Release Radar – July 1st, 2022

I would have thought that the 4th of July Weekend would have been a good target for a summer blockbuster, much like we saw with Top Gun: Maverick over Memorial Day Weekend. However, with Thor: Love and Thunder slated for next weekend, the first release weekend in July feels very meh.

Minions: The Rise of Gru (Theaters)

Writers: Matthew Fogel (screenplay) Brian Lynch (story)

Directors: Kyle Balda, Brad Abelson, and Jonathan del Val

Starring (voices): Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin, and Alan Arkin

I enjoyed Despicable Me but how these chattering little creatures became so popular is beyond me. This is the second official film spinoff from the original franchise and there’s more unintelligible gibberish and shenanigans in store. It is no secret that this derivative property is aimed squarely at kids and while this sequel may bring more to the table than the last two films in the broader franchise, I won’t be spending my time or money on it. If you are looking to beat the heat for a couple of hours and have some little ones to entertain, this is your best bet.

*The Forgiven (Theaters) – Editor’s Pick*

Written & Directed by: John Michael McDonagh | Novel: Lawrence Osborne

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Ralph Fiennes, Matt Smith, and Christopher Abbott

A wealthy couple, attending a lavish house part in Morocco, accidentally hit a local Muslim boy with their car. Their decision on how to handle the situation has major consequences when the boy’s family shows up. I haven’t seen any of McDonagh’s other’s films, so I can’t frame this one with any context, but I love the cast and that speaks volumes. With the kind of talent that is part of this tense psychological drama, I have confidence. It’s the most interesting thing on the menu this week, so that (in part) is why it gets my Editor’s Pick.

Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song (Theaters)

Written & Directed by: Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine

Starring: Leonard Cohen (archival), Nancy Bacal, Steve Berkowitz

The unlikely story of how Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” went from a little-known song on a record that was buried by his label to an internationally renowned hit that became his most recognizable and most-covered song. Through the scope of a song, Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine examine the life of the legendary singer/songwriter.

The Princess (Hulu)

Writers: Ben Lustig & Jake Thorton | Director: Le-Van Kiet

Starring: Joey King, Olga Kurylenko, Dominic Cooper, and Antoni Davidov

Imagine it Hit-Girl was a Dinsey princess. That’s basically what’s going on here. If I remember correctly, it was Ralph Breaks the Internet that used the Disney Princesses in a superhero-like capacity and this could be testing those waters further. Does it look cheesy? Well, yes but it doesn’t appear to take itself too seriously. It’s a bold choice to go for the full R-rating and, from what I can tell, it looks to be a fun action-comedy that is fully aware of its nature. I don’t know that I would make the trip to theaters to see it, but 20th Century Studios is also aware of that and sent it to Hulu. Because it’s a particularly down week, this is looking like a solid option to sit on the couch and just have fun with.

Clara Sola (Theaters)

Writers: Maria Camila Arias and Nathalie Álvarez Mesén

Director: Nathalie Álvarez Mesén

Starring: Wendy Chinchilla Arias, Ana Julia Porras Espinoza, and Daniel Castañeda Rincón

A 40-year-old woman living in a remote village in Costa Rica is purported to have a spiritual connection with the almighty but suddenly experiences a strange awakening that challenges the only notions of life that she has ever known. This is the debut feature from Nathalie Álvarez Mesén who has received a lot of critical praise for this film. The cinematography looks beautiful and intimate and it was nominated for the Golden Camera Award at Cannes. Whether or not those things translate into a compelling narrative remains to be seen, but it’s suddenly a very timely release.

What Else Is New…

Beauty (Netflix June 29th)

Writer: Lena Waithe | Director: Andrew Dosunmu

Starring: Gracie Marie Bradley, Aleyse Shannon, Niecy Nash

It seems like people love to hate Lena Waithe and this movie is getting absolutely slammed by critics right now. The trailer really doesn’t show that but the cinematography looks pretty. What I have been hearing is that the film is supposed to be loosely about Whitney Houston, at least metaphorically. The main character is a “generational talent” yet she never sings in the film. I get that it’s not a biopic and it’s more about the interworkings of the business than it is about the body of work, but it’s hard to sell someone as special when that’s never shown in the film. I haven’t seen it yet, but that’s what I have heard. Ratings are arbitrary, but the word of mouth isn’t positive. Still, if you are interested, see it for yourself.

Code Name Banshee (Theaters)

Writer: Matthew Rogers | Director: Jon Keeyes

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Jaime King, and Tommy Flanagan

I am surprised to see this one get the theatrical release without video-on-demand, but it’s a slow week. I like Antonio Banderas and seeing him return to the assassin role could be fun, but that’s not the tone that’s being set. Tommy Flanagan should be a good villain because that’s basically what he’s always forced to play but I don’t see that as enough.

Hot Seat (Theaters + VOD)

Writers: Leon Langford and Collin Watts | Director: James Cullen Bressack

Starring: Mel Gibson, Kevin Dillon, and Shannen Doherty

For better or worse, this is a movie that knows exactly what it is and that’s why it’s hitting VOD along with its theatrical release. Kevin Dillon (haven’t seen him in a while) plays an ex-hacker who is blackmailed into robbing some banks, digitally. Mel Gibson leads the police effort that is trying to get him out of the booby-trapped situation. Shannen Doherty is part of this 90s-style thriller as well. If I were looking for a movie to watch where the bar was set really low and I had some time to kill, this may be the one.

Mr. Malcom’s List (Theaters)

Writer: Suzanne Allain (screenplay and novel) | Director: Emma Holly Jones

Starring: Freida Pinto, Sope Dirisu, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen

I owe Downton Abbey: A New Era a massive apology. I didn’t think I would see a more boring trailer this year, but here we are. Nothing sounds less appealing to me than a dry-humor, period rom-com. Suzanne Allain adapted her own novel for this, so at least if you liked the book you can have faith that the script will be true to the source material, but I couldn’t even make it through the trailer and that’s supposed to be a sales pitch. For the people that do want to see this, I truly hope that it is better than what the promotions team came up with. It probably is a better film than that stuff would suggest, but you’d have to pay me to watch it.

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