Release Radar – Sept. 30th, 2022

I am finally starting to feel somewhat back to normal and there are a lot of films from the past few weeks that I am going to have to play catch-up on, but there’s a bunch more on deck this week that I want to see so let’s jump right in.

Hocus Pocus 2 (Disney+)

Director: Anne Fletcher

Writers: Jen D’Angelo, David Kirschner (story), Blake Harris (story)

The last weekend before October seizes the seasonal appeal and Disney+ takes us back to a beloved Halloween classic with Hocus Pocus 2. Just about 30 years after the original, this is a very obvious nostalgia play from Disney but not too much different from what I saw with Ghostbusters: Afterlife in that respect and I enjoyed that just fine. Getting the Midler, Parker, Najimy trio back together make this a fun stroll down memory lane. The fact this is heading straight to steaming tells you a lot but it also means I can feel guilt-free popping it on Halloween.

Smile (Theaters)

Written & Directed by: Parker Finn

Stars: Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, and Kyle Gallner

When I first saw the trailer, it was hard for me to take it seriously. The frozen smiles on the actors’ faces didn’t instill fear in me. It had the opposite effect where I laughed out loud in a quiet theater. It all seemed gimmicky, but that’s just the trailer. Good horror films thrive on anticipation and I like The Ring-style approach of something curse-like inching its way towards the protagonist. This is the feature debut for writer/director Parker Finn and its sizable marketing campaign comes with a certain level of pressure. People tend to gravitate towards scary movies this time of the year but the real effectiveness of this is going to hinge on Sosie Bacon in the lead. While I recognize her from Mare of Easttown I don’t remember her on that show, so I have no frame of reference here. She is the daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick so it’s in her blood and Kyle Gallner co-stars, which gives me confidence. It’s not going to be the first thing I see going back to theaters, but I will make time for it.

Dead For A Dollar (Theaters)

Director: Walter Hill | Writers: Matt Harris, Walter Hill

Starring: Christoph Waltz, Willem Dafoe, and Rachel Brosnahan

In this Western, Christoph Waltz is back playing a bounty hunter/detective who is sent to ‘rescue’ the supposedly-kidnapped wife of a local man. Along the way, he also runs into his sworn enemy years after putting him in prison so I expect shit to hit the fan Willem Dafoe and The Marvelous Ms. Maisel, Rachel Brosnahan. Honestly, you can stop right there. I’m in! Even if some told me it was the worst film ever made, I would be there to find out for myself.

*Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (Theaters + VOD) – Editor’s Pick*

Written & Directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour

Starring: Kate Hudson, Jeon Jong-seo, Craig Robinson, and Ed Skrein

This is only the third feature from the A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night writer/director, Ana Lily Amirpour, but I love her filmmaking style. Her sophomore effort, The Bad Batch, wasn’t very well received but I enjoyed its Mad Max meets Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet vibes and would have liked to see more of it. This trailer piqued my interest more with its color and visual storytelling than with what I gathered from the story, but it seems like a unique way to try and tell it. I’m happy to see Kate Hudson in this kind of role and this is exactly the kind of weird stuff that I want Ed Skrein. This one captured my curiosity and that’s why it gets my Editor’s Pick.

God’s Creatures (Theaters + VOD)

Directors: Saela Davis, and Anna Rose Holmer

Writers: Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly (story), Shane Crowley (screenplay)

Starring: Emily Watson, Paul Mescal, Aisling Franciosi

A mom in a gloomy fishing village lies about the whereabouts of her son to protect him during a police investigation, due to some internalized guilt, and it ripples throughout her family and the community. Dark. Intense. Mysterious. Emily Watson! This is another one that wouldn’t be my first choice in returning to theaters but does have my interest.

Vesper (Theaters + VOD)

Directors: Kristina Buozyte, Bruno Samper

Writers: Kristina Buozyte, Bruno Samper, Brian Clark

Starring: Raffiella Chapman, Eddie Marsan, and Rosy McEwen

This Sci-Fantasy is set in the, hopefully, distant future after Earth’s ecosystem has gone belly up and an elite bubble city limits its population. A 13-year-old girl, Vesper, finds some seeds and attempts to bio-hack them back to life after one of the elite’s crashes their ship on the outskirts. This is obviously about reversing a destructive course of action taken by humanity and the idea that the children of the future will have to combat these kinds of issues, but it’s kind of on the nose there. There’s no subtlety to it. The visual presentation looks cool and it reminds me of some stories I’ve read in comics over the past couple of years. There is room to succeed here, but it’s a very ambitious attempt to try this kind of high-concept science fiction. I’ll watch it and report back.

The Greatest Beer Run Ever (Theaters & AppleTV+)

Director: Peter Farrelly | Writers: Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly, Pete Jones

Starring: Zac Effron, Russell Crowe, Bill Murray

This is one of the most strange “based on a true story” concepts I have seen brought to the screen. A man, who’s doing nothing with his life, gets drunk and decides it’s a good idea to smuggle beer to soldiers in Vietnam. Some of them happen to be his childhood friends, and he ends up in the middle of a battlefield. The trailer certainly plays up the comedy stuff and it looks funny, but then it’s also paired with the very real reality of Vietnam and the idiocy of this plan. It’s a fine line to walk. I like the cast and Peter Farrelly, but critics have seemed not to enjoy it. Anyway, it’s on AppleTV+ so it’s easy enough for me to roll the dice.

The Good House (Theaters)

Directors: Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky

Writers: Thomas Bezycha, Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline, and Morena Baccarin

A New England realtor with a drinking problem, in the wake of her husband leaving her for another man, finds a second chance at love and life with an old flame. The problem is that the life she built for herself prior has to come apart first. I am in this for Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline. They are both fantastic actors and it’s nice to see more stories of love and life that come about later in life. It’s refreshing to see more of these films getting made and I think it’s important to see more honest portrayals of life in romantic comedies. I’ll have to add this one to the list and catch up to it, but word of mouth is good so far.

Bros (Theaters)

Director: Nicholas Stoller | Writers: Billy Eichner, Nicholas Stoller

Starring: Billy Eichner, Luke Macfarlane, and Guy Branum

Nicholas Stoller has made some really funny movies that I have enjoyed (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, its spin-off Get Him to the Greek, and Neighbors). Now he brings that style to a story about two guys who attempt a relationship with one another despite their commitment issues. Stoller co-wrote the film with Billy Eichner who also stars in the lead. That’s a good sign of cohesiveness between the ideology behind the camera and the person who has to pull it off in front of it. It looks funny but also seems to cover a good amount of ground we have seen before in other romantic comedies.

Sirens (Theaters)

Written & Directed by: Rita Baghdadi

Stars: Shery Bechara, Lilas Mayassi

This music doc follows the co-founders and guitarists of a Lebanese metal band that was the first one in the Middle East. As with many films about bands, there is a lot of inner turmoil that permeates and often erodes the band structure. Can they get their personal issues together in the pursuit of their dream of becoming thrash metal rock stars? That’s the question. It looks interesting because of the cultural implications of their music and performance in the Middle East. However, there are obviously many common elements experienced by other bands trying to make it as stars.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism (Amazon)

Director: Damon Thomas | Writers: Jenna Lamia (teleplay), Grady Hendrix (novel)

Starring: Elsie FIsher, Amiah Miller, Rachel Ogechi Kanu

I’m going to be perfectly honest, I sort of zoned out during the beginning of the trailer for this one. The teenage girl high school stuff isn’t appealing, but it looks like it gets past that pretty early. When the girls go on a trip to a cabin, one of the three girls picks up a demonic possession. It is definitely a horror comedy although it looks like only Christopher Lowell is on that. I laughed at a couple of things down the stretch, but it’s hard to adequately balance real fear and humor. At least it’s straight to Amazon for my convenience.

Spirit Halloween: The Movie (Theaters)

Director: David Poag | Writer: Billie Bates

Starring: Rachel Leigh Cook, Christopher Lloyd, and Marla Gibbs

Three friends decide they are too old to trick or treat and decide to hide out and spend the night inside a Halloween store that stands alone in a deserted strip mall. What they don’t know is that the place is haunted. This is the kind of Halloween movie I would have loved as a kid and if you are looking for something kid-friendly this spooky season, this looks like something you would get from Nickelodeon.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (Theaters + VOD Sept. 27th)

Director: Sascha Gervasi

Stars: Robb Reiner, Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow, and Tiziana Arrigoni

I don’t know why exactly, but this 2008 music doc got a release and a punch-up with a live performance from the band in Los Angeles. It was a highly acclaimed film at the time of its release but, much like the band, didn’t enjoy commercial success. Fourteen years later, the film and the band have been injected with new life. I never saw it in 2008 and it looks fantastic. If I am seeing a music documentary this weekend, this is it (no offense to Sirens). Reading a bit about director Sacha Gervasi, he took out a second mortgage on his home to pay for the original theatrical run for the film after not getting much attention at Sundance. You have to love that kind of passion.

Blonde (Netflix Sept. 28th)

Director: Andre Dominik

Writers: Andrew Dominik (screenplay), Joyce Carol Oats (novel)

Starring: Ana de Armas, Lily Fisher, Julianne Nicholson

I previewed this one when it had its limited theatrical release, but it made its way home to Netflix. Movies that get 14-minute standing ovations at Cannes tend to have something worthwhile in them. That may be due to de Armas’ performance alone because this film is getting bodied by audience and critic reviews so far. I am still going to check it out over the weekend, but I’ve gotta be prepared for that nearly 3-hour runtime.

Thanks for reading! I still believe word of mouth is the best way to help, so if you enjoy what I’m doing, please tell somebody. And if you have a comment, I’d love to hear it! Liking, subscribing, and sharing go a long way too. As usual, be well, be safe, and have fun no matter how you get your movies!