‘Shin Kamen Rider’
Stream it on Amazon Prime Video.
Hideaki Anno is everywhere these days. In addition to leading a multi-feature “rebuild” of his anime series “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” he has been writing the recent reboots, including “Shin Ultraman,” of Japanese pop-entertainment figures. The latest of those movies, which Anno also directed, centers on Hongo (Sosuke Ikematsu), a hybrid of man and grasshopper who rides a motorbike. With the help of his creator’s daughter, Ruriko (Minami Hamabe), Hongo battles a series of similarly “augmented” hybrids — think Bat-Aug (Toru Tezuka), Wasp-Aug (Nanase Nishino) and so on — who fight on behalf of a fascist organization.
As delirious as this brief introduction sounds, “Shin Kamen Rider” (titled “Shin Masked Rider” on Amazon) somehow manages to overshoot it and venture into the realm of “What did I just see?” Anno’s style as a filmmaker is sui generis and it’s often impossible to tell what is awkward and what is poetically surreal. Scenes are shot at odd angles, edits feel haphazard yet work (the film moves at a steady clip almost in spite of itself). Music underscores almost every scene but it’s mixed very low and never quite matches the mood onscreen, like someone mistakenly activating a playlist in random mode. One of the most wonderful touches is that the mightiest foe (Mirai Moriyama) turns out to be inspired by a butterfly. What a trip.
Rent or buy it on most major platforms.
Josh Hutcherson’s brand-new movie is the horror-tinged “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” which is now in theaters and on Peacock, but Hutcherstans who prefer science fiction should head to “57 Seconds,” which came out last month. The actor plays Franklin Fox, a tech blogger who, thanks to the gods of B-movie contrivances and Morgan Freeman, gets his hands on a time-travel device. Or rather he gets said device on his hand, because it’s a ring. Whenever Franklin presses it, he’s transported 57 seconds earlier. As time jumps go, this one is a blip, but it still comes in handy. Franklin, for example, can craft a perfect date with the cute Jala (an excellent Lovie Simone) because he figures out her likes and dislikes on the spot, then rewinds the scene and gets it right.
The director Rusty Cundieff, who made the hip-hop mockumentary “Fear of a Black Hat,” in 1993, is clearly more comfortable with that part of the film. He is on shakier footing once Franklin tries to take down an evil pharma tycoon (Greg Germann, forever known as the smirky Tom Koracick on “Grey’s Anatomy”). Hutcherson does not seem entirely at ease when he’s meant to be all intense and action-y, but the movie has a goofy appeal perfect for late-night viewing with a family-size bag of Doritos.
Stream it on Tubi.
A mild-mannered, gawky gym teacher, David (Steve Laplante) dreams of going to space. Unfortunately, the first manned mission to Mars has already gotten there without him. Fortunately, early psychological testing revealed that he has the exact same mental profile as one of the astronauts, so he is chosen to be part of a shadow team stationed on Earth — with the dangling bait that this might lead to an actual trip to space one day. David’s four crewmates on the ground echo the other interstellar travelers. Sequestered in a secluded desert habitat duplicating the faraway base (they follow the same diet and even go out in spacesuits), the quintet re-enact the personal conflicts arising millions of miles away to help solve them.
The setting may remind some viewers of the obscure Showtime comedy “Moonbase 8” but Stéphane Lafleur’s film, from Quebec, has a drier comic touch. As the Earthbound team goes on and on through its dreary routine, its members develop issues of their own — their gender or race, for example, does not necessarily match that of their Mars equivalents, leading to different outcomes for the same premises (Larissa Corriveau is especially good as a woman doubling a male astronaut). Turns out, as similar as people are meant to be, they just can’t help being themselves.
‘They Cloned Tyrone’
Stream it on Netflix.
Juel Taylor’s punchy satire has been compared to “Get Out,” but the way it deals with agency, free will and large-scale nefarious plans also connects it to something like “Westworld.” The timeline here is purposefully vague, which creates constant disorientation and questioning in the viewer. There are references to current artifacts like blockchains but we glimpse TV commercials that appear lifted from the 1980s. The main characters emulate 1970s Blaxploitation archetypes, as well as their fashion sense: Fontaine (John Boyega) is a drug dealer, Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris) is a prostitute and Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx) is her pimp. They stumble on a secret operation (the movie’s title is a pretty big clue) that is even more widespread than they think. The plot may not be the tightest, but “They Cloned Tyrone” slyly and often comically plays off cultural stereotypes (fried chicken, straightening hair products and grape drinks play a central role) and notions of identity as it takes down deranged ambitions of dominance and control. The clincher is the central trio, which carries the movie with charismatic gusto. You just want to see these three actors team up again and again.
Rent or buy it on Amazon.
All around the world, the horizon is dominated by gigantic black spheres. The mysterious spaceships sit there, hovering just above the surface of the earth, and have been doing so since they appeared out of nowhere in 1993. People have gotten used to their presence, but also not: Anybody under the age of 29 is suspected of being an alien having infiltrated the human population.
Because the Korean-Canadian filmmaker Jude Chun’s debut feature has a decidedly arty absurdist vein, it does not tell us whether those suspicions are justified or the product of a paranoid reaction to an unexplained phenomenon. Some people, for example, believe they themselves are aliens, but we do not know if they truly are or if they are delusional, or maybe even members of some sort of cult. Shot in black and white, “Unidentified” is made up of seemingly unconnected, often oneiric scenes — a few of them musical — that suggest a general feeling of anomie that somehow suits our modern society’s malaise.