Ten Netflix Films in December 2013

         
 

01 January 2014| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Titles I happened to check out on Netflix in the month of December 2013 listed from best to worst:

Cast Away (2000, 140 Minutes, PG-13) is the Tom Hanks stranded on an island entry that has turned into a worthy classic since its first release. Hanks is FedEx employee Chuck Noland working in Moscow before his plane crashes into the Pacific (in quite horrifying detail). He has to adopt survival techniques on the island, with a few helpful aids from the mailbox packages he opens. The real trick is escaping an obsolete existence and finding drive and purpose with himself. One-man show Hanks is mesmerizing as the ordinary man who becomes feral over time. Robert Zemeckis directed with a developed sense of patience and serenity. A

DRAMA / MOTHER NATURE / INSPIRATIONAL WEEKEND

Cast-Away _2000-DVD_ Review

Being John Malkovich (1999, 112 Minutes, R) is the sly surrealist comedy that was the first feature film by Spike Jonze (“Her”). John Cusack plays an unemployed puppeteer who takes an office job as a file clerk, only to find a portal behind a doorway that enters actor John Malkovich’s mind. Peculiar performances by Catherine Keener and Cameron Diaz, and a nutty one by Malkovich himself. There are scenes of origami-genius originality. A

SURREALIST COMEDY / AVANTE-GARDE / TRANCE-OUT WEEKEND

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Fellini’s Satyricon (1970, 129 Minutes, Adults Only, Italian with English subtitles) is to be not seen but experienced through a depraved state of mind. This is a plausible pre-Christian Rome thousands of years ago when violence was barbaric, sex was an omni-partner experimental orgy, and second class freaks were bothersome to everyone and everywhere. The film is so brooding and oozing in depravity, that some unaffiliated with experimental film might undergo tears of frustration. For those who have wondered what kind of boundless grotesquerie once pervaded an immoral Earth, this is your vision. Hard to watch, but it blows your mind wide open. A-

FOREIGN FILM / AVANTE-GARDE / SATURDAY NIGHT WEIRDNESS

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Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005, 110 Minutes, R) is the illuminating documentary expose of the infamous corporate giant that produced nothing, only operating to manipulate high volumes of stock shares to make the rich richer, and the average middle class investor poorer. Survived video and audio clips feature the white collar criminals of CEO’s Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, and CFO Andrew Fastow, conspiring in business. Alex Gibney’s documentary has the tight-bolted craft of a great 20/20 episode. A-

DOCUMENTARY / POLITICS / NIGHTTIME FOOD FOR THOUGHT

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Enough Said (2013, 91 Minutes, PG-13) has found a way to role-reverse, remake “Marty” and make it fresh. I didn’t love the characters of James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (they’re too neurotic-uneasy for me), but I was forcefully drawn in and tickled by them. Writer-director Nicole Holofcener, who has never made a bad movie with the five she’s made, has written another gem of a screenplay. Her lead Louis-Dreyfus, who should be nominated for Best Actress, begins to date Gandolfini but raises doubts when he turns out to be the hated ex-husband of her new best friend (Catherine Keener). Is this set-up enough for a movie? You betcha. B+

MATURE COMEDY / ADULT ORIENTATION / NIGHTTIME VIEWING

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Kon-Tiki (2012, 96 Minutes, PG-13, Norwegian with English subtitles) is a 1947-set historical dramatization of Norwegian historian Thor Heyerdahl (Pal Sverre Hagen) taking a sea voyage on a balsa wood raft from Peru to the Polynesian Islands just to prove that Polynesians came from South America, not Asia. The film is breathtakingly photographed, and has encounters with flying fish, electric eels and killer sharks. I only liked the film and not loved it though, maybe because crew members’ tensions feels labored. Still, the film has its natural splendors. B

HISTORICAL DRAMA / MOTHER NATURE / WEEKEND AFTERNOON

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Lovelace (2013, 92 Minutes, R) is watchable sleaze biography, about the exploitation of Linda Lovelace, star of the highest grossing porn film of the 1970’s “Deep Throat.” Amanda Seyfried is unexpectedly terrific as Lovelace, naïve and susceptible, as well as full of intricate contradictions. Peter Saarsgard is believable as her husband and pimp, who took from her almost every dollar she made. James Franco, in a very small role, is ridiculously awful though as Hugh Hefner, coming off as a simpleminded and callow tomcat. But this docudrama dissatisfies in one specific way, it fails to explain why her notorious film was a box office champ and a flash in the pan cultural phenomenon. Look at the excavating 2005 documentary “Inside Deep Throat” to get the full story. C+

DOCUDRAMA / SEXY IMAGES / WEEKEND VIEWING DEBAUCHERY

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Trance (2013, 110 Minutes, R) is a Danny Boyle directed mind-bender thriller centering on an art auction theft. If you hate twists, and double-twists that make no sense, this flick will give you a headache. Vincent Cassell oozes bad-guy cool as the mastermind thief. Rosario Dawson has a nude scene and plays a hypnotherapist. But then there’s amnesia-addled James McAvoy who has little screen appeal, and nothing gets solved about the whereabouts of the missing painting until his brain gets picked. A rare misfire from Boyle (“Sunshine,” “Slumdog Millionaire”), and it’s overly violent, too. C

SUSPENSE-THRILLER / MIND-BENDER / SATURDAY NIGHT BUMMER

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Paranoia (2013, 106 Minutes, PG-13), about cell phone technology and corporate spy rivalry, is one of the duds of the year. Liam Hemsworth gets in over his head as the young tech whiz (uh-huh) who spies for Gary Oldman by going to work for rival Harrison Ford. For a couple of scenes, Oldman is a treat to see as the greedy head honcho. But there’s nothing else to really see here. Yawn. D+

SUSPENSE-THRILLER / TEENS / LAZY AFTERNOON COUCH MOVIE

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Only God Forgives (2013, 90 Minutes, R) has Ryan Gosling at his most stone-faced, the same blank look he’s been doing for movie after movie lately but here it’s at its most gratuitous. He’s a British hustler named Julian who runs a Muay Thai boxing club in Bangkok. Julian’s jerk brother murders a prostitute, and is then executed by police. Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) is the Zen detective who is the avenger of street criminals, and sings karaoke on his off hours. What song talent! What integrity! Then there’s Julian’s Angel of Death mom (Kristen Scott Thomas), who’s like, totally rude to the Thai people. The whole movie wants to be an avante-garde trancelike meditation on sex, violence and revenge. It’s an exasperating bore instead, and Gosling (a terrific actor when he’s on) comes off like a moron. D+ 

AVANTE-GARDE / ULTRAVIOLENCE / SATURDAY NIGHT SUCKFEST

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Sean Chavel
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Ten Netflix Films in December 2013
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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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