We’re in the aftermath of “Barbenheimer” as far as new releases are concerned, but horror does take a mainstream step forward this week. That said, plenty of other releases out there. This set of write-ups includes a sci-fi-tinged blaxploitation tribute, a thriller dealing with a rough subject, a sci-fi comedy, a shark movie-themed documentary, a French remake of a Japanese zombie comedy, an action-comedy, and a WWII action flick. The following features reviews for They Cloned Tyrone, Sound of Freedom, Command Z, Sharksploitation, Final Cut, The Out-Laws, and Blood and Gold.
The Setup: A series of eerie events thrusts an unlikely trio (John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, and Teyonah Parris) onto the trail of a nefarious government conspiracy in this pulpy mystery caper.
Review: The easy thing to say is that this film is out of sight! In terms of how a blaxploitation tribute manages to surprise comes from the depths this retrofuturistic story goes to make a statement regarding the very true situations that led to experimentation on Black people. As a genre-bending satirical comedy that would pair well with Sorry to Bother You (or Boots Riley’s recent Prime Video series, I’m a Virgo), it helps to know this film wants to pack in a lot of ideas as well as ridiculousness within its near two-hour runtime. As a Netflix original, I can easily commend director/co-writer Juel Taylor for making something with far more style and competence in filmmaking compared to a recent series of much costlier streaming action comedies. On top of that, Boyega again shows how much of a real-deal actor he is here. While the scenes of him, Foxx, and Parris together are a hoot, Boyega’s Fontaine is the clear central figure. For a film with so much out-there stuff on its mind, he somehow finds a way to ground it all for the sake of the overall messaging. With that said, They Cloned Tyrone is an offbeat paranoia thriller that plays with stereotypes, comments on society, and does so with plenty of skill.
Where To Watch: Now streaming on Netflix.
The Setup: After rescuing a young boy from ruthless child traffickers, a federal agent (Jim Caviezel) learns the boy’s sister is still captive and decides to embark on a dangerous mission to save her. With time running out, he quits his job and journeys deep into the Colombian jungle, putting his life on the line to free her from a fate worse than death.
Review: There’s a good reason why this film has managed to carve out significant space in the summer box office marketplace – it’s effective. It’s the kind of film that can draw out audiences that do not typically attend the cinema all that much. Whether or not an audience holds certain extreme beliefs that align with the filmmakers and their supporters matters little. Sound of Freedom is a compelling movie that brings attention to one of the more horrific criminal topics. It’s not a wonder that Hollywood rarely addresses child trafficking, but the film is smart enough to rely on various tropes that make thrillers so enthralling. It gets away with all of it thanks to strong work from its cast (character actor Bill Camp is especially welcome) and not swaying from its messaging. There’s no side to take here; having more than just competent filmmaking goes a long way when dealing with such a provocative story. At over two hours, the movie is stretched longer than needed. Still, director Alejandro Monteverde does plenty to add to the more gripping moments.
Where To Watch: Now playing in theaters.
The Setup: A scientist (Michael Cera) tasks his employees (Roy Wood Jr., Chloe Radcliffe, and JJ Maley) to travel back in time to revise history and save the world.
Review: I was already happy to get my yearly fix of Steven Soderbergh thanks to the recent release of his Max series, Full Circle, only for that sly dog of a director to release a surprise comedy web series a few days later. It essentially plays as a 90-minute movie divided into vignettes, so I can justify placing it amongst these film reviews. However, it’s no real matter, as I just really enjoy seeing this guy deliver odd projects. Playing as one of his more off-the-wall ideas akin to (the quite effective) Bubble or (the quite terrible) Full Frontal, this random exercise sets up multiple scenarios where the three employees have their minds occupy the headspace of someone in the past. We have a series of comments about the person involved and what’s being done to make a difference in the world, whether that involves climate change, the political sphere, or whatever else. Cera’s disembodied head (think Wizard of Oz or Zordon from Power Rangers) spends time working on his greetings and offering other shades of his own. It’s all very slight, but this lark manages to entertain plenty for those looking to invest in the weirdness of this project (money spent on the series goes to charity). And not for nothing, but each segment ends with a fun set of film recommendations that would all make for neat triple-feature viewing.
Where To Watch: Episodes can be accessed at CommandZSeries.com.
The Setup: Dive into the birth of a subgenre in the shadow of the legendary Jaws. Discover a deep-sea documentary that navigates the bizarre legacy of shark cinema and humanity’s ceaseless intrigue.
Review: When I learned that Stephen Scarlata, producer of the wonderful documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune, was directing a feature based on the popularity of sharks in cinema and the emergence of the sharksploitation sub-genre (lots of room for exploitation films this week), I jumped at the chance to watch. Unsurprisingly, it delivered a lot of fun. Regardless of what information I was already aware of, the various interviews really helped this doc shine. Everyone from Roger Corman to Joe Dante gets in on telling stories about the shark-related films they were involved in. Having Johannes Roberts, director of 47 Meters Down, comment on Deep Blue Sea, or Dante talk all about the attempt to make Jaws 3, People 0 is undoubtedly worthwhile. And, of course, there are plenty of people willing to dig into the Sharknado phenomenon, Sharktopus, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, and many other infamous DTV and SyFy Originals. As a very easy watch coming just in time for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, this is fun at-home summer viewing.
Where To Watch: Now streaming on Shudder.
The Setup: The opening night selection of last year’s Cannes Film Festival was this wacky horror comedy, a remake of Shin’ichirô Ueda’s cult hit One Cut of the Dead. It follows a director (Romain Duris) making a live, single-take, low-budget zombie flick in which the cast and crew, one by one, actually turn into zombies.
Review: It remains humorous to me that director Michael Hazanavicius took Hollywood by storm in 2011 with The Artist, winning an Oscar for his troubles, and then went back to France to continue doing whatever else, rather than make a Marvel movie or whatever. So yes, it’s amusing that he’s now directed a remake of the wonderful Japanese zombie comedy One Cut of the Dead. Speaking from a positive point-of-view, this is a very faithful adaptation that retains the affable spirit of a movie relying on a heavy metatextual element to deliver a unique story about the undead. The only issue is that I’ve already seen this movie and seen it done quite well, with a certain level of scrappiness I really appreciated. There is some fun in how One Cut of the Dead exists in the universe of Final Cut, which factors into how things play out in the production. Of course, I’m being as vague as possible so as to not give away the ingenious design of either feature. Still, suffice it to say that a likable zombie comedy has plenty going for it, and this one stays true in spirit, even if I’d recommend seeing the original first.
Where To Watch: Now playing in select theaters.
The Setup: Owen Browning (Adam Devine) is a strait-laced bank manager about to marry the love of his life, Parker (Nina Dobrev). When his bank is held up by the infamous Ghost Bandits during his wedding week, he believes his future in-laws (Pierce Brosnan and Ellen Barkin), who just arrived in town, are the notorious outlaws.
Review: Even Happy Madison productions that do star Adam Sandler feel like giant gambles to take at this point (see: Murder Mystery 2), so this film didn’t really have a chance. Still, I aim to be open-minded, so I took a shot at a clever enough idea for a comedy. It didn’t pay off. This is the kind of film that has so little going for it that ad-libs featuring constant use of the F-word and digital blood to make shootings “comedically” shocking feel forced in to garner an R-rating to coax streaming viewers into seeing the Netflix version of “Unrated and Out of Control.” A shame too, as there are a lot of solid performers who could be put to better use, including Brosnan, who must be leaning the most into his Irish accent ever here. Even a bickering Richard Kind and Julie Hagerty aren’t enough to elicit many smiles in a film requiring Adam DeVine to carry the heavy weight of a poorly developed feature. Coming from the Sandler family and having already directed The Wrong Missy, Tyler Spindel isn’t exactly growing as a filmmaker here, but at least he got to spend a lot of time with talented comedic performers. Maybe that will reflect better on his next movie.
Where To Watch: Now streaming on Netflix.
The Setup: On his way to find his daughter, deserter Henrich (Robert Maaser) is stopped by SS troops and hanged from a tree. Courageous farmer Elsa (Marie Hacke) saves him just in time. United by their common enemy, the two fight for justice and for their families. A thrilling and bloody search for stolen gold treasure begins, revealing bitter secrets along the way.
Review: A couple of years ago, director Peter Thorwarth dropped the very enjoyable Blood Red Sky on Netflix. It’s essentially “Vampires on a Plane,” and it delivered the goods. Since I haven’t been paying enough attention to German action directors, Thorwarth once again surprised me with Blood and Gold, the second film this year to focus on a stalwart hero doing all he can to take down Nazis and hold onto his gold during WWII. The results are splendid. It doesn’t get old seeing elaborate action sequences that take away some of the right messages from John Wick. Plus, at a time when punching Nazis is the most fashionable it has been in years, we get a lot of that and more in a film that is not afraid to get gruesome. With a pretty straightforward premise and villains happy to chew up the scenery, this is a fun one to watch for all the ways we hope the heroes can succeed and handle it all stylishly.
Where To Watch: Now streaming on Netflix.