Release Radar – July 29th

Last weekend was pretty sparse for releases and I ended up watching Nope twice as a result. That puts me in the hole with some other new movies I could have caught up with and that hole is going to get bigger as there are reasons for me to see all 12 new films coming out this week.

We Met in Virtual Reality (HBO Max July 27th)

Written & Directed by: Joe Hunting

Starring: Dust Bunny, DragonHeart, and IsYourBoi

While virtual reality is nothing new, nor is community building online, the Covid pandemic pushed more people into isolation and the need for human connection was perhaps more acute than ever. I am very curious to see the presentation since the whole thing is filmed within the virtual reality world, but it looks like it still connects to the humanity at the center of it.

DC League of Super-Pets (Theaters)

Writers: Jared Stern and John Whittington | Directors: Jared Stern and Sam Levine

Starring (voices): Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, and Kate McKinnon

I know the DC Extended Universe has had its ups and downs in trying to keep pace with the MCU, but DC’s animated movies have always been strong. Lego Batman did pretty well for itself but I am a big fan of the straight-to-video animated stuff. With Black Adam on the way later this year, Dwayne Johnson is also front and center as Superman’s dog, Krypto. When a bunch of pets is suddenly imbued with superpowers, they have to become the heroes just in time to save their iconic owners. There is room for this movie to find success, but I am not going to jump at it right away.

*Resurrection (Theaters) – Editor’s Pick*

Written & Directed by: Andrew Semans

Starring: Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, and Grace Kaufman

The sophomore film from Andrew Semans tells the story of Margaret. Her life is basically perfect until a man from her past triggers some trauma issues. When your characters are perfect, there’s no room for growth but I trust Rebecca Hall and I’m glad to see her becoming this kind of adult-horror-scream-queen. This one looks like a good cerebral thriller, which I always appreciate, and I love Tim Roth too, so I have confidence that the two of them will be worth watching. That’s why I gave this one my Editor’s Pick.

Hypochondriac (Theaters)

Written & Directed by: Addison Heimann

Starring: Zach Villa, Devon Graye, and Madeline Zima

The directorial debut for Addison Heimann sees a young man whose childhood trauma and family history of mental illness manifests in a horrific fashion. As his symptoms intensify, the lines of reality become increasingly blurry. The trailer is super intense and the visual interpretation of the fear looks very promising for a horror film. Plus the creepy Donnie Darko-style masks are a nice, creepy touch. This was right there as runner up for Editor’s Pick.

Vengeance (Theaters)

Written & Directed by: B.J. Novak

Starring: B.J. Novak, Ashton Kutcher, and Boyd Holbrook

A podcaster from New York travels south for the funeral of a girl he hooked up with a few times and winds up investigating the circumstances surrounding her death. It’s the directorial debut for B.J. Novak who has a lot of skin in the game, having written the screenplay and starring as the lead. It seems like a pretty good setup, but it’s going to have to balance the comedic side of things with the murder-mystery elements. Not that it can’t be done, but it’s tricky. Having Ashton Kutcher on board as an eccentric cowboy type should be entertaining though.

A Love Song (Theaters)

Written & Directed by: Max Walker-Silverman

Starring: Dale Dickey, Wes Studi, and Michelle Wilson

It is always interesting to see when a lot of directorial debuts line up in the same week and this one from Max Walker-Silverman looks about as adult as you can get. Romance films aren’t typically my fare of choice, but this trailer got to me because of its maturity. A woman waits for an old flame from her past, to see if there is anything worth rekindling at this stage in their life. It has the strong indie vibe I like and it’s telling a story that nobody else is, so my interest is piqued.

Thirteen Lives (Theaters + Amazon Aug. 5th)

Writers: William Nicholson, and Don MacPherson | Director: Ron Howard

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Joel Edgerton, and Colin Farrell

This film is based on the true story of the Thai cave rescue in 2018. The 2021 documentary, The Rescue, was an enthralling story and showed the kind of ridiculous tension that could make for a good feature film adaptation, so here we are. I knew this movie was on the way and I was just about to brush it off since I had seen the documentary already, but it’s Ron Howard and a loaded cast. I will have to check this one out but will probably wait for the Amazon streaming release.

Ali & Ava (Theaters)

Written & Directed by: Clio Barnard

Starring: Adeek Akhtar, Calire Rushbrook, and Ellora Torchia

It is rare that a romance film grabs my attention, let alone two in the same week. However, the common thread is that they are both decidedly adult stories and not the same derivative, cliche rom-com that is peddled by the major studios. Two time BAFTA nominee Clio Barnard takes her latest film in a different direction than her tow previous features but keeps the material mature. It’s a story of two lonely people, with baggage, who find each other and strike up a quick and unexpected connection, and the impact it has on them. It’s definitely for a niche audience, but I am firmly in that group now.

What Else Is New…

Medusa (Limited)

Written & Directed by: Anita Rocha da Silveira

Starring: Mari Oliveira, Lara Tremouroux, and Joana Medeiros

This looks to be a very stylish and culty thriller about religion with an eye on cancel culture. Anita Rocha da Silveira’s film follows a group of girls that combat their own desires by pressuring all of the people and things around the. All that supression has to go somewhere and eventually pressure busts pipes. The trailer is great and got me on board, but it’ll be hard to find in limited release. I will stay on top of it for when it moves to wide release or streaming.

Not Okay (Hulu)

Written & Directed by: Quinn Shephard

Starring: Zoey Dutch, Mia Isaac, and Dylan O’Brien

A young woman, who is something of a social outcast at work, is desperate to fit in but a white lie spirals completely out of control and she ends up at the center of a media firestorm. This is the second film from Quinn Shephard and the trailer certainly paints a comedic picture, so it’ll be interesting to see how that is reconciled with the heavier material. Zoey Dutch is something of an indie darling, so I have faith that she’ll be able to handle the complexity of the lead. I don’t think I would head to theaters for this one, but fortunately I don’t have to because it’s on Hulu.

Paradise Highway (Theaters + VOD)

Written & Directed by: Anna Gutto

Starring: Juliette Binoche, Morgan Freeman, and Frank Grillo

Anna Gutto also makes her feature debut this weekend with a gritty Southern trucker drama. This story of smuggling human cargo reminds me A LOT of a comic book series I read last year call Devil’s Highway by Benjamin Percy. It’s a great cast with Juliette Bincohe in the lead supported by Morgan Freeman, Frank Grillo, and Cameron Monaghan…how can it be bad? Ask the RT critics I guess. I may not go to theaters for this, but I could gladly watch it from my couch.

Sharp Stick (Theaters)

Written & Directed by: Lena Dunham

Starring: Kristine Froseth, Jon Bernthal, Taylour Paige, and Jennifer Jason Leigh

One way or the other, Lena Dunham’s name is bound to draw a reaction. I have seen people defend her creatively but those defenses don’t ever seem to address the poignant and well-articulated criticisms against her. Anyway, this movie has a great cast that easily made me more interested. For some reason, Rotten Tomatoes features many positive “top critic” reviews as despite the majority of reviews speaking to the contrary. The story follows a near-unbeleivably naive 26-year-old, living in Los Angeles with her mom and sister, who starts an affair with a married man that leads to a sexual education. If the trailer interests you, I always suggest seeing things and judging for yourself.

The Reef: Stalked (Theaters + VOD)

Written & Directed by: Andrew Traucki

Starring: Teressa Liane, Ann Truong, Saskia Archer

This is apparently a sequel to the 2010 film The Reef. It has the same name and is made by the same guy, but how a movie that only made $67K got a sequel is beyond me. It must have done well on the home video market because shark bait movies always have some guaranteed audience, plus I think it’s still “Shark Week”…but that’s some seriously low hanging fruit. Jaws is arguably my favorite film so it’s not like I hate shark movies, quite the opposite actually, but the bar is very high and I can see that even the sequels to Spielberg’s original film weren’t close to the same level. The bad news is that early rating for this movie are basically on the ocean floor, but the good news is that it’ll be on Shudder at some point soon.

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