Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Knock At The Cabin – We get some brand new M. Night Shyamalan this week, surely guaranteed to have some sort of a quirky twist and it brings to mind how fantastic this filmmaker can be but also how much the hype of his work can let audiences down. Of course, The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs are classics but up until Split, the pickings were slim and after The Visit, he started to slump again because Glass and Old just weren’t great movies. Well, now he has Dave Bautista, Servant’s Rupert Grint and more descending on a family vacationing in a cabin in the woods for his new thriller as part of a group of armed strangers who demand that they make a choice to avert the apocalypse. The trailer looks really fascinating but I’m disappointed in the marketing team which gives sole credit for the idea to Shyamalan and not the author of the book this was adapted from. That kind of thing sets a bad precedence for any medium being made into a film but still, it all looks interesting and I hope my hype doesn’t ground my final thoughts on it.

80 For Brady – When I first saw the existence of this movie I really thought it was some sort of Saturday Night Live sketch because the idea of it is so goofy. It is definitely trying to pick up on the crowd that loves films like Book Club or any Diane Keaton-led movie but it’s also for football fans too apparently and it has me confused. The film is set right at the time the New England Patriots reach Superbowl LI in Houston following four female fans who are determined to attend the game and meet quarterback Tom Brady, which proves a more memorable experience than they expected after the Patriots fall behind by four touchdowns. The cast is pretty solid, featuring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno and Sally Field but I feel like it is all a vehicle for Tom Brady to now become a movie producer when he retires, which will probably be when he turns sixty. I honestly have zero hopes for this movie to be at all good so any laughs will be an upside.

Alice Darling – Anna Kendrick is generally known for comedic roles or ones that lean into comedy from the drama side as she was a mainstay in the three Pitch Perfect movies, the protege foil to George Clooney in Up In The Air and many more projects but this new film heads into some dark territory. Domestic abuse is at the forefront of her new drama and the word of mouth on it has been stellar. In the film, Kendrick plays a young woman trapped in an abusive relationship who becomes the unwitting participant in an intervention staged by her two closest friends. Kendrick This is really Anna’s movie and she nails it with a phenomenal performance that makes up for any mistakes in the storytelling. What is crafted is a story about friends creating a support network to try and save a friend who hasn’t gotten the courage to make the exit of a toxic and dangerous relationship. Bill Nighy’s daughter Mary makes her directorial debut with this film it is a bright first feature and I can’t wait for what’s next from her.

Pamela, A Love Story – British Columbia’s own Playboy playmate, actress and bombshell Pamela Anderson has her story told but instead of a sensational and scandalous Hulu original, she’s telling the story herself. What is contained in this documentary is the real story of a Canadian girl who was thrust into the spotlight, hit massive notoriety, married one of the biggest rockstars in the world and then when the scandal broke out she was systematically destroyed by the media, talk show hosts and those around her who was supposed to protect her. With interview segments recorded from her home on Vancouver Island in Ladysmith and with no makeup, Pam starts from her humble beginnings in one of the most gorgeous parts of Canada and reveals things about her life that she never has before. At times flanked by her two now adult sons, the raw and unguarded nature of the film was captivating from the start and I was hooked. This has to be a cathartic project for her and it really feels like she wanted to clear the record and has absolutely nothing to lose.

Close – This is a late addition to the list this week and I almost didn’t include it but the Academy Award nominations came out and this one is highly touted to win Best Foreign so how could I not mention it. The official selection from Belgium, the film comes from writer and director Lukas Dhont, a creator that was recognized by Forbes magazine as one of the 30 Under 30 on the European list and with Oscar gold possibly in his near future, everything beyond looks bright. The story follows the intense friendship between two thirteen-year-old boys named Leo and Remi which suddenly gets disrupted. Struggling to understand what has happened, Léo approaches Sophie, Rémi’s mother to try and move past the infraction with his friend and resume their fun. If you were a kid at all in your life and can identify with those adolescent feelings, this movie will hit you like a tonne of bricks. Moving and soulful, I wasn’t prepared for how beautiful this story was and how gorgeous the cinematography was. I wasn’t huge on the ending, felt a bit flat for me, but the journey is intense and I really enjoyed it.


Armageddon Time – One of my favourite filmmakers working today, I had been waiting for the next film from writer and director James Gray after his underappreciated sci-fi masterpiece Ad Astra. It seems par for the course for Gray’s films to go largely unnoticed but he does have a rabid fan base, me included, and the cast of this new drama, with Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins and Succession’s Jeremy Strong, all actors he has never worked with, brewed up the perfect cathartic film for the brilliant storyteller. The film is very loosely based on real events in Gray’s childhood in the Reagen era of the 1980s and is a coming-of-age story about the strength of family and the generational pursuit of the American Dream, something that is lost in today’s America. The film received a seven-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival last year and I really think it deserved it. Fantastic performances and stellar direction propel this movie to be one of my favourites of 2022. It’s fascinating that both Spielberg and Gray made films that reflect their upbringings and what brought them to be so gifted in their field.

Paradise City – Yes, Bruce Willis has done so many direct-to-video movies leading up to his unfortunate retirement due to his Aphasia diagnosis but none of the have had another direct-to-video star like John Travolta in it before to my memory. A reunion of the two Pulp Fiction stars that share one pivotal scene together in that film, there’s something super enticing about that which got me through the duration of this film. Much like most of his smaller film work, Willis is the top-billed but has limited screen time as Everybody Wants Some!!’s Blake Jenner takes the lead as Ryan Swan, the son of a bounty hunter who must carve his way through the Hawaiian crime world to wreak vengeance on the kingpin who shot his father and left him for dead. Co-starring Stephen Dorff, a low-budget favourite of mine, this movie is made for the fans of crime films that don’t have a lot of depth to them so I really wouldn’t expect much from it which is kind of sad because director Chuck Russell has been responsible for some great films in the nineties like The Mask, Eraser and Nightmare On Elm Street 3 way back in the eighties.

The Grandmaster Of Kung Fu – I’m a big fan of martial arts films but there is something about this genre in a classic setting that gets me and I refer to the Ip Man series as a great example, the trilogy which I talked about last week. Well Go USA has hooked me up with more in that vein with this feature which is actually a couple of years old now, originally released in China in 2019. The story is set near the end of the Qing Dynasty and follows a renowned Chinese martial artist who engages in a life-or-death battle with a feared Japanese military commander in order to prevent Japan’s ultimate goal of seizing martial arts stronghold Tianjin. No Donnie Yen in this film, yet the character seems very Master Ip-like in nature, but the action scenes rule and that’s really what we’re all here for. The script and the plot aren’t so much fun and it drags a lot between fight scenes which makes it merciful that it clocks under eighty minutes long. If anything, it is a great lead-in for better classic kung fu films, which there are so many to choose from.

Steve’s 4K & Blu-Ray Geekouts:

House Of The Dragon: Season 1 4K – Many have been waiting for this prequel to Game Of Thrones and many are shunning it due to the final season of its 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 draws, 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 the entire first season was fantastic and I can’t wait for the follow-up season, even though we now have to wait more than a year as it won’t debut until 2024.

Train To Busan 4K – Putting aside the sequel Peninsula which felt enjoyable but tacked on, this is your ultimate in South Korean zombie films, an experience that was talked about across that entire year of release and became the “have you seen it” for horror fans for a while after. The energy and emotion that writer and director Sang-ho Yeon gives this story is intense on every level and it may end up being his crowning achievement. Following up an animated original story called Seoul Station, the film picks up after a viral outbreak has changed the citizens into bloodthirsty zombies leaving the remaining survivors to flee on a train from Seoul to Busan, the only known part of South Korea safe from the effects, for now. The film in this 4K edition hits harder than ever with the optimal sound and the effects look really stellar in the upgraded picture scan, even though it is only a few years old. That said, if you’re a genre fan and still haven’t gotten around to this one, this is the perfect way to do it.


Cunk On Earth (Netflix) – One of my favourite parts of the Netflix year-end wrap-ups, Death To 2020 and Death To 2021, it looks like the joint venture of Netflix and BBC has registered Diane Morgan as worthy of her own show and I’m psyched for it. Brilliantly playing the vapidest of characters is where she succeeds best and this series is the perfect fit, which makes sense as she co-wrote it with a lot of funny people including Black Mirror’s Charlie Brooker. The mockumentary series follows Morgan as Philomena Cunk, an ill-informed news pundit who comically tells the story of our greatest inventions and asks experts hard-hitting questions about humanity’s progress but in the worst possible way. This might only be for viewers who love to do deep dives on British programming but I think anyone who loves things like Alan Partridge or any of the numerous Ricky Gervais shows will really have fun with this one. I just hope it’s enough to get another series or to propel Diane Morgan into other great shows because she is hysterically funny.

The Proud Family Louder and Prouder: Season 2 (Disney+) – Disney has been doing its damndest to resurrect all of its great animated shows from the nineties and 2000s, giving it the modern update and this one was definitely. a huge hit in its time although it was in a period that was a bit of a blind spot for me. Bringing back most of the original cast, the show follows Penny Proud, a fourteen-year-old girl and her family, as they navigate their lives in the 2020s. Trudy, Penny’s mom, has new career highs, Oscar, Penny’s dad, has wild dreams, and Penny faces a myriad of challenges while her Suga Mama returns, as does Michael, Dijonay, Zoey, and LaCienega. New kids Maya and KG, who are raised by two dads, try to adapt to life in Smithville. Helmed by the original creators, Ralph Farquhar and Bruce W. Smith, the show is now entering its second season and from season one episode one it hasn’t missed a step. Farquhar is responsible for so much black-led television including Moesha and The Parkers so the return of this series to the zeitgeist is a big win for the community and many can introduce this show to their kids and have it infused with a time that they know. The previous season left off on a pivotal cliffhanger so I implore people not to just jump into season two without the seasoning of the first grouping of episodes.

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