“Elvis” enters the building again this week courtesy of star Austin Butler and director Baz Luhrmann, while Ethan Hawk is on the line ready to scare the hell out of us in “The Black Phone.” Both open Friday in theaters.
We weren’t able to see either of those by press time, but we do have a number of recommendations, including a new Apple TV+ series, a fun redo of “Father of the Bride,” a Chris Hemsworth Netflix thriller and a Hulu gem about two indigenous young men in love. Here’s our roundup.
“Loot”: A clever cadre of screenwriters can make a pretty good comedy series, but making a great one takes teamwork between writers and a terrific ensemble cast. That’s really why “I Love Lucy” worked so well. And it’s the reason “Seinfeld,” “Cheers,” “Friends,” “The Office,” “Ted Lasso” and “Hacks” stand out.
Add to those ranks this 10-episode Apple TV+ series from creators Alan Young (“Little America,” “Master of None”) and Matt Hubbard. Executive produced by star Maya Rudolph it concerns an existential reckoning of deplorably wealthy, seemingly vapid Molly Novak (Rudolph), a billionaire lay-about who spends sunny days languishing on a ludicrously large yacht while sipping champagne and ordering others around. With a fawning cheater of a hubby (Adam Scott) by her side, her world gets capsized and she winds up searching for new meaning by becoming more active with the nonprofit she’s in charge of, in name only. Molly’s showy ways and media posturing needle the staff, in particular do-gooder Sofai Salinas (“Pose’s” s Michaela Jaé Rodriguez) who’s wound very tightly. Everyone in the cast — including “Fire Island’s” Joel Kim Booster as Molly’s fashion-forward personal assistant, “Undateable” Ron Funches as quick-witted colleague Howard and Nat Fixon as the straight-laced Arthur who crushes on Molly — makes you fall in love with their flawed characters. It’s their presence and the sparkling dialogue that make these 20-30-minute episodes breeze by. Don’t be fooled, though, a strong statement about the emptiness of gluttony gets served up. Details: 3 stars out of 4; first three episodes available June 24 on Apple TV+.
“Father of the Bride”: Let’s get the big question out of the way upfront: Does anyone really need another walk down the cinematic aisle, one taken already by a flustered 1950’s father (Spencer Tracy) and then a twitchy goofball of a 1990s dad (Steve Martin)? Both trips were successful and even begat sequels.
Surprisingly, the answer’s a yes. I had my doubts about this Cuban-infused redo with the dynamite duo of Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan as feuding Floridian parents who table divorce proceedings when their overachieving lawyer daughter Sofie (Adria Arjona) announces her engagement to a cute, sensitive guy (Diego Boneta). Screenwriter Matt Lopez’s zippy screenplay — based on the original novel — runs rings around the Martin comedy, giving us a feisty little meetup between wealthy in-laws and their kin. “Father of the Bride” is funny and sweet, and while it’s predictable, “Father,” in the same fleet manner as Hulu’s redo of “The Valet,” brings more relevance and diversity to the story. Details: 3 stars; available on HBO Max now.
“Spiderhead”: Based on a piece of New Yorker fiction, this futuristic cautionary tale about greedy pharmaceutical experimentation on cons who have committed irreversible horrible crimes feels the stress of being extended into a full-length film. Still, it’s always entertaining and features two in-on-the-joke performances from Miles Teller, playing the lead test subject Jeff, who catches a whiff that something’s not right with the project overseer (Chris Hemsworth). The test includes injecting solutions into bodies that can entice libidos to come out and play and even turn someone into a fear or rage-filled machine. “Spiderhead” bounces around like a clown at a kid’s birthday — it’s part comedy, part thriller, part message movie about our pill-popping culture. And while it’s a hot mess, it’s entertaining and has some very strong moments, including a terrific performance from buffed up Teller. As he did with “Top Gun: Maverick,” director Joseph Kosinski knows how to keep us invested, even when the plot trips over itself. Details: 2½ stars; available now on Netflix.
“Flux Gourmet”: If you’ve never seen a Peter Strickland production before, best proceed with caution and expect a weird, kinky John Waters/David Lynch/David Cronenberg-type head tripper. Should you despise esoteric filmmaking with some nasty bits and bites to it, don’t even go near this one. Strickland is in fine lurid form and takes a razor-blade swipe at the absurd preenings of artistic/creative types with over-inflated attitudes and zero-calorie ideas. In the twisted “Gourmet,” “sonic” culinary lead artist Elle di Elle (Fatma Mohamed) whips herself and her two underlings (Asa Butterfield and Ariane Labed) into a frenzy at a whacko institute overseen by control freak Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christie). Per Strickland’s norm, everything is off-kilter and situations veer into shocking and coarse humor. It’s another true original from the gonzo filmmaker. Details: 3 stars; in theaters June 24.
“Wildhood”: Writer/director Bretten Hannam’s extraordinary drama is hard to watch at the beginning with Canadian teen Link (Phillip Lewitski) getting abused and beaten up by his rotten father. Fed up, Link flees with his half-brother from their trailer. He meets up with another indigenous young man, Pasmay (Joshua Odjick , in an outstanding performance). He’s a pow-wow dancer and suffering from the wounds of his own hard past. The two men develop an irresistible attraction and wrestle with their passions while Link tries to locate his Mi’kmaw mother. Hannam’s feature might be conventional in structure, but it’s a lovely film with relatable characters you want to see overcome the roadblocks tossed at them. Details: 3 stars; now playing in select theaters.
Contact Randy Myers at [email protected]