Mom and Dad
Brian Taylor’s horror/comedy Mom and Dad takes a simple premise — sometimes, even loving parents get a little fed up with their kids — and runs with it all the way to Crazytown. The film follows the Ryan family: Brent (Nicolas Cage), Kendall (Selma Blair), their petulant teenage daughter Carly (Anne Winters), and young, hyperactive son Josh (Zackary Arthur). The Ryans exhibit the typical tensions of movie families — Kendall feels shut out of her daughter’s life, Carly steals money from her parents to buy drugs — but those problems explode when a mysterious signal drives all the parents in town into a frenzy, making them possessed by a singular urge to kill their children. With the rampage spreading around town, Carly and Josh must escape from their murderous parents. As one might expect, Cage turns in a delightfully frenetic performance, and Blair keeps pace with him. Mom and Dad isn’t brilliant satire (the dialogue can be a bit stilted at times), but it’s so over-the-top and moves at such a ferocious pace, it’s hard not to get caught up in the action.
Sorry to Bother You
The directorial debut of Boots Riley (perhaps better known as the frontman of the hip-hop band The Coup), Sorry to Bother You is a madcap satire of 21st-century capitalism, a film that tosses realism out the window within the first 10 minutes or so. The movie follows Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a sad-sack guy who, desperate for money, gets a job as a telemarketer at a grimy office (he lies about his previous work experience, which his interviewer considers a positive). Cassius struggles to make sales, so an older coworker (Danny Glover) gives him some advice, telling him to use a “white voice.” After using a white voice (David Cross), Cassius suddenly starts racking up sales and soon gets a promotion to the esteemed position of Power Caller. As he climbs the corporate ladder, however, Cassius risks losing his soul to the relentless machine of marketing. Sorry to Bother You makes uses of some bonkers visuals to accompany its eccentric premise, such as an early sequence in which Cassius, as he calls customers, literally drops into their houses, snapping back to the office when they hang up.
The Square, the latest award-winning film from Swedish director Ruben Östlund, follows a man named Christian (Claes Bang), the curator of a modern art museum whose exhibits, he assures an interviewer, must be “cutting-edge.” Running such a museum is a difficult job, and over the course of the film, Christian trudges through setback after humiliating setback, some of which are his own making. As in his previous film, Force Majeure, Östlund is a vicious satirist, slowly chipping away at his protagonist and the larger, bourgeois world of modern art. As absurd as it is scathing, The Square is a sharp comedy that manages to keep topping itself from beginning to end.
Ingrid Goes West
A delightfully dark comedy about the hazards of social media, Ingrid Goes West follows Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza), a troubled woman who develops an unhealthy fixation on an Instagram celebrity, Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). In awe of Taylor’s sunny, sublime life, Ingrid moves to California and conspires to worm her way into Taylor’s orbit. Ingrid Goes West has a sharp script with snappy lines that capture the dialect of the social media age. Each character feels absurd in their own unique way, and Plaza’s performance as the bubbly-yet-dangerous Ingrid is among her finest.
A dark subversion of the high school films that dominated in the 1980s, Heathers follows Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder), one of the popular girls — a member of a clique called the Heathers — at Westerburg High School. Weary of the group’s tyranny, Veronica teams up with dangerous misfit J.D. (Christian Slater) to pull a prank on the Heathers’ leader, Heather Chandler (Kim Walker). When the prank turns deadly, Veronica realizes she may be in over her head, as J.D. wants to keep killing the school bullies. Very dark, but also funny, Heathers is an excellent, unique comedy.