Where to Watch This Week’s New Movies, from ‘Blue Jean’ to ‘Transformers: Rise of the Beasts’

Let’s ease into it: after last week’s wide array of excellent new choices at the multiplex and beyond — boasting no less than three IndieWire Critic’s Picks, including the weekend’s eventual box office winners in both the wide release and specialized realms — this week is a bit of a letdown. OK, OK, it’s a lot of a letdown.

Film lovers still high off “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” “Past Lives,” and “Falcon Lake” might opt to go back for second viewings, if only because this week’s biggest release — another “Transformers” film, though this one boasting both robot gorillas and a cool cast — is unlikely to recapture the magic of just a few days ago.

And yet, as we always endeavor to remind our readers: there are good movies being released every single week, though sometimes you need to look just a touch harder for them. This week, our heartiest recommendation goes to Georgia Oakley’s British smash hit “Blue Jean,” which finally arrives in select U.S. theaters after being nominated for a gobsmacking 13 British Independent Film Awards, ultimately winning four (including wins for stars Rosy McEwen and Kerrie Hayes).

Also on offer: a new Pietro Marcello joint, Eva Longoria’s entertaining (if, seriously liberty-taking) “Flamin’ Hot,” and even a Robert Englund documentary that sounds quite comprehensive.

Each film is now available in a theater near you or in the comfort of your own home (or, in some cases, both, the convenience of it all). Browse your options below.

Week of June 5 – June 11

New Films in Theaters

As new movies open in theaters during the COVID-19 pandemic, IndieWire will continue to review them whenever possible. We encourage readers to follow the safety precautions provided by CDC and health authorities. Additionally, our coverage will provide alternative viewing options whenever they are available.

“Blue Jean” (directed by Georgia Oakley)
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Where to Find It:
Theaters

As difficult as it can be to look back at less accepting times in queer history, it’s even more painful how relevant it remains. Though “Blue Jean” — an acutely felt lesbian drama set during Margaret Thatcher’s regime — takes place over 30 years ago, 1980’s England could easily stand in for any conservative state today. Set against a backdrop of rising anti-gay sentiment and pending legislation, “Blue Jean” tells a political story through one woman’s strained attempts to straddle two worlds. Featuring a stirring breakout performance from the luminous Rosy McEwan, “Blue Jean” grounds the political with the personal — without losing sight of queer joy. Read IndieWire’s full review.

“Dalíland” (directed by Mary Harron)
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Where to Find It:
Theaters, plus various VOD platforms

On paper, Mary Harron was the ideal director for “Dalíland.” Set in the bohemian underground of Manhattan circa 1974, the film takes the kinky, codependent marriage between Salvador Dalí (Ben Kingsley) and his wife/business manager/mother figure/financial dominatrix Gala (Barbara Sukowa) and uses it as a case study for a larger deconstruction of gender, fame, wealth, and power. (It all comes down to power in the end.) Harron has fearlessly explored similar territory in the past with films like “Charlie Says,” about the woman of Charles Manson’s “family,” and “I Shot Andy Warhol,” based on the life of “SCUM Manifesto” author Valerie Solanas. So why does she pull her punches here? Read IndieWire’s full review.

“Dalíland”Rekha Garton and Marcel Zyskind

“Persian Lessons” (directed by Vadim Perelman)
Distributor: Cohen Media Group
Where to Find It:
Select theaters, with national rollout to follow

IndieWire review to come.

“Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” (directed by Steven Caple Jr.)
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Where to Find It:
Theaters

At a certain point, watching a new “Transformers” movie becomes an exercise in expectation management. Since launching with a bang in 2007, the franchise first spearheaded by Michael Bay has spent 16 years sliding into a sludgy pit of CGI malaise many hold up as the epitome of Hollywood’s worst impulses. The well-received “Bumblebee” may be the exception that proves the rule. But in 2023 — when you have no one but yourself to blame for paying real, human money to a robot gorilla named Optimus Primal — it’s not unfair to wonder if the series has irreparably bottomed out.

Still, the temptation to let films like “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” off the hook via state-of-play victim blaming should be avoided. The Hasbro franchise has long benefitted from low expectations, but the latest entry doesn’t come close to a passing grade on the massive curve we’ve already agreed to score it on. Steven Caple Jr.’s 1990s-set prequel fails to provide either merit or escapism, seemingly begging you to turn your brain off while bombarding you with stimuli that keep you painfully awake and aware for an unusually long two hours and 16 minutes. Read IndieWire’s full review.

Also available this week:

“The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster” (directed by Bomani J. Story)
Distributor: RLJE Films, Shudder, AllBlk
Where to Find It: Theaters, plus on various digital and VOD platforms on June 23

“Mending the Line” (directed by Joshua Caldwell)
Distributor: Blue Fox Entertainment
Where to Find It: Theaters

“Scarlet” (directed by Pietro Marcello)
Distributor: Kino Lorber
Where to Find It:
Select theaters, with national rollout to follow

New Films on VOD and Streaming, Including Premium Platforms and Virtual Cinemas

“Flamin’ Hot” (directed by Eva Longoria)
Distributor: Hulu
Where to Find It: Streaming on Hulu

We’ll get the liberties out of the way: The subject of Eva Longoria’s narrative feature directorial debut (she directed the doc “La Guerra Civil”) is businessman and entrepreneur Richard Montañez. He has lived an extraordinary life that saw him rise from a childhood in a migrant labor camp to becoming a PepsiCo executive and an in-demand motivational speaker. However, he did not actually invent Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. So yes, it’s unfortunate that Longoria’s energetic and loving feature is, well, all about Richard Montañez inventing Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

It’s an inspiring story that Montañez told for years — he even wrote a book about it — and which has now gotten the biopic treatment, care of the aptly titled “Flamin’ Hot.” But any biopic engenders scrutiny and in May 2021, the Los Angeles Times published an expose about how Montañez didn’t actually do the one thing he’s long said he did. Throughout Longoria’s film, written by Linda Yvette Chávez and Lewis Colick, Montañez’s Flamin’ Hot origin story is told, along with a slew of other lightly buffed-over truths. It’s entertaining enough, but this is a story that doesn’t feel real, mostly because it isn’t. Read IndieWire’s full review.

“Flamin’ Hot”Hulu

Also available this week:

“Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story” (directed by Gary Smart and Christopher Griffiths)
Distributor: Cineverse
Where to Find It: Streaming on Screambox, plus various digital platforms

Week of May 29 – June 4

New Films in Theaters

As new movies open in theaters during the COVID-19 pandemic, IndieWire will continue to review them whenever possible. We encourage readers to follow the safety precautions provided by CDC and health authorities. Additionally, our coverage will provide alternative viewing options whenever they are available.

“After Sherman” (directed by Jon-Sesrie Goff)
Distributor: Cargo Releasing/POV
Where to Find It:
Select theaters

In the lush documentary “After Sherman,” a piercing personal essay by Jon-Sesrie Goff, the director patches through time by speaking with his father, friends, and neighbors to tell the history of the Gullah Geechee community. It’s a meditative work, a film that can often descend down rabbit holes without a clear path out, but whose explorations unearth far more than it leaves buried.

“There is a birthplace and there is a home place,” explains Goff’s father, the Reverend Norvel Goff Sr. The subtle yet poignant difference between the two locales instigates the friction of this cinematic journey. We are where we’ve come from, but we become where we choose. Read IndieWire’s full review.

“The Boogeyman” (directed by Rob Savage)
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Where to Find It:
Theaters

Early in Rob Savage’s “The Boogeyman,” a haunted (understandably, given what we learn about his tragic backstory) Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian) attempts to show a guarded (understandably, given what we learn about his tragic backstory) Will Harper (Chris Messina) a hand-drawn image of the monster that Lester claims murdered his three young children. That there’s an actual monster at play in this Stephen King adaptation isn’t up for debate — the film’s opening moments even show said monster creeping out of a closet, whispering a horrible mix of aped human conversation and animal moans, and killing a kid — but the shape it takes, both literal and figurative, is initially presented as a mystery. 

Still, whatever therapist Will sees in his patient Lester’s drawing (and in Lester himself) is enough to send him straight to the cops; since we don’t also see the image when he does, it hints at a subtle, sneaky horror fable to come. Too bad: Savage’s film, written by “A Quiet Place” creators Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, along with “Black Swan” screenwriter Mark Heyman, quickly jettisons the primary questions of King’s creepy short story — what is the Boogeyman and what does it want? — and reveals both the monster and its bloodlust in surprisingly short order. Neither King’s story nor Savage’s occasionally clever direction lack for compelling ideas, but once “The Boogeyman” goes all in on becoming a screeching, jump-scare creature feature, most of its merits are hacked and slashed into oblivion. Read IndieWire’s full review.

“Falcon Lake” (directed by Charlotte Le Bon) — IndieWire Critic’s Pick
Distributor: Yellow Veil Pictures
Where to Find It:
Select theaters

The eerily contemplative opening frames of “Falcon Lake” depict an idyllic lake on a summer night, a scene so calmly off-putting that you just know something has to be amiss. The shot remains unchanged for so long that when a body finally rises out of the water, it feels more like an inevitable moment of catharsis than a jump scare. That ominous serenity continues throughout “Falcon Lake,” yet the first truly startling moment in Charlotte Le Bon’s directorial debut is the sight of a Nintendo Switch. 

Thanks to Le Bon’s dreamlike pacing and Kristof Brandl’s grainy cinematography, the film’s opening scenes of a nuclear family heading out for a lake house vacation come across as a long-buried memory unfolding before our eyes. The establishing shots would seamlessly fit into an ABC-era “Twin Peaks” episode, and the fashion could be ripped straight from a mid-90s Vineyard Vines catalog. The effect is so convincing that a brief mention of a contemporary video game console becomes an almost Brechtian revelation that we’re watching something that takes place in our own world. That brilliant directorial choice sucks us into the same predicament that her characters can’t avoid: We’re always tempted to drift toward nostalgia despite the real-world pain that keeps being shoved in our faces.

“Lynch/Oz” (directed by Alexandre O. Philippe)
Distributor: Janus Films
Where to Find It:
Select theaters

It is famously useless (if also occasionally fun) to ask David Lynch about the meaning behind his art, which is why his interviews tend to offer more color than insight, and his panel appearances often prove to be exercises in frustration. It’s also why “Jennifer’s Body” director Karyn Kusama has such a vivid memory of what happened during the Q&A that followed the NYFF screening of “Mulholland Drive” in 2001, when Lynch’s usual elusiveness was suddenly interrupted by a question that seemed to pierce his armor and pull back the curtains of his mind.

The question was simple: “Can you talk about the influence of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ on your work?” Lynch’s answer was even simpler, but also intoxicatingly mysterious in the way that simple things often are in his films: “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about ‘The Wizard of Oz.’”

It should go without saying that Lynch didn’t elaborate. He characteristically left people to draw their own conclusions, trusting that whatever answers they arrived at on their own would be more satisfying than any he might be able to spell out for them. Alexandre O. Philippe’s “Lynch/Oz” is nothing if not a testament to that idea, as this mesmeric essay doc in six chapters — one of them narrated by Kusama — makes a somewhat filling meal out of the tasty breadcrumbs that Lynch has left behind about his lifelong fascination with psychogenic fugues, ominous gusts of wind, and a strange woman named Judy (who we might not be able to keep out of this, after all). Read IndieWire’s full review.

“Padre Pio” (directed by Abel Ferrara)
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Where to Find It:
Select theaters

First thing’s first, Abel Ferrara’s latest film “Padre Pio” can’t exactly be described as a biographical drama about Francesco Forgione, the Franciscan Capuchin friar whose stigmata and mystical abilities — as well as his ties to, and later rejection of, fascism — garnered him controversy during his lifetime. While Shia LaBeouf stars as Pio and the film sometimes features him, Ferrara isn’t much interested in the particulars of his life in any conventional sense. In fact, he spends much of the film’s running time among the exploited agricultural workers of rural southern Italy who embrace socialism as a means to combat their fascist oppressors.

Meanwhile, Pio appears in disjointed vignettes contending with his guilt over various personal failings, like his evasion of military service and his numerous past sins. The bifurcated structure and disregard for biopic conventions are welcome approaches, especially for a provocative stylist like Ferrara, but “Padre Pio” can’t generate interest in either narrative, both of which are marred by uneven performances and vague, slapdash writing. Read IndieWire’s full review.

“Past Lives” (directed by Celine Song) — IndieWire Critic’s Pick
Distributor: A24
Where to Find It:
Select theaters, with expansion to follow

On paper, “Past Lives” might sound like a diasporic riff on a Richard Linklater romance — one that condenses the entire “Before” trilogy into the span of a single film. In practice, however, this gossamer-soft love story almost entirely forgoes any sort of “Baby, you are gonna miss that plane” dramatics in favor of teasing out some more ineffable truths about the way that people find themselves with (and through) each other.

Which isn’t to suggest that Celine Song’s palpably autobiographical debut fails to generate any classic “who’s she gonna choose?” suspense by the time it’s over, but rather to stress how inevitable it feels that Nora’s man crisis builds to a bittersweet quiver of recognition instead of a megaton punch to the gut. Here is a romance that unfolds with the mournful resignation of the Leonard Cohen song that inspires Nora’s English-language name; it’s a movie less interested in tempting its heroine with “the one who got away” than it is in allowing her to reconcile with the version of herself he kept as a souvenir when she left.

Plus: Read IndieWire’s interview with filmmaker Celine Song.

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson) — IndieWire Critic’s Pick
Distributor: Sony Pictures Animation
Where to Find It:
Theaters

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is awash in stories — its first five or so minutes, an ostensible prologue, is a dynamic tragedy in miniature, and that’s just the first five minutes — all built around an idea one of its characters tosses out during a similarly information-packed voiceover: They’re going to “do things differently.” It’s precisely what the film’s predecessor, the rightly Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” did four years ago, taking a well-worn concept (a Spider-Man origin story? again?) and turning it into an actual masterpiece built on a wealth of stories, new and old, told with legitimate energy and innovation. And it’s what Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson attempt to replicate in their sequel, an aim that pays off mightily.

“Into the Spider-Verse” was astute and funny, complicated and emotional, unique and daring, and its sequel only grows and expands on those aims. If the first film showed what superhero movies , “Across the Spider-Verse” goes even further: It shows what they should be. In a genre built on the literally super and special, these films are unafraid to stand out and do something truly different, something that pushes the limits, to show the genuine range available to this subset of stories and feel damn good in the process (and look, dare we say, even better). Read IndieWire’s full review.

Plus: Read IndieWire’s interview with directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson and writers Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

New Films on VOD and Streaming, Including Premium Platforms and Virtual Cinemas

“Shooting Stars” (directed by Chris Robinson)
Distributor: Peacock
Where to Find It: Streaming on Peacock

We all know LeBron James, for better or for worse. Known as everything from a charismatic NBA legend and “Trainwreck” scene-stealer, to “Space Jam: A New Legacy” cringe-inducing lead and YA author, the multi-hyphenate mogul’s own entertainment empire is now behind Peacock Original film “Shooting Stars,” which aims to capture his own high school years. 

Based on the book of the same name that James penned with “Friday Night Lives” author Buzz Bissinger, “Shooting Stars” centers on James’ own teen experience with his “Fab Four” friend group in Ohio. Billed as the “original story of the basketball superhero,” the ode to James is laid on thick thanks to a cliched script by Frank E. Flowers, Tony Rettenmaier, and Juel Taylor. But if you’re a die-hard James fan, and have a high tolerance for self-congratulatory films, “Shooting Stars” might be worth the almost two hours of your time. Read IndieWire’s full review.

Week of May 22 – May 29

New Films in Theaters

As new movies open in theaters during the COVID-19 pandemic, IndieWire will continue to review them whenever possible. We encourage readers to follow the safety precautions provided by CDC and health authorities. Additionally, our coverage will provide alternative viewing options whenever they are available.

“About My Father” (directed by Laura Terruso)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It:
 Theaters

There’s no doubt that Robert De Niro is funny, but his recent taste in comedies have certainly called his sense of humor into question. It’s been over 20 years since “Analyze This” and “Meet the Parents” launched the robust comedy leg of the Oscar winner’s career, but not every subsequent project has been as successful. Following the twin head scratchers of “Dirty Grandpa” and “The War with Grandpa” (unrelated; though equally ignored), the godfather of Hollywood has finally found his comedy groove again. 

And wouldn’t you know, all it took was a good, old-fashioned Italian American family farce — fittingly titled “About My Father.” Though there’s a wide swath of the public for whom De Niro can do no wrong, even giants can fall. Luckily, Sebastian Maniscalco knows the importance of family. Read IndieWire’s full review.

“The Little Mermaid” (directed by Rob Marshall)
Distributor: Disney
Where to Find It:
 Theaters

It will feel familiar, almost instantly. As Rob Marshall’s live-action remake (reimagining? eh, not so much) of Ron Clements and John Musker’s 1989 animated Disney classic “The Little Mermaid” opens, fans of the original gem will likely find themselves accurately predicting each shot, each beat, each song, each line, each feeling. Despite opening with a epigraph that harkens back to the (incredibly bleak) Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale which has inspired countless “Little Mermaid” yarns, Marshall’s film is mostly indebted to Clements and Musker’s vision, using it as a template to offer up yet another Disney-backed spin on one of the studio’s standards. 

But it’s star Halle Bailey, appearing in her first leading role, who makes the best case for why this classic Disney tale needed to be made into a live-action affair. Just look at her face, so expressive and so open, so deeply and wonderfully human and alive. There are some things even the most lovingly rendered pieces of hand-drawn animation just can’t match, and Bailey’s emotive skill is one of them. (And her stunning singing? Further icing on the “this young woman is a movie star” cake.) Read IndieWire’s full review.

Plus: Read IndieWire’s interviews with director Rob Marshall and stars Halle Bailey and Jonah Hauer-King.

“Kandahar” (directed by Ric Roman Waugh)
Distributor: Open Road Films
Where to Find It: Theaters

Few actors enjoy more job security within their niche than Gerard Butler. If you need a tough-looking everyman to jump out of planes, strap bombs to the sides of buildings, and beat up faceless henchmen in a movie that nobody will know about until the day it’s released, he’s really the only guy you can call. Even as Hollywood keeps leaning more heavily on established IP while simultaneously lamenting the “death of the movie star” that those decisions inevitably create, Butler’s status as a man who can open instantly-forgotten films that make more money than God continues to rise. 

In between stops on his quest to conquer every form of transportation known to man — “Plane” hit theaters in January and its sequel “Ship” is on the way — Butler found time to take a trip to the desert. His latest attempt at lucrative obscurity, Ric Roman Waugh’s “Kandahar,” sees him playing an elite CIA operative trying to navigate the labyrinth of underground nuclear weapons programs in the Middle East after the United States’ rushed withdrawal from Afghanistan turned the region into even more of a Wild West than it already was. Read IndieWire’s full review.

“The Machine” (directed by Peter Atencio)
Distributor: Sony
Where to Find It: Theaters

Bert Kreischer is well aware that he’s built a career out of making a complete ass of himself. (The fact that he owes his fortune to his willingness to publicly take his shirt off is a frequent conversation topic in “The Machine.”) So it shouldn’t surprise anyone but the most naive optimists that the film — which is based on his most famous stand-up bit — opts to give his audience what it wants by simply doubling down on the crassness. The comic’s preexisting fans should find plenty to love — it’s bound to be the cinematic event of the year for guys who base their entire personality around yelling “let’s gooooooo!” But anyone who goes in hoping for any kind of literary substance would be better off just reading the nutrition facts on their Junior Mints box. Read IndieWire’s full review.

“The Wrath of Becky” (directed by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote)
Distributor: Quiver Distribution
Where to Find It:
 Theaters

When we last left “Becky” (starring an extraordinary Lulu Wilson), she’d managed to off an entire cell of neo-Nazis (led by Kevin James, of all people), ingeniously and gruesomely plotting their deaths after she and her ill-fated dad ran afoul of the baddies during the world’s worst family vacation. Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion’s icky “Becky” didn’t do much more than deliver on the promise of turning a teenage girl into a righteous murderer — and, again, what luck to have cast the plucky and spunky Wilson in the title role — but it did feel as if there was more ground to cover (and more blood to spill).

Thus: Sequel! “The Wrath of Becky,” which arrives just three years after Milott and Murnion’s indie hit (it made over $1 million at the box office in the summer of 2020, no easy feat), certainly offers more — it’s also more of the same. Kills are gruesome and clever, Wilson is a wonder, the bad guys all deserve what’s coming, and it all feels undercooked. Read IndieWire’s full review.

“You Hurt My Feelings” (directed by Nicole Holofcener)
Distributor: A24
Where to Find It:
 Theaters

Filmmaker Nicole Holofcener has long been one of our foremost chroniclers of the minutiae of everyday life, someone uniquely equipped to marry the very funny with the very honest, the sort of creator who makes things that hurt, in both good and bad ways. For her first original feature in a decade — she’s been making plenty of TV in recent years, and in 2018, directed and scripted the Ted Thompson adaptation “The Land of Steady Habits” — Holofcener returns to classic territory: a New York City story about neuroses and good intentions and the slights that keep us at night. It’s, of course, about love.

And while “You Hurt My Feelings” is not without all the things Holofencer does so very well — all that honesty, all that understanding of the texture of everyday life, plus Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the spotlight, where she belongs — it also feels decidedly low-key for such a insightful filmmaker. The shagginess of it, the missteps, the rambling bits are pleasurable enough, and there are plenty of laughs and insights here, but there’s also nothing new. If you like Nicole Holofcener films, you will like this one, and there’s comfort in that, if not an edge of disappointment, too. Read IndieWire’s full review.

Plus: Read IndieWire’s interviews with filmmaker Nicole Holofcener and stars Michaela Watkins and Owen Teague.

New Films on VOD and Streaming, Including Premium Platforms and Virtual Cinemas

“Victim/Suspect” (directed by Nancy Schwartzman)
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find It: Streaming on Netflix

If anything, Nancy Schwartzman’s “Victim/Suspect” too calmly lays out its case over the course of a tight 90-minute running time. The “Roll Red Roll” filmmaker is again taking on the topic of sexual assault in America with her latest film, which follows investigative reporter Rachel de Leon as she unspools tale after tale of alleged sexual assault victims suddenly, horribly being turned into suspects when the very cops meant to investigate their allegations accuse them of faking all of it. Even worse: They are then charged with a litany of crimes, fully completing the cycle from, yes, victim to suspect.

It’s the kind of story that should make viewers rage — at the cops, the system, the world — but Schwartzman sidesteps emotion to cede her story to de Leon, an engaging and dogged journalist who neatly walks us through her reporting process. By the end of “Victim/Suspect,” de Leon has turned up gobsmacking evidence, including numerous incidents of cops just straight lying to these alleged victims, all courtesy of the kind of shoe-leather reporting in short supply these days. Read IndieWire’s full review.

Also available this week:

“The Fire That Took Her” (directed by Patricia E. Gillespie)
Distributor: MTV/Paramount
Where to Find It: Streaming on Paramount+

“Influencer” (directed by Kurtis David Harder)
Distributor: Shudder
Where to Find It: Streaming on Shudder

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