Review: A pulpy ‘Bull,’ ‘Space-Age’ Linklater, and more movies to watch this weekend

A man with a beard in the movie "Bull."
In “Bull,” Neil Maskell portrays the title character, who is bent on getting revenge and getting his son back.
(Saban Films)

Writer-director Paul Andrew Williams’ punchy revenge thriller “Bull” is a throwback to films like “Get Carter” and “Point Blank,” where one righteously angry man wreaks havoc through the underworld, using everything he’s learned in a lifetime of being a lowlife. Neil Maskell gives a riveting performance as the title character, a mob lackey and loving father who goes after his former boss and father-in-law Norm (David Hayman) when the old man interferes with Bull’s attempt to take custody of his son.

Williams has been making taut, gritty genre films and TV programs in the U.K. for two decades now, which is evident in the confidence of “Bull.” Williams tells this story in a split timeline, covering what led to Bull and Norm’s feud as well as what happens after the antihero aims for payback. Mostly, “Bull” is constructed from a series of imaginatively staged, unsparingly violent set-pieces.

Those individual segments make “Bull” a must for fans of pulpy crime pictures. The protagonist’s genuine affection for his boy makes him sympathetic; but his willingness to mutilate anyone standing in his way makes him scary. As Bull is assassinating one of Norm’s goons on an amusement park ride and cauterizing another target’s severed hand on a gas stove, Williams skillfully balances sentiment and shock.



Rated: R, for strong violence, language throughout and some drug material

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: Available on VOD


When the quirks and pains of pandemic life start to fade from our cultural memory, it’ll be fascinating to look back at the movies and TV series that adjusted to quarantining and social distancing by incorporating those realities directly into their plots — or even by trying to turn those limitations into assets. The low-boil supernatural thriller “Night’s End” definitely aims to do the latter, with a story that makes maximum use of a limited space.

Geno Walker plays Ken, who recently suffered a breakdown that drove him away from his kids, his ex-wife (Kate Arrington) and her jovial new husband (Michael Shannon). Now holed up in his cramped apartment — where he subsists on delivery food, coffee, Pepto Bismol and daily affirmations — Ken spends a lot of time online, chatting with friends, shooting YouTube videos, and researching whether the strange phenomena he’s experiencing in his new home can be attributed to a haunting.

Written by Brett Neveu and directed by Jennifer Reeder (the latter of whom impressed cinephiles three years ago with her stylish high school noir exercise “Knives and Skin”), “Night’s End” takes a bit too long to build up momentum. However, Neveu’s plot really comes together in the final 20 minutes as Ken’s investigation culminates in a terrifying twist, playing out in real time across multiple laptop screens, involving people too far away to help the hero.

'Night’s End'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes

Playing: Available on Shudder


A collage of children's faces against a brick building from the short film “When We Were Bullies.”
Through interviews and animated re-creations, former classmates and others sort through their recollections of a violent moment decades ago, in “When We Were Bullies.”

Though it didn’t win the Oscar it was nominated for — best documentary short subject — it’s well worth the half-hour it takes to watch the film “When We Were Bullies” on HBO or HBO Max. Accomplished director Jay Rosenblatt revisits the subject of his 1994 short “The Smell of Burning Ants,” which dealt with his memories of growing up in a culture that encouraged boys to be cruel. Working on that film led Rosenblatt to reconnect with former classmates who had been affected forever by a painful bullying incident in their schoolyard. Through interviews and animated re-creations, these people and the filmmaker sort through their recollections, trying to figure out exactly what happened — and why they still can’t shake it.

'When We Were Bullies'

Not rated

Running time: 36 minutes

Playing: Available on HBO Max


Don’t get too hung up on the goofball premise for Richard Linklater’s latest animated movie, “Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood” — a film ostensibly about a preteen named Stan who gets invited by NASA to become the first boy in space, circa 1969. The “Waking Life” and “Dazed and Confused” director mainly uses the plot as a gimmick, allowing him to reminisce about growing up in suburban Houston at a time when parents let their kids roam freely. Jack Black narrates as the voice of the adult Stan, looking back on all the old TV shows and pinball arcades and amusement parks that filled children’s summer days while they waited to watch the first mission that put men on the moon. The result is a picture clearly very personal to Linklater — and one that should be absolutely delightful to anyone who sees the past as an increasingly distant, alien land.

'Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood'

Rated: PG-13, for some suggestive material, injury images, and smoking

Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Playing: Available on Netflix


Tom Cullen gives a mesmerizing performance as an obnoxious British entrepreneur and influencer named Lucas Hunt in writer-director Charles Dorfman’s unusual home-invasion thriller “Barbarians.”
Dorfman delays the part of the movie where a trio of masked intruders show up to torment Lucas, his girlfriend Chloe (Ines Spirodinov) and their dinner-party hosts Eva (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and Adam (Iwon Rheon). Instead, more than half the film’s running time is devoted to the party itself, where the incorrigible alpha male Lucas dominates the conversation and makes everyone uncomfortable. The horror elements in “Barbarians” don’t work as well as the psychodrama, but thanks to Cullen (and
thanks to
Dorfman’s cutting dialogue), the movie’s first half is very strong.


Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica, Santa Monica; Laemmle Noho 7, North Hollywood; Harkins 18, Chino Hills; also available on VOD


Also on VOD and streaming

“Better Nate Than Ever” (Disney+) is writer-director Tim Federle’s adaptation of his own popular work of juvenile fiction about a Pittsburgh middle-schooler named Nate (Rueby Wood) who sneaks off to New York to audition for a Broadway musical. The movie is partly about the allure of showbiz and partly about Nate coming out to himself, his family and his friends that he’s gay.

“The Bubble” (Netflix) takes place on a pandemic-era movie set for a “Jurassic Park”-like blockbuster franchise and stars Karen Gillan, David Duchovny, Leslie Mann, Keegan-Michael Key, Pedro Pascal and Iris Apatow as a group of actors who get stuck together in quarantine for a shoot that never seems to end. Directed by Judd Apatow (who co-wrote the film with Pam Brady), this comedy doubles as a document of what Hollywood went had to go through to keep cranking out entertainment during Covid-19.

“Nitram” (VOD) is an intense Australian docudrama directed by Justin Kurzel and written by Shaun Grant, who fictionalize the events leading up to the real-life 1996 Port Arthur massacre. Caleb Landry Jones (who won a best actor prize at Cannes for his performance) plays a lonely young Tasmanian suburbanite who befriends an eccentric heiress (Essie Davis) and starts to develop disturbing plans for what to do with her money.

“Boon” (VOD) is a sequel to the 2020 low-budget crime drama “Red Stone” and reteams its writer-director Derek Presley with his star Neal McDonough, who plays the title character: a hitman struggling to go straight. In this chapter of the Boon saga, the killer squares off against a Pacific Northwest mob boss (Tommy Flanagan), who is tormenting a local widow (Christiane Seidel).

Available now on DVD and Blu-ray

“Brighton 4th” (Kino Lorber) is an all-too-relevant dramedy set in the Russian-speaking Georgian immigrant community of Brighton Beach, where a father, played by Levan Tediashvili, sets out to help his grown son (Giorgi Tabidze) dig out from some mob-related financial trouble. Director Levan Koguashvili and writer explore how even people who’ve fled their homes can remain tied to their historical traditions and painful pasts.

“The Last Waltz” (Criterion) is often considered the greatest rock documentary of all time, both because the Band’s final concert in 1976 featured a staggering lineup of ‘60s rock royalty and because director Martin Scorsese and his crew shot the show with such cinematic flair. The new 4K Criterion edition adds new and old interviews and multiple commentary tracks.