‘Enola Holmes 2’
Superficially, the Netflix adaptations of Nancy Springer’s young-adult novel series, “The Enola Holmes Mysteries,” suffer from some of the problems that plague the service’s other big, family friendly fantasy films. The new “Enola Homes 2″ and 2020’s “Enola Holmes” — both directed by Harry Bradbeer and written by Jack Thorne — are overlong and overstuffed, with an aggressively jovial tone and a visual style that often favors pizazz over coherence. Yet the films are also incredibly charming, for two big reasons: the quality of the source material and the quality of the cast.
Specifically, it’s hard to imagine anyone better than Millie Bobby Brown to play Enola, the plucky kid sister of the brooding master-detective Sherlock Holmes (played by Henry Cavill, also spot-on). In her frequent asides to the camera, Brown is equal parts swaggering and vulnerable. Her Enola is frank and funny about the challenges of being a detective in a Victorian England that has little respect for the capabilities of women — let alone teenagers.
In “Enola Holmes 2,” the heroine helps the people who can’t afford to employ her brother, taking on a missing-persons case that opens up into a larger mystery about an ailment felling the young female workers at a match factory. With the help of her aristocratic young friend and crush-object Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), she uncovers who’s responsible for harming these girls. Along the way, she crosses paths with her brother, their mother — the radical Eudora (Helena Bonham Carter) — and a snippy police inspector (David Thewlis).
The story’s a bit convoluted, though no more than most detective plots. Ultimately, it’s a solid mystery, explained well by Enola in her fourth-wall-breaking chats with the audience. The pairing of actor and role here is just about perfect, and as much a star-making turn for Brown as her breakout performance in “Stranger Things.” Her Enola is a treat to be around, whether she’s running, fighting, flirting, puzzling over clues, or trying to make sense of the rituals and habits of people who don’t spend all their time solving crimes.
‘Enola Holmes 2.’ PG-13, for some violence and bloody images. 2 hours, 9 minutes. Available on Netflix; also paying theatrically, Bay Theatre, Pacific Palisades
‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’
The mock-biopic “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” began life as a Funny or Die video, spoofing trailers for heavy movies like “Ray” and “The Doors” that turn real musicians’ lives into myths. The feature-length version — directed by Eric Appel and co-written by Appel and Yankovic — doesn’t add much to the original joke, which was just a riff on how ridiculous it would be to make that kind of movie about “Weird Al,” an affable, noncontroversial fellow who has delighted millions with his goofy song parodies.
Daniel Radcliffe gives a fine performance as Yankovic in the film, which does have a few magical moments — including a “Boogie Nights”-like party thrown by cult-favorite DJ Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson), attended by seemingly every pop culture oddball of the ‘70s and ‘80s. The film works best whenever it veers away from satirizing backstage musicals and gets truly bizarre, as in a long digression where Yankovic dates Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood) and makes an enemy of drug lord Pablo Escobar (Arturo Castro). The parts that are just the faux-biography of a superstar accordion-player have more limited appeal. There are only so many times the audience can laugh at Al getting inspired when he hears somebody say “eat it” or “my bologna.”
That said, Yankovic diehards will likely enjoy this movie since — like his parody songs — it takes self-serious pieces of pop culture and changes the words to something silly. Those songs though are usually under four minutes. This picture runs 108.
‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.’ Not rated. 1 hour, 48 minutes. Available on the Roku Channel
‘I’m Totally Fine’
In the bittersweet science-fiction comedy “I’m Totally Fine,” Jillian Bell plays Vanessa, an entrepreneur mourning the sudden death of her best friend and business partner Jennifer (Natalie Morales) by taking a trip they’d planned to celebrate the launch of their artisanal soda. Then Vanessa wakes up in her luxury rental property and finds an extraterrestrial creature who looks like Jennifer and has Jennifer’s memories. The alien has been assigned to study the human for 48 hours; but Vanessa finds herself asking questions too, to get her late friend’s perspective on their life together.
Directed by Brandon Dermer from an Alisha Ketry screenplay, “I’m Totally Fine” has a premise that could have easily skewed twee, were it not so well-written, well-directed and well-acted. As it is, the story (penned by Dermer and Ketry) is very slight. Broken down to its essence, this is another of those indie films where old acquaintances gather to sort through old gripes. But the leads have a wonderful chemistry, with Bell hitting the right notes of anger and confusion and Morales maintaining the alien’s comic deadpan. Everyone involved has clearly thought through how such a wild fantasy situation might play out — and more importantly, how it would feel.
‘I’m Totally Fine.’ Not rated. 1 hour, 23 minutes. Available on VOD; also paying theatrically, Laemmle Noho 7, North Hollywood
Writer-director Mali Elfman’s debut feature “Next Exit” is set in a reality where a scientist (Karen Gillan) has proved the existence of an afterlife and can contact the dead — provided those dead are part of her research study. Katie Parker plays Rose, a chronically depressed young woman who drives across the country to volunteer for the project, joined by Teddy (Rahul Kohli), whose reasons to die are more slippery. During the trip, the two talk about what brought them to this point and they inevitably start to fall for each other. Right up until they arrive at their destination, it’s unclear whether their bond will be enough to keep them alive. Parker and Kohli are terrific, working with some difficult material given that both of their characters are often unpleasantly miserable. Viewers who can endure the at-times tediously dour first hour of “Next Exit” are rewarded with a tense and emotional final stretch, with a lot to say about what gives life meaning.
‘Next Exit.’ Not rated. 1 hour, 46 minutes. Available on VOD
‘Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me’
Pop star and actress Selena Gomez has been open about her struggles with anxiety and bipolar depression, but her honesty about mental health has never been expressed as starkly as in the documentary “Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me.” Directed by Alek Keshishian — best-known for the 1991 doc “Madonna: Truth or Dare” — the film begins in 2016, when Gomez canceled her world tour, took a break from social media and consulted with medical professionals about the best way forward. Keshishian and Gomez then fill in the details of her life story while proceeding through what happened after the breakdown, as she reconnected with her past and rebuilt her career, all while edging away from the mega-star treadmill. There’s a tear-jerking moment roughly every five to 10 minutes in this movie, as Gomez reveals her essential dilemma of being someone who loves making fans happy and loves being creative but lives in fear — as many people do — of disappointing their benefactors and loved ones.
‘Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me.’ R, for language. 1 hour, 35 minutes. Available on Apple TV+; also paying theatrically, Laemmle Glendale
‘Raymond Lewis: L.A. Legend’
Ryan Polomski and Dean Prator’s documentary “Raymond Lewis: L.A. Legend” tells the riveting story of a basketball star who never played a minute in the NBA, although he was widely considered one of the best of his generation. Extensively researched — and featuring interviews with nearly everyone of note from the early 1970s Southern California basketball scene — the film doubles as a look back at a wild decade for college and pro basketball, before the big TV ratings and superstar contracts of the ‘80s and ‘90s. The interview subjects are shockingly frank about how colleges recruited players back then with fancy cars and secret salaries. And when it comes to Lewis’ NBA washout, the movie describes how the league’s power structure was tilted against the players, and how Lewis’ rookie demands for more money and more playing time — perfectly reasonable today for a potential All-Star — affronted vengeful owners and coaches. This is a tumultuous and ultimately tragic tale about the exploitation of athletes.
‘Raymond Lewis: L.A. Legend.’ Not rated. 1 hour, 24 minutes. Available on VOD
Also on VOD
“God Forbid: The Sex Scandal That Brought Down a Dynasty” is the latest documentary from director Billy Corben, known for movies such as “The U” and “Cocaine Cowboys” that tackle the confluence of popular culture and crime in Miami. This film follows a saga with national implications — the shady relationship between right-wing firebrand Jerry Falwell Jr., his wife and a swimming pool attendant at a luxury hotel — but gives it a Corben touch by delving into the story’s Miami roots. Available on Hulu
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray
“Daisies” is a classic of the Czech New Wave, made in the mid-1960s by Vera Chytilová, who channeled her frustration with oppressive authoritarianism into an avant-garde comedy about two young women who overindulge in sensual pleasures and joyously defy any attempts at domestication. Previously available as part of a bare-bones box set, the movie now has its own Blu-ray edition, containing extensive bonus features. Criterion