Ten Netflix Films in March 2012

         
 

04 April 2012| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

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

The Black Stallion (1980) features, as you would guess, an awesome horse. This children’s flick might actually be more enjoyed by adults, it has a rarefied grace (it was produced by Francis Ford Coppola’s production company and you might already know Coppola did “Apocalypse Now.”) The boy, played by Kelly Reno, gets shipwrecked on an island with the wild horse – the crystal clear beach becomes a setting for visual poetry. Back home in the states is Mickey Rourke as a horse trainer and Teri Garr as the mother. Carroll Ballard later made “Fly Away Home” (1996) and “Duma” (2005), he’s the children-in-nature film director with an eye for pristine images. Caleb Deschanel, the father of actress Zooey the cutie, is the cinematographer. OK, the point is you don’t see cinematography this beautiful every day. Have your laptop on – you might want to upload some of these images to your desktop. A-

FAMILY MOVIE / INSPIRATIONAL / WEEKEND DINNER AND FAMILY MOVIE

A Prophet (2009, 155 Minutes, R, French with English subtitles) is definitely one of the essential prison dramas. A feckless 18-year old Arab named Malik (Tahar Rahim) is thrown into prison and is immediately man-handled by the Corsican mafia to do a job – get close to a fellow Arab by offering him sexual favors and then rub him out before he can testify in court. The Corsicans control the conduct of the prison through violence, bribes and blackmail. This is one of the most convincing prison dramas that I’ve seen, and it’s only weakened by occasional fantasy conversations between the young man and a ghost. This multi-years long saga shifts gears in showing how a non-criminal is shaped into becoming a master criminal. César the Corsican mafia boss (Niels Arestrup) is both the ruler and teacher to the pupil. Prison has become a college – when Malik finally is discharged he has gained the clout of a crime boss in the real world. Quick-paced and gripping direction by Jacques Audiard (“The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” “Read My Lips”). A-

PRISON DRAMA / ADULT THEMES / FALL SCHOLASTICS

 

Pretty Baby (1978, 109 Minutes, R) is inherently tragic in the undertow of every scene from the beginning. This is what New Orleans brothels must have been like in 1917, with director Louis Malle emphasizing more on the idea of “portrait” than “story.” In what was vehemently controversial in its original release, Brooke Shields is the 12-year old girl who is being groomed in selling her virginity for the house madam who is readying an auction for all the rich johns. Susan Sarandon plays her mother as a woman always looking for a way out of her lifestyle, although in the meantime she is the most popular prostitute of the house. Keith Carradine makes a significant entrance into the story as an enigmatic photographer who pays for boudoir shots (perhaps they’d make perfect time capsules for future generations to look at). Carradine’s Bellocq begins to hang around the bordello all the time without ever propositioning sex, and even the madam wonders of his motives. As a viewer, you keep hoping that he is the one man who is mindful and sanitary enough to interfere with the young girl’s deflowering. But Malle never compromises his film for showing his characters as inevitable functionaries of their time. Tragic but fascinating. A-

HISTORICAL DRAMA / ADULT ORIENTATION / WEEKEND FOOD FOR THOUGHT MOVIE

 

Rosewood (1997) could be the best work of John Singleton’s (“Boyz N the Hood”) career, a criminally overlooked film. 142 minutes long, but doesn’t feel long. In 1923 Rosewood, a predominantly black town, Ving Rhames is a black prospector who is unjustifiably accused of the rape of a white woman. An angry mob of white men pillage, destroy and kill black citizens and their property. Vicious and potent – this is what we want in a historical drama on this subject. Jon Voight plays one of the few peace-loving white men, Don Cheadle as a pacifist black man. Loren Dean, Michael Rooker and Bruce McGill play some of the very prejudiced men. A-

HISTORICAL DRAMA / MOODY CHARACTER STUDY / SUNDAY AFTER CHURCH MOVIE

 

Mr. Jones (1993) is Richard Gere as a manic-depressive of extreme spectrums, very vivacious one day and face-in-his-pillow depressed the next. He tries to negotiate his disease and reject pills. Then he tries to seduce his ward psychiatrist Dr. Bowen (Lena Olin) who makes a critical professional mistake. Director Mike Figgis takes his subject seriously and the irresistible flights of fancy keep us watching: the high-beam walking, interrupting a symphony, kissing random blondes on the street. The mania, while a disease, is sort of exciting but the end result for Mr. Jones is, of course, destructive. The perpetual intrigue is to see how much Dr. Bowen is willing to compromise herself. B

DRAMA / CHARACTER STUDY / SPRING AWAKENING

I Stand Alone (1998, 93 Minutes, Adults Only, French with English subtitles) opens with a morbidly amusing still photos collage of a Post-World War II boy who grows up into a disenfranchised butcher screwed by the system. Since “Taxi Driver” (1976) filmmakers attracted to extremity have looked for new ways to tell stories of unassuming men morphing inevitably into psychotic outbreak, and this debut film by Gasper Noë (“Irreversible,” “Enter the Void”) gets points for originality. From the get-go, Noë made an effort to court controversy. In this way he succeeded: I was more disturbed a week after viewing the film than I was during the day I saw it. Phillipe Nahon plays the hopeless butcher. B

CRIME DRAMA / ADULT THEMES / RAINY WEEKEND

What Happened Was (1994, 90 Minutes, R) is for indie movie film fans only, a two-character chamber drama of two lonelybirds on a first date. Jackie (Karen Sillas), a legal secretary reaching past her prime, holds their first date in her own apartment. Michael (Tom Noonan), a workaholic paralegal, is a geek with a peculiar way of words. Watching them, you might finding yourself going back and forth trying to decide which one of them is more socially inadequate. The dialogue consistently finds ways to surprise you. Who’s weird? Who’s normal? Who’s desperate? B

CHAMBER DRAMA / MOODY CHARACTER STUDY / WINTER INTROSPECTION

Hamburger Hill (1987) is the Vietnam movie that came between “Platoon” and “Full Metal Jacket.” One wonders, was it overlooked? During its first act, as its infantrymen of all colors cohabitate and get friendly, I thought: “Wow, movies of the late 1980’s used to be about something!” This was coming after reviewing a lousy onslaught of contemporary movies, and my opinion an hour later on this John Irvin film unfortunately went downcast. The later section of the movie is a protracted suicide mission of 14 soldiers attempting to take a fortified hill, which may not even be important or crucial once conquered. The wear and tear on the young soldiers is evident, but it’s all too repetitive. And none of the action compares to what Stone and Kubrick had put up on the screen. Dylan McDermott, Don Cheadle, Courtney B. Vance and Steven Weber are among the cast. C

MILITARY DRAMA / ADULT ORIENTATION / MONDAY-THURSDAY NIGHT FOOD FOR THOUGHT MOVIE

Cyrus (2010, 92 Minutes, R) fizzles out before it gets to the end and too much of it stays within dingy interiors and has a dusty brown look to it. John C. Reilly is a sad-sack middle-aged man who finds love with the right woman in Marisa Tomei, who is the right mix of attractiveness and kookiness. She has a chubby son in Jonah Hill, as Cyrus, who seems nice at first until jealousy rises up – he is out to spoil their romance. The movie wants to be nastily comic, but not many of Cyrus’ pranks are all that vehemently memorable. Reilly does sink down to the boy’s level, forgetting as much about the hot mom as we also come to forget her. It’s a boys being big babies movie. C

SCREWBALL COMEDY / TEENS AND ADULTS / SUNDAY-THURSDAY NIGHT COMEDY

 

Raggedy Man (1981, 94 Minutes, PG) has a worthwhile story that is undone by a final twenty minutes so bad it is disastrous, therefore, ultimately nearly a waste of time. Sissy Spacek (“Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “The Long Walk Home”) won raves as a divorced woman and mother of two in 1944 wartime, a Texas telephone operator who is always “frozen” at her work for she is obligated to always be glued to her switchboard. The mysterious handsome stranger Eric Roberts (“Star 80”) is a sailor on temporary dismissal who gets her to fall in love with him and his good manners. The righteous townspeople begin to gossip. That’s good drama. But there are two redneck sexual predators that want to punish the couple, and with their climactic endeavor, makes the finale unsuitable for family audiences and degrades the film as a whole. C

WARTIME DRAMA / ADULT ORIENTATION / WEEKEND FOOD FOR THOUGHT MOVIE

Print Friendly
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.

 

There are No Comments about this post

Add Yours!
 

You must be logged in to post a comment.