Reviews: ‘Hellraiser’ is back with shock and nah



Writer-director Clive Barker’s 1987 horror movie “Hellraiser” (adapting his novella “The Hellbound Heart”) became a cult favorite due to its kinky overtones and its visually striking villain: a spiky-domed demon dubbed Pinhead. The new reboot retains the elements that define a “Hellraiser” story, including the sadomasochistic extra-dimensional monsters and a cast of human “heroes” who rarely act heroically. But there’s something lacking. For all the flayed flesh and impaled skin in the picture, this “Hellraiser” isn’t sharp enough.

Directed by David Bruckner from a screenplay by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski — a trio who previously collaborated on the excellent supernatural thriller “The Night House” — this “Hellraiser” stars Odessa A’zion as Riley, a habitual substance user who helps her shady boyfriend steal an ancient puzzle-box. The box can be twisted into multiple configurations, each of which leads to the solver’s hands getting punctured and a portal opening to a realm ruled by the Cenobites, a hedonistic race for whom pleasure, pain and enlightenment are all tightly — some might say constrictively — intertwined.

The new “Hellraiser” is suitably bloody, and Bruckner and company understand (at least theoretically) the core of Barker’s premise, in which people’s rapacious needs end up hurting everyone in their general vicinity. The movie even has a great Pinhead, played by Jamie Clayton, who captures the Hell Priest’s eerie calm and unsettlingly alien carriage. But while this film looks better and feels more serious than most of the “Hellraiser” sequels, there’s something pro forma about it. The plot grinds through nightmarish scenes of demonic menace and torture, with no sense of surprise or revelation. Conceptually, the picture works. But over the course of two hours, what was shocking becomes numbing.

‘Hellraiser.’ R, for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language throughout, some sexual content and brief graphic nudity. 2 hours, 1 minute. Available on Hulu

‘To Leslie’

At the start of the jittery indie drama “To Leslie,” a free-spirited Texan named Leslie (Andrea Riseborough) wins the kind of lottery prize usually referred to as “life-changing money.” But Leslie doesn’t really want her life changed. A reckless alcoholic, she burns through her windfall so fast that she loses everything — including her son James (Owen Teague), who has set himself up with a calmer life with the help of old family friends Dutch (Stephen Root) and Nancy (Allison Janney). Years later, Leslie visits James, Dutch and Nancy, looking for their help; but she still has no interest in getting clean or following anyone’s rules.

“To Leslie” is one of those addiction and redemption stories that spends as much time on the heroine hitting rock bottom as it does on her comeback — which happens when a good-hearted motel manager named Sweeney (Marc Maron) offers her a job and a room. Director Michael Morris, working from a Ryan Binaco screenplay, explores the spaces and the sounds of a never-ending bender: the tear-in-the-beer country songs, the wild swings from giddy to vicious and so on. It’s a story often told, but this movie tells it well, energetically dramatizing the in-the-moment experiences Leslie has and showing how they inform the choices she makes. And Riseborough is a dynamo, making sure that even at her worst, Leslie has enough personality and humanity that the audience roots for her just to get through another day.

‘To Leslie.’ R, for language throughout and some drug use. 1 hour, 59 minutes. Available on VOD; playing theatrically, Laemmle Monica, Santa Monica; Harkins Chino Hills

A woman with her arms around a man in the movie "Luckiest Girl Alive."

Mila Kunis and Finn Wittrock in the movie “Luckiest Girl Alive.”

(Sabrina Lantos/Netflix)

‘Luckiest Girl Alive’

Based on Jessica Knoll’s best-selling mystery novel, the Mike Barker-directed “Luckiest Girl Alive” — with a script by Knoll — falls into the trap of trying too hard to capture not just the book’s flashback-heavy plot but also its distinctive voice. Mila Kunis stars as Ani Fanelli, a successful magazine columnist about to marry Luke (Finn Wittrock), the millionaire man of her dreams — a rite of passage that would be more fulfilling if Ani weren’t still haunted by her experiences as a teen at a prestigious private school, where she endured both a sexual assault and a mass shooting. Kunis also narrates the film, sharing the heroine’s often acerbic thoughts about New York society types and how hard she’s fought to overcome her trauma.

Kunis is a powerhouse actress; and Barker and Knoll do a fine job of capturing the ambiguities of Ani’s situation. She was friendly with the gunmen who shot up her school, who offered comfort when her rapists were bullying and mocking her; and as a result her lingering regrets and resentments from those years have made her wins as an adult more bittersweet. But all of this is over-explained in the film — often by Ani herself, in the incessant voice-overs. Add in the time-jumping narrative structure and “Luckiest Girl Alive” begins to feel too much like a puzzle, which when solved is supposed to present a complete picture of who Ani is — albeit a two-dimensional one.

‘Luckiest Girl Alive.’ R, for violent content, rape, sexual material, language throughout and teen substance use. 1 hour, 55 minutes. Available on Netflix

‘The Redeem Team’

When the 1992 “Dream Team” of NBA all-stars arrived at the Olympics in Barcelona, its goals were twofold: to reassert America’s dominance in its homegrown sport and to elevate basketball into a global product. They succeeded at both, though in the process of boosting basketball’s popularity, they inspired a generation of international players who proved capable of beating the Americans a decade later. Jon Weinbach’s insightful and emotional documentary “The Redeem Team” looks at how USA basketball regained its mojo at the 2008 Beijing games. Using new interviews and rare footage from practices, Weinbach breaks down how Coach Mike Krzyzewski and stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James helped change the team’s culture by emphasizing unity, patriotism and the larger Olympic experience. Aside from some liberal use of profanity, this is not a warts-and-all portrait of these complicated men. It’s more a feel-good recap of an impressive championship run. But the game analysis is keen, and the arc of this story is undeniably inspiring, arguing that victory is sweeter when it springs from a common purpose.

‘The Redeem Team.’ TV-MA, for language. 1 hour, 37 minutes. Available on Netflix

‘Mr. Harrigan’s Phone’

Horror author Stephen King is responsible for some of the scariest short stories and most spine-tingling novels ever written; but a lot of his most original work has been in his novellas, which offer richly detailed character studies, only lightly tinged with thrills and chills. “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” is a fine example, both in print and in the new movie adaptation, written and directed by John Lee Hancock. It’s not scary; it is instead an alternately touching and haunting story about the relationship between a sensitive teen named Craig (Jaeden Martell) and the grumpy old rich man (Donald Sutherland) he reads to once a week. When Mr. Harrigan dies, Craig starts texting the dead man’s cell, and sees some of his darkest wishes begin to come true. The plot is the stuff of “The Twilight Zone” — and, frankly, not quite twisty enough to sustain a 105-minute film — but Hancock and his cast effectively convey the essence of King’s story, which is about a well-meaning kid learning how anything that comes too easy likely has dark strings attached.

‘Mr. Harrigan’s Phone.’ PG-13, for thematic material, some strong language, violent content and brief drug material. 1 hour, 45 minutes. Available on Netflix

Also on streaming

“Invisible Demons” is a harrowing documentary depiction of people on the frontlines of a global environmental catastrophe. Director Rahul Jain brings his cameras to Delhi, where he gathers testimonials about what it’s like to live in a crowded city choked with factory pollution and consumerist refuse. Jain then intersperses those personal stories with immersive sequences that plunge viewers into the experience of navigating floods, heat, smog and sewage. Available on Mubi

Available now on DVD and Blu-ray

small cute snail character

Marcel in the movie “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.”


“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” is one of the year’s most unusual dramedies, telling the story of a tiny talking shell (voiced by Jenny Slate) who becomes an internet sensation, and then worries about the impact all the fuss and attention will have on his family. The Blu-ray edition comes handsomely packaged with an 80-page booklet, plus a commentary track, a behind-the-scenes featurette and the original viral Marcel shorts that inspired the film. A24


Source link

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *