This is your Cocaine Bear on drugs, any questions? Also, The Consultant dances with the devil, and Irish Oscar contender The Quiet Girl charms.

Cocaine Bear

(In theaters now)

Cocaine Bear, directed by Elizabeth Banks
Keri Russell in 'Cocaine Bear.'
| Credit: Universal Pictures

Well, they didn't call it Xanax Bear. Much like the Meatloaf song, the apex predator on the loose in actress-turned-director Elizabeth Banks' puckishly outrageous horror comedy will do almost anything for love (or in this case, amphetamines): snort, steal, drag every nearby screaming human straight to hell. 

In the real-life 1985 incident the film is based on, some 40 kilos were inadvertently dropped by smugglers in the hills of Blue Ridge, Georgia, at least one of which was eaten by a local black bear. She promptly died, but what fun is that? Instead, the phrase "inspired by true events" becomes a bloodied and infinitely accommodating tent under which Banks & Co. can let their muse run wild, literally.

That's bad news for most of the movie's very game cast, including O'Shea Jackson Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, and the late Ray Liotta (in his final role) as three hapless gangsters in pursuit of the loot, Margo Martindale and Jesse Tyler Ferguson as park rangers with surprisingly limited survival skills, and Keri Russell as a stressed-out single mom just trying to get her young daughter (The Florida Project's Brooklynn Prince) back before natural selection takes over. 

It's all patently ridiculous, and even at 95 minutes, a stretch to call this loose cannonball of high camp and sticky-bright gore a movie; Cocaine's rampaging villain operates less by the laws of nature than the laser focus of a four-legged serial killer, bent on dismembering and devouring as much people-chum as she can. (Isn't speed supposed to be an appetite suppressant? Never mind). But dry Wikipedia facts are not what we came for; in every dumb and delightful way, it's just about a bear, standing in front of the world, asking for more cocaine till she explodes. Grade: C+ —Leah Greenblatt

The Consultant

(Streaming now on Amazon Prime Video)

The Consultant
Christoph Waltz and Nat Wolff in 'The Consultant'
| Credit: Prime Video

This bonkers comedy-thriller — adapted from Bentley Little's 2016 novel and exec produced by Tony Basgallop (Servant) — burnishes the familiar deal-with-the-devil conceit with chipper, unapologetic cynicism, and appealing performances from its trio of leads.

The Consultant centers on CompWare, an LA-based mobile gaming company founded and run by the enigmatic wunderkind Sang Woo (Brian Yoon). When Woo is assassinated in his office by a gun-toting grade-schooler (Henry Rhoades), the subsequent wave of bad press threatens to drive the already struggling company out of business.

Enter Regus Patoff (Christoph Waltz), who appears one day and informs the anxious staff that their late boss hired him to consult "on all matters of business." He immediately implements harsh changes, like calling employees into the office in the middle of the night and firing another (Michael Charles Vaccaro) because he doesn't like how he smells. Mildly alarmed and increasingly curious, stoner coder Craig (The Stand's Nat Wolff) and Woo's assistant Elaine (The White Lotus' Brittany O'Grady) start sleuthing into Patoff's background, only to find that he's an internet ghost. The surveillance footage of his meeting with Woo, meanwhile, is… disturbing. The Consultant doesn't mess around with time-wasting vagaries; by the end of the first episode, Craig, Elaine and viewers know that Patoff isn't just strange, he's dangerous. The question, of course, is whether the consultant is there to implement layoffs or stock up on souls.

While Little's novel begins as a satire of office culture that slowly slides into horror, Basgallop's adaptation veers more blatantly supernatural. The symbolism can be heavy-handed — a conspicuously red dress; a "Devil in Disguise" needle drop; several not-so-sly references to John 3:16 — and at times the theological intrigue overpowers The Consultant's themes of worker exploitation. But Basgallop, who regularly packs an hour's worth of scares and suspense into 30 minutes with Servant, keeps the story momentum humming over the eight half-hour episodes. And it helps that said story is marvelously weird and darkly funny, featuring an escaped circus elephant, a skeleton made of solid gold, and a video game titled "Upskirt Jungle," along with other WTF-ery.

Wolff, a true standout in Peacock's otherwise-unremarkable Joe vs. Carole, is once again the heart of the operation. Craig is a sensitive soul wrapped in the armor of boyish beauty and smirky charm, and Wolff effects his transformation from slacker to reluctant savior with winning vulnerability. Grade: B+Kristen Baldwin

The Quiet Girl

(In theaters now)

THE QUIET GIRL, (aka AN CAILIN CIUIN), from left: Catherine Clinch, Andrew Bennett, 2022
'The Quiet Girl'
| Credit: Everett Collection

Few Oscar prognosticators had this delicate little jewel of a movie on their 2023 shortlists, though it's not hard to see why writer-director Colm Bairéad's tender and unfussy coming-of-age debut made the cut for Best International Feature, alongside more obvious awards-bait like All Quiet on the Western Front and Argentina, 1985.

In its home country at least, The Quiet Girl is now the top-grossing Irish-language film of all time, and certainly a breakout role for Catherine Clinch, its titular young star. She tiptoes in as Cáit, the casually neglected daughter of a philandering father (Michael Patric) and a distracted mother (Kate Nic Chonaonaigh) too busy raising their already-bursting brood in rural early-1980s Ireland to make time for a dreamy, problematic child who still wets the bed and seems to congenitally lack the hard shell her rowdy peers and siblings share.

Already in debt and burdened by yet another pregnancy, her parents decide to send her off to a distant middle-aged cousin (Carrie Crowley) named Eibhlín and her taciturn husband, Seán (Andrew Bennett), for the summer. There's little do to on their remote dairy farm and no other children to play with, but for Cáit, it's a revelation: Their home is clean, calm, and full of unforced kindness, a place, Eibhlín gently insists, that doesn't believe in secrets.

That's not entirely true, but as Cáit settles in, she blossoms — a small, wilted flower learning for the first time what it feels like to be in nurturing soil. Bairéad stages this string of muted domestic scenes with rare restraint and careful intimacy, resisting the urge to tip over into neatly drawn narrative lines. With its English subtitles and small-scale epiphanies, Girl is the kind of quiet film that could easily get lost in a noisy season; lean in anyway, and listen. Grade: B+ —Leah Greenblatt

Related content: