This week on the edge of VOD, cosplayers and comedians take the spotlight, a Smiths fan grows up, and the devil makes a deal with Donald Trump.
Bad President (VOD October 12) Maybe there’s still a way to successfully satirize Donald Trump, but this glorified sketch from director and co-writer Param Gill certainly isn’t it. Gill barely has a single joke here, casting Eddie Griffin as Satan, who sets his sights on Trump (Jeff Rector) as a means to sow chaos. The majority of the movie is just a cheap-looking recreation of the notable moments of Trump’s presidential campaign (Access Hollywood tape, Hillary’s emails, Muslim ban, etc.), featuring terrible actors in ill-fitting wigs. Meanwhile, Griffin’s devil schemes to claim Trump’s soul, which seems entirely superfluous to the election itself. Somehow this drags on for 90 minutes, which feels nearly as long as Trump’s actual campaign. The ugly sets are as flimsy as Rector’s Trump impression, and at least one bit is stolen directly from Saturday Night Live. Even Stormy Daniels looks embarrassed to be playing herself. Grade: F
Monster Force Zero (VOD October 13) There’s more enthusiasm than skill on display in this incoherent sci-fi movie, but maybe that’s fitting for a story about misfit cosplayers. While attending a local comic-con, the creators of the indie comic book Monster Force Zero are offered actual superpowers by a race of ancient aliens, but only if they can defeat another group of cosplayers in what looks like a summer camp obstacle course with neon lights. The filmmakers devote half the movie to this poorly defined competition before Monster Force Zero gets its actual mission: to take down a pair of supposedly evil scientists (whose headquarters is clearly in someone’s garage) about to unleash a prop dinosaur (or, sorry, gamma reptilian) on Earth. None of it makes any sense, but the homemade costumes and sets were obviously crafted with love, and Star Trek: Voyager’s Garrett Wang has an amusingly self-deprecating cameo. It’s about as entertaining as your average comic-con panel. Grade: C
The More You Ignore Me (VOD October 13) A 1980s-set coming-of-age drama about a working-class English teenager who dreams of a better life inspired by the music of her favorite band, this adaptation of comedian Jo Brand’s 2009 novel isn’t quite a female version of Blinded by the Light, but in its best moments it comes close to the exuberance and intensity of Gurinder Chadha’s ode to Bruce Springsteen. Alice (Ella Hunt) is obsessed with The Smiths, but she’s stuck in a dead-end town with a severely mentally ill mother (Sheridan Smith) and a well-meaning but hapless dad (Mark Addy). The movie is more about coping with family dysfunction than about the power of music (and it only has the budget to license two Smiths songs), but Hunt is charming, and she brings heartfelt passion to Alice’s struggles. It’s a disjointed but affecting story with the emotional rush of a good pop song. Grade: B
Monochrome: The Chromism (VOD October 16) With a dystopian concept seemingly inspired by the basic functions of video editing software, writer-director Kodi Zene’s film presents a black-and-white world in which people who suddenly start to appear in color (and are derisively known as “Hues”) are hunted and persecuted. The film begins with Hue protagonist Isaac (Josh Bangle) wandering through a desert landscape trying to hide his true nature, but it quickly flashes back to a far more mundane setting, before the spread of Hues, when Isaac was a boring office drone about to propose to his girlfriend. A shadowy cabal conspires to unleash a virus, but it’s never clear whether being a Hue is caused by the virus or provides immunity to it, or why the corporate overlords want to stoke fear about Hues among the general populace. Mostly, the characters just run around the same handful of Dallas streets, while Zene engages in vague world-building and futile sequel-baiting. Grade: D+
The Opening Act (VOD and select theaters October 16) It’s not surprising that comedian Steve Byrne rounded up a who’s-who of stand-up comics for his debut feature as a writer-director, and he gets a lot of mileage out of just putting funny people onscreen (with small roles for everyone from Whitney Cummings to Felipe Esparza). The dramatic arc of The Opening Act is less successful, following aspiring comedian Will Chu (Silicon Valley’s Jimmy O. Yang) during the weekend of his first big club gig. Will shares a bill with lewd road veteran Chris Palmer (Alex Moffat) and fading sitcom star Billy G. (Cedric the Entertainer), each of whom offers his own brand of career advice. There isn’t much more to the story than that, aside from a couple of middling cringe-comedy set pieces, but Byrne’s personal connection to the material shines through, and the stand-up scenes deliver enough genuine laughs that 90 minutes of these people just telling jokes might have made for a stronger movie. Grade: B-