Release Radar – June 3rd, 2022

The odds are Top Gun: Maverick will continue to go supersonic through the box office once again this weekend. Am I going to see Maverick again, this time in 4DX? Yes. However, the response this week is a myriad of counter-programming options and there are at least six films I am genuinely interested in this week. Let’s get into it!

Watcher (Theaters)

Writers: Chloe Okuno and Zack Ford | Director: Chloe Okuno

Starring: Maika Monroe, Karl Glusman, and Burn Gorman

This is the full-length feature debut for writer/director Chloe Okuno who apparently adapted this from Zack Ford’s original screenplay. Anyhow, a young woman moves into her new apartment with her boyfriend and notices a mysterious figure watching them from an apartment across the street. As she begins to pull at that thread, a much bigger and darker reality begins to unfold. The trailer is cut well and evokes memories of something I can’t quite place. Maika Monroe seems to be poised for a breakout performance too in this sleepy, stylish thriller. In all honesty, there’s a reasonable chance I wait for it to hit Shudder in a few weeks, but I am definitely interested.

*Crimes of the Future (Theaters) – EDITOR’S PICK*

Written & Directed by: David Cronenberg

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, and Kristen Stewart

I don’t know who keeps giving David Cronenberg money to make these kinds of bat-shit crazy films, but please don’t stop. When I first saw the trailer reminded me of a little-known 1999 film, Existenz, starring Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh. I had only seen it the one time, randomly on some cable network one night, so I didn’t even realize that it was also written & directed by Cronenberg. Both of these ideas focus on the integration of technology and biology in the not too distant future, and what that means for humankind as living beings and consumers. I love the cast here too. I nearly gave Léa Seydoux one of my Performer of the Year awards for her impressive body of work in 2021 and it’s nice to see Viggo Mortensen back working with the Eastern Promises filmmaker. Its reputation already proceeds this film, with plenty of performative walkouts happening at Cannes and other festival showings. You’ll probably need a strong stomach for this one, but I want things that challenge me as the viewer. That’s part of why I’m giving this one my Editor’s Pick.

Dashcam (Theaters + VOD)

Writers: Gemma Hurley, Rob Savage, and Jed Shepherd | Director: Rob Savage

Starring: Annie Hardy, Amar Chadha-Patel, and Angela Enahoro

The minds behind 2020’s surprise quarantine hit, Host, are back at it with a full-length feature that tries to up the ante on the Zoom-based presentation of its predecessor. It is difficult to make these kinds of films that are told through the user-camera interface. Not just in executing certain techniques, but also in creating a compelling narrative. There have been many efforts at something like this and Spree was an interesting take on the idea, but horror films need to be scary to be successful, or else the camera gimmick seems labored rather than endearing. Early point towards the latter but I won’t pre-judge it. Rob Savage earned my eyeballs so I will give his latest film a watch. I may just do that through VOD.

Neptune Frost (Theaters)

Writer: Saul Williams | Directors: Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman

Starring: Cheryl Isheja, Bertrand Ninteretse, and Eliane Emuhire

I have no idea what this film is really about, but the trailer looks wonderful and bizarre. For what it’s worth, the tagline is “An intersex African hacker, a coltan miner, and the virtual marvel born as a result of their union.” The cinematography that is showcased in the trailer is beautiful and intense and I am really loving the color and the music. I can say with confidence that Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman’s film looks like the most original film of the week and one of the more original ones of the year. If I weren’t a sucker for Cronenberg’s macabre-futurism, this one would get my Editor’s Pick. It appears to be in very limited release right now, so I will have to come back to it.

The Phantom of the Open (Theaters)

Writers: Simon Farnaby (screenplay, Scott Murray (book) | Director: Craig Roberts

Starring: Mark Rylance, Sally Hawkins, and Ian Porter

The true story of Maurice Flitcroft who crashed the 1976 British Open and short the worst round in Open history. I almost glossed over this one, but then I saw Mark Rylance and Sally Hawkins and had to stop and take notice. It’s a story of having big dreams, not being afraid to pursue them, and how that mentality inspires others even in the face of humiliation. It looks really cute, warmhearted, and fun, so if you are in the mood to brighten your spirits…it’s probably your best bet.

Poser (Theaters)

Writer: Noah Dixon | Directors: Noah Dixon and Ori Segev

Starring: Sarah Anchor, Joey Aich, and Aujolie Baker

This is the kind of indie film that piques my interest. Its idea is simple and direct with a focus on execution. I love what I have seen from the trailer with its mix of color palettes and intent in cinematography. I love debut features because they always exude passion and you can see that here. It’s the first film for both Noah Dixon who wrote the screenplay and co-director Ori Segev. It’s also the debut for actors Sarah Anchor and Joey Aich who play the unnamed main characters. Aujolie Baker has one other credit, but this is a group of creatives at the beginning of their performative careers, so I am curious to see what the final result is.

Benediction (Theaters)

Written & Directed by: Terence Davies

Starring: Tom Blyth, Jack Lowden, and Kate Phillips

Based on the life of Siegfried Sassoon, who was a 20th-century war poet. He served during the First World War and became an outspoken critic of the effort after his term of service and began writing poems inspired by his time in the service. Underneath his decorated record and critical acclaim, he was a closeted gay man trying to come to terms with his sexuality. Terence Davies is an accomplished filmmaker and it looks like he handles this story with the proper reverence, but it seems reminiscent of 2014’s The Imitation Game. That film won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, so that’s a good company to be in.

What Else Is New…

Frank & Penelope (Theaters)

Writers: Sean Patrick Flanery and John Thaddeus | Director: Sean Patrick Flanery

Starring: Caylee Cowan, Billy Budinich, Kevin Dillon, and Johnathon Schaech

With all due respect, this looks like a made-for-TV movie. With all the different streamers looking for original content, I am a little surprised to see this film get a theatrical release. Sean Patrick Flanery has been an actor (Boondock Saints) for a long time and his first film was in fact a TV movie (Devlin Made Me Do It). Still, he’s got the name and brought some talent with him to the party in Kevin Dillon, Jonathon Schaech, Donna D’Errico, and Lin Shaye. Flanery himself stars in the film as well about a Bonnie & Clyde type that winds up in a town with a charismatic, cannibal cult leader. If this were on streaming somewhere, I would probably watch it but I won’t go out of my way to look for it.

The Score (Theaters)

Written & Directed by: Malachi Smyth

Starring: Will Poulter, Johnny Flynn, and Lydia Wilson

Apparently, this is about two criminals looking for a big score at a small cafe, but one of them falls for the lady who works there. The clip provided here has no context and the singing is um…not flattering. This is another directorial debut this week, this time for Malachi Smyth who wrote the script for Nocturne which I liked a lot. If done right, you could actually get a very interesting film out of this premise, but to go the musical route requires the cast to carry that and the teaser I saw wasn’t a great sales pitch.

Interceptor (Netflix)

Writers: Stuart Beattie and Matthew Reilly | Director: Matthew Reilly

Starring: Elsa Pataky, Luke Bracey, and Aaron Glenane

I don’t watch the Fast & Furious franchise so I haven’t seen Elsa Pataky since Snakes on a Plane 16 years ago. This is also the directorial debut of Matthey Reilly, but it’s not the kind of film that showcases the kind of passionate choices reflected in the other films on this list. This is more of a 90s action reject. Fortunately, this one heads straight o Netflix to join their army of mostly generic action flicks. It may not be as bad as the trailer makes it looks. Luke Bracey has the potential to be a good, smug villain here but there’s little to give me confidence.

Fire Island (Hulu)

Writer: Joel Kim Booster | Director: Andrew Ahn

Starring: Joel Mik Booster, Bowen Yang, and Margaret Cho

Rounding out the week and taking full advantage of Pride Month, Hulu is dropping their movie about a group of eclectic gay friends who travel to a special island to have a crazy week of partying. It’s a romantic comedy at heart and it does look pretty funny. I don’t know anybody involved in the project besides Margaret Cho who has been popping up again recently, so there’s not much to go on. All I can say is the trailer shows the film’s potential and I would certainly say the floor is higher than other titles on the docket this week.

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