Release Radar – July 16th, 2021

Summer movie season is in full swing and, after giving Black Widow a wide berth on its opening weekend, there are plenty of options to choose from this week.


Gunpowder Milkshake (Netflix)

Directed by Navot Papushado, Written by Navot Papushado and Ehud Lavski

New original content is gold in the streaming wars and Netflix has stayed busy and consistent in its release schedule. The newest Wednesday release looks like a mix between John Wick and Wanted with a crew of female assassins. I haven’t seen any of Navot Papushado’s work, but I enjoyed those other films and the cast for this one is a strong selling point so I’m willing to give it a shot.

Starring: Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Carla Gugino, and Michelle Yeoh

Pig (Theaters)

Written and Directed by Michael Sarnoski

If you read my work with any consistency, you know of my affinity for Nicolas Cage. Say what you want about him, but he’s undeniably one-of-a-kind. Perhaps he became a joke to the average moviegoer for a while because he took a lot of roles in weird movies that weren’t exactly home runs, but he’s an actor’s actor in the truest sense. This film is an opportunity to remind everyone why he’s an Oscar winner and was, at one point, the most sought-after and highest-paid actor in the business. This is the first feature film for Michael Sarnoski but it appears he kept things simple as a story about a recluse truffle hunter, his stolen pig, and his past. I typically enjoy minimalism so I’m excited for this one.

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, and Adam Arkin

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (Theaters)

Directed by Morgan Neville

When Anthony Bourdain took his own life in 2018, it sent ripples throughout the world. Much more than a celebrity chef, his show Parts Unknown captured his curiosity and genuine interest in being a human in the world. This documentary attempts to capture his spirit and his life in a way that can help us better understand his ending and appreciate his legacy. There’s already some controversy about how technological advances have allowed Neville to synthesize Bourdain’s voice for use in this documentary, but I’ll have to see it for myself.

Starring: Anthony Bourdain (archive footage), Ottavia Bourdain, & David Chang

Space Jam: A New Legacy (Theaters and HBO Max)

It usually doesn’t take 25 years to get a sequel to a successful movie into production, but that’s the case with the new Space Jam: A New Legacy. I have mixed feelings about this one. The original movie came at a weird time where Looney Tunes still had some popularity and cartoons were still the norm in animation. Taking these characters and converting them to 3D animation and slapping LeBron James in there in the Michael Jordan role feels like a bit of a desperation move. I’m not sure if this movie is aimed at my generation who experienced the original as a kid, or the new generation of youngsters. It’s probably a little of both, and since it’s on HBO Max I can take the risk without leaving my couch.

Starring: LeBron James, Don Cheadle, and Cedric Joe

What Else is New:

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (Theaters)

Director: Adam Robitel, Writers: Will Honley, Maria Melnik, Daniel Tuch, & Oren Uziel

Starring: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Wall

This is a sequel to the 2019 film Escape Room and director Adam Robitel returns to the helm and so does Maria Melnik who co-wrote the original. Several other writers jumped in on the screenplay, so I’m a little worried that this might be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen but that remains to be seen. It looks like the concept is built out in a bigger and more impressive way visually which provides some extra incentive to check it out. It’s not at the top of my list this week, but it looks like it could be enjoyable.

Fear Street Part Three: 1966 (Netflix)

Director: Leigh Janiak, Writers: Leigh Janiak, Phil Graziadei, & Kate Trefry

Starring: Kiana Madeira, Ashley Zuckerman, & Gillian Jacobs

I like the idea of what Netflix was trying to do with this trilogy of films and I definitely give them credit for going all-in on it. Both Part One and Part Two are nostalgia-driven movies that pay homage to the slasher flicks of the 90s & 70s and spend a great deal of money on music clearance rights to make sure you know what era they are set in. However, even with some gruesome kills neither the first or second film did enough to differentiate themselves from the films they are clearly trying to emulate. Less than halfway through the second installment, I had already gotten pretty bored. What’s the point in getting invested when you know there’s going to be no resolution? The same thing is true of the first movie, but there was more foundation being laid so it’s more forgivable. Part three has the benefit of resolution on the horizon and no era-specific films to mimic, so the opportunity is there to bring everything to a close in a meaningful way. The problem is I’m not nearly as motivated to see it through to the end of the trilogy after Part Two.

Die in a Gunfight (Theaters)

Director: Collin Schiffli, Writers: Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari

Starring: Diego Boneta, Alexandra Daddario, & Justin Chatwin

From what I’ve seen, this reminds me of a modernized reimagining of Romeo and Juliet. Two New York families with a long-standing grudge so naturally the kids on opposite ends fall in love. Both families are pissed and there are a lot of guns involved, so you can guess what happens next. This one isn’t high on my watchlist, but it could be fun.

Hidden Life of Trees (Theaters)

Directors: Jörg Adolph & Jan Haft, Based on the book by: Peter Wohlleben

Starring: Peter Wohlleben, Achim Bogdan, & Markus Lanz

This German documentary looks like a fascinating exploration of the complexity of trees as organisms and the ecosystem of large forests. There is also the distinct framing of the conversation towards a symbiotic relationship between humans and nature for the benefit of humankind, not the other way around. It’s an important distinction in the philosophical approach to environmentalism. There’s a fair chance that it’s not the most engaging documentary, but I’m interested in the subject matter.

Mama Weed (Theaters)

Director: Jean-Paul Salomé, Writers: Jean-Paul Salomé & Hannelore Cayre

Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Hippolyte Girardot, Farida Ouchani

Adapted from the novel by Hannelore Cayre, Jean-Paul Salomé’s film looks to be a quaint caper comedy. Isabelle Huppert stars as a police translator who’s overworked and underpaid. As a result, when she finds a large stash of drugs connected to the son of one of her friends, she decides to start making a little extra money. One thing leads to another and before you know it, she’s created her own little drug-dealing empire. Her job for the narcotics enforcement end of the police gives her a distinct advantage but also means she’s working to bust herself. The audience for this is going to be niche, but Huppert usually delivers.


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