Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

The Woman King – Viola Davis is not staying in the office this time for an action feast as she did as Amanda Waller in the Suicide Squad movies. This time she is in the battle, alongside a hell of a cast with No Time To Die’s Lashana Lynch and Star Wars star John Boyega so she is in very good company for this based on a true story epic from Love And Basketball filmmaker Gina Prince_Bythewood. The film is the story of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s with skills and a fierceness, unlike anything the world has ever seen. Davis plays General Nanisca as she trains the next generation of recruits and readies them for battle against an enemy determined to destroy their way of life. This movie looks awesome and totally deserving of the toughest performance from Viola who has had some very formidable roles in her past. The initial reviews for it are glowing and the word is that the film will stick with you, beyond the running time, which is always a great thing for cinema.

Goodnight Mommy – I definitely have my worries about this new horror thriller as it is a remake of an Austrian film from 2014 by the filmmaking duo of Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz who made a hell of an experience that had me gripping my seat in the press screening. Can this one keep that feeling? Well, it does have Naomi Watts leading it who has had successful remakes of foreign thrillers with The Ring and Funny Games so I’m more than willing to give it a shot. The story follows twin brothers who arrive at their mother’s country home to discover her face covered in bandages after plastic surgery and they immediately sense that something doesn’t add up. She sets strange new house rules, smokes in her bathroom, and secretly rips up a drawing they gave her, things their loving mother would never do. As her behaviour grows increasingly bizarre and erratic, a horrifying thought takes root in the boys’ minds, that the woman beneath the gauze, who’s making their food and sleeping in the next room, isn’t their mother at all. There are key sequences in the original film that still send chills down my spine when I think of them and I really am hoping that director Matt Sobel, in just his second feature, is able to make something just as harrowing but in a fresh and different way. I know I will be watching this American-made version for sure but I highly recommend watching the original which is available on Shudder right now.

Pearl – After seeing the seventies-style brilliance that was the horror film X from Ti West, there was a rumour I read online that there was a second film, a prequel to that story that was written and filmed by West and lead actress Mia Goth during the COVID quarantine in New Zealand which doubled for a hot and dusty Texas. Having loved everything I saw in X I was so curious to see even a trailer for Pearl which was apparently only shown in American cinemas, screwing us Canadians. You’ve had a few months to watch X on blu-ray now so I will play with a few spoilers here but the story of this film follows the story of Pearl, the old lady who murdered all of the main characters in X, in her back story of how she got there. Goth proved herself to be a bonafide leading star in X and I can not wait to see her stretch her legs again in an even darker role as I suspect she did the dual role of the predecessor as Pearl under heavy aging makeup. Yes, I’m bringing another horror film this week and probably no one is happier about it than me.

The Silent Twins – As much as I’ve heard that actress Leticia Wright has been problematic on the Black Panther 2 set with her anti-vax views, all rumoured at this point, as far as I know, it doesn’t mar the fact that she is really great at her craft and a true story film like this just cements it even more. Adding to the mix of acting prowess, the visual glory of this film is in the hands of Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Smoczynska whose astounding mermaid fantasy drama with a horror twist, The Lure, put her on the map in my opinion. The story follows Wright and Tamara Lawrance as identical twins June and Jennifer Gibbons who grew up in Wales and became known as “the silent twins” because of their refusal to communicate with anyone other than each other. This eventually got the two incarcerated in a mental hospital for years of their lives as they created their own art and writings together in a volatile sisterhood. This movie is incredible in its imagery as it transitions between their imaginations and the harshness of their reality and the performance between Leticia and Lawrence brought me to tears more than a few times. I don’t know what the awards campaign is behind this film but I think it needs to be on the ballot somewhere, a truly original vision of two interesting characters in history.

Clerks III – Being a long-time fan of the works of writer, director, editor, producer and star Kevin Smith, I have a reverence for anything Clerks and Jay and Silent Bob related so to say that the anticipation for this sequel, coming more than fifteen years after the second movie, is at an all-time high is even an underselling of my passion. Clerks was a piece in the mosaic of why I love movies and Smith is a big inspiration for me being on the radio now so this is like a cinematic golden gift for me and fans like me and no matter what we get, I’m predestined to love it. We go super meta with this installment as Randall suffers a heart attack and with his near-death experience, he makes it his mission to gather his friends Dante, Elias, and Jay and Silent Bob to make a movie about the Quick Stop as his lasting legacy on the planet. I love that Kevin is incorporating his own journey into a film that, from what I’m hearing, gives the most heart, emotion and resonance of his entire career. These are the words coming from a critic that is not a die-hard View Askew fan so that has me even more riled up to see this. Being in a small town, it won’t get to me for a while but I am more than ready. Let’s f***ing go, already!

Do Revenge – Following on the hotness of the fourth season of the Netflix juggernaut hit Stranger Things the streaming service knows that there are great people contained in the cast and have doubled down on that by casting Maya Hawke in this new dark comedy. To pad up a great cast, the film also features formidable Game Of Thrones actress Sophie Turner and Riverdale star Camila Mendes but I’m really excited that the film was written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson in her sophomore release and after her series, Sweet/Vicious was cancelled by MTV after just one season which, to me, is really sad. The film feels like a riff on that series as it follows Mendes and Hawke as two students on the opposite ends of the popularity scale. Drea (Camila) is at the peak of her high school powers when her entire life goes up in flames after her sex tape gets leaked to the whole school, seemingly by her boyfriend and king of the school, Max. Eleanor (Maya) is an awkward new transfer student who is angered to find out that she now has to go to school with her old bully, Carissa (Turner) who started a nasty rumour about her in summer camp when they were 13. After a clandestine run-in at tennis camp, Drea and Eleanor form an unlikely and secret friendship to get revenge on each other’s tormentors. I love these Mean Girls-type stories, a hold back from all the films of the 80s and 90s that played almost on repeat in my VHS or DVD player so I have a certain expectation for it. Given the players that are involved, it seems like a winning battle to me.

Flux Gourmet – With the brand new thriller with a comedy edge The Menu just playing the Toronto International Film Festival and getting comparisons to a cross between Succession and the Saw franchise, Shudder is striking while the frying pan is just heating up with this culinary-related thriller. To me, it also has the added bonus of featuring former Game Of Thrones actress Gwendoline Christie in a main role just after she magnificently played Lucifer in the Netflix adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. This film, also exhibiting a comedic smile to it, is set at an institute devoted to culinary and alimentary performance, following a collective that finds themselves embroiled in power struggles, artistic vendettas, and gastrointestinal disorders in order to be at the top of their class. The film was created by writer and director Peter Strickland who, in my opinion, has made some of the most underrated and compelling thrillers of all time with the sound-based and paranoia-inducing Berberian Sound Studio and the fashion-motivated chiller In Fabric so I really expect nothing short of gold from this one. I think it is a big score for Shudder to nab such an impressive debut and it just speaks to how the horror-centric streaming service is growing.

Moonage Daydream – With the ill-advised biopic Stardust in our rearview, a film unapproved by the estate of David Bowie and dreadfully scripted and put together, it is a breath of fresh air to get this documentary on one of the greatest rock stars of all time, a man who’s death left me in tears for weeks. Even better, the film is written and directed by Brett Morgen who is no stranger to music-driven films of this ilk as he is the guy who put together the Kurt Cobain film Montage Of Heck among other projects. Fresh off of its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, the documentary promises to be a cinematic odyssey exploring David Bowie’s creative and musical journey in ways that have never been done before. The acclaim is already pouring in for it and if you’re a Bowie fan then this movie was made directly for you, an intimate portrait of a man that was bigger than life, bigger than this planet and maybe the universe-spanning in his artistic scope. His life and music had a profound effect on me and it’s great that the estate opened up to give us something like this because we know now a biopic will never happen without a full blessing.

Blu-Ray:

Elvis – I have to be honest, I am not the biggest fan of the works of filmmaker Bz Luhrman but the more I saw the trailers for this new biopic of the original King Of Rock n Roll the more interested in it I became. It isn’t for Tom Hanks either, who kind of looks and sounds bizarre in it, but Once Upon A Time In Hollywood actor Austin Butler who takes on this infinitely iconic role and is seemingly doing a great job of it. The film takes on the story from top to bottom, from his childhood in Tupelo, Mississippi to his rise to stardom starting in Memphis, Tennessee and his conquering of Las Vegas, Nevada, as Elvis Presley becomes the first rock ‘n roll star and changes the world with his music. The look of the film is absolutely gorgeous, something that Luhrmann always has going for him, but I also put that in the hands of Mulan cinematographer Mandy Walker who worked on his last movie Australia as well. The movie, at least for me, has a really bumpy start and feels almost too big and grandiose for a character even to the bigger than life quality of the King but once it settles into the story it starts to calm down in an interesting way and Butler is absolutely mesmerizing the whole time. Hanks probably gives one of his hammiest performances o his career which works less than half of the time but this is a star vehicle for Austin Butler and now landing the villain role in Dune from the reception of this movie, the sky is the limit for him.

Lightyear – The amount of promise that this new Pixar film has amassed since it was announced is very interesting because I didn’t really see the appeal when the idea was first proposed but this cast alone has got me going. Chris Evans is taking over the iconic role from Tim Allen, a replacement I’m more than fine with but it also has the added boost of Nope’s Keke Palmer and the great Taika Waititi to join him on his brand new adventure. This is a prequel adventure that follows the real and non-toy Buzz as he is marooned while spending years attempting to return home and encounters an army of ruthless robots commanded by his arch-nemesis Zurg who are attempting to steal his fuel source. Being a Pixar film, I did have an ascertained level of expectation for this movie but, given its source material, it had to be delivered through a canon of predetermined things around this character to be fully satisfying. The fascinating approach to this movie is that it was the movie that Andy saw that made him want to buy the Buzz Lightyear toy ad on that premise it feels like a misstep as the movie is fun and enjoyable but falls short of being a franchise making blockbuster. If you let all of that damage go to the wayside. it has some great supporting characters around Buzz including a robot cat named Sox who I am convinced would be a more popular toy than Buzz himself. There I go digressing from the positivity again though.

Where The Crawdads Sing – There’s something about this new drama mystery that has me absolutely disinterested and I have to say it stems from the pretty lacklustre trailer that I saw in theatres for it. Maybe it is also the fact that this ad screened before a showing of Lightyear in front of a bunch of kids, including my own, and I thought it was a bit inappropriate. The film is based on the popular novel by Delia Owens and follows a woman who raised herself in the marshes of the deep South that becomes a suspect in the murder of a man she was once involved with. The selling point for me is that it stars the breakout leading actress of the recent dark comedy thriller Fresh, Daisy Edgar Jones. Still, beyond that, I’m really unfamiliar with director Olivia Newman’s work and not a lot else in the film really draws me in. Who knows, it may surprise me and it does feature a new song by Taylor Swift.

The Forgiven – There’s something about the McDonaugh brothers, Martin and John Michael, that sets them apart from other filmmakers and the odd thing, unlike the Coens, the Farrellys, the safdies and others, they never make their films together but they still have a distinct feeling about them. The definition line for the McDonaughs is fantastic dialogue with incredible casts and that is what is evident here with this drama that seems as elusiv in it’s tone as is the truth of it’s characters. The story takes place over a weekend in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, and explores the reverberations of a random accident on the lives of both the local Muslims, and Western visitors to a house party in a grand villa and the ramifications but sociological and psychological that happens to our main man, Ralph Fiennes in the result. This film has two main threads of reluctant redemption and excessive classism that makes it a heavy narrative with a lot of food for thought. I can’t say it would be broadly compelling but as a fan of great character driven work on an ensemble level, I really liked this one.

Sniper: The White Raven – There something really worldly and totally relevant about getting this brand new action flick because it comes from the Ukraine and it has them taking on a formidable Russian foe which seems really satisfying right now. I automatically gave it a negative feeling because I thought it was a continuation of the Tom Berenger and Billy Zane direct to video action franchise Sniper but it really isn’t connected to that at all. The story follows a Ukrainian physics teacher living off the land with his pregnant wife who is murdered at the hands of invading soldiers in Donbas and he is left for dead, prompting an unyeilding need for revenge. Recieving training from the local militia, he sets his sights on an elite Russian sniper whose elimination could change the tide of the conflict. THis movie was entertaining as heck, stemming from a very eighties flick feeling revenge action that is rooted with soul and unfathomable tragedy. I really loved the training sequences as he goes from a strict pacifist to a total marksman and the realism is felt entirely. It is also beautifully shot and the sniper warfare sequences are totally exhilerating. I have to say that this one was a total surprise.

Fatal Attraction 4K – Glenn Close became one of the most terrifying women in Hollywood for a while after this Adrian Lynne classic and I think it took her a long time to shake that stereotype ad pigeonholing but I feel that’s a testament to how good she was it this thriller. A definite cautionary tale of one of the extreme downfalls of screwing around in your marriage, it’s interesting that this didn’t cause a stigma in lead star Michael Douglas’s career as well but that’s silver screen sexism for you, I guess. He plays seemingly happily married New York lawyer Dan Gallagher who has an affair with his colleague Alex, and the two enjoy a love weekend while Dan’s wife and kid are away. Unfortunately for Dan, Alex will not let go of him, and she will stop at nothing to have him for herself but just how far will she go to get what she wants? Let’s just say, the family pet doesn’t make it to the end credits and it is an unforgettable rollercoaster of a thriller that has aged beautifully in my opinion. These are two stars that were, and still largely are, at the top of their game. It’s disappointing that writer James Dearden hasd only one other notable film beyond this, the lesser mystery A Kiss Before Dying, which he directed as well.

Friday The 13th 4K – Alongside Halloween which was released just a couple years before it, this film is one of the biggest heavyweights in horror and spawned one of the most popular subgenres within that, the slasher film. We all know this story by now, right? Counsellors return to open the summer spot of Camp Crystal Lake which was closed due to a horrific tragedy when a young deformed boy named Jason Voorhees drowned due to negligence. One by one, each teen is picked off by a vicious killer in all sorts of inventive ways and the reveal of who is behind it is still pretty iconic because it’s not who you think. Heck, the wrong answer got Drew Barrymore killed in Scream. Now celebrating it’s fortieth anniversary, this new edition comes in a beautifully crafted steelbook and I have a real love for those. That said, if you already picked up the full blu-ray collection, you already have this movie, like me, but if you are a total completionist then you need to get the 4K. It’s for the ultimate fans.

Magnum P.I.: Season 4 – Against all my beliefs that they could work, CBS has managed to reboot a handful of their classic line up from decades ago and has made them work. Hawaii Five-O has just ended their run a while backand actually featured this show’s main character, MacGyver has been sort of a runaway hit and, really, Magnum has done good numbers for them as well, especially in that aforementioned crossover, palling around with McGarrett and Dann-O. Not sporting the Selleck mustache for this, Jay Hernandez steps into the role of Thomas Magnum with a gender switch for his sidekick Higgins in Ready Player One’s Perdita Weeks as it follows the ex-Navy SEAL as he returns from Afghanistan to use his military skills to become a private investigator in Hawaii. It’s your basic procedural, as you would expect it, and Hernandez kind of makes the show his own. I see it getting another few seasons as it’s doing well in the demographic.

Seal Team: Season 5 – Even though the series ended fifteen years ago I will always see David Boreanaz as the brooding vampire with a soul Angel from the Joss Whedon created Buffy spinoff and that’s even after twelve seasons as Seeley Booth on Bones. His new series is going very well though, a series that follows the lives of an elite Navy S.E.A.L. team as they train, plan and execute the most dangerous, high-stakes missions for the American government. Created by first-time showrunner Benjamin Cavell, this series has compelling characters and has the potential to get better in this vein if they can steer away from being a mission by mission procedural. I have now thoroughly enjoyed every season that Paramount sent me and I think that the show has gotten even better after the shift to Paramount+ meaning that it can go way harder in content which makes it that much more believable. Honestly, network television rules would drown this show.

Lucifer: Season 6 – The show that the fans keep having the ability to revive finally reaches it’s conclusion on it’s own terms and now is available to finish off your collection on DVD. The show has since been given a sixth season after it performed so well on Netflix with an all-new vigour following this season which focuses on Lucifer’s lineage, his past and those close around him getting the truth of what he has revealed to them. There is also a killer guest spot of 24’s Dennis Haysbert showing up as, wait for it, God himself and, yes, I’m so behind President David Palmer portraying the thing that makes people do the stupidest things when people use it to embolden their stances on politics and human and ethical rights. Okay, dialling back the ire here, but I will conclude by saying that this series has made lead actor Tom Ellis a bankable star and in a role originally written by Neil Gaiman who also has another version of Lucifer currently on Netflix with Gwendolyne Christie playing the role on The Sandman. The funny thing is both shows are phenomenal which just gives more boost to how awesome Gaiman is as a creator.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Outs:

Men – In just his third feature, it feels like this twisted new film from writer and director Alex Garland, a personal favorite of mine, just came and went just a few months ago and no one payed attention. Well, cinephiles and people in the know had the wherewithal to celebrate the film and we were rewarded with a total mindf*** that was unrelenting and made us want to slowly get into the fetal position as each harrowing moment passed. The film stars the outstanding Jessie Buckley and the underrated Rory Kinnear and follows a young woman who goes on a solo vacation to the English countryside following the grisly death of her ex-husband. However, a brief exploration of the lush local landscapes reveals strange happenings as uncomfortable encounters thwart her ambitious plans to bounce back and heal. THe less said about the plot beyond that is for the best as, like last week’s release of Barbarian, the best way to go into this is blind. Even the trailers seemed to know this as they were the definition of ambiguous. Even with it being on blu-ray for a few weeks, the audiences haven’t rushed to see it but I’m trying to give it some love here.

Young Sheldon: Season 5 – With the main series of The Big Bang Theory long in the rearview now, this piece of the Chuck Lorre created series with this spin-off about the childhood years of Sheldon Cooper, a show that Jim Parsons narrates naturally and has been doing great ratings for CBS for two straight seasons even standing apart from the show it spawned from.  This show could have been a real bust but a weird thing happened after I watched a few episodes and that was a simple notion that I was enjoying it and Annie Potts plays his “MeeMaw”! Sold! The four seasons the preceeded this proved that this show is beyond a flash in the pan sophomore hit as it takes that groundwork laid out by the original series and puts it in an almost Wonder Years-like filter and now it can continue its Sheldon Cooper lore without any new encumbrance or retcon. Even bigger than that, this season contains the coveted one hundredth episode which is a beautiful milestone that any show would love to do.

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