We’re in the first weekend of August and everyone decided to release a new movie. I saw most of them and my thoughts are below! If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.
Bullet Train (Theaters)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, and Michael Shannon
Synopsis: The set up here is simple—a bunch of independent operators on a fast-moving train all trying to get a case. Mayhem ensues. During the summer you expect these kind of films to come out. This isn’t particularly complex or deep. There’s some humor, some surprises and plenty of action. I enjoyed Pitt in the lead role, and I thought Taylor-Johnson, Henry and King did a great job, too. Director David Leitch crafts some fun action sequences but the film feels a bit weighty, clocking in at over two hours. The film ends up feeling overly long before it gets to the conclusion you’re mostly already expecting. It’s fine for what it is—a bit of a diversion to end the summer. I had some high hopes, and at times it’s clever, but in the end it’s just OK.
Rating: Rated R for strong and bloody violence, pervasive language, and brief sexuality.
Luck (Apple TV+)
Starring: Eva Noblezada, Simon Pegg, Whoopi Goldberg, Jane Fonda, Fluga Borg, and Lil Rel Howery
Synopsis: This new animated film comes from Skydance, which is now led by John Lassiter. It’s a big launch for Apple TV+ and a foray into the animated competition. The film itself is clever. It focuses on Sam (Noblezada), an orphan who ages out of her group home but continues to be plagued by bad luck. When she finds a lucky penny, that changes. When she loses the penny, she goes looking for more, stumbling across a black cat named Bob (Pegg) who comes from the Land of Luck. Sam follows Bob home, infiltrating the land in hopes of changing her luck. She finds so much more than she bargained for and creates more than a little trouble. I liked the idea here and the animation works. It’s a fun and light story that offers some humor and some pathos. Noblezada is solid in the lead role and the whole voice cast does a really nice job. I liked the movie for what it is and while it’s not incredible it’s a solid animated tale that should appeal to the whole family.
Starring: Amber Midthunder and Dakota Beavers
Synopsis: The original Predator film dropped in 1987. In the more than 30 years since we’ve seen Predator stories time and again, but this latest film still finds a way to make the story fresh. It drops the action into 1719 as a Predator is dropped into the midst of a Native American community. A young warrior (Midthunder) ends up drawn into its sphere, fighting to protect her family and her community. This film is a different kind of approach and director Dan Trachtenberg leans into that. He does a nice job of capturing some of the beautiful vistas of the time and area and captures life for these people in addition to the traditional action sequences you’re expecting. Midthunder does a great job in the lead role. She’s got a gift for drawing you in and creating a character and she’s exceptional in action sequences, something I’ve appreciated since her days on Legion. She elevates the film. I liked the creativity but in the end we’ve seen this Predator formula time and again. This is better than many of the sequels but to me it was still just OK as a film.
Rating: Rated R for strong bloody violence.
Purple Hearts (Netflix)
Starring: Sofia Carson, Nicholas Galitzine, and Chosen Jacobs
Synopsis: Netflix is a volume content producer and sometimes it can be easy to miss what’s being presented. Purple Hearts feels like a film that’s gone a bit under the radar. In it, Cassie (Carson) is a talented singer who has Type 1 Diabetes that her insurance can’t cover. Luke (Galitzine) is a soldier who has debts from his past drug use. They decide to get married for the benefits and, along the way, romance blooms. But will they get away with it? I didn’t expect a lot from this film. It seemed like a simple set up for something like a Hallmark film. In the end, this had more of a hook than expected. Carson delivers a solid performance, including some great musical numbers. She and Galitzine play off each other well and by the end you are really locked into these two characters. I enjoyed this quite a bit and thought it was a film that really delivered. It isn’t the highest profile release recently from Netflix, but it’s worth checking out.
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Anna Chlumsky, and Theo Germaine
Synopsis: In the latest horror film, writer/director John Logan sets that action at a Gay Conversion Camp where LGBTQIA Youth are facing threats from the brutal camp staff, led by director Owen Whistler (Bacon), and a killer on the loose. There is a lot going on here. Much of the film is about these kinds of camps and the kind of people that run them, fueled by hate and rage. That would have been enough to make a statement but we get a bit of a Friday the 13th style killing spree, too. Though that doesn’t begin until fairly late in the film and we get a somewhat predictable reveal of the killer. None of the characters are particularly well drawn but we get a lot of music from Pink. This is not a good film. I’m not sure what Logan intended but it certainly doesn’t land in a compelling or engaging way. This is a misfire creatively that doesn’t achieve much except to make you cringe from time-to-time. It’s safely avoidable.
Thirteen Lives (Amazon Prime)
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Joel Edgerton, and Colin Farrell
Synopsis: In 2018, 12 players and a coach got trapped in a cave in Thailand due to rising monsoon rains. The saga of their rescue played out over 18 days, bringing together people from all over the world. The story was captured beautifully in a National Geographic Channel documentary, The Rescue, which was released in 2021. Now, director Ron Howard delivers a scripted version of the story. The film opened in limited release July 29 and dropped on Amazon Prime on August 5. In it, a group of men come to Thailand to use their diving expertise in a daring plan to save 13 people trapped for more than two weeks. The success of the mission is worthy of celebration, but the courage of these men to propose the plan and execute it is the focus of the film. It’s an inspiring story and it’s told well here. I enjoyed the lead performances and the way Howard told the story and also shined a light on the brave men and women of Thailand who dropped everything to join this rescue effort. It’s a solid film and a solidly inspiring story.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for some strong language and unsettling images.
Where the Crawdads Sing (Theaters)
Starring: Daisy Edgar-Jones, David Straithairn, Harris Dickinson and Taylor John Smith
Synopsis: Based on the novel from Delia Owens, this story focuses on Kya Clark (Edgar-Jones), a girl who has been dealt a bad hand. Her mother and siblings leave early on, leaving her to fend for herself with an abusive father (Garrett Dillahunt). Eventually she’s completely alone and learns to survive in the marsh. As a young woman, she makes friends with a local man Tate (Smith), who is the first to show her kindness. When he disappears without warning, she eventually connects with the popular townie Chase (Dickinson). That doesn’t end well, and when Chase turns up dead, Kya finds herself on trial for murder. A local attorney (Straithairn) takes up her case and seeks to get at the truth. Edgar-Jones is a fantastic performer and she carries this film. The story is OK but feels somewhat predictable, until you get to the small twist at the end. But the mood created by director Olivia Newman works decently. I enjoyed the journey here and was moved by Kya’s story and the lead performance. It’s a good not great film, but one that is worth checking out.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some violence including a sexual assault.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.