The Post’s critics highlight original movies that are being streamed and made available on demand. Here are this week’s picks.
The Melissa Leo Fan Club, of which I am a charter member, surely got the memo about the Academy Award-winning actress’s starring role in “Bottled Up,” an indie comedy-drama about prescription drug abuse that made its quiet theatrical debut in a handful of theaters last week, at the same time as it popped up on demand. Unfortunately, Leo’s fine performance as the single mother of a woman addicted to painkillers isn’t quite enough to elevate the film out of Lifetime movie territory.
Written and directed by Enid Zentelis (“Evergreen”), the film was inspired by the director’s personal experience, which Zentelis has alluded to, if only vaguely, in interviews. As such, it feels real enough, despite — or perhaps because of — darkly comic touches that temper its serious themes.
Leo’s character, Fay, runs a small shop in upstate New York called Mailboxes and Thangs, which provides shipping services, doughnuts and body piercing. Her adult daughter, Sylvie (Marin Ireland), is hooked on painkillers, many months after an automobile accident for which Fay was at least partly responsible. That maternal guilt leads Fay to lie, and occasionally steal, in order to keep her daughter supplied with pills. It also leads Fay to try to fix Sylvie up with Becket (Josh Hamilton), an environmental activist who begins renting a room in Fay’s house.
Things get a little messy when Becket starts falling in love — not with Sylvie but with Fay.
Although the dynamic of Fay’s romantic reawakening is an interesting subplot, it barely lifts the story out of its doldrums, which are hard to avoid, given the heavy subject. Still, Zentelis brings a pleasantly quirky sensibility to the script. When Becket, a tree-hugging health nut, starts rhapsodizing about the benefits of sex as exercise, Fay asks him, sarcastically, “Did you have sex with me instead of jogging?” Later, Becket tells her, “I’ve never loved a person more than trees before.”
Lines like that are almost laugh-out-loud funny, but there just aren’t enough of them. Anyone looking to remind themselves why Leo won the 2011 Supporting Actress Oscar (for “The Fighter”) should download “Prisoners.” That 2013 thriller is certainly no funnier than “Bottled Up,” but it includes a performance by the actress that fans won’t soon forget. -- M.O.
R. Contains some coarse language. 85 minutes. Available through Amazon Instant, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and
“Camp Takota” doesn’t star household names or have a lavish marketing budget. Yet when it was released on iTunes in February, it climbed up the site’s independent movie charts, peaking at No. 3, behind star-studded Academy Award winners “12 Years a Slave” and “Dallas Buyers Club.”
That’s the power of YouTube.
Among fans of the video warehouse, Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart and Mamrie Hart (who are not related) form a not-so-holy trinity with such popular off-kilter Web series as “DailyGrace,” “My Drunk Kitchen” and “You Deserve a Drink,” respectively. Combined, their YouTube channels have more than 3.5 million subscribers, and a lot of those people are taking a chance — and paying $9.99 — on what turns out to be an uneven comedy that showcases the potential of these three women more than the full scope of their talents.
Helbig stars as Elise, a Chicago publicist in her late 20s who seems to have it all together. She has a good job, a ripped fiancand a recently finished young-adult novel about love and Loch Ness monsters. But red flags abound, from her fianc’s aversion to being hugged while wearing Brooks Brothers to her boss’s “The Devil Wears Prada”-caliber evil.
Elise’s tenuous perfection unravels — right on cue and in spectacular fashion — so she retreats to her childhood camp to become what might be the oldest camp counselor. There she runs into old friends, Allison (Hannah Hart), who is now Takota’s cook, and Maxine (Mamrie Hart), the director’s heir-apparent.
The plot is paint-by-numbers. A cute local farmer might as well be wearing a sign that reads “love interest” when he arrives at the all-girls camp, and a moneyed developer (who happens to be the camp director’s son) threatens the fate of the struggling summer getaway, meaning everyone must band together to save Camp Takota.
But there are bright moments among the predictability. Mamrie Hart is hilarious as Maxine, who brings her type-A personality to getting girls interested in the great outdoors, even if it means occasionally dressing up like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.
You can see glimmers of her zany “You Deserve a Drink” alter-ego coming through, which is a good thing. But it’s also a reminder of what could have been. For three women who found a different kind of fame using an alternative medium, you’d think that “Camp Takota” wouldn’t be such a rule follower. -- S.M.
Unrated. Contains mild language. 101 minutes. Available via iTunes and www.camptakota.com.
Following in the activist tradition of such Participant Media films as “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Waiting for Superman,” James Costa’s documentary “Lunch Hour” seeks to wake up viewers to the national epidemic of unhealthy eating and how the school lunch program is creating a new generation of overweight, diabetic and otherwise overfed and undernourished kids.
The images are striking: Taking his cameras into school cafeterias, Costa finds Styrofoam trays haphazardly heaped with fried chicken patties, grey-ish mystery meat and, always, that ubiquitous carton of milk. (Ever wonder what a “spent hen” is? Believe me, you don’t want to know.) Tracing the school lunch program to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Depression, Costa reveals that today’s school lunch staples are artifacts of a time when school kids were getting too few calories, rather than too many.
They’re also the result of aggressive lobbying by the food business, a confusing role for the USDA (which both regulates and promotes the agriculture industry) and the steady incursion of fast-food marketing into school lunch programs. Longtime food expert Marion Nestle, as well as media stars Rachael Ray and Robin Quivers, are on hand to provide cogent analysis of the problem. Luckily, just when viewers are likely to feel hopeless (or tempted to run straight to school and yank their kids out of there), “Lunch Hour” shines a light on some encouraging pilot programs in New York and California, where parents, chefs and enlightened school leaders are making exciting inroads in introducing kids to fresh, healthy, non-processed crunchables.
“Lunch Hour” has been lucidly filmed, although even at a sleek hour-and-15-minutes running time, the talking heads begin to weigh it down. But the things they are saying matter, and “Lunch Hour” does its job as an effective, informative, if not formally scintillating example of advocacy filmmaking. Taking another page from Participant, Costa ends with a list of recommendations for concerned parents, who with luck will heed his advice. As Ray says, this is that rare problem that can be fixed within our lifetimes, if we simply put down the Whoppers and Big Gulps and decide to do something about it. -- A.H.
Unrated. Contains nothing objectionable. 75 minutes. Available through Amazon Instant, iTunes and on-demand cable.
Previously: 'Furever' and 'Andy Made a Friend'