Ten Netflix Films in March 2013

         
 

01 April 2013| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

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

A Simple Plan (1998, 123 Minutes, R) is a pragmatic and realistic plunge into temptation: a group of Minnesota buddies stumble upon dead bodies and $4 million dollars of untraceable cash in a downed plane. The agreed precaution is to stash it somewhere for a few months, then split it. But ordinary people become hounds onto each other, excreting boils of suspicion, mistrust, and condemnation. Investigators ask the townspeople about the crashed plane, and stories turn inconsistent. Bill Paxton as the man of integrity burdened by a once-in-a-lifetime secret, and the shaky Billy Bob Thornton and uncouth Brent Briscoe are the ding-dongs. Bridget Fonda, in her last terrific performance, is Lady MacBeth like in her avaricious matriarchal urgings. This is Sam Raimi’s best film and continues to be, even though he’s become a franchise movie director. A

DARK DRAMA / THINKING MAN’S THRILLER / MASTERPIECE VIEWING

Under Siege (1992, 103 Minutes, R) is the most professionally made of Steven Seagal’s movies, got it? Andrew Davis (“The Fugitive”) was the up-tempo director here, and what resulted is one of the best Die Hard knock-offs. “I’m just a lowly, lowly cook” purrs Casey Ryback, a former Navy Seal who has to use quick-trigger skills and Aikido martial arts to thwart terrorists whom have hi-jacked the USS Missouri battleship. Like a chess game, the hero and villains use the compartments of the ship wisely and thrillingly – the explosions are well-strategized. Tommy Lee Jones is the embittered ex-CIA operative whose rogue ambition is detonating nuclear warheads at Honolulu. The daft but perky eye candy is Playboy Playmate Erika Eleniak who joins Ryback down the ship’s catwalks for the carnage spectacle. Only the utterly humorless need not apply. A-

ACTION-ADVENTURE / ACTION FANS / WEEKEND VIEWING DEBAUCHERY

A Shock to the System (1990, 91 Minutes, R) is a corporate malice thriller that has been unfairly forgotten, for it features Michael Caine at his most wicked. He is a New York advertising executive fed-up with his wife and with being passed over for promotion – So he non-chalantly plots a series of murders. Will Patton is the suspicious detective searching for a concrete clue. Elizabeth McGovern is the office subordinate Caine is interested in sleeping with. Icy black comedy, with startlingly fine visuals and pacing. Really, it’s long overdue for acknowledgement. A-

DARK DRAMA / THINKING MAN’S THRILLER / LATE NIGHT THRILLS

Grave of the Fireflies (1988, 88 Minutes, NR, Japanese with English subtitles) is one of the first reputable animated films made with adult content, taking on historical cataclysm. A boy and his sister seek refuge at the end of World War II after Americans have dropped napalm bombs in surrounding cities, turning the land infertile and leaving the people famished. Few neighbors offer to help while others decline to help as they forage their own survival needs. The boy must keep his sister safe and cure her after she becomes sick from napalm poisoning. Delicately drawn, the look is both despairing but with realistic and humanist tones. “Fireflies” says more about Japan’s tragedies and displaced peoples than this month’s “Emperor” did. B+

FOREIGN FILM / ANIMATED / ADULT ORIENTATION / SUNDAY NIGHT CRY

Ladybird Ladybird (1994, 102 Minutes, R, British) centers on a working-class woman you would not want to hang-out with, Maggie (Crissy Rock). She frets, wails, and generally constructs an attitude of disparage. Refugee Jorge (Vladimir Vega) is the first kind, non-abusive lover of her life. When she gives birth to their children, government child protection services refuse to let her keep her brood based on circumstantial incidents in her past. That’s unfair, and there are many self-interested indicators that point to a system that jumps to predisposed assumptions. Maggie is not the coolest person, but she’s not evil either. By depriving her happiness to build a family, what we have here is a government creating an unkind evil. B

CEREBRAL DRAMA / MOODY CHARACTER STUDY / WINTER DESPAIR

A Simple Life (2011, 117 Minutes, NR, Cantonese with English subtitles) requires sensitivity and faith. A 30-year old man (Andy Lau) has inherited a housekeeper (Deanie Ip) who has been with the family for more than sixty years. When she succumbs to a stroke and is unable to work anymore, she lands into an old folks’ home that is little more than a broken facility. From there, the man finds himself caring for her in ways he had not expected. You like the film more for its values than for its tight craftsmanship. B

FOREIGN FILM / MEDITATIVE CINEMA / WEEKEND AFTERNOON VIEWING

Sugar Hill (1994, 123 Minutes, R) is a black gangster film set in Harlem with Wesley Snipes as a dope pusher who wants out of the business. It’s a nearly accomplished film that touches greatness but lets you down because it labors too far for elegiac dialogue and pile-high twists. The movie might have gotten a bad rap in its original release for vulgarity and grittiness. Yearning for a touch of class, Roemello finds a respectable girl in Melissa (Theresa Randle) who instead of roping him in tries to back away from him when she learns of his street reputation. Meanwhile, when Roemello’s accomplice gets wasted, he doesn’t want revenge but his crew does commencing a street war. C+

STREET DRAMA / ADULT THEMES / SUNDAY NIGHT MOVIE YOU DON’T CARE IF YOU FORGET BY MONDAY MORNING

Hamburger Hill (1987, 110 Minutes, R) 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 / SATURDAY AFTERNOON COUCH MOVIE

Return to Oz (1985, 109 Minutes, PG) is the “Battlefield Earth” of Oz movies. What can a team of producers possibly be thinking when they make a children’s film that’s too scary for children. The peculiarity of baroque props is itself scary. You might see more artificial turf than yellow brick road. The gang of “wheelers” chase Dorothy (Fairuza Balk), and during the last third, this might sound like an exaggeration, but it feels like she’s standing next to a lot of stone walls. Dorothy gets assistance from a jack o’lantern and wind-up robot to take down the Nome King. That’s it. D-

FANTASY / JADED CHILDREN / FRIDAY NIGHT SUCKFEST

Bachelorette (2012, 87 Minutes, R) was the worst movie I saw in 2012. This “Bridesmaids” knock-off features Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan all as egotistical bitches who get together for their “loser” friend’s wedding. It goes for shock humor, but it’s so self-consciously vulgar that it turns incredibly boring. F

COMEDY / POLITICALLY INCORRECT HUMOR / UNWATCHABLE ANYTIME OF YEAR

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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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