Matt’s New Release Breakdown: June Edition
The summer movie season is officially underway! After having last year’s summer movies canceled, I am ecstatic to embrace a new wave of tentpole releases. The major releases will always dominate the conversation, but June also has its fair share of under-the-radar gems worth discussion. For this New Release Breakdown, I will be updating this feature throughout June to highlight a myriad of new releases hitting select theaters and VOD platforms. Let’s get the ball rolling!
FLASHBACK – Directed by Christopher MacBride
Flashback Synopsis: Fredrick Fitzell (Dylan O’Brien) starts having horrific visions of a girl (Maikia Moore) who vanished in high school. He reaches out to old friends (Emory Cohen) with whom he used to take a mysterious drug but soon realizes the only solution lies deep within his own memories.
Passion projects can often endure a tumultuous journey to release. Few cases are truer than writer/director Christopher MacBride’s debut effort Flashback, a long-forgotten indie that completed its production nearly three years ago. MacBride’s earnestly ambitious kaleidoscope of sci-fi elements isn’t always the most cohesive experience, but the director’s unbridled vision does elicit a compelling yarn for audiences to untangle.
Every frame of MacBride’s film is stitched together with creativity and passion. The director implements his unique vision with assured verve behind the camera, implementing a myriad of disorienting techniques and kinetic edits to place audiences in Fredrick’s shoes. The initial intrigue develops into a fairly interesting dive into memory and addiction. Both forces hold Fredrick captive from a future existence with his job and fiance (MacBride’s bold visuals are thoughtfully incorporated into the character’s decaying mindsets). Star Dylan O’Brien also offers one of his most revealing performances to date as the lost protagonist, imbuing the idle character with humanity and conviction at every turn.
I love movies like Flashback for the grand home-run swings they take, even if MacBride’s noble intentions don’t always connect. The film presents a revealing emotional core that far too often gets sidetracked by narrative mechanics. Perhaps a longer runtime or tighter narrative could allow the characters more time to breathe (particularly Emory Cohen and Maika Monroe’s supporting roles), but Flashback still generates a striking impression despite lingering imperfections. I hope MacBride’s effort finds an audience, as it has cult classic potential written all over it.
Flashback is available in select theaters and VOD platforms on June 4th.
THE PAPER TIGERS – Directed by Quoc Bao Tran
The Paper Tigers Synopsis: Three Kung Fu prodigies (Alain Uy, Ron Yuan, and Mykel Shannon Jenkins) have grown into washed-up, middle-aged men, now one kick away from pulling their hamstrings. But when their master is murdered, they must juggle their dead-end jobs, dad duties, and old grudges to avenge his death.
Unlike a lot of festival darlings, Quoc Bao Tran’s incredibly earnest writing/directorial debut The Paper Tigers lives up to its glowing reception (debuted originally at last year’s Fantasia Film Festival). Tran’s film thrives as an infectious love letter to kung-fu cinema, with the adept filmmaker repurposing familiar genre mechanics into a spiritedly sincere effort.
Several filmmakers have tried to modernize kung-fu cinema, but few realize there’s more to the genre than impressively choreographed fights. The Paper Tigers operates at its peak when focused on the deeply-felt bond between the central trio. The talented leads personify each role with charisma and dramatic sincerity, successfully creating a charming rapport that reflects their storied history (the warm childhood nostalgia makes this feel like a good version of what Grown Ups attempted). Tran’s warm core is thankfully complemented by the film’s technically adept fight sequences, with the filmmaker capturing every acrobatic movement and hard-hitting punch with equal aplomb.
The Paper Tigers does present some technical hiccups. The film’s budgetary restrictions present themselves at opportune times and the story goes through a familiar narrative playbook that rarely surprises. Still, the film’s endearing qualities are ever-present in every frame. I hope this is the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Tran’s career.
The Paper Tigers is now available in select theaters and on VOD throughout June.