Inspired by the true life story of the 17th-century Catholic mystic and nun Benedetta Carlini, who was accused of having a sexual relationship with another nun, “Benedetta” is the latest film from Paul Verhoeven. (Yes, that Paul Verhoeven, director of “RoboCop” and “Elle,” but best known for the camp classic “Showgirls.”) It’s hard to know whether any of this film — which stars the great Charlotte Rampling, yet is filled with gratuitously voyeuristic sex, graphic violence and, as a dash of gravitas, religious hypocrisy — is meant to be taken seriously. Released by IFC Films under its IFC Midnight sub-label, a niche designation known for genre movies about aliens, zombies and vampires, “Benedetta” stars the Belgian actress Virginie Efira in the title role of a young and manipulative liar (at least in this telling, co-written by Verhoeven and David Birke, adapting Judith C. Brown’s book “Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy”). Benedetta’s lover is played by Daphne Patakia, and the film lavishes its drooling attention on the mechanics of the pair’s lovemaking. When Benedetta places a nine-inch carved wooden statuette of the Virgin Mary on her nightstand, you know where this is going. Have I mentioned that the tale is set against the backdrop of the bubonic plague, a.k.a. the Black Death? That gives Verhoeven the opportunity to spotlight the festering, boil-like buboes that are the disease’s signature symptom. Whether you want to go along for the ride, which is a wild and nasty one, depends entirely on your ability to find the humor, intentional or not, in the lurid, the ecstatic and the revolting. Unrated. Available on demand; also opening at area theaters. Contains sex, nudity, violence, torture, crude language, antisemitic remarks, disturbing images of disease and scatological material. In French with subtitles. 131 minutes.
— Michael O'Sullivan
The documentary “14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible” chronicles the attempt of a Nepali climber, Nimsdai Purja, to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter mountains in seven months. According to Salon, “The climbs themselves make up too little of the film, which is disappointing for armchair enthusiasts. The breathtaking visuals are compensation, though, and it is thrilling to see the mountaineers use a ladder to cross a crevasse, or to watch the team scale up a snowy face.” TV-MA. Available on Netflix. 101 minutes.
The documentary “Adrienne” looks at the life, career and tragic death of actress and filmmaker Adrienne Shelly, who was murdered in 2006, before the release of the acclaimed film “Waitress,’ which she wrote, directed and co-starred in. IndieWire calls the film, directed by Shelley’s husband Andy Ostroy, a “heartbreaking love letter” to the artist “that will hopefully inspire fans, new and old, to revisit her work.” TV-MA. Available on HBO Max. Contains strong language. 98 minutes.
Available on Tello, a streaming platform dedicated to telling stories featuring and about lesbian and queer women, “Christmas at the Ranch” is a holiday rom-com starring Lindsay Wagner (“The Bionic Woman”) and Amanda Righetti. Unrated. Available on tellofilms.com. 94 minutes.
In the western “Last Shoot Out,” a woman (Skylar Witte) seeks protection from her new husband (Michael Welch), who has gunned down her father, by holing up with a gunman (Brock Harris). Bruce Dern and Cam Gidandet co-star. R. Available on Apple TV and other on demand platforms. Contains violence and bloody images. 86 minutes.
Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode star in “Silent Night,” a horror film about a Christmas dinner party in the English countryside that takes places against a backdrop of an apocalyptic threat. The Guardian calls it an “arrestingly strange” comedy drama. Unrated. Available on AMC Plus; also opening at Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas Gaithersburg. 90 minutes.
In the holiday rom-com “Single All the Way,” a young man (Michael Urie) asks his best friend (Philemon Chambers) to pretend to be his boyfriend over the holidays to quell his family’s matchmaking instincts. TV-PG. Available on Netflix. 101 minutes.
A feature-length spinoff of the TV series “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” “Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas” stars Jane Levy as the title character, who is celebrating her first Christmas after the death of her father. Paste magazine calls the film a “gift for the fans.” TV-14. Available on the Roku channel. 99 minutes.