Friday, April 26, 2013

Netflix This Movie! Vol. 23

Like usual, we've picked nothing but excellent movies this week.

Adam Riske: Heathers (1989; dir. Michael Lehmann) There is no way a movie like Heathers would be made today. A black comedy about suicide? Forget it. It's to the credit of writer Daniel Waters (who also wrote Demolition Man, another satirical success) that he's able to make a lot of great points about the topic (and teenage and adult life in general) while never coming across as preachy or offensive. Dark comedies are such a tough balancing act, and Heathers does it about as well as any movie I can recall. Dare I say it's actually fun?  It's definitely entertaining. I'm still marveling at how the filmmakers pulled this off. It's also fun to see stars on the rise in the likes of a baby-faced Winona Ryder and a Jack Nicholson-impersonating Christian Slater (whom I'm discovering I am a big fan of). They're both great here in the first movie-star performances of their careers. I also love the choice director Michael Lehmann makes to shoot the movie like it were a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel. I think that helps make the ghoulish tone go down smoother. How did they pull this one off?
Heath Holland:  Breakdown (1997; dir. Jonathan Mostow) I've watched several Kurt Russell movies lately and am really groovin' on his films. Netflix Instant doesn't have many of them available, but they do have Breakdown, which finds Russell and his wife stranded on the side of the road with car trouble. A truck driver offers to give his wife a ride to town, and when Russell catches up later, his wife is gone. What follows is the thrilling descent of a peaceful man into violence as he tries to find the woman he loves. It feels a little bit like the creepy, real life scenarios that we got so many of in the '70s. Think Deliverance on the highway.  If you think it sounds like a Lifetime movie, you're right. But Kurt Russell elevates it, and the film finds a gritty intensity that Meredith Baxter Birney WISHES she had.
JB: ParaNorman (2012; dir. Sam Fell and Chris Butler) My favorite animated film of 2012 comes to Netflix Instant Streaming -- great story, great character design, great animation, and a great anti-bullying message for the kiddies. Remember how excited we were for this when Laika released that cool "Season of the Witch" trailer? That trailer was better than most of the movies I saw that followed it! This is the rare children's film that actually aspires to be ABOUT something:
in this case, our fear of difference, and what that fear causes some people to do. Bravo. Boy, was I mad when Brave won the Oscar! ParaNorman would make a great triple feature with The Crucible and Lords of Salem. Are you listening to me, Music Box Theatre?

Mark Ahn: Shaolin Soccer (2001; dir. Stephen Chow, Chinese language) The title pretty much explains the bizarre but hilarious concept; down on their luck kung fu masters try their hand at playing soccer when their day jobs just don't pay enough of the rent and milk money. This one put star and director Stephen Chow a little more on the radar for American audiences.
Patrick: The Thieves (2012; dir. Dong-hun Choi) The second-highest grossing movie in Korean history is kind of like Ocean's Eleven if people actually died in it. A giant cast, a twisty plot and slick, confident direction make up for the movie's overlength and jarring tonal shifts. Still, it would be nice if every movie tried to be as entertaining as this one is. Worth watching just to look at Jun Ji-hyun for two hours.


  1. I watched the Thieves a few weeks ago and thought it was a pretty mix bag. I did like certain elements of it but as Patrick said it has a jarring tonal shift partway through. It is basically an Ocean's Eleven style caper film that becomes "A Better Tomorrow". The edition I was watching did have pretty miserable subtitles which I am sure influenced my experience. My wife who did not need the subs seemed to really like the film. I came away thinking it was just O.K.

    A Korean film I would recommend highly is the 2012 film "Gwanghae: The Man Who Became King", also billed as "Masquerade". The film is based on the familiar theme of the prince and the pauper. Set in 15th century Korea the film is well shot and just great to look at with solid performances from the actors as well. Plus it has Lee Byung-hun from G.I Joe fame for the ladies.

    1. The movie definitely has problems. I think I responded to hard it tries to be a MOVIE. And it can be a challenge to recommend something that I don't think a ton of people have seen every week, so sometimes I end up picking something problematic like this one.

      I'll definitely check out Gwanghae. Thanks for the suggestion. The Circle of Netflix!

    2. While on the topic of Korean films I would recommend to all F this Movie readers and listeners etc. the 2003 film "Memories of Murder". Memories is a fantastic cop vs serial killer drama based upon a real events. Possibly my favorite Korean language film and definitely somewhere on my personal great films list.

      @ Patrick, if you have not yet seen Memories it may be worth checking out before Gwanghae/Masquerade.

  2. After my massive move, with internet (and F this Movie) absence I am back online, and what better way to enjoy my return to my cyber life than a weekend of top choice selections.

    Thanks guys :-)

    1. Congrats on a successful move and welcome back! You have been missed. I had no one to talk about Drum with last week.

  3. I stumbled on Shaolin Soccer on TV like 7 years ago and it is fucking fantastic. That first real game when the other team is all laughing at how shabby they look and then one of them fucking drills the ball into the net from midfield in the first second of the game? Classic.

    Heathers is awesome of course - the rest I haven't seen but they all look interesting (Breakdown especially for some reason) - thanks gang!

    1. I think one of my favorite things about Stephen Chow is that he is willing to do some childishly gross things for humor (i.e. boogers). It's silly by itself, but in the context of his movies, they work, and is a part of how he tries very deliberately to not be the "cool guy" or that "cool people" always get their comeuppance.

  4. Saw Paranorman and loved it...wondering now that it is on netflix if I could show it to my kids or if it would not be a good move. Ages 2, 3.5, and 5...discuss.

  5. Probably a little too scary for the two youngest...

  6. Not really on topic but part of this started in a "Netflix this Movie" column so...

    Erich - finally saw "A Talking Cat?!?!" What can I say?
    It's like an Ed Wood film in that obviously somebody marginally talented put a lot of love into this. The script is like a cake they took out of the oven half baked and then tried to frost it. It's full of padding (or the director just REALLY loves water), There's no "pace" to speak of. The two young male actors should have switched roles and the resolution is ridiculous...but it's sweet and done with such good intentions. As bad as it is I can't hate it. Weird, huh?

    And there's going to be a sequel!

    Patrick and JB: Because of you I have seen more slasher movies in the past year than I've seen in all my years prior. Not my favorite genre because as you've mentioned before - most of them are just shit movies. But after suffering through "Silent Night, Deadly Night" with you for some reason I couldn't resist and got a copy of the remake, "Silent Night".
    And as slasher films's pretty decent.
    The opening had me worried that it was going to be a torture porn film but evened out as it went on.
    It kind of does those things that you mention in the commentary track that the first one should have done. It also goes back to a couple of things in the original for better or worse.
    Plus when you find out the "Who" and the "Why" it actually makes sense - as opposed to "I wanna be just like the person who I watched murder my parents". Or in the case of "Garbage Day!" my brother.
    And when did Malcolm McDowell lose his mind?
    Belongs on everyone's "Scary Movie Month" list at least.

    And in closing...KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN????? >:(

  7. I agree with Heath, Breakdown is the best. Here's this little film that you do not expect to be anything... and it is SOMETHING.