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What to see (and avoid) on demand this week – Crooked Marquee

This week’s marginal VOD releases feature multiple mismanaged cover-ups involving murders of bull riders, students and cult members, plus a delightful stay at a surreal restaurant in Spain.

To ride (VOD and select theaters June 14): Before belatedly evolving into a low-level crime thriller, director and co-writer Jake Allyn’s feature debut is a turgid family melodrama. It takes a while to understand the relationships between the main characters, Texas ranchers with a long history as rodeo cowboys. C. Thomas Howell growls and grumbles as former bull riding champion John Hawkins, whose 11-year-old daughter needs expensive cancer treatment. John’s son Peter (Allyn), also a former bull riding champion, has just been released from prison, and John’s estranged wife Monica (Annabeth Gish) is the town sheriff. The cast members, including Forrie J. Smith as John’s father, all seem to be the wrong age for their characters, and Allyn makes every interaction an anguished, overwrought battle of emotions. The rodeo scenes look fantastic, accompanied by a stirring post-rock score from Those Who Ride With Giants, but the personal drama is a grim slog. Both the ultimately desperate crime and its aftermath are presented with a confusing stupidity that Allyn mistakes for emotional resonance. Grade: C

Queen rise (VOD June 18): The queen who rises here is Madison (April Hale), survivor of both a childhood with an abusive stepfather and an infamous series of murders on campus during her college years. Now working as a teacher, she is convinced by her handsome, seemingly sensitive colleague Greg (Xamon Glasper) to let him turn her experiences into a book, but he clearly has ulterior motives. With its soap opera-level plotting and acting and its disingenuous message of violent female empowerment, Queen rise it comes out like this Tyler Perry’s Promising Young Woman, leading to two heavily telegraphed but disjointed twists. There are flashbacks nested within flashbacks, which only serve to obscure the fundamentally uninteresting story. Director Princeton James stages all the action with generic indifference (Madison gets an execution notice on letterhead from “The Bank,” and her sister’s dorm room is decorated with a poster that reads “University”), indicating little enthusiasm for the making the movie. film as the audience will see it. Grade: D+

Waiting for Dali (VOD June 18): The leisurely pace of this Spanish drama series matches its setting in a sleepy coastal town where brothers Fernando (Ivan Massagué) and Alberto (Pol López) try to hide after Alberto’s run-in with the law. Set in 1974, Waiting for Dali is about the political repression of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, but the social commentary mainly forms the background for a character-driven story about professional and personal passion. In the tourist town of Cadaqués, veteran chefs Fernando and Alberto are hired by flamboyant restaurateur Jules (José Garcia) to cook at his Salvador Dali-themed restaurant El Surreal. Jules is obsessed with getting local resident Dali to eat at El Surreal, and that mission inspires Fernando’s culinary creativity. Director David Pujol has previously made documentaries about both Dali and the renowned restaurant El Bulli, providing an understanding of his subject, but more importantly building strong relationships between complex, compelling characters. It’s just as much fun spending time with them as taking a trip to Cadaqués. Grade B

Waiting for Dalí - TRAILER DUTCH SUBS

Invited (VOD June 21): The pandemic has led to far too many poorly conceived films playing over video chats, but director Navin Ramaswaran and writer Monica La Vella use the format effectively in this often unsettling horror film. It is strongly influenced by example Unfriended And Host, as a group of people slowly realize that something is wrong during their initially friendly online get-together. Ramaswaran sometimes extends the found-footage format too far, but Invited lingers mainly on the computer screen of recovering alcoholic Linda (Martina Schabron), who has registered for her daughter Jessica’s (Beáta Imre) Zoom wedding. The wedding, which takes place in a strange church in Russia, is immediately suspicious, but Jessica’s family and friends play along until they find it impossible to ignore the ritual’s gruesome objectives. Ramaswaran and La Vella find clever ways to keep all the characters involved in the gruesome developments, and while the acting can be shaky, the participants’ increasing fear is clear. The scattered story gradually fades away, but there are plenty of creepy moments along the way. Grade B-

It is not over yet (VOD June 25): It’s hard to tell who the hero or villain of this laughable thriller should be, as everyone behaves in a pompous, obnoxious manner, indicating that they could easily be a secret sociopath. Initially, photographer Sarah’s abusive husband (Weronika Rosati) is portrayed as the villain, but he soon dies in a mysterious accident, paving the way for Sarah to be with her beloved Max (Gianni Capaldi). Max prowls ominously around Sarah’s apartment, sharing his unhinged speculations with his father (Christopher Lambert), and soon Max is dead too. That leaves Sarah haunted by “The Tell-Tale Heart”-like visions, but there is no sense of malice or regret in Rosati’s performance. There’s no sense of righteous revenge from Lambert either, just what seems like mild irritation until the final nonsensical twist. Writer-director Alessandro Riccardi shoots in worn, brightly lit spaces that make the film look as if it’s taking place in a stock photo, and the performances and dialogue are equally empty and artificial. Grade: D

It's Not Over Yet (2024) Official Trailer - Christopher Lambert, Gianni Capaldi