Ten Netflix Films in August 2012

         
 

30 August 2012| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

 

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

Breaking Away (1979, 100 Minutes, PG) is the best bicycling movie there is. Indiana college reject Dave (Dennis Christopher) poses as an Italian exchange student, serenades opera, swims at the quarry, and enters the Little 500 cycle race to impress a girl. Smart aleck boys of summer movie also has Dennis Quaid as an angry “Cutter,” Daniel Stern, Jackie Earl Haley and Robyn Douglass. Five Oscar nominations including Best Picture, won the Best Screenplay award. You cheer for it, and it offers post-high school graduation inspirational uplift. A-

COMEDY / SPORTS / FEEL-GOOD WEEKEND

Ju Dou (1990, 94 Minutes, PG-13, Mandarin with English subtitles) is slow-moving at first but has such a unique look that it feels primeval, forbidden. Gong Li is the woman of desire married to a cruel master (Li Wei) who physically torments her in early 1900’s feudal society China. The setting is a dye mill where luxury silks are made. The nephew (Li Baotian), who toils for his uncle as a salesman, derives sole sexual pleasure from watching wife Ju Dou bathe. She allows it, eventually seduces him, and a sporadic affair begins. Then the Master suffers a massive stroke that paralyzes him. Helpless, the two new lovers torment him, raise a son, but live in secret. Even while paralyzed, the immobile Master plots revenge. You think: “Wow, here are people whose only luck is that they got to be happy for only a few hours at a time their entire lives.” An exotic time capsule with sensuous images by director Zhang Yimou (“Raise the Red Lantern,” “House of Flying Daggers”). A-

FOREIGN FILM / SEXY IMAGES / FALL MOVIE

Margaret (2011, 150 Minutes, R) has a checkered history for being shelved by the studio for five years, but it is often a powerful drama. The only thing it really has going against it is that you have to accept characters that you might hate. Anna Paquin is a New York brat-princess who inadvertently causes a bus accident that ends in one fatality. It’s a character mystery as to how deeply she feels responsible, but we do learn quickly she wants bus driver Mark Ruffalo to own up to his part in the accident. Morality is lost in the pursuit of justice, missed connections occur, lawsuit money takes priority, and our fateful girl arguably “punishes” herself with losing her virginity to a poor choice (Keiran Culkin, ewww!). Matt Damon, Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno play substantial supporting roles. Kenneth Lonergan (“You Can Count on Me”) wrote and directed with supreme intelligence, with a demonstrated understanding of corroding ethics. B+

TRAGIC DRAMA / CHARACTER STUDY / LONG AFTERNOON OR EARLY EVENING

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2012, 81 Minutes, PG) is a swift foodie documentary on the world’s best sushi chef (hence, most comprehensive and meticulous in preparation), found in Tokyo, Japan. A patron can expect twenty plates for $300 per person. If you love sushi, you might learn something here about the fish market at the docks, and of the lifestyles of those who work the wee hours of the morning there. But Jiro, a limber 85-year old master, is a piece of work himself although one could argue he is a hermit. His two sons are chefs themselves, although in a lesser spotlight. Philip Glass’ music from “The Hours” complements the images. English subtitles. B+

DOCUMENTARY / CHARACTER STUDY / LATE NIGHT HUNGER

Starting Over (1979, 105 Minutes, R) is a divorce recovery dramedy with Burt Reynolds dumped without purpose by wife Candice Bergan, who wants freedom and room to grow creatively. You have to be able to consider this movie came during the feminist era, so watching a devoted hubby get dumped was for the first time a plausible hot topic. Reynolds meets a really funny kook played by Jill Clayburgh (“An Unmarried Woman” was her landmark feminist picture a year earlier), and they begin dating. Then his ex-wife feels unfulfilled being alone and wants her hubby back. The heartache is authentic, but the tone of the movie is mild. The male divorcee group recovery scenes are funny though. Only make time for this if you have already seen the similar but more significant “Kramer vs. Kramer” which was the Best Picture Oscar winner the same year as this. B-

DRAMA / ADULT ORIENTATION / GLOOMY AFTERNOON MOVIE

The Secret World of Arrietty (2010, 94 Minutes, G) from Studio Ghibli is a Japanese variation of “The Borrowers” and dubbed into English with voices that include Will Arnett, Amy Poehler and Bridgit Mendler. The adoptive point of view is of the little people who live under the floorboards under the giant humans, to survive they “borrow” little things. But one human child notices these little people, and also improbably falls in love with Arrietty who is equally curious. The unnecessary bully turns out to be the human housemaid. B-

FAMILY FILM / ANIMATION / WEEKEND MORNING MOVIE

Ashes and Diamonds (1958, 105 Minutes, NR, Polish with English subtitles) is nothing more than a sentimental favorite of Coppola  and Scorsese. Two friends have alternate plans post World War II involving Communism versus falling in love. Some of the black & white imagery has a smoky, dilapidated power. Most of it is rather unsurprising. C

FOREIGN FILM / WORLD WAR II / FALL MOVIE

Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (1996, 114 Minutes, UR) is a 16th century Indian-flavored tale of sex, romance and revenge. But outside of a few brief erotic shots, and a sumptuous backdrop, there isn’t much to get involved in. The editing is quite pithy, and as a result no erotic momentum is developed. For story, the king (Naveen Andrews) begins to favor his courtesan (Indira Varma) over the proper wife (Sarita Choudhury), but of course, the courtesan is trained in the art of love. The war between the noble peoples and proletariat only cheapens the film’s conclusion. C

DRAMA / SEXY IMAGES / SUNDAY NIGHT AFTER KIDS ARE ASLEEP

The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979, 106 Minutes, R) has a head-scratching title, since I sort of remembering Joe (Alan Arkin) doing the seducing. He’s a liberal senator who is opposed to the corruption of the Supreme Court of Washington, D.C. It’s all water-downed stuff or perhaps is just a little thin even compared to such modern movies like “The Ides of March.” The main reason to watch is Meryl Streep in an early role: brainy attorney, sexy behind closed doors. This doesn’t sit well with Joe’s wife (Barbara Harris). Joe must put family and idealistic politics ahead of his bedroom shenanigans. C

POLITICAL DRAMA / ADULT ORIENTATION / ELECTION YEAR VIEWING

Indian Summer (1993, 98 Minutes, PG-13) is such worn-out nostalgia that I don’t know how you can make it to the end without the fast forward button. Even with Bill Paxton, Diane Lane, Elizabeth Perkins, Kevin Pollak, Vincent Spano, Julie Warner, Alan Arkin and Sam Raimi in a rare acting role can’t muster “naturalism” in this clichéd-heavy number of adults in summer camp scenarios. On the bright side, Camp Tamakwa in Ontario, Canada is an autumn leaves feast for the eyes. C-

DRAMEDY / ADULT ORIENTATION / END OF SUMMER MOVIE 

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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