Release Radar – July 9th, 2021

Cannes Film Festival officially got underway this week and (I don’t know if there’s any correlation but) it’s a slow week for new releases. Fortunately, all four films on the slate have something to look forward to.

Black Widow (Theaters and Disney+)

Directed by Cate Shortland, Screenplay by Eric Pearson

The biggest title on the marquee is undoubtedly Black Widow. This was the movie that was supposed to kick things off for Marvel/Disney in 2021 but, like most other films, faced release delays due to Covid. While the Disney+ shows have done a wonderful job holding serve, there’s no substitute for seeing these movies on the big screen. Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland has made a lot of interesting films and will bring a very unique voice to this blockbuster-action flick. Eric Pearson has been writing under the Marvel umbrella for about a decade and slides over from his success with Thor: Ragnarok to help guide the project. I doubt the same kind of humor will work given the nature of the story, but rest assured there will be some levity. The cast is also brimming with talent and this could be the passing-of-the-torch moment to keep some version of the character intact for the future of the MCU.

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, David Harbour, and Ray Winstone

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (NETFLIX)

Directed by Leigh Janiak, Screenplay by Leigh Janiak & Zak Olkewicz

The second installment in Netflix’s horror trilogy, based on the R.L. Stine books, hits this weekend with another on the way the following week. Leigh Janiak directed all of them and, based on what I saw in Part One, I’d say the movie series is in good hands. Similar to how 1994 pulled from the popular horror movies of the era, 1978 appears to do the same with the summer camp slasher approach. Feeding on nostalgia is a good way to endear fans, but that’ll only get you so far. Zak Olewicz has to make the mythology surrounding this story work, not just for this movie but in cohesion with the rest of the trilogy, to give it an identity that stands apart from just pure nostalgia. It’s a good, at-home, on-the-couch option if you generally like horror.

Starring: Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, and Ryan Simpkins

The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52 (Theaters)

Directed by Joshua Zeman, Written by Joshua Zeman & Lisa Schiller

The banner year for documentary feature continues with the incredible story of a whale who has been roaming the seas for decades, alone, because of its unique sonar frequency. It’s the kind of story that captures your wonder and imagination and gets you invested in the emotional journey. Director Josh Zeman has been knocking out strong documentary content for years now and he should have all the right ingredients in place to make this a compelling watch.

Summertime (Theaters)

Directed by Carlos López Estrada, Written by a whole bunch of people

Last, but certainly not least, this is the most interesting film on the docket. A hot day in Los Angeles brings together the lives of a couple of dozen of its residents through original spoken word poetry and performance art. The list of writing credits is extensive because the performers brought their own material into the film and that’s what makes it unique. Carlos López Estrada’s debut feature went a bit under the radar at the time but his creativity as a filmmaker was evident then. This is technically (chronologically) his sophomore project and a spiritual sequel to his debut film Blindspotting even though Raya and the Last Dragon had its release date earlier. Whether it be the Bay Area or LA, Estrada puts an emphasis on the voice of the culture and this is the kind of filmmaking I love to see.


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