Friday, September 13, 2013
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 42
Clockers (1995, dir. Spike Lee) I don't think Spike Lee gets enough credit for how deep his filmography is of really good movies. He gets attention for his masterpieces (Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, 25th Hour) and his missteps (Miracle at St. Anna, She Hate Me, Red Hook Summer) but in between are some movies very much worth your time that seem too under the radar to me -- movies like Summer of Sam, Get on the Bus, Crooklyn and Jungle Fever. One of those movies from the silver Spike Lee category is Clockers. If you like well-told crime movies with confident direction, clean storytelling/character development and strong acting, it's a movie you should check out on Netflix Instant.
Chrome and Hot Leather (1971, dir. Lee Frost) This 1970s AIP exploitation movie has a couple of things going for it. First, it stars William Smith, king of cool exploitation movies and guest star on every awesome TV show ever made. Second, it's the only theatrical film to feature Marvin Gaye. What's going on? Revenge, that's what. When the girlfriend of a green beret is killed by a terrorizing motorcycle gang, the soldier and a couple of his army buddies go undercover to infiltrate that gang and extract their revenge. Like most exploitation movies, the movie doesn't have the budget or the means to cash the check that the premise writes, but it's successful enough to merit your time if you think the plot sounds like fun. The tagline on the poster says all that you need to know: "Don't muck around with a green beret's mama! He'll take his chopper and ram it down your throat!" Where else are can you go to see that crazy storyline? And this movie could only have been made in 1971. Any earlier or later and it wouldn't be nearly as cool as it turns out to be. The things that made the early '70s great are all on display: Motorcycles, classic muscle cars, and REVENGE.
True Confessions (1981, dir. Ulu Grosbard) This film has been largely forgotten. I remember seeing it in college and liking it a great deal. The acting is terrific. (With Robert Duvall and Robert DeNiro in their primes, how could it not be?) The film is based on a best-selling book by John Gregory Dunne. The director is a personal favorite of mine, though now he seems strangely forgotten. Ulu Grosbard also directed the sleepers Straight Time, with Dustin Hoffman, and Georgia, with Mare Winningham and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Grosbard, sadly, passed away just last year. True Confessions is a fictionalized account of the infamous Hollywood "Black Dahlia" case of the 1940's This film will remind you of L.A. Confidential. Try to be patient with the film's glacial pace; it is worth it.
Supporting Characters (2012, dir. Daniel Schechter) Charming, talky, low-stakes movie about two best friends (Alex Karpovsky and Tarik Lowe) who work together as film editors trying to salvage a romantic comedy while trying to sort out their personal and professional lives. It obviously owes a lot to old-school Woody Allen. The performances are very likable (especially the two leads) and the movie wisely avoids piling on the conflict and drama. These aren't people with typical "movie" problems. It's all slight in the best possible way, until you realize that the filmmakers have very cleverly constructed moviemaking as a metaphor for life. A new project means a new start.