Friday, April 4, 2014

Netflix This Movie! Vol. 71

We've got Oscar winners, prestige dramas, kids' movies, sci-fi, kung fu and The Giggler. Get busy.
Adam Riske: Rachel Getting Married (2008, dir. Jonathan Demme) At times this movie can be irritating, but then I love it and I'm left loving it and not feeling irritated by it. It's a celebration of empathy and togetherness, plus a kick ass wedding that rivals Coachella for entertainment by square footage. Everything about Rachel Getting Married is unique -- the setting, the characters, the writing, the feeling that you are at the wedding and not watching the wedding, etc. Anne Hathaway gets a lot of crap (I read an article where people commented about how she overacted during a recent drowning scare in Hawaii...fuck those people) but she can be a very good actress and her performance in this movie is moving. She plays a shrewish narcissist at first, but once you realize that she dislikes herself even more...oh man, I lose it every time. And the great thing is she's still that same person; what changes is you've grown as a viewer and can accept her for who she is. Also wonderful is the uber-foxy and graceful Rosemarie DeWitt. Jonathan Demme is a director who is great at respecting an audience's intelligence. He rules! If you don't like this movie, you may be wrong.
Erich Asperschlager: The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984; dir. Frank Oz)  The Muppets haven't been the same since Jim Henson died, and I'm not just talking about Kermit's voice. I know there are fans of Christmas Carol, Treasure Island, and the 2011 reboot, but I just can't get into anything beyond the original trilogy (I haven't seen Muppets Most Wanted yet). Even The Muppets Take Manhattan, the weakest of the first three films, has a charm and lack of smirk that's missing from later projects. Sure, the movie focuses too much on the human characters and makes the baffling decision to split up the Muppets for most of the movie, but it's full of moments that warm my cold, cold heart. I still remember going to see this in the theater and being blown away when (spoiler alert) Kermit and Miss Piggy get married, like totally for real!!! It would be years before I found out it was all fake and that now they are just "good friends." This is why I no longer believe in love. Enjoy!
Heath Holland: Gattaca (1997, dir. Andrew Niccol) This is probably my favorite film from director Andrew Niccol. Science fiction in the very truest sense, Gattaca speculates about the world we live in and reflects our own lives back at us through a thin prism of fantasy. The world of Gattaca is one in which genetics have become the determining factor of a person's worth in society. Wealthy parents choose the traits of their unborn children before they are born, ensuring that they will be viable and successful throughout their lives. Ethan Hawke stars as someone born without the benefit of this selection and is trying to overcome those limitations and achieve his dream of space travel. Jude Law and Uma Thurman co-star. This was the first time I had seen Jude Law, and I remember thinking that he was someone to pay attention to. The film plays deliberately and slowly, yet it never feels boring to me. Gattaca also features a stunning soundtrack that's heavy on piano and strings and conveys all sorts of different themes: ambition, despair, and determination  all exist between the notes. Gattaca is a movie with a lot of ideas that tells a story in a way that feels special and different. It doesn't rush and it does't beat me over the head with its message. In doing this, it's become a movie that I respect more and more as time goes by.
JB: 20 Feet From Stardom (2013, dir. Morgan Neville)  This Oscar-winning documentary from last year proves Roger Ebert's famous edict that "films are not about what they are about, but they are about HOW they are about it." At first glance, a look into the lives of rock and roll back-up singers does not sound promising, but I assure you that this one is well worth your time. By focusing on the music itself, and concentrating on specific stories about how specific songs were recorded, 20 Feet From Stardom is as compelling as any narrative film released last year. Hear about the late-night recording of "Gimme Shelter" from Merrie Clayton and Mick Jagger himself. Hear how evil Phil Spector tried to ruin the career of Darlene Love, the unstoppable and amazing voice behind holiday perennial "Christmas (Baby Please Come)." As I have recounted on the podcast, this film was strong enough to resist some of the rudest and most clueless fellow patrons I have ever come across in a movie theater. This film beat them out for my attention -- it's just that good. The film is also very good at explaining the sometimes very technical vagaries of professional musicianship to the laymen, or, let's be honest, the least musical person in North America, me. Watch this movie this weekend and TURN IT UP LOUD.
Mark Ahn: The Grandmaster (2013, dir. Wong Kar Wai)  I wrote about this in more extensive detail here, but wanted to mention that despite not being the more cohesive international cut, I've come around to really liking the movie.
Patrick: Death Wish 3 (1985, dir. Michael Winner) A ton of movies were added to Netflix Instant this week, many of them very good. There are a lot I'd recommend seeing. But if I'm being honest, the FIRST one I would tell you to watch is Death Wish 3, one of the most bonkers action movies ever made. Don't worry if haven't seen the first two Death Wish movies. It doesn't matter. This is a movie packed with geriatric Charles Bronson, inverse mohawks, Deanna Troi, old people violence, Alex Winter and elaborate Home Alone-style murder traps. Plus The Giggler (RIP). Watch it immediately.


  1. I hate to be that guy, but I loved everything about Rachel Getting Married EXCEPT for Anne Hathaway. Her performance is what I like to call "High School Drama Club-ey" and really sticks out against the naturalism (feels like mumblecore) of every other character. I get it she was supposed to be the black sheep in this story and not fit in, but it never felt real to me. Still a really good movie though. Jonathan Demme is extremely underrated IMO.

    Oh and I finally saw Death Wish 3 this week and WOW. That is all.

    1. I always felt like the actressy-ness of Hathaway's performance was part of her character, like it was deliberate. But that's me.

  2. JB - I watched 20 feet from stardom at the cinema Monday, it was fantastic! So glad that I got to see it on the big screen. I got very excited when I saw the poster at my local cinema due to the way you talked about it on the podcast. It was a very small audience but you could hear the film was going down well. Particularly where Merrie Clayton talks about Gimme Shelter, I could listen to her talk for hours. I was particularly moved by the stories I heard from her Darlene Love and the others. As well as really loving the fantastic music we got to listen to. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Has anyone seen Thunder Soul? Another music themed documentary with very inspiring people and great music. That film gives me such faith in humanity. I love it.