she embarks on the monumental adventure of painting her life story in a film that hits hard in its end credits with the reality of Charlotte’s situation and untimely end. For the English version, Keira Knightly gives voice to the title character but in France, it was Marion Cotillard, a personal favourite of mine. This movie is heavy but bold and quite beautiful at the same time.

Blu-Ray:

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

Jackass Forever – This may seem weird for a guy who loves to review Oscar-nominated and arthouse films but this is one of the most anticipated sequels and one I’ve been waiting a long time for. Yes, this is a justification coming from a forty-year-old dude 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 and have been 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 did and it paid off well.

The King’s Daughter – Looking at the cover of this blu-ray, it feels like it would have fit in well during the early to mid-2000s in the time of Ella Enchanted and films like that but this one plays it a bit more earnest which I believe is one of its many faults. The casting is solid though, featuring Pierce Brosnan, Kaya Scodelerio, Pablo Schreiber and William Hurt in one of his final performances and the writing was promising with Ang Lee’s guy James Schamus penning the screenplay. The film follows Brosnan as King Louis XI and his quest for immortality which leads him to capture a mermaid to harvest her life force, a move that is further complicated by his illegitimate daughter’s discovery and immediate bond to the creature. This movie is beyond corny and, while still looking like a multi-million dollar production, is a misstep in every way. Predictable and groan-inducing, the film consistently feels like a film that was shelved for twenty years and forgotten about which is almost half true as it was made eight years ago and just got released now. The delay came from a series of events starting with the studio’s lack of enthusiasm with the cut they were originally presented with followed by Fan Bingbing getting into trouble with the Chinese authorities for non-payment of taxes. As the film featured a then major star in Chinese cinema and Chinese investors stumped up 50% of the budget, her income tax issues and the negative publicity in China effectively killed her career there and with it any chance of a lucrative Chinese release. With Pierce Brosnan as the only international star in the cast and without a major studio to back the release campaign, the film sat and collected dust which was probably for the best.

The Humans – With the buzz from film festivals and critics who got an early look at the film starting at the Toronto International Film Festival, I knew that this movie would be one of note but I didn’t want to know anything beyond that it was a Tony Award-winning play. This cast had me immediately on board, with Richard Jenkins, Beanie Feldstein, June Squibb, Steven Yuen and Amy Schumer, but the substance behind it is where it excels and I won’t tip the hat at all to what it contains. The film is set inside a pre-war duplex in downtown Manhattan and follows the course of an evening in which the Blake family gathers to celebrate Thanksgiving but, as darkness falls outside the crumbling building, mysterious things start to go bump in the night and buried family tensions begin to reach a boiling point. This movie goes from conventional drama to veiled horror in unpredictable moments and it is so crazily unexpected that I slowly felt myself falling in love with it. The acting hits a crescendo that solidifies it as one of the strongest of the year but it’s the puppeteering of writer and director Stephen Karam that brings it there. This may not be for everyone but I’m saying this is one of last year’s best films.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

6:45 – Just one sole geek out this week and it just happens to be in a favourite genre for The Shift, the horror story! This one combines that lovely styling of films with the vacation subgenre making everyone’s thoughts and dreams cloudy with screams, terror and, of course, blood! The film is distributed by Well Go USA, a company usually behind Asian cinema from every eastern country but this is a strictly American production that features a totally unestablished cast. In a “Groundhog Day” style story, the film follows Bobby Patterson, a man who is taking one last romantic shot at saving his rocky relationship with his girlfriend, Jules Rables, by taking her on a weekend getaway to the picturesque island resort of Bog Grove. To their bewilderment, the sleepy beach town is curiously deserted but they soon learn about its notorious and bloody history, one that’s about to repeat itself again and again. This movie was a pleasant surprise for me as I’m used to seeing some of the bottom of the barrel, eye-roll-inducing crap. Maybe it’s due to me really liking the time loop device in horror and this film using it well, even if it peters out a bit in the finale. Even still, it was one of the more enjoyable horror stories this year that I hadn’t heard of previously.

Television:

The Flight Attendant: Season 2 (Crave) – I have to admit that for a long time whenever I saw anything with Kaley Cuoco in it for over a decade I automatically think of her character Penny from the long-running series The Big Bang Theory because that’s just the stigma that these sitcom stars are saddled with. Now she has been Harley Quinn in animated form for three going on four seasons and the first season of this dark comedy mystery really earned her a lot of acclaim. In the show, she plays flight attendant Cassandra Bowden who wakes in her hotel room in Dubai, hungover from the night before and with a dead body lying next to her. Afraid to call the police, she continues her morning as if nothing happened, joining the other flight attendants and pilots travelling to the airport but in New York, she is met by FBI agents who question her about her recent layover in Dubai. Still unable to piece the night together, she begins to wonder if she could be the killer. I love the mystery drive of this series and it was created by writer Steve Yockey, who wrote for years on the recently ended Supernatural and more so I have some high hopes for where this continuation of the show is going, especially because I had assumed that it would be just a limited series.

Russian Doll: Season 2 (Netflix) – I might be putting a lot of hopes into the sophomore season of this great time loop series but I believe it has all the elements to have some continued success and may even bring more viewers in through word of mouth this time around. Natasha Lyonne stars as a woman who is desperately trying to escape a party thrown for her for one reason or another. The compounding issue is that every time she makes a break for it she dies in varying ways and then is reset to the beginning of the party again in sort of a Groundhog Day scenario. I really hope I threw you for a swerve in that description because that is exactly what the trailer for the first season did for me and I fell deeply in love with it. Created by Lyonne, Amy Poehler and the very funny Leslye Headland, this is probably your next binge and it would be a more than worthy one.

Mayans M.C.: Season 4 (FX) – Sons Of Anarchy fans, myself included, still have something to cling to as this series has broken through its uncertain period and now Kurt Sutter has exited as showrunner and it’s been fully on co-creator Elgin James’ plate for the past season or so. The show is thriving with its new sort of Jax, EZ, played by JD Pardo, a character that starts his journey from the bottom as a prospect which adds to a different dynamic in the show. I love the supporting cast like Edward James Almos and Tudors star Sarah Bolger and the returning actors Ray McKinnon and Emilio Rivera in their Sons of Anarchy roles, this all taking place in a post-Jax Teller world. As a merchandise-owning fan of the original series, I will ride with this show until the wheels fall off. Blood feuds have come and gone, new feuds have started and the show is more engaging than ever. Just hook it to my veins!

A Very British Scandal (Prime Video) – If it’s a British true story and Claire Foy is a lead role then you definitely have my attention but when you add one of my favourite character actors of all time, Paul Bettany, into the mix then you make it one of my most anticipated things of the week. Foy is also getting a second kick at the Royal family as well with this being very Winsor-centric, returning her to the wheelhouse of The Crown once again. This limited series is the story of events surrounding the notorious divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll during the 1960s, a story that I really had no information going into but the advanced word says that Foy and Bettany are really great at playing two completely loathsome characters and that totally has me fired up. Funny enough that no one involved in The Crown had anything to do with this show as it comes from showrunner Sarah Phelps who cut her teeth in writing for over fourteen years on Eastenders. Scandal is definitely her wheelhouse but this is definitely on a bigger scale, historically speaking.

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