Friday, April 26, 2013
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 23
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.