Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Thor: Love And Thunder – After the hilarious work that writer, director and co-star Taika Waititi did with the last Thor movie Ragnarok, I have been really excited to see the next installment and it is already getting stellar reviews. The perfect addition to the Thor character was Taika’s silly approach to it which gave the God Of Thunder a douche bro vulnerability that Chris Hemsworth plays so well. This new film finds Thor in his retirement which is quickly ended when a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher emerges and seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie, Korg and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster, who, to Thor’s surprise, inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they embark upon a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late. The comedy is evident in the trailer, as is the mind-bending gorgeous cinematography and we see colourful new worlds, bold new characters and, from what I hear, the clear direction of where the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going afterwards. I’m really excited about this movie and think it will exceed expectations.

The Sea Beast – Netflix has been pulling in a lot of big studio animated features since the beginning of the pandemic and that trend isn’t going away since we have seemingly emerged from the isolations as this was definitely meant for the big screen but gets its streaming debut instead. The production comes from good stock as the creators of it have been behind great Disney animated features like Big Hero 6 and Moana but that might set the bar a little high for this new adventure. The film follows a little girl who stows away on the ship of a legendary sea monster hunter as they launch an epic journey into uncharted waters to make history by capturing the biggest sea creatures unknown to man. The film looks incredible and impeccably animated with a solid voice cast including The Boys’ Karl Urban, Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens and Chernobyl’s Jared Harris. ‘m a sucker for some high seas adventures and since we are never getting any Pirates of The Caribbean movies again, this will have to tide me over, pun intended I guess.

Apples – Coming from writer and director Christos Nikou, a Greek filmmaker who had some experience working under the wing of acclaimed The Favorite, The Lobster and The Killing Of A Sacred Deer writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos, I had my expectations for this new movie nestled in the bar I had set for one of my favourite idiosyncratic storytellers today. I couldn’t be further from the mark because I believe that the debut work of Nikou as a feature filmmaker lies more closely to the works of Ingmar Bergman than a film like Dogtooth or Alps. The story is set amidst a worldwide pandemic that causes sudden amnesia, following middle-aged Aris who finds himself enrolled in a recovery program designed to help unclaimed patients build new identities. The film has such deep things to say about identity and being lost in a sea of questions when you are stripped of that. The lead actor, Aris Servetalis, gives a charming but almost blank performance that allows the viewer to try and fill in the blanks more than the story will give but it all still feels oddly rewarding in the end. Anything pandemic related automatically comes with a warning label but this film manages to hold that feeling and not make it cheap or exploitative.


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 snagged 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 I will say that the low bar worked 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 is full of insane camera twirling, sunkissed shots of the Los Angeles cityscape and more of his trademarks but it also has some incredible drone shots that keep you speeding alongside the action of the film, almost feeling like you are a part of it. I also really liked how character-driven Bay made this movie, something that isn’t usually his forte but he pulls it off here quite nicely. The movie also happens to be 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.

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’d 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 Daniels gives this story a whole new spin and one that is also deeply rooted in the family culture of the Chinese and their chasing of the American dream on all levels. The film is jaw-droppingly mesmerizing in its scope and consistently finds a way to surprise the audience with twists and turns that you will never see coming. I had deep emotional reactions to this movie and fell in love with it immediately. This is still my number one for 2022 and with so many great films this year, that is saying a lot!

Memory – We’re going from the highs of multiverse bending martial arts epics to this new geriatric action flick and don’t worry, Liam Neeson, the star, calls them that too. The only good thing heading into this is that it was directed by Martin Campbell who is usually very reliable given that he’s also done some kick-ass Bond movies. Co-starring the beautiful Monica Bellucci in a villain role, the story follows Neeson as Alex Lewis, an expert assassin with a reputation for discreet precision who is caught in a moral quagmire, refusing to complete a job that violates his code. Quickly, he must hunt down and kill the people who hired him before they and FBI agent Vincent Serra, played by Memento’s Guy Pearce, find him first. Alex also suffers from a rapidly deteriorating memory as he tries to piece together what is real and what isn’t. Again, because Neeson seems to bring the exact same energy to everything, this movie starts out on a high note and gets dulled down as it progresses. He has really carved out his own niche with these movies but are they really drawing the audience levels to sustain them?

Zero Contact – Anthony Hopkins seems to be stretching out his direct-to-video legs these days as I feel like his Anson Mount-led thriller, The Virtuoso was just a few short months ago and now we have this sci-fi thriller which definitely didn’t have any theatrical push to it. The film has the added Canadian bonus of having Aleks Paunovic co-star in his, fresh off his villain role in Marvel’s Hawkeye, but, like I mentioned above with Apples, it plays in a sandbox of trigger warnings that we might not be ready for. Produced in seventeen different countries virtually during the 2020 global pandemic, the film follows five characters based all over the world, connected only by their devotion to the late founder and tech titan Finley Hart, played by Hopkins. Forced to work together, their goal is to shut down Hart’s most secret invention, a machine that is either the solution to mankind’s problems or the end of life on earth. The premise is interesting but sadly nothing is done with it as I try to figure out if anything actually happens in this movie. We get roped into the Zoom generation as it has been coined over the last couple of years but this comes off as just dull or a conference call at your place of work rather than a high-tech thriller, which is what it is trying to be. Sadly, this film is just easy pay cheques made in the comfort of a home and a sort of vapid piece of fluff that could make less of an impression.

Monstrous – After the first hit season of the Showtime series Yellowjackets, lead actress Christina Ricci, an actress I’ve had a crush on for decades, is back on top in a big way. This new Shudder-produced film won’t make waves as big as that series did but it might get some more eyeballs on it than it would have before. The story centers on Ricci as a traumatized woman fleeing from her abusive ex-husband with her seven-year-old son but in their new, remote sanctuary they find they have a bigger, more terrifying monster to deal with. Ricci’s performance is fantastic but the constraints of this PG-rated monster movie often bog it down and at times it feels really dull and lifeless. It might be due to its mislead as a creature feature when it wallows more in the psychological horror of the situation but it’s interestingly shot in a very dreamlike way and has its goodness that shines through from time to time.

Okja – Bong Joon Ho has been catapulted to the top of cinema choices since his film Parasite astounded audiences and did a pretty good pull during awards seasons but there have been films of his that were easier accessible than Parasite was and some were as close as Netflix. Debuting almost five years ago on the streaming service, the film has now earned its way to a Criterion Collection release and it really earned it with a great biting satire and a warm heart that beats underneath it. The film follows young Mija, a girl who has been a caretaker and constant companion to Okja, a massive animal and an even bigger friend, for ten years at her home in the mountains of South Korea. Everything changes when family-owned, multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation takes Okja for themselves and transports her to New York, where an image-obsessed and self-promoting CEO has big plans for Mija’s dearest friend. With no particular plan but single-minded in intent, Mija sets out on a rescue mission in a film that is impeccably shot, as are all of Bong’s films but features such idiosyncratic performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano and Tilda Swinton in a dual role. Gyllenhaal was the standout for me, playing a Jack Hanna-like on-screen zoologist and off-screen douchebag who is prone to ego and alcohol-driven temper tantrums. This movie was an absolute delight to watch for me but I doubt it is everyone else’s cup of tea.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek Outs:

Transformers – Remember when Michael Bay brought his bombastic form of self-coined “Bayhem” to the Hasbro toy and cartoon battle between Autobots and Decepticons to the big screen? Well, that was fifteen years ago this week and it’s a great reminder of how great this film franchise started but also a stark memory of how hard it’s fallen and all with Bay at the helm. The film is pretty simple, an ancient struggle between two Cybertronian races, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, who come to battle on Earth, with a clue to the ultimate power being held by a teenager, the fun Sam Witwicky, played perfectly by Shia LeBeouf. This is also the first time we saw the lovely Megan Fox and Bay knew how to shoot her in the perfect sun-kissed way, like a Ford or GM ad because he has discovered that ability to commercialize cinema and make it bombastically entertaining, perfecting this staple as his own art. It’s a really long-winded way of saying this movie holds up.

Men In Black & Men In Black II – It’s a big week for this Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith-led sci-fi comedy as they hit the milestones of twenty-five years and twenty years respectively and I think both films still hold up pretty well. Barry Sonnenfeld is the other Tim Burton, in my opinion, a filmmaker with an idiosyncratic direction to him which is evident in both of his Addams Family movies as well as these two installments, an edge that is missing from the third film but these two are still great. The first film follows a police officer who joins a secret organization that polices and monitors extraterrestrial interactions on Earth while the second film picks up with that officer, now named Agent Jay, being sent to find Agent Kay and restore his memory which was erased at the end of part one after the re-appearance of a case from Kay’s past. If you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing both of these great sci-fi adventures, this is the perfect week to do it.

The Amazing Spider-Man & Spider-Man: Homecoming – I’m combining Spider-Man anniversaries this week as it is ten years since Andrew Garfield did the Peter Parker slash Spider-Man thing for the first time and it is also the five-year mark of when Tom Holland got his first solo movie. As many reservations as I have about Amazing Spider-Man, I really love Garfield’s iteration of the character even if the film isn’t great on the other hand, Holland’s movies all rock without question. I will say that the solo Sony-produced Spider-Man films didn’t have the leverage of having the Marvel Cinematic Universe backing it as it does now but there are some solid scenes in it and even if we weren’t celebrating them this week, they would both still be very worth rewatching. Maybe not Amazing Spider-Man 2 though, I have a really hard time defending that movie at all.


Boo, Bitch (Netflix) – With the third season of Never Have I Ever bringing the series to an end in mid-August, I know I’m going to be in need of some Netflix high school melodrama with an edge and hopefully, this show will fill that void. The only known star I see in it is Lana Condor who played a pretty solid Jubilee in a terrible X-Men movie but it was enough to give me some hope. The show has her playing one-half of two senior best friends make a last-ditch attempt to be seen, attending their first house party and even getting the attention of the dream boy in school. Things get supernatural when one of them becomes a ghost, she’ll need to really live her best life and make her life amendments while she can. This series has some good snark to it but is lacking that voice that Mindy Kaling has given Never Have I Ever and as much as I loved creator Lauren Iungerich’s other series, the MTV comedy Awkward, this show doesn’t strike as hot as that one did in the first few episodes. Even still, I’m more than willing to give it a full-season chance.

Black Bird (AppleTV+) – Based on true events crime stories have an appeal that will never go away because the sickness of a killer’s mind will never fail to intrigue audiences but with so many out there, it is sometimes hard to settle on one that garners enough attention for a full series run. This one got my interest very quickly with the casting of Rocketman’s Taron Egerton and BlackkKlansman standout Paul Walter Hauser who puts on that chameleon-like ability to slip into the skin of a real psychopath. The story follows Egerton as Jimmy Keene, a conman who is sentenced to ten years in a minimum-security prison that cuts a deal with the FBI to befriend a suspected serial killer. Keene has to elicit a confession from Larry Hall, played by Hauser, to find the bodies of as many as eighteen women from his murder spree. For me, I’m just glad that we are not watching yet another Ted Bundy story or an iteration of a serial killer’s story that we already know implicitly. Even better than that, this show is actually fantastic, really well written by the mind behind The Town, Mystic River, Shutter Island and more, Dennis Lehane, and it comes from a memoir I hear is just phenomenal. This may be a slow-burn word-of-mouth show for AppleTV+ that could get a big following behind it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: