In-House Reviews #108: Love Lies Bleeding, Spaceman, Accidental Texan & More!

Aaron Neuwirth has reviews for Love Lies Bleeding, Spaceman, Accidental Texan, Outlaw Posse, Drugstore June, and Godkrusher.

While Jack Black is back to skadoosh another foe in Kung Fu Panda 4, and Hollywood’s biggest night is upon us all, check on these other releases as well. This set of write-ups includes an 80s-set neo-noir, a sci-fi drama, a Gen Z comedy, a Midwest comedy-drama, a Black western, and a video game-themed mockumentary. The following features reviews for Love Lies Bleeding, Spaceman, Accidental Texan, Outlaw Posse, Drugstore June, and Godkrusher.

Love Lies Bleeding: 8 out of 10

The Setup: Lou (Kristen Stewart) is a reclusive gym manager who falls hard for Jackie (Katy M. O’Brian), an ambitious bodybuilder heading to Las Vegas to pursue her dream. Their relationship soon leads to violence as they get pulled deep into the web of Lou’s criminal family.

Review: Director Rose Glass follows up her psychological horror debut, Saint Maud, with a stylish neo-noir that immediately gets off on the right foot thanks to an atmospheric and very effective score provided by Clint Mansell. It sets the mood for a thrilling yet darkly comedic tale that ultimately serves as a twisted love story. Think Blood Simple, True Romance, or even Badlands, but whatever comes to mind, just know this film carves out its own unique spot thanks to solid work from Stewart, O’Brian, and the always-reliable Ed Harris. The latter of this trio adds various quirks to his expansive library of intimidating characters that make him seem no less deadly.

The same can be said of relative newcomer O’Brian, who occupies the bodybuilder side of this plotline and conveys a sense of unhinged danger thanks to the film’s choice to reveal only what’s needed in a given moment, yet suggest so much more lurking beneath the surface when it comes to each of these characters. Violent and grisly, with the right amount of pulp sensibilities, there’s a lot of morbid fun to be had here.

Where To Watch: Available in select theaters starting March 8, 2024. Expanding wider on March 15.

Spaceman: 6 out of 10

The Setup: Six months into a solitary research mission to the edge of the solar system, an astronaut, Jakub (Adam Sandler), realizes that the marriage he left behind might not be waiting for him when he returns to Earth. Desperate to fix things with his wife, Lenka (Carey Mulligan), he is helped by a mysterious creature from the beginning of time he finds hiding in the bowels of his ship. Hanuš (voiced by Paul Dano) works with Jakub to make sense of what went wrong before it is too late.

Review: Given how well I typically respond to seeing the Sandman in dramatic features, the idea of him playing a lonely astronaut deep in outer space is easily intriguing to me. Add to that an alien tarantula-like companion, and this seems like early film-of-the-year material. And yet, I wasn’t entirely won over by the film. Sure, I’d ultimately say it’s worth watching, but as one who’s seen his share of Tartakovsky films, let alone other sad, isolated spacemen dramas such as Ad Astra or Moon, I’d still call this duller and more ponderous than intriguingly meditative.

It’s a shame, but I feel as though director Johan Renck didn’t quite find the handle on this material that was needed to balance the inner drama of Sandler’s character with subplots featuring what’s going on back on Earth. Perhaps keeping it entirely in space would have worked for the better, but as it stands, while I’m all for everything involving Hanuš, the friendly space spider, I was a little more ready to blast-off away from this film once it ended than I thought I would be.

Where To Watch: Now available to stream on Netflix.

Accidental Texan: 6 out of 10

The Setup: Stranded in Buffalo Gap, Texas, fledgling actor Erwin (Rudy Pankow) meets Merle (Thomas Haden Church), a veteran oil driller about to lose everything he owns. In desperate straits, Merle asks him to pose as his landman to fool the police and a corrupt oil company owner.

Review: Between the film’s title and knowing it’s based on a novel called “Chocolate Lizards” by Cole Thompson, this is prime material for “never judging a book by its cover.” Granted, it’s not as though this film rises above being an incredibly earnest and folksy tale about friendship and the power of goodwill saving all. However, Haden Church tends to go a long way for me, as his burly Texan persona is a lot of fun to watch, even in a film as uneven as this.

The idea that this goes from being something of a Doc Hollywood-like situation for a kid losing out on becoming a big-time Hollywood star to the eventual push into underdog sports movie territory (but with oil) is a stretch. Yet, director Mark Bristol makes this all very likable. There’s a strength to a film like this, where it doesn’t need to rely on much beyond the actors’ chemistry and a bit of Bruce Dern late in the movie to add a bit more authority. As a film that feels like a random choice to come across, this one delivers, accidentally or otherwise.

Where To Watch: Available in theaters and on VOD starting March 8, 2024.

Outlaw Posse: 6 out of 10

The Setup: 1908. Chief (Mario Van Peebles) returns from years of hiding in Mexico to claim stolen gold hidden in the hills of Montana. In his quest, he reunites an ensemble of fresh & familiar faces. Together, they fight off Angel (William Mapother), whose rationale for the gold leaves a trail of deception and dead bodies.

Review: I haven’t dug too far into this, but I’ll always wonder why Mario Van Peebles isn’t a bigger deal. Given the opportunity and a proper budget, I think he could knock out plenty of solid features that range in genre. As it stands, his return to the Western genre, following the underrated Posse from 1993, is a more tongue-in-cheek approach, but a moderately fun one. Various limitations mean the ambition is not quite matched in the execution. At 108 minutes, the film stretches what it has a bit too far, and Van Peebles isn’t exactly getting Leone-level results from what he’s after.

Still, there’s an enjoyable feature here that plays off the presence of both Van Peebles and his son Mandela Van Peebles, along with an ensemble cast that includes John Caroll Lynch, D.C. Young Fly, M. Emmet Walsh, Amber Reign Smith, Cedric the Entertainer, and Whoopi Goldberg as Stagecoach Mary. As a Black Western, there’s a certain level of emphasis on what Van Peebles is putting out there, but there’s little need for the film to hammer down on obvious messaging. Instead, it tells a reasonably exciting story about lost gold and white oppressors, and gets enough clever moments out of it.

Where To Watch: Now playing in select theaters.

Drugstore June: 6 out of 10

The Setup: June (Esther Povitsky) is a wannabe influencer who’s juggling multiple problems: her parents want her to move out, her ex-boyfriend (Haley Joel Osment) accuses her of stalking him, and two detectives think she may be involved in the robbery of a local pharmacy.

Review: Drugstore June is very much a comedy that hits on the mark of being a film you either find funny or you don’t. As a film aiming to poke a lot of fun at Millennial and Gen Z culture, I’m not going to say it all lands with a smart thing to say about the need for certain people to cultivate celebrity personas by constantly being online. However, I can say I did find the film frequently pretty funny thanks to both the confidently oblivious lead performance by Povitsky and the heavy lineup of comedians of today I’m familiar with, along with a solid handful of character actors such as a game James Remar.

Director Nicholaus Goosen does what’s needed to make June’s exaggerated world seem just absurd enough without going overboard. If the humor is working, the zippy pace is enough to make this a pretty harmless trip as well. As it stands, this little comedy fulfilled my prescription.

Where To Watch: Now playing in select theaters.

Godkrusher: 6 out of 10

The Setup: Minka (Sarah Sherman) is an emotionally stunted vlogger obsessed with hunting down and beating the most controversial video game of the 1980s, and her cameraman, a pretentious film student, is more interested in manipulating the narrative than documenting her journey. The two will search far and wide together, amounting to curious results.

Review: To put it right up front – this is a fun flick. Currently on Saturday Night Live, where her weirdness is held back a bit, Sherman has a specific stand-up persona that leans on combining perceived innocence with grossness. However, while there’s plenty of room for the bizarre in this geek-friendly indie, Godkrusher is not designed to gross anyone out. It has a lot more sweetness on its mind. The idea of going on an adventure to discover as much as possible about a lost Nintendo game is the kind of premise that makes me wonder if there’s more truth than I realize about this sort of thing.

In execution from a film standpoint, however, director Casey Rup finds the right amount of specificity that means an audience inclined to enjoy this sort of thing will assuredly find and enjoy what this movie offers. Between some had-to-be-there references, a number of loopy gags, and a cast that features cult favorite comedians/musicians like Open Mike Eagle and Brendan Small, I see enough going on to ensure a place in the realm of video game-inspired movies that speak to those who really get what that world is like. That’s of course assuming they get their hands on this wacky flick, which is hopefully not like having to track down a lost cartridge.

Where To Watch: Screened for press at KRUSHFEST ’24. Currently seeking U.S. distribution.

***

Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the African American Film Critics Association, the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at Variety, We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Firstshowing.net, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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