Friday, July 3, 2015
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 136
Nightcrawler (2014, dir. Dan Gilroy) A great, suspenseful character study and a darkly funny satire of small/private business by writer-director Dan Gilroy. The movie is gritty, seedy and always fascinating as it takes you right into the weeds of a sociopath literally at work. But the real reason for the film’s success is the extraordinary, possessed performance by Jake Gyllenhaal as the amoral and meticulous Louis Bloom. His portrayal of the calm and emaciated “hero” of this story is my favorite performance of last year. Gyllenhaal is a joy to watch, an actor with a wide range who takes on risky projects and turns in interesting work time and time again. Nightcrawler also features strong supporting turns from Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton. Terrific screenplay and dialogue.
Rosewater (2014, dir. Jon Stewart) When Rosewater first came out I was excited to see it, mostly because it was promoted A LOT on the Daily Show, a show of which I am an avid watcher. I have to be honest though; I am a fan of Jon Stewart the comedian but was very skeptical of him being able to direct a movie. The plot of Rosewater isn’t much of a secret. It is a true story of Maziar Bahari, a Newsweek reporter who was held captive by the Iranian government. Even though a bulk of the movie deals with Bahari’s captivity, Rosewater diversifies its settings enough to be entertaining. Stewart adapted it and you can tell that Stewart feels very strongly about the story (Bahari appeared on a Daily Show segment shortly before his captivity) and was very passionate about the subject. It touches an a lot of things, but the idea of “Captivity” and “Freedom” are at its core and a theme that is constantly re-emerging throughout the story. Gael Bernal is great as the lead and I hope to see more from Stewart, because he has made me a fan of not only his comedy, but also his first directing attempt.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008, dir. Dave Filoni) Since I just wrote about Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, the movie in which the Clone Wars began, it seems like a good time to recommend this film (and the subsequent television series) from 2008. This originated as four 22-minute episodes, but a decision was made early on to combine them into a theatrical movie for a wide release. Because of that, the movie works in four distinct chunks, and can be a little difficult to sit through if you don't know this going in. However, people who found characterization lacking in the Prequel films will find lots of stuff to dig into here. This is where we really start to know Anakin Skywalker as a noble hero and Obi-Wan as his friend, where we start to identify and sympathize with the clone troopers, and where the flaws of the Jedi become increasingly apparent. If you remotely enjoy this film but haven't seen the series, I suggest you check it out. It didn't always work, but it had the capacity to be amazing when it did, and it fleshed out many things that the movies just simply didn't have the time to explore. The nature of the Force, the resurrection of Darth Maul, and further hints of Qui-Gon's discoveries were key developments over the show's five seasons, and all that starts here in this movie. There's a group of people who feel like the director and series supervisor Dave Filoni (who now oversees the series Star Wars: Rebels) is the only person who should be allowed to touch these characters, and spending some time in his animated universe makes it clear why.
The Secret Of Roan Innish (1994, dir. John Sayles) This terrific film was just added to Netflix Instant Streaming on Wednesday. Roan Innish is what you get when you cross “family film” with indie wunderkind John Sayles—a deep, beautiful work full of wonder and suspense and revelation. This would be a better world if young people entertained themselves with films (and books) like Roan Innish and skipped badly animated “pee pee/poo poo/fart fart” comedies altogether. Now, get off my lawn!
Teeth (2007, dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein) The super marketable, super bonkers premise for this horror movie -- a girl has a condition known as "Vagina Dentate," aka her vagina has teeth -- would be enough for almost any other film, allowing it to rest on its concept alone. But Teeth is much better than that. In addition to delivering the goods in a "killer vagina" movie, this is a good coming of age film and a none-to-subtle treatise on gender politics. Jess Weixler is really strong in a really difficult role, expertly straddling the line between damaged and sweet, funny and sincere. I like this movie.