Release Radar – June 17th, 2022

Happy Father’s Day weekend to all the dads out there! This weekend is packed to the brim with releases across all platforms, so let’s get right into it.

Pixar’s Lightyear (Theaters)

Writers: Jason Headley (screenplay), Matthew Aldrich, Angus McLane, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Joe Ranft, John Lasseter

Director: Angus McClane

Starring (voices): Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, and Peter Sohn

Pixar has an excellent track record, so it is very surprising to see this movie getting dunked on so hard right out of the gates. It has good Rotten Tomatoes scores, but its Metascore is noticeably lower while the IMDB score is horrendous. I’ve heard things about negative review bombing, so it’s tough to say what’s going on but I would guess it has something to do with not bringing back Tim Allen as the voice and then taking a beloved character and fundamentally changing who he is. My hope is that this story is some kind of fever dream Buzz is having because his Toy Story character has some back story, so maybe this is an explanation for that. I like sci-fi/action films and this fits the bill pretty squarely, so even though I won’t see it right away, it’s on the list.

Spiderhead (Netflix)

Writers: Rhett Reese, George Saunders, & Paul Wernick | Director: Joseph Kosinski

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller, and Jurnee Smollett

I had only heard the title and seen Chris Hemsworth attached, so I just sort of assumed it was going to be another action film, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn differently. Riding sky-high off the overwhelming success of Top Gun: Maverick, Joseph Kosinski is at the helm of this short story adaptation. My first impressions from the trailer made me think of The Island which is still one of my favorites in the genre. The story is a little different here with a strange, secluded facility that does some drug testing experiments but that’s perfectly fine. Chris Hemsworth gets to wield his humor as the charismatic villain and Miles Teller gets to be the willing victim…I’m in. The minimal futurist aesthetic is something I always enjoy and wasn’t expecting, so that’s an added bonus. Since I am likely staying home this weekend, odds are I’ll be sitting down with it by Saturday.

*Mad God (Shudder June 16th) – Editor’s Pick*

Written & Directed by: Phil Tippett

Starring: Alex Cox, Niketa Roman, and Satish Ratkonda

Long-time visual effects wizard Phil Tippett brings takes his short film series to the next level with his unique blend of visual storytelling. It’s hard to describe, but maybe steampunk horror comes close to the aesthetic. Tippett combines live-action, stop-motion, and miniatures to bring this story to life. I don’t what it’s really about and I don’t care. The creative visual storytelling on display is more than enough. Future, monsters, whatever…I’m in. That’s why I am going with this one as my Editor’s Pick.

Brian and Charles (Theaters)

Writers: David Earl, and Chris Hayward | Director: Jim Archer

Starring: David Earl, Chris Hayward, and Louise Brealey

If there was a runner-up for Editor’s Pick, it would be this film by Jim Archer about a lonely, isolated, and depressed inventor who builds a low-budget robot to keep him company. David Earl and Chris Hayward co-wrote and co-star in the movie and I love to see that kind of passion. It lets me know that the principal players have something personally invested. The premise is weird enough but seeing is believing and this homemade robot is unconventional, to say the least. This is my kind of film.

Official Competition (Theaters)

Writers: Mariano Cohn, Andrés and Gastón Duprat

Director: Mariano Cohn & Gastón Duprat

Starring: Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, and Oscar Martínez

A tongue-in-cheek satire about the filmmaking business. A rich investor wants to win some awards and throws money at an eccentric filmmaker to make his dream a reality. Penélope Cruz plays that director and she is flanked by Antonio Banderas and Oscar Martínez as the actors she hires to star in her film. They couldn’t be any more different and that’s the engine that drives the film. With those actors, getting to have fun playing caricatured versions of themselves and their peers, I expect good things.

Wild Men (Theaters)

Writers: Thomas Daneskov, and Morten Pape | Director: Thomas Daneskov

Starring: Rasmus Bjerg, Zaki Youssef, and Bjørn Sundquist

A midlife crisis leads a Norwegian man to ditch his family in an attempt to live wild in the mountains. Unbeknownst to him, authorities looking for him suspect that he may be part of a drug-smuggling organization. That description isn’t quite as funny as the film looks from the trailer, but I assure you it’s a comedy. This is another film that could have found itself as my Editor’s Pick had it been released in a different week.

What Else Is New…

Halftime (Netflix June 14th)

Director: Amanda Mitchell

Stars: Jennifer Lopez and Christy Lemire

It is fair to say that Jennifer Lopez is one of the most famous and recognizable celebrities since the mid-to-late ’90s and Netflix’s documentary pulls back the curtain on her professional life. It will probably be interesting to see the creative process and rehearsal elements that go into her shows get all put together, but it’s not the most compelling thing for me. I am sure it’s interesting in its way, but if it does get into the more personal details, I am not big on the celebrity stuff. If you are a big J-Lo fan, then this is made for you.

Civil: Ben Crump (Netflix + Theaters June 19th)

Director: Nadia Hallgren | Starring: Benjamin Crump

This Netflix documentary caps off a big weekend for the streamer, taking a look at the life of civil lawyer Ben Crump. He has represented the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black victims, and this movie looks at what it takes both personally and professionally. Ultimately, his work asks bigger questions about the nature of America.

Cha Cha Real Smooth (Theaters & AppleTV+)

Written & Directed by: Cooper Raiff

Starring: Cooper Raiff, Dakota Johnson, and Evan Assante

Cooper Raiff is in at every level of this film about a Bar Mitzvah party planner/host who develops a crush on a mom who has an autistic daughter. He starts babysitting for her and eventually learns there is a fiancé in the picture. It’s tough to say where it goes, but it’s a comedy/drama so I imagine he’ll eventually ingratiate himself enough to convince her to choose him over the fiancé. In fairness, it looks pretty cute but it’s not the type of content I’ll bend over backward for. However, since it’s on AppleTV+, it’s an easier pill to swallow if interested.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (Hulu)

Writer: Katy Brand | Director: Sophie Hyde

Starring: Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack, and Isabella Laughland

Emma Thompson is widowed, lonely, particularly horny, and in search of her first orgasm at 55 years old. To do that, she enlists the services of a young sex worker. This is an R-rated rom-com that seems way more self-aware and grounded than the average story of pining after someone until things just work out. Emma Thompson is fantastic and it’s refreshing to see her in a sex-positive role for adults where she can show that it’s okay to have sensuality for a lead actress over 50. I’m guessing that she starts to catch feelings for Daryl McCormack’s character as she explores her sexuality because that is what makes sense. There is still room for this idea to separate itself from the pack, and if I had to go with a rom-com, it would be this one.

Father of the Bride (HBO Max)

Writers: Matt Lopez (screenplay), Edward Streeter (novel) | Director: Gary Alazraki

Starring: Andy Garica, Gloria Estefan, and Adria Arjona

This is officially an adaptation of the Edward Street Novel and not a remake of any of the films that were also adaptations of the same. This time there’s a Cuban-American spin on it. I like Andy Garcia and the trailer looks good enough, but there’s not enough there to draw me in.

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