— Michael O'Sullivan
The title of the documentary “The Big Scary ‘S’ Word” — a tongue-in-cheek reference to socialism — is taken from a comment, spoken in frustration, by Lee Carter, the sole Socialist party representative to the Virginia House of Delegates, who is one of the film’s guides to this exploration of how an age-old American ideal has become demonized. (Carter, for his part, a freckle-faced former Marine, hardly seems scary at all, even when one of his colleagues is shown holding up a hammer-and sickle image behind him during an on-camera appearance. He lost his primary in June.) The point of this film, articulated mainly by Carter and Oklahoma teacher and activist Stephanie Price, is that, if you like public schools and public transit, Medicare and the abolishment of slavery — one of the largest transfers of wealth in history — you already like socialism. It’s as “American as apple pie,” says academic Cornel West. “The Big Scary ‘S’ Word” is a history lesson, but it’s far from dull. How many people know, for example, that the Republican Party was founded in 1854 in Ripon, Wis. — by a group that included several radical members of a self-described “socialist” community? Unrated. Available on Apple TV, Amazon Prime and other on demand platforms. 89 minutes.
“Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James” is a documentary portrait of the late musician, best known for “Superfreak,” “Give It To Me Baby” and “Mary Jane.” TV-MA. Available on Showtime. 112 minutes.
A social worker (Shea Whigham) tries to protect his client (Olivia Munn) and her daughter from a maniacal drug dealer (Frank Grillo) in the gritty crime thriller “The Gateway.” R. Available on Apple TV and other on demand platforms. Contains strong violence, pervasive crude language, drug use, some sexual content and nudity. 91 minutes.
The documentary “The Mayberry Effect” looks at the annual Mayberry Days festival, which takes place in Andy Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy, N.C. The film, which investigates the theme of nostalgia through the lens of “The Andy Griffith Show,” features interviews with scholars, pop culture experts and cast members. Unrated. Available on demand and cable. 90 minutes.
Chad Michael Murray plays the titular serial killer in “Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman,” a drama based on the true story behind the manhunt that brought Bundy to justice. Unrated. Available on demand. 110 minutes.
Set during two distinct time periods, “Wild Indian” tells the story of a Native American man (Michael Greyeyes) living with the guilt of a long-ago murder. When someone from his past seeks vengeance, the protagonist, who has left reservation life behind, goes to great lengths to protect his new life with his wife (Kate Bosworth) and boss (Jesse Eisenberg). According to Variety, the film runs deep with the issues of “identity, assimilation and the contemporary Native American experience.” Unrated. Available on demand. Contains brief strong language.
Guy Pearce and Travis Fimmel star in “Zone 414,” a sci-fi thriller set in a colony of humanoid robots. R. Available on demand. Contains violence, disturbing images, strong language, some drug use and nudity. 98 minutes.