Ten Netflix Films September 2012

         
 

01 October 2012| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

 

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

Wag the Dog (1997, 110 Minutes, R) for starters features among the last really great performances by both Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman. What’s enduring is its satiric slant on presidential politics, with spin doctor DeNiro employing Hollywood producer Hoffman to construct a phony war as a decoy strategy after the president is accused of sexual misconduct. The point is a country’s citizens only need the ballast of one video or photographic image in order to be swayed into patriotic urgency, a few symbols, themes, a song. “War is show business,” DeNiro explains. The White House staff whips up rumors about a little known country. “What did Albania ever do to us?” The answer is, “Nothing… they’re standoffish.” What makes the material digestible is the hilarious egomania of it all. Also with Anne Heche, Denis Leary, Kirsten Dunst, William H. Macy and Woody Harrelson. Screenplay by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet. Directed by Barry Levinson (“Rain Man,” “You Don’t Know Jack”). Brilliant and ever-relevant. A

DRAMA / ADULT ORIENTATION / POLITICS / ELECTION YEAR MOVIE


No Way Out (1987, 114 Minutes, R) is a very underrated Kevin Costner thriller. He’s a Naval Officer who gets hot and heavy in the backseat of a limo with Susan (Sean Young), a babe in a black dress. She is the mistress of the Secretary of Defense (Gene Hackman), and when she turns up dead, circumstantial evidence will be enough to pin Susan’s murder on anybody but the guilty. The Pentagon goes into lockdown containment, thus, this rolls into the classic example of the Innocent Man who must catch a killer before time runs out. Anybody who liked the recent “Arbitrage” with Richard Gere will admire this just as much. It’s drumming with urgency. A-

SUSPENSE-THRILLER / RACE AGAINST THE CLOCK / FRIDAY NIGHT THRILLS

The Last Dragon (1985, 109 Minutes, PG-13) is a cheeseball cult classic, perhaps the only martial arts/musical (Motown founder Berry Gordy produced). Leroy Green (Taimak) is a skilled kung fu fighter waiting for his master to clue him into the “Final Level” of his training. Before his training is complete, he’s thrown into a shakedown with inept and corny white-bred gangsters, and then a real adversary, the Shogun of Harlem (Julius J. Carry III). Out of fighting, he’s clueless and awkward with women. Vanity was a ’80’s music R&B queen in a key film role, and she’s out to put the moves on this kid who has not only never kissed a girl, he doesn’t know how to. Did I just call Leroy a kid? He looks like one. The ending features “The Glow,” where fighters’ hands have a Hadouken power. Watch this on the second half of a “Big Trouble in Little China” double bill. B

ACTION-ADVENTURE / CHEESY COMEDY / GUILTY PLEASURE / NIGHTTIME FLICK

The Return (2003, 106 Minutes, Unrated, Russian with English subtitles) grabs your interest in the opening scene, which is needed since you know you’re going to be immersed in downbeat Russian aura. This is a contemporary story about a father’s return after 12 years to his family. To reacquaint with his two sons, he takes his boys out fishing for a day. But the trip turns into multiple days, and the sense is that he has a secret road trip agenda (the film works as documentary of Russian countryside). The father is stern, possibly desensitized. You ask, was he a solider? An ex-con? What’s in the box? Is the box more important than his boys’ safety? The atmosphere is imbued with the kind of potential consequences for the boys – their smallest defiance could result in punishment – that we’re left curiously watching, closely. B

FOREIGN FILM / FOOD FOR THOUGHT / WINTER DESPAIR

Honkytonk Man (1982) is a low-key and initially poky Great Depression drama with a surprisingly believably toned Clint Eastwood performance as a country singer. He has a chance of “making it,” as in getting a record deal (must have been easier in those days). But along the road to Nashville he’s shown as a petty thief, a foul-mouthed crank, an incapable driver behind the wheel, and a philanderer. He lets his shy teenage nephew tag along (played by son Kyle Eastwood), and he even treats the boy to his first prostitute at a cathouse – he has to coax the madam to let one of the girls to sleep with an underage boy. There is interesting stuff in the details, Eastwood even makes the dust interesting. Damn slow start though (must be the reason why it tanked in its original theatrical release), but it gets you. B

MUSICAL / CHARACTER STUDY / LAZY SUNDAY AFTERNOON

Student Services (2010, 107 Minutes, R, French with English subtitles) is a social realist look at a college girl (Deborah Francois, a genuine actress) who exchanges limited sexual favors for quick cash and finds herself succumbing to more unlimited, self-degradation with clients to pay the bills. Of all the titillating flicks on Instant Netflix about girls who sell themselves (avoid “X: Night of Vengeance,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Slovenian Girl”) this is the only one that works up concern and awareness of a serious issue. If there is an odd complaint found, the johns behaviors are a bit clichéd however. B

DOWNHEARTED DRAMA / ADULT ORIENTATION / FALL MOVIE

Chariots of Fire (1981, 124 Minutes, PG) is my choice for the worst Best Picture winner of the last 50 years. Here’s a case of a movie that would have never won had it not been for the inspirational, enduring music score by Vangelis – which pretty much is the film’s sole strength. Set during the 1924 Olympics, Scottish Christians and English Jews have their faiths tested in competition, as portrayed by wooden actors with no inner fire. The movie has all the punch of stale tea bags, likely Earl Grey. Directed by Hugh Hudson. D+

SPORTS DRAMA / INSPIRATIONAL / SUNDAY NIGHT DISAPPOINTMENT

John Carter (2012, 132 Minutes, PG-13) is a Mars swashbuckler in the making, turns out just dull. The biggest money-loser in 2012 isn’t the most awful thing. But it does carry on past its welcome. It’s the 1860’s and our hero, a Civil War dissenter (Taylor Kitsch) gets sucked into a time warp that takes him to Mars. There is no explanation why humans and martians co-exist, or why those martians look like leftover “Phantom Menace” creatures (or did George Lucas steal from “Carter” novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs?). Mars is a dusty mountain range, and yet there seems to be enough of an industrial revolution producing hovercrafts that seems unexplained. Lynn Collins, with the striking blue eyes, is the martian princess who needs rescuing from an unattractive king. D+

SCI-FI & FANTASY / ACTION NOISE / FRIDAY NIGHT SUCKFEST

Domino (2005, 127 Minutes, R) is the craziest attention-deficit-disorder adventure by the late director Tony Scott. The color schemes themselves have a fetid trash aesthetic, like a painter barfing on a canvas. The images speed up with convulsion, often Scott shot using six frames per second. It doesn’t work as the hedonistic thrill-ride it intends to be, instead it’s exhausting. Perhaps casting the pouty Keira Knightley as a bounty hunter with a Suicide/Goth Girl look wasn’t the best way to go. Mickey Rourke as her boss, Lucy Liu as an interrogator, Mo’Nique as the Guiness World Record’s youngest grandma on Jerry Springer. D+

ACTION-ADVENTURE / BAD MOVIE HELL /SUNDAY MORNING CAMP

Town & Country (2001, 104 Minutes, R) is infamous as one of the ten biggest money losers in cinema history. But amongst those that have lost big (“Cutthroat Island,” “The Adventures of Pluto Nash,” “John Carter”), how does it rank? I’m afraid it’s just about the worst. Warren Beatty and Garry Shandling each are middle-aged men itchy for extramarital excitement but are disappointed with the results. A little after the one hour mark pay observance to one of the worst scenes ever filmed: Andie MacDowell as a nutty heiress with arrested girl development introduces Beatty to her gun-armed father (Charlton Heston) and her wheelchair-bound, profanity-totting mother (Marian Seldes). The ultimate movie message though is, Women Be Crazy. D-

COMEDY / LAUGH-FREE / FRIDAY 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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