A dim light flickering over yonder horizon suggests possibly (maybe) by mid-to-late fall, there once again could be opportunities to see first-run films in movie theaters.
But a lot can happen between now and then. In the meantime, we still have to stream most new pictures online.
However, the performances to date of some of these films continue to suggest that in the future perhaps only the most gigantic of blockbusters will make it to the cinema, and that almost everything else will be on a streaming platform or video on demand (VOD).
We will see!
For now, here are three options for your viewing pleasure. Two of them have been making big splashes in the last few weeks – breaking and establishing streaming and VOD records. The other was released a few months back, and has quietly been a critical darling.
Just remember that saying about empty vessels and loud noises!
“Project Power” (US-rated R)
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback
Genre: Action, Sci-fi
Well, it certainly looks good!
“Project Power” is splashy and flashy, with all the glossy, expensive special effects one could possibly want in a summer action film about superheroes.
Plus, most of the movies in that genre also don’t adhere to rules of logic or make much sense at all. So why should this one be any different?
Released just two weeks ago on Netflix, “Project Power”, starring Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, has been a big hit for the streaming service, not only in their top 10 of all streamed programs, but also spending many consecutive days as their number one most streamed movie.
In the film, after a pill that gives its users unpredictable superpowers for five minutes hits the streets of New Orleans, a teenage dealer (Dominique Fishback) and a local cop (Gordon-Levitt) must team with an ex-soldier (Foxx) to take down the group responsible for its creation.
That premise sounds quite interesting. And there is a lot of promise to that story. Unfortunately, “Project Power” does not live up to the potential at all.
And while Foxx, Gordon-Levitt and Fishback (who, at age 29, is nowhere near a teen, but does an amazingly convincing job) do their best with the material, their performances and the slickly directed action sequences can’t make up for what is ultimately a kind of snooze-worthy affair – rather lackluster and dull, unless things are being blown up or destroyed.
Or perhaps we’re just all superheroed-out!
“The Tax Collector” (US-rated R)
Cast: Bobo Soto, Shia LaBeouf, Cinthya Carmona, George Lopez
Genre: Action, Crime
Is there such a thing as “good evil”? And is that different from “bad evil”?
“The Tax Collector” seems to think so.
And you agreeing and accepting that this is possible will go a very long way in determining whether you can accept what you’ll see for just over 90 minutes with this new action/crime drama.
Set in modern-day Los Angeles, a “tax collector” working for a local crime lord finds his family’s safety compromised when the rival of his boss shows up and upends the business.
Bobby Soto plays David the “tax collector”, and he’s part of a Mexican cartel that’s keeping the “peace” between all the other gangs, mobs and mafias each controlling their “piece” of the City of Angels (oh the irony!) Shia LaBeouf plays Creeper, David’s ridiculous, violence-prone sidekick/henchman, who sounds Russian and Mexican and Italian, all at the same time.
David, though – despite the crime lord thing – is a good guy, with a heart of gold. Yes indeed! He’s a family man who will do anything for those he loves, and wants to see the other honorable criminals in LA get all the good things in life, within reason – as long as all dues are paid up.
“The Tax Collector” asks a lot of the viewer. But it’s not exactly new territory. Mob movies have been around since the movies and the mob. But usually, things don’t end so well for those tough guys.
However, television in recent years has had great success with having us root for the bad guy. Nearly all the successful dramas on HBO, Showtime, AMC and now Netflix continue to show us villains living their very best lives.
And at times, it feels like “The Tax Collector” would be better suited as a TV series, albeit one that we’ve seen now a million times before. But one that could have been reasonably entertaining, as David’s family members are pretty interesting characters.
Yes, while you sit there contemplating how that TV series would work, “The Tax Collector”, though, decides it’s time for the greatest mafia war in history. And boom! You’re hit with the most grotesque 20 minutes or so of the most unspeakable levels of violence you’ve ever seen in a non-war picture in many decades. It’s actually laughable how ridiculous it all gets.
Clearly, there’s only one type of evil!
“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (US-rated PG-13)
Cast: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Ryan Eggold, Theodore Pellerin
It’s sometimes amazing how the movie with the least exciting premise is often the one most worth watching.
“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” sounds like any number of Lifetime movies, teen flicks from the 1950s and ‘60s, daytime dramas or afterschool specials.
Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn and her cousin Skylar travel across state lines to New York City on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery and compassion.
But brace yourself; this picture delves into the often-taboo topic of abortion in a way rarely seen on the big or small screen.
The title comes from the list of four possible responses to some very personal questions Autumn must answer before medical professionals will proceed with her abortion.
Written and directed by Eliza Hittman, the film powerfully delves into some uncomfortable territory. Surprisingly, it doesn’t seem to take a side on the always-contentious abortion debate. If anything, it seems to be a warning about the predatory scenarios in which so many teens find themselves, and a cautionary tale to everyone, especially parents, to try as best as possible to know what’s going on in the lives of the young people they care about.
Sidney Flanigan as Autumn and Talia Ryder as Skylar deliver commendable performances, helping to bring much warmth, depth and humanity to this difficult subject.
It all contributes to “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” being one of the most memorable films so far this year.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.