Release Radar – Jan. 14th, 2021

January is a bit of a down month for the release calendar as Awards Season begins to ramp up and the Sundance Film Festival is right around the corner. However, this weekend is the biggest release weekend of the month with one very high-profile title leading the way.

Scream (Theaters)

Writers: James Vanderbilt & Guy Busick | Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet

Starring: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette

Twenty-six years after the great Wes Craven turned the first Scream into a runaway hit franchise, Sydney Prescott still isn’t free of her traumatic past as a new killer dons the Ghostface mask to terrorize Woodsboro. It has been 11 years since Craven’s original four-film arc came to an end but, in 2022, any property with brand recognition is up for grabs. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet are experienced, horror filmmakers. They did a really great job with Ready or Not a few years ago and Guy Busick (who wrote that screenplay) came along with James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), so I am confident they can find the right tone for this new iteration of the iconic slasher. Plus, the original big three, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette are all reprising their roles. Even if it is a cash-grab, I like all the pieces that are part of the project.

The Pink Cloud (Theaters)

Written & Directed by: Iuli Gerbase

Starring: Renata de Lélis, Eduardo Mendonça, and Helena Becker

Written and filmed in 2019, this movie is going to hit with clairvoyant precision. A mysterious pink cloud rolls into Brazil and forces the residents to quarantine for an undetermined amount of time. While not intentional, this one is going to fall into the category of Covid movies and I’m not sure what the appetite is for things like that. I really enjoyed Together, which is very much about Covid quarantine, but that film didn’t exactly do so well at the box office either. I think there is something to be gained from this kind of storytelling but I understand it’s not for everyone.

A Cops and Robbers Story (Theaters)

Director: Ilinca Calugareanu

Starring: Victoria N. Alcala, Gesley Alexis, and June George Bell

It is looking like 2022 is going to be year of great documentaries as well and Ilinca Calugareanu’s film about a former gang member turned NYPD officer looks absolutely fascinating. It raises questions about real reformation and designed infiltration. I will probably wait for this to be available on-demand, but I’m very curious.

Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America (Theaters)

Writer: Jeffery Robinson | Directors: Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler

Starring: Josephine Bolling McCall, Gwen Carr, and Tiffany Crutcher

This documentary from filmmakers Emily and Sarah Kunstler follows lawyer Jeffery Robinson as he debunks the notion of a post-racial America. The film combines elements of Robinson’s lectures, interviews, and American history as Robinson creates a timeline of racsim against Blacks in the US. It has been pretty well-received on the festival circuit so far, so it’s worth having on your radar.

Shattered (Theaters)

Writer: David Loughrey | Director: Luis Prieto

Starring: Cameron Monaghan, Sasha Luss, and Ridley Asha Bateman

Chris is young, rich, and divorced when he bumps into Jamie at the store. The two quickly become intertwined before things go south in a hurry. Writer David Loughrey knows a thing or two about stalker-type thrillers and this look like another one that will hone in on that particular niche. Whatever mystery there may have been appears to be done away with completely in the trailer, so just know you are in for. Cameron Monaghan and Sasha Luss will do the heavy lifting while John Malkovich and Frank Grillo have varying levels of involvement. It looks like a different spin and a good bit of fun within its thriller sub-genre.

What Else Is New…

Belle (Theaters)

Written & Directed by: Mamoru Hosoda

Starring: Kaho Nakamura (voice), Ryô Narita (voice), and Shôta Sometani (voice)

Beauty and the Beast meets Ready Player One in Mamoru Hosoda’s animated story of a shy high school student who moonlights as a global music superstar, Belle, in the virtual world of “U”. When a mysterious beast shows up at one of the concerts, Belle/Suzu begins a journey to discover the identity of the beast and begins to discover herself in the process. The visual presentation is impressive and should certainly appeal to anime fans while the story should be familiar for the US market.

Hotel Transylvania: Tranformania (Amazon Prime Video Jan. 14th)

Writers: Amos Vernon & Nunzio Randazzo, and Genndy Tartkovsky | Directors: Derek Drymon and Jennifer Kluska

Starring: Andy Samber (voice), Selena Gomez (voice), and Brian Hull (voice)

The fourth installment of the Hotel Transylvania franchise was originally slated for theaters last October (shown at the end of the trailer) but, with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it lands min January on Amazon Prime Video. The franchise seems to have run its course and without Halloween to infalte its position, it’s hard to imagine this movie would have done well theatrically in January anyway. That’s not to say this movie is bad or not worth your time. It’s a body-swap comedy set in the established world and those usually tend to be fairly funny when done right. It was never going to be my first choice, but it’s a good option for kids, fans of the series, animated feature enthusiasts.

The Tragedy of Macbeth (Apple TV+ Jan. 14th)

Writers: Joel Coen (screenplay), William Shakespeare (play) | Director: Joel Coen

Starring: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Alex Hassell

I already watched and reviewed this film, but it makes its streaming debut on Apple TV+ this weekend. The visual storytelling is impeccable but this is going to be hit or miss. Despite the outright star power in the lead roles, it is exceedingly difficult not to see Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. Both highly accomplished performers, their portrayals didn’t leave their identities behind and it was ultimately the supporting roles that were the best in the film. Joel Coen is a very established filmmaker but this is is first solo venture without his brother Ethan. It certainly isn’t a bad film and I enjoyed it.

Thanks for reading! I still believe word of mouth is the best way to help, so if you enjoy what I’m doing, please tell somebody. Liking, subscribing, and sharing go a long way too. As usual, be well, be safe, and have fun no matter how you get your movies!