Sure, we’re all stuck at home but that doesn’t mean we can’t go to the movies — we can do it from the couch. Our screens, thru cable and online on demand services, are filling by the day with brand new movies. With actual stars in them! We took a look at the latest. You stocked up on popcorn, right?
The Jesus Rolls
Resplendent in purple, John Turturro stole the show in the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski (1998) as Jesus, a ball-licking master bowler prone to proclamation: “Nobody fucks with the Jesus.” 22 years later, now writing and directing, as well as starring, Turturro brings the Jesus back for an amiable remake of Going Places, a provocative 1974 comedy starring a young Gerard Depardieu. Newly released from prison, Jesus and his hapless friend Petey (Bobby Cannavale) hit the road and proceed to charm but mostly antagonize an array of eccentrics, played by scene-stealers such as Pete Davidson, Audrey Tatou, Jon Hamm, J.B. Smoove and Christopher Walken. There’s a sweet sense of Turturro relishing the chance to let his actor pals cut loose, but he’s saved the plum role for Susan Sarandon. As a newly minted ex-con whose deep currents of sensuality and melancholy affect Jesus and Petey’s entire way of being, Sarandon proves anew that for a great actor, there are no small parts.
In whatever form it ends up being presented, in movie theaters or on home screens, the film year is unlikely to see a performance as richly complex as the one Haley Bennett gives in Swallow. She plays Hunter, who spends her days planning the perfect dinner for her handsome, entitled husband (Austin Stowell), who is reflexively attentive but doesn’t really see her. One day, not long after discovering she’s pregnant, Hunter eats a marble. As she swallows it down, she smiles, joyously. (She’s been reading a book called A Talent for Joy, and suddenly, here is hers.) Hunter continues eating random objects — a thumbtack, a Duracell battery, a safety pin. In a stellar feature debut, writer-director Carlo Mirabella-Davis presents Hunter’s condition as an illness, yes, but also, gradually, as a source point for a rebellion that’s been a lifetime in coming. It’s a strange and thrilling journey.
Scene by scene, line by line, this remake of the 2013 Italian film, Human Capital (based on the American novel by Stephen Amidon), does everything right. The ace cast is a pleasure to watch, the Owen Moverman’s script is literate and Marc Meyers’ direction elegant, and yet, after a strong first half, the movie sputters, like a lit fuse with too little powder in the line. Liev Schreiber, a wonderful actor forever in search of a great movie, is Drew, an upstate New York realtor who puts all his assets on the line in order to invest in a hedge fund run by Quint (Peter Sarsgaard). Drew longs for Quint’s high-style life, one that Quint’s wife, Carrie (Marisa Tomei), meanwhile, feels trapped within. Told from three viewpoints — Drew, Carrie, and then Drew’s daughter — this is a class warfare melodrama with no bite. A beautifully acted disappointment.
The adventurous actor Jesse Eisenberg has two films opening this week, and they couldn’t be more different. In the visually vivid Vivarium, he co-stars with Imogen Poots as a couple enticed to tour a new suburban community where all the houses are uniform and there’s not another human in sight. That should have been a clue to flee but instead, the duo find themselves trapped. Every attempt to exit leads them back to their new home, where food boxes, and later, a newborn baby are left by unseen masters. Philip Murphy’s inventive production design proves to be more satisfying than the third act plot twists in this Black Mirror-esque thriller from Irish director Lorcan Finnegan, but the soulful chemistry between Eisenberg and Poots makes up for the story’s shortcomings.
For the stirring Resistance, Eisenberg honed his miming skills to embody the legendary Marcel Marceau, whose work helping to rescue Jewish children as a member of the French Resistance during World War II is explored dramatically for the first time. A reluctant fighter, Marcel comes to realize that his instincts as an artist make him the perfect person to literally take frightened children in hand and lead them to safety. Working on an epic scale, writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz sometimes bites off too much story, as in the extensive screen time spent on the domestic travails of Nazi barbarian Klaus Barbie (Matthias Schweighöfer). One longs to see more of Marcel, whose lead-with-love response to the cruelty Barbie represents should prove a lasting inspiration for moviegoers young and old.
“Are you counting my blinks?” asks Hannah (Juno Temple), an aspiring L.A. singer-songwriter who finds herself in the home of Theo (Simon Pegg), a once-famous music producer. You’ll wonder at first: Is Theo looking for talent or quick romance? Happily, first-time writer-director Katherine O’Brien brushes aside tired notes of movie romance in favor of an evocative exploration of platonic friendship, which finds the chronically depressed Hannah setting aside her own pain to help Theo, who suffers from schizophrenia. A film that feels meandering for a good long time — stick with it — Lost Transmissions packs a wallop in the home stretch as Pegg, in a revelatory performance, digs deep to reveal the unfathomable pain of a man who can’t stop searching for the “Princess of Time.”
This low-budget comedy about a potty-mouthed sex-addicted magazine writer (Brittany Snow) persuading a shy artist (Sam Richardson) to go on a road trip in order to reenact with her every sleazy sexual encounter she’s had in her life (a long list) looks and sounds really dumb but. . . it’s not bad. Snow and Richardson make a terrific team and as actors, are too honest to let the sexual hijinks — which include a fireworks warehouse and souvenir shop sex- tip their characters into the realm of the silly and unreal. First time writer-director Nico Raineau and co-writer Lauren Schacher definitely get lost in the weeds of ennui when it’s time for their lead characters to confront their respective truths, but the Snow/Richardson spark carries the day. On a dark night of quarantine despair, you could do worse.