Delayed by the pandemic, gritty superhero thriller Samaritan was originally slated for release in 2020; In the years since, TV shows like The Boys and Invincible have stolen some of the film’s thunder by doing their own deconstruction and reconstruction of the Caped Crusader mythology. Still, on its own, “Samaritan” remains a solidly entertaining riff on classic comic book themes, with a blockbuster finish and an indie film spirit.
Sylvester Stallone plays Joe Smith, a garbage man in Granite City, a twisted, crime-ridden metropolis still suffering from the loss of their champion, Samaritan, in a fight to the death with his villainous brother, Nemesis. Javon Walton plays Joe’s young neighbor Sam, a Samaritan fanboy who is convinced that Joe is secretly his dead hero – and if so, he can help save Granite City from a charismatic crime boss and Nemesis student named Cyrus (Pilou Asbaek ) to free.
Director Julius Avery and screenwriter Bragi F. Schut do their best in the film’s opening hour, in which they note the desolation of their setting and capture the spark of optimism in Sam after he meets Joe. Both Stallone and the confident young actor Walton deliver delicate, nuanced performances – as does Asbaek. The premise of “Samaritan” is the stuff of cartoons, but the actors make the plot feel real.
Paradoxically, the film becomes less exciting once its action sequences ramp up – after a twist in the third act that anyone who’s ever read a comic should expect. It’s hard to make scenes of super strong people hitting each other in crumbling buildings look flashy or new; and so, over time, “Samaritan” inevitably becomes way too generic. For most of its run, however, this is a well-crafted and surprisingly thoughtful take on heroes and anti-heroes, illustrating the problems that arise when ordinary citizens pin their hopes on those in power rather than attempting to solve problems themselves.
‘Samaritan.’ PG-13, for strong violence and strong language. 1 hour, 39 minutes. Available on Prime Video
The raunchy comedy Me Time combines two elements that many Netflix films have in common: Kevin Hart and stories about middle-aged guys rethinking their life choices. Hart plays Sonny, a stay-at-home father who micromanages his family to make up for a sense of inadequacy as a man living off his more successful wife, Maya (Regina Hall). When Maya decides to bond with her kids by taking them on vacation alone, a disoriented Sonny hangs out with his free-spirited, spend-happy pal Huck (Mark Wahlberg), who’s having a birthday bacchanal.
Wahlberg and Hart are good at playing these types of guys: the gung-ho naif and the nervous everyman. But Me Time writer-director John Hamburg doesn’t give his stars much of a story to work with, so their characters never grow beyond those base types. The film’s larger arc is about how both men must change, but the thin plot plays out as a series of loosely connected slapstick sketches that have plenty of toilet humor and are enhanced by special effects: Sonny is attacked by a mountain lion, while he poops in the desert; Sonny becomes jealous of his wife’s sexy male business partner and defecates on his bed; etc. Me Time isn’t so much a movie as it is a bulletin board full of half-baked premises for dirty jokes.
‘My time.’ R, for some sexual material, language, and brief drug use. 1 hour, 41 minutes. Available on Netflix
“Running With the Devil: The Savage World of John McAfee”
The late tech entrepreneur John McAfee was one of those mega-rich people who believed they knew best how the world was supposed to work — and that he was under no obligation to follow their rules unless those in charge let him settle things. So he ended up a fugitive from multiple countries, wanted for everything from tax evasion to murder. And while McAfee was on the run as one of the world’s most notorious criminals, several reporters began following him, pursuing a strange story that was drawing to a dark ending.
Much of Charlie Russell’s documentary, Running With the Devil: The Wild World of John McAfee, is based on footage taken by video journalist Robert King, who was on assignment for assistant reporter Rocco Castoro, when McAfee snuck across the border from Belize into Guatemala. Years later, McAfee invited King to film him escaping again on a boat to the Caribbean. Between these “you are there” sequences, Russell shares some details of his subject’s life, from his beginnings as a pioneer of antivirus software to his end as a radical libertarian surrounded by drugs, guns, and chaos.
It’s hard to separate the facts from the paranoid conspiracy theories when it comes to McAfee, which can make Running With the Devil feel a little distracted — like reading a pile of feverish journal entries. To Russell’s credit, his film recognizes how difficult it is to know which parts of the story are true. What this documentary really offers is an immersive John McAfee experience that plunges viewers into the sometimes dangerous mania of a man determined to prove something by living as far outside the law as possible.
“Running With the Devil: The Savage World of John McAfee.” TV-MA, for adult language and smoking. 1 hour 45 minutes. Available on Netflix
It has been 17 years since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, leaving a trail of destruction from which the city is still recovering. A whole generation of New Orleans children have been born and raised since Katrina, but as filmmaker Edward Buckles Jr. (himself an evacuee) captures in his haunting documentary Katrina Babies, many of the older brothers, sisters and cousins are the same Youngsters still shaken by the nightmare of fleeing their homes – or worse, cowering as the waters rose.
There have been several films and television series about the institutional and cultural responses to the storm, both before and after. But Buckles takes a more granular approach with Katrina Babies, taking first-person testimony from people who were some of the city’s most powerless at the time. These interviews are punctuated with vintage footage and stylish animation. But Buckles’ greatest asset are his subjects, many of whom have never spoken before about the trauma that the adults and authority figures in their lives expected them to bravely and stoically endure.
“Katrina Babies.” TV-MA, for violence, adult language and adult content. 1 hour, 19 minutes. Available on HBO Max
The best way to describe survival thriller Maneater is as it follows two very different people – a grizzled fisherman named Harlan (Trace Adkins) and a vacationer named Jesse (Nicky Whelan) – who must work together to kill a massive shark ate some of her loved ones. This is also the worst way to describe “Maneater” because by the time Harlan and Jesse even meet, the movie is almost over. Before that, writer-director Justin Lee works his way through a mediocre story that sees a cast of unforgettable people munched on and around scenic Hawaiian beaches while nearby Harlan methodically tracks down the big, hungry fish. The film’s effects look too cheap to make the feeding frenzy sequences exciting; and the actors never find a unified tone. (Sometimes the characters are dryly serious, sometimes someone throws in a “Jaws” quote as a tongue-in-cheek wink for the audience.) In the end, “Maneater” went to the brim, a funny, goofy, “So bad it’s good “ time killer. But after taking way too long, it never really gets there.
“Man-eater.” R, for speech and some violent content/gore. 1 hour, 29 minutes. Available on VOD
Also on VOD
“Top Gun: Maverick” is the highest-grossing film of the year for good reason: Tom Cruise’s long-awaited return to the role of free-gun fighter pilot Pete Mitchell comes wrapped in a well-drawn, action-packed throwback to the blockbusters of the ’80s, but with better-defined characters , a richer emotional range and some of the best aerial combat sequences ever filmed. The digital release adds nearly two hours of behind-the-scenes footage. Available on VOD
Now available on DVD and Blu-ray
“Buck and the Preacher” was the 1972 directorial debut of Sidney Poitier, who also posed as a Civil War veteran who, along with his wife (Ruby Dee) and a scheming Reverend (Harry Belafonte), led wagon trains of freed slaves to a new life in the West. The Criterion Blu-ray features both new and old interviews that show how unusual it was for a black actor to do such a posh western in the blaxploitation era. criteria
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-08-26/samaritan-amazon-stallone-me-time-running-with-devil-mcafee-netflix ‘Samaritan,’ ‘Me Time,’ ‘Running with the Devil’ reviews