Screen critic: The bingeable, B-grade, and boring flicks on screen

Feb 24, 2023
The digital star of Cocaine Bear (Universal); Paul Rudd in Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania (Disney); Diane Morgan plays Philomena Cunk in Cunk on Earth (Netflix). Source: Supplied

The deleterious effects of hard drugs are played for comic effect in Cocaine Bear, an outlandish B-grade comedy thriller about a large black bear that goes on a lethal rampage through a national park after becoming addicted to the powder, which has fallen from a plane in tightly sealed packages by an idiot drug runner.

High on the substance, the crazed bear proceeds to introduce itself to a selection of unfortunate locals, tourists and criminals, chasing them through the brush and up trees before chowing down on them.

Set in 1985 the film, directed by Elizabeth Banks (Charlie’s Angels; Pitch Perfect 2), plays like a schlocky horror comedy from the 1980s, with cheap laughs and a lot of cheap gore effects, though these stand in stark contrast to the very realistic digital rendering of the marauding bear itself, which is state-of-the-art and almost too classy for a film this cheesy.     

For the record, the real event upon which the film is very loosely based occurred in 1985 when a bear was found dead surrounded by dozens of empty canisters of cocaine. 

These had been jettisoned from a plane three months earlier by a drug dealer who died soon after when his plan to follow and then retrieve his shipment from the forest below was foiled by an uncooperative parachute. There were no other deaths or any terror involved. 

Yet another throwaway Marvel epic has been unleashed upon us with Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, and it’s actually not a bad effects-driven adventure as Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) and her parents (Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer) are sucked into the inner universe of something called the “quantum realm”. 

It’s innocuous fun with dashes of humour and some impressive VFX sequences, but the big selling point is that the film itself, without end credits or teasers, runs a lean 112 minutes. It seems that Marvel is showing some respect to Alfred Hitchcock, who once stated: “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.”

In Missing a teenage girl’s desperate search for her missing mother and step-father unfolds entirely on a computer screen using video chats, texts, YouTube and various other everyday cyber-appliances. 

Though this new form of story-telling – dubbed the “screenlife” genre – has lost much of its novelty and potency (in the wake of such films as Unfriended and Searching) there’s still a lot of ingenuity involved here, and the pace is cracking. Just be aware the film demands two hours of very fast reading. Still, it’s different. 

Beware of Women Talking. Nominated for Best Film and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars, this film should also have been nominated for a special award: Most Boring, Self-Important Yapfest.

After enduring a wave of raping from their men folk, the women of an isolated backward community ensconced in modern America (a little like the Amish) hold a lengthy debate in a barn about whether to fight back or leave en masse to form their own primitive colony.

Boasting a strong ensemble cast (Frances McDormand; Claire Foy; Rooney Mara; Jessie Buckley; Ben Whishaw) and critically lauded across the globe, the film is a tedious dud. 

Directed by Sarah Polley, it takes a host of important issues and pounds them into the ground with a raft of misanthropic cliches and without any cinematic flair.

Despite its acclaim, Women Talking has already set records for attracting minuscule audiences. See it and you’ll know why within about 20 minutes.

Now for some fun, which is delivered in spades across the five globe-trotting episodes of Cunk on Earth, a very funny Netflix mockumentary in which addle-brained host Philomena Cunk (Diane Morgan) presents the history of civilisation, asking real-life experts and academics really stupid questions.

Visiting sites of great historic significance, Cunk provides consistently silly and highly amusing commentary with an emphasis on wordplay and irrelevant digressions.

What really makes the show shine, however, is that her interviewees play along, providing admirably straight answers to her marvellously inane questions. They turn out to be the real stars in a delightfully daffy show that, at mere two-and-a-half hours, makes for a very pleasant single-gulp binge. Enjoy.

For more visit with updates on Twitter at @jimschembri    

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up