Eight Netflix Films in March

         
 

01 April 2011| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

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

48 Hrs. (1982) is a buddy cop movie that paired Eddie Murphy with Nick Nolte. At first glance it feels inevitably dated. Yet this pic might help you grow a fondness for dated 80’s movies, back when there were plots about tracking down cop-killers, characters drank too much booze, and foot chases had a believable rough-and-tumble quality. Maverick cop Jack Cates (Nolte) gets convict Reggie Hammond (Murphy) out on a 48 hour prison leave to help track average badass bad guys (James Remar, David Patrick Kelly and Sonny Landham as Billy Bear). Murphy’s encounter at a redneck country saloon is a famous star-making scene. It’s a Saturday afternoon movie. B

Bronco Billy (1980) is Clint Eastwood’s adoring tribute to a travelling Wild West show featuring cowboys, lasso artists, snake wranglers, and of course, a fetching cowgirl dame. Gruff and hard-headed, Eastwood is a boss that cares about putting on a riotous show and rousing kids than he is about making money. Sondra Locke is the bitchy, spoiled heiress deserted by her newlywed husband and then is corralled by Eastwood to join the circus. Lots of story aspects includes barroom brawls, getaways, battles of the sexes and good old fashioned chauvinism with a mix of trademark Eastwood courtliness thrown in. There are some lumpy scenes involving Locke’s concerned family who believe first she’s gone missing, and then presumed dead, and a final half hour that dissolves into too many unbelievable coincidental run-ins. You want to like the movie but you want to give up on it too when it piles on too much. Eastwood considered this one a personal favorite and is proud of his acting and directing. Out of concession and appreciation of effort, if I met Eastwood in real life I would lie to him and tell him I full-heartedly liked it. C+

Now that I finally caught up with A Bug’s Life (1998) I can say that I have now seen all 11 Pixar movies to date. It was my interest that lurched along the first couple of minutes, but I was soon won over. An ant colony is terrorized by racketeering grasshoppers (Kevin Spacey is the leader) who impose extortion on their seasonal harvest. Clumsy hero Flik the ant (Dave Foley) is blamed for the recent colony misfortune of destroying the precious offering and sets out on an expedition to find mercenaries to fight and protect their colony. Queen Ant (Phyllis Diller) and Princess Atta (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) do not object. Who does Flik find? A ragtag troupe in a travelling circus looking for a gig – any gig – and they are made up of a praying mantis, a caterpillar, a lady bug, a moth, a stick bug, and a black widow. What you get is just that, ragtag humor with bugs out of their usual habitat joining forces to not fight, but rather outwit grasshoppers. Sublime visual design and clever food pyramid jokes. Just as good as its contemporary “Antz” by DreamWorks in the same release year, but perhaps swifter in pace. B

The Celebration a.k.a. “Festen” (2008) is an austerely well-made but misanthropic and negative emotions Danish film that adopts the Dogma 95 tech principles: handheld cameras, natural light and sound, no special effects, etc. Rich man Helge (Henning Moritzen) is celebrating his 60thbirthday party held at a hotel banquet room attended by his wife, his three children and a gallery of friends. During a would-be tribute, his son Christian (Ulrich Thomsen) blasts his father in front of everybody for sex crimes in his past. This is dismissed, and Christian is pulled aside for a scolding by family. Christian’s second toast is expected to be an apology but instead blows up more detail. A third reveal is a devastating blow, a letter from beyond the grave. Nobody wants to believe these details, as they just want to carry on with dinner and frivolity. Some of this is powerful. But a racist song is ugly and imposing, and a character tied to a tree is an excessive scene that rings false – it’s an agitated filmmaker’s overwrought cynicism at work. Viewers looking for the extreme will find these flawed characters intriguing and the situation unnervingly gripping. Others that look for kindness and philanthropy in their entertainment might say that this is the worst film they ever saw. The rare kind of yin and yang person like me will fall in the middle. Let’s not stir a battle between happy and unhappy people here, “The Celebration” just simply will divide viewers. Danish in English subtitles. Thomsen continues though to be a remarkable actor and is currently starring in the stirringly compassionate Danish import “In a Better World,” now in theaters. C+

The Last Metro (1980) is by Francois Truffaut, one of France’s all-time key filmmakers. This one though is only for veteran admirers of his films. In Nazi-occupied France, a Jewish theater director (Heinz Bennent) must hide in the cellar while his gentile wife (Catherine Deneuve) conducts herself as both actress and director of the new play. Gerard Depardieu is the ugly but charismatic actor who loves women, and of course, Deneuve qualifies. This is an interesting portrait of backstage theater exploits, but the film sort of fails as Nazi invasion history which is too mildly played out. At 131 minutes, you might want to watch it in two divided sittings. French in English subtitles. B-

Monsters (2010) is not for strict horror enthusiasts looking for gore. It’s hard to not be completely honest and say that it could be the first ever intellectual monster movie. Filmmaker Gareth Edwards uses sparseness as a way to build suspense as well as to build to a tenacious anti-formula. In the near future, a space probe captured gigantic tentacle beings but then upon return inevitably crash landed, turning Northern Mexico into an “Infected Zone.” Photographer Andrew Kaulder (Scott McNairy) has been hired to escort Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able), a rich man’s daughter, from Southern Mexico back to the States. Per diem money is lost or swindled and the two have to take rickety buses, vessel ships, and motor boats as means of travel. The latter requiring a ride through the Infected Zone which they are informed to proceed at their own risk. The U.S. Military has a strong fortified defense and a strike without warning policy at the Border. Interesting, extremely well-photographed, awesome locations, and surprisingly if ironically beautiful. But think suspense and the idea of calm versus dread, not high body count. B+

Pick of the Month

Stone (2010) is a rare case where I was simultaneously very interested but didn’t fully believe everything that was going on. Yet I was riveted from start to finish. Robert DeNiro is an aging parole officer and Edward Norton is a prisoner serving a sentence of 15 years and is about to appear at his parole hearing at year 8 (he was an accessory to the murder of his grandparents, and then burned their house down). DeNiro is very good as a man with slow-burning eruptions of anger and Norton is a mesmerizing white trash motor mouth. Norton first looks for spirituality books merely to quote them and plead of his rehabilitation, but he starts to believe in them through and through. Milla Jovovich is as good as she has ever been as Norton’s wife who uses her sexiness to lure DeNiro outside of the prison. DeNiro and his wife Frances Conroy are Episcopalians, but his faith is now shrinking. Norton and Jovovich are manipulators, not always on the same page, but both use DeNiro’s weaknesses of religion and mid-life idleness to exploit him. DeNiro will write up his final report for the parole board commission to recommend whether Norton is locked-up or released, and must weigh the consequences of one or the other. The performances are so good that perhaps that makes the unlikely and improbable look somehow plausible. B+

Trucker (2008) is an indie flick worthy for indie lovers of deliberately paced dramas inundated with character depth. Watch out – for it’s a woman trucker (Michelle Monaghan), not a male trucker. She’s got no education, one hell of an abused teen back story, a history with bad boys, and a kid thrown onto her lap after her ex (Benjamin Bratt), now terminally ill, has to give him up. Skilled direction by first-timer James Mottern, though it should be reserved for not much more than a late Sunday afternoon or Monday night casual movie drama. B

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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