The Good Boss (El Buen Patrón)
A "good boss" is what a factory owner (Javier Bardem) tries to be during an especially dramatic week at both his successful scale manufacturing company and in his personal life, attempting to fix a number of conflicts and dramas with his employees on the eve of being assessed for an award. How writer/director Fernando León de Aranoa organically has these sticky situations intertwine and increasingly spiral out of his control gives the film its darkly comic kick, but lending it its bite is Bardem's performance, which manages to walk the fine line in making the viewer continually wonder if he is sincere about his concern about others in his orbit or if it is all really about his own benefit.
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. (R)
Writer/director Adamma Ebo aims for a fairly easy target: money-grubbing, hypocritical megachurch culture. But even if she does not set her satirical sights particularly high, she hits her chosen target with repeated precision through its run time. It certainly helps having good actors in her arsenal -- and they don't come better, nor better cast, than Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall. The pair play a once-popular pastor and his ride-or-die wife, preparing to re-open their church following a ruinous scandal, all the while having a documentary film crew follow what they hope and expect to be a rousing comeback story. Of course, even from the jump it's obvious that this will not turn out the way they envision, and just as obvious are the gags skewering their egotistical delusions, condescension, and the general idea of the prosperity gospel. But with Brown and Hall fully immersing themselves in these characters with their cracker jack chemistry and timing, and Nicole Beharie and Conphidance appearing, a bit too sparingly, as the younger married pastors of an upstart rival church, those jokes almost always land. Given this feature's origins as a short, the film does threaten to become a bit one-note after a while, but then the secret weapon that Ebo slowly develops just under the surface becomes more and more clear. Beyond the darkly comic portrait of these figures and the institution and mentality they represent, the film ultimately reveals itself to be a powerfully tragicomic portrait of a woman's gradual mental and emotional unraveling at the hands of a toxic partner. Hall's dramatic climax packs an even greater punch than even the gags, thus lending the entire film a genuine emotional sting to go with the giggles.