As the summer movie season prepares to enter its final month, will the box office go to the dogs? Or maybe the family-friendly antics of “DC League of Super-Pets” will make like Lassie and save the day.
“Super-Pets,” along with B. J. Novak ‘s mystery/comedy “Vegeance” are the top arrivals this weekend in theaters.
The streaming options, meanwhile, are topped by Netflix’s “The Most Hated Man on the Internet” and the sexy Neil Patrick Harris series “Uncoupled.” And don’t miss Hulu’s acerbic “Not Okay.”
Here’s our roundup.
“DC League of Super-Pets”: This amiable animated adventure will delight its target audience while keeping parents amused just enough so that they won’t check their phones. Whenever things are focused on rogue hamster Lulu (voice of Kate McKinnon) and her power-hungry plans, fueled by a dubious crush on Lex Luthor, “DC League” excels. Other times, it’s pleasant, nothing more. Due to another one of Luthor’s crackpot mishaps, Lulu has accidentally attained superpowers, along with a motley crew of rejected pet shop critters — street-smart canine Ace (Kevin Hart), potbellied pig PB (Vanessa Bayer), doddering turtle Merton (Natasha Lyonne) and jumpy squirrel Chip (Diego Luna). Ace forms an antagonistic friendship with privileged Krypto (Dwayne Johnson), Superman’s loyal dog who’s upset over Clark Kent’s romance with Lois. “Super-Pets” doesn’t have much of a plot and doesn’t always hit its mark, but it fires off enough funny lines to keep you engaged and has some decent animation. But it’s McKinnon, Hart and Keanu Reeves — perfect as a deadpan Batman — who give “Super-Pets” its ultimate superpowers. Here’s hoping, Hart and Reeves land a standalone feature next time. Details: 2½ stars; in theaters Friday.
“The Most Hated Man on the Internet”: Told in three provocative chunks, Netflix’s latest docuseries tells two shocking stories: One about the meteoric rise of reprehensible Sacramento revenge porn king Hunter Moore and his wildly popular IsAnyoneUp.com website, and the other about the tenacious, angry-as-hell SoCal momma bear who helped bring that deplorable braggart down. Executive producer Alex Marengo walks a tightrope with this unseemly material, needing to show flashes of sensational nastiness but knowing when to steer away from glorifying the sexual humiliation. Director Rob Miller never wastes time, keeping it direct and to the point in a story that jumps to various locales including San Francisco, where Moore lived with his ex-girlfriend (interviewed here), and to other cities where we’re introduced to his exploited victims as well as those trying to stop him. Every character — momma bear Charlotte Laws and a former Las Vegas military man and anti-bullying advocate — comes equipped with an intriguing backstory and it’s these colorful characters combined with numerous shocking turns that make “Hated” a sordid “Tiger King”-like watch. It’s one of the strongest nonfiction series Netflix has produced yet, a smack to the face for anyone who likes to snap nudie pix that they assume will stay private (don’t count on it). Particularly unsettling is the depiction of the reverential devotion Moore inspired, one in which he amassed a viral collection of fans who dubbed themselves “The Family” and viewed the undeniably charismatic squid (he bowed out of being interviewed) a god. Details: 3½ stars; available now on Netflix.
“Not Okay”: All too frequently, satire loses its edge and goes for a huggy-huggy outcome. All that sugary stuff gets drained out of the gutsy “Not Okay.” In this brutal takedown of social influencing culture, where a winning brand and page views are all that really matter in a hollow life, director/screenwriter Quinn Shephard exposes the vapidness of click-bait society and also introduces us to one of the most despicable characters you’ll ever met — the oh-so white Danni Sanders (Zoey Deutch), a wannabe writer suffering from a low-grade malaise over not being popular and “liked” on social channels. She hits on an idea to gain followers and catch the eye of a ridiculous tatted-out viral stud Colin (Dylan O’Brien) by curating photos of herself in Paris at a writer’s retreat. The rub here is she never leaves her messy apartment. When a deadly terrorist attack strikes that city, Danni plays along that she was there, even creating the popular hashtag #imnotokay. Often in a scenario such as this one, redemption comes for the central character but Shephard never lets Danni off the hook as she befriends a mass shooting survivor (“Don’t’ Make Me Go’s” incredible Mia Issac, well deserving of awards consideration) and gains the notoriety she so desires. As a screenwriter and a director, 27-year-old Shephard shows a wisdom about social media, which is often misunderstood by more mature directors. And let’s hand it to Deutch for taking full command of such an unlikable role. “Not Okay” is one of the most relevant and thankfully uncompromising films of 2022. Details: 3½ stars; available on Hulu July 29.
“Vengeance”: The mystery at the center of screenwriter/star B. J. Novak’s directorial debut turns out to be too easy to solve. Doesn’t matter that much. Novak goes beyond standard talking points to address red state/blue state clashes and does it well, and that’s where “The Office” star’s neo-noir excels. Novak stars as kvetching writer and wanna-be podcaster Ben Manalowitz, a Brooklyn serial “dater” whose one night stand turns up dead in West Texas. Her brother (Boyd Holbrook) implores Ben — whom the dead woman’s family believes has been involved in a long relationship — to attend the funeral and it’s there that liberal Ben latches on to an idea for an overarching podcast — made up, naturally, of his own preconceptions about what “these people” are really like. His producer friend (Issa Rae) greenlights it, and that’s where the fun begins as the outsider and the fam confront their stereotypes of the other. The cast, including Ashton Kutcher as a low-key music producer who’s making a mint, obviously relish their roles and the witty dialogue while the music by Finneas O’Connell and Lyn Moncrief’s cinematography contribute in creating a neo-noir mood that’s most effective. Details: 3 stars; in theaters July 29.
“Uncoupled”: What seems — at least in its first episode — like a routine, gay-focused version of “Sex and the City” turns into something more significant about being middle-aged and suddenly single in a culture that too often thirst traps over eternal youth. Created by “City” HBO creators Darren Star and Jeffrey Richman, “Uncoupled” suffers from the same creative pratfalls as as “City”: shifting tones too abruptly and being a tale about angst-filled, preposterously wealthy New Yorkers. But Neil Patrick Harris gives it a lot of soul, along with his soulful looks, as Michael Lawson, a real estate agent who gets unexpectedly jilted by his partner of 17 years. The best parts of “Uncoupled” deal with Michael cycling through various emotions — anger, fear, doubt, lustfulness — on his way to the realization of who he is and what he wants from life and relationships. His hookups and setups strike a strong chord and the series gets better as it progresses. While some secondary characters are much too larger than life than they need to be, particularly an obscenely wealthy client of Michael’s played by Marcia Gay Harden, others, like Michael’s co-worker (Tisha Campbell), make for more complex comedic supporting players. Sexy and fleet, these eight 30-minute episodes go down quickly and should be toasted with a glass of champagne, a box of chocolates and, perhaps even, a box of Kleenex. Details: 3 stars; drops July 29 on Netflix.
“We Met in Virtual Reality”: If you are looking for a positive assessment of how web gathering places can provide places to heal while creating safe havens for those who need it, director Joe Hunting’s HBO documentary — shot entirely in Virtual Reality Chat — accomplishes just that. What initially seems like it would be such a slight premise worthy of a mid-length feature expands into a sensory experience flush with moving testimonials from avatars wandering landscapes and connecting with each other. The 22-year-old Hunting resists, and rightfully so, to venture outside to the “real” world, instead following along with these avatars, some of whom are deaf or perhaps dealing with an unexpected loss as they celebrate finding their tribe and even meeting their soulmates. It’s a heady, life-affirming VR journey, with special moments as well as melancholic ones. Details: 3 stars; now available on HBO Max.
“Keep Breathing”: Taking a cue from Danny Boyle’s vastly superior 2010 survival story “127 Hours,” this heartfelt but hokey Netflix series wants to be a female variation of that James Franco hit but feels like a fish out of water most of the time. A small-plane crash survivor in Canada battles the wilderness elements and her internal demons as she flashes back to a horrible childhood. Well-intended, it jumps the narrative tracks in its final two episodes, making even its short six-chapter run seem extra padded — an 80-minute feature would have done the job better. As commitment-phobic, workaholic big city attorney Liv Rivera, Melissa Barrera is an appealing presence, but the screenplay doesn’t allow her to become a person until too late in the game. Details: 2 stars; drops July 29 on Netflix.
“Resurrection”: And you thought “Gone Girl” hit you with a jaw-dropping twist. That one can’t approach Andrew Semans’ what-the-hell-just-happened plot curlicue, a shocking game changer likely to fuel hatred, head-scratching and even adoration. Burnished by two intense performances from Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth, “Resurrection” is a cagey horror/social commentary hybrid that sticks like Krazy Glue to your psyche. Hall is terrific as confident, successful Margaret, a single mom who stalked by her abusive ex-boyfriend David (Roth), who’s as menacing, manipulative and toxic a presence as Kilgrave on Netflix’s “Jessica Jones.” I won’t reveal more about what happens, but regardless of how you feel about the loony development, there’s no denying that Hall and Roth are both tremendous. Details: 2½ stars; in theaters July 29, available to stream Aug. 5.