Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – This week has us heading back into the Marvel Universe for what promises to be an emotional goodbye to Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa but the birth of a new hero to take the mantle, which looks like the sister, Shiri donning the suit. I have been thinking about the way that they were going to handle the death of a majorAvengers player but I have the utmost confidence in writer and director Ryan Coogler because he hasn’t made a bad film yet. From what I see, the story picks up with Queen Ramonda, Shuri, M’Baku, Okoye and the Dora Milaje fighting to protect the kingdom of Wakanda from intervening world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death. As the Wakandans strive to embrace their next chapter, the heroes must band together with the help of War Dog Nakia and Everett Ross to battle the emergence of a new enemy from the sea, in the form of a debuting Marvel heavyweight in King Namor the Sub Mariner and forge a new path for their nation. Namor is a key ingredient in why I’m so excited to see where this story is going to be as he is a big piece of us getting mutants in the MCU, something already hinted at in the recent Ms. Marvel series. I could geek out for hours about this but just know that the first Black Panther was pretty damn great so the bar to exceed that is a bit lofty.


The Power Of The Dog – When acclaimed writer and director Jane Campion returns to film after an over ten-year hiatus, you stop and take notice as a film fan. Granted, she made the excellent murder mystery series Top Of The Lake with Elisabeth Moss for BBC but there is something special with the cinematic scope of this Academy Award-winning filmmaker. Her now Academy Award-winning film and newly minted Criterion Collection piece as of this week is a western drama that follows Benedict Cumberbatch as charismatic rancher Phil Burbank, a severe man who inspires fear and awe in those around him. He can castrate a bull calf with two swift slashes of his knife and swims naked in the river, smearing his body with mud off his own land, a cowboy as raw as the hides he produces because all of Phil’s romance, power and fragility is trapped in the past and the dirt he stands on. When his brother brings home a new wife and her son, Phil torments them incessantly until he finds himself exposed to the possibility that his heart may not be as dead and buried as he thought. The film co-stars Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons and has a vibrant character feel driven home by some stellar direction from a true master. Many might not get on board with the slow burn this tale exhibits but the deep character work from these actors in, at least for Dunst and Cumberbatch, is at a career-best, it deserves all of the celebrations.

I Love My Dad – From Ratatouille to Big Fan, stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt has done a varied amount of work in film from animated classics to underrated character gems that need to be seen but with this film, the goal definitely felt like it was to make you uncomfortable. At the heart of the awkwardness and line-crossing is a father’s absolutely misplaced love and deep dejection but it doesn’t soften it at all. Written, directed and starring James Morosini as Oswalt’s son, Patton plays an estranged father who has been blocked online by a child sick of his lies, he decides to make up a profile of a young woman to befriend him and keep up with the goings on in his life. Things get entangled when his son falls in love with this made-up girl forcing him to get romantic online with his own offspring. Yeah, this one gets decidedly messed up but the heart and soul are all exhibited by a father that has felt the sorrow he has inflicted but spiralled out of control with a bad idea. Patton really excels in the character dramas, this one definitely having a bit of comedy to it.

She Will – This was a total surprise to see come up now as a Blu-ray release this week as a horror thriller with the great Malcolm McDowell is always something to stop and take note of, even in a small role, one of the greatest character actors of all time and a personal favourite ever since I saw the cinematic glory that is A Clockwork Orange. This also happens to be the debut of writer and director Charlotte Colbert and I’m always so excited to see a new female voice in the genre and she nails it with a hell of a first film. The film follows former Borg Queen Alice Krige as an aging film star who retreats to the Scottish countryside with her nurse to recover from surgery. While there, mysterious forces of revenge emerge from the land where witches were burned in a story that is reportedly far more bone-chilling than it is jump-scary. I love the atmosphere that is given in this film, impeccably shot in every moment and this addition to Shudder’s lineup just increases the must-have feeling that the streaming app has been gaining for years now. Genre fans are rapidly running out of excuses to not buy in in my opinion.

The Witch 2: The Other One – Bringing some international film from one of my favourite countries as this week I got to take in some good ol’ South Korean action and I got a double shot of it as well as I have to watch the first film to catch up with the story. The thing about South Korean films like this is they always exceed two hours so the layering of the story is intense but I’ll do my best to outline this film. The first film deals with the amnesia of a young girl who is actually an unstoppable killing machine created by a shadowy corporation. After dispatching her creators and burning their facility to the ground in the finale of the first movie, the girl wakes up in a secret laboratory and meets Kyung-hee, who is trying to protect her from a gang. When the gang finally finds the girl, they are overwhelmed by an unexpected power which is unleashed on them all over again. This is the second in a proposed trilogy and the action is awesome throughout, this film has a lot more of it. There is some stuff that feels a little repetitive, especially watching the films back to back, but I’m still very curious to see where it all goes.

Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm – I’ll be brief about this one because it really is just for a nice audience but after getting the complete box set of Adult Swim’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force I have re-immersed myself in the madness and it brings me back to the early 2000s when it debuted. Sadly, we don’t have the Cartoon Network anymore but Warner Bros. has decided to continue giving us stories of Meatwad, Frylock, Master Shake, their angry New Jersey neighbour Carl and the rest of the wacky side characters and I’m glad. This film has our three, umm, heroes estranged from each other until a megalomaniac with a global domination kink decides to take over the world and, most notably, a dilapidated house in New Jersey. They don’t reform to combat the bad, just to argue some more and it is delightful for any fan of this long-running series that is actually one of the first comedy things that I connected with my wife on. Yes, this has a personal connection in this family.

Saturday Night Fever 4K – The iconic feel of this film can not be understated as it made John Travolta a bigger star than he ever was as a television star on Welcome Back, Kotter and just before he hit the mega big time with Grease. It was also a huge boost for filmmaker John Badham who made this film his debut feature film on the big screen which paved the way for him as a studio guy that would go on to make crowd-pleasers like WarGames and Short Circuit. Travolta plays Tony Manero, an uneducated, immature Brooklyn teenager whose weekly highlight is going to the local disco, where he is the king of the dance floor. At home, it is a different story as he lives with his abusive, overbearing parents, and works at a dead-end job at a small paint store. Soon Tony meets Stephanie Mangano at the disco and they agree to dance together in a competition. Stephanie resists Tony’s attempts to romance her, as she aspires to greater things; she is moving across the river to Manhattan. Gradually, Tony also becomes disillusioned with the life he is leading and he and Stephanie decide to help each other to start afresh. Usually just remembered for the dancing scene with Travolta doing those now stereotypical disco moves, the film is actually way better than I had recollected.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geek-Outs:

The Flash: Season 8 – After a dicey few months of speculation, I feel like the continued DC properties in television and film are on a good path but it’s sad to see that some of the existing bright points didn’t see that renewal, including this series which comes to an end with the ninth season. This season gets to celebrate everything that came before it in tribute to the Arrowverse inclusive arc of Armageddon that stretches for the first five episodes. The show picks up after the previous storyline that had Barry time hopping to get help from his future children and I have a deep love for all the little nuances they pull out of the vast history that The Flash has in the long history of the character. As the show prepares to draw to a close, it is good to reflect on how good it has been consistently than to reflect on the void that it will leave in comic book television, which is pretty deep.


Down To Earth With Zac Efron: Season 2 (Netflix) – If you have a high profile as an actor and the resources and drive to make a mark with your platform then I applaud you in every way and it is for this reason that you really can’t hate on the work that Zac Efron is trying to do with his new series. Yes, it definitely comes off as super “bro” driven at times, especially in the narration with some jokes that give you some six-pack eye-rolling abs, but it is all for a good cause and, above all, awareness of the current earth crisis. Along with his friend Darin Olien, Zac travels worldwide in search of healthy, sustainable ways to live. The first season spanned the places of Iceland, France, Sardinia, Puerto Rico and more, this one is a focused look at Australia and the rest of the down under, largely regarded as the most dangerous place on the planet. Given Efron’s health scare a couple years back, this gives added weight to his new world idea series and its new episodes.

Mythic Quest: Season 3 (AppleTV+) – Any fans of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia out there are probably already wise to this new series that launched with the AppleTV+ service but I was definitely late to the game and after a full binge of both seasons I am here to tell you it is must-see stuff. Starring Rob McElhenney and created alongside Charlie Day and gifted writer Megan Ganz, the show follows a team of video game developers as they navigate the challenges of running a popular video game. This show is hysterically funny and devolves into a chaos of tech jargon, clashing egos, insane ideas and more with a great recurring cast including Community’s Danny Pudi and an Academy Award-winning heavyweight in F. Murray Abraham and also has guest stars like Jake Johnson, Palm Springs star Cristin Milioti and even recent Best Actor Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins. This is some can’t-miss comedy right here for everyone to jump into.

Zootopia+ (Disney+) – A surprise hit for a non-Pixar studio animated film from Disney, Zootopia was a great film filled with vibrant characters and a lush world and backdrop ready for new little stories and that is certainly what the geniuses at Disney+ picked up on. Much like they have done with the Big Hero 6 Baymax series, this is a collection of shorts based directly around the movie with moments popping directly into it. The story of what happened to Judy Hopps’ parents immediately after dropping her off at the train station is your kick-off point but we also get background stories with Clawhauser at the police station and his love for a Shakira-voiced Gazelle, a weasel looking for the big time of crime or redemption, the Real Rodents Of Rodenia and a few more give you almost an hour of fun little shorts to work through.

The English (Prime Video) – I know really almost nothing heading into this new series for Prime but I do know that it has Emily Blunt leading the way and, honestly, that is enough for me to devour every episode. The second thing that would sell me as a standalone feature is that it is a western story, something that we don’t get a lot of but when we do it becomes an obsession for me, like Deadwood or the recent Good Lord Bird. Set in the mythic mid-American landscape in the year 1890, the story follows Cornelia Locke, an Englishwoman who arrives in the new and wild landscape of the West to wreak revenge on the man she sees as responsible for the death of her son. Upon meeting Eli Whipp, an ex-cavalry scout and member of the Pawnee Nation by birth, they join together and discover a shared history which must be defeated at all costs, if either of them are to survive. The show is headed by writer and director Hugo Blick who has spent years as a stalwart creator of British television and is now bringing it to the international audience with a very sought-after female lead. I really hope this plays to the strengths of a solid western thriller like Meek’s Cutoff, which, if you haven’t seen it, is a masterpiece.

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