Eight Netflix Films in May


31 May 2011| No Comments on Eight Netflix Films in May     by Sean Chavel


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

Along Came Polly (2004) is an easy to watch Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston comedy if you are in the mood for broad and asinine behavior. He’s the neat guy and she’s the slob. He’s trying to get over how his wife of one week Debra Messing had a fling with muscle man Hank Azaria on their honeymoon in the Bahamas. Lots of “Oh, he’s so gullible” humor. It is a good script idea that Stiller is a risk-assessment specialist who now is finding a free spirit like Aniston as a rewardingly exciting gamble. Latin dance scenes are a highlight of physical comedy. B

Bad Company (1972) follows a band of Southern young men who go west to dodge the Civil War draft in this picaresque if plodding western. Jeff Bridges, in his first bona fide starring role (following his supporting turn in “The Last Picture Show”), nearly saves the movie. The movie has inherent tension, especially since Bible boy Barry Brown is concealing cash from the rest of the group and doesn’t notify them that his stance is anti-violence, but the pacing pokes along, Gordon Willis’ cinematography is a little too burnished, and the piano chord music by Harvey Schmidt is also too wispy and fragile. On the high end, there are a few episodes of memorable melee. C+ 

The Black Hole (1979) is a Disney adventure with veteran old Hollywood actors Maximilian Schell, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Yvette Mimieux and Ernest Borgnine who don’t have to do much acting. The filmmakers tried to cash in on the “Star Wars” craze that came two years earlier with lazer gun shootouts. Actors talk to computers and the computers talk to them. The characters never really get sucked into the black hole – that hypothesized vacuum tunnel in space that might lead to other dimensions – nor do they really come close to getting inside it. The main attraction gets cast aside. The black hole doesn’t really look that great as a visual effect anyway. What happens instead is that the characters spend their time exploring around another giant spaceship hangar with a mysterious recent history. This movie sucks. D

Chocolat (2000) must have been more fun and romantic to the characters in “I Love You, Man” than it is to the average [male] viewer. Sometime in a 1950’s French village, mysterious Juliette Binoche arrives at Lent to open a chocolate shop. Alfred Molina is the pious mayor who disapproves and counters a boycott, as if chocolate was the most threatening invasion to Christianity. Binoche has unseen resources but cool steadfast is definitely a resource, so is the reassurance of Johnny Depp as a river-travelling vagabond. Judi Dench and Lena Olin are also converts to gluttony. Some of the movie is nice but too much of it is trifling and banal. But Binoche’s rosiness can be glowing. Inexplicably nominated for Best Picture, but sensibly lost to “Gladiator.” C+

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984). has me super wowed by the first 20 minutes and the last 20 minutes. Following the Shanghai tap dance opening I honestly look forward to Steven Spielberg to one day make a musical. From thereon, the pacing zips along more expeditiously than I had remembered through and through. Some characters are a little tight-lipped — we never get to know the main adversary (Amrish Puri) deep down, but at least he is incarnate evil. The general atmospheric qualities in the underground lairs are particularly effective and just as eye-catching as the hard action, particularly, the mine cart chase on tracks is a spellbinding sequence. Kate Capshaw is a silly whiner of a love interest and while she might have had real-life sparks with Spielberg, but she does not mesh exceptionally well with Harrison Ford. Still, Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) is a more than capable sidekick tyke. According to event chronology, it’s actually a prequel to “Raiders.” Indy never comments that he is a mild-tempered professor back home. A damn heap of fun, nonetheless.  A-

The New Age (1994) is a merciless satire of shallow rich Californians that gets more merciless to the viewer’s patience the more it grinds on. If anything, Peter Weller (known really for just “Robocop”) reveals what an interesting actor he could have become had he been given more career opportunities. He is like James Woods in a lot of ways, and you wonder how many roles Weller must have lost over to him. In this pricey indie art film, Weller is a publicity agent who quits abruptly after taking his boss’ criticism as insult. His wife Judy Davis (“Husbands and Wives”) has become a failed architect. They both fear the idea of having to work for a living. They get a guru that inspires them to open their own high-end boutique that’s so snooty that only their friends want to enter. The scenes inside the store are splendidly coarse – you want more scenes of that. Michael Tolkin gives you a look into the Beverly Hills soirees but he overstocks frictions of marital infidelity. Samuel L. Jackson makes a late appearance, and well, he’s as impressive as any actor from “Glengarry Glen Ross.” C+

The Princess Bride (1987) makes Cary Elwes (as Westley) and Robin Wright Penn (as Princess Buttercup) look great, even pure, although their chemistry together never sparked fireworks for me. Many years past since last time I took a look at it, but now more than ever it is the breezy and whimsical antidote to current cynical moviemaking. It’s not the “Wizard of Oz” for our generation as Rob Reiner immodestly compares it to in the DVD extras. But when it comes to swordfights, bandit humor, venomous creatures in the mud, raiding the castle stuff, irritatingly loquacious priests, and snotty villain speeches… it has an old-fashioned gel. The art direction is accomplished but not quite sterling, the cinematography is skillful but not sweeping, and overall sweet but not quite enchanting. Still, what a cool kickback movie for nights where you don’t need anything highly demanding. The film’s now famous line: “My name is Inigo Montoyo. You killed my father. Now prepare to die.” I happen to love Wallace Shawn, as a squirmy weasel bandit mastermind, when he says: “While I can’t compete with you physically, you’re no match for my brains… Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? … Morons.” A-

Pick of the Month

Revanche (2009), an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film (Austria) from two years ago, translates into “revenge” in English. It’s a film, more of an introspective “anti-thriller,” that is to degrees sleazy, brainy and true to its characters. Alex and Tamara (Johannes Krisch and Irina Potapenko) make love foreign movie style in the first scene, then the story reveals that Tamara is a full-time prostitute in a brothel. Alex happens to be a strong arm and gofer for the brothel. Pimp operator Konecny (Hanno Poschl) wants to modify Tamara’s tasks by moving her into a fancier high-rise to service VIP clients. Alex plots an escape from their seedy lives that comprises ofa bank robbery with Tamara in the getaway car. It appears to be a successful robbery on Alex’s end until he finds a cop has harangued Tamara because she was illegally parked. Alex tracks down the country cop, whom is resident in the same remote rural areas as his grandfather, and eventually mingles with the cop’s wife. The cop is tormented by a recent mistake, and his wife is bored and childless and just happens to enjoy trysts with brutish men other than her husband. Revenge is flaccid when Alex becomes unexpectedly emotionally invested in people he didn’t think he’d care about. But he has self-contained hate for one person which is hard for him to let go. The final shot is ambiguous but suggests that anyone is capable of going from high gear to low gear living, but can one settle agreeably to such terms? German with English subtitles. B

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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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