L.A. Weekly’s Movie Guide is your look at the hottest films available on your TV sets, electronic devices and in select drive-ins throughout Southern California. Theaters remain closed, but the good news is that there’s no shortage of diverse and engaging films to see at home. And as always, we let you know what’s worth the watchtime — from indie art house gems to popcorn-perfect blockbusters to new movies garnering buzz, indicating where you can catch them whether it be digital Video on Demand (VOD) or streaming subscription services.
Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado / NETFLIX
Don’t let Walter Mercado’s over the top look fool you. He’s no Joe Exotic type wacko with delusions of meth-head grandeur. And this is not another salacious doc exploiting queer eccentricity, thank heavens. The Puerto Rican TV astrologer was a true superstar who might have been unusual and over the top (even for the ’70s) but garnered a loyal following nonetheless, and the filmmakers here are clearly included.
If you’re of Latin decent, odds are your abuela loved him and you grew up fascinated by him. Despite getting parodied often for his unusual look, Mercado represented not weirdness, but campy wonder thanks to his popular horoscope-driven show Walter y Las Estrellas. The glamorous self-help extravaganza offered a refreshing dose of androgyny, astrology and audacious theatricality that clearly resonated beyond Spanish speaking TV fans too.
Much Mucho Amor, the new doc chronicling Mercado’s life, is aptly named as it’s a loving look at an unforgettable figure who broke all the rules (he was gender fluid before it was a thing, after all). Despite retreating from the public eye many years ago, Mercado opens up his home to the filmmakers here and proves that his charisma continued to glimmer just like his famous capes (and yes, we get to see his marvel of a closet!).
He passed way last year so this Sundance-produced film makes for a fitting tribute, packaging interviews and archival footage into a cohesive look at his impact, the most significant of which was probably the way he hammered at the homophobia inherent in Latino culture not by trying to, but simply by being himself. -L.L.
The Old Guard / NETFLIX
Charlize Theron is our favorite amiable badass (Mad Max: Fury Road, Atomic Blonde, etc.) and she nails it once again in this nuanced take on comicbook heroes and villains concerning a covert band of immortal mercenaries and their lonely but extraordinary lives, filled with never-ending combat against those who might threaten the world as we know it.
When the group takes on an emergency mission and their healing powers are exposed, leader Andy (Theron) and new member Nile (Kiki Layne), must fight harder than ever to protect themselves and save humanity, and which of course they do with violent aplomb.
Adapted from Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez’s graphic novel and directed Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, Beyond the Lights), this one is a slick popcorn flick with substance boasting diverse characters, believable backstories and -ironic, considering they can’t die- an engaging humanity that draws you in and makes you care, even with a contrived sequel/potential for franchise tease near its climax. –L.L.
Relic, the elegantly creepy debut film from writer-director Natalie Erika James, may not be the film to watch if you have an aging parent in distress. That’s the dilemma facing Kay (Emily Mortimer), whose mother, Edna (Robyn Nein), briefly disappears from her Australian country home only to return and begin acting out in strange and unnerving ways. Edna is clearly struggling with dementia but Kay and her daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) begin to wonder if Edna, or her rambling old house, or the family itself, is being taken over by a malevolent force.
In this house, the walls groan like a sailboat adrift at sea, a shadowy figure hovers at the end of hall, and everywhere, black mold is growing, including, most disturbingly, in a round patch on Edna’s chest. Aided by Brian Reitzell’s jangly score, director James and cinematographer Charlie Sarroff slowly build a sense menace and dread, even as the three gifted leads dive deep into the tangled emotionality of this fractured family.
In the last half hour, all hell breaks loose, with Sam trapped in a hidden, shape-shifting part of the house and Kay forced to battle her mother, who’s evolving into something else, something other. The film’s last moments, which shift daringly from the horrific to the tender, may frustrate horror fans in need of a clear explanation for all that’s come before, but anyone who’s watched a loved one age and fade is sure to feel a resonant ache. -C.W.
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets / VOD
“When nobody don’t want your ass, you can come in here and have a good time,” says a patron at the Roaring 20s, a dive bar on the outskirts of Vegas. It’s just after lunch on a shimmery hot desert day and the bar’s regulars, young, old, and culturally diverse, are already arriving for what will be the joint’s last day.
In the sneakily haunting Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, filmmaking brothers Bill and Turner Ross (Contemporary Color), who make documentaries that redefine the term, roam the bar with their cameras, capturing snippets of conversation, song, and lament as a never famous Vegas staple prepares to close its doors.
For a good long time, nothing much seems to be happening. Folks greet each other fondly. Bad jokes are told. The bartender curses Jeopardy on the big TV.
And people drink, but never sloppily. Drinking, you come to realize, is what these folks do. They know how to stretch out the day, just as they know to lean in to humor and intimacy, for surely that’s the payoff for living your best hours in a bar.
Nothing happens in Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets except funny, quotable conversation — “You’re sweet on me now but just you wait. I’m a destroyer” — and the passing by of a dozen lives filled with enough love, fury, and regret to fill three Hollywood movies. This is a scruffy, gorgeous movie. -C.W.
Divos! / VOD
Of course, Ricky Redman (Matt Steele) will land the lead role in this year’s San Fernando Catholic Church high school musical. He does so every year. A proud show queen, with epic plans to be a Broadway star, Ricky is a true diva, but wait, who’s the hunky blonde boy walking into auditions, the one backlit like Jesus?
That would be Josh (Timothy Brundidge), the school’s injured baseball pitcher who’s decided that he too is destined to be a Broadway sensation. Ricky takes him under his wing but a bitter rivalry ensues, and Divos!, a deft indie comedy written by Steele and directed by Ryan Patrick Bartley, takes off.
If the cast seems a bit past high school age, no matter, their energy and general fabulousness carry the day. Steel’s script takes some unexpected plot turns, including a mid-turn shift to Josh’s home life, and a welcome avoidance of opening night clichés. A trifle to be sure, but an accomplished one, Divos!, is a charming surprise. – C.W.