Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

New Releases:

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret – Margaret Simon is just 11 going on 12 when her family moves from New York City to Farbrook, New Jersey. Margaret’s mother is Christian and her father is Jewish. Margaret has been raised without an affiliation to either faith and does not practice an organized religion, although she frequently prays to God in her own words, beginning by saying, “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret.” She is beginning to feel uncomfortable with her lack of religious affiliation. For a school assignment, she chooses to study people’s religious beliefs, hoping to resolve the question of her own religion in the process. Part of her study involves attending different places of worship to better understand the religious practice and see if one might be right for her. She enjoys spending time with her Jewish paternal grandmother, Sylvia Simon, who loves her as she is. She hopes Margaret will embrace Judaism after taking her to her synagogue for Rosh Hashanah services.

Expectations: One of the most celebrated coming-of-age stories of all time gets a feature film adaptation and it’s crazy to think that in the fifty years of the book’s existence, this is the first time it’s been put on screen. The cast really is winning here with young lead actress Abby Ryder Fortson being surrounded by some top talent including Canadian actress Rachel McAdams, Oscar winner Kathy Bates and Uncut Gems writer and director Benny Safdie. The film comes from director Kelly Fremon Craig who also did the Hailee Steinfeld comedy Edge Of Seventeen which I absolutely loved. I think this film is the big winner this week in theatres.

Peter Pan & Wendy – Based on J. M. Barrie’s novel Peter and Wendy and inspired by the 1953 animated classic, Peter Pan and Wendy is the timeless tale of a young girl who, defying her parents’ wishes to attend boarding school, travels with her two younger brothers to the magical Neverland. There, she meets a boy who refuses to grow up, a tiny fairy and an evil pirate captain, and they soon find themselves on a thrilling and dangerous adventure far, far away from their family and the comforts of home.

Review: Following up on the masterpiece that is The Green Knight, director David Lowery heads back into the world of adapting animated Disney. Yes, we’ve seen live-action Peter Pan before but not one so rooted in the origin of the character for many of us now, the 1953 iconic piece of history. The film is a mix of that same family-friendly tone and action we all remember, recreated to a meticulous level, and broad sweeps of Lowery’s focused filmmaking with his bold uses of light and texture as well as imaginative camera angles and movement to keep it interesting. Even with a film like Peter Pan, a large commercial venture for Disney+, Lowery will always retain his soul of cinema and he makes Jude Law look like an incredible Captain Hook.

Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story Of The Once And Future Heavyweight Champion Of The World – The film is based on the remarkable true story of one of the greatest comebacks of all time and the transformational power of second chances. Fueled by an impoverished childhood, Foreman channelled his anger into becoming an Olympic Gold medalist and World Heavyweight Champion, followed by a near-death experience that took him from the boxing ring to the pulpit. But when he sees his community struggling spiritually and financially, Foreman returns to the ring and makes history by reclaiming his title, becoming the oldest and most improbable World Heavyweight Boxing Champion ever.

Expectations: You would think this is a straightforward biopic about the boxer and grill entrepreneur but the trailer for the film suggests that it will focus more on the man’s faith. This kind of disinterests me as the faith-based stories have had such a hard time connecting with me at all and the storytelling within always seems to take a back seat to the message. The American Underdog film with Zachary Levi playing Kurt Warner managed to skirt this trope a little bit but it still wasn’t that great. I kind of expect the same from this biopic.

Sisu – During the last desperate days of WWII, a solitary prospector (Jorma Tommila) crosses paths with Nazis on a scorched-earth retreat in northern Finland. When the Nazis steal his gold, they quickly discover they have just tangled with no ordinary miner. While there is no direct translation for the Finnish word “sisu”, this legendary ex-commando will embody what sisu means: a white-knuckled form of courage and unimaginable determination in the face of overwhelming odds. And no matter what the Nazis throw at him, the one-man death squad will go to outrageous lengths to get his gold back — even if it means killing every last Nazi in his path.

Expectations: I fully expect this to be the knockout of the week, a film that will delight any action fan that wants a bit more John Wick-style action in their lives crossed with a Finnish Rambo. The trailers for this film are an action nut’s glory dream with insane action and a one-man army taking down droves of Nazi soldiers with a satisfying visceral nature. It’s safe to say that this is my kind of movie and I really hoped we got it here in Penticton but, you know, small-town problems.

My Happy Ending – Andie MacDowell stars as a famous actor who goes incognito to seek treatment for a medical issue. While at the hospital, she meets three unique and remarkable women — an aging rocker, a young mother, and a forever single retired schoolteacher. Together, they help her face adversity with humour and camaraderie while coaching her for the most challenging role she has ever played…herself.

Review: I went into this film believing, if anything, Andie would be great because I’ve always loved her work and I’m happy to see her back in movies again. Unfortunately, this movie plumbs the depths of obvious emotional manipulation and cliched melodrama in a film that could have tightened the whole experience with better writing. It was great to see Miriam Margolyes and Tamsin Greig in this, as I really love their work as well and Tamsin plays the uptight and standoffish person like no one else.

Blu-Ray & DVD:

Triangle Of Sadness – This is a special one to me as this film was celebrated by the Oscars in even being nominated and now it makes its first Blu-ray debut in the Criterion Collection. When you sit down for a movie by writer and director Ruben Ostlund you have to know that you are in for something unpredictable and sometimes as scathing as having a bucket of cold water thrown in your face. He’s taken on marriage dynamics in Force Majeure, and the volatility of the art world in The Square, but this time he has the 1% and influencers in his crosshairs, which is very “shoot to kill”. The initial story follows a celebrity model couple named Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), who are invited on a luxury cruise for the uber-rich, helmed by an unhinged boat captain (Woody Harrelson). What first appeared “Instagrammable” ends catastrophically, leaving the survivors stranded on a desert island and fighting for survival. Ostlund is going for the throat in an even spicier version of his firebrand and as soon as the story starts to slide down the slope of chaos it is unrelenting into a totally unpredictable third act. Not everyone is loving this movie as much as I am but it hit me in all the right spots even if it is massively stomach-churning in certain places.

Marlowe – I know I’ve been ragging on Liam Neeson every time one of his new geriatric action thrillers is released but I will obtain from it his week because his new film is directed by the legendary Neil Jordan, the man behind films like Interview With The Vampire, The Crying Game and Mona Lisa among others. I’m also digging into the fact that this is an old-school film noir following one of the iconic characters of the genre, Philip Marlowe, which Neeson is pretty perfect for. The story is set in a late 1930s Bay City, with the brooding, down-on-his-luck detective being hired to find the ex-lover of a glamorous heiress, setting up all the delicious cliches of a damsel in distress or a femme fatale. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm started to wane when I found that it was all talk and no bluster as Jordan’s Marlowe knows how to construct the dialogue but has a hollow quality underneath as it starts to parrot much better detective stories. Neeson also can’t seem to get out of that gruff Taken gear and it becomes distracting more and more as the film goes on. I thought this was a break out of the slog he’s put himself into for more than a decade now, but we are still in the rut.

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.

Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes & Huntsmen, Part One – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg, Green Lantern and Vixen are transported to the strange world of Remnant and find themselves turned into teenagers. Meanwhile, Remnant heroes Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang must combine forces with the Justice League to uncover why their planet has been mysteriously altered before a superpowered Grimm destroys everything.

Review: I honestly don’t know what to make of this one as it leans heavily into the world of the Warner Bros.-produced anime RWBY more than the Justice League side and, although both sides are in a neutral world between the two worlds, it curtails more to that style. With o prior knowledge of RWBY and the characters, who have seven volumes of adventures, it was hard to get into their story as it has been established for a while and I think you need the back stories to see their connections to each member of the Justice League. That said, I did like Batman’s look for this world, one of the best out of the group.

Star Trek Lower Decks: Season 3 – The third season of the animated and comedic version of Star Trek has now landed on DVD this week after beaming onto Paramount’s streaming service near the end of last summer at the perfect time as lead voice actor Jack Quaid had been 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 last 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.

Primal: Season 2 – One of the greatest creators in the game, Genndy Tartokovsky is back with the second season of another incredible epic that he can put alongside Samurai Jack and beam with pride. A decidedly violent tale, this series follows a caveman at the dawn of evolution as he forms an unlikely friendship with an almost extinct dinosaur. Again, without a single word of dialogue, the series is a painting come to life, relying solely on music and graphic imagery to tell the story of two unlikely allies as they navigate through a treacherous world and, after bonding over unfortunate tragedies, they seem to become each other’s only hope of survival against a common enemy. The show is mind-meltingly beautiful in a way that Tartokovsky has the utmost command over and The emotional resonance of even the first episode had me bursting into tears with how heavily it was handled and the fact that it relies on just visuals without any dialogue. I think he has released yet another masterpiece that will be celebrated for years to come, just like the legend of Samurai Jack and each episode resonates with me so much. This show is incredible and hits me on an emotional level consistently.

Steve’s Blu-Ray Geekouts:

Gypsy – Rose Hovick (Rosalind Russell) pushes her two young daughters into the entertainment industry, travelling and promoting them with minimal success. After years in the business, younger daughter June quits and elopes, leaving Rose searching for work for her other, less talented daughter, Louise (Natalie Wood). The only offer is at a burlesque house, but Louise takes to it and transforms herself into the popular Gypsy Rose Lee. As Louise gains notoriety, she grows tired of her mother’s influence.

Review: This was an important one for me to seek out for my collection as it is the first entry into the Warner Archive collection, the first acquisition in my start at the beginning of their many releases. The film was an adaptation of a famed Broadway production and, after the HBO documentary from 2020, I’ve been fascinated by the performances of Natalie Wood, an actress taken during her prime, and this is one of the big ones in her career. I’m not big on stage musicals but her performance is full of energy and she outshines Russell from time to time.

When You’re Strange – A chronological look at The Doors, focusing on the lead singer, Jim Morrison (1943-1971), from the formation of the band in 1965, its first gigs, and first album, to Morrison’s death, after years of alcohol and drug use. Along the journey, we see archival footage of rehearsals, performances, and private moments including a Miami concert resulting in Morrison’s arrest and trial for indecency. His love of the spotlight, his desire to be a poet, and his alcohol-fueled mood swings lead to a back and forth between public and private desires, successes, and failures. The band’s music plays throughout.

Review: Admittedly, I can’t call myself a Doors fan as I never really connected with the music that much and always thought that the shadow of Jim Morrison’s star status blocked out the real talent within the actual musicians in the band themselves. Even so, I’m a sucker for a music documentary, especially one made by the legendary Tom DiCillo, and I do completely acknowledge this band’s mark on rock music. The film itself does more to affirm that Morrison’s superstar status was the cause of the band’s lightning-rod success than the actual music which may hit a divisive line for a lot of music lovers out there. Then again, the Oliver Stone biopic with Val Kilmer also divided people as well. I dig the Stone movie myself.

Steve Byrne: The Byrne Identity – Steve Byrne has established himself as one of the premier stand-up comedians of his generation. In his second one-hour special, Steve asks the universal question “Who are you?” The result is a poignant, inventive, and immensely funny look at how we identify ourselves in America.

Review: This is a fantastic stand-up comedy special from a comedian who I found on a mid-2000s special The Kims Of Comedy with Bobby Lee and Ken Jeong and really loved his work. Keep in mind, this special is from thirteen years ago so the America he’s trying to identify with is a very different one. I won’t say better or worse, I’ll just say that 2010 was very different, quaint almost by comparison.


Sweet Tooth: Season 2 (Netflix) – Ten years ago “The Great Crumble” wreaked havoc on the world and led to the mysterious emergence of hybrids babies born part human, part animal. Unsure if hybrids are the cause or result of the virus, many humans fear and hunt them. After a decade of living safely in his secluded forest home, a sheltered hybrid deer boy named Gus (Christian Convery) unexpectedly befriends a wandering loner named Jepperd (Nonso Anozie). Together they set out on an extraordinary adventure across what’s left of America in search of answers about Gus’ origins, Jepperd’s past, and the true meaning of home. But their story is full of unexpected allies and enemies, and Gus quickly learns the lush, dangerous world outside the forest is more complex than he ever could have imagined.

Review: As a guy who has read all of Jeff Lemire’s brilliant comics that this is based on, Sweet Tooth is easily one of my favourite Netflix shows ever made, a story brimming with heart and imagination. Produced by Robert Downey and his wife Susan, this series is like the comic has leapt onto the screen and the second season has lost no momentum from that great finale in season one. I feel like anything I write next is going to head into spoiler territory so I better end it here.

Love & Death (Crave) – Candy Montgomery and Betty Gore had a lot in common: They sang together in the Methodist church choir, their daughters were best friends, and their husbands had good jobs working for technology companies in the north Dallas suburbs known as Silicon Prairie. But beneath the placid surface of their seemingly perfect lives, both women simmered with unspoken frustrations and unanswered desires.

Expectations: There is something consistently enticing about stories of church crazies and this show has it written all over it plus it has the added charm of starring the fantastic Elizabeth Olsen in a main role as well as the always great Jesse Plemons. The show is actually the second adaptation of Montgomery’s story in a short couple of years as Jessica Biel took on the role in the Peacock series Candy almost a year ago exactly. This show also has some veteran television experience behind it, giving the show some buzz, as it’s the latest in the David E. Kelley HBO partnership after The Undoing and Nicole Kidman co-produces as well.

Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens: Season 3 (MuchMusic) – Nora Lum and her cousin struggle with young adulthood in Flushing, N.Y., with a little help from her father and grandmother.

Expectations: Another hilarious outing with Awkwafina and her hysterically funny family played by B.D. Wong, Bowen Yang and the scene-stealing Lori Tan Chin. This was an immediate watch for me when it premiered and I haven’t seen a bad episode from it yet. People are surprisingly quiet on this show in my opinion and I lump it in with some of the great crop of single comedian-led shows in recent years like the FX show Dave. Underrated but some of the best comedy on television today.

Saint X (Disney+) – A young woman’s mysterious death during an idyllic Caribbean vacation creates a traumatic ripple effect that eventually pulls her surviving sister into a dangerous pursuit of the truth.

Expectations: This is a mystery of a show that should be right up my alley but I’m not really gripped by it after the first episode. I will say that, s an X-Files and Californication fan, it was cool to see that David Duchovny’s daughter West has a prominent role in this show and it also features the 100 and Fear The Walking Dead’s Alycia Debnam Carey but I need a bit more non-wooden depth of character to get really on board. I feel like shows like Lost spoiled us in the beginning and sometimes it needs a bit more to pull me into a grand arching mystery.

The Afterparty: Season 2 (AppleTV+) – When a high school reunion’s afterparty ends in death, everyone is a suspect. A detective grills the former classmates one by one, uncovering potential motives as each tells their version of the story – culminating in the shocking truth.

Expectations: The first season of this show hit all of my expectations as it comes from one-half of the showrunners of Clone High, the writers and directors of the 21 Jump Street movies and so much more, Christopher Miller. It also has an incredible cast of hilarious people like Be Schwartz, Sam Richardson, Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz and so many more. I really thought, after watching the first series, that it would just be a limited one-off series and am so happy to see that we get more. I wonder if there is a story beyond this one as well.

Citadel (Prime Video) – Eight years ago, Citadel fell. The independent global spy agency – tasked to uphold the safety and security of all people – was destroyed by operatives of Manticore, a powerful syndicate manipulating the world from the shadows. With Citadel’s fall, elite agents Mason Kane and Nadia Sinh had their memories wiped as they narrowly escaped with their lives. They’ve remained hidden ever since, building new lives under new identities, unaware of their pasts. One night, when Mason is tracked down by his former Citadel colleague, Bernard Orlick, who desperately needs his help to prevent Manticore from establishing a new world order. Mason seeks out his former partner, Nadia, and the two spies embark on a mission that takes them around the world in an effort to stop Manticore, all while contending with a relationship built on secrets, lies, and a dangerous-yet-undying love.

Review: The opening scene of this show was so corny that I thought I was trapped in a Mr. Ad Mrs. Smith wannabe starring Priyanka Chopra-Jonas and Richard Madden that leaned into cheese and cliche a little too hard. Thankfully, this was only the prologue to our main story and the series itself played a bit more interesting and features Stanley Tucci and the eye in the sky tech guy and I was sold with whatever it wanted to do. The show is a flashy spy thriller featuring an amnesiac who must relearn his reflexes to guard his new family but, being on Prime, it has more room rating-wise to do it. This would be so bad on network television.

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