Friday, May 9, 2014
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 76
About Last Night... (1986, dir. Edward Zwick) About Last Night... is a solid romance and worth a look. I specifically am not calling it a solid romantic comedy because all of the comedy falls flat to me, especially that damn Jim Belushi performance. I know he’s supposed to be annoying, but does he have to be so good at his job? Why would anyone ever want to hang around with this guy? Elizabeth Perkins is no picnic here either. Ugh! They’re just unpleasant for the sake of being unpleasant. Oh yeah, this is supposed to be a recommendation. The reason you should watch About Last Night... is because of Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, who are wonderful and so human and vulnerable in this movie. It’s my favorite work either has done; when the movie focuses solely on their romance, it is among one of the better movie romances I have seen recently. It’s weird, because this movie from 1986 feels as if it’s doing something fresh when depicting a relationship on screen. Present day romance movies rarely have this level of insight and emotional honesty. And yes, the 1986 About Last Night... is a damn sight better than the 2014 iteration.
Cropsey (2009; dir. Joshua Zeman, Barbara Brancaccio) Before you get too excited—no, this isn't a sequel to The Burning, although the urban legend of a killer stalking children on Staten Island may have been an inspiration. Filmmakers Zeman and Brancaccio return to their hometown to explore the local legend, uncovering the true story of the vagrant jailed for the crime. It's a documentary about the consequences of neglect, the nature of evil, and a community still looking for closure.
Godzilla Raids Again (1955, dir. Motoyoshi Oda) Netflix has added a ton of Godzilla sequels to their streaming service just in time for people like me to bone up on their kaiju before the big guy hits theaters next weekend. The original 1954 classic is not available for streaming, unfortunately, but Godzilla Raids Again (Gojira No Gyakushu), the second film in the franchise, is now available. The downside is that Netflix appears to have chosen the English-dubbed versions of these films which have been criticized for making less sense and cutting plot and dialog from the original Japanese versions. Still, there's a lot to like about Godzilla Raids Again: it's the first sequel, the first time Godzilla fights a giant monster foe and the first time that the franchise embraces two men in rubber suits fighting each other on obvious miniature sets. Seriously, this is where things start to get really cheesy, but also a lot more fun. I would much rather Netflix have added the restored Japanese language version that Classic Media has been releasing (that company has been putting out many of the original TOHO Godzilla films in their original versions and aspect ratios, in some cases for the first time ever), but at least this gives everyone interested in the King of Monsters the opportunity to watch one of his earliest, often overlooked, original films.
Manhattan (1979, dir. Woody Allen) Continuing my love affair with black and white Woody Allen films that began with Netflix This Movie! #20, watch Manhattan this weekend and thrill to what movies used to be like in another age: intelligent, adult, and clever. This film is often overshadowed by its funnier, Oscar-winning sibling Annie Hall, but Manhattan is just as good, just in a different way. Highlights include a sharp, early Meryl Streep performance in a supporting role, Diane Keaton's "Academy of the Overrated," and Gordon Willis's luscious cinematography. This is a film to make you wistful. One quibble: the storyline about Allen's relationship with high-school student Mariel Hemingway is a little "ookie" and presages some of the more "interesting" passages of Allen's later life. The heart wants what it wants.
Roger Dodger (2002, dir. Dylan Kidd) The great Campbell Scott is currently being totally wasted in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, relegated to stupid airplane fights and secret subway lair building. His best performance -- and one of the few movies to make real use of his considerable talent -- is in Dylan Kidd's Roger Dodger, in which he plays a fast-talking ad exec who has to show his visiting nephew (Lex Luthor) how to pick up women. This is an actor's showcase all the way, and Campbell Scott elevates a talky indie to something really special. He's terrific.