Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Me Time – If I’m being totally honest, Kevin Hart has been working at a 50/50 for me with his Netflix original movies. I adore his work on the comedy drama Fatherhood, a sweet and endearing story about a suddenly single father dealing with a newborn baby but The Man From Toronto was a bland mess of an action comedy that could have borrowed way more from the chemistry department that The Hitman’s Bodyguard did. Now he’s teaming with the star power of Mark Wahlberg for this new comedy that follows a stay at home dad who gets to finally cut loose for a weekend when his wife and kids head out of town and reconnects with an old friend that makes his days off complete chaos. The film comes from writer and director John Hamburg who has done films like I Love You, Man, which is one of my favorite “bromantic” movies ever made and that simple reasoning has me really positive towards this one. I could be wrong but the track record has already been laid out.

Three Thousand Years Of Longing – Mad Max: Fury Road is a hell of a move to follow up and the good news is that director and creator George Miller is currently in production with a prequel to that movie. Still, before that hits the post-production slate, he has this new film with an adult twist on an old fable and he’s paid with two of the best actors in modern cinema, Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba. The story follows Swinton as a lonely scholar who happens to encounter a Djinn, played by Elba, while in Istanbul attending a conference which offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom. This presents two problems, the first being that she doubts that he is real and second, because she is a scholar of story and mythology, she knows all the cautionary tales of wishes gone wrong. The Djinn pleads his case by telling her fantastical stories of his past and eventually she is beguiled and makes a wish that surprises them both. Miller is a king at making visually stunning tales and I really expect no difference for this which has quickly become one of my most anticipated films at the end of the summer of 2002. This one could be really great.

Samaritan – Sylvester Stallone is reserving the end of 2022 for his big projects as he not only has this brand new Prime Video original film but a new series debuting soon on Paramount+ called The Tulsa King which was created by the red hot Taylor Sheridan, the mind behind Yellowstone and it’s spinoffs. This new film reminds me of a more ultra-serious take on the Will Smith film Hancock and I’m really hoping it all pans out better. Stallone plays Mr. Smith, the reclusive neighbor to thirteen-year-old Sam Cleary who suspects that he is actually a legend hiding in plain sight. Twenty years prior, Granite City’s super-powered vigilante, Samaritan, was reported dead after a fiery warehouse battle with his rival, Nemesis and while most believe he perished in the fire, some in the city like Sam, have hope that he is still alive. With crime on the rise and the city on the brink of chaos, Sam makes it his mission to coax his neighbor out of hiding to save the city from ruin. The film comes from filmmaker Julius Avery who gave us the insane World War II Nazi horror flick Overlord last time out so I’m kind of hyped on what he can do with this story.

The Invitation – I have to be totally honest, this movie looks like a complete dud to me. I feel like too much is given away in the trailer, we now know it’s a vampire film and it really looks too close to the horror comedy Ready Or Not but without the levity. This is big I think for a horror fan to be completely disinterested in a big studio genre release but it’s an uphill climb for me to just get a little into it. The film follows Fast And Furious franchise star Nathalie Emmanuel as Evie, a woman grieving the loss of her mother with no other relatives who takes a DNA test and discovers a long-lost cousin she never knew she had. Invited by her newfound family to a lavish wedding in the English countryside, she’s at first seduced by the sexy aristocrat host but is soon thrust into a nightmare of survival as she uncovers twisted secrets in her family’s history and the unsettling intentions behind their generosity. As I said, the trailer lays way too much out on the table so I suggest you ignore it but I do like that it comes from a woman writer and director in Jessica M. Thompson because this genre needs a female voice more and more any day. This one may surprise me but right now it feels ultra bland.

The Good Boss – As I was watching this new Javier Bardem dark comedy drama, I found myself looking up the filmography of writer and director Fernando León de Aranoa and realized that he was the man behind a Vancouver International Film Festival favorite of mine, A Perfect Day, from my first couple years of covering the event. It made sense that this filmmaker languishes in human stories surrounded by darkness and not only does he love to hang out in that mood, but he also excels in it. This film has Bardem playing the owner of an industrial scale manufacturing business who tries to resolve any problems from his workers as the company is awaiting a visit by a committee that could give them an award for excellence. This causes mounting strife in his own life as choices as the dominoes fall into place with each move he makes to solve other people’s issues. Bardem brings that same great gravitas to the role as he always done but it is the layered script that really propels this story and won me over in the end.

Watcher – Ever since I experienced the low-budget horror feast that was David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows, I have been enthralled with everything that came from it, including his weird follow-up Under The Silver Lake. Another discovery from IT Follows was the brilliance of lead actress Maika Monroe and the depth that she gives her horror. This is why I am so interested in Shudder’s new offering this week, a film about a young American woman who moves with her husband to Bucharest, and begins to suspect that a stranger who watches her from the apartment building across the street may be a local serial killer decapitating women. It is definitely that sort of Maniac mixed with Rear Window storyline that solidified the deal for me with Monroe being perfectly cast but it also features another woman in horror behind the camera with writer and director Chloe Okuno following up her segment in V/H/S ’94 with her first full-length feature. It also doesn’t hurt that this movie is trending at a Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, no small feat for a film of this genre.

After Ever Happy – This is a weird one for me to report on as I have honestly never seen a single one of these young twenty-somethings romantic drama film franchise entries which is now four movies deep with this addition. I’d have to say that the pandemic probably helped out with the success of these films, which is an odd thing to say, but the series started in 2019 and then released its subsequent films during the lockdown period which saw a huge shift in theatrical releases from big studios. What is this movie about? The story follows the main two lovers, Hardin and Tessa, as they discover the shocking truths about each other’s families. Discovering they are not so different from each other, the hard realization is that Tessa is no longer the sweet, simple, good girl she was when she met Hardin, any more than he is the cruel, moody boy she fell so hard for. These films feel so dull and formulaic and without a big star to lead them, as Ralph Fiennes son Hero Fiennes Tiffin is just at the start of his career and I only know Josephine Langford from Amy Poehler’s directorial debut, Moxie. These movies aren’t really my bag anyways.

Blu-Ray & DVD:

Murder At Yellowstone City – With all of the movies and television that I check out from week to week, sometimes I cringe at the direct-to-video releases as they might boast a big cast but the action scene in the first scene with a big and terribly CGIed explosion gives a clear indication into that. So, then you adopt a “well, it might get better” attitude until it inevitably does or doesn’t and in the case of the recent release Hot Seat it didn’t and I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it. This one has the upper hand of being a western, a genre I love, and has a damn good cast with Gabriel Byrne, Thomas Jane and Richard Dreyfuss, just to name a few. The story follows a former slave who arrives in Yellowstone City, Montana, a desolate former boomtown now on the decline, looking for a place to call home. On that same day, a local prospector discovers gold and is murdered, making the new town resident suspect number one until more killings happen while he is incarcerated. This film has a rough start but slowly develops into a western story that borrows a bit from the murder mystery side of things and pulls it off in an entertaining degree. This isn’t to say that the film isn’t predictable in a large way, especially when our murderer is revealed, but it manages to keep the character work going enough so that you don’t notice how cheap the production is.

NCIS Los Angeles: Season 13 – Well, It looks like it’s that time of the year again when all the previous seasons of television hit DVD and I get all of the naval crime shows that are still miraculously going, like this Chris O’Donnell, and LL Cool J led spin-off and this is just the beginning of the yearly install of NCIS shows in my home release reviews. They play key agents in the Office of Special Projects branch of the organization which puts them undercover to crack cases, utilizing their backgrounds as street kids. I’m fully aware of the dime-a-dozen nature of crime procedurals but I will admit something about this particular one and that is that I kind of like it and, really, at the end of the day it needs to be somewhat good to make it far past the initial double digits and now into season fourteen, right? Holy crap, that’s a lot of episodes and most of them I have to look up on Paramount+ now as I do not have the earlier episodes.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Rapid Fire – With The Crow being one of my favorite films ever made and one of the big reasons that I’m as big of a film fan as I am now, it’s easy to assume that I had a love for everything that Brandon Lee did in his tragically short career, including this action flick that I rented over and over again from the video store. Aside from Lee, it also features a couple of character actors I would learn to appreciate later in my movie watching life with Powers Boothe and Raymond J. Barry. The film follows Lee as student Jake Lo who witnesses a murder and finds himself caught between two feuding drug lords. After trying to get the authorities involved he is set up by federal agents and the only person he can trust is Ryan, played by Boothe, a Chicago cop who reminds Jake of his deceased father. As a kid, I was totally obsessed with movies like this so it’s easy to see why it was such a pivotal movie in my young watching patterns. It’s also great evidence of the fine track Lee was on in the genre, paving a career that could have even eclipsed his father’s.

Hit & Run – Being a kid that grew up on Smokey And The Bandit and its sequel, Dax Shepard was definitely playing to that crowd when he wrote and directed his action comedy feature debut. Now, ten years after its release, it never really received the warm welcome it should have, shoved into theaters in a small limited opening and then immortalized on blu-ray. The story is about a young couple, played by Kristen Bell and Dax, who risk it all when they leave their small-town life and embark on a road trip that may lead them towards the opportunity of a lifetime. Their road trip grows awkwardly complicated and hilarious when they are chased by a friend from the past, in a hilarious performance from Bradley Cooper, a federal marshal and a band of misfits. Giving this movie another watch, I’m really sad that more people don’t know about it as it represents a really great era of filmmaking and Dax has definitely learned all the right movies to make a great and entertaining movie. He did get to meet Burt on the set of Without A Paddle so this had to be a long gestated creator venture.

Patti Cake$ – This was a film that caught my eye seemingly out of nowhere in a time when Fox Searchlight was the studio place to go for great indie films out of the Sundance Film Festival. Now to put that in context, this film is now only five years old but sadly the acclaim never really came from it. None for brilliant lead star Danielle Macdonald nor for writer and director Geremy Jasper but there is still time to give it the love it deserves. Australian actress Macdonald gives a hell of a New Jersey performance as aspiring rapper Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$, who is fighting an unlikely quest for glory in her downtrodden hometown in the Garden State. I fell hard in love with this movie, a slacker film that embraces a comedic side of an 8 Mile and Eminem like story and does it so well. This was also my introduction to actor Siddharth Dhananjay who I have loved in everything since.

Television:

House Of The Dragon (Crave) – Many have been waiting for this prequel to Game Of Thrones and many are shunning it due to the final season of it’s predecessor but I know one thing, I am damn excited to see the family history of the Targeyrrens played out because we only got Dany and Visyrys in the original show and it is a fascinating lineage. The cast has former Doctor Who, Matt Smith, and Hot Fuzz actor Paddy Considine but the actors aren’t the draw, it’s the story and one headed by creator George R.R. Martin who says he was way more hands on and into the production than he was before. Set two hundred years before the first episode of Game Of Thrones, this show looks like it will exclusively focus on the family of dragons rather than being a multi storied look at the people of Westeros and with the cancelling of the other planned spinoffs that might be my only gripe. On the other hand, with all of the HBO Max cancellations recently, it has made me far more grateful for the things that we haven’t had taken from us yet. I will end off, without spoilers, saying that episode one was fantastic and I can’t wait for Sunday’s new episode.

See: Season 3 (AppleTV+) – Jason Momoa returns to lead the final season of this Campbell River shot sci-fi series set in a dystopian future about the human race, years into the future, which has lost the sense of sight and society has had to find new ways to navigate the world and survive as a society. Of course, when a set of twins are born with the ability to see everyone’s world is blown wide open, setting off new wars, new alliances and this season brings the big bad of Momoa’s character’s brother, played by the great Dave Bautista in the last season to set up the final conflict here. This show obviously features a lot of local talent, like my friend Josh Blacker, but beyond those reasons to get on board, the show is actually pretty damn great and had me engaged entirely from episode to episode. The appeal to me for story elements is that the show makes use of the freeform of Apple’s platform and is gory as hell. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I think it is a hit with me and the ceiling of possibility is so huge. It’s crazy that we’re far enough in the gestation of AppleTV+ originals to see the end of one of their tentpole series.

Mike (Disney+) – The tale of former heavyweight champion and dangerous and ferocious boxing icon Mike Tyson has been begging for a series or film imagining and we finally get it through Disney+, even if the subject of it feels totally robbed of giving any creative input. That said, I will still be watching, with all apologies to Iron Mike, and I really love the casting of Moonlight star Trevante Rhodes as the title character. The series will explore the wild, tragic and controversial life and career of Tyson, one of the most polarizing figures in sports culture and the extent of the depths it goes through are unclear at this point. Sadly, the reviews right now are as polarizing as the opinions on the man itself but it is a good precursor before the big screen version in which Jamie Foxx is portraying Iron Mike hits theaters. I think he actually approved that one too.

Star Trek Lower Decks: Season 3 (Paramount+) – The third season of the animated and comedic version of Star Trek has now started to beam onto PAramount’s streaming service and it comes at the perfect time as lead voice actor Jack Quaid is riding the tidal wave of the third season of the Prime Video series The Boys and anything he touches seems to be gold at the moment. I’m looking directly at my copy of Scream from this year as I say that. For those uninitiated into the “Final Space” -ing of Star Trek that this show is, the series is about the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships, the U.S.S. Cerritos, following them as they keep up with their duties, often while the ship is being rocked by a multitude of sci-fi anomalies. The supporting cast with Quaidis great, including Jerry O’Connell, Space Force’s Tawny Newsome, Loki’s Eugene Cordero and fellow podcaster Paul Scheer, and I’ve really enjoyed my dive through the series and I’m looking forward to the forthcoming season three. It lacks a little of the consistency of the heavyweights like South Park but it is still a solid show with some great Trek references always.

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