Release Radar – Sept. 16th, 2022

The first half of the month doled out releases at a reasonable clip, but September is going home strong with massive weekends each of the next three. I don’t know when I will be able to get around to any of it as I am still dealing with Covid, but I’m here to get my ducks in a row.

*Moonage Daydream (IMAX Only) – Editor’s Pick*

Written & Directed by: Brett Morgen | Star: David Bowie (archive footage)

Music documentaries are fertile soil and there are few, if any, subjects as spellbinding as David Bowie in that space. Brett Morgen has been doing high-quality documentary work for a long time but I am most familiar with his work, The Kid Stays in the Picture and Cobain: Montage of Heck. The latter probably offers more insight into the malleable visual storytelling style you can expect, but Daydream looks to raise that bar to astronomical heights. Even though there is a lot of stuff I want to see this week, missing the IMAX experience would be the one I regret the most. That’s part of the reason why it gets my Editor’s Pick.

The Woman King (+IMAX)

Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood | Writers: Dana Stevens, Mara Bello (story)

Starring: Viola Davis, John Boyega, Lashana Lynch, and Thuso Mbedu

This trailer certainly gets the blood pumping. I have no doubts Viola Davis will deliver as always and I recently finished writing about my praise for John Boyega in Breaking, so I know he is going to be good as well. It’s also cool to see that Maria Bello got her first writing credit on the story for this film. From what I have read, the historical accuracy is kind of loose and buries the lead a bit with some of the key histories, but Director Gina Prince-Bythewood is coming off The Old Guard so I am curious to see how she handles that.

The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales (Theaters)

Directors: Abigail Disney, and Kathleen Hughes

You know the name, but you haven’t quite seen it in this context before. Abigail Disney, of the Disney family, looks at her family’s business as a shining example of dysfunctional income inequality as a synonym for modern America. It’s being marketed as the thing “Disney doesn’t want you to see” which means I am definitely going to watch it. I just don’t know if I will prioritize it.

Blonde (Theaters + Netflix Sept. 28)

Written & Directed by: Andrew Dominik | Based on the novel by: Joyce Carol Oates

This is the most high-profile release of the week for both good and bad reasons. Even before people had seen it, the NC-17 rating led many to comment on the explorative nature of sexualizing Marilyn Monroe here. On the flip side, I also read that this film received a 14-minute standing ovation at Cannes. Performative ovations at Cannes are nothing new, but they usually signal that there is something worth celebrating on screen. Andrew Dominik has done some things that I have really enjoyed so I am curious to see what he did with this and Ana de Armas as a fictionalized Monroe will certainly be interesting. It has a limited theatrical release, probably for awards reasons, but it will be on Netflix not too long after.

God’s Country (Theaters)

Director: Julian Higgins | Writers: Julian Higgins, Shaye Ogbonna

Starring: Thandiwe Newton, Joris Jarsky, and Jefferson White

This one is a bit more low-key but also one of the more intriguing options of the week. Thandiwe Newton stars as a college professor who gets into a tense and escalating confrontation with hunters that trespass on her property. The trailer implies that there may be some additional racial and gender-based components to this one, as authorities in the area elect not to help her when she’s being harassed. So, she has to do things herself. It’s set against the bleak and snowy Montana mountains, and that’s a pretty good setting for a showdown.

Pearl (Theaters)

Written & Directed by: Ti West

Starring: Mia Goth, David Corenswet, and Emma Jenkins-Purro

This is Ti West’s follow-up prequel (sequel) to X, from earlier in the year, which has remained one of my favorites of 2022 to this point. This one digs deeper into the origins of one of its predecessor’s main characters with Mia Goth reprising her role. I don’t need to know much more than that.

See How They Run (Theaters)

Director: Tom George | Writer: Mark Chappell

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Adrian Brody and David Oyelowo

This one has had a shocking small fingerprint heading into its release weekend giving the A-list stars at the center. If I didn’t do this Release Radar every week, I wouldn’t have even known it was coming out this week. It is Tom George’s directorial debut but I have seen plenty of other debuts with much more publicity. Either way, it’s out and it looks good. It’s a subtly funny whodunnit set in London’s West End in the ’50s where a stage production is shut down when one of its stars turns up dead. Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan lead the investigation, and I don’t need to hear anymore. I’m in.

Riotsville, U.S.A. (Theaters)

Director: Sierra Pettengill | Writer: Tobi Haslett

Star: Charlene Modeste

Another interesting documentary on the docket takes a look at a fake town built by the U.S. military as a training ground for the militarization of police during periods of heavy civil unrest in the ’60s. This film uses archive footage to offer a different narrative of the government’s response to the situation and ask questions about how that decision-making has shaped the country since.

The Silent Twins (Theaters)

Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska | Writers: Andrea Seak, Marjorie Wallace (book)

Starring: Letitia Wright, Jodhi May, Tamara Lawrence, and Michael Smiley

This film is based on the true story of identical twin sisters in Wales who refused to communicate with anyone but one another. June and Jennifer Gibbons were part of the only Black family in Wales and developed their own language, even becoming catatonic when separated. Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrence are obviously not identical twins, but I think the story can work without that. The trailer looks colorful and imaginative and I am curious to see how a harsh reality intertwines with a vibrant fantasy on screen.

What Else Is New…

Do Revenge (Netflix)

Director: Jennifer Kaytin Robinson | Writers: Celeste Ballard, Jenifer Kaytin Robinson

Stars: Camila Mendes, Maya Hawke, and Austin Abrams

Drea’s boyfriend leaks their sex tape while Eleanor is the victim of a nasty rumor. The two high school girls make an agreement to take down each other’s bullies. How severe that gets remains to be seen. If it pushes the envelope, there’s a chance this one actually delivers something worthwhile. At least I can find out from my couch.

Goodnight Mommy (Amazon)

Director: Matt Sobel

Writers: Kyle Warren, Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala (based on the film by)

Starring: Namoi Watts, Cameron Crovetti, and Nicholas Crovetti

In a remake of the 2014 German horror film of the same name, Naomi Watts steps into the role of mommy, when two twin brothers arrive at her home and begin to realize something is wrong. I had the original on my watchlist forever and still haven’t gotten around to it. Watts is usually very good but, if I am going to watch this movie, I’ll opt for the original.

Confess, Fletch (Theaters + VOD)

Director: Greg Mottola

Writers: Zev Borow, Greg Mottola, Gregory McDonald (novel)

Starring: Jon Hamm, Marcia Gay Harden, and Kyle MacLachlan

When I saw Jon Hamm in top billing of a crime comedy, I was interested. As talented of an actor as he is, he hasn’t seemed to take off as a lead but it’s nice to see him do something other than commercials. I like the cast and the concept but, sadly, the trailer didn’t even make me laugh once. That doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be good or funny, but it makes me less apt to venture out to see it. It is getting a simultaneous digital release as well, so that’s an option but seeing it’s a Paramount film leads me to believe it will be on Paramount+ at some point soonish.

Drifting Home (Netflix)

Director: Hiroyasu Ishida | Writers: Hiroyasu Ishida, Hayashi Mori

Starring (voices): Daiki Yamashita, Kana Hanazawa, and Mutsumi Tamura

I probably would have loved this idea about an entire apartment complex that becomes a floating ship in a mysterious sea, when I was a kid. This one certainly skews younger with its PG rating so I am not the target demo, but Hiroyasu’s previous film was pretty well received so you can gather some confidence from that.

I Used to be Famous (Netflix)

Director: Eddie Sternberg | Writers: Eddie Sternberg, Zak Klein

Stars: Ed Skrein, Eoin Macken, and Lorraine Ashbourne

This film caps off a busy weekend for Netflix as a desperate former pop star fantasizes about a comeback and teams up with an autistic young drummer. Along the way, they develop an unexpected friendship that I am assuming becomes the real point of the film. Do I buy Ed Skrein as a pop star keyboardist? No, but that’s not his fault. It looks like this one does have a good heart and the TV-14 rating makes it skew to the YA market. Again, I’m not the target demo. This one probably ends up being more than the sum of its part in the trailer and you don’t have to risk much to check it out.

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