Ten Netflix Films in December 2012

         
 

23 December 2012| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

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

Rashomon (1950, 88 Minutes, NR, Japanese with English subtitles) is quintessential classic cinema. The 19th century story is a simple one but spread out to four perspectives: In the woods, a bandit rapes a woman in front of her husband, and soon after, he is killed and the bandit is caught. In flashbacks, we get radically different perspectives, and even the woman’s version is dishonest and deficient. What is learned is that one is willing to lie in order to maintain a lofty virtue, a virtue that is insoluble in such a situation. If you’re not selfish you can’t survive, a cynical observer remarks. The nonlinear story structure itself is revolutionary and influential, leaving imprint on later hallmarks like “The Killing,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Out of Sight” and “Memento,” and most blatantly imitated in “The Usual Suspects” and “Courage Under Fire.” The black & white cinematography in the forest is impeccable, and the rest of the technical work as well is so first-rate that it gets your senses immediately drawn in. A

FOREIGN FILM / FOOD FOR THOUGHT / MASTERPIECE VIEWING

Forbidden Games (1952, 85 Minutes, NR, French with English subtitles) opens with a Nazi bombing raid of the French countryside, and it is a vigorous and frightening scene not just for its time but for today – it is realistic except for the lack of blood. Child Paulette (Brigitte Fossey) chases after her dog while hundreds of Frenchmen are being fired on, her parents die next to her while attempting to cover her. Confused about the permanency of their death, she carries the dog through farmland while remaining impassive about her parents. There she meets farm boy Michel (Georges Poujouly) who convinces his family to take her in. To pass the time of war, they (read: hobbies!) collect crosses and bury deceased animals. This must have been very impressive at its time of release. It remains affecting, but now, in a smaller way. The shots of children succumbed to tears are merited as director Rene Clement makes sure that the girl’s unripened innocence is contemplated. B

FOREIGN FILM / WORLD WAR II / SUNDAY MORNING AFTER MASS

The Krays (1990, 120 Minutes, R) is the real life vicious crime story of British twins in the 1960’s who ruled the mob underground. The earliest scenes of them young are absorbing in how we see them warped by their mother, and come to understand how the neighborhood was a breeding ground for their sociopathic behavior. Martin and Gary Kemp are the actors, similar in many ways, but singularly different in how they treated women. We don’t really understand how they gained their empire, but we’re convinced by their ruthless power. The two of them make a double trouble British Scarface. Director Peter Medak is a twee too interested in being artsy over factual, however. B

DRAMA / CRIME STORY / SUNDAY NIGHT VIEWING MAYHEM

Russian Dolls (2005, 129 Minutes, NR, French with English subtitles) is a snapshot of love in France, a sequel to “L’Auberge Espangnole” (2002). Xavier (Romain Duris) goes through his late twenties bedding different women, sometimes letting bad news girls back into his life. Xavier makes a good living as a ghost writer for autobiographies and is a screenwriter. Like Xavier, the movie has pop and wit. Despite that, the movie is a tad dispiriting, no matter how truthful it is, because it’s about contemporary male selfishness. Audrey Tautou, Cecile de France, Kelly Reilly, Lucy Gordon and Irene Montala play the women in his life. B-

FOREIGN / CONTEMPORARY LOVE / FRIDAY NIGHT LAZY COUCH MOVIE

Casa de Mi Padre (2012, 84 Minutes, R) could be Will Ferrell’s oddest movie, a burlesque Mexican trash cinema that’s entirely in Spanish and that’s entirely out to… make fun of junk Mexican filmmaking. Ferrell chews on overripe dialogue, and everyone else (Gael Bernal Garcia, Diego Luna, Genesis Rodriguez) is deadpan serious in their delivery. The visual gags reflect cinematic ineptitude, or emphasis on yuks: Yes, Ferrell has the ugliest bottom in today’s movies. As Armando Alvarez, Ferrell butts heads with his drug dealer brother and the border patrol. B-

COMEDY / GOOFY / LAZY SATURDAY AFTERNOON

Chocolat (2000, 121 Minutes, PG-13) must have been more fun and romantic to the characters in “I Love You, Man” than it is to the average [male] viewer. Lasse Hallstrom’s film is set sometime in a 1950’s French village, beginning with the mysterious Juliette Binoche arriving 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 wispy 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+

ROMANTIC DRAMA / INSPIRATIONAL / SUNDAY NIGHT WITH A GLASS OF WINE

The Ladies Man (1961, 90 Minutes, NR) is genial, plotless Jerry Lewis comedy that would be embarrassing if someone walked in on you watching it. Contrary, our hapless hero Herbert Heebert is quite not the ladies man, really, he’s terrified of them. He takes a job as an orderly at a hotel – occupied exclusively by young sorority girls and high society women of intimidating beauty! For those of you out there unbeknownst, Jerry Lewis was the predecessor to Adam Sandler. This is by no means a good movie, but if you need something on that requires no attention to a plot than this mindless moron comedy will fill up a little time for you. C

COMEDY / MINDLESS FUN / LAZY AFTERNOON MOVIE

Force of Evil (1948, 82 Minutes, NR) is hailed a film noir classic, but it’s overrated. John Garfield is a Wall Street lawyer protective over his brother, and while intertwined in his lifestyle, gets immersed into the underbelly of racketeering. The lighting is noir-ish but the settings are humdrum. On the plus side, a police raid is smashingly edited and so is an abrupt execution. The actors have a few moments deserving of one-handed applause. Nothing new here as it is just an average noir potboiler despite it being a childhood favorite of Scorsese. C

CRIME STORY / FILM NOIR / SUNDAY LATE NIGHT SNOOZING

Terror Train (1980, 97 Minutes, R) was a shocking bad taste slasher pic at the time, now it’s just dull. You want to cry out for genuine bad taste. A disturbed lad is humiliated during his deflowering, and takes revenge slicing up his college peers while on a wintry train ride. The only thing arty about it is the avante-garde lighting. With scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis, former Oscar-winner Ben Johnson, and magician David Copperfield. Hollywood bottom-feeding: A remake is in the works. D

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

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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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