Matt’s New Release Breakdown: January is an infamously slow month for film releases, often being utilized to prop up catch-up releases over any new content. While COVID-19 has prevented a consistent output of theatrical releases, several distributors have taken advantage of the dwindling mainstream attention. In this week’s New Release Breakdown, I highlight three intriguing January releases for VOD audiences.
PG: Psycho Gorman – Directed by: Steven Kostanski
Synopsis: Siblings Mimi and Luke unwittingly resurrect an ancient alien overlord who was entombed on Earth millions of years ago after a failed attempt to destroy the universe. They nickname the evil creature Psycho Goreman (or PG for short) and use the magical amulet they discovered to force him to obey their childish whims.
Tapping into the 80’s genre film’s colorful allures, The Void director Steven Kostanski’s latest PG: Psycho Goreman boasts an affectionate adoration for its subject matter. Kostanski aptly apes the playfulness of beloved staples like Goonies while infusing his own mature edge along the way. The violence is gleefully over-the-top, with Goreman’s blunt personality leading to a few brutal kills that live up to his name. I also love the usage of practical design work to bring these frames to life, as Kostanski unearths his own twisted macabre vision to elevate the material at hand.
It’s hard to condemn a film radiating with passion and affability, but Psycho Goreman doesn’t quite nail its finite tonal balance. Kostanski’s vibrant energy oftentimes feels overbearing, with his thinly-developed cast of characters standing in to deliver generic and inauthentic dialogue (the kids here are flat tropes taken from superior films). There are a few fun frames mocking Goreman’s dour murderous streak, but most of the narrative sequences land with an awkward thud. Kostanski utilizes 80’s tropes without imbuing the wit or humanity that made those films beloved stalwarts. Between the sparks of lively craftsmanship, Psycho Goreman treads water with simplistic narrative devices.
For nostalgic audiences, Psycho Goreman could scratch a long-ignored itch. Outside of that core demographic, the film’s well-intended homages can only take the material so far.
PG: Psycho Goreman is available to watch in theaters and VOD on January 22nd.
Run Hide Fight – Directed by: Kyle Rankin
Synopsis: 17-year-old Zoe Hull uses her wits, survival skills, and compassion to fight for her life, and those of her fellow classmates, against a group of live-streaming school shooters.
It’s only January, but I’ve already discovered the year’s most deplorable release. Framed as Die Hard set amidst a school shooting (yep, you read that right), the wildly tone-deaf Run Hide Fight lumbers in as a vile and utterly pointless work devoid of positive qualities.
That’s not to say writer/director Kyle Rankin is entirely talentless. His film’s dim visual aesthetics prove to be a good match for the close-quarters setting. I could see Rankin morph into an accomplished action director with the right material, but Run Hide Fight is clearly not that. His screenplay approaches the controversial subject matter with a tactless simplicity, depicting an all-too-familiar scenario without an authentic punch. Rankin adds nothing to the conversation other than thinly-veiled critiques of social media-obsessed youths. Some films have successfully utilized school shootings to thoughtfully ruminate on the triggers behind them. Rankin’s film treats these occurrences with an ambivalence that’s frankly vile to endure.
Taking out the film’s morally-corrupt politics (much has been made about The Daily Wire’s backing of this film), Run Hide Fight fails as a compelling genre picture. Zoe’s journey registers with a mawkish maudlin streak, including the heavy-handed inclusion of Radha Mitchell as a ghost of her deceased mom. Every dialogue exchange and character moment feels ripped from superior actioners, while Rankin’s frequent stretches of plausibility take viewers completely out of the film.
I could go on about Run Hide Fight‘s deficiencies, but the film doesn’t deserve the attention. Similar to the horrendously-timed Songbird, this repugnant film approaches the serious subject matter with a detestably flippant careless streak. Avoid at all costs.
The White Tiger – Directed by: Ramin Bahrani
Synopsis: Based on a novel, the film follows the personal journey of Balram, a poor Indian driver who must use his wit and cunning to break free from servitude to his rich masters and rise to the top of the heap.
Rags-to-riches stories are a timeless tradition in Hollywood, yet few have reinvented the time-honored framework quite like Ramin Bahrani’s latest adaptation. The White Tiger marks Bahrani’s most lively and assured feature since his early festival days, with the beloved filmmaker finding his groove after a few mixed bag efforts.
By following Balram’s usurping of the restrictive caste system, Bahrani infuses new life and purpose into a familiar tale of class warfare. White Tiger often operates at its best when intimately exploring the unjust system restricting 99% of India’s population. The cultural dynamics are constructed with more reflection and depth than your typical Hollywood film, never forgetting the ever-beating purpose behind Balram’s journey. Bahrani skillfully displays the bevy of information accessibly through his slick presentation choices. The utilization of intimate framing and zeitgeist song choices release a pulsating pace that rarely lets up. I also think Adarsh Gourav deserves significant praise for carrying the narrative on his shoulders, always finding a source of empathy from Balram’s struggles to the top.
While the film does get tripped up by familiar biopic devices (the narration spoon-feeds certain character beats with a lack of grace), The White Tiger thrives as the year’s first truly accomplished offering. I hope this is the start of more great features from Bahrani, as his thoughtful endeavors have truly been missed.
The White Tiger is available in theaters and on Netflix January 22nd. – Matt’s New Release Breakdown: January 22nd
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