Ten Netflix Films in January 2013

         
 

30 January 2013| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

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

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hill (1996, 150 Minutes, NR) is the unsettling, unforgettable documentary that might have been the first to teach me more about my own prejudices that I would have liked to admit. Three teenage boys (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, Jason Misskelley) are charged with murdering a trio of pre-adolescent boys by method of satanic witch ritual. I thought, throw the book at these wretched irredeemable teens and ask for the death penalty. But it’s simply a rush to judgment, and I found myself changing my mind about a very uncomfortable and problematic court case. Since this Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky film, three more films have gestated including the recent “West of Memphis” which finally culminates the case – some closure, not absolute. Still this film and the whole case is an eye-opener. A

DOCUMENTARY / TRUE CRIME / RAINY WEEKEND VIEWING

Cries and Whispers (1973, 91 Minutes, R, Swedish with English subtitles) is the harrowing and densely cerebral Ingmar Bergman film about death, a close relative to the current Michael Haneke film. On some viewing days, this is going to be difficult to trudge through while on a certain open-minded night it could be hypnotic for you. In turn of the 19th century Sweden, before modern medicine, Agnes (Harriet Andersson) is slowly dying of cancer. Ingrid Thulin and Liv Ullmann are the uptight sisters that do their merciful best to care for their sister to the end. Bitter jealousies surface amongst these three. And their husbands are either withdrawn or outraged when they learn unsavory things about these women. It was strangely coincidental that the American horror masterpiece “The Exorcist” came out the same year, both of them in the running for awards season, since both achieve a kind of high-pitched near-death hysteria and repulse that freaks your nervous system. A

FOREIGN FILM / CEREBRAL DRAMA / WINTER DESPAIR

Last Ride (2009, 100 Minutes, NR) is a gasping drama of a father and son on the run from the law. It has a bleak tone, but the visuals of the Australia Outback are stunning particularly a long scene of a SUV travelling on a vast salt lake with only a thin layer of water. Hugo Weaving is capable of showing what a versatile actor he is, as the abusive dad whose acts of violence and theft are intuitive. Tom Russell is the impressionable pre-adolescent who gradually learns that he must overthrow his dad before he leads them both to a fatal end. Tough subject, compellingly told. A-

DRAMA / AUSTRALIAN / SCENIC LOCALES / NIGHTTIME VIEWING

Oslo, August 31st (2012, 95 Minutes, NR, Norwegian with English subtitles) is a sad and downbeat movie, but a purposeful one strong enough to change perspective of the world for certain viewers who have experience with dependent habits. Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) is 10-months clean from drug addiction, and is set free by the drug rehab center for a day so he can attend a job interview. If Anders is a self-sabotage case, it’s because “I like it when people feel sorry for me.” Anders has the smarts to reintegrate productively into society, but one, he should remove himself from hometown Oslo completely which has become his rat’s nest. Hard for a 34-year old, who is feeling regrets of lost time. If he had only cut it out seven years ago, or five years ago, or three… etc. etc. Heartrending. A-

FOREIGN FILM / DRUG ADDICTION / WINTER DESPAIR

Bronson (2009, 92 Minutes, R) is the uncompromising true story of Britain’s most notorious prisoner. Born into a middle-class family, Michael Peterson was a two-bit thief who beat the hell out of the guards to no end, typically fighting naked and greased up, inviting punishment and inviting challenges. You wonder at times if he did it just to stay fit, but when it comes down to it, he is just a natural born sadist-masochist. Director Nicholas Winding Refn (“Drive” was his next film) made an avante-garde prison movie here, with first-rate impressionistic lighting techniques and layered with ironic heroic music. To escape redundancy, there’s the intrigue of whether he ever gets out of prison or not. Tom Hardy is wicked-macho in an early role. B

PRISON DRAMA / BRITISH / ADULT ORIENTATION / EARLY MORNING RISER

Time Out (2001, 128 Minutes, PG-13, French with English subtitles) is the portrait of a family man who conceals the truth about being laid off. He devises elaborate lies including a fictional new job in Geneva, borrows money from his father for a residential flat that doesn’t exist, and then bamboozles former clients and colleagues in a pyramid scheme that solely compensates his driftless spending. Aurélien Recoing (with an uncanny resemblance to comic Larry Miller) plays the amoral protagonist who increasingly disengages from the truth. He soon meets another schemer who invites him to join on an investment of his own. The texture of the film is a little too icy for its own good, and while it has some enigmatic pull, I felt that this kind of story of the disenfranchised professional male was done better later in “Tokyo Sonata” (2008, Japan) and “The Company Men” (2010). B-

DARK DRAMA / CEREBRAL / WINTER DESPAIR

Taken 2 (2012, 92 Minutes, PG-13) took an undeserved bashing from critics last October (unscreened for me at the time). Certainly a less exciting retread, but it has trash appeal watchability that’s good for a mind turned-off night. Liam Neeson naturally has less to do this time because he’s taken captive, along with his wife (Famke Janssen), leaving it to their plucky daughter (Maggie Grace) to roam Istanbul to find them. You can’t keep a pro down too long, though. Still, audience rage is less this time (rage is crucial) because the sex trafficking backdrop isn’t implemented quite the way as it was the first time. Albanian gangster Murad Hoxha (Rade Serbedzija) seeks revenge from losing his son in the first movie. C+

ACTION & ADVENTURE / RACE AGAINST THE CLOCK THRILLER / WEEKEND THRILLS

Disgrace (2009, 118 Minutes, NR) features John Malkovich as a white professor at the University of Cape Town in South Africa who sexually violates a student, and becomes an outcast. He joins his grown-up daughter (Jessica Haines) in a desert town, and coincidentally is present when she is raped. Moral issues abound, and perplexity as well when the daughter doesn’t report the crime. Malkovich has a powerful confession scene once he sheds his narcissism. Even if it’s draggy, it’s not thoughtless melodrama at any point, but it’s not life-enhancing either. C+

DRAMA / ADULT ORIENTATION / WINTER DESPAIR

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012, 124 Minutes, PG-13) is a forged and narrowed view of India, which I can absolutely say since I’ve experienced travels there. Filmed in the basic quadrants of Jaipur and Udaipur, the movie adds atmosphere with jewels, saris and thieves markets that sell such items. Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Tom Wilkinson and Maggie Smith (Uptight! What a surprise!) entangle through a number of warmed-over subplots, only a few moments are emotionally true. Also with Dev Patel clamped with a clichéd accent as the hotel proprietor with a matriarch who dictates his life. C+

DRAMA / ADULT ORIENTATION / SCENIC LOCALES / SUNDAY NIGHT WHILE BRAIN IS HALF ASLEEP MOVIE

Lookin’ to Get Out (1982, 120 Minutes, R) is an overlong gambling junkies movie that was a pet project by Jon Voight, who contributed to the ill script. Angelina Jolie as a little girl has a brief appearance, but the real woman here is Ann-Margaret as the casino boss’ mistress with old stretch marks (that’s what mileage from Voight will do to you). The early compulsive liar displays have a truth to it, the rest doesn’t. D+

DRAMA / ADULT THEMES / SATURDAY NIGHT SUCKFEST

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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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