Sometimes it’s a dilemma: what DVD should you rent or what movie should you stream or order-on-demand? Do you want a date flick, an action caper, or a goofy comedy? Weekly Surge is here to help with our reviews of recent at-home movie releases, which we’ve watched from the comfort of that favorite recliner.
The title just about says it all. This is hard Rated R territory, and it’s refreshing for Jason Bateman’s feature-film directorial debut to be a nice gut punch of raunch. Bateman also stars in this story about a dude out for redemption by winning a children’s spelling bee at 40-years-old. It’s brave territory for him, surrounding himself with kids while spouting one vile line after another. Bateman finds a nice synergy with the young actor Rohan Chand. He finds ample friction with old actor Philip Baker Hall. And Kathryn Hahn is a great foil for Bateman to volley with. To the script’s credit, it never backs down or wavers. It moves forward with propulsive force. Its energy and swagger causes it to rush at times on character development, but screw it, it’s a 90-minute comedy meant to make you laugh your ass off. It accomplishes that, and it’s worth a watch.
What to do if you’re a whiny college graduate and aspiring poet who can’t catch a break? Get a job in a quaint porn shop, of course. In this case, Emma Roberts plays the naive poet-slinger of porn, and she brings along her real-life fiancé and “American Horror Story” costar Evan Peters. John Cusack has been in a bit of a script-picking drought lately, but he gets back to his wheelhouse here – a smartass academic. There are a few lags, and Roberts’ spoiled routine grates a bit while she’s carrying the lead role. But Roberts tries some new positions that work out. Peters is charming enough to be a nice buffer, and Cusack plays a derisive asshole with precision and panache. For a film set in the porn world, it’s not too big or too kinky. It’s a small, quirky film with decent performances for money shots and worth a watch on a slow night.
Every once in a while, you run across a movie that surprises you. By all practical purposes, this movie should suck, but something keeps it afloat and motoring along for its short run time. Even though it was made with a small independent budget, the filmmakers keep the script simple and the conceit small – two old friends get involved in a series of bets with a rich, kinky couple. It’s one of those films with a small cast, building off the dynamics of the group dynamic. Pat Healy and Ethan Embry play the unlikely old friends. Sara Paxton and David Koechner (Champ Kind from “Anchorman”) take turns being creepy as the kinky couple. E.L. Katz directs this compact, gritty sleeper with a newcomer’s excitement for gross and unexpected content. Nothing here is going to change the way thrillers are made, but it is indeed a cheap thrill and worth a watch.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge