Filmed in 2005, when Lawrence was an unknown 15-year-old — several years before her breakout performance in “Winter’s Bone” — the melodramatic mystery “Devil You Know” was never released, until now. Very loosely based on the 1941 novel “Mildred Pierce,” the film, available on-demand, is a trashy, catty potboiler about the rivalry between a boozy, pill-popping movie star attempting a comeback (Lena Olin) and her ingenue daughter (Rosamund Pike). Oh, and there’s a dark secret and blackmail.
Lawrence, who plays a teenage version of Pike’s character, is featured in a couple of brief flashback scenes with no dialogue. With her hair bleached blond, she looks a lot like Pike.
Now that the actress is a monster movie star — albeit one who would probably scoff at that description — it’s unsurprising to see everything the actress ever made dredged up. We already can find clips of the promos Lawrence did, at age 14, for the MTV reality series “My Super Sweet 16” online.
But “Devil You Know” might be taking things a bit too far.
The acting is stiff. And the lame dialogue is peppered — almost bizarrely so — with a steady stream of annoying questions: “What’s going on?” “Why would I do that?” “Tell me what she said?”
Still, the film, at barely more than an hour long, has the breezy, cheesy appeal of a tray of melon ball shooters: so bad, it’s good.
Which gives me an idea for a drinking game. Invite a bunch of friends over. Crank up “Devil You Know.” Each time one of the characters in the movie asks a question, everyone takes a swig. It will give new meaning to the phrase “on demand.”
I guess the exceptionally interrogatory nature of the film is explained by the fact that it’s a murder mystery. But the only real mystery anyone really cares about is, “When will J-Law show up?” — M.O.
Unrated. Contains obscenity, sensuality and shooting. 72 minutes. “Devil You Know” is available through Amazon Instant, iTunes and on-demand cable.
THE TYPEWRITER (IN THE 21ST CENTURY)
The Typewriter (In the 21st Century),” Christopher Lockett’s quick-as-a-brown-fox documentary, made a quiet Washington debut in June when it played at the Newseum. Now the rest of us can catch up with this endearing ode to Royals, Remingtons and IBM Selectrics of yore, while upending the assumption that they’ve all gone the way of the dodo.
Interviewing repairmen (and two repairwomen), artists, authors, professors, graphic designers and not one, but two poets-on-demand, Lockett makes a convincing case that typewriters aren’t just here to stay but that, as masterpieces of engineering, design and durability, they really never went away. After a brief tutorial on the cultural impact of the 19th century invention of a typing machine — the most significant effect being the rise of women in offices — “The Typewriter” focuses on the iPad generation’s re-discovery of old-fashioned typing, and the ensuing development of a passionate typewriter subculture that includes collectors, blogs, “type-ins” and even one inventor who has dreamed up a USB-friendly version.
An impressive number of artists and writers still work on typewriters: Sam Shepard, Woody Allen and novelists Larry McMurtry and Harry Crews are some of the most famous. Typewriter stalwarts Robert Caro and David McCullough eloquently explain why the permanence, commitment and recorded revisions of a typed manuscript allows them to take their time, think more deeply and write award-winning books. (One preservationist recalls a youngster being introduced to a typewriter, happily bashing away at the QWERTY keyboard and then yelling, “Where’s the ‘Enter’?”)
Oh, and all you heritage-happy hipsters wearing earrings made of old typewriter keys? Not. Cool.
“The Typewriter” loses momentum and visual interest toward its conclusion, as it becomes talking head-heavy and repetitive. Still, Lockett has made a valuable and persuasive film that keenly balances instruction and celebration — all without benefit of a narrator. Maybe too persuasive: Having written and filed this review on a generic office laptop, I can’t help but suspect it would have been improved by a run it through my long-lost Smith Corona. Long may she shift, backspace and return. -- A.H.
Unrated. Contains nothing objectionable. 57 minutes. Available on Hulu.
THE FRUIT HUNTERS
When one of the subjects of “The Fruit Hunters” talks about being aroused by fruit, it’s clear that the people profiled in Yung Chang’s documentary enjoy mangoes and bananas more than the average person. Chang follows these characters on their disparate journeys, whether that means tracking down the origins of a rare fig or trying to plant an Asian mango on American soil.
It’s fascinating to watch, and the visuals, including extreme close-ups of colorful produce and panoramas of verdant jungles, are exquisite. For a dash of star power, one of the threads follows actor Bill Pullman, a fruit enthusiast with visions of a community orchard in his Los Angeles neighborhood. As in most of his movies, he plays the part of the likable everyman.
Chang, who based his documentary on a book by Adam Gollner, intersperses his narratives with a tutorial on different types of fruit not found in your local Whole Foods, from an ice cream bean to citrus caviar to the miracle berry, which momentarily transforms taste buds, turning bitter food sweet.
The director also delves into the origins of certain varieties — Hass avocados, Bing cherries and clementines, among others — while also paying close attention to the future. For example, one subject explains how the world’s banana supply is a monoculture and therefore highly vulnerable to disease.
There’s almost a “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” feel to the movie with its stellar eye candy paired with a playful score. And hearing the personalities describe the transcendent tastes of different fruits has me wanting to hop the next plane to Hawaii just to taste a water apple. Would one taste of such an exotic food would turn us all into obsessives? -- S.M.
Unrated. Contains nothing objectionable. 96 minutes. Available through Amazon Instant and iTunes.