Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

DC League Of Super-Pets – Just months before he’s set to take the stage in the long gestated debut of Black Adam, The Rock is giving back to the kids through DC Comics properties and is dragging his buddy Kevin Hart along for the ride. These are some deep cuts to put on the big screen but Dwayne is kind of the best choice to voice the dog of Superman, Krypto, which is probably the only one that your comic layman will know off the bat, no pun intended. The story of the film follows Krypto as he forms a team of shelter pets who were given superpowers when the Justice League are captured by Lex Luthor. On that squad is a hound named Ace, who becomes super-strong, a pig named PB, who can grow to giant size, a turtle named Merton, who becomes super-fast, and a squirrel named Chip, who gains electric powers. See, Chip is another one I know from the comics as he is an actual Green Lantern Corps member but it is obviously being played in a different way here. I’m also giddy at the fact that this film has Keanu Reeves voicing Batman which really works on so many levels. John Wick is now Batman in some sort of way.

Vengeance – A long-time writer for The Office as well as a cast member, B.J. Novak is such a gifted creator so I’m honestly surprised that it’s taken so long to get to his first directed feature but it looks fantastic. This new comedy also hits a little close to home as Novak plays a podcaster in it, which really shows how far the medium has come along. The film follows a radio host from New York City who attempts to solve the murder of a girl he hooked up with for a forgettable evening and travels down south to investigate the circumstances of her death and discover what happened to her. The cast formed around Novak is impressive with Boyd Holbrook, Ashton Kutcher and Issa Rae to name a few and the trailer is hysterically funny, lampooning a lot of the southern opinions and beliefs which are so very close to the truth. The film is getting a lot of good attention from critics so I’m predicting a sleeper hit and hopefully more films from this phenomenal writer.

Honor Society – Having just finished the latest season of Stranger Things, when I saw this new high school teen comedy that featured Gaten Matarazzo, I was immediately geared to watch it because I just adore Dustin. This one isn’t his leading film though, that heavy lifting belongs to The Nice Guys and MCU Spider-Man movie actress Angourice Rice who has always been impressive to me with everything she’s done. She plays Honor, an overachieving teen whose sole focus is getting into Harvard. Willing to do whatever it takes, she concocts a plan to take down her top three competitors, until things take a turn when she unexpectedly falls for her biggest competition and ends up improving the lives of her competition immensely, giving herself a change of heart in the process. The young cast is so good and charming in this movie that it sometimes makes up for the failings of the script or the bland and one-note cardboard cutouts that all of the adults seem to be. I feel like it borrows a lot from more successful movies and hit television shows, with a heavy leaning into Glee at one point, but the movie largely works and I do like that they kept some swearing and crudeness in it for texture. Nothing that will blow you away but an enjoyable hour and a half.

My Old School – I’ve been a fan of Alan Cumming since I saw him as the tech geek bad guy in the first Pierce Brosnan-led James Bond film Goldeneye, a charming, boisterous and flamboyant Scotsman that brightens every project he’s in. What I didn’t expect for him was a smartly informative and touching documentary slash drama that would totally warm my heart. The film is set in 1993 and follows sixteen-year-old Brandon Lee enrolled at Bearsden Academy, a secondary school in a well-to-do suburb of Glasgow, Scotland and the events that followed over the next two years. Oh, and the twist is that Cumming plays the teenage Brandon as well. Crazy, right? You don’t even know the half of it and I want to keep spoilers to a minimum on that but I will say that Cumming’s performance, as usual, is the glowing part that keeps it all going. The film is a thought-provoking story that involves home school, a “fish out of water into a new pond” feeling, the grieving process and so much more that was totally unexpected. Again and again, I found myself actually saying “wow” out loud and I consider that some high praise.

The Reef: Stalked – As a horror fan, I’ve got a real soft spot for monster movies, especially sort of reality based monsters like wild animals and because of my affinity for Steven Spielberg’s Jaws for as long as I can remember loving movies, sharks are a major selling point. Well, this week Shudder is getting into the game with an at-sea horror thriller and the poster for it is amazing, I recommend finding that one alone. The film is a quasi-sequel to the 2010 thriller The Reef and follows a woman named Nic, her younger sister and two friends who seek solace through a Pacific island kayaking adventure after her sister’s murder. Hours into the trip the women are stalked by a shark and must band together, face their fears and save each other. I’m very aware of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0nCxBQiQLMthe hit-and-miss nature of these types of films, looking directly at the sequel for 47 Meters Down, but sometimes these movies pull through like the terror in the film Open Water or Blake Lively taking on a toothy monster in The Shallows. For these reasons, I will always give a movie like this a shot and I’m still sold over the great poster. Seriously, it’s a frameable one.

Blu-Ray:

Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness – The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first film of 2022 rolls out this week onto the 4k and blu-ray format and it definitely will play in more of the story that will affect this current phase of the expanded Marvel story and what’s to come because it once again, after Spider-Man: No Way Home, plays with the ever-growing 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 they put it 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 that was really neat to see in live-action form. I definitely have some issues that left a sour taste in my mouth on this film with it;s creative and plot decisions but there are completely unpredictable storylines in the film and the universe or multiple ones that Strange exists in are so visually fascinating and rife with those trademark Sam Raimi camera beats. It’s hard to talk about this movie without giving deeply spoiler moments but I will say that this was only slightly above average for me but there are still a lot of things I enjoyed about it.

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.

The Duke – An easy way to get a great true story British comedy-drama out there is to cast some total heavyweights in the lead and that’s exactly what director Roger Michell did in what sadly would be his final film as he passed away in 2021. These lead roles were given to the great character actor Jim Broadbent and the amazing Dame Helen Mirren and, really, they carry the whole thing on their back. The story takes place in 1961, following sixty-year-old Kempton Bunton who has stolen Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London. He sent ransom notes saying that he would return the painting on condition that the government invested more in care for the elderly, notably the licences that the government charges all of them just for the simple pleasure of watching the BBC. What happened next became the stuff of legend and is an uplifting true story about a good man who set out to change the world and managed to save his marriage. Broadbent just shines in every scene he’s in and the dynamic in which he plays off of Mirren makes you wish that they had done more movies together. I love these films about the inspiring everyman and Michell framed such a great story of exactly that as his final gift to us in film. It’s sad that he never lived to see the release of this because, judging from the other reviews too, he would have been really proud.

Green Lantern: Beware My Power – A brand new DC animated story hits blu-ray and high definition this week and as a lifelong comic book fan, I have to give it some of the spotlight. This is also a property that Warner Bros. has had more than a little trouble with in live-action form because we all remember the Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern film, but in an animated form, they do pretty well. The film features the upcoming Black Adam star Aldis Hodge as John Stewart, a former marine dealing with severe PTSD who is given the power of the Lantern Corps and thrust into the middle of a galactic war. New to his powers and responsibility, he must learn everything on the fly as he teams with Green Arrow and Hawkgirl to save the remnants of Thanagar, restore Oa and save the universe at the same time. This film, clocking in at less than ninety minutes, has some incredible action sequences but definitely skimps on the depth or a good and memorable script, something that is starting to fail these films in the last couple of years. I’m not getting bored of them but I’m hoping that some of the writing improves in the future.

That Dirty Black Bag: Season 1 – It’s fitting that I’m finishing up my second round of the AMC series Preacher, starring Dominic Cooper, a fantastical series about the battle between, well, not too good and ultimate evil in a sometimes dusty and western setting, because this show has Cooper doing some real western this time and playing the bad guy too. Something that really makes me laugh about this show is, Cooper included, most of the cast of the show is from the British Isles, like lead actor Douglas Booth and Game Of Thrones alum Aiden Gillan. The series is a story told over eight long days that describes the encounter and clash between two men, McCoy, an apparently incorruptible sheriff with a dark past, and Red Bill, a dirty, taciturn bounty killer trapped in a desire for vengeance that cannot be fulfilled. The dirty black bag that the title alludes to also happens to be full of the heads of Red’s bounties which is such a cool additional element for me. This show is so badass, a heightened western story with no white knights, just black hats doing everything just to survive, for a daughter or out of bloody vengeance. The stoic nature of the cast, the explosions of violence and the unpredictability of the story consistently keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end. I had only fleetingly heard of this show but I think it should get a lot more attention.

The Gilded Age: Season 1 – There has definitely been a void existing in the last few years that Downton Abbey has been off the air and the movies, although very welcome and successful, really weren’t enough to satisfy those fan appetites. Creator Julian Fellowes felt that collective pain it seems and has teamed with the powerhouse of HBO to give a new story set in the late 1800s but this time it is across the pond in the supposed “Land of Opportunity”. This new series follows the wide-eyed young niece of a conservative family who embarks on a mission to prove the doubts about her enterprising abilities and infiltrate the wealthy neighbouring clan dominated by ruthless railroad tycoon George Russell, his rakish son, Larry, and his ambitious wife, Bertha. The cast is fantastic, featuring veterans like Cynthia Nixon and Christine Baranski, a young talent like Tassia Farmiga and one of my favourite character actresses today, Carrie Coon. After inhaling the first episode, I was so impressed by the layered setup of each character and the establishment of hierarchies and how they can crumble over the course of the series. The only hope now is that it has the longevity of Downton and the power of Gosford Park.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Out:

Ip Man: The Awakening – Being a sucker for martial arts films, there is more of a draw to these Ip Man movies for me is that they are based on the man who taught Bruce Lee everything he knows, arguably the greatest to do it on a Hollywood level. That said, the quality of the films has dipped a bit since original star Donnie Yen left the franchise and even he had some questionable entries, like the one with Mike Tyson that only seemed to be playing up to the big fight between them. I try to go into this one with more faith and always they look good on the Blu-ray format, hence my posting of it right here. We go for a young Ip Man who, while visiting Hong Kong, intervenes in a kidnapping attempt, unintentionally igniting a turf war with a ruthless human trafficking ring. In retaliation, the gang kidnaps one of Ip Man’s close friends, leaving him with no choice but to challenge the group’s notoriously brutal boxing champion head-on. If you like some good fight sequences then this might be right up your alley but take it in the same vein as you would have with a Chuck Norris film in the eighties or a Best Of The Best sequel in the nineties. Cool fights and action but not much of an actual film in between. Still very cool on the high-definition side of everything.

Television:

City On A Hill: Season 3 (Crave) – Kevin Bacon is absolutely fascinating in this Boston law enforcement series with a dirty cop edge from the same guys who put the spotlight on Baltimore in Homicide: Life On The Street. Bacon plays Jackie Rohr, a sleazy and corrupt FBI agent who reminisces about the more abusive times in policing when you could knock around perps and witnesses. He latches on to the new assistant D.A. with an axe to grind, the two looking to make a difference in a city they both want to see excel. The show suffers here and there with some of the tough-guy bravado writing that harkens back to a different era of television but when this show hits its stride it is a totally effective and engaging show. The second season fully solidified Rohr as one of my favourite anti-heroes on television currently and Aldis Hodge, who plays ADA DeCourcy Ward, is about to have a hell of a 2022 with him playing Hawkman in the upcoming Black Adam with The Rock but hopefully, that impending rise won’t cut this show’s run short because it is so fantastic. Chuck MacLean is a hell of a creator and I still can’t believe this is his debut in the medium.

The Most Hated Man On The Internet (Netflix) – The seedy and disgusting existence of revenge porn is front and center in this new fascinating Netflix docuseries that introduced me to the knowledge of an evil human being named Hunter Moore who I feel better off not knowing about. Being the father of two daughters, a story like this hits me deep in my heart and the show was unrelenting in that and I may have yelled at my television screen a few times. This series is from the point of view of the mother of one of the victims who decided to stand up to Moore, the self-proclaimed “professional life ruiner,” after photos of her naked daughter were posted online and once that was dealt with, she took it upon herself to help the others who had been humiliated by the website. This show is another bombshell of horrifying ways that the internet has been used to exploit and destroy the reputations of innocent women through illegal measures and computer hacking. As infuriating as it is a cautionary tale for those sick bastards out there looking to do the same thing.

Paper Girls (Prime Video) – After the sad cancellation of the adaptation of Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra’s landmark graphic novel Y The Last Man I was really hoping that networks or streaming services hadn’t soured on his work. Now one of my favourites of his works has gotten the series treatment and when I started reading Paper Girls, I knew it was destined for a live-action version. Definitely playing for that Stranger Things crossover crowd, the series is set a few hours after Halloween night in 1988 and follows four twelve-year-old girls who have to face a dangerous mission that has them trapped in a complicated conflict where they will travel in time to save the world. The main cast is young and fresh but it also has some stellar actors jumping in for supporting roles like a podcast friend of mine, Nate Corddry, and comedian Ali Wong, as well as being the first show led by Toy Story 4 writer Stephany Folsom. I have really good thoughts about this series having read the comic books thoroughly so I hope that it catches on with the broader audience.

Harley Quinn: Season 3 (Crave) – Kaley Cuoco has to be the most successful of the former Big Bang Theory cast members as she secured an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination for her HBO Max series The Flight Attendant’s first season and may earn another one for the current season too. She also has the added benefit of this animated and crudely adult DC Comics series that airs on the same streaming service and it is easily one of my current favourite shows. She is the title voice, a crazy character we all are familiar with, now striking out on her own without her longtime beau, the homicidal clown, The Joker. With her best friend, the Daria like Poison Ivy, voiced by Lake Bell, she has assembled her own team of misfits, which includes King Shark, voiced by Ron Funches, Clayface, done by Alan Tudyk who does multiple voices throughout the show run, and Tony Hale as Dr. Psycho. This show never fails to make me laugh hard and I love all of the DC in-jokes as well as its over-the-top and often brutal and gory violence. It’s like they went into my mind and pulled out exactly what kind of show I wanted to see as a comic fan! Perfect!

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