Ten Netflix Films in November 2013

         
 

02 December 2013| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

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

Casualties of War (1989, 114 Minutes, R) with Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox, came after “Full Metal Jacket” and before “Born on the 4th of July.” More explicitly than any other Vietnam war film, this docudrama dared to view an American platoon as the bad guys – this is a revisionist outlook on the ambiguity of “foreign policy.” We get a wide-ranging outlook of Vietnam but what happens at the core is simple: A five-man patrol kidnaps a South Vietnamese girl from a village of the same people they are supposed to be protecting in order to rape and murder her. Fox refuses to participate, attempts to rationalize with his fellow brothers, loses, and is tongue-lashed for probably being queer. Penn is the sergeant and leader, intractable and intimidating, and without a moral compass. What happens is devastating, but the watchability is seeing Fox (in his best performance) step above his weak and timid stature to justly protest what is wrong – hard to do when four others have a gun pointed at you. This was director Brian DePalma’s most serious and passionate film. Honestly, you cry and are at the same time awestruck by DePalma’s compositional visual artistry. A

WAR DRAMA / ADULT ORIENTATION / WEEKEND FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Casualties-of-War_ 1989_Underrated-Cinema _Forgotten-DVDs

The Grey Zone (2001, 108 Minutes, R) is the most hopeless and despairing of Holocaust concentration camp docudramas of Auschwitz. Just unremittingly bleak. And yet the story is astonishing and important. At the camp, the Nazis employ groups of Jewish prisoners known as Sonderkommando to lead their fellow people into the gas chambers, in exchange for food and drink privileges, and the promise of a few more months of life. Two things happen: A young teen girl miraculously survives the gas chambers (smothered by other bodies, she didn’t breathe in the toxins). Secondly, there is a suicide mission aspart of a resistance group to blow up the crematoriums, which simply results in slowing down the genocide speed rate of mass murderers. With David Arquette, Steve Buscemi, Mira Sorvino and Harvey Keitel. Tim Blake Nelson, primarily an actor, directed fearlessly and wrote dialogue that prods you into hypothetical contemplation. A

WAR DRAMA / WWII / WEEKEND FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Grey-Zone_ movie-poster-2001_WWII

 

Wendy and Lucy (2008, 80 Minutes, R) is an Art Film with a capital A, and it emotionally wrecks you. Michelle Williams plays a girl en route to Alaska for a job with only $600 to her name, her car breaks down in Oregon, she is arrested for $5 shoplifting, and her dog is put in an unspecified animal shelter. The choice is critical: Move onto Alaska by train, or stay in town to look for her dog. This is the story of a girl on the brink of homelessness, and nobody bothers to care. Devout indie filmmaker Kelly Reichardt (“Old Joy”) directed. A

ART FILM / ADULT ORIENTATION / PRIVATE VIEWING TEARJERKER

Wendy-and-Lucy_ Poster

Promised Land (2013, 106 Minutes, R) is brainy and proactive work by Matt Damon and John Krasinski, who co-wrote the film and act in it. Damon and Frances McDormand are two smooth-talking corporate salespeople who visit a rural Pennsylvania town to pay-off the community in exchange of ripping part of it up by “fracking,” a process of obtaining natural gas, but results in toxic pollution. Damon is a corporate manipulator, but he’s really a good guy who has deluded himself into thinking he’s a savior to small townsfolk because he believes he’s bringing industrial progression to their dying town. As opposition, Krasinski is the environmental activist with tricks up his sleeve. Hal Holbrook is a science teacher and quiet protestor, that actor is always good. Gus Van Sant directed even though Damon was originally attached to do it himself. One of the smarter (if overlooked) films of the year with legitimate food for thought substance. B+

DRAMA / ADULT ORIENTATION / WEEKEND FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Promised-Land_ 2013_ Matt-Damon-Overlooked

Night Shift (1982, 106 Minutes, R) is the cocky directorial debut of Ron Howard, with Henry Winkler and Michael Keaton as two morgue managers who run a call-girl ring from the same location. Winkler is the gullible sap who grows a pair, while Keaton is the irresponsible party-boy – this is what sprang Keaton to stardom in the 80’s. Shelley Long is the hooker with a heart of gold, here that cliché is funny. Naughty but only slightly vulgar, general good vibes and thoroughly amusing. It doesn’t have any cultivated ideas on its mind, but Howard has a swift pace on things. B

COMEDY / CRUDE HUMOR / LATE NIGHT HOWLS

Night-Shift _1982_Ron-Howard-Michael-Keaton

Frozen Ground (2013, 105 Minutes, R), based on true events, is a grisly docudrama but has restraint in the right places. The film has thinking, agile performances with Nicolas Cage as an Alaska state trooper looking to trap John Cusack as serial killer Robert Hansen. Also very good, I’m not kidding, is Vanessa Hudgens as a skanky 17-year old prostitute who escaped from the killer’s clutches and is off-and-on cooperative with Cage in his pursuit. This is one of those loathsome but helplessly fascinating portraits of a killer, I was as saddened as I was intrigued. Only one little section feels fakely contrived. B

DARK DOCUDRAMA / OLDER TEENS / WINTER DESPAIR

Frozen-Ground_ 2013_Overlooked-Film

Who Can Kill a Child? (1976, 111 Minutes, R) is a hell of a good question since most movies can’t bear to do such a thing, but this Spanish horror flick curio gets it done. A man and his pregnant wife (Lewis Fiander and Prunella Ransome) are stuck on an island off the Spanish coast, find it absent of adults, and soon find themselves fending off bad children – they’re possessed! There is nothing important about this movie, but it’s exciting. B

HORROR / MINDLESS FUN / LATE NIGHT THRILLS

Who-Can-Kill-a-Child _weird-horror

Death Watch (1980, 130 Minutes, R) plants a camera inside Harvey Keitel’s eyeball so he can record a dying woman (Romy Schneider) succumbing to cancer for a recurring Glasgow national television program. Yes, it’s one of those dirges on the Media Age of Privacy Violation, and it’s directed by European artsy-fart Bertrand Tavernier. The callous hook is that Katharine is chosen without consent as the TV subject, Harry Dean Stanton is the show producer out to exploit her death. Katharine flees to the rural country to die peacefully, unbeknownst that her new “friend” is the camera. Among the pretentious moments is Max von Sydow doing a long-winded oratory on the Fall of Morality. Also in conclusion, Keitel does one of his many Fall from Grace acting scenes – he’s exploited too, you know! In addition, very bad actress Therese Liotard serves as an extraneous narrator. Have I implied the ending is a sham in storytelling? C-

SCI-FI / CEREBRAL / LATE NIGHT CURIOS

Death-Watch _Harvey-Keitel _Cult-1980-Film

The 10th Victim (1965, 92 Minutes, UR, Italian with English subtitles) is perhaps the first film about televised murder games, and only worth seeing as a curio since the sci-fi and satire aspects are so lousy in comparison of the kind of science-fiction we get today with the likes of “Hunger Games” and such. Marcello Mastroianni could finish his tour as a champion, but he falls for the luscious Ursula Andress. The would-be “clever twists in the final minutes” is more annoying than anything else. D+

SCI-FI / SATIRE / LATE NIGHT CURIOS

Tenth-Victim _Italy_1965- TV-murder-satire

Deathsport (1978, 82 Minutes, R) with David Carradine is awful enough to terminate anyone’s tolerance towards 70’s dystopia movies. Next time I hear anybody say they don’t like “The Hunger Games” or its predecessors because they lack depth, I will point them into the direction of this sci-fi travesty. One of the worst movies ever made. F

SCI-FI / MINDLESS / FRIDAY NIGHT SUCKFEST

Deathsport_ FlickMinute poster_ 1970'shlock

Summary
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Sean Chavel
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Ten Netflix Films in November 2013
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5
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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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