Ten Netflix Films In April 2012

         
 

29 April 2012| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

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

The Wages of Fear (1953, 147 Minutes, NR, French with English subtitles) is as exciting and nerve-rattling now as it must have been 50 years ago. Just be patient for the first hour while it establishes character background. It’s worth it since the next 80 minutes keep you pinned to your seat. In South America, four men have to navigate a transport truck over mountainous terrain while carrying lethal nitroglycerin. The slightest bump can blow them up. The roads are narrow and narrower, and increasingly hazardous. They want to move slowly, but on necessary occasions they have to crank up the speed. And other times, they have to move across shallow but untrustworthy streams and motes. Do you really think all four will make it? This Henri-Georges Clouzot film exists in an entirely different universe where anything can happen. The black & white photography lends the film a dirty and humid quality. The actors’ sweat stains even stand out. 

ACTION & ADVENTURE / RACE AGAINST THE CLOCK THRILLER / WEEKEND PARENTS AND TEENS THRILLS

Sorcerer (1977, 121 Minutes, PG) is an anti-formula action flick by William Friedkin. He directs action in suspended moments in time, soaking in the detail, instead of most directors who cut their films in slapdash. The characters fail to be as emotionally engaging as its predecessor “The Wages of Fear” (1953) from which it is based, but the location backdrops are jaw-dropping and the action for some forty sustained minutes is mesmerizing. Roy Scheider is one of four men who has to navigate a transport truck over mountainous South America terrain while carrying lethal nitroglycerin. The slightest mishap can blow them all to smithereens. Friedkin directs the climax as if in the same state of delirium as the survivors. Ultimately, it grips you because it’s so different than what most action movie concepts offer, it should be taken as a viewing priority. If we ever get another American remake, I’d like to see Daniel Craig take the driver’s seat. A-

ACTION & ADVENTURE / RACE AGAINST THE CLOCK THRILLER / WEEKEND PARENTS AND TEENS THRILLS

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010, 86 Minutes, R) is a captivating whacked documentary. I am not one that has ever appreciated graffiti artists since I have often seen it as vandalism, but for the first time I understand them. “Exit” chronicles how graffiti art has transformed into commercial post-modern art. Thierry Guetta is an amateur filmmaker who has filmed hundreds of thousands of hours of his own life in the last twenty-odd years, many of them with graffiti artists. The mysterious Banksy, a street artist who is hooded during his interviews, took over the making of this documentary and inspired Thierry to do his own art work. Mesmerizing in a few stretches because it’s either a bizarre identity crisis (or you get the idea that Thierry or Banksy is putting a con job on the audience), or perhaps because it re-shapes your concept on post-modern art. I like both guys, but if I had to choose one, I’d say Thierry is more human than Banksy. B+

DOCUMENTARY / CHARACTER STUDY / LAZY AFTERNOON OR LATE NIGHT

Hoosiers (1986, 114 Minutes, PG) is the king of high school basketball movies, an inspirational family friendly pleaser with a terrific recreation of 1954 small-town life. The Hickory Huskers is everything to this small town. Gene Hackman is the unconventional coach in his first year on the job. As a basketball fan, I’m still not sure that four strict passes before finding the shot selection is always the best strategy. But if I’d had a coach, I’d want him to be Norman Dale. He not only turns a struggling team into a winning one, he heals the town too. The romance with schoolteacher Barbara Hershey is sort of half-baked. Dennis Hopper is the town drunk who is corralled into becoming the assistant coach. Yes, Norman believes in giving people second chances. Because he needed one. As for the cinematography, I never realized until this last viewing is how first-rate it is. So much cleaner, crisper and textured in an old-fashioned feel than we get from movies today. B+

DRAMA / INSPIRATIONAL / WEEKEND FAMILY MOVIE

Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984, 137 Minutes, PG) is the realistic pedigree version of the Tarzan story. Told with serious literal-minded prestige. The first half in the forest contains some of the most gorgeously vivid jungle scenery ever put on film (shot in Cameroon, Africa), and it has the same kind of visceral feral quality of Stanley Kubrick’s Dawn of Man sequence in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The young infant is raised among apes. When he grows into actor Christopher Lambert, he sees himself in a mirror and recognizes his human differences. He is rescued and brought to civilization by British explorers where he is reacquainted with his aristocratic roots. The second half, while interesting, is mannered, stern and civil – which of course clashes with Tarzan’s wild nature. Andie MacDowell (whose voice was dubbed by Glenn Close because the studio didn’t like her American accent) at least looks sublime as the love interest – she has a thing for Tarzan’s untamed carnality. B

DRAMA / SCENIC LOCALES / RAINY SATURDAY AFTERNOON VIEWING

The Match Factory Girl (1990, 69 Minutes, NR, Scandinavian with English subtitles) is a Tale of a Poor Lonely Soul… but just as you think its lurching, it trickles into a realistic fateful tragedy. This spare, short film is part of director Aki Kaurismaki’s “Proletariat Trilogy.” The message is that if you’re a slave wager, you’re to be damned, sooner or later. It opens documentary style demonstrating how matches are machine-made with human laborers performing quality control of the output – a dull job. Kati Outinen plays Iris, a girl who rarely gets a night out because of her constant work cycle. She’s socially inept, but when she buys a dress, she soon after meets a man. And you can tell by his tacit behavior that he’s a total a-hole. Once spurned, the suspense becomes whether Iris will inflict her anger towards this a-hole or against men at large. Curiously, this film strikes a resemblance to the 2006 film “Bubble.” B

FOREIGN FILM / MOODY CHARACTER STUDY / COLD NIGHT VIEWING

13 Conversations About One Thing (2002, 94 Minutes, R) has an intriguing chapter-break structure built around some fundamentally essential ideas of how guilt interrupts happiness. Matthew McConaughey is a cocky lawyer who is in boastful spirits until he accidentally runs someone over with his car; Alan Alda is an insurance manager peeved that one of his employees is always happy no matter what; John Turturro is a professor and recent mugging survivor; Clea DuVall is a happy-go-lucky house cleaner until her body goes through unwanted distortions. Gripping intersection plotting, but only for awhile. You kind of wish that the director hadn’t created such a self-conscious tricky structure. It makes you work overtime in figuring out what scenes actually occurred first. B-

DRAMA / MOODY CHARACTER STUDY / PUZZLE SOLVING PEOPLE

Logan’s Run (1976, 118 Minutes, PG) is a futuristic yarn about how society has moved underground following ecological disaster in the year 2274. In a domed city, no one is allowed to live past the age of 30, but until then, you dwell in luxury. The “carousel” suicide ritual (it’s less scary than visually corny) takes away life before an audience. The fear is negated since law-abiders believe that they will be reincarnated. Michael York plays the “Sandman” termination officer on runners, who undergoes a change of heart when he learns the truth. Ridiculous – you have to forgive a few cardboard sets – but kind of enjoyable if you like sci-fi cheese. Co-stars Jenny Agutter (“Walkabout”) as the free-thinking sex object. B-

SCI-FI & FANTASY / DISASTER CHAOS / MINDLESS WEEKEND MOVIE

The Ruins (2008, 90 Minutes, R) strands five young adults on top of a Mayan pyramid while possessed horticulture looks to feast on their wounds (hey, it’s at least more entertaining than M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening”). If the five try to leave the pyramid, they will get shot or machete’d to death by locals who insist they be human sacrifices. The heat wave starts wearing them down, and escape choices get slimmer (and after one’s leg amputation, not much chance there). Jonathan Tucker, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey, Joe Anderson and Jena Malone play the vacationers. You don’t need this, but if you’re looking to kill some time it’s OK. C

HORROR / LATE NIGHT SUSPENSE / LATE NIGHT HORROR AFTER THE BRAIN IS HALF-ASLEEP

 

Meek’s Cutoff (2011, PG, 103 Minutes) offers promise of cannibalism or at least dysentery, for it’s a branded disaster saga set along the Oregon Trail circa mid-1800’s. Michelle Williams and Bruce Greenwood are usually acting dynamos, but here are intractably inhibited. Will Patton and Paul Dano are among the others along for the stall. The settlers capture an Indian but are too scared to do anything to him, in fear of retaliation from other tribesmen. The appalling shock of the movie is just how static and anti-climactic it is. Subdued for ninety minutes is fine, but a good movie would have eventually let some character blow off their lid. D+

WESTERN / MOODY CHARACTER STUDY / FALL SCHOLASTICS

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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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