Release Radar – May 17th, 2024

The Cannes Film Festival is this week, so that always throws a weird wrench into the release schedule as seemingly all the industry attention is funneled in that direction. However, the rest of us who aren’t enjoying leisure time in the South of France but still want to go to the movies have some decisions to make. So, let’s take a look at what’s on tap.

New In Theaters

Back to Black

Director(s): Sam Taylor-Johnson | Writer(s): Matt Greenhalgh

Stars: Marisa Abela, Eddie Marsan, Jack O’Connell

I am not the kind of person who denounces movies before they come out and I have a chance to actually watch them before forming an opinion…but I do have to ask myself: who wanted this? I like Amy Winehouse as an artist but it’s not like her discography was extensive and, in the decade-plus since her untimely passing, I’ve heard less and less about her legacy. Hopefully, the film will provide more context as to why a movie such as this was made. I’ve seen the trailer a lot at this point and it doesn’t present as a great sales pitch.

IF (Imaginary Friend)

Written & Directed by: John Krasinski

Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Cailey Fleming, John Krasinski

This one is leaning very heavily on the bankability of Ryan Reynolds, and the reputation of John Krasinski after A Quiet Place. This, however, isn’t an original horror film. If anything, it looks like Monsters Inc. meets Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The good news is I like both of those movies, but the bad news is that I am not particularly interested in this one. However, I am not the target audience.

The Strangers: Chapter 1

Director(s): Renny Harlin | Writer(s): Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland

Stars: Madelaine Petsch, Ryan Bown, Matus Lajcak

Home invasion horror coupled with cabin-in-the-woods horror brings us a seemingly unnecessary prequel. Renny Harlin hasn’t exactly been making great movies as of late…or, well, ever for that matter, but he did make a bunch of good and entertaining films throughout the 90s. So, there’s hope. I suppose if you really love The Strangers then this is meant for you, but I’m not that person. To me, this looks like a fairly generic horror film. I hope it’s more than that but as long as it’s effective that’s all that matters.

Limited Release

*Babes – Editor’s Pick*

Director(s): Pamela Adlon | Writer(s): Ilana Glazer, Josh Rabinowitz

Stars: Ilana Glazer, Michelle Buteau, Hasan Minhaj

I have been a big fan of Pamela Adlon for a long time, so I am super excited for her directorial debut. Ilana Glazer has good comedic sensibilities that gel with my sense of humor, so between the two of them I am very much on board with this. Plus, the trailer was actually funny which is weird to say about a comedy, but I have seen a lot of unfunny trailers for comedies. I’m in.

The Blue Angels (IMAX only)

Director(s): Paul Crowder

Stars: Brain Allendorfer, Bobby Speed Baldock, Bryon Beck

I went to an air show once when I was a kid, and it may have even been the Blue Angels. The details are a little foggy because I didn’t have a ton of good memories with my dad before he passed when I was a kid, but I did have an obsession with fighter jets probably because of that air show. Coming off the tails of Top Gun: Maverick, there may be renewed interest in this but see it while you can because Furiosa is coming soon to kick it out of IMAX.

Taking Venice

Written & Directed by: Amei Wallach

The premise is a lot more interesting than that trailer. “At the height of the Cold War, the U.S. government is determined to fight Communism with culture. The Venice Biennale, the world’s most influential art exhibition, becomes a proving ground in 1964. Alice Denney, Washington insider and friend of the Kennedys, recommends Alan Solomon, an ambitious curator making waves with trailblazing art, to organize the U.S. entry.” If that sounds intriguing, this is your cup of tea.

You Can’t Run Forever (+VOD)

Director(s): Michelle Schumacher | Writer(s): Carolyn Carpenter, Michelle Schumacher

Stars: J.K. Simmons, Fernanda Urrejola, Allen Leech

J.K Simmons is far too good of an actor to be relegated to stuff that is meant to basically be a straight-to-video effort. That said, this does look like a vehicle he can excel in even if the movie itself doesn’t look appealing. It has a great poster and a “sociopath on a murderous rampage”, so there’s potential. J.K. is going to have to be the tide that lifts all ships.

The American

Written & Directed by: James Napier Robertson

Stars: Talia Ryder, Diane Kruger, Oleg Ivenko

I feel like Diane Kruger is very underrated, so I am always happy to see her get a chance to shine. The setup isn’t entirely unfamiliar since films like Black Swan and the Suspiria remake have shown us the frighteningly competitive side of ballet, so it’s just a matter of making something meaningful with the concept.

International Marketplace

In Our Day

Written & Directed by: Hong Sang-soo

Stars: Gi Ju-bong, Kim Min-hee

I could have sworn this was a documentary, but it turns out that’s not the case. The filmmaking style lends itself to a more intimate setting, so I am curious to see what comes from it. I may have skipped this one in years past, but I have been watching a lot more Korean cinema in recent years. I’m interested.

Streaming & Digital

Final Heat (VOD May 14th)

Written & Directed by: Jeremy Gimenez

Stars: Maddy Curley, Brad Benedict, Erik Passoja

This too, I thought was a documentary but, once again, I was fooled…well, only kind of because it’s about a couple making a documentary. I didn’t think I would live to see the day of a CrossFit movie, but here we are. Hopefully, the workout element of this and the physicality are a payoff because the acting looks to be lacking.

Beyond the Tree Line (VOD May 14th)

Director(s): Joel Guelzo

Hiking the Appalachian trail is already a major undertaking. Only 25% of people who attempt it actually finish, and this family is taking on the challenge with a young kid. This is an amazing story and I don’t say that lightly.

Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever (Shudder)

Written & Directed by: Ole Bornedal

Stars: Fanny Leander Bornedal, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Alex Høgh Andersen

Ole Bornedal and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau are back for the sequel to their 1994 TV movie effort. Maybe I need to watch the original before starting this one, but there’s also the Ewan McGregor led version too. If I don’t go out to the movies this weekend, I will check this out.

Power (Netflix)

Director(s): Yance Ford | Writer(s): Yance Ford, Ian Olds

Stars: Charlie Adams, Baher Azmy, Paul Butler

Unfortunately, this is a very poignant documentary. It’s interesting to acknowledge both the need for police and also the need for major regulatory overhaul in policing in this documentary, but it tells me that it is probably more focused on the actual issue rather than simply being a political hit piece…even if it’s taken as such.

Thelma the Unicorn (Netflix)

Director(s): Jared Hess, Lynn Wang | Writer(s): Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess, Aaron Blabey

Stars: Brittany Howard, Will Forte, Jon Heder

Netflix is balancing its palette with this animated jaunt on the. The animation looks impressive, even if I have no idea what book this is based on. As much as this may not be my thing on the surface, writer/director Jared Hess did helm Napolean Dynamite which makes this more interesting.

End of the Rope (VOD/Digital)

Director(s): Charlie Griak | Writer(s): Daniel Bielinski, Dennis Johnson, Charlie Griak,

Stars: Joseph Gray, Chris Bylsma, Nick Saxton

I have a soft spot for Westerns. While I am not familiar with the Charles Bannon case of 1931, sociopathic farmhand sounds like an interesting enough descriptor. I might just check this one out over the weekend.

Faceless After Dark (VOD/Digital)

Director(s): Raymond Wood | Writer(s): Todd Jacobs, Jenna Kanell

Stars: Jenna Kanell, Danny Kang, Danielle Lyn

This would have been a great straight-to-streaming release, especially on a weekend in need of options. The masked intruder has become cliche at this point, as we just saw with The Strangers: Chapter 1 higher up the list, but using that as a vehicle to explore toxic fandom is more interesting to me than just another home invasion slasher. My curiosity is tickled.

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