The Guest (R)
After taking and twisting the tropes of '80s slasher films with the creative and downright crazy You're Next, writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard take on a different retro style--that of early-'80s action-horror à la The Terminator and the general oeuvre of John Carpenter--with this equally enjoyable exercise. Dan Stevens, best known for more (literally) buttoned-up fare such as Downton Abbey, delivers a reveals a heretofore unseen movie star charisma as the guest of the title, a drifter who's taken in by a family who believes is a friend of their deceased eldest son. Initially this stranger appears to be a help, but before long something sinister starts to manifest--and as in their previous film, Barrett and Wingard amp things up way over the top with tongue firmly planted in self-aware cheek. The excess, even ridiculousness, could be a deal breaker for many, but the performances, not only by Stevens but Maika Monroe as the family's plucky teenage daughter, sell it all with conviction and infectious energy.
Listen Up Philip
Jason Schwartzman's off-kilter, idiosyncratic screen presence and line delivery can be just as much of a hindrance as an asset, as Alex Ross Perry's film proves to tedious affect. Schwartzman plays the Philip of the title, a writer whose arrogance makes him inattentive to the self-generated and -inflicted problems with his girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss) and in all of his relationships. The film is given omniscient narration delivered by Eric Bogosian, and this device and Bogosian's droning delivery sums up the remove with which the story unfolds and the resulting distance and boredom one feels in the company of its irritating lead character.