Eight Netflix Films in February

         
 

02 March 2011| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Titles I happened to check out on Netflix in the month of February:

The Beguiled (1971) is not what anybody could have anticipated from a Civil War drama. Certainly one of the most unusual, morally ambiguous and strangely entrancing films Clint Eastwood ever made, with Don Siegel (“Dirty Harry,” “Escape from Alcatraz”) in the director’s chair. Eastwood is an injured Northerner soldier tended back to health at a Southern Gothic all-girl’s school – gothic motifs fly left and right. The head mistress is simultaneously repulsed and turned-on by Eastwood. Then you learn that many of the girls are, too. Underage amour is not a 19thcentury issue, obviously. Eastwood is threatened by the head mistress’ promise to hand him over to Southern authorities once he’s healed, so as a defense, he turns on the charm. He perhaps leads the other girls on because he needs allies in this mordant Civil War situation where any one of the girls could be a snitch for the Confederates. Or perhaps Eastwood just likes taking advantage of girls because he’s a lecher. The story flow only rarely hinders, but what is breathtaking is to how much artistic freedom was bestowed onto this project. You can’t judge any of the characters in simple terms of good or evil, they are a wooly mash up of the two. B+

Catfish (2010) was the other Facebook movie that came out right before “The Social Network,” using a timely release date to cash in. This documentary is of a real New Yorker named Nev who became friends with strangers residing three states away. The Pierce family comprised of a mother, a daughter who is an artist prodigy, and an attractive older daughter who is a dancer. Nev is a professional photographer who one day receives a parcel in the mail of a painting by 8-year old Abby that is a replica of a photograph of his that was published in a newspaper. He corresponds to Abby through mother Angela. He soon becomes enamored by 19-year old Megan’s Facebook profile which gleefully catalysts cyber romance and sexting. Bliss turns into disillusionment when Nev learns of manufactured details such as an art gallery that supposedly belonged to the Pierce family doesn’t exist. Nev, and his two roommates who have chronicled everything on video, decide to fly in and drop by unannounced to meet the real people behind their profiles. The result is a response of nervousness joint with creepiness, although when truth surfaces there are a few brief passages with surprisingly powerfully moving moments. B

  

The Damn United (2009) takes on an unusual topic for a bio pick and features an imperiously compelling performance by Michael Sheen as the contentious team manager for the Leeds United in 1974, but it often applies a confusing timeline and feels like it is leaving out some key details. Brian Clough was a winning team manager, i.e., soccer coach for Derby County leading them to British football (soccer in American terms) laurels, but when he came to Leeds he insulted the players for playing dirty and pressed them to win with pride. The players revolted, so did club ownership and the fans. This is a sports bio with scattershot archival sports action, more focused with a coach humiliated and squirming for respect. The slant of the film is that Clough was more invested in self-presentation than he was in the players. Furthermore, he wanted revenge against Revie (Colm Meaney), the former Leeds coach who snubbed him years earlier. Director Tom Hooper followed this with critic’s darling and Oscar winner “The King’s Speech.” C+

  

Leaves of Grass (2009) is Tim Blake Nelson’s oddball twin brother comedy set against the backdrop of the Oklahoma marijuana scene. Edward Norton is in a dual role as the twin brothers, one a refined philosophy professor and the other a nincompoop pothead. The slacker pisses off the wrong guys and then the professor is mistaken for him. The spitfire dialogue keeps you impressed, but sometimes it just tries too hard. Nelson as a writer-director wants to juggle both a catastrophe and some kind of happy ending as a counterbalance but it comes out a little shaky. There are a few sections of the movie that clunk along too slowly. Keri Russell has a nice role as a sweet, earthy woman who prizes male intelligence. B-

    

Sex is Zero (2002) is a Korean sex comedy in the vein of America’s “American Pie.” Korean cinema is so unique and so often transcendent that it is puerile to see them try to duplicate America’s lowbrow humor. You don’t remember the characters, only the gross parts and maybe a few cheerleaders. Nothing too sexy, though, just lewd. Korean with English subtitles. D+

      

Somewhere in Time (1980) is a time travel romance with Christopher Reeve as a modern writer who goes back to 1912 to romance dream woman Jane Seymour, an actress with laurels. Much of it is pretty as well as polite. But if you come to think about it Reeve’s obsession isn’t heartfelt, it’s brain-deactivating mania. He’s willing to starve and dehydrate for love. And it is love for somebody he idealizes but doesn’t truly know. The result is the epitome of toothache inducing saccharine, and the ending is jaw-dropping in its bogusness. The ostentatious music is by John Barry. C-

        

Vengeance is Mine (1979) is a serial killer investigation by Shohei Imamura, a prolific director who happens to have more than just a few interesting movies in him. Count on a time sliding narrative that covers Iwao Enokizu’s (played by Ken Ogata) coldblooded spree – murder, impersonation, deception – through the late season of 1964 that lasted as a 78 day manhunt. The opening two murders are graphic and most, but not all, of the rest of the murders are implied. One expects to see a psycho profile drama which it certainly is, but perhaps more intriguing is how this Japanese low-class trash (before the punk invasion) must have been the equivalent to American white trash from that time period. The ambiguity is whether these were murders of sport or murders of necessity, but even without colored-in explanations the film entire is riveting as long as you enjoy sorting through non-linear storytelling. Japanese with English subtitles. A-

     

Pick of the Month

     

The White Ribbon (2009) won the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, possibly because the high contrast shades of black & white, and the grey specks of pixels, captivate the eyes. In 1913, a mysterious string of accidents in a German village could be the growing seeds to rising Fascism. In a way, you can also gaze the attention made at how the Patriarchs punishment of the children ultimately corrupts the children into vicious retaliators. The anti-story pattern is also a self-satisfied red herring whodunit. You can certainly understand why some people might claim it is a masterpiece: the slow paced scenes add discreet (and abstract) detail to accumulate into a behavioral puzzle of a movie. Intellectuals can make themselves feel proud if they claim to understand it. Austrian-German with English subtitles. Note: It is 144 minutes long. C-

            

Titles alphabetically assembled.

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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