The hard-hitting revenge thriller from writer-director Paul Andrew Williams “Taurus” is a throwback to movies like “Get Carter” and “Point Blank,” where a righteously angry man wreaks havoc on the underworld, using everything he’s learned in his life as a thug. Neil Maskell gives a riveting performance as the title character, a mob lackey and doting father who goes after his former boss and stepfather Norm (David Hayman) when the old man interferes with Bull’s attempt to take custody of his son.
Williams has been making tense, gritty genre films and TV shows in the UK for two decades now, which is evident in the confidence of ‘Bull’. Williams tells this story in a split timeline, covering what led to Bull and Norm’s feud as well as what happens after the anti-hero sets out for revenge. For the most part, “Bull” is built from a series of imaginative settings and unrelenting violence.
These individual segments make “Bull” a must-watch for fans of pulpy crime imagery. The protagonist’s genuine affection for his boy makes him sympathetic; but his willingness to maim anyone who stands in his way makes him frightening. As Bull murders one of Norm’s henchmen on an amusement park ride and cauterizes another target’s severed hand on a gas stove, Williams deftly balances sentiment and shock.
Rated: R, for strong violence, pervasive language, and drug-related material
Operating time: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Playing: Available on VOD
When the quirks and pains of pandemic life begin to fade from our cultural memory, it will be fascinating to look back at the movies and TV shows that have adapted to quarantine and social distancing by incorporating these realities. directly into their plots – or even trying to turn these limitations into strengths. The slow-boiled supernatural thriller “The End of the Night” definitely aims to do the latter, with a story that makes maximum use of limited space.
Geno Walker plays Ken, who recently suffered a depression that estranged him from his children, ex-wife (Kate Arrington), and jovial new husband (Michael Shannon). Now locked in his cramped apartment – where he subsists on food, coffee, Pepto Bismol and daily affirmation deliveries – Ken spends a lot of time online, chatting with friends, shooting YouTube videos and researching whether strange phenomena he experiences in his new home can be attributed to a haunting.
Written by Brett Neveu and directed by Jennifer Reeder (the latter wowed moviegoers three years ago with her sleek high school noir exercise “Knives and Skin”), “Night’s End” takes a little too long to pick up speed. momentum. However, Nephew’s plot really unfolds in the final 20 minutes as Ken’s investigation culminates in a terrifying twist, unfolding in real time across multiple laptop screens, involving people too far away to help the hero.
“The End of the Night”
Operating time: 1 hour, 21 minutes
Playing: Available on Frisson
Although it didn’t win the Oscar it was nominated for – Best Documentary Short – it’s well worth the half hour it takes to watch the film “When We Were Bullies” on HBO or HBO Max. Accomplished director Jay Rosenblatt revisits the subject of his 1994 short film “The Smell of Burning Ants,” which dealt with his memories of growing up in a culture that encouraged boys to be cruel. Working on this film led Rosenblatt to reconnect with former classmates who had been forever affected by a painful bullying incident in their schoolyard. Through interviews and animated recreations, these people and the filmmaker sort through their memories, trying to figure out exactly what happened – and why they still can’t get rid of it.
“When We Were Bullies”
Operating time: 36 minutes
Playing: Available on HBO Max
Don’t dwell too much on the goofy premise of Richard Linklater’s latest animated film, “Apollo 10 1/2: A Childhood in the Space Age” – a film apparently about a pre-teen named Stan who is invited by NASA to become the first boy in space, circa 1969. The director of “Waking Life” and “Dazed and Confused” mainly uses the plot as a gimmick, allowing him to reminisce about growing up in suburban Houston at a time when parents let their children roam free. Jack Black narrates as the voice of adult Stan, looking back at all the old TV shows, pinball arcades and amusement parks that filled kids’ summer days waiting to watch the first mission that put men on the moon. The result is a picture that is clearly very personal to Linklater – and one that should be absolutely delightful for anyone who sees the past as an increasingly distant foreign land.
“Apollo 10½: A Childhood in the Space Age”
Rated: PG-13, for some suggestive material, images of injuries and smoking
Operating time: 1 hour 38 minutes
Playing: Available on Netflix
Tom Cullen gives a riveting performance as an obnoxious British entrepreneur and influencer named Lucas Hunt in writer-director Charles Dorfman’s unusual home invasion thriller “Barbarians.”
Dorfman delays the part of the film where a trio of masked intruders show up to torment Lucas, his girlfriend Chloe (Ines Spirodinov), and their dinner hosts Eva (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and Adam (Iwon Rheon). Instead, more than half of the film’s runtime is devoted to the party itself, where the incorrigible alpha male Lucas dominates the conversation and makes everyone feel uncomfortable. The horror elements in “Barbarians” don’t work quite as well as the psychodrama, but thanks to Cullen (and
cutting dialogue from Dorfman), the first half of the film is very strong.
Operating time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica, Santa Monica; Laemmle Noho 7, North Hollywood; Harkins 18, Chino Hills; also available on VOD
Also on VOD and streaming
“Better Nate Than Ever” (Disney+) is writer-director Tim Federle’s adaptation of his own popular work of juvenile fiction about a Pittsburgh middle schooler named Nate (Rueby Wood) who sneaks off to New York to audition for a Broadway musical. The film is partly about the lure of showbiz and partly about Nate coming out to himself, family and friends that he is gay.
“The bubble” (Netflix) is set on a pandemic-era film set for a hit “Jurassic Park” franchise and stars Karen Gillan, David Duchovny, Leslie Mann, Keegan-Michael Key, Pedro Pascal and Iris Apatow as as a group of actors who get stuck together in quarantine for a shoot that never seems to end. Directed by Judd Apatow (who co-wrote the film with Pam Brady), this comedy doubles as a document about what Hollywood has had to go through to stay entertained during Covid-19.
“Nitram” (VOD) is an intense Australian docudrama directed by Justin Kurzel and written by Shaun Grant, which fictionalizes the events leading up to the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. Caleb Landry Jones (who won Best Actor at Cannes for his performance ) plays a lonely young Tasmanian suburbanite who befriends an eccentric heiress (Essie Davis) and begins to hatch disturbing plans for what to do with her money.
“Bargain” (VOD) is a sequel to the 2020 low-budget crime drama “Red Stone” and reunites its writer-director Derek Presley with its star Neal McDonough, who plays the titular character: a hitman struggling to get right. In this chapter of the Boon saga, the killer confronts a Pacific Northwest mob boss (Tommy Flanagan), who is tormenting a local widow (Christiane Seidel).
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray
“Brighton 4th” (Kino Lorber) is an all-too-relevant comedy-drama set in the Russian-speaking Georgian immigrant community of Brighton Beach, where a father, played by Levan Tediashvili, sets out to help his adult son (Giorgi Tabidze) out of a crowd – related financial problems. Director Levan Koguashvili and the writer explore how even people who have fled their homes can remain connected to their historical traditions and painful past.
“The last Waltz” (Criterion) is often considered the greatest rock documentary of all time, both because the band’s last gig in 1976 featured a staggering lineup of ’60s rock royalty and because director Martin Scorsese and his team shot the series with such cinematic flair. The new 4K Criterion Edition adds new and old interviews and multiple commentary tracks.