Viewer's Discretion: Two films worth streaming

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'Buster's Mal Heart'

(Amazon, Apple, Google Play, Netflix, Vudu)


If you already know Rami Malek from the USA Network series "Mr. Robot," then you are well familiar with some of the beats he taps out in "Buster's Mal Heart." It's not exactly the same, but the road from paranoid delusional hacker Elliot to paranoid delusional hotel clerk Jonah is not a long and winding one. He also plays Buster, a mysterious hermit roaming the woods and taking up residence in abandoned vacation homes, and the road between Buster and Jonah is a long and winding one, and the plot of this film.

The film starts with a police standoff for Buster, but a quick jet-back to his past as Jonah reveals a family man whose night shifts at the hotel are his soulless sacrifice to raise enough money to buy a home for his wife and daughter. An encounter one evening with a conspiracy theorist, calling himself the Last Free Man (DJ Qualls) and looking for a room, seems weird, but innocent. Quickly, though, the two devise a scam that will not only extricate valuable items from guests' rooms, but provide the opportunity for Jonah to save even faster and escape the life in which he and his family are trapped.

The mind-bending quality that defines "Mr. Robot" does the same for "Buster's Mal Heart," but I'd say in an even darker way. The Last Free Man's presence begins to encroach on Jonah's psyche more and more, and his outlandish conspiracy theories about Y2K — did I mention the film takes place in the 1990s? — mixed in with an absurd mystical cosmic event, called the Inversion, that begins to taint Jonah's planning.

Just as in "Mr. Robot," Malek draws you to him and adds heaps of humanity to a distant, mentally ill character. And just as in "Mr. Robot," the story unfolds with a disjointed surrealism that blurs perception and makes you rethink how your most intense self-truths might distort your perception of the world around you.

'My Scientology Movie'

(Amazon, Apple, Google Play, Netflix, Vudu)


Anyone coming to this Louis Theroux documentary with the desire for an expose ripping through the bowels of Scientology's insider history had best look elsewhere, but if you're happy with a reasonably affable investigation of the edges of the movement, you've hit paydirt.

The son of novelist Paul Theroux, Louis has a big career in the U.K., where he has transitioned from humorous television documentaries about quirky American subcultures — like Nazis and the porn industry — to darker investigations of brain injury victims, pedophiles and extreme alcoholics. "My Scientology Movie" falls into the former category and Theroux is happy to use his lack of access to the players in the religion to have some fun at its expense. The conceit is that he will put together reenactments of insider Scientology history based on available accounts, including one participant who does agree to be in the film, former Scientologist Mark Rathbun, whose edgy, sometimes paranoid sometimes antagonistic presence stands in well for the damage the cult can do psychologically.

A lot of the movie's humor comes from the interaction between Rathbun and Theroux, and the amusing authoritarian tendencies of the tiny fish on the very fringes of the organization. Theroux is a charming guide, and he manages to do what few others have — he disarms Scientology and makes it seem less sinister and more silly, a significant achievement in reportage.


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