Not every screen this week features the Avengers zipping about on a treasure hunt through space and time. Some are showing movies about real things, like Seth Rogen and Satanists, UglyDolls and literary frauds, Dennis Quaid as an angry white middle-aged guy and Dame Judi Dench in spy mode.
Seth Rogen’s new rom-com Long Shot (Rating: A) sees Rogen as a rumpled reporter-turned-speechwriter for a presidential candidate (Charlize Theron) who’s his boyhood crush. Reviewer Kim Hughes calls it a whirlwind, globe-trotting, comedy that skewers celebrities and politicians, including Justin “Sunny Ways” Trudeau.
Also topical is Penny Lane’s disturbingly entertaining documentary Hail Satan? (B-plus) in which a team of outrageous culture jammers called The Satanic Temple, encourage after-school Satanic clubs and statues of Baphomet on public squares to counter-balance the conservative right’s exploitation of Christianity.
What’s an UglyDoll? A toy brand, it turns out, and now an animated movie, UglyDolls (C-plus) with Kelly Clarkson as Moxy, who leaves the accepting bliss of Uglyville for the totalitarian world of Perfection. Our reviewer Karen Gordon describes the characters as looking like “soft goofy lumps” and, along with the predictable messages about self-acceptance, finds unexpected parallels to Game of Thrones.
There’s a lesson about profiting from not accepting yourself, in JT LeRoy (C-plus), a dramatization of the literary fraud of the early 2000s, in which writer Laura Abbot (Laura Dern) passed off her sister-in-law (Kristen Stewart) as an androgynous teen-aged boy author with a sordid past named JT Leroy. The actors are predictably good, says Liam Lacey, but the story is only hair-and-sunglasses deep.
You may recall that Dame Judi Dench, in the role of James Bond’s boss, M, died for England in Skyfall. But she’s on the other side in Red Joan (C) a reality-based tale of an elderly woman who was arrested for the misdeeds of her youth as a Soviet mole in the English nuclear program Sophie Cookson plays the young Joan). Jim Slotek reviews this “improbably dull” tale of a woman torn between her Stalinist seducer and sensible Englishman, where atom bombs are somehow secondary to the yearnings of the heart.
If you think just staying at home is a safe option, think again. In The Intruder (C) Dennis Quaid plays a guy who sells his house to a bland young couple and then, in a case of psychotic seller’s remorse., won’t leave them alone. It’s always a challenge, says reviewer Jim Slotek, to sustain suspense when the audience is way ahead of every character onscreen.
Finally, in our 22nd podcast, the OC team talks about Avengers after the End Game, fear of a Disney cinematic planet and the rise of “spoiler alert” mania.
Have a great weekend.