3 Best Movies to Watch by Derek Russo

Staff & contributors

One wouldn't expect to see Count Dracula's youthful-looking helper at your local 12-step self-help group for people in codependent relationships, but Renfield holds more than one surprise up its sleeve. By translating the working relationship (or master-slave, since the latter doesn't get any pay) into the vocabulary of common relationship counselling parlance, the film actually elevates its symbolic status. Even more, I'd dare call it a hoot. Not that many vampire films have managed to make a proper comedy out of the figure in question, and Renfield with its simplistic appeal puts to shame even the artsy Netflix production El Conde, which also came out earlier this year. With Awkwafina in the mix and iconic lines such as "I don't want your murder cookies", how can you resist?

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

Actor: Adrian Martinez, Anil Bajaj, Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, Bess Rous, Betsy Borrego, Brandon Scott Jones, Brian Egland, Camille Chen, Caroline Williams, Chloe Adona, Christopher Matthew Cook, Christopher Winchester, Dave Davis, Derek Russo, Gabriel 'G-Rod' Rodriguez, James Moses Black, Jenna Kanell, Joshua Mikel, Keith Brooks, Krystal Tomlin, Lacey Dover, Lena Clark, Lucy Faust, Marcus Lewis |, Marvin Ross, Mike Harkins, Miles Doleac, Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage, Oren Michaeli, Rhonda Johnson Dents, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Stephen Louis Grush, Susan McPhail, T.C. Matherne, William Ragsdale

Director: Chris McKay

Rating: R

This B-movie sci-fi-action-thriller from co-writer-director Robert Rodriguez starts out like a hammy pastiche of (the already overdone) Taken, but its interminable succession of galaxy-brain twists reveals other obvious influences — among them Inception, Memento, and Shutter Island. Fine ingredients, but the recipe is all wrong, as a gravelly-voiced, seemingly barely awake Ben Affleck sleepwalks his way through the cringy dialogue. Alongside William Fichtner in shady supervillain mode, Affleck is joined in that endeavor by Alice Braga as the psychic who is (seemingly) helping his Detective Rourke track down his (again, seemingly!) kidnapped daughter, though what Braga mostly does is hold the audience’s hand and explain the plot’s increasingly convoluted sci-fi elements to us. At one point, she tells Rourke that “pain keeps the mind awake” — and, while the excruciating script doesn’t seem to have that effect on Affleck (judging from his lethargic performance), it’s hard not to find yourself a little enlivened by Hypnotic’s sheer absurdity.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alice Braga, Ben Affleck, Bobby Hernandez, Bonnie Discepolo, Carrick O'Quinn, Corina Calderon, Dayo Okeniyi, Derek Russo, Gabriel 'G-Rod' Rodriguez, Hala Finley, J. D. Pardo, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeff Fahey, Kelly Frye, Kelly Phelan, Lawrence Varnado, Nikki Dixon, Ryan Ryusaki, Sonia Izzolena, William Fichtner, Zane Holtz

Director: Robert Rodriguez

You ought to know what you’re getting into with a movie like The Out-Laws, a production from the Adam Sandler-founded Happy Madison banner that’s behind such lofty cinematic heights as Grown Ups and Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Even in that charitable frame of reference, though, The Out-Laws feels, even more than usual, like a tax write-off for its creators and a sweet solely-for-the-paycheck gig for its starry cast, who don’t have to do much by way of actual dramatic work here. The perfunctory editing and bland direction often seem disinterested in (or, perhaps, embarrassed by) most of the script’s attempts to be funny, and so the film rushes through its scenario, which is only mildly amusing to begin with. In a movie like this, that’s more of a blessing than a curse, even if it does mean some of its better moments get short shrift from the whistlestop treatment. All in all, even as Happy Madison vehicles go, this is an utterly forgettable 95 minutes — the kind you’ll barely even be able to recall by the time the credits roll.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Romance

Actor: Adam Devine, Anthony Belevtsov, Betsy Sodaro, Blake Anderson, Cale Schultz, Dean Winters, Derek Russo, Ellen Barkin, Haley Leary, Jackie Sandler, Jackson Beals, Julie Hagerty, Laci Mosley, Lauren Lapkus, Lil Rel Howery, Lynne Ashe, Michael Rooker, Mo Gallini, Montrel Miller, Nina Dobrev, Orelon Sidney, Otis Winston, Paul Eliopoulos, Peggy Walton-Walker, Pierce Brosnan, Poorna Jagannathan, Rebecca Covert, Reyn Doi, Richard Kind, Sunny Sandler, Tywayne Wheatt, Zele Avradopoulos

Director: Tyler Spindel

Rating: R