Friday Film Roundup: ‘Blue Beetle,’ ‘Strays,’ ‘The Adults,’ and More

ENTERTAINMENTBy 2023-10-24T01:53:35-04:00August 18th, 2023|
  • Credit: Warner Bros.

Despite their mercifully short titles, this weekend’s high-profile releases are kind of a big deal. On one end you have a relatively obscure DC hero, Blue Beetle, making his big-screen debut with an all-Latino cast. On the other, we’ve got an R-rated “animated” comedy with a name brand cast that includes Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx as stray dogs enduring a journey that splits the difference between “The Hangover” and “Homeward Bound.”

We’ve also got a new Michael Cera movie that’s already blowing up online thanks to a clip of his Tony Soprano impression, which went viral earlier this week, as well as a critically-acclaimed new horror film and a 20th anniversary re-release of one of the most influential Korean movies ever made. If it’s your last weekend before school is in session, you should probably spend it at the movies.

“Blue Beetle” (In Theaters August 18th)

It’s not often that we get Latino superheroes, so that alone is a cause for celebration. But as the superhero genre continues to struggle with keeping audiences around, “Blue Beetle” looks like it could be the rare exception to whats been described as the hair metal era of the superhero genre. Adapting the only Latino iteration of the titular character, the film follows college student Jaime Reyes (played by Xolo Maridueña) who is unwittingly thrown into the crossfires of a search for an extraterrestrial Scarab that imbues its wearer with limitless power.

However, because the Scarab chooses Jaime as its host, he’s forced to face off against a ruthless businesswoman played by Susan Sarandon who will stop at nothing to get the Scarab into her possession. Unlike the usual superhero fare, which often features some variation of an outcast becoming part of a found family with other superabled beings, “Blue Beetle” takes the core tenets of the Latino family and has them work together to keep Jaime, and each other, safe.

“Blue Beetle” might be a bit late when it comes to capitalizing on the superhero craze, but the refreshingly lowkey stakes and focus on character may signal a new era for the genre, where regular people may finally become more important than those who protect them.

“Strays” (In Theaters August 18th)

Speaking of found families, the new R-rated comedy “Strays” stars Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx as street dogs named Reggie and Bug who, alongside a few other abandoned pups, take a “Homeward Bound” style journey to track down Reggie’s former owner and…well, we’ll let the trailer explain the rest. The new comedy, which opts to put animated mouths on live-action dogs, has the distinction of being the first talking animal movie with an R-rating. That probably explains why so much of the marketing surrounding the film has been some variation of “please keep in mind that this is an R-rated movie you should not see with your children.”

“The Adults” (In Theaters August 18th)

Ever since Michael Cera decided to retreat from the spotlight after the major successes of “Arrested Development” and “Superbad,” he’s focused a lot more on lowkey comedies or independent films where he’s able to spread his wings a bit more as an actor. “The Adults,” a family dramedy about estranged siblings reconnecting after big brother Eric (Cera) decides to take a short trip back home. Before long, he falls back into familiar patterns with his two sisters, played by Hannah Gross and Sophia Lillis, while continuing to struggle with a gambling addiction.

The mumblecore movement, those little movies about people doing nothing and talking about it, ended a few years ago, but “The Adults” looks like an entertaining throwback to an era of filmmaking that substituted large amounts of money for great writing and strong performances.

“birth/rebirth” (In Theaters August 18th)

In recent years, there’s been a small boom of something we’ll call “fertility horror,” which encompasses just about any horror movie where one or more of the characters is pregnant and hating every minute of it. A new film called “birth/rebirth” uses that concept as a jumping off point for a much more all-encompassing story about parenthood, health care, and the things we do to protect our children by introducing a bit of a Frankenstein aspect to the proceedings, as well.

Starring Judy Reyes, “birth/rebirth” follows a morgue technician who is preoccupied with figuring out how to reanimate dead bodies. She finally succeeds, bringing back to life a young girl who must now feed on pregnant women to stay alive. However, the girl’s mother is a nurse who works with Reyes’ character to give her daughter the sustenance she needs to continue living, even if it means taking a life from somebody else.

“Oldboy” (In Theaters August 16th)

Yes, technically we’re cheating here. We’re not talking about another remake of “Oldboy” (thank God), but we are talking about the 20th anniversary re-release. Remastered in 4K with a limited theater run, the 2003 cult classic is back in theaters nationwide for the first time in decades. If you haven’t yet seen “Oldboy,” a disturbing, brilliant, and beautiful tale of love and revenge, the time is now.

Oh Dae-Su (played by Choi Min-sik) is released from captivity after fifteen years. However, immediately after his release, he is given just five days to track down the true identity of his captors. “Oldboy” is one of those films where the less you know, the better the experience will be. If you like your movies a little twisted, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket. You will not regret it.

Josef Rodriguez is a writer, filmmaker, and film critic living in New York City.