Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Doctor Strange And The Multiverse Of Madness – The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first film of 2022 rolls out this week and it definitely will play in more of the story that will affect the future of this world because it once again, after Spider-Man: No Way Home, plays with the ever-expanding multiverse and the consequences of that film. I was initially bummed that the director of the first film, Scott Derrickson, stepped away from this project but I think we are in great hands with the incredible Sam Raimi. To put this in a spoiler-free nutshell, the synopsis is that Doctor Stephen Strange has cast a forbidden spell that opened the doorway to the multiverse, including alternate versions of himself, whose threat to humanity is too great for the combined forces of Strange, Wong, and Wanda Maximoff leading them to gather a few more helpful combatants like the debuting America Chavez, a comic character I’m excited to see in live-action form. The trailer for this movie absolutely rocks and gets me excited every time I see it, especially because we get Raimi back in a comic book world after the much-maligned Spider-Man 3. I hope that he loves doing it so much that he and Tobey do Spider-Man 4.

Nitram – Without knowing anything about the story, I was drawn to this film solely for character actor Caleb Landry Jones who excels in every project I’ve seen him in, sometimes elevating the subject matter more than it already is. This is another deep character drama for him to sink his teeth into and I learned fully about the real-life story after watching it and it shook me even more than the film already did. The film follows him as Nitram, a dude definitely on the spectrum of autism who lives with his mother and father in suburban Australia in the Mid 1990s. He lives a life of isolation and frustration at never being able to fit in but unexpectedly finds a close friend in a reclusive heiress, Helen. However when that relationship meets a tragic end, and Nitram’s loneliness and anger grow, he begins a slow descent that leads to disaster and ultimately unspeakable violence. This film is based on the lead-up to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania in which 35 people were killed and 23 others were wounded by the hand of Martin Bryant and his semi-automatic rifle. Director Justin Kurtzel frames this film in an unflinching and rough way that drags us along in a slow descent into the dark paths of a broken mind. There are many trigger warnings in this but I felt so compelled by it, a fantastic film.

The Takedown – The release of this new Netflix-produced French action-comedy is really kind of funny as it is all connected to the turmoil of Justin Lin leaving the director’s chair of the new Fast And Furious installment. The director of this movie, Louis Leterrier, is now the man tapped to direct a doughy Vin Diesel for the next two movies so this, I guess, is the last thing of his we will see before he has Dominic Toretto on his mind. Starring Lupin’s Omar Sy and Laurent Lafitte, the film follows Ousmane Diakité and François Monge, two cops with very different styles, backgrounds and careers that worked together for many years ago but life took them into very different facets of the department. Now, the unlikely pair are reunited once again for a new investigation that takes them all the way up to the French Alps to investigate a murder with some possible white nationalist ties. Aside from the action scenes which seem to break up the monotony, this movie largely doesn’t work. The humour feels completely dated, especially the racial jokes with Sy being the sole black man for almost the entire duration, and the storyline feels so predictable and telegraphed. If this is what we have in store for Fast X and beyond the cliff, this series with a leap off will be so high that even more begging to The Rock will not revive it.

Sheryl – I am a real sucker for a good music documentary and sometimes I don’t even have to be a big fan of the artist to really enjoy the biography on how they got their success. This is definitely true with the subject of this movie, Sheryl Crow, as I was a big fan of her first album, Tuesday Night Music Club, but that was the extent of it. This film is more than just a run-of-the-mill artist’s story though and is a portrait of the singular storyteller who’s lived it all, seen it all but never told it all until now. From humble beginnings to sold-out world tours Sheryl Crow’s life has been extraordinary, creating a legacy that continues to inspire, including beating cancer at one of the lowest personal times of her life. With all of the Lance Armstrong drama being a large part of her life, I’m really fascinated by how they will cover that section of her experience, especially the marks that it made on her career that really had nothing to do with him.

The Twin – It’s not usual that Shudder makes its movie premiere’s release dates on a Friday, as it is usually done on the Thursdays before the weekend but I think it is because this movie has the higher profile of starring Teresa Palmer, who is the lead star in a Prime Video and Shudder co-produced show, A Discovery Of Witches. Well, Tez is heading back to a supernatural-infused story again but this one plays into family lineage in a decidedly creepier way. This film opens during the aftermath of a tragic accident that claimed the life of one of their twins, with parents Rachel and Anthony relocating to the other side of the world with their surviving son. What begins as a time of healing in the quiet Scandinavian countryside soon takes an ominous turn when Rachel begins to unravel the torturous truth about her son and confronts the malicious forces that are trying to take hold of him. The initial reviews on this film are really strong with a great sense of mystery and atmosphere enveloping it to make it an edge-of-your-seat nailbiter. There’s something about emotional fol horror that always lands with me and this film seems to have it written all over.

Blu-Ray:

Turning Red – Another Pixar release that had been given the direct route to Disney+  gets the upgrade to Blu-ray, a better format, but, again after Luca, I feel for the people behind this beautiful production because it would have played so wonderfully on the big screen. Even more a bummer, this film is distinctly Canadian as it is a fully Asian story that feels so fresh and original. The story follows a thirteen-year-old girl named Mei Lee who turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets too excited which, as it turns out, is a family tradition she was not informed of. The movie is put together by writer and director Domee Shi who did the Pixar short Bao, a little story that literally brought me to tears in theatres. There are many beautiful moments that will make you well up in this and that third act is gargantuan in stature and in heart as well. The kids will love this one but so will the adults.

Without Remorse – Prime Video relied on some of its pre-existing subscribers with this new action thriller as it will automatically nab the fans of their Tom Clancy series Jack Ryan which has people thirsty for more after the second season and it will rope in those who love Michael B. Jordan from his villain performance in Black Panther, his starring role in the Creed movies or all of those women and men who are just plain thirsty for him and his body. Written by Sicario and Yellowstone’s Taylor Sheridan, this film is about an elite Navy SEAL who uncovers an international conspiracy when a squad of Russian soldiers kills his family in retaliation for his role in a top-secret operation. Pursuing the assassins at all costs and joining forces with a fellow SEAL and a shadowy CIA agent (Jamie Bell), his actions unwittingly expose a covert plot that threatens to engulf the U.S. and Russia in an all-out war and torn between personal honour and loyalty to his country, he must fight his enemies ‘without remorse’ if he hopes to avert disaster and reveal the powerful figures behind the conspiracy. The action is awesome, the performances are solid and I really hope this is just the beginning of the adaptations of this Clancy character.

Constantine: The House Of Mystery – It’s a very comics-heavy week for this installment and I have to say that I’m not even a little apologetic about it but, to be fair, I usually bring an overabundance of horror and there is only one this week. Usually, these DC films are a full-length feature that runs about an hour and twenty minutes but this release is what’s called a DC Showcase and features four self-contained episodes, with three of them being pretty dark and dour. The main piece is the Constantine story that takes place after the events of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, which was essentially the end of the DC animated universe, and then it moves on to a couple more classic characters stories, including The Losers taking on dinosaurs before finishing off with a campy and fun in an Adam West sort of way with Blue Beetle. I have to say that more would have been better but I really did enjoy what we got here in a totally nerdy sense. This may be for the deepest of fans but I dug the whole thing.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Outs:

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 – It’s all Marvel this week in the Geek Outs as it is a pretty sizeable time in the anniversaries department starting out with this sequel that had such an insurmountable challenge of being at least as good as its predecessor. Well, I will say that it did what it set out to do but I had absolute faith it would because it was written and directed by the great James Gunn. The story picks up with the Guardians now recognized as heroes after saving Xandar from Ronan’s wrath. Now the team must help their leader Star Lord uncover the truth behind his true heritage. Along the way, old foes turn into allies, betrayal is on the horizon in many ways and the Guardians find that they are up against a devastating new menace who is out to rule the galaxy. The humour of these films is its strong point which is fueled by great casting, a snappy script and a banging soundtrack of great songs curated by a filmmaker who is so stellar at creating mood and atmosphere. This movie never pales anytime I watch it and I still quote things from it all the time.

The Avengers – Celebrating a decade since its release, this unfortunately Joss Whedon written and directed film pushed the boundaries in what we thought comic book movies could be and was the landing point of multiple solo movies to bring us an iconic supergroup. There were moments in this film that I experienced in theatres that I will never forget as a lifelong comic fan and I am eternally grateful to Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and everyone involved for getting us there. For those who have been under a rock for the past ten years in film, it follows a group of the Earth’s mightiest heroes who must come together and learn to fight as a team if they are going to stop the mischievous Loki and his alien army from enslaving humanity. This film has so many comic easter eggs hidden throughout but also is just a great series of moments for all of these stars to become completely comfortable in their character’s shoes and impart that onto each other. This was also the ground zero for so much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to come and still gets mentioned a lot even in the current fourth phase we are in the story. This still hits with so much excitement although I am happy that The Hulk’s look has been upgraded quite a bit.

Spider-Man – This is the comic book movie that really started it all in my world as I was too young to fully understand the ramifications of 1989’s Batman and, as good as that movie is, it ignores so much of what makes Batman the Caped Crusader. That said, Sam Raimi was the outside choice I’m sure no one saw coming, with films like Evil Dead and Army Of Darkness but as a fan of Darkman, I knew it was perfect. Tobey Maguire was the star, playing Peter Parker, a nerdy, shy, and awkward high school student who gains spider-like abilities when bitten by a genetically modified spider that he eventually must use to fight evil as a superhero after tragedy befalls his family. This movie acted as the template for a whole new cinematic genre to come and served as the jumping point for a Marvel Universe that we are lucky to have now. I always say that Tobey ran on the rooftops of New York so that we could see Iron Man fly for the first time and I still stand by that. This movie is still a total gem of an action-adventure and will always be in the hall of fame of theatrical experiences for me.

Television:

The Pentaverate (Netflix) – It’s been a while since we’ve gotten some Mike Myers live-action comedy, fourteen years to be exact since The Love Guru and comedy is a relative term on that one. Now we get the legendary Canadian funny man in a brand new series and he is also stretching his wings again in multiple characters, retrieving that Austin Powers like freedom of comedy once again. The show has him as an unlikely Canadian journalist who finds himself embroiled in a mission to uncover the truth and just possibly save the world himself at the same time. What if a secret society of five men has been working to influence world events for the greater good since the Black Plague of 1347? This is the question at the heart of this story, but is timely and dated but it still all seems to work. The show also features comedy legends Jennifer Saunders, Keegan Michael Key and Ken, the stoicism of Jeremy Irons and the Wayne’s World reunion of Myers and Rob Lowe and I can’t say I’m not more than a little curious about how it will all pan out.

The Wilds: Season 2 (Prime Video) – I love a good stranded on an island mystery, something I was trained for even before Lost hit the airwaves because The Prisoner had already instilled the weirdness in us via the conduit of Patrick McGoohan. I have to admit I was really late to the game with this one, a blindspot being earlier Prime Video productions, but I’m cruising through the first season currently and loving it. The series plunks you into the middle of everything without explanation and follows a group of teens who must survive after a plane crash leaves them stranded on a deserted island. In the present tense, the girls tell their stories to investigators who slowly piece together what happened to them as they were all connected by being sent to a retreat for wayward teen girls. This show is constantly pulling the rug from under you and I love every moment of it for being purely original and wildly unpredictable, no pun intended. The cast is fresh and new except for Six Feet Under alum Rachel Griffiths who plays a character I can even begin to give away. This may still be a sleeper so people really need to get on board with it now.

The Staircase (Crave) – If your series is led by Colin Firth and one of the greatest actresses to grace the screen, Toni Collette, well you’ve got yourself a hit with this guy immediately. Not only that but it is also a mystery that is the adaptation of a famous suburban murder that Nancy Grace obsessed over for years which is kind of cool but may turn others off due to the oversaturation of the story. This is once again the telling of the story of Michael Peterson, but this time by HBO and not Lifetime, a crime novelist accused of killing his wife Kathleen after she is found dead at the bottom of a staircase in their home. Beyond that, which is told in flashbacks, this follows the sixteen-year judicial battle that followed and features a great cast around Firth and Collette with Game Of Thrones’ Sophie Turner, Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Stuhlbarg, Dane Dehaan, Juliette Binoche and Parker Posey. I love these mystery melodramas that HBO puts out like The Undoing so I’m looking forward to this one.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Crave) – Well, I have made it a habit to check out everything Star Trek the streaming service of Paramount+ has done, ever since it started as CBS All Access, launching with what would set the flagship assail, Star Trek: Discovery. It was the second season that brought in Anson Mount as Captain Kirk’s processor, Captain Christopher Pike, along with his number two, played by Rebeccas Romijn and this universe’s version of Spock, which served to set up this brand new spin-off that looks really awesome. Effectively, this is exactly a prequel to that original series and how close we snug up to the William Shatner and Leanard Nimoy landmark series is really unknown but I do know that it has been getting really stellar reviews, which is honestly better than any of the other shows have gotten in their entire runs. I love what Mount has done with this character so I’m really looking forward to it.

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