The Post’s critics highlight original movies that are being streamed and made available on demand. Here are this week’s picks.
LOVE & AIR SEX and SOMEONE MARRY BARRY
The raunch-com misfire “That Awkward Moment” might have left Zac Efron fans bereft, but admirers of vulgar, playfully funny movies about the love lives of young adults have some perfectly acceptable — if not entirely respectable — choices in the on-demand universe. Indeed two films — “Love & Air Sex” and “Someone Marry Barry” — prove that even the most predictable, borderline offensive iterations of the Apatovian TMI model of gross-out, sexual frank humor can be saved by winning performances and breezy, unstudied directorial flair.
“Love & Air Sex,” by Austin-based filmmaker Bryan Poyser, works as an atmospheric travelogue of the city we all want to keep weird. Ashley Bell and Michael Stahl-David star as exes Cathy and Stan, who are visiting mutual friends over an eventful weekend during which they may or may not get back together. As usual with such setups, it’s the supporting players who steal the show in “Love & Air Sex”: Sara Paxton, as Cathy’s punked out, foul-mouthed best friend Kara, brings spontaneity and bright-eyed humor to her cynical character, while Zach Cregger, as Kara’s one-time boyfriend, resembles a less coarse, self-regarding version of Seann William Scott.
The “air sex” in the title refers to a competition held at Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse movie theater, wherein people mime sex acts on stage, like a dirty version of charades. Cregger and Paxton give their all to the ribald pantomime, and their commitment is commendable even as the novelty begins to wane.
In “Someone Marry Barry,” Tyler Labine plays the title character, an obnoxious, self-absorbed loser whose foot is somehow perpetually lodged in his constantly running mouth. When his best friends try to marry him off to get rid of him, he unexpectedly meets Mel (Lucy Punch), whose lack of social graces meets his, down to the last burp and passing of wind.
Written and directed by Rob Pearlstein, “Someone Marry Barry” offers the usual formulaic fare, but in this case it’s livened up considerably by Punch, as well as a supporting cast that includes an intermittently hilarious Damon Wayans (oh, and Ed Helms). “Love & Air Sex” and “Someone Marry Barry” don’t break new ground, but they till the existing territory with freshness and verve. All the awkward moments are fully intended.
— Ann Hornaday
“Love & Air Sex” (91 minutes, on Amazon Instant) and “Someone Marry Barry” (87 minutes, on iTunes) are unrated. Both contain pervasive profanity, adult themes, drug use and sexual situations.
THE BEST OFFER
It would be easy to mistake the era depicted in “The Best Offer” as some quaint, long-ago time when men wore suspenders, posh restaurants had good acoustics and selfies were painted in exquisite detail. But the film, by “Cinema Paradiso” auteur Giuseppe Tornatore, takes place in the present day, albeit among an upper echelon of wealthy and refined individuals.
The whiff of musty air works for the film, which has a Hitchcockian quality and music by the brilliant Ennio Morricone, Sergio Leone’s go-to composer. This is a movie about antiques, and that includes the main character, the perfectly named Virgil Oldman, played by Geoffrey Rush.
Virgil is a renowned auctioneer and appraiser with a passion for paintings. He’s a serious man with a fear of women (at least real ones; he has a massive collection of female portraits) and an off-putting habit of wearing gloves at all times. Virgil has at least one skeleton in his closet: He sometimes passes off authentic masterworks as forgeries, then auctions them at a discount so he can add them to his secret collection.
Virgil, while lonely, seems to be on top of his professional game. But then he gets a call from a reclusive heiress who hasn’t left her house in more than a decade and wants to offload the valuable belongings of her late parents. He agrees to work with Claire (Sylvia Hoeks), who speaks to him through a door, and before you know it, he’s falling in love. Never mind that he’s never seen her — or that she’s 27.
In the process of sifting through Claire’s belongings, Virgil keeps stumbling upon rusty gears, scattered around like Easter eggs, and he enlists young Robert (Jim Sturgess) to help him reassemble the pieces into a spectacularly strange contraption.At its best, the movie, like the slowly materializing gizmo, builds on itself while retaining an aura of mystery. The beginning of the movie is cryptic and entertaining, and Tornatore cooks up an equally inspired — if overwrought — ending, but the filmmaker doesn’t appear to have any idea of how to link the two. “The Best Offer” turns out to be a beautiful shell. It looks good and sounds better, but for all its intricacies, it doesn’t add up to much.
— Stephanie Merry
R. Contains some sexuality and graphic nudity. 131 minutes. Available via Amazon Instant and iTunes.
BIG BAD WOLVES
There’s a reason Quentin Tarantino pronounced “Big Bad Wolves” the best film of 2013 at Korea’s Busan International Film Festival last fall. The stylish and squeamishly gripping Israeli thriller plays a lot like one of his movies.
Graphic violence juxtaposed with banal, comedic chit-chat? Check. A pop oldies tune paired with profoundly disturbing action? Check. It’s clear that writer/directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado studied “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” with almost Talmudic precision, from their use of silly cellphone ringtones interrupting scenes of torture to an extended sequence in which a possibly psychotic man bakes a drug-laced birthday cake to the tune of Buddy Holly’s jaunty “Everyday.”
Despite their stylistic similarities with Tarantino, these young Israeli filmmakers, who debuted with their 2010 slasher film “Rabies,” have managed to find a voice of their own. “Big Bad Wolves” took home multiple prizes last year from the Israeli Film Academy, including best director, screenplay and cinematography, and it’s distinctive enough that the inevitable Tarantino comparisons feel more like homage than imitation. The film’s slightly surreal tone lends it freshness.
Plotwise, the story of a father exacting revenge on his murdered daughter’s suspected killer bears substantial similarities to the 2013 “Prisoners,” an underrated and intense thriller by Denis Villeneuve that covered the same subject. But despite the fact that the “Wolves” trailer makes these two stories look like the same movie, they are very, very different.Much of this film is set in a grimy basement, where Gidi (Tzahi Grad) has imprisoned not only the man (Rotem Keinan) he suspects of having drugged, raped, tortured and beheaded his daughter, but the cop (Lior Ashkenazi) who has been looking for the same killer. Gidi’s plan, which he enacts with the methodical, slightly world-weary determination of a man doing his taxes, is to torture the first guy until he reveals where he has buried Gidi’s daughter’s head.
It’s a nasty and brutish setup, but the film looks and sounds fantastic, with enough twists and comic relief to alleviate the incessantly mounting sense of dread and moral repulsion. Darkly funny, hauntingly provocative and — if you have the stomach for the scenes of finger-breaking — compulsively watchable, “Big Bad Wolves” is a fascinating meditation on guilt, innocence and vigilantism.
Unrated. Contains graphic violence, torture and bloodletting, obscenity, animal cruelty and mature thematic material. 110 minutes. In Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles. “Big Bad Wolves” is available through Amazon Instant, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and cable on demand.