Ten Netflix Films in February 2012

         
 

29 February 2012| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Titles alphabetically I happened to check out on Netflix in the month of February 2012 listed from best to worst:

A Stolen Life (2005, 94 Minutes, NR, Mandarin with English subtitles) would be wearisome stuff if it wasn’t so heart-wrenching – since I’m ever so glad this isn’t my life, I’m drawn in watching this with sympathy, under its hypnotic spell. Disconnected from her parents, Yan’ni (Xun Zhou) has spent her life toiling under detached relatives in a remote village. Yet she has been given the opportunity to go to college, but even though she’s a book smart prodigy, she blows it. Muyu (Jun Wu) is the soft-spoken but deceptively needy young man who drives a delivery van. You’ll be shocked by how he is able to steal away her dreams and suck her into a demeaning void of squalor. A-

FOREIGN FILM / ADULT THEMES / SPRING HEALING

Street of Shame (1956, 85 Minutes, NR, Japanese with English subtitles) is a very raw film for its time for its portrait of a working class Tokyo brothel. Only the static camera shots are dated. The seedy milieu and situational back stories of the women make it real, and it is frank in its depiction of customers played and manipulated. The whores are separated in age of young and old, but “experience” doesn’t have anything to do with influencing one’s money investments. One of the youngest ones, teasing and cunning, is stringing along a john for eventual marriage while bilking him for cash to pay off her debts. Some of the older whores have children or husbands to care for, but the degradation is washing away their own souls. Slow but interesting, and indeed, sad. In black & white. B

STARK DRAMA / ADULT THEMES / WINTER DESPAIR 

The Tao of Steve (2000, 87 Minutes, R) centers on a fat guy who always gets laid even though he never tries. But something happening here is convincing. Listen close, for I think we might be onto something here. I think more guys would be more successful with women if they implemented Steve’s way of being. For one thing, don’t ever try to let a woman know you’re interested in sleeping with her by making a pass or gazing blatantly at her. You have more success if you try to just hang out with her, show no interest towards sex by eliminating desire, and see if she has a thing for you to come to fruition. Steve, or Dex, is played by the jolly Donal Logue who lives life just to have a good time – and so good vibes attract his way. He inevitably has first-time monogamous feelings for outdoorsy girl Syd (Greer Goodman). Be forewarned, the tech specs of the movie are as shabby as Dex. B

LIGHT ROMANTIC COMEDY / MILD & CHARMING / SPRING AWAKENING

Blume in Love (1973, 156 Minutes, R) has George Segal in full-tilt selfish phase mode, which is ironically a good thing. Segal, as Los Angeles divorce attorney Stephen Blume, cheats on his wife and spends the entire movie trying to win her back. Susan Anspach, as the wife, is a paragon of the feminist era while Kris Kristofferson, as a hippie, is her new lover. It would be terrific if Blume went from jerk to born again gentleman. But he’s not exactly an endearing fellow. It’s a very well made film by Paul Mazursky, a director with considerable greatness in his later titles like “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” (1986) and “Enemies, A Love Story” (1989). But this plays better simply as an artifact of the fashions of its time. However, it is the first movie I can ever recall popping the term sport f***ing. B-

ROMANTIC DRAMA / LIBERAL SEXUALITY / END OF FALL MOVIE

Buried (2010, 95 Minutes, R) posits another question other than whether Ryan Reynolds is going to break out of the coffin: Can a film manage to have enough going on to spend its entire running length trapped in a dark box without boring you? The answer is slightly surprising. Reynolds is a freight driver in Iraq who has been taken hostage by insurgents and buried alive, with a lighter, glow sticks, a cell phone and a knife as his only tools. The anguish and frustration has him yelling into the phone as he’s transferred to various slow-poke operators until he contacts an army specialist that can talk him through his predicament. The movie has plausible scares including close calls with bugs and reptile invaders and claustrophobia and oxygen deprivation. “Buried” isn’t for everyone but if you’re curious enough, it won’t hurt you. C+

PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER / SUSPENSE / SUNDAY OR MONDAY NIGHT HORROR AFTER THE BRAIN IS HALF-ASLEEP

Our Idiot Brother (2011, 89 Minutes, R) has Paul Rudd as the gullible doofus Ned. Once out of prison early for good behavior (he is named “model prisoner” four months in a row), he needs to get his dog Willie Nelson back from his now ex-girlfriend which “ex” is, of course, news to him. None of his sisters (Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel) are thrilled at the idea of letting him board with them. The sisters deem him an idiot, but it’s really them who are out of touch and cynical. The movie is really just about Ned bringing the family together. The characters have charisma but the story is kind of flat. Like Ned, the movie has a nice mellow rhythm. It’s decent enough to have on for late night noise or if you’re not in the mood for anything in particular. Co-stars Rashida Jones as a dorky lesbian and Steve Coogan as a lascivious documentary filmmaker. C+

GOOFY COMEDY / GUILTY PLEASURES / LATE NIGHT VIEWING WHILE BRAIN IS HALF-ASLEEP

Resurrection (1980, 103 Minutes, PG) was an Oscar candidate in the year of release and has certainly weakened into arbitrary status since then. Ellen Burstyn (nominated) survives a near-fatal car accident and comes back with extraordinary healing powers for others. Her rebound relationship, out in the sticks, is with Sam Shepard whose character undergoes a terribly unconvincing change in behavior. The mystical stuff has a few fleeting moments of visual awe but by relying on it too much, the effect flatlines. It’s a short story made long by long talky scenes. C

DRAMA / SPIRITUAL AWAKENING / RAINY SUNDAY MORNING

Certified Copy (2011, 106 Minutes, NR, French with English subtitles) is a negative emotions French film that solves no ills. An unhappy tetchy woman (Juliette Binoche) persuades an art historian (William Shimell) to spend the day out with her but the romantic prospects gradually decompose. You can’t accuse the dialogue for lacking pungency. But it’s too much of a bitter conceit watching these two switch turns at behaving like jerks. C

FOREIGN FILM / MOODY CHARACTER STUDY / WINTER INTROSPECTION

Idlewild (2006, 121 Minutes, R) is a jazz meets hip-hop musical that is a strange and unsatisfying fusion. It is also lost under its unengaging hodgepodge of storylines centering around a seedy night club while set during the Prohibition Era. Stranger is a motif of an animated rooster. André Benjamin (known from OutKast) is more natural when he’s musically performing, not acting. Paula Patton (recently the babe IMF agent opposite Tom Cruise in “MI4”) looks and sounds great, but is stuck somewhere between playing a femme fatale or a martyr. The usually terrific Terrence Howard is stuck at playing the most generic of gangsters. But the music itself is not good, it screeches. The hot-yellow lighting is far too over-stylized as well. Glitzy is fun, but this is just annoying. D+

MUSICAL / DANCE / UNINTENDED COMEDY

Mouchette (1967, 81 Minutes, NR, French with English subtitles) is an example of the French cinema of despair made by its monarch sermonizer Robert Bresson. For an entire career, Bresson made slow-moving films about tormented souls that were made with such “subtlety” that human spontaneity and combustibility was entirely absent – he might as well have made movies about humanoids. In a rustic village, the title teenage girl (Nadine Nortier) is saddled by an alcoholic father, a terminally ill mother and a baby sibling she has to look out for. Misguided, she has a constant natty haircut and disheveled clothes. She is unnoticed everywhere she turns, but late in the picture, she becomes a drunk’s alibi for an accidental killing, thus becoming the parable of teen martyrdom. At best, this effort has at least more camera movement than most Bresson features. D

STARK DRAMA / CEREBRAL / WINTER DESPAIR

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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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