Sadly, no notable arrivals hit this week, so I’m going to select a few that arrived at the beginning of July. They include: Judas and the Black Messiah (2021), No Sudden Move (2021), Pleasantville (1998) and Reservoir Dogs (1992).
Judas and the Black Messiah was probably put on your radar at the Oscars, where it saw Daniel Kaluuya win best supporting actor. Kaluuya’s is on point in real life and in the film, where he plays Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. Set in the late ’60s, the film follows a petty criminal who’s recruited by the police to infiltrate the BPP. Crackling with themes of betrayal, revolution and social injustice, this biographical drama is powerful and riveting to watch.
Last week’s arrivals include Corazon De Mezquite (2019) and Freaky (2020). Thanks to WarnerMedia’s release plan, major 2021 releases have hit HBO Max, including musical and horror film The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. If none of those take your fancy, HBO Max has loads of classics from the Criterion Collection and a small collection of quality originals, which you can peruse below, among a few of those blockbusters.
No Sudden Move (2021)
A new Steven Soderbergh movie? Aka the great director behind Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s Eleven and, more recently, Logan Lucky? Twists, thrills and desperate characters populate this crime thriller set in 1950s Detroit. When a seemingly simple job gets out of hand, a group of criminals must work together to uncover what’s really going on. Take in the incredible cast: Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, Jon Hamm and Amy Seimetz. While the plot can be a little convoluted and some won’t be able to get past the fish-eye lens cinematography, Soderbergh’s sense of humor and immersive direction make this crime caper an entertaining night in.
If ever there was a movie that improves with multiple rewatches, it’s Tenet. Thanks to its release on HBO Max, you can now understand the plot that goes with its spectacular visuals. John David Washington stars as the Protagonist, whose name is a subtle hint to his James Bond mission to prevent a world-destroying attack — from the future. The Protagonist learns to manipulate the flow of time with the help of Robert Pattinson’s debonair Neil. Possibly the most Christopher Nolan of Christopher Nolan movies, Tenet is as entertaining as it is cerebral.
This is a sweet little gem on HBO Max. Unpregnant stars Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira as a buddy duo crossing states to where pregnant teen Veronica (Richardson) can get an abortion. Yes, it’s about the issue of pro-choice, with Veronica’s parents refusing to give her permission to have the abortion. But it also slots into the key gear of all road-trip movies, depicting a beautiful friendship between the two leads.
A coming-of-age drama featuring motorbikes. Charm City Kings stars a fresh young cast, including Jahi Di’Allo Winston as Mouse, a 14-year-old swept up in the biking world of Baltimore, much to his mother’s dismay. The film’s strengths lies in its impressive young talent and strong direction of scenes involving motorbike action. Plus WandaVision fans will spot Teyonah Parris in a supporting role. Not perfect, but plenty to admire.
Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
Fan of the ’80s? Including that filmmaking style? The sequel to Wonder Woman leans hard into its inspirations, which will either take you back to pleasingly simple versions of adventure and heroism, or really annoy you with a nonsensical plot and slow pace. Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince hasn’t moved on from Steve Trevor’s (Chris Pine) death, working at the Smithsonian where an ancient artefact kicks off a world of trouble and forces her to make a few hard decisions. Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal are new additions to the cast. Colorful, lightweight escapism.
Aka The Snyder Cut. This one’s for the droves of Zack Snyder fans who campaigned for the director to get a second shot at finishing Justice League, after he was forced to leave before completion due to personal tragedy. In stepped Joss Whedon, but the 2017 theatrical version was a critical and box office failure. Now, a four-hour Snyder director’s cut is ready on HBO Max, with a ton of new scenes, a couple of new villains and the spectacular epilogue. If you’re on board with Snyder’s slo-mo style, it’s worth checking out his remarkably different original vision.
Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor star in this surprising rom-com heist film from Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity). The film was written and shot during lockdown, and the pandemic actually features in the film’s backdrop. Hathaway and Ejiofor play a couple planning to rob a jewelry store in London while most of the stores are shut. Their relationship has struggled in the lockdown, and they reevaluate a thing or two amid their crazy caper. It’s not the most polished flick, but you’re mainly in it for the charisma of Hathaway and Ejiofor. The inclusion of the pandemic will either intrigue you or turn you away.
Whether you like this or not probably hinges on how much you like Seth Rogen. You’re getting a lot of him — he stars in two roles in An American Pickle, first playing Herschel Greenbaum, a struggling Jewish laborer who emigrates to America in 1919. He finds work at a pickle factory — and this is where things get weird — falls into a vat of pickles that preserves him for 100 years. He wakes up in 2019 Brooklyn and hangs out with his great-grandson Ben, also played by Seth Rogen. If you embrace this creative premise, then this is a great low-key comedy for the smaller screen with some impressive chemistry between Rogen and Rogen.
Meryl Streep playing an eccentric author in a Steven Soderbergh comedy. What more do you need to know? If you do want to know more: Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Hughes (Streep) is struggling to finish her next book, chased by her literary agent (Gemma Chan). She boards a cruise ship with old friends, who inspired her best-known work. Tensions are strong. It looks great — Soderbergh uses crisp, natural light — and most of the dialogue is improvised. See how Dianne Wiest, Candice Bergen, Lucas Hedges and the rest of the impeccable cast have fun with that.
This one’s a bit of a novelty inclusion. See what Robert Zemeckis (director of Back to the Future) and Anne Hathaway did with their retelling of the Roald Dahl classic. Jahzir Kadeem Bruno is Hero Boy, a young boy who is turned into a mouse by Hathaway’s occasionally CGI’d Grand High Witch. No one’s saying it comes close to the 1990 Anjelica Huston original, but it’s intriguing enough to take a little look at.
New movies coming out in 2021: Netflix, Marvel and more
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