— Michael O'Sullivan
The documentary “I, Pastafari” makes a nice companion piece to last year’s “Hail Satan?,” which took a cheeky look at the efforts of the Satanic Temple to highlight separation of church and state. By going to court in an effort to install demonic statuary next to Christian artworks on government property, members of the Temple hope to make a silly-seeming but serious point: Religion and government don’t mix. Like that provocative and not entirely straight-faced film, “Pastafari” also involves court cases: by people around the world who have claimed the right to wear pasta strainers on their heads in official government photographs. (Many jurisdictions prohibit headwear in driver’s license photos, for example, except for religious reasons. The folks in the new film claim to be adherents of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Pastafarians.) The tone of the film is light, but the legal challenges are not made in jest — the point being that preferential treatment based on religion should be applied equally to every faith, or not at all. “I, Pastafari” is short and sweet, but like “Satan?” leaves you with something to think about. Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms (see ipastafari.com/watch). Contains some disturbing footage of sectarian violence. 56 minutes.
The documentary “Ai Weiwei: Yours Truly” examines the making of “@Large,” a 2014-2015 installation on the theme of political prisoners created by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in the former penitentiary on Alcatraz Island (part of which was subsequently shown at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in 2017). ARTnews calls the film a “moving cinematic experience and so wide-ranging a project that it is likely to appeal even to those who might not think they are interested in the famed artist.” Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com and, beginning July 17, at cinemaartstheatre.com. In English, Mandarin and Arabic with subtitles. 78 minutes.
A vacationing college student (Liana Liberato of Hulu’s “Light As a Feather”) finds the tranquility of her secluded beach retreat marred by a mysterious ecological outbreak in the horror film “The Beach House.” Unrated. Available on shudder.com. Contains some disturbing violent content and terror. 88 minutes.
A documentary from executive producer Alfonso Cuarón (“Roma”), “Hands of God” tells the story of the Iraqi National Boxing Team’s struggle to qualify for the Olympics in the face of threats from the Islamic State and the bombing of their training gym. Unrated. Available on iTunes, Amazon and Vudu. In Arabic with subtitles. 78 minutes.
In the Korean coming-of-age drama “House of Hummingbird,” a lonely 14-year-old girl, Eun-hee (Ji-hu Park), moves through Seoul seeking connection. According to the New York Times, filmmaker Bora Kim “discreetly balances the personal and the social, bringing us close to Eun-hee while also letting us see the other realities and truths — a national tragedy, a news bulletin, a friend’s pain — that she is slowly starting to notice.” Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com. In Korean with subtitles. 138 minutes.
Featuring interviews with Robert Rodriguez, Michelle Rodriguez, Donal Logue and Cheech Marin, “Inmate # 1: The Rise of Danny Trejo” is a documentary portrait of a man who turned an early life of drugs and armed robbery around to become an unlikely movie star (“Machete”). Unrated. Available on various screening platforms. 107 minutes.
The life and career ups and downs of basketball player-turned coach Stephon Marbury, a two-time National Basketball Association all-star, is examined in the documentary “A Kid From Coney Island.” TV-MA. Available on Netflix. 89 minutes.
The documentary “The Medicine” looks at the potential benefits of the plant-based psychedelic tea known as Ayahuasca, a traditional brew in Amazonian shamanism that some claim has benefits in treating addiction, depression, and disease. Unrated. Available on various screening platforms. 125 minutes.
The documentary “Michael Des Barres: Who Do You Want Me to Be?” looks at the life and career of a man who has worn many hats: actor, rock musician and, currently, DJ on the Sirius XM radio station Little Steven’s Underground Garage. Unrated. Available July 10 on various streaming platforms, including Amazon, FandangoNow, Google Play, You Tube and Vudu. 82 minutes.
“Mucho Mucho Amor” is a documentary portrait of the flamboyant Puerto Rican TV astrologer Walter Mercado. The Chicago Sun-Times calls the film “illuminating and insightful.” TV-14. Available on Netflix. In English and Spanish with subtitles. 96 minutes.
Set in 1970 Chile, “The Prince” is a homoerotic prison fantasy about a beautiful young man who’s thrown into jail after murdering a friend. Of the film’s bed-hopping antics, the Hollywood Reporter asks: “What is a viewer, who by this point must have accepted the penal complex as a kind of alternate reality/paradise for gay men, supposed to make of this reminder that a different reality exists outside the prison’s sweaty walls?” Unrated. Available on demand via various streaming platforms. In Spanish with subtitles. 95 minutes.
In the horror movie “Relic,” the feature debut of director and co-writer Natalie Erika James, Emily Mortimer plays a woman who is increasingly worried about her mother’s erratic behavior. According to Slash Film, James — who was inspired to make the film by a visit to her grandmother with dementia — “possesses a clear vision with her storytelling and has a natural flair for capturing a menacing, atmospheric tone.” R. Available July 10 on various streaming platforms. Contains some horror violence, disturbing images and strong language. 89 minutes.
Daniel Myrick, who with Eduardo Sánchez wrote and directed the 1999 indie horror hit “The Blair Witch Project,” has made another faux documentary. According to the New York Times, “Skyman,” which purports to tell the story of Carl Merryweather (Michael Selle), a man who was visited by an extraterrestrial as a child, “refuses to lean into the mystery of Carl’s claims or wind us up for a final resolution. Those elements might be present, but they’re never allowed to obscure what is essentially an empathetic, textured portrait of loneliness and loss.” Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 92 minutes.
Four newly orphaned Japanese 13-year-olds form a pop band in “We Are Little Zombies.” The film is “raucously irreverent about life and death and family and celebrity,” according to Variety, “but it has a deeply touching faith in the ability of these children to find in each other the strength to do the sudden growing up that their tragic circumstances require of them.” Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com. In Japanese with subtitles. 120 minutes.
“Where Sleeping Dogs Lie” is a darkly comic drama about two brothers and their childhood friend who endure a tragic twist of events during a botched robbery. Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 96 minutes.