A huge fly flies into the trunk of a car. A bloodthirsty airline passenger sinks his teeth into a bunch of hijackers. A “witch” falls back on her opponents. Those are some of the weirdest things going down in this week’s column.
Should you just need a good cry, take a box of Kleenex to theaters for “Joe Bell.” And if you’re looking for some coolness and thrill, M. Night Shyamalan’s high-concept “Old” or action SmackDown “Snake Eyes” might suit you.
Here’s a rundown on what’s worth seeing and eating.
“Joe Bell”: Reynaldo Marcus Greene has done a fine job directing this earnest and moving story about a father who wanders across America to pay tribute to his bullying gay son. While it has the best of intentions and has some strong emotional moments, it suffers from a harrowing plot plot and abrupt ending. Written by “Brokeback Mountain” screenwriting duo Diana Oceana and the late Larry McMurtry, “Joe Bell” tells the true story of a grieving father (Mark Wahlberg, in one of his strongest performances in years) who discovers that He didn’t do enough to protect and understand his bully gay son Jaden (Reid Miller, who gives the best performance of the film). After Jaden dies by suicide, the devastated Oregonian dad decides to go on a tour of his memory to share his sad story and hope others can learn from it. “Bell” says something important about being gay and being bullied in a meaningful yet flawed film. Description: 2½ stars out of 4; Opens in theaters July 23.
“Blood Red Sky”: In this crazy Netflix horror film, a commercial plane flight is overpowered by a vicious pack of hooligans. They mess with flying the wrong way as aboard is a scream of sunshine from a mother (rogue Perry Baumeister) and her enterprising young son (Carl Anton Koch). Director/co-writer Peter Thorworth dazzles the screen with gore, tossing in surprises, delusional brashness, and even a few touching moments. It’s great fun. Description: 3 stars; Available July 23 on Netflix.
“Broken Diamonds”: A stressed out waiter (Ben Platt of “Dear Evan Hansen”) has to give up his dream of moving to France to write a novel when he needs to help care for his sister (Lola Kirke) – a schizophrenic. He excels at avoiding archaic tropes about mental illness in this heart-wrenchingly realistic story (screenwriter Steve Waverly based it on his relationship with his sister). Director Peter Sattler respects both his actors and the story, creating a gentle, sensitive drama that reminds us to accept each other and realize that we are all fragile. Description: 3 stars; Available to stream on July 23 across multiple platforms.
“Switchgrass at Midnight”: This effective yet cramped thriller gets an extra boost from a stellar performance from Lukas Haas. He plays a devout Florida family man and serial killer who escapes from a cop (Emile Hirsch) and attracts the attention of two FBI agents (Megan Fox and Bruce Willis) who stumble upon his bloody trail. . Alan Horsenell’s screenplay is strong and believable, while Randall Emmett, in his directorial debut, delivers solid performances from a seasoned cast. It’s worth a watch if you like serial killer thrillers, but don’t expect to see anything revolutionary. Description: 2½ stars; Available to stream in select theaters and on July 23.
“Mandibles”: Jocaster filmmaker Quentin Dupieux takes a traditional Jason Statham action-like setup—two buffoons are hired to deliver mysterious cargo—and then lets Mr. Todd sit in the driver’s seat. “Mandibles” should be terrifying, but French madness at best becomes hilarious as Jean-Gab (David Marsai) and Manu (Grégoire Ludig) foil their mission while trying to devise a plan to make mints out of the mutant fly. gives. Found trapped in the trunk of a car. Yes, a giant fly. “Mandibles” is short, weird, and original, a quirky comedy for people who love weird weird things, and it establishes Dupieux as an ingenious and unique performer. Description: three and a half stars; Opens July 23 in select theaters and across multiple streaming platforms.
“Fear Street Part III: 1666”: There is a new filmmaking queen of horror and her name is Leigh Janiak. His new invention of RL Stine’s YA series culminated with one of the most satisfying wrap-ups in the horror genre. All the clues and story strands make sense, bloody makes sense, as Janak leads us to the witch who cursed the city of Shadyside. But just when you suspect that Janak will leave us in the past, she moves on to the first film – putting a contextual stamp on her series that issues a warning to the privileged class. Description: 3 stars; Now available on Netflix.
“son”: If you prefer your horror more ferocious and brutal, look no further than writer/director Evan Kavanagh’s Shudder exclusive. Andy Matichak plays his heartwarming single mom Laura, whose influential son David (Luke David Blum) becomes the target of a cult. Soon he suffers from severe seizures. A detective (Emile Hirsch) dazzles both as the naughty secrets of the past come to the surface. It’s delectable and well made, but you’ll need a strong stomach to achieve this. Description: 2½ stars; Available to stream on Shudder.
“The Fire Will Come”: For indie film connoisseurs who appreciate a moody character study that’s both visually and narratively haunting, writer/director Oliver Lacks’ portrait of ex-con arsonist Amador (Amador Arias) can’t be beat is. Just be careful: this raises many questions that remain open. That’s because Lax and co-screenwriter Santiago Fillol aren’t as interested in the dramatic story as they are in portraying how far their protagonist is from the world. Tacittern Amador lives in isolation with his frail, resilient mother (Benedicta Sánchez) in a remote village outside Spain. Lax delivers a surreal, breathtaking opener, and sheds light on the inner struggles of a troubled bachelor. Description: 3 stars; Available on Amazon Prime and Criterion Channel.
“The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52”: In this Leonardo DiCaprio-backed venture, director/co-writer Josh Zeman’s quest to find the seafloor—which is said to be the only whale recorded with a 52 Hz call but which has never been seen—finds its own rough. Facing water. While the dive into the history of the whaling industry is a welcome departure, Zeman’s urge to put himself in action is intrusive and distracting. It’s a whale thing. Description: 2 stars; Available on various streaming platforms.
Contact Randy Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org.