The Post’s critics highlight original movies that are being streamed and made available on demand. Here are this week’s picks.
Where did Parker Posey go?
The actress known as the “Queen of the Indies” for her early emergence in and domination of independent cinema still reliably turns up on the occasional television show (“The Big C,” “Louie”). But other than some cable movies (“Hemingway and Gellhorn”) and straight-to-DVD fare (“Highland Park”), Posey hasn’t been in the public eye much lately. It’s a shame. Despite Parker’s tartly effervescent presence in “And Now a Word From Our Sponsor,” the 2013 advertising satire received poor reviews when it popped up in limited release this spring and it’s quickly slunk away to the land of on-demand.
Last year’s similarly themed “Price Check” fared a lot better critically, and is worth checking out for fans of the actress, who puts her inimitable stamp on this wry workplace comedy, set in the milieu of grocery-store marketing.
At first glance, “Price Check” seems like a cross between 1999’s “Office Space” and 2011’s “Horrible Bosses.” Told from the point of view of genial Everyman Peter Cozy (Eric Mabius), a marketing flunky who dreams of starting his own record label, “Price Check” is a portrait of a small group of white-collar workers thrown into upheaval by the arrival of a new boss (Posey), who storms through her underlings’ comfortable tedium with a mixture of perkiness and psychosis.
Posey keeps things from going over the top with a firm grip on the character. It also helps that filmmaker Michael Walker’s hilariously jargony, yet believable script drops terms like “predictive analysis,” “hybrid incentives” and “EDLP modeling” — a reference to Every Day Low Pricing — like everyone’s heard of them. The offhand nature of the marketing wonkspeak helps ground the film in the banal reality of cruddy jobs everywhere. Paradoxically, its specificity lends it a kind of universality.
But in the way that “The Office” wasn’t just about the office, “Price Check” isn’t simply a satire of cubicle country. Parker’s character, Susan, quickly singles out Peter for advancement, not just on the corporate ladder, but in her personal life, leading to a wobbling of Peter’s moral compass, and to predictable complications with Peter’s wife (Annie Parisse).
Despite a familiar game plan, “Price Check” bobs and weaves in surprising ways. It’s also about relationships and boundaries between people who spend all day together, yet barely know each other. Amy Schumer, Josh Pais and Brian Berrebbi are among the talented ensemble cast playing Peter’s co-workers. More than anything, though, the film questions Peter’s ambitions and the price he is willing to pay to get what he wants, if, in fact, it is what he wants.
Susan should join the ranks of workplace villains defined by Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada.” Posey’s standout performance is the single biggest reason to watch this film, but it’s by no means the only reason. -- M.O.
Unrated. Contains crude language and sexual humor. 92 minutes. Available on Amazon Instant, iTunes, Netflix and on-demand cable.
3 DAYS OF NORMAL
While some say the romantic comedy is headed toward extinction, “3 Days of Normal” seeks to prove there’s life left in the genre. The movie is at least half-right. The opposites-attract setup feels a little like paint by numbers, but the movie remains an endearing and sweetly enjoyable watch for a night in.
Co-writer Jace McLean stars as small-town New Hampshire cop Bill Morgan. He’s a by-the-book stick in the mud whose exacting tendencies are smartly captured by director Ishai Setton during the movie’s early scenes. The type of guy who meticulously ensures his computer keyboard is clean, and when asked by his aunt, the police station’s dispatcher, how long he’s been fruitlessly waiting for speeding cars, he replies “34 minutes.”
So when he finds beautiful blonde Nikki (Mircea Monroe) passed out drunk behind the wheel of her car, he is fully prepared to throw the book at her. His uncle, the chief of police, has another idea — why not orchestrate some kind of romantic pairing for his serially single nephew? What Bill doesn’t realize is Nikki is actually an infamously mischievous Hollywood starlet who’s attempting to outrun a sex-tape scandal. And the paparazzi are keenly interested in her whereabouts.
While the plot makes some silly leaps in order to keep Bill in the dark and get these two lovebirds alone together, there are some solid laughs along the way, thanks mainly to reliable comic actors Richard Riehle, Lin Shaye and Ajay Naidu as Bill’s uncle, aunt and the celebrity journalist on the hunt for Bill and Nikki.
Monroe and McLean don’t create the most sparky chemistry, which becomes increasingly problematic as the movie rolls along. But like the instrumental soundtrack, which could have been ripped from so many other indie dramedies, the rom-com imparts a low-key pleasure even if it doesn’t create a lasting impression. -- S.M.
Unrated. Contains sexual situations and mild language. 82 minutes. Available on iTunes, Amazon Instant and on-demand cable.
Every year or so, the Texas State Board of Education makes news as its members review textbooks for acceptance into the state’s school system. No big deal — keep Texas weird, right? Um, no. The board’s efforts to rewrite science and history standards — which in recent years have favored creationism and intelligent design and have equated Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln as historic figures — have national implications, as textbook publishers cater to the major market that the huge state represents.
Right now, the board is deciding on new science textbooks, in which review teams already have found such objectionable ideas as evolution and human-caused global warming. The state board will announce the results of its review in November, which makes this the perfect time to catch up with “The Revisionaries,” Scott Thurman’s enlightening documentary about the peculiar culture that surrounds Texas’s curriculum wars. “The Revisionaries” was a hit when it played Silverdocs (now AFI Docs) last year; now everyone has a chance to see a film that, for all the kookiness it portrays, is remarkably even-handed and compassionate.
Thurman focuses on dentist and young-earther Don McLeroy, whose 2010 campaign for reelection as education board chair is chronicled in “The Revisionaries.” The run was understandably controversial: This is a man — genial, funny, engaging — who cheerfully admits he thinks humans and dinosaurs walked together and that T. rex and the missus were probably on the ark. “Sure they were! We don’t know!” he shouts to a group of schoolchildren. (And yes, David Cross very much needs to play him in the biopic.)
That aptly sums up the alternately gobsmacking and terrifying world view of the people who routinely vote to excise words like “women and minorities” from Texas school books, as well as references to hip-hop (McLeroy prefers country music). It’s all low-hanging fruit for a parodist, but Thurman plays it straight, giving McLeroy and his allies their due, while also fairly representing their often bemused opponents (Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network and anthropology professor Ron Wetherington). “The Revisionaries” would be a warm, hilarious piece of Americana if the stakes weren’t so high. But they are, so it’s required viewing, however regrettably so. -- A.H.
Unrated. Contains nothing objectionable. 92 minutes. Available on iTunes, Xbox and Playstation.