Finding life after film festivals is the next stage of evolution for thousands of indie films every year. After viewing hundreds of screeners and festival appearances, a small handful of films have found their way on your favorite streaming services in July. They’re all worthy of a view.
Woman At War
There’s no other way to say it than to say it: Woman at War is the most entertaining film released in 2019. If you’re anything like Leonardo Dicaprio and hate global warming, it won’t be hard to root for the heroine named Halla. Armed with a bow and arrow, Halla marches through the vast Icelandic countryside taking out the power lines at an aluminum power plant. “Who could it be?” the civilians ask in a rural town, least expecting the woman with a smile that could melt ice. It’s a mystery that builds and builds with remarkable frequency.
Benedikt Erlingsson has made an eco-comedy with economical sensibilities. He relies more on tone than budget. Quirky yet astute, silly yet wise; “Woman at War is one of the best films I have seen about climate change” says Lorry Kikta in her review. It may not cure climate change, but it’s sure to cure your summer-movie- season depression. 8/10 (Hulu)
I Trapped the Devil
Before you write off I Trapped the Devil as either A) another dreadfully dull haunted house movie; or B) a Christian film; I suggest you check out this sensationally scary variation on the Christmas horror sub-genre. The plot centers something coming on Christmas (spoiler alert, it isn’t Santa). Steve thinks it’s the devil. After telling his brother and his brother’s wife that he has the devil trapped in his basement, the two start to question their stay. As sporadic as flashing Christmas tree lights, Josh Lobo’s twist on a Twilight Zone episode is a reminder that not all remakes have to stick to the script. At times it’s too slow for its own good–at 30 minutes, the original episode was breezy entertainment. But when it heightens the family drama, and the action, this will “raise hair on the back of your neck” says Alex Saveliev. He’s not wrong. 6/10 (Hulu)
You might want to swipe left on Swiped. The latest from Ann Deborah Fishman is a comedy about how this generation never communicate face to face anymore. It’s a premise that promises salient insights and gut-wrenching humor. But this painstakingly awkward stab at parody is just as hard to sit face to face with. Following a college student named James and his quest to make a Tinder app that skips straight to sex, Fishman has a blast satirizing boys who want anonymous hook ups in the digital age. Unfortunately, this gives off the assumption that “all men are h***y and want sex…and all woman want to connect on a deeper level” Bobby LePire rightfully points out. What’s missing is lovable characters on both sides of the gender spectrum. The lovable women talk about Jane Austen and her Sense and Sensibility, but as a male viewer, this reads more like Pride and Prejudice. 4/10 (Netflix)
Never Grow Old
At the end of The Searchers, John Wayne stands in a doorway looking out at the final frontier thinking about when it will finally end. It’s a poetic ending to a film, and nearly a genre, that broadened our emotional horizons. In Ivan Kavanagh’s western, the door has already closed. At least it seems that way for Patrick Tate and his wife Audrey. They live in 1849 Oregon with their two daughters, and hope is nowhere to be found on the Irish horizons (this is shot in murky grey’s that owe more to The Witch than a John Huston picture). With a wild John Cusack on the loose, Tate finally has to take matters into his own hands. It’s an archetypal premise in a movie that is anything but. The genre has never been this gritty or gory. Even still, as Alex Saveliev puts it, “it proves the Western genre will never grow old.” 6/10 (Amazon Prime)
If nothing else, Trading Paint proves that John Travolta could be in a worse movie than Gotti. Fittingly cast as a man at the end of his racing career, he plays Sam “the man” Monroe (he’s Ricky Bobby without the Big Red sponsorship). Like a galumphing Farrell, he’s on his way back to the top. That’s because his son has left his team for another, and he needs to prove that every father knows best. “You can’t write this any better” roar the commentators as the cars whiz by. It’s as if they hadn’t read the script! If only that were true for those of us who have already seen this ponderous picture. As repetitive as watching cars drive in circles 500 times, this is “as square as Travolta’s shoulders” states Matthew Roe. Where are the risks? Where’s the family drama? Where’s the intrigue? It seems Travolta still remains stuck at the cinematic red light. 4/10 (Amazon Prime)
The Haunting of Sharon Tate
The Haunting of Sharon Tate comes out 50 years after the murder of the real Sharon Tate. That’s why Tarantino has decided to dramatize the dramatic subject, and it’s why director Daniel Farrands has brought his own invasion thriller premise to the proceedings. Whether this VOD release is an invasion on our own homes is up for debate. Some have hailed this as a flavor of trouble; the worst movie of 2019. Others have found this to be a delectable concoction of B-movie scares and Hillary Duff stares. (Lorry Kikta, in her review, calls it “emotional” and “haunting”). Now streaming, you can decide for yourself. 9/10 (Amazon Prime)