Ten Netflix Films in September

         
 

29 September 2011| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Titles alphabetically I happened to check out on Netflix in the month of September:

The Russian World War II film The Cranes are Flying (1957) is so potent that it might piss you off at how weak and tepid American movies were in comparison during that period. It begins as a blissful romance between young lovers Boris (Aleksey Batalov) and Veronika (Tatiana Samoilova, an extraordinary and timeless woman to cherish and admire), but when the German blitzkrieg begins Boris volunteers to fight and Veronika stays behind to care for her aging parents. The air raids are, for a 1957 film, actually scary and shattering – two words that usually don’t apply to films that old, do they? Cine-geeks will want to hear about the extraordinary tracking shots and the running hand-held shots that would later be imitated in crucial David Fincher films. But this is a movie for all people, especially those hungry to see a love story in another part of the world and in a war-torn time where joys of life have to be put on hold and compromises must be forced. I think there is a major revelation to be had here: You come out of it thinking, “Wow, I never thought I’d be so impacted by a Russian film but this film was amazingly well-done and entertaining.” With English subtitles. A

ESSENTIAL FOREIGN FILMS / ROMANTIC DRAMA / WAR / FRIDAY-SUNDAY NIGHT FILM WITH LIGHTS DIMMED AND CANDLELIGHT ON

Pick of the Month

Crash (1996, 100 Minutes, Rated NC-17) is a queasy abstract film about sex addiction based on the equally vivid and disturbing J.G. Ballard novel (this is unrelated to the 2005 Oscar winner of the same title). The following line is an underlying theme to a majority of David Cronenberg films. Elias Koteas, as Vaughan, states: “It is something we are all intimately involved in. The reshaping of the human body by modern technology.” James Spader and Deborah Kara Unger are his pupils, and Holly Hunter and Rosanna Arquette (as a paraplegic who digs guys into gross sex) are fellow devotees. Automobile crashes and sex don’t really go together in real life. But what this disturbing and nauseating Cronenberg film does is, through demonstration of bodily harm, is explore how coming close to death is the ultimate high for an addict. Car crash dummies substitute for pornography on the television, and spaced out, the characters might as well be crack pipe or heroin needle users hanging out in front of the television except its sex that’s a problem. It is wall to wall sex and you could argue the sex scene that opens the movie is sexy. But the sex devolves into something unrecognizably inhuman. The closing three sex scenes reach new levels of disgust because it’s taboo that these characters are breaking – they can no longer get turned on by anything normal. This is not a movie for everyone especially for those easily grossed out, but a movie for those interested in the subject of addiction and cinematic allegories. A- 

DARK DRAMA / STRANGE AND DISTURBING / SATURDAY NIGHT MADNESS

Housesitter (1992, 108 Minutes, PG) is for fans of Steve Martin in good-guy mode, and just alright for the rest. Newton Davis a timid puppy who has built a dream house for Dana Delaney but she turns the marriage proposal down. In the pits, he gets caught up with Goldie Hawn as a waitress whose modus operandi is as a con artist. She finds out about the dream house and moves in, passing herself off as the Mrs. Davis. She warms herself to Davis’ parents and to the gullible neighbors. Newton can throw her out or he can play the charade to make Delaney jealous. The conclusion post-wedding reception is a hoot, with Hawn hiring bums to impersonate her parents as a means to impress the others. For Newton, he has problems pausing long enough to ask the question as to whom does he really love? B-

LIGHT ROMANTIC COMEDY/ NICE & SWEET / THURSDAY NIGHT CUDDLING OR SATURDAY AFTERNOON FOR THE KIDS

Le Samourai (1967, 105 Minutes, Rated PG, France). The original classic model of the lone assassin movies. No friends, no attachments, no exclusive romances with women. Just a lineup of underworld contracts and a suitcase on the run, and of course, a code of honor. Alain Delon was considered the best-looking of 1960’s French actors, he has a scene where he suspends nonchalance through an all-night police interrogation that is the epitome of cool. This pic has been a continual inspiration to this day including its mark on last year’s “The American” with George Clooney, and currently in theaters Ryan Gosling gives a terrific performance as a stoic low-level criminal who is smarter than he appears in “The Driver.” A

Underworld Thrillers / Suspense-Mystery / See It ASAP After Watching Drive

Monkey Shines (1988, 113 Minutes, Rated R) is something of a restrained horror flick that is set in the humanly realistic world. Director George Romero is mostly famous for zombie flicks, but this time you care about the emotional strains of the people involved. One-time jock and now paraplegic named Allan Mann (Jason Beghe) is a suicide risk – from depression – until his family hooks him up with smart chimp and companion Ella (the monkey came from an experimental drug subject). John Pankow is the brother who injects Ella with too much smart serum, and Stanley Tucci plays the medical doctor who underhandedly steals away Allan’s girlfriend. Ella is vengeful against Tucci and all of her master’s betrayers. New girlfriend (Kate McNeil), who becomes a sweet and fine addition to the story, is also dangerously coveted. As it progresses, Allan and Ella share some kind of rage telepathy. Terrible accidents and monkey-on-human sadism ensues. Some might find this overcooked and not believable, so hang your head high in willingness for disbelief in order to enjoy this one.  B

HORROR / LATE NIGHT SUSPENSE / ADULT ORIENTED / SUNDAY OR MONDAY NIGHT HORROR AFTER THE BRAIN IS HALF-ASLEEP

Revenge of the Nerds (1984, 90 Minutes, R) has you asking the question: Is a nerd a dweeb?  You might not be able to help yourself from laughing at these pathetic cases, with Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards as the protagonist pathetic guys Lewis and Gilbert. These two are academics, but are stridently horny for sorority girls. After the jocks (headed by Ted McGinley, who was Jefferson D’Arcy on TV’s “Married with Children) kick the nerds out of their dorm rooms, the nerds have to look for off-campus housing. They get humiliated by frat-boy vandals and tricked by snooty but hot sorority girls, like Betty (Julie Montgomery). The nerds apply for their own fraternity chapter, much disapproved by Greek president McGinley. Some brief nudity, nerd love between dweebs and bookworm girls, Greek week games, a hilarious pie fundraiser, and a dignified speech that sticks up for the nerds. You by all means don’t need this movie, but you might be able to not help yourself from it on a self-prescribed mindless night. B-

TEEN COMEDY / RUDE HUMOR / INNER NERD APPEAL / FRAT NIGHT MOVIE

The Sender (1982, 92 Minutes, Rated R) is a horror film, more like a yarn, that is about the curse of telepathy. It has some good scenes yet it doesn’t come through altogether without eliciting a few yawns. Zeljko Ivanek plays the young man who, on occasion, goes by the name Jesus, and is inevitably thrown into a psychiatric hospital. Kathryn Harrold plays the doctor and attractive enough heroine who comprehends the psychic powers of this young man before anyone else. See, this young man can make others feel and see what he feels and see. When he’s given electric shock treatment, it is one vicious but entertaining scene watching how he blows the senses of those around him. The boy also has a suspicious mother, and there are other omens like cockroaches. Stuff out of the cliché bag. C

SUPERNATURAL HORROR / LATE TEENS AND ADULTS / FRIDAY AFTER DARK MOVIE

Summer Lovers (1982, 98 Minutes, R) with young supple Daryl Hannah and Peter Gallagher has two distinctive eye sights: the location of the rarely seen Santorini, Greece and lots of nudity shots. But the people are underwritten and abrasive in their callowness. Gallagher and Hannah are rich kids that go to the island for a summer of dancing, sunbathing and sex. But Gallagher can’t help that he’s attractive to a French play-bunny (Valerie Quennessen, unattractive by my standards) and decides he must sleep with her. Hannah learns of Gallagher’s admission and while initially upset by this, she surprisingly lets Quennessen into their lives. It’s not exactly ménage-a-trois, but the two women share Gallagher. Inordinately, Hannah and Quennessen share small talk scenes together which had me wondering: Did these two call each other up in the morning and say “let’s have breakfast!” or “let’s go to the beach!” as the sun is coming up? I can’t even begin to explain how skin-crawling Gallagher’s dewy looks were. I wondered why Hannah and Quennessen couldn’t both go out and pick another guy? Santorini is gorgeously and thoroughly photographed, but after awhile, I couldn’t wait for this summer to end. C

ROMANTIC DRAMA/ LIBERAL SEXUALITY / SCENIC LOCALES / END OF SUMMER MOVIE

                    

The Thing from Another World (1951, 87 Minutes, NR) has some superior black and white, icy cinematography in the icy Arctic where it takes place. This is the highly regarded original, but I think it is much dated and just too limp by today’s standards. I much prefer John Carpenter’s scare-you-out-of-your-wits 1982 version “The Thing” which had an imitating organism that attacked its human host like a parasite before it hideously morphed. There is a great-looking scene where the army men and officials go on an expedition to check out a crashed meteor which was really the crash of extraterrestrial life. Brownie points earned for human characters that talk more like human beings rather than arch over-actors from that period. And certainly there is a man on fire sequence that is justly hailed amongst sci-fi buffs. But if you’re just a casual movie-goer and you want more, then you won’t get it. And I think buffs should be a little more discriminate. What we have here not to be mistaken is a Thing that is not much more than a Humanoid that struts like Frankenstein, not a terrifying slithering creature. Soon to come out is yet another remake in 2011, not by John Carpenter. C+

OLD SCHOOL HORROR / CREATURE FEATURE / SATURDAY NIGHT FAMILY MOVIE

The Time Machine (1961, 103 Minutes, Rated G), based on H.G. Wells’ splendid sci-fi novel written in 1895, is a habitually hailed classic. Rod Taylor is a scientist and inventor from the late 19thcentury who has built a time machine so he can travel forward until he finds a free society where man has transcended beyond the debasement of greed and war. The time lapse special effects of Taylor throttling forward are marvelous, nothing unflattering there. But by the time Taylor travels 800,000 years into the future to commune with the ignoramus Eloi tribe, the whole fantasy grates considerably. The Elois’ get collected and processed in a food chain to be consumed by the Morlocks. Our time traveler finds one beauty Morlock he likes named Weena (Yvette Mimieux, absurdly favored with lip and eye makeup), and instead of treating her like the poor uncultivated child she is, you start to think that he has a crush on her. If you read the book, the Elois’ are not dumb enough. B-

SCI-FI & FANTASY / YOUNGER KIDS / SUNDAY MORNING CAMP


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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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