The Post’s critics highlight original movies that are being streamed and made available on demand. Here are this week’s picks.
WALK OF SHAME
“Walk of Shame” has had a strange trajectory. The comedy had a $15 million budget and a cast of reliable comedians, including Elizabeth Banks and James Marsden, but it was released in just 51 theaters and brought in a ghastly $39,751 during its May 2 opening weekend.
It’s possible that the producers wanted the movie to avoid publicity, given that screenwriter Dan Rosen is suing Banks and her husband, Max Handelman, alleging they stole his story (“Darci’s Walk of Shame”) and turned it into their own movie without giving Rosen credit.
After seeing the movie, the question remains: Who would want credit for writer-director Steven Brill’s lazy and confounding mess that’s notable only because it wastes so much talent?
Banks plays Meghan Miles, a local news anchor in Los Angeles who has her hopes pinned on a national gig. When that doesn’t pan out and her fiance dumps her, the self-proclaimed “good girl” bookworm gets dragged to a club by two girlfriends and ends up spending the night with a novelist-bartender (Marsden). The next morning, she wakes up with a wicked hangover and a voice mail that says she has another shot at the network job if she impresses her potential future employers during that night’s evening news.
But a series of events thwarts her path to work. She loses her phone, her car gets towed (with her purse inside), and she finds herself alone and penniless on the street in a slinky yellow dress. Everyone she asks for help, from a bus driver to a crack dealer, a couple of cops and a taxi driver, is convinced she’s a prostitute. In one admittedly so-true-it’s-funny moment, she manages to borrow a phone only to realize she knows no one’s number.
But the laughs are few and far between. By the time the movie limps toward its conclusion, failing to be either romantic or comedic, the box office strategy starts to make sense. Just like a man or woman tiptoeing out of a one-night-stand’s house the morning after, the producers seem to be whispering, “Nothing to see here,” in the hopes that this dud will fade quietly into VOD oblivion. -- S.M.
R. Contains language and some sexual content. 95 minutes. Available on iTunes, Vudu, Flixster and Amazon Instant.
Time, consciousness and baseball are just a few of the subjects lightly touched on in “Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater,” an engaging documentary featuring two of American cinema’s most treasured trailblazers.
Most viewers know Linklater — if not from such comic generational touchstones as “Slacker” and “Dazed and Confused,” then from “Before Sunrise” and its two sequels or the family classic “School of Rock.”
Benning, for the uninitiated, is a revered art-film maker whose meditative, adamantly nonlinear movies are more often seen in museums and galleries than at the multiplex.
At first blush, the two may not seem to have much in common. But filmmaker Gabe Klinger adroitly maps out the territory they share, and the ways each has challenged and expanded film language. In Linklater’s case, his work defies conventional narrative as much as it exemplifies it at its best.
Filming a visit Benning paid to Linklater at the latter’s Austin production office and country house in nearby Bastrop (where they chat while having a catch), Klinger captures philosophical conversations between the 53-year-old Linklater and the 70-something Benning.
He punctuates their interchanges with clips from their work and some beautifully conceived montages that gracefully convey how their cardinal themes — identity, memory, restlessness, pushing the boundaries of cinema itself — have intersected and meshed over the years. (The approach is particularly well timed in advance of Linklater’s upcoming coming-of-age drama, “Boyhood,” which he filmed over 12 years.)
“Double Play” is the kind of film to make cinephiles grateful, if only to preserve for the ages the ruminations of two artists whose shared project has been nothing less than the excavation of the American spirit itself. -- A.H.
Unrated. Contains brief smoking and some adult themes. 70 minutes. Available on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, on- demand cable, Google Play, Xbox Video, Sony Playstation and Vudu.
GAHAN WILSON: BORN DEAD, STILL ALIVE
Reviewing the recent documentary portrait of artist-illustrator Ralph Steadman, “For No Good Reason,” gave me a hankering for more of the same. So I was delighted to stumble upon “Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird.” Steven-Charles Jaffe’s film is a fascinating profile of one of cartooning’s best and most venerable workhorses.
Chances are you know Wilson’s work, even if you don’t recognize his name. A longtime contributor to both Playboy and the New Yorker (among many other magazines), the octogenarian is known for cartoons that reveal a twisted, if not downright macabre, sense of humor. Cannibalism and other atrocities are commonplace in Wilson’s single-panel drawings, which are populated by people and monsters rendered in his signature doughy style that makes it seem as if the characters’ flesh is melting off their bones.
And sometimes it is.
The film — whose slightly hyperbolic title refers to Wilson’s delivery as a cyanotic, or “blue,” baby, i.e., not breathing — centers on interviews with Wilson, who demonstrates his working methods, revisits his childhood home in Evanston, Ill., and reminisces about his parents’ alcoholism, as well as his own (and his subsequent rehab). Testimonials as to Wilson’s creative genius are provided by such celebrities as Lewis Black, Stan Lee, Roz Chast, Guillermo del Toro, Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert, who credits Wilson with the earliest introduction to what the satirist euphemistically calls “dark humor.”
The movie is generously illustrated with examples of Wilson’s work, which live up to that description. Fears of all kinds — childhood nightmares, ecological disasters, the horrors of war and garden-variety existential dread — are all addressed in Wilson’s art, which is often quite profound and always very, very funny.
As Black, a comedian known for his own dark comedy, puts it, if you don’t “get” Gahan Wilson, there could be something wrong with you “as a person.” You might as well go back to knock-knock jokes, Black suggests, and work your way back from there.
Humor, as the film makes clear, is easier to recognize than to define. One of the most illuminating digressions in the film occurs as Jaffe and his camera tag along during one of Wilson’s weekly visits to the office of New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, who’s shown critiquing Wilson’s preliminary sketches and half-formed ideas (along with those of several other of the magazine’s contributors, both regulars and aspirants).
Mankoff’s comments can be blunt, if genially delivered, and it’s clear that the vast majority of potential cartoons never see the light of day. This section of the movie in particular — but really the whole thing — offers a powerful illustration of a truism so often repeated that it’s a cliche: Genius, even that as unimpeachable and long-standing as Wilson’s, is still 99 percent perspiration. -- M.O.
Unrated. Contains obscenity and dark humor. 85 minutes. Available via Amazon Instant and iTunes.
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