— Michael O'Sullivan
Things go from bad to worse to lethal after shy high-schooler Mike (Tyson Brown) finally works up the nerve to ask out his crush Kelsey (Shelby Duclos) in “First Date,” the debut feature from directing duo Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp that’s part comedy, part teen romance, part shoot-’em-up. Things devolve once Mike, realizing he doesn’t have a car for the date, buys a sketchy ’65 Chrysler he sees online, drawing the attention of the police, a criminal gang and a gun-wielding cat lady as he drives right into a night from hell. It’s an earnest attempt at a high-octane feature, and it certainly speeds up in the second half but doesn’t floor it nearly as hard as it needs to reach a manic pace, almost veering into mumblecore naturalism at times when delicious, chaotic absurdity is so close. The tonal issues are perhaps a symptom of genre-mixing that needs a few more seconds in the blender, but the slower moments are certainly sweet: Duclos and Brown make for a charming couple getting to know each other, even if Kelsey smacks of the two-dimensional “cool” girl. (She doesn’t want to date a jock. She knows what sarcasm is. And get this: She can throw a punch.) Brown is fantastic — just the right amount of shy without fading into the background, while demonstrating some decent chops at physical comedy and exaggerated facial reactions. However, the standout performances belong to the gang members, bickering and comparing the events at hand to whatever they’re reading in their book club as they incompetently chase after the rusted-out MacGuffin. Like any first date, a first feature is a chance to see if there will be a second one. Despite their film’s flaws, Crosby and Knapp will probably be getting a call back. Unrated. Contains graphic violence, drug use, coarse language and sexual situations. Available on demand; also opening at the Cinema Arts Theatre. 103 minutes.
— Annabel Aguiar
In the Australian rom-com “Long Story Short,” time literally flies, as protagonist Teddy (Rafe Spall) wakes up the morning after his wedding to find that a year has passed and he’s mysteriously jumping forward to the next year every few minutes. For a movie about not letting time slip by, it makes for a remarkably rushed beginning: We are told that Teddy is a serial procrastinator, but there’s no real establishing scene where this character flaw is shown to the viewer, let alone anything about him outside of having a peanut allergy and an interest in photography, and working too much at his unnamed job. The rules of Teddy’s predicament are also frustratingly undefined, removing the fun of such movies as “Groundhog Day” and “Palm Springs” where the heroes poke at the edges of their temporal cages. The movie, from writer-director Josh Lawson, is buoyed by a convincing chemistry between Spall and co-star Zahra Newman, who plays his wife, and some of the best moments come just from their interactions. Clever set design also keeps things visually interesting, making for a game of spot-the-difference for signs of a struggling marriage — but the back half of the film unfortunately steers away from these setups. Other signs of the passage of time are slightly less successful, including a truly terrible fake beard at one point. The film is charming at turns — though with perhaps too heavy a hand when it comes to people remarking about time itself. Yet despite a handful of solid laughs and a likable Spall, the movie drags along toward its conclusion, making this “Long Story” seem longer than it needs to be. R. Contains coarse language throughout, and sexual and drug references. Available on demand; also opening at the Cinema Arts Theatre. 95 minutes.
The documentary short “Audible” follows Amaree McKenstry-Hall, a football player in his final year at the Maryland School for the Deaf who is coming to terms with several challenges: among them, the tragic loss of a close friend and his imminent graduation into the hearing world. Unrated. Available on Netflix. 38 minutes.
This week marks the debut of the first of three streaming horror titles based on the book series by R.L. Stine, under the umbrella of “Fear Street,” each of which takes place in a different era. “Part 1: 1994” (107 minutes) follows a group of teenagers who discover that the terrifying events that have haunted their town for generations may be connected, followed by “Part 2: 1978” (110 minutes) and “Part 3: 1666.” Unrated. Available on Netflix, and opening, in sequence, over the next three Fridays.
Based on a play by Mark St. Germain, “The God Committee” follows a group of people who make the decisions about which transplant patients will be lucky enough to receive one of a few donated organs. That group includes a cynical heart surgeon (Kelsey Grammer), a young idealist (Julia Stiles) and a jaded bureaucrat (Janeane Garofalo). Flickering Myth writes: “Although the performances are good, there is an inherent lack of momentum stemming from its theatrical roots.” (Also starring Colman Domingo and Dan Hedaya.) Unrated. Available on demand. 98 minutes.
Megan Fox stars in “Till Death,” a revenge/home-invasion thriller about a woman who, while celebrating her 10th wedding anniversary at a secluded lake house with her husband, wakes up to find herself handcuffed to his corpse. R. Available on demand. Contains strong violence, grisly images, and language throughout. 120 minutes.