Friday Film Roundup: ‘Gran Turismo,’ ‘Our Father, the Devil, ‘ ‘Vacation Friends 2,’ and More

ENTERTAINMENTBy 2023-10-24T02:07:30-04:00August 25th, 2023|

Well, that’s a wrap, folks. The temperature is starting to drop, the kids are back in school, and we’ve reached the end of the summer movie season. Despite a handful of pretty spectacular bombs, 2023 is on track to be the highest-grossing year at the movies since 2019 (because we all know what happened in 2020).

Two films this year, “Barbie” and “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,”grossed more than $500 million at the box office! Even though it’s unlikely that any other movie this year will come remotely close to that, there are definitely going to be a few surprise hits between now and December. And with the SAG and WGA strikes showing no signs of slowing down, next year might be a different story.

Fittingly, this weekend looks like it belongs to the streamers. The new “Gran Turismo” film from director Neill Blomkamp is coming to theaters, and it does look like a lot of fun, but this weekend seems like one to kick back, put your feet up, and scroll.

“Gran Turismo” (In Theaters)

If you’ve played Gran Turismo in the past, you know there’s not much of a story to chew on. Sure, you unlock more courses the more you play, but that’s a story like a game of tic-tac-toe is a story. Instead, Neill Blomkamp’s Gran Turismo movie is based on a true story about a real-life player who ended up becoming a real driver. In fact, the movie is so eager to tell you that it’s not an adaptation of the game itself, that most of the posters and trailers are calling it “Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story.”

Instead, the film adapts the story of Jann Mardenborough, a real-life Gran Turismo enthusiast who played the game constantly for years before winning the GT Academy race. The yearly competition invited passionate players to get behind the wheel of a real car and race for a chance to be signed as a legitimate driver. Mardenborough, who was the youngest driver to win the competition at just 19 years old, beat more than 90,000 drivers in 2010 and continues to race today.

“Our Father, the Devil” (In Theaters)

Next up we have a pretty unique little horror movie called “Our Father, the Devil,” which follows an African refugee named Marie (played by Babetida Sadjo) living in France after escaping her home country. The only things that remain of her old life are the scars on her body. However, when she encounters a popular new Catholic priest in her town, she realizes it’s one of the warlords who tore her home and family apart.

Based on the trailer alone, this seems like one to go into as blind as possible. It bears some aesthetic resemblance to an A24 horror movie, but “Our Father, the Devil” genuinely looks like something we haven’t seen before. Juggling themes of religion, culture, global politics, and race, the film looks like it has a lot to say and a lot to offer.

“You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” (On Netflix)

Adam Sandler’s Netflix run has produced some of the best and worst work of his career with Happy Madison. For every unbearable project, like “The Ridiculous 6,” you have something like “Hubie Halloween,” which is a really funny and sweet movie. Now, Sandler is taking a backseat to let his daughters Sadie and Sunny have their moment in the spotlight.

In fact, it looks like the film — titled “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” — stars a loosely exaggerated version of Sandler’s own family, with him playing the girls’ father opposite Idina Menzel as their mother. Of course, Sandler’s actual wife, Jackie, will co-star in the film, as she does in many Happy Madison projects. But the story of a Jewish family trying to throw their daughter the best Bat Mitzvah possible seems like something of a dream project for Sandler, who tries to involve his family and friends in his work as much as possible.

“Vacation Friends 2” (On Hulu)

In 2021, Hulu released a bit of a surprise hit, Vacation Friends, starring John Cena, Lil Rel Howery, Yvonne Orji, and Meredith Hagner as two couples who meet at a resort in Mexico and have a pretty wild week. However, when the rowdier couple (played by Cena and Hagner) unexpectedly show up at the other couple’s wedding months later to keep the fun going, things don’t exactly pan out well.

Of course, that means Hulu had to make a sequel. This time around, the two couples go on vacation together. However, it’s actually a work trip in disguise, giving Cena and Hagner’s characters another opportunity to act just as inappropriately and unpredictably as they did in the first film.

“Helen Mirren Golda + White Bird Double Feature”

And finally, we’re doing a two-for-one this week thanks to Helen Mirren, the award-winning actress who’s appeared in everything from “The Queen” to “Fast X.” This weekend, she’s got two movies coming out and they couldn’t be more different. The first, “Golda,” is a biopic about the former Israeli Prime Minister struggling to help her country endure during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The other film, “White Bird,” is a sequel to 2017’s heartwarming “Wonder,” adapting the next book in the series by Latina author R.J. Palacio. If you’re a big Helen Mirren fan, this is going to be a fun weekend for you.

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