Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Avatar: The Way Of Water – This is it, we are heading into the last huge movie week of 2022 with arguably the biggest movie of the year and, as a film fan if you aren’t curious about James Cameron’s return to Pandora then you need to check your pulse. The jury is out on whether this sequel can retake the mantle of the highest-grossing film of all time, but the reviews are stellar and I’m excited about it. The story picks up with our main character, Jake Sully, who lives with his newfound family formed on the planet of Pandora. Once a familiar threat in the military that he once served returns to finish what was previously started, Jake must work with Neytiri and the army of the Na’vi race to protect their planet. The first film was the greatest and most immersive 3D experience I had ever seen and I expect pretty much the same as Cameron has a deep love for this technology and when it comes to his films, the guy has never missed in making entertaining and, above all, totally iconic movies. This is going to be another mind-blowing experience I think and it clocks in at over three hours which is so crazy to me.

Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths – Let’s put it in perspective for a fan of Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu because it has been seven years since his last film, the epic and brutal western thriller The Revenant that won Leo DiCaprio his long-awaited first Academy Award. Now he returns with something very personal which I find pretty reminiscent of Alfonso Cuaron’s film Roma from a couple of years ago. The story follows an acclaimed journalist-turned-documentarian who goes on an oneiric introspective journey to his native country of Mexico to face his identity, familial relationships, and the folly of his memories and the past and the new reality of his country. The film is, at this point, suffering from middling reviews which is kind of the first time for this acclaimed and multiple Oscar-winning filmmakers as it is regarded as a beautiful and personal story shot by esteemed cinematographer Darius Khondji but is also said to cross the self-indulgent line of being a vanity project. My argument is, after all the great films this master has given us, doesn’t he get one for himself?

The Apology – With the sad news coming last week with the layoffs at AMC it looks like a major part of the horror-centric streaming service of Shudder has been cut and laid off so I wonder how much longer we will get Shudder original films like this one debuting on the wonderful and must-see app. Featuring Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn, Mandy villain Linus Roache and comedian Janeane Garofalo, if this is the end of the line for Shudder, it feels like a pretty solid film to consider the last. The story follows a recovering alcoholic who is preparing to host her family’s Christmas celebration while still dealing with the trauma of the disappearance of her daughter twenty years earlier, when her estranged ex-brother-in-law arrives unannounced, bearing nostalgic gifts and a heavy secret. The film is the feature debut of a new voice in horror with writer and director Alison Locke and it looks like a successful endeavour as the story looks unsettling and unpredictable with a cutting edge that could lead to a shocking ending. I also appreciate that it is a Christmas-set thriller to join the side nice of holiday horror. It’s something, as a genre fan, that gives me pleasure, especially with my horror podcast Tremble, rate and subscribe!

Drinkwater – This is kind of a cool one to cover for me as it is a Canadian film that features an internationally famous and locally born star in Will & Grace’s Eric McCormack plus it was filmed right here in my backyard of the Okanagan and, more to the point, my current town of Penticton. The movie is also a deep character story and that is always something that will rope me in. The film is a coming-of-age story in the John Hughes tradition and follows a lost young man named Mike Drinkwater. His father, Hank, is hardly the role model Mike deserves which keeps him floundering in his own identity until a young woman moves to town and their friendship gives them the courage to overcome their collective challenges. The film really belongs to Daniel Doheny who does the heavy lifting as Mike, an actor who gets better ad better with each role, the Netflix series Brand New Cherry Flavor being another great indicator of his talent. It’s also really cool to see your small town represented in a motion picture and I really hope to see more productions here.

Blu-Ray:

Smile – Seeing the trailer over and over again before all of the spooky films I have gone to over the last three months, I have to say that they really didn’t do anything for me. Sure, there is a lot of creep factor to it with the unsettling smiles that the victims or infected people exhibit are effective but it all sort of came off to me as a J-horror-style thriller like The Ring or The Grudge. The film stars Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick’s daughter Sosie Bacon as psychiatrist Dr. Rose Cotter who starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can’t explain after witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient. Rose must confront her troubling past in order to survive and escape becoming the latest victim in a terrifying phenomenon. As the film got closer to release, praise started to be heaped on the film by horror critics everywhere, stating the writer and director Parker Finn’s debut film is original, deeply disturbing and will leave a mark on you for days after. Now, having seen the film, I can attest to its brilliant use of style and unpredictability that feels fresh in every moment, filled with jump scares that don’t come off as cheap and gimmicky. Finn has a huge future after this big studio picture and I can’t wait to see what he does with it.

Ticket To Paradise – Without knowing anything about it, on paper, the casting of George Clooney and Julia Roberts in a comedy would probably lead to a hit given that they have great chemistry in the Ocean’s movies and audiences love a reunion. Then the trailer rolled around and it felt like we’d seen every funny part and plot twist contained in a two-and-a-half-minute mash up but the name of the game is casual optimism. The film follows the two bankable stars as a divorced couple who team up and travel to Bali to stop their daughter from making the same mistake they think they made twenty-five years ago, marrying the supposed love of her life. To be honest, there is so much predictability in the story that the film does have to rely on the charisma and charm of these two A-listers but they do manage to play to their strengths and with some good laughs contained within, I thought it worked out to be an enjoyable film. It comes from writer and director Ol Parker who is mostly known for the sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again so it is definitely playing to a certain kind of audience but the name of the game is “crowd pleaser” and it does just that with some help from the great Kaitlyn Dever as their daughter and a very game and fun Billie Lourd as the trainwreck bestie.

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 is awesome from top to bottom, beautifully shot and featuring a script totally deserving of the toughest performance from Viola who has had some very challenging roles in her past. The action scenes feel visceral and biting, an interesting feat as it is just above a PG-13 rating but the character development is where it excels, with fantastic performances from Lashawna Lynch, Thuso Mbedo and Sheila Atim.

Lyle, Lyle Crocodile – Shawn Mendes is one of the hottest acts on the planet as far as pop stars go so why not make the leap to the big screen and play a giant singing crocodile while he’s at it? This movie looks like it was made for the families who dug the big-screen version of Clifford The Big Red Dog which honestly did okay at the box office for being a quasi-post-pandemic family release. Starring Constance Wu, Scoot McNairy, Winslow Fegley and an odd-looking Javier Bardem, the film follows the title reptile who lives in a house on East 88th Street in New York City. Lyle enjoys helping the Primm family with everyday chores and playing with the neighbourhood kids but one neighbour insists that Lyle belongs in a zoo. Mr. Grumps and his cat, Loretta, do not like crocodiles, and Lyle tries to prove that he is not as bad as others might first think. The trailer gives you the entire tone of the film and it looks like more of an avenue for Mendes to release more original music as I think he is also a producer on the movie. I feel like it will definitely hit its demographic.

Resurrection – This new horror drama got a soft release in mid-summer which flew outside of my radar for some reason but now I get to bring it this week as it lands on blu-ray and that satiates my fear of missing out big time. The film features lead performances from Rebecca Hall, who starred in a favourite of mine last year, The Night House, and Tim Roth, who featured in a film I loved this year, Sundown, so we’re already on a good track. Hall plays Margaret, a capable, disciplined, and successful woman whose life is in impeccable order. This is all thrown into disarray with the arrival of Roth’s character David, a man returning to Margaret’s life with all of the horrors of her path. The film is sitting at a Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes right now, with big praise for Hall’s leading performance that captivates and makes up for any unevenness that shows up in the story and script. I’m excited for a voice like writer and director Andrew Semans who only has two features to his credit including this one to get a sense of renewal in the genre with his last film being released ten years before. For the record, that one, Nancy, Please, got stellar reviews as well and it seems that pairing him with a strong lead, like Hall in this film, just spins gold on your screen.

Reacher: Season 1 – Tom Crusie was way too short to play Jack Reacher. We knew this but we accepted it because, let’s face it, the first movie really rocks. The second film, on the other hand, was a formulaic bore-fest that was predictable and wasted the star’s talent but it paved the way for this Lee Child adaptation to get a new life as an Amazon series. Former Ninja Turtle Alan Ritchson gets a crack at the character, a dude very formidable in stature, following the character as he battles for his life to remain outside of a military prison after being accused of murder. The show was made by some new show writers and execs but it looks to have some promise to it and at least will have all the bone-crunching action sequences that Christopher McQuarrie and Cruise champion through both of their big-screen versions. I didn’t realize how popular this book series was until all the attention this show got online. I know my father-in-law loves the books.

Steve’s Geekouts In 4K:

Westworld: Season 4 4K – It’s been over two years since we’ve seen anything from this incredible mysterious show that emanated from a 70s Michael Crichton movie and now it is back with an almost unexpected new offering and to be honest, if I had known it was coming I would have had it on my list for the most anticipated releases of the year. The favourites are all back including Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores, Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard and Thandie Newton’s Maeve and takes place seven years after the outside-the-park world of season 3’s events but what is this season about? Well, showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan are keeping everything secretive but what we do know is that the story will head back to the park and that just adds to the intrigue for me. Getting this from Warner Bros. in 4K is such a treat for me as I’m definitely behind and only just finished the third season. I feel grateful to have it so easy to pick up again.

The Green Knight 4K – This was easily one of my most anticipated films of 2021 and holy hell did it ever deliver, unbeknownst to me, it was a Christmas movie which the trailers do not let you know. Happy to have a new one to occupy the shelf with Die Hard and Violent Night being added this year, I also have an angel of a best friend who got me the A24 4K collector’s edition which is a gorgeous piece of a cinephile’s dream that really needs to be seen to be appreciated. The film is a mesmerizing-looking blood and sword epic art film from Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and A Ghost Story director David Lowery and the almost literally left my jaw on the floor at my local theatre after the credits and end credit stinger finish. Yes, it has one of those. Starring Academy Award nominee Dev Patel, Oscar winner Alicia Vikander and Joel Edgerton, the film is an epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend that tells the story of Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men. Gawain contends with ghosts, giants, thieves, and schemers in what becomes a deeper journey to define his character and prove his worth in the eyes of his family and kingdom by facing the ultimate challenger. This movie is easily my favourite movie of the year although I feel like it isn’t accessible to a mainstream audience. To be real on that, most of my favourites aren’t anyways.

Television:

Who Killed Santa? A Murderville Murder Mystery (Netflix) – Murderville was a little half-hour mostly improvised little gem that came and went on Netflix earlier this year but those who loved it told their friends and the word of mouth grew into getting us this little Christmas special packed with more off the cuff hilarity. Featuring Will Arnett as the main dude to his guests, the bouncing board of comedy ideas couldn’t be better as I was hooked on this show very quickly and each guest is hysterical. The setups are generally simple and this one is no different, paring Arnett with his former Arrested Development co-star Jason Bateman and the great Maya Rudolph as Senior Detective Terry Seattle is back and on the case of who killed jolly old Saint Nick himself. I adore that Arnett is working off of a script that both of his guests aren’t privy to seeing at all and it brings an inane freshness to the story and how it rolls out. Seriously, a great holiday binge would be both the first season of six episodes and then this special. It will split some sides, guaranteed.

 National Treasure: Edge of History (Disney+) – Being a huge Nicolas Cage fan, I will say that, even though it had some great Indiana Jones-like moments, the National Treasure movies can’t be considered close to being one of my favourites and Cage was the only thing keeping me in that game. Well, Disney+ has decided to make a series spin-off of the two movies and has cast a new female lead in newcomer Lisette Olivera and a new baddie in the form of Catherine Zeta-Jones who is enjoying a little resurgence with this and Netflix’s Wednesday. This new story follows Oliviera as Jess Valenzuela, a twenty-year-old dreamer who sets off on an exploration to discover the mystery of her family history, and, with the help of her friends and the guidance of Harvey Keitel’s recurring character of former FBI agent Peter Sadusky, seeks to recover historical lost treasure. I hope this picks up an audience of people who like CW, USA or TNT network-type shows because it really did nothing for me and missing the star power of Nicolas Cage it just sort of seems to flounder with none of the story being that gripping. I don’t feel anything for these characters so all of the stakes seem to fall flat for me. I feel like this is the first Disney+ show that I have started that has done zero for me interest-wise.

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