Ten Netflix Films in January 2012


31 January 2012| No Comments on Ten Netflix Films in January 2012     by Sean Chavel


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

Enter the Void (2009, 143 Minutes, Adults Only) is one of the weirdest movies ever made, right up there with “Last Year at Marienbad” and “Eraserhead.” I was free to reflect during “Void,” yet for such a seminal and groundbreaking film it deserves a better title. Its psychedelic style, free-association form, and subjective first-person POV placement will alienate most viewers. I loved it because nothing has ever been done like it before, and it sung to me. Most movies crowd and close you in with trivial dialogue and arbitrary plot stuffing. Yet I felt tremendous empathy for its horribly unfortunate 20-something American boy who meets his demise as a drug dealer in Tokyo. Filmmaker Gasper Noe (“Irreversible”) courts artistic transcendence in following the youngster’s spirit in the afterlife. The camera hovers over the people and places he knew, focusing on his sister whom he shared a transgressive love, and his journey spreads over the entire city. Noe ignores the conventions of scene breaks and narrative arc in favor of creating a trancelike experience. The philosophy and meaning is in the form, the subtext found in flashbacks to the boy’s brief but happy, if prurient, childhood. The unremitting sexuality should not be mistaken for exploitation, and I would hope that viewers would consider that all of the boy’s unwholesome sexual inclinations that were formed at an early age were damaging (this is a dark person’s soul, and Noe gets you wrapped inside it). Even as a spirit, the protagonist is captivated by sex and intimacy – only this can explain his fascination with watching people engaged in trysts unrelentingly. It contains “shocking” displays of male and female genitalia. By the end, the boy’s inescapable sordid soul is in search of a final destination. Noe achieves a consummate transcendence, his film plays like the grunge version of “The Tree of Life.” A


Poetry (2011, 139 Minutes, NR, Korean with English subtitles) demands that you read between the lines – if you get through it you will be pondering long afterwards. Undoubtedly slow-moving and requires patience at first, but then you’re grateful for the time spent in developing its very deep and complex story. Mija (Yun Jung-hee) is an old maid and caretaker whom is diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer’s. To hang onto her sanity she joins a poetry class at a community cultural center, and for awhile, she’s adrift when it comes to composing her own poems which of course improves when her sense of awareness broadens. At home she looks after her layabout grandson who we dislike, because not only is the boy spectacularly unappreciative but he is soon facing allegations for participating in a gang rape. The fathers of the other boys implicated put together a bribe to buy the silence of the mother to the victim. It is unpronounced and yet assumed that Mija empathizes with the rape victim – without it said, it seems like she might have been a rape survivor when she was younger. In a beautifully anomalous way, Mija is able to adapt poetry into her life to cope with a very unsettling situation. This is an exceptionally accomplished screenplay (a winner at Cannes), and yet, you must be ready to interpret its final symbolic message on your own. A

The Cincinnati Kid (1965, 103 Minutes, NR) is a poker table movie that is so much better than I expected that it deserves the stamp of “classic.” What sets it apart is the intriguing subtext that streams underneath what happens on the surface. Steve McQueen is a travelling full-time gambler in 1930’s New Orleans who routinely hits all-nighters in underground clubs. The greater part of his strategy is to outwit his opponents by out-waiting them with patience, then trapping them. His girlfriend is the very pretty Tuesday Weld, who has latched onto him with inclined worthlessness for so long that she decides to threaten their relationship to see if she matters any, but McQueen reads bluffs. Ann-Margaret is the gorgeous sex kitten married to the boorish Karl Malden (that archaic over-actor), an acquaintance to McQueen. To spice up her dull existence, she goes into slut mode, hitting on McQueen, the moment his girl steps out. The gambling showdown, of course, is with fat cat Edward G. Robinson as Lancey “The Man” Howard, the man with nothing to lose but a reputation – a marathon contest so revered that the town’s most prolific gamblers make bets on the two competitors. Norman Jewison (“In the Heat of the Night,” “Moonstruck”) directed the film, his first outstanding success. Must be seen in supplement to “California Split” (1974) and “Rounders” (1998). A-


Elegy (2008, 112 Minutes, R) has Ben Kingsley as a pompous professor and Penelope Cruz as his former student engaged in a consensual yet torrid sexual affair. For a film about unconventional sexuality, it is surprisingly emotional and prodding in terms of how an older man’s intellect can delight and disarm a much younger woman. The sex combines mental romance with the carnality. So much of the film is so good that it is a respite to commercial everyday movies. Yet by the time I was done I felt I had seen the movie… and its sequel. Still, I was captivated by the film’s unusual situations. Kingsley is compelling and commanding yet cowardly when his age becomes an issue. Cruz is nearly flawless, and always enticing. B+


Jumping the Broom (2011, 112 Minutes, PG-13) is a pleasant enough romantic comedy that tries to be a little more than lightweight. Paula Patton is a fine catch as the rich girl who searches for love until she literally runs into him in scene two. That guy is Laz Alonso, and besides being pushed around like a mama’s boy, he’s the perfect guy. They’re barely together five months until they decide to get married, and a lavish wedding is this babe’s dream. But her uptown folks get unnerved by the lack of etiquette by the groom’s downtown kinfolk. Angela Bassett (rich) and Loretta Devine (blue collar) are the rival moms. A couple other wedding hook-ups take up subplots, most memorably Meagan Goode (maid of honor) and Gary Dourdan (chef). The movie has an elegant and chic look to it, and it’s always easy to make Patton look pretty. Let’s not kid ourselves, this movie is lightweight… but as nourishing as soul food. B



Warrior (2011, 140 Minutes, PG-13) is about as ambitious a film about mixed martial arts fighting can possibly be, but that doesn’t stop it from going for a clichéd final showdown. Iraq war veteran Tom (Tom Hardy) and school teacher Brendan (Joel Edgerton) are brothers not on good speaking terms who both are UFC fighters. Tom is a battlefield hero with demons, while Brendan has a mortgage he can’t afford (and loses his teaching gig in the process). Both of them hate their father (Nick Nolte), a former boxer and recovering alcoholic whose rampant volatility tore the family apart years ago. Beating the odds, both Tom and Brendan get into a Las Vegas tournament and reunite with dad, who is rueful in his cause to make things right between the family. If you like lots of caged matches, the final forty minutes is viscerally played out. The performances are fiercely committed, but Edgerton (“Animal Kingdom”) delivers the most well-rounded characterization amongst the leads. B


Blast from the Past (1999, 111 Minutes, PG-13) has an irresistible time warp concept that unfortunately shoots its own foot. It starts with a nuclear scare in 1962, and crazy scientist Christopher Walken gets his wife Sissy Spacek and child into a bunker where they will spend the next 35 years in safeguard for what they believe is radiation. When they come to the surface into contemporary times, they first believe mutants have taken over the world. Brendan Fraser has a two-week objective to grab supplies. The lonely sap has never seen a girl, but now wants one to take home to his bunker. He’s smitten with the first one he meets obviously – that would be Alicia Silvestone as a 1990’s brat-princess. What you get is lots of fish out of water gags and one ticklishly funny dance sequence. As clever as it is in spots, you have to forgive the missed opportunities and the flaccidly handled finale. Nevertheless, it is a nice couples’ couch movie. B-


Another Earth (2011, 92 Minutes, PG-13) is somber and sometimes visually mystifying. A strange duplicate of Earth appears in the sky that becomes known as Earth 2. Mike Cahill’s film tells the story through the experiences of a teen named Rhoda (Brit Marling) who spent four years in the penitentiary after a drunk driving accident that takes two lives. Rhoda, as a penance, decides to become a regular housecleaner for John (William Mapother) who was the sole survivor of the accident. John doesn’t know that Rhoda was the one who killed his family, but they forge a powerful healing bond until Rhoda has the nerve to tell him the truth. Meanwhile, she enters a contest to win a trip to Earth 2 which is learned to be inhabited with clones of the people on Earth. Would Rhoda meet a clone of herself if she went up there? Undoubtedly, there are some troublesome elements in this scenario and the melancholy can be dampening. But overall the film has some interesting ideas, the relationship between John and Rhoda reaches an intriguing revelation, and the ending is redeeming if you pause long enough to think about it. B-


Something New (2006, 100 Minutes, PG-13) is a contemporary interracial love story between accounting executive Kenya (Sanaa Lathan) and landscape architect Brian (Simon Baker). It’s Kenya who is the one who is uptight – it’s her friends who shame her for always having an impossible list of qualifiers. Brian starts out as a failed blind date, but then he becomes her backyard landscaper which begins the daily flirtations. It becomes Kenya’s routine to be apologetic, but Brian loosens her up enough to get her to come out hiking and then kisses her. Kenya says it can’t go on anymore, but that’s where Brian gets aggressive. “You’re adorable,” he purrs. They sleep together and proceed with romance (she makes more money, but he does everything for her), and yet Kenya chooses to keep her new boyfriend low-profile. When it comes to the inevitable social gatherings, Brian takes some heat from Kenya’s overprotective friends. Nothing fazes him, though, but Kenya is fazed momentarily when she is paired up with Mark (Blair Underwood), the perfect black man marriage-bait her friends and family have been wanting for her. Baker gives a performance of suave integrity and he makes an improbable character of passionate courting white man look more than convincing. Lathan as the nitpicky, hard-working professional black woman is far too difficult a woman for my tastes, and so I can’t believe any guy would work that hard to love her. But “fighting” for love is how these characters see life. Yet as much as the movie is a good hard look at interracial dating, it almost seems to be arguing laboriously some of the time that it’s just better to date within your own race. B-


Romantic Comedy (1983, 101 Minutes, PG) with mismatched Dudley Moore and Mary Steenburgen has no business calling itself the quintessential romantic comedy. It might possibly be the very worst movie of 1983. It gets off to a decent affable start: Moore is a hit playwright looking for a writing partner. He mistakes Steenburgen for a masseuse but hires her when he recognizes her writing talent. They spend the next several years fighting romantic feelings concealed right below the surface, with Moore married to a bossy bitch and Steenburgen alone for the longest time. Just as the marriage disintegrates, Steenburgen gets a boyfriend. This is the kind of movie where seven years pass but somehow the two recall quotes the other made at the beginning of the movie when in real life such sayings would be long forgotten. Squirming in its cutesiness and a little vile when it means to be precious, the wonderful Dudley had gotten himself stuck in his worst career dud. D-


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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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