It seems like I may have finally rounded the corner on this Covid thing, but I still won’t be going to the movies this weekend. Fortunately, there are a lot of releases going straight to streaming or video-on-demand as well.
Meet Cute (Peacock – Sept. 21st)
Director: Alex Lehmann | Writer: Noga Pnueli
Starring: Kaley Cuoco, Pete Davison, and Kevin Corrigan
Oh, look! Another time loop rom-com. I have enjoyed Kaley Cuoco on HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant where she spends a good portion of time playing an alcoholic narcissist. So there’s some hope seeing that she’s playing a sociopathic time traveler who goes around killing past versions of herself so she can Groundhog Day her way into a successful relationship with the object of her affection. If this were really a dark, introspective, psychological comedy, there’s a good foundation but that’s not what this looks like. It’s not a great sign to it picking up negative audience and critics reviews already either. The good news is it is low risk being available on Peacock.
Raven’s Hollow (Shudder – Sept. 22nd)
Director: Christopher Hatton | Writers: Christopher Hatton, Chuck Reeves
Starring: Melanie Zanetti, William Moseley, and David Hayman
Period horror films have a creepy sort of appeal all to themselves. This visually looks very much like Sleepy Hollow but with a young version of Edgar Allen Poe at the center. When he and his fellow West Point cadets stumbled across a body crucified in a field, it leads them to a mysterious and forgotten small town. Writer/Director Christopher Hatton has made a lot of straight-to-video type B movies and, while I generally extend more slack to Shudder originals because of my enjoyment of horror films, there’s nobody in the cast that makes this a must-see for me. The good news once again is its accessibility and checking it out from my couch is a bonus.
Don’t Worry Darling (Theaters)
Director: Olivia Wilde | Writers: Katie Silberman, Carey & Shane Van Dyke (story)
Starring: Florence Pugh, Chris Pine, and Harry Styles
What looked like one of the year’s most promising films has been in freefall over the last month or so since the director’s two-faced behavior caused all kinds of drama and speculation. I loved the visual style I saw in the trailers for this one but fetishizing the 50s only gets you so far and it seems like that’s maybe the only thing this movie had going for it. Florence Pugh has been praised for her performance but even reviews with the most flattering scores all seem to hint at a complete lack of originality and aren’t really all that positive about the film as a whole. That’s disappointing to hear but, even with all the drama, I am still going to see this and judge for myself.
Written & Directed by: Patrick Read Johnson
Starring: John Francis Daley, Austin Pendleton, and Colleen Camp
I’ve heard about this film on again-off again for a few years, and I may have even written about it already (hard to keep track), but its history goes back even further than that. A preview for this film was shown back on the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, May 25th, 2007. It was also test-screened exactly 10 years later. It was supposedly scheduled for release in the summer of ’21, but here we are five years after its test screening and it’s finally getting its release. It tells the (semi) autobiographical story of how writer/director Patrick Read Johnson was the first civilian to see a preview screening of the original Star Wars film and how that inspired his personal filmmaking journey. It looks clever and genuine, and after all this time I feel like I have to check it out.
*Sidney (Apple TV+) – Editor’s Pick*
Director: Reginald Hudlin | Writer: Jesse James Miller
Stars: Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Oprah, Halley Berry, and more
Sidney Poitier is one of the most iconic and influential names in cinema and this documentary takes a look at his life and how the impact of his career shaped the future for people of color in the entertainment industry, specifically in Hollywood. His career stood out during the turmoil of the late 1960s and shaped the way for many creatives to follow. Some of the most famous names in Hollywood now lend their voices in support of telling this story after his passing in January of 2022. The impact of his legacy is a big part of the reason why I chose this as my Editor’s Pick this week.
Bandit (Theaters + VOD)
Director: Allan Ungar | Writers: Kraig Wenman, Robert Knuckle (novel)
Starring: Josh Duhamel, Elisha Cuthbert, and Mel Gibson
A convict escapes prison, flees to Canada, and starts a new life for himself. The problem is he’s a career criminal and only knows one thing, so he goes on to rob a record number of banks and jewelry stores, based on the real-life story of Canada’s Flying Bandit. I am in this for Josh Duhamel getting to have fun playing dress-up for much of the film in a Catch Me if You Can style caper that’s both about the criminal and the ones trying to apprehend him.
Catherine Called Birdy (Limited + Amazon Oct. 7th)
Written & Directed by: Lena Dunham | Based on the book by: Karen Cushman
Starring: Bella Ramsey, Billie Piper, and Andrew Scott
The 14-year-old daughter of an English nobleman wants to make her own life but is busy avoiding arranged marriages at her father’s behest. I am not sure what to think of this one. Surprisingly, this film is labeled solely as adventure on IMDB, so maybe there is more to it than the trailer lets on but it’s pretty obviously comedy. On the one hand, I really like the cast. Andrew Scott and Sophie Okonedo in particular. On the other, I don’t know if I really want to see a medieval coming-of-age story framed as modern social commentary. If it’s executed well, I could see it being enjoyable but I will probably wait for it to make its debut on Amazon Prime before taking the leap.
Director: James Mark | Writers: James Mark, Matthew Nayman
Starring: Sara Mitich, George Tchortov, and Evie Loiselle
A mother is imprisoned and experimented on with the intent of provoking and measuring her telekinetic powers. Think of it like an adult version of the place where Eleven gets experimented on in Stranger Things with some of the puzzle solving of the Saw franchise. This is my kind of low-budget, high-concept sci-fi. There are only 4 actors in the principal cast and one of those is voice-over. Some of the big visual moments advertised in the trailer are things I have already seen elsewhere and it seems to give away the whole movie. I’ll watch it to know for sure but I am hoping James Mark and Matthew Nayman were able to find something new to tell here.
Director: Anna Foerster | Writers: Maggie Cohn, Jack Stanley
Starring: Allison Janney, Jurnee Smollet, and Logan Marshall-Green
When a young girl is kidnapped in the middle of a storm, her mother reaches out to their eccentric neighbor to help pursue the kidnapper but there is more than meets the eye on both ends of the equation. Allison Janney is a great actress and she steps into the Liam Neeson, retired-but-not-really-and-still-dangerous-ex-military, role here but I had a hard enough time suspending my disbelief for him in all those hand-to-hand combat sequences, so hopefully that’s not the focal point of this movie. Jurnee Smollet and Logan Marshall-Green are good supporting pieces and this one does have the advantage of couch access.
A Jazzman’s Blues (Netflix)
Written & Directed by: Tyler Perry
Stars: Joshua Boone, Amirah Vann, and Solea Pfeiffer
Apparently, this movie is about the investigation of an unsolved murder that reveals a secret romance and all the complications that went along with it. I didn’t get that at all from the trailer. What I saw was a story of romance and timeless love set during the very racially divided south of the 1940s. Even the tagline on the poster is “Never Stop Loving”, so the unsolved murder thing is a bit of a surprise. However, given the context of what I saw in the trailer, it doesn’t seem like much of a mystery. Netflix wants your eyeballs on their content this weekend.
Young Plato (Theaters)
Directors: Declan McGrath, Neasa Ní Chianáin
Writers: Etienne Essery, Declan McGrath, Neasa Ní Chianáin
Starring: Kevin McArevey, Jan-Marie Reel
This documentary examines the plan of an ambitious Headmaster, Kevin McArevey, who aims to instill critical thinking and pastoral care through philosophical teachings in post-conflict Belfast, Ireland. McArevey’s plan is to encourage children to question the narratives of war, violence, society, peers, and even their parents by looking beyond the boundaries of their insular communities. If you are interested in education, especially in how that applies to youth, then this is a very interesting documentary topic.
Railway Children (Theaters)
Director: Morgan Matthews | Writers: Daniel Brocklehurst, Jemma Rodgers
Starring: John Bradley, Jenny Agutter, and Sheridan Smith
A group of young children being evacuated to a Yorkshire village comes across a young soldier on a train. This is a sequel to The Railway Children from 1970 with Jenny Agutter reprising her role. I never saw the original but this looks like the kind of movie I would have enjoyed quite a bit when I was 8 years old. It looks like it’s made with quality and it was already a success in the UK over the summer. It seems like more of a spring release in the states, but here it is.
On the Come Up (Paramount+)
Director: Sanaa Lathan
Writers: Kay Oyegun, Angie Thomas (novel), Zora Howard (additional material)
Starring: Jamila Gray, Noa Dior Rucker, and Sanna Lathan
This is the directorial debut for Sanaa Lathan and the feature screenplay debut for Kay Oyegun, based on the book by Angie Thomas, about a young girl who wants to be the greatest rapper of all time and she first has to prove herself in the battle rap circuit. Figure 8 Mile but as a coming-of-age story for a girl. When a film is about music, the music has to be (or at least should be) actually good. When the trailer is either unable or unwilling to show anything close to that, it’s a massive problem. The “battle rap” bars that are shown in the trailer are…not good at all. So, marketing this as a story of someone who is actually talented comes across as a tough sell. The movie can succeed if things are more about the personal side of things and less about the quality of the characters’ music. I like a lot of the supporting cast here too with Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Mike Epps, and Lathan as well, but I think this one has its work cut out for it.
Director: Romain Gavras | Writers: Elias Belkeddar, Romain Gavras, Ladj Ly
Starring: Dali Benssalah, Sami Slimane, and Anthony Bajon
I previewed this one either last week or the week before, but I guess it was doing a limited theatrical run. It lands on Netflix this weekend.
Written & Directed by: James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
With the sequel due out this year, Avatar is making its way back to theaters this weekend. After all, it has been 13 years since the original was released so you may need a bit of a refresher before hopping into The Way of Water. I remember being vowed by this film when I initially saw it, and then that faded. I never saw it a second time in theaters and when I eventually caught it again on TNT, I found myself rather bored with it. It’s funny how things like that happen. I will see the new one but I’m not sure if I will see this re-release, but it’s there if you want it.
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