Pop superstar and Kansas City native Janelle Monáe stars in “Antebellum,” a bizarre horror entry with significant social overtones. Monáe plays a slave on a plantation in the Civil War South…or is she a renowned author living today? This well acted but enigmatic film doesn’t make much sense until the final scenes when the film starts to look like a project that M. Night Shyamalan might have started…and rejected.
Sitting through the Netflix drama “The Devil All the Time,” based on the novel by Donald Ray Pollock, may be a certified form of torture. The beautifully acted and lensed drama stars Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson in a sweeping story spanning two generations dealing with religiously conflicted rednecks in post- WWII rural Ohio. It’s unrelentingly ugly and violent, filled with loathsome characters. “The Devil All the Time” falls well short of its lofty thematic aims.
Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslett and Sam Neill lead a potent cast in the talky family drama, “Blackbird.” Dying of ALS, Sarandon decides to get the family together for one last sendoff before she commits suicide. It’s hard to knock the cast and the filmmakers’ intent, but the dialogue goes over like fingernails on the chalkboard.
The easy-going family flick “H is for Happiness” is yet another cute Australian import. Based on the novel “My Life as an Alphabet” by Barry Jonsberg, it’s a sweet-natured story about a precocious 13-year-old girl named Candice who attempts to overcome her family’s emotional malaise and mend fences with her unflinching, Pollyanna-like optimism. The filmmakers’ aren’t quite able to strike the right balance between serious drama and whimsey, but “H is for Happiness” is a painless, inoffensive distraction.
Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of intriguing movie titles. More information is available at nelson-atkins.org, Screenland.com, fineartsgroup.com and drafthouse.com.