Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul (Universal, Blu-ray or DVD, R, 103 min.). Humor is very subjective, dark humor even more so. Usually, you either get it or you don’t. Both this film and “The Good Boss” (see next) center on leaders who, while thinking they are doing good, actually are misusing their powers in unhealthy ways. “Honk For Jesus” is the more overt of the two films and thus has less impact.

The power couple here are Trinitie Childs (a terrific Regina Hall), the first lady of Wander to Greater Paths Southern Baptist megachurch, run by her husband, Lee-Curtis (Sterling K. Brown). They were 25,000 parishioners strong until a sexual misconduct scandal saw all but five of their parishioners migrate to the rival Heaven’s House church, run by the younger Sumpters (Nicole Beharie and Conphidance).

Writer-director Adamma Ebo leaves the scandal mysterious for a long time, but soon it is obvious whom Lee-Curtis is drawn to, resulting in some angry encounters and one failed seduction.

Complicating things is that a documentary crew, led by the unseen Anita, is shooting footage for Lee-Curtis’ comeback, which he tells Trinitie, will be like the film “Rocky.” That leads her to point out that Rocky lost. Eventually, they come up with the idea of holding a roadside sign with the film’s title as its message. Ebo changes the film’s aspect ratio to differentiate the documentary footage from the couple’s private moments.

My problem with the film is the two lead characters are so unlikable and unrelatable. Lee-Curtis is all about his wealth, his designer clothes, cars, and other things that he has bought with church revenue. During one interview, the two Childs sit upon golden thrones in front of their huge, empty church, which even has an indoor fountain. The documentary filming starts in Lee-Curtis’ extremely large closet, filled with dozens of shirts, jackets and pairs of shoes. The delusional pastor is utterly oblivious to the wrong message he is promoting.

Some of the satire works well, especially the church as big business. It is when the film zeroes in on their private life it is less successful. Extras include an alternate opening, an unfunny gag reel and nine deleted or extended scenes (16:16). Grade: film 2.5 stars; extras 1 star

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

“The Good Boss” from Spain stars Javier Bardem. Courtesy Cohen Media Group.

 

The Good Boss (Spain, 2021, Cohen Media Group, Blu-ray, NR, 120 min.). In this film, the third collaboration between writer-director Fernando Leon de Arranoa and star Javier Bardem over 20 years, Bardem plays the title character, Julio Blanco, head of Blanco Scales, a factory that manufactures industrial scales and where he treats everyone as “family.” Only his treatment can vary depending on his mood, his desires and especially when the factory is up for a business excellence award. The week depicted is basically about the latter.

While Blanco’s actions initially seem helpful to a couple of employees – he helps one’s son get out of jail and start working for Mrs. Blanco’s dress shop (Sonia Almarcha plays Adela Blanco) and tries to help production manager Miralles (Manolo Solo) get over his marriage problems – each assist eventually turns out to have a dark side. That subtly goes overboard, especially when Blanco takes Miralles for a night of drinking and whoring. Also, there is the broader humor of a recently fired employee (Óscar de la Fuente as Jose) setting up a tent for himself and his two children on public land just outside the factory entrance, with banners and a stream of loudspeaker invectives against Blanco to underscore his protest.
Early on, during a going-away celebration for three interns, we see one woman get overly emotional, an indication that Blanco may be crossing boundaries with those he finds attractive. During the night out with Miralles, Blanco finds himself falling into bed with one of the new interns, Lilliana (Almudena Amor), who has her own get-ahead agenda that leads to their union badly backfiring on Blanco.

Bardem is superb and even elicits some sympathy for Blanco, although the character turns out to be a louse. The film, which has won numerous festival wards, was Spain’s official entry for the Academy Awards, although it did not make the final cut. Extras included two interviews with Bardem and de Arranoa (8:25; 9:33). Grade: film 3.25 stars; extras 2 stars

The Witch 2: The Other One (South Korea, Well Go USA, Blu-ray or DVD, NR, 137 min.). It takes about an hour to figure out what is going on in this sequel to “The Witch: Part 1: The Subversion” (2018). Park Hoon-jung again is the director and screenwriter. Also returning is Min-soo Jo as Dr. Baek, creator of the top-secret Witch Program, designed to develop cloned super-fighters.

The previous film dealt with a high school girl with amnesia. This time a mysterious girl (played by Cynthia) is apparently the sole survivor of a To-Woos attack on the Ark main lab. As she wanders outside, a bunch of guys who have kidnapped Kyung-hee (Park Eun-bin) pull up and grab her. Soon, only the girl and Kyung-hee are the survivors of a crash and fight, then they are helped by veterinarian Dr. Byun, who removes the bullets the girl has absorbed.

Kyung-hee takes the girl home, where she comically bonds with Kyung-hee’s younger brother Dae-gil (Sung Yoo-bin), who, when he learns of her powers, wants her to star in his YouTube videos or competitions as a way to make money. It is through their interactions and a trip to the grocery store – the girl is always wanting to eat – that the film generates some needed humor.

Mostly, though, the film is all about violent action, including the girl’s ability to both physically and mentally shove objects a great distance, including cars and people. There is one fight in which one of the pursuers of the girl uses a car door as a shield and weapon. The film has a chaotic mega-fight at the end, including Yong Du (Jin Goo), who is trying to force Kyung-hee to sell her recently deceased father’s property, and his minions. The final fight has some unnecessary gore and cruelty.

Naturally, the ending sets up a third film. The only extra is a behind-the-scenes look (4:17). Grade: film 2.5 stars; extra 1/2 star

Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam Collection (Time Life, 12 DVDs, NR, 23+ hours). The show premiered on HBO in the winter of 1992, airing Fridays at midnight. “Def Comedy Jam” would go on to become one of HBO’s earliest mega-hits, and by the late 1990s it was the No. 1 comedy show to ever air on pay TV and cable. No other modern-day comedy tour or series can boast a run so successful that dozens of its denizens were skyrocketed from regional obscurity to international superstardom, including Martin Lawrence, Chris Tucker, Cedric the Entertainer, Dave Chappelle, Tiffany Haddish, Tracy Morgan, Steve Harvey, Bernie Mac, and Kevin Hart. This set includes 36 of the best episodes from all nine seasons, plus a bonus DVD of “Shaq & Cedric the Entertainer Present: All Star Comedy Jam and a 24-page collector’s booklet.

The set, which is available exclusively at timelife.com, includes a bonus episode, “2 Raw 4 TV.” The bonus DVD includes performances by Hart, Tommy Davidson, Aires Spears and DeRay Davis. Grade: set 3.5 stars

Ray Donovan: The Complete Series (2013-2020, 2022, Showtime/CBS/Paramount, 29 DVDs, NR, 72 hours 17 min. + 99 min.). This new set combines all seven seasons with the recent wrap-up TV movie. Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) does the dirty work for Los Angeles’ top power players. Ray is the go-to guy who makes the problems of the city’s celebrities, superstar athletes and business moguls disappear. Personal drama unfolds when his father (Jon Voight) is unexpectedly released from prison, setting off a chain of events that shakes the Donovan family to its core and Ray must struggle to save the empire he has built.

The series also stars Eddie Marsan, Dash Mihok, Pooch Hall, Paula Malcomson, Katherine Moennig, Kerris Dorsey, Devon Bagby, Steven Bauer, and Susan Sarandon. Grade: series 3.5 stars

Conjuring: The Beyond (Breaking Glass, DVD, NR, 91 min.). This film has nothing to do with the “Conjuring” film series from New Line. It is about a group gathered for a sleep study in which Dr. Richard Pretorious (Steve Larkin) is investigating sleep paralysis or night terrors by inducing them into his subjects with the help of hypnosis. The movie, written and directed by Calvin Morie McCarthy, is a put-you-to-sleeper. There is a witch figure and some weird camera movements, but nothing really scary. Plus, it turns silly near the end. Grade: film ½ star

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwest-ern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

filed under: