Ten Netflix Films in June 2013

         
 

01 July 2013| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

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

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972, 101 Minutes, PG, French with English subtitles) is the essential wry satire and mind-bender about a continuous series of dinner plans interrupted or gone awry between friends. Dinner is seen as a social ritual by iconoclast filmmaker Luis Buñuel, and the upper middle class are the scorned targets. The scenes could be Seinfeld-ian or a Saturday Night Live skit, but the humor is either very dry or startlingly malicious. Adulterers, drug dealers, perverts, politicians, priests and bishops, military coups are thrown into the mix while the host (often Fernando Rey, a great straight-farce actor) musters his best to orchestrate civility. One of Buñuel’s motifs is an endless walk of the bourgeoisie partygoers – and we realize they’re off to nowhere – and the joke is how awkward they are in their attempt to be graceful and noble in the face of sundrenched sweat. A

SURREALIST COMEDY / FOOD FOR THOUGHT / TRANCE-OUT WEEKEND

Rosemary’s Baby (1968, 136 Minutes, R) is the skin-crawler that begins in a perfect antiquated apartment complex and somehow webs a conspiracy against Mia Farrow and her womb. Her actor husband John Cassavetes is atrociously selfish, trading love for success. The husband makes friends with the nosiest of elderly neighbors (Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon, who snatched an Oscar), who meddles with Rosemary once she’s pregnant and then makes demands on what to eat and consume while she’s expecting. The film is the book, directly translated from the Ira Levin novel, but it’s better than the book, too. Director Roman Polanski’s dream sequence, for one, is hauntingly surreal and more satanic. And his direction in the final scenes is a throat-grabber, I think it even stole the words (and screams) out of Farrow’s mouth. Playful, brewing and sinister music by Krzysztof Komeda. A

HORROR / LATE TEENS AND ADULTS / LATE NIGHT SUSPENSE

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957, 81 Minutes, NR) is top drawer Richard Matheson sci-fi, taken from his novel “The Shrinking Man.” The radioactive mist leaves a sticky, and hazardous, residue that is the catalyst for existential doom. For Scott Carey (Grant Williams), the world gets bigger while he gets smaller in this B-movie classic made with uncommon genius. Reduced to miniature size Scott assumes the space of a doll house until a housecat claws him out of there, all the way down to a basement where the stairs are now insurmountable. He gets his hands on a sewing kit needle to go head to head with a tarantula. He also creates his own grappling hook and finds refuge in a matchbox. Questionable as to the implication of the ending: How do you define evaporation? What is indisputable is that this is practically the sole sci-fi trash movie of its time that endurably holds up. The only improvement it could have made would be to eliminate the ham-fisted voice-over narration that fills over the final moments. To have gone silent would have made the existentialism pure, and more eerily chilling. Still, we’re haunted. A

SCI-FI & FANTASY / PRE-TEENS / SATURDAY NIGHT GOOSEBUMPS

Lakeview Terrace (2008, 110 Minutes, PG-13) is that underrated “bad neighbor” thriller that you might have missed because you mistakenly misjudged the cover as trite. Looking back the last ten years or so, it’s really “Django Unchained” and “Terrace” that are Samuel L. Jackson’s stand-out best performances. He plays a quick-to-anger LAPD officer who is outraged that his new neighbors are a white man and black woman (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington). His goal might be to get the white man to admit he hates and fears the black man. Jackson uses his big personality and voracious vocabulary as a weapon to harass and barrage this couple. The mental gamesmanship goes too far, and it gets plausibly physical. Directed by Neil LaBute. B+

PSYCHODRAMA / THINKING MAN’S THRILLER / LATE NIGHT THRILLS

Primer (2004, 79 Minutes, PG-13), by Shane Carruth, is the best $7,000 budget film I’ve ever seen. You need to love challenging puzzle movies to get into it. Two tech nerds (Carruth and David Sullivan) build a machine in hopes to raise venture capital from investors. They don’t know what the machine does at first, but then learn it does something incredible – Time machine in its process creates body doubles. Part of its dare it to just keep up with the techspeak, but without it, the film would short its riddles. Serious attention required, its’ meanings can be vigorusly argued with others indefinitely. B+

SCI-FI & FANTASY / ADULT ORIENTATION / NIGHTTIME PUZZLES

Despicable Me (2010, 95 Minutes, PG) is a breezy movie about a world domination type villain. This animated charmer has Gru (Steve Carell) putting down his Insta-Freezer Gun so his heart can melt by the three orphans who assume themselves into his life. Ahhh. Archrival Vector (Jason Segel) in the meantime has upstaged him in reputation after having stolen the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Little scenes like Gru cutting the coffee line is a fave, but the Minions – yellow pill-shaped creatures with faux hearted human traits – are the true scene-stealers. We wanted more of them, and the June 2013 sequel “Despicable Me 2” fulfills that promise. B

ANIMATION / EASY GOING / WEEKEND FAMILY MOVIE

Tex (1982, 102 Minutes, PG) doesn’t have any connective relevance to anything going on in today’s world, except that it’s a reminder that there was a time Disney actually made thoughtful, dialogue-dependent dramas that reflected real life. Two brothers (Jim Metzler as the 19-year old, Matt Dillon as the 15-year old) raise themselves in Oklahoma bearing an absent father. The older brother compromises his life’s goal to be a mentor to his troublemaking younger bro. It’s “Footloose” without the dance-offs. B

DRAMA / COMING OF AGE / SUMMERTIME BLUES

How to Steal a Million (1966, 123 Minutes, NR) is an innocuous but mild and charming heist picture with unstressed Peter O’Toole and a tad anxious Audrey Hepburn, a cheery pair. Set and filmed in Paris, the duo needs to steal a Cellini Venus sculpture from the art museum, not for the money, but to cover-up the unwholesome fact that Hepburn’s father is an art forger. Consider: Once upon a time we had films like this that weren’t after slam-bang action. The theft itself is done with patience and panache. Hardly a genre standard, a little pokey, but a likeable companion to “Now You See Me.” B-

ROMANTIC COMEDY / HEIST PICTURE / WEEKEND AFTERNOON COUCH

Upstream Color (2013, 96 Minutes, NR), by Shane Carruth, is the ascetic filmmaker’s anticipated follow-up to “Primer.” The slipstream “Color” is a work of genius, but it’s no good. Young woman Kris (Amy Seimeitz) is injected with mind-and-body controlling maggots by a science-wiz-thief-embezzler. Months after the incident, Kris is still disoriented by her life, but finds solace with another victim named Jeff (Carruth). The idea is we’re all controlled by inexplicable forces that define our lives, that deep down we lack free will. The visual style is all-over-the-place impressionism, Carruth as a filmmaker believes he is achieving higher awareness. Serious attention required once again, and be ready to draw paradoxes between farm pigs and humans. C+

AVANTE-GARDE SCI-FI / ADULT ORIENTATION / NIGHTTIME PUZZLES

Jack Reacher (2012, 130 Minutes, PG-13) hinges on a public shooting that’s a cover-up for a one-target assassination. Over twenty years, Tom Cruise has almost never chosen mediocre material but he’s done that here. He plays an ex-military investigator who goes to Pittsburgh to clandestinely probe the case, consulting only with defense attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) whose client is innocent. If you’re looking for romance, potential sizzle turns to fizzle between Cruise and Pike. Talky, exposition-heavy and a sniper scene in bad taste (6-year old girl is in the rifle’s crosshairs for a moment), this is an often turgid effort lacking in entertainment. Action is scarce and barely second-rate. C-

CRIME STORY / UNDERWORLD THRILLERS / SUNDAY NIGHT SNOOZING

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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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