Release Radar – May 20th, 2022

It has been a rough few days, but I am finally starting to feel a bit more like myself. So, I wanted to get into the new releases for this week while I can but the Cannes Film Festival also started on Tuesday, May 17th so we’ll start to see some distribution deals coming out of that when it closes on the 28th. May is a month bookended by blockbusters, but there have been some interesting alternatives in between so let’s take a look at what’s on deck this week.

Downton Abbey: A New Era (Theaters)

Writer: Julian Fellowes | Director: Simon Curtis

Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery

This is the highest-profile release on the calendar this week and the only major studio-backed film. I never watched the show during its run and I didn’t see the first film either, so keep in mind that I am not at all the target demo for this product. I do, however, go to the movies quite a bit and I have seen the trailer a dozen or so times more than I would have liked. I know a lot of people really love this series and to each their own. In fairness, if I actually sat down and gave it a fair shake I would probably enjoy it just fine myself. However, I don’t know if you could craft a more excruciatingly boring trailer by design than this one. I watch all kinds of films, across all kinds of genres, in a number of different languages, and literally, nothing about this movie interests me. I don’t say this to be mean, it just feels like a very insular movie-going experience that is intended only for the core Downton audience. That is completely okay with me. Not everything has to be for everyone and I support that wholeheartedly. If this is your jam, please, by all means, go see the film and support something you enjoy. There’s a line of dialogue in the trailer where Maggie Smith’s Violent Grantham says something to the effect of movies would be better if they couldn’t be seen or heard, and I’ll take her advice on this one.

*Men (Theaters) – Editor’s Pick*

Written & Directed by: Alex Garland

Starring: Jessie Buckley, Rory Kinnear, and Paapa Essiedu

The latest bizarre entry from Alex Garland is much more my speed. Extra creepy, vague horror with a hint of sci-fi and emotional trauma. Sign. Me. Up. As the title suggests, there’s a very obvious gender dynamic at play in this story of a woman who vacations at a remote manor in the English countryside after her husband’s apparent suicide. There she is haunted by an apparent shapeshifter or so it would appear. I gave Jessie Buckley one of my first Breakout Performer Awards back in 2017 for her performance in Beast, so I always have a close eye on the projects she takes on. I have full confidence that she will deliver the kind of quality that saw her earn her first Oscar nomination in 2022 and I am very curious to see what Rory Kinnear does playing a number of different characters. Garland brings his unique visual style to the film and even though he’s set the bar pretty high so far, I’m in on this as my Editor’s Pick.

Emergency (Theaters + Amazon Prime Video)

Writer: K.D. Dávila | Director: Carey Williams

Starring: RJ Cyler, Donald Elise Watkins, and Sebastian Chaon

The opening premise about an “epic” night of college partying didn’t move the needle for me. It’s been done. However, that is just the setup for what looks to be a really wild dark-comedy thriller about a group of minority students that find an unconscious white girl in their apartment and struggle with the optics of the situation, given the current political climate. It’s not the first time the whole movie could be avoided if they had just done the right thing and called the ambulance, to begin with, but I understand the commentary K.D. Dávila is going for. I could have easily glossed over this one if I gave up after the first 30-seconds of the trailer, but this is a good option for those of us staying in over the weekend.

Hold Your Fire (Theaters + VOD)

Written & Directed by: Stefan Forbes

Starring: Shu’aib Raheem

This documentary focuses on a 1973 incident in Brooklyn where a botched robbery turned into a shootout and eventual standoff, with hostages, that spawned modern negotiation tactics based on psychology. I had only heard this incident mentioned but never fully talked about so I am curious to see how the documentary chooses to portray the events in comparison to some of the things I just read.

What Else Is New…

Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers (Disney+)

Writers: Dan Gregor & Doug Mand | Director: Akiva Schaffer

Starring: Andy Samberg (voice), John Mulaney (voice), and Kiki Layne

I wouldn’t have had this one too high on my list but then I watched the trailer and was pleasantly surprised. It’s more Who Framed Roger Rabbit than I would have imagined, mixing animation with live-action but also incorporating those story elements together. Three decades after their show ended, Chip and Dale are on opposite paths but when a cast member from the original series goes missing, they get the band back together. Seriously, I would have never thought twice about this one but it’s a much different project than I was expecting and it’s higher in the rotation than it started. A good choice for families and anyone who is on couch-lock like me.

The Valet (Hulu)

Writers: Bob Fisher, Rob Greenberg, Francis Veber (original screenplay La doublure)

Director: Richard Wong

The war for original streaming content is real. I haven’t even seen the original 2006 French film, but I still feel like I have seen this premise or something very similar before. I don’t want to jump to conclusions but my instincts are sounding alarms. I like Samara Weaving and Eugenio Derbez has excelled in these kinds of roles before, so it could work as an off-beat rom-com, but the adapted screenplay by Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg has to have the right tone. If you are in the mood for something silly and lighthearted that likely has more substance once you get past the surface, this is a safe at-home option.

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