Release Radar – May 19th, 2023

The 2023 Cannes Film Festival is up and running this week, so we will likely see a bunch of interesting news and distribution deals coming out of it in the near future. However, there is still a pretty loaded lineup this week including one of the most bankable brands in movies eating up a lot of screens.

New In Theaters

Fast X (+ IMAX)

Director(s): Louis Leterrier

Writer(s): Dan Mazeau, Justin Lin, Gary Scott Thompson

Stars: Vin Diesel, Jason Mamoa, Charlize Theron, and all the usual suspects

When I first saw the trailer for this with Jason Mamoa, I legitimately thought it was a joke. Like one of those commercials where a celebrity is inserted into a spoof version of a movie…you’ve seen ’em. Anyway, it’s all very real. I stopped watching this franchise a long time ago because it got to the point where it no longer operated within the same reality we live in. That said, it’s a really popular series that people love and that’s awesome! I may see it eventually but I will likely use it as a distraction to see some other less popular things in theaters.

Buddy Games: Spring Awakening

Writer(s): Gabriel McKinley, Rachael Thoele

Stars: Josh Duhamel, Kevin Dillon, James Roday Rodriguez, Nick Swardson, Dan Bekkedahl

Josh Duhamel directed the first Buddy Games but for whatever reason, there is no director listed for this sequel on IMDB. Maybe the idea was able to just direct itself or maybe it was an AI program. I never saw the very poorly-rated original, but I do like the cast. I guess I should probably go back and watch the first one before deciding on whether or not to take the plunge.

Limited Release

The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future (New York)

Director(s): Francisca Alegria

Writer(s): Francisca Alegria, Manuela Infante, Fernanda Urrejola

Stars: Mía Maestro, Enzo Ferrada Rosati, Benjamin Soto

This wasn’t the sci-fi story that I expected from the title, but there is a certain kind of spiritual magic to this story about a young woman who returns home to take care of her father after he suffers a heart attack and begins to see visions of her dead mother in concert with some ecological problems ont he family farm. There is something hypnotic about the way the trailer flows and the green overlay that has me intrigued. It’s not due for its big release until July 19th, but it’s getting a limited run in New York and I’ll have to update it’s proper release date later.

The Night of the 12th

Director(s): Dominik Moll | Writer(s): Pauline Guéna, Gilles Marchand, Dominik Moll

Stars: Bastien Bouillon, Bouli Lanners, Théo Cholbi

A French murder mystery, based on a true story, shot in 34 days…I’m liking the intensity of all that. It’s a very good trailer and the nature of the investigation is pretty interesting. This one was an official selection for Cannes and I see why.

Master Gardener

Written & Directed By: Paul Schrader

Stars: Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver, Quintessa Swindell

Paul Schrader is an interesting filmmaker and his latest offering seems to carry on some of that brooding personal intensity that we got from First Reformed and The Card Counter. I saw this one too and it’s more the former than the latter. Although the story of the reformed killer turning over a new leaf isn’t a new concept, Schrader carved out his own space within that niche by focusing on the metaphorical approach to the process of redemption and salvation.


Director(s): Zachary Wigon | Writer(s): Micah Bloomberg

Stars: Christopher Abbot, Margaret Qualley

This psycho-sexual dark comedy is exactly what the doctor ordered, especially during this ridiculous wave of puritanical bullshit on social media that decries any kind of sex on screen while having no such qualms with the constant wave of violence that washes over us on a daily basis. I made sure to see this as soon as I could and it didn’t disappoint. It’s the first movie this year that made me tell myself I have to see it again.

*Moon Garden – Editor’s Pick*

Written & Directed By: Ryan Stevens Harris

Stars: Augie Duke, Brionne Davis, Haven Lee Harris

The poster and the title had intrigued me but this looks like so much more than I could have expected. I was all ready to give my Editor’s Pick to one of the other titles I have been looking forward to, but this one jumped to the front of the line. This is only the second feature from Ryan Stevens Harris but jumping right into a little girl’s nightmare waltz through limbo as she struggles to fight her way out of a coma is quite a lot to chew on. The visual aesthetic is awesome, with notes of so many different influences, and I’m glad to see something filled with color and character. I may have to work hard to see this, but I will find a way. That’s why I’m giving it my Editor’s Pick!

Come Out Fighting

Written & Directed By: Steven Luke

Stars: Dolph Lundgren, Michael Jai White, Tyrese Gibson

I guess it’s the week of Tyrese with both this and Fast X dropping, but I am way more interested in Doplh Lundgren and Michael Jai White’s contributions. The story seems pretty interesting. However, even if the actors nail it, this still has the look and feel of a reenactment video for something like Deadliest Warrior. I hope it’s more than that but I won’t hold my breath.


Director(s): Tony Dean Smith | Writer(s): Alex Wright

Stars: Leah Gibson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jon Voight

I don’t know if it’s the digital cameras or what, but this one too doesn’t look cinematic. The weird, glossy, TV look is probably the least of its worries because what I saw in the trailer doesn’t look very promising.

Dark Nature

Director(s): Berkley Brady | Writer(s): Berkley Brady, Tim Cairo

Stars: Madison Walsh, Hannah Emily Anderson, Helen Belay

Is this a Bird Box sequel or something? No? So, the thumbnail image on the trailer is intentionally deceptive. This one is about a therapy group that goes to the isolated woods, for some reason, where they are confronted by a spirit creature. Survival horror is an interesting sub-genre that I don’t think gets enough attention, so maybe there is room to grow. However, it looks like this movie trades that in for a more conventional monster-in-the-woods approach.


Written & Directed By: Joe Lo Truglio

Stars: Ato Essandoh, Dallas Roberts, Dylan Baker

Speaking of environmental horror, this is what I was talking about. Granted a close friend warns our lead character very explicitly about how isolation in the middle of the woods will do something to your mind, she trudges ahead anyway. I will be very curious to see if this is handled as an adept piece of psychological horror, or if it too falls victim to the boogeyman syndrome. I’m inclined to give it a fair shake to find out for myself.

Stay Awake

Written & Directed By: Jamie Sisley

Stars: Wyatt Oleff, Fin Argus, Chrissy Metz

I watched Chrissy Metz for a long time on This Is Us and that’s a big part of the reason why this movie is appealing, but the overall story of a family that’s plagued by addiction and how the kids of the addict deal with that is an intriguing look at things. The interesting mix of user ratings and critics’ reviews only make me more curious.

The Thief Collector

Director(s): Allison Otto | Writer(s): Mark Monroe, Nick Andert

Stars: Glenn Howerton, Sarah Minnich, Brandon Z Ruiz

A crime documentary with Glenn Howerton doing the reenactments? Oh hell yes! Glenn has had a good year already with BlackBerry and a small cameo in Fool’s Paradise, so I am very interested in seeing what he brings to how this story is told. Plus, the story itself is the right kind of crazy.

On Our Way

Written & Directed By: Sophie Lane Curtis

Stars: Micheál Neeson, Sophie Lane Curtis, Vanessa Redgrave

The classic story of a struggling and troubled artist told through the lens of an aspiring filmmaker. This is Sophie Lane Curtis’ feature debut, so I know this is going to be close to the chest in that way and if it hits its notes, we could be looking at something that blends the lines between art and life with great effectiveness.

Streaming & Digital

Mercy Falls (Tubi May 14th)

Director(s): Ryan Hendrick | Writer(s): Meliá Grasska, Ryan Hendrick

Stars: Lauren Lyle, Nicolette McKeown, James Watterson

A group of friends picks up a hitchhiker on their way to an isolated cabin in the woods. What could possibly go wrong? Well, the trailer sadly gives away what would be the most interesting twist. It’s still cool to see a Tubi original I can watch from home since it’s going to be tough to find a movie theater that isn’t dominated by Fast X showtimes.

Assassin Club (VOD/Digital May 16th)

Director(s): Camille Delamarre | Writer(s): Thomas Dunn

Stars: Henry Golding, Daniela Melchior, Sam Neill

After the success of Crazy Rich Asians, his turn in The Gentlemen, and his own G.I. Joe Snake Eyes, I figured Henry Golding would get more than a straight-to-digital action flick. The trailer is so generic that I just zoned out halfway through. Even with Noomi Rapace and Sam Neill, it’s a tough sell.

Out & About (VOD/Digital May 16th)

Written & Directed By: Peter Callahan

Stars: Peter Callahan, Maggie Lacy, Tom Nelis

A middle-aged man goes for a walk in his hometown and reflects on his life, for better or worse. I am a fan of minimalism so the simplicity of this idea is very intriguing, but it has to be incredibly well-written and performed to make an afternoon stroll worthy of making a movie.

Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me (Netflix May 16th)

Director(s): Ursula Macfarlane

Stars: Anna Nicole Smith, Henley Mohrman

Anna Nicole Smith was incredibly famous in a tabloid sort of way, but the media’s obsession with her was toxic. This new Netflix documentary features her in never before seen footage and I imagine it will include something about her untimely death at the age of just 39.

The Haunting of Hell Hole Mine (VOD/Digital May 18th)

Director(s): Paul Collett, Tammy Massa | Writer(s): Paul Collett, Robbie Trujillo

Stars: Tom Sizemore, Tom Lister Jr., Sally Kirkland

This has to be one of the worst trailers I have seen in quite some time. There isn’t even a word of dialogue that I heard so all we have to go on is the title and some visuals that imply that people are going to die. If anything, I’d see it for the late Tom Sizemore because he is always intense.

White Men Can’t Jump (Hulu)

Director(s): Calmatic | Writer(s): Kenya Barris, Doug Hall, Ron Shelton

Stars: Sinqua Walls, Jack Harlow, Lance Reddick

Excuse me, what? No. Really? Wait, this isn’t an elaborate joke? Oh boy. Who thought this was a good idea? Literally, nobody wanted this. And from what I have heard from people I trust, it’s just a toothless and completely uninspired grasp at some low-hanging name recognition. This might be the least appealing release of 2023. Run the other way.

Dotty & Soul (VOD/Digital)

Written & Directed By: Adam Saunders

Stars: Leslie Uggams, Adam Saunders, M. Emmet Walsh, David Koechner

An obnoxious young white man gets caught in a naughty costume and gets canceled so he brings in a snack cart operator from his mother’s retirement home to head the business until he can sell it. There are some pretty obvious allusions to certain obnoxious rich people, but it comes across as the low-hanging fruit approach. I am curious to see what Leslie Uggams does with the role though.

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