The Film Fix: Previewing July’s Top Films in Theaters, Streaming
By JONATHAN W. HICKMAN, Special to The Paper
Below are reviews and capsules of various films this month in theaters and/or streaming.
Review rating … A “Fix” is recommended with a rating between 6 and 10. A “No Fix” is not recommended with a rating between 1 to 5.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (in theaters now) – Fix Rating 7/10 – Onto the current theatrical landscape littered with comic book, costume-wearing supers, how can an aging grandfather with a whip, knowledge of the ancient world, and an extraordinary amount of luck (not all of it good) hope to compete?
But if Harrison Ford is the anchor of the franchise as a whole, this installment’s secret weapon is actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The three-time Emmy winner for her endlessly rewatchable “Fleabag” injects comic energy into the role of Helena, Indy’s adventurous goddaughter.
“Dial of Destiny” continues the supernatural bent of the series, but this time takes those touches almost to excess. Of course, nothing could likely top the ridiculous flying saucer featured in the weakest of the series, 2008’s wildly over-the-top “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” but this script, penned by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth with help from David Koepp, resolves things almost as bombastically.
Despite my misgivings, it is impossible not to enjoy revisiting the world of Indiana Jones. And there are lovely callbacks to the former films with set-pieces and characters. Any Indy fan will get misty-eyed during the film’s denouement.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (July 12) – Fix Rating 6/10 – If the Indiana Jones era goes out on a heartfelt emotional tone, the Tom Cruise vehicle “Mission: Impossible” shows little signs of slowing down. However, this bloated two-part production demonstrates that not even the “Top Gun” megastar can knock everything out of the park.
This time around, Ethan Hunt and the IMF team are tasked with tracking down a two-part key in hopes of unlocking a mysterious and nefarious artificial intelligence. This mission means that Cruise will show off his running and base-jumping skills. Surprisingly, the much-discussed scene with Hunt driving a motorcycle off a cliff remains impressive, despite most of it being spoiled in a promo video released online.
The story here is utter nonsense. But I liked the film’s central human villain, played by Esai Morales. And adding actor Shea Whigham as a secret agent pursuing Hunt is fresh and fun. MCU star Pom Klementieff makes her series debut as a ruthless killing machine, and many of the franchise’s mainstays return, including Viny Rhames and Simon Pegg.
But the silly leaps in logic and narrative impossibilities will likely leave viewers scratching their heads. “Dead Reckoning Part 1” merely showcases Cruise’s stunt skills as he gives his all to thrill viewers. And for that alone, the film is worth seeing.
Talk to Me (July 28) – Fix Rating 7/10 – With “Talk to Me,” twin filmmakers Danny and Michael Philippou, the content creators behind the hugely popular RackaRacka YouTube channel, deliver one of the most frightening horror films of the year. This creeper distributed by A24 (see “Hereditary” and “X”) continues the studio’s commitment to well-made and downright scary pictures that should enthrall hipster viewers.
At its core, “Talk to Me” is an old-fashioned ghost story. The film follows a group of teens that take part in a kind of séance relying on an embalmed hand. The hand said to have once belonged to a powerful medium has been encased in porcelain. When a person grasps it and asks it to talk to them, they see dead people.
But here’s the fun part: if the user beckons the undead to come into them, they become linked to the spirit world. Of course, these spirits are not the friendly and nice ones. And when Mia takes part in the drunken, nightly supernatural exercise, she stays a little longer than is recommended. A spirit resembling her deceased mother visits her and won’t leave.
“Talk to Me” works well in convincing us that the group psychosis that the teens are experiencing is horribly real, and it just might be authentic. It helps that the Philippou twin team is in tune with the key demographic of youngsters (after all, their YouTube channel has 6.7 million subscribers).
The intelligent use of cell phones and the reckless nature of the creatures of social media make the timeless ghost tale contemporary and provocative.
Graveyard Alive – A Zombie Nurse in Love (now available for purchase) – Optical media is the collector’s format, and it’s good to see that ETR Media and Vinegar Syndrome are releasing Elza Kephart’s clever 2004 zombie picture about a shy nurse named Patsy Powers (Anne Day-Jones) who gets a new lease on life when she becomes a member of the flesh-eating undead. Indie film fans will want this one for the HD transfer and the extras, including a behind-the-scenes booklet with interesting information about the production. “Zombie Nurse” won best cinematography at the 2004 Slamdance Film Festival.
1982: Greatest Geek Year Ever! (series premiere July 8) – Fix Rating 8/10 – This love letter to the films that shaped a generation will work for viewers of all ages. 1982 was a remarkable year at the movies, and this documentary assembles an impressive collection of interviews and unique film and behind-the-scenes clips to chronicle the ground-breaking 12 months. You’ll gain great insight into “E.T.,” “Star Trek II,” “The Thing,” “Megaforce,” and a whole lot more. This one is highly recommended.
Special Ops: Lioness (Season 1 starts on July 23) — Paramount Plus is upping its game with the star-studded military actioner “Special Ops: Lioness.” Reportedly inspired by a real-life CIA program, “Guardians of the Galaxy” star Zoe Saldaña is called upon by her bosses (played by Nicole Kidman and Michael Kelly) to work with a take charge Marine (Laysla De Oliveira) to combat terrorism. Morgan Freeman is also in the cast. Taylor Sheridan (see “Yellowstone”) serves as the series creator.
MAX (formerly HBO Max)
Full Circle (Season 1 starts on July 13) – Director Steven Soderbergh (see the “Magic Mike” franchise and HBO’s “Kimi”) helms all six episodes of this intriguing-looking mystery drama about a botched kidnapping. From what I’ve gathered, an investigation into a kidnapping uncovers a lot more, as the crime somehow connects people from different walks of life. The ensemble cast (remember Soderbergh’s Oscar-winner “Traffic”) includes Zazie Beetz, Timothy Olyphant, Claire Danes, Dennis Quaid, and “I’m a Virgo” star Jharrel Jerome, among others.
The Witcher (season 3 streaming now) – Henry Cavill leaves the popular fantasy series with season three. His last turn as Geralt of Rivia puts the future of the series in doubt as “The Hunger Games” star Liam Hemsworth is set to take over. Given Netflix’s relationship with Liam’s brother Chris (see the “Extraction” franchise), the move keeps things in the family, but will fans embrace a new lead?
The Horror of Dolores Roach (series premiere on July 7) – I’m curious about this one primarily because it stars “Six Feet Under” regular Justina Machado, a terrific and underused actress. Since “Roach” is a Blumhouse Television production, you can expect it to bend toward the horror side. Still, this serial killer-infused narrative resembles a comedic satire with scary elements. Machado plays an ex-con who takes a job as a masseuse, and when things go wrong for her, they go bloody wrong.
Insidious: The Red Door (July 7) – The series returns 10 years after Dalton’s rescue from the The Further.
The Miracle Club (July 14) – Laura Linney, Kathy Bates, and Maggie Smith make a pilgrimage to the sacred French town of Lourdes.
Oppenheimer (July 21) – Visionary director Christopher Nolan returns with the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer and his race to create the atomic bomb and end WWII. The word is that you have to see it on the big screen and in IMAX.
Barbie (July 21) – Margot Robbie plays the title character and is joined by her Ken, played by Ryan Gosling, in this subversive looking take on the famous Mattel doll. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Greta Gerwig directs and co-writes this movie with her husband, Noah Baumbach.
Haunted Mansion (July 28) – The Disney amusement attraction is again brought to the big screen with an impressive ensemble cast, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Winona Ryder, and Rosario Dawson.
Jonathan W. Hickman is an entertainment attorney, filmmaker, college professor, and novelist. More about Jonathan can be found by visiting: filmproductionlaw.com. Folks can also follow him at dailyfilmfix.com.