Brad Pitt hops on a “Bullet Train” filled with assassins this week, but it screened too late for us and we had to take the bus instead.
But you’re in “Luck” — there are more options. There’s a killer “Predator” sequel, a nail-biter of a true story from Ron Howard, and a delightful animated feature on Apple TV+. And you don’t even have to leave your house to enjoy them.
Here is our roundup.
“Prey”: If you’re going to make yet another “Predator” movie, you’ve gotta give us something different. After all, there have already been four movies, numerous videogames, comic books, the 2 “Alien” crossover movies all featuring that bloodthirsty creep. Director Dan Trachtenberg and screenwriter Patrick Aison have done just that in “Prey,” delivering a novel setting for the carnage. The monstrosity with a one-track killer mind kerplunks from the sky and into the 1800s where he sets his sites on the Comanche Nation on the Great Plains. But this Predator might have met his match in Naru, a flinty young woman itching to be taken more seriously in a tribe where the guys boast and thunder, and disrespect her. Naru gets the chance to show she’s better than boys when the Predator comes calling and starts to feast on lions, doggies, rabbits, and then on to the main course -– humans. All’s good there but the real meat on “Prey’s” bones concerns who is the more fearsome predator: The alien beast or the French colonizers? That question gives this gory R-rated Western/horror mashup its brain, attitude, even its punch. The two leads — Amber Midthunder as Naru and newcomer Dakota Beavers as her model-looking brother Taabe — are actors to watch. While it’s a gas to see on the small screen, what a shame this artfully shot feature didn’t land in theaters, where we could all shout back at the screen and giggle. Details: 3 stars out of 4; available Aug. 5 on Hulu.
“13 Lives”: Ron Howard’s nail-biting dramatization applies a chokehold from the start and never let’s go, relating with exacting detail the true story of an against-all-odds 2018 international mission to extract members of a Thailand soccer team and an assistant coach from the Tham Luang Nang Non cave where they were trapped. It’s a harrowing and then uplifting story from of a director who is at his best when recounting heroic actions of real people overcoming adversity (“Apollo 13,” “A Beautiful Mind”). Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell anchor a top-shelf cast that includes Joel Edgerton, Tom Bateman and more, all playing a team of daring cave divers who join forces with the Royal Thai Navy Seals to save the trapped athletes and coaches. The sequences in the cave are well-shot and claustrophobically staged. Equally impressive is how screenwriter William Nicholson and Howard take the time to create authentic Thai characters and not turn this into another white savior story. “Lives” makes for a solid companion piece to the excellent E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin 2021 documentary, “The Rescue.” Is it as good as that film? Nope. Still, it’s worthwhile. Details: 3 stars; available Aug. 5 on Amazon Prime.
“Luck”: Animated films on streaming services are on a winning streak. This delightful Skydance Animation/Apple TV+ fantasy, along with Netflix’s seafaring adventure “The Sea Beast,” both outshine their recent theatrical counterparts (“Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hawk” and “DC League of Super-Pets”). “Luck” is an all-out charmer, enchanting us with impressive animation, a pithy and touching screenplay from Kiel Murray, and a director — Peggy Holmes — who knows how to create a fantastical and fantastic world. In this case it’s the Land of Luck, an ideal environ for unlucky and clumsy Sam Greenfield (Eva Noblezada) who has just cycled out of foster care and now lives in an apartment. Sam zips off to the Land of Luck where she runs into worker bunnies, employed cats and even an anxiety-ridden dragon (Jane Fonda). The appearance of a talkative but snooty black cat named Bob (Simon Pegg, a scream) and a lucky coin sets her on this incredible journey. The cast couldn’t be better. Details: 3½ stars; available Aug. 5 on Apple TV+.
“I Love My Dad”: In one of 2022’s most squirmable comedies, pitiful dad Chuck (Patton Oswalt) impersonates an attractive waitress on social media in order to gain the attention/affection of troubled son Franklin (James Morosini) who recently tried to kill himself. Franklin takes the catfishing bait and, of course, wants to actually meet. Written and directed by Morosini, “I Love My Dad” hits a few rough spots, including an inane, poorly written character (Rachel Dratch) who is a hypersexual love interest of Chuck’s. The dark situation produces uneasy laughs, and is noteworthy for Oswalt’s committed performance and Morosini’s unconventional storyline. Details: 2½ stars; opens Aug. 5 at the Balboa in San Francisco.
“Paper Girls”: Graphic novelist Brian K. Vaughan has been a force in the comic world, but his award-winning work hasn’t always translated well. Hulu’s “Runaways” ran for three seasons and had a catchy premise — teens discover their parents are part of a villainous group. But the adaptation of his most acclaimed work, “Y: The Last Man,” got terrible reviews and was given the hook after just one season on that streamer. This show based of Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s series, airing on Amazon Prime Video, takes its time establishing a groove, but once it does it takes off. The time-travel fantasy celebrates girl power with four 12-year-old paper route chums meeting older versions of themselves. That weirdness happens after Halloween in 1988 when a purplish haze descends on their town. Unlike Amazon Prime’s wandersome “Night Sky,” these eight episodes make a cohesive whole despite throwing in curve balls and shocks (including some deaths). The four leads — Sofia Rosinsky, Camryn Jones, East Bay resident Riley Lai Nelet and Fina Strazza — handle the tough material well with Jones the standout. San Franciso native Ali Wong, Nate Corddry and Adina Porter, making one vigorous villain, lend adult gravitas. You’ll get hooked. While comparison will get made to “Stranger Things,” “Girls” stands on its own and isn’t a clone. Details: 3 stars; now available on Amazon Prime.
“My Old School”: While there are many more shocking true stories getting told about real people assuming other identities, there’s an old-school charm about this engaging documentary that finds former classmates and teachers reflecting on their 1990s Glasgow school days and getting hoodwinked by one of their fellow lads. The person responsible asked not to have his face shown, so it’s up to Alan Cummings to lip sync the words spoken. That could have been a disaster, but Cummings gives just enough to make his real-life “Brandon” remain an enigma. What was the ruse? That would be pulling the rug out from under the film’s feet. Jono McLeod brings a wistful, never-heavy-handed touch, making it a cut above other films of its ilk. Details: 3 stars; at Opera Plaza Cinemas in San Francisco now and then Aug. 12 at the Smith Rafael Film Center.
“Endangered”: Former Bay Area resident Drew Walkup expertly delivers the cinematic equivalent of an airport read with this engaging thriller field with unexpected twists and turns. A luckless Lyft-like driver Alison (Lizzie Zerebko) picks up a shady but attractive guy (Michael Olavson) in possession of a mysterious bag. The trick-stuffed screenplay from Adam Armstrong and Marcus DeVivo doesn’t’ let up. Can’t wait to see what Walkup cooks up next. Note: The film was originally titled “Fox Hunt Drive.” Details: 3 stars; available Aug. 5 On Demand.