Last of the November Netflix Goodies

Here are some more streaming goodies for you, courtesy of Netflix.

Killing Season

Action: Killing Season, Red Dawn

Anime: Legend of the Legendary Heroes

Comedy: Several new Mystery Science Theater 3000s (Devil Fish, Beginning of the End, Gamera vs. Guiron, I Accuse My Parents, Werewolf), Brotherhood of the Traveling Rants, Serious Moonlight, World’s Greatest Dad, Jim Norton: American Degenerate, Losers Take All

Documentary: Dirty Business, Last Call at the Oasis, Outrage (2009), For the Love of Movies

My Week with Marilyn

Drama: Savannah, My Week with Marilyn, Bronson, The Burning Plain, Ondine, Crazy for Christmas

Family: Saving Santa, The Magic Crystal, Robin Hood, The Sword in the Stone

Red Cliff

Foreign: Russian Ark, Crystal Fairy, In the House, I Am Love, Legend of the Tsunami Warrior, Ong Bak 2: The Beginning, Power Kids, Red Cliff: Theatrical version, Tidal Wave, The Warlords, Paradise Love, Confucius, Glove, Myn Bala: Warriors of the Steppe

Horror: Stalled

Television: Alaska: Ice Cold Killers, Alaska: The Last Frontier, Farscape, Video Game High School and a new season of Sins & Secrets

Thriller: Breaking the Girls, Scenic Route, The Oxford Murders, The Iceman

Happy Black Friday!

I think it’s a real shame that the major retailers are now open on Thanksgiving. On the other hand, those retail employees join the movie theater and restaurant employees already working that day as well as the hard-working grocery employees catering to all the people who forgot the basting butter or suddenly realized that fresh cranberry sauce is awesome but the canned stuff is junk.

My wife and I waited to do our shopping today, Black Friday. She loves the early morning specials. I hate the crowds but she’s taking me to my favorite used book emporium, McKay’s, afterward.

McKay's

McKay’s is a used book/CD/DVD/game store the size of a Wal-Mart. Below is one of my favorite walls, graphic novels.

McKay's comics

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Turkey Day, Y’All!

Okay you’ve eaten that massive sleep-inducing meal but it’s way too early to go to bed and you have no interest in the football games. What to do…what to do.

Sharknado

You can watch some truly awful turkey movies – anything by Asylum should suffice, say Sharknado?

Pocahontas

Optionally you can watch a Disney double feature of revisionist history, Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World though if you are a history buff then it might upset that nice meal in your tummy.

Safety Not Guaranteed on The Philadelphia Terminator Experiment 2 – It’s About Time week

The Philadelphia Experiment, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Safety Not Guaranteed are currently available on instant Netflix.

The Philadelphia Experiment

The Philadelphia Experiment (1984) – Rated PG

A secret experiment to disguise a naval battleship from enemy radar inexplicably sends a pair of World War II sailors 40 years into the future. They arrive in 1984 to a changed world and a bizarre electrical storm that seems linked to their arrival.

You know, I got it all figured out… Navy owes me 40 years back pay.

The Philadelphia Experiment is a whole lot of meh. It has a decent story and is fairly entertaining. Special effects aren’t – they appear to have simply used a negative image. The leads (Michael Pare, Bobby DiCicco, and Nancy Allen) are engaging but not much more than that. The real mystery is how this got a sequel and a reboot. Still it’s not bad if you like his sort of thing.

Sequel-itis: The movie received a sequel of sorts in 1993 with Philadelphia Experiment II, starring none of the same actors although the character of David Herdeg is carried over with Brad Johnson in the role instead of Michael Pare. The brand was revived in 2012 with a Syfy adaptation of The Philadelphia Experiment. Michael Pare returns to collect a paycheck though obviously not in the same role.

Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) – Rated R

A team of journalists are dispatched to find out who’s behind a classified advertisement seeking a companion for time travel, with payment on return. After tracking down their oddball prey, the team has to decide how best to approach their subject.”

Okay this one is a bit of a cheat. Safety Not Guaranteed isn’t actually about time travel, in spite of Netflix’ description. It is a nice indie comedy about relationships. It is understated and warm-hearted, definitely worth catching.

Terminator 2

 

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – Rated R

A reprogrammed Terminator arrives from the future to protect young John Connor from a relentless shape-shifting cyborg in this sequel to Terminator. On the run, John and his guardian seek John’s mother, Sarah, who is locked away in an insane asylum.”

Cameron loves to have strong female protagonists in his films. This is one of the things I love about Cameron as the action film genre often has a “Men Only” sign on it. Here Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is very buff and capable if somewhat psychologically screwed up. Linda Hamilton does a fine job of grounding many fantastic sequences.

Besides his genius at pacing that I mentioned yesterday, Cameron also excels at injecting appropriate humor into deadly, often grim, encounters. I say “appropriate” because the humor is funny without detracting from the seriousness of the situation.

The opening action sequence where Arnie acquires clothing has great action and humor. Unfortunately if you stop to consider it, the scene makes no sense. For an example of what The Terminator series looks like without humor, watch Terminator Salvation.

Arnold returns as a different T-800 and all jokes aside about his robotic delivery, he makes an excellent Terminator. In the first film he was the ultimate Terminator but here he is practically obsolete next to the new T-1000 model.

 

Robert Patrick plays the new liquid metal Terminator and the smoothness of his face really lends credibility to the changes. Of course a large part of the new Terminator are the special effects used. It seems with every film, Cameron graphically pushes the envelope of what can be accomplished.

Edward Furlong plays John Connor, future leader of the human race. Unfortunately John Connor at this stage is just a juvenile delinquent. Furlong is pretty good but it is often difficult to see where his leadership qualities will spring from.

Joe Morton has a small but meaty role as Miles Dyson, whose discoveries lead to Skynet and ultimately armageddon.

It can be no surprise that I wholeheartedly recommend one of the greatest action films of all time. The special effects hold up quite well.

 

 

 

The Final Countdown – It’s About Time week

Yesterday I covered the good time travel films, Primer and Timecrimes. Today I want to cover the guilty pleasure one. The Final Countdown is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Final Countdown

 

The Final Countdown (1980) – Rated PG

What if a 1980s American aircraft carrier (with its modern firepower) time-warped back to Pacific waters just outside Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941? That’s the intriguing premise behind this sci-fi adventure that stars Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen.”

“If the United States falls under attack our job is to defend her in the past, present and future.

One Line Review: Way too much teasing – for military fetishists only.

The Final Countdown is a guilty pleasure much like Under Siege. The Final Countdown is filmed on the actual aircraft carrier Nimitz. Under Siege was filmed on an actual battleship with the USS Alabama subbing in for the USS Missouri.

For military fetishists, we get to see hook landings, a general quarters call, and a barricade landing among other things. Special effects are primitive and minimalist. The lack of special effects means that all of that wonderful aerial stuntwork is all real. Footage of the Pearl Harbor attack is taken from Tora! Tora! Tora!

The cast is decent. Modern cast members include Kirk Douglas captaining the Nimitz, James Farentino as his CAG and Martin Sheen as a civilian troubleshooter. Ron “Superfly” O’Neal appears as Commander Thurman. 1941 cast members include Katharine Ross as Laurel Scott, Charles Durning as Senator Chapman, and Soon Tek-Oh as Simura. There is nothing wrong with the cast – it’s just that they are somewhat inconsequential. Much of the rest of the cast is filled by the real life crew of The Nimitz.

Unfortunately, much of the running time is taken up with should-we-or-shouldn’t-we-change-history discussions. The music mostly consists of a grating rah-rah score that made me cringe every time it started up. If they ever reboot this property, they’ll likely deep-six the talk and add in all kinds of CGI firefights. Ultimately the Final Countdown comes across as an extended Twilight Zone episode with a large budget.

People Watch: Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman appears as Lt. Commander Kaufman. Producer Peter Douglas (Kirk’s son) appears as Quartermaster.

 

 

Timecrimes and Primer – It’s About Time week

Timecrimes and Primer are currently available on instant Netflix.

Timecrimes

 

Timecrimes (2007) – Rated R

After accidentally traveling to the past, Héctor (Karra Elejalde) meets himself and triggers a series of mysterious events that lead to a shocking crime. The gripping time-travel story — at once deeply intricate and easy to follow — also stars Candela Fernández. Oscar-nominated short-film director Nacho Vigalondo makes his feature debut with this finely crafted sci-fi thriller.

While Time After Time is my favorite time travel movie, Timecrimes is a close second. This Spanish import from writer/director/actor Nacho Vigalondo is simply brilliant in its recursiveness. It builds slowly but pays off again and again in the second and third acts.

Nacho Vigalondo was nominated for an Oscar in 2005 for his short film, 7:35 de la manana. I have not seen any of his other works. He not only wrote and directed Timecrimes but also appears in the film as El Joven.

Timecrimes has a confusing first act and is subtitled but stay with it. It is necessarily confusing and the other acts are masterpieces of plotting. The movie is not flashy, the lead is not handsome, and there are essentially no special effects. Revealing any portion of the plot would be a spoiler. Just take a couple hours off, put down your electronics, and watch this intricate puzzle.

Primer

 

Primer (2004) – Rated PG-13

Quite by accident, an engineer builds a machine that can transport the user back in time. But his discovery comes with an ominous caveat: At the heart of this puzzling device, nothing is as it seems on the surface.

Wow. Like Only God Forgives, Primer is definitely an acquired taste. However I would venture to call it the anti-Only God Forgives. Primer is all substance instead of style. It is not violent, sexy, and there is almost no action. It is verbose in the extreme.

Primer is clearly a one man operation. Shane Carruth not only wrote, directed and starred in Primer but he also did sound and production design, was the producer, casting director, editor, and composer.

Primer is realistic to an almost tedious point. Carruth portrays the discovery of time travel in an almost mundane light. He doesn’t dumb down any of the dialogue and the garage design is wonderful. You really feel as if they have discovered something and honestly don’t know what to do with it. The time travel is actually a byproduct of what they were working on.

I will say that if you sit down and watch it for the first time and tell me you completely understand it, I will have to call BS. While Primer is good, it is also a challenging watch. It doesn’t really go into unexpected territory but examines the nuts and bolts of scientific discovery.

It’s About Time week

About Time

 

About Time (2013)

At the age of 21, Tim discovers he can travel in time and change what happens and has happened in his own life. His decision to make his world a better place by getting a girlfriend turns out not to be as easy as you might think.”

In honor of the delightful About Time currently in theaters, this week is dedicated to time travel movies. After today I’ll cover the ones on instant Netflix but I just can’t mention the topic without mentioning…

Time After Time

 

Time After Time (1979)

“H.G. Wells pursues Jack the Ripper to the 20th Century when the serial murderer uses the future writer’s time machine to escape his time period.”

Time After Time is my absolute favorite time travel movie. Unfortunately it is only currently available on the Warner Archive streaming network. Malcolm McDowell is perfect as H.G. Wells in a rare non-villain role. David Warner is excellent as his predator/prey Jack the Ripper. Mary Steenburgen is charming as the third member of our very unusual triangle. As with many time travel stories, there is a healthy dollop of romanticism in the mix.

People Watch: Look for Shelley Hack as a docent and Corey Feldman as ‘boy at museum’.

Killing Season

Killing season is currently available on instant Netflix.

Killing Season

 

Killing Season (2013) – Rated R

Tormented by memories of combat in the Bosnian War, American vet Benjamin Ford seeks peace of mind deep in the Appalachian Mountains. But when a Bosnian vet of the same war comes to settle a score, a new war erupts in the American wilderness.”

One Line Review: DeNiro and Travolta pontificate and fight, repeat until movie is over.

I think all that needs to be said of this film is the bit of trivia that Robert DeNiro took over his role from Nicolas Cage. Yes, Killing Season was going to be a reunion of sorts for the king of direct-to-video, Nicolas Cage and one of the few people who can overact even more, John Travolta. While they both had a grand old time in Face/Off, they have since fallen off the charts, delving into less reputable work.

John Travolta had a great leading man career with Grease, Saturday Night Fever, and Urban Cowboy. His career petered out and then he had a resurgence with Look Who’s Talking. It petered out again and then he had a fantastic comeback with Pulp Fiction. This time he capitalized on it with great roles in Get Shorty, Broken Arrow, Phenomenon, and Michael.

Unfortunately along came the debacle that was Battlefield Earth. After that Travolta began a series of really bad roles (and performances) in such turkeys as Swordfish, Domestic Disturbance, and Basic. Even reviving his Get Shorty character, Chili Palmer, proved ill-advised. Killing Season got a theatrical release but only barely. I think John Travolta is headed the Nicolas Cage route.

Robert DeNiro’s career arc is even more disheartening. He is capable of giving the most fantastic performances but only under the right directors. DeNiro had humble beginnings as part of the Roger Corman machine.

He first showed signs of promise in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets. Under Scorsese, he was nominated for Best Actor for Taxi Driver, won Best Actor for Raging Bull, and was nominated again for Cape Fear.

He won Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather, Part II (Francis Ford Coppola). He was nominated for Best Actor in The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino) and again for Awakenings (Penny Marshall). Most recently he was nominated for Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell). That all sounds great right?

Sadly he often phones his more recent performances. Godsend, Wag the Dog, Analyze That, Showtime, and especially Righteous Kill are things I’d like to think he was at least a little embarrassed by.

Yes I know I’ve blathered on endlessly about these two actors instead of talking about Killing Season. Honestly, there isn’t much to say about Killing Season. Travolta overacts as usual while working on a very interesting accent. DeNiro phones his performance in. Nuff said.

While there are other actors in the movie, 90% of Killing Season is just DeNiro and Travolta chatting, trying to kill each other, chatting some more, trying to kill each other, chatting still more. They constantly place each other in ‘unnecessarily slow dipping mechanisms’.

There is no sense of suspense here and we don’t actually care about the characters. They try to make the characters clever but they aren’t. Writer Evan Dougherty obviously thinks this is far more deep than it is. Still, Killing Season is a passable waste of two hours and the scenery, particularly of Tallulah Falls, is gorgeous.

Netflix This ‘n’ That

The Killing

* My wife and I have enjoyed The Killing (in spite of the very poor ending of season 1). The show was cancelled but Netflix is rescuing it from oblivion. Like Arrested Development, Netflix is paying for another season of The Killing. I like this trend. Too bad Nathan Fillion has a hit show, everyone would love a Firefly revival.

Netflix

* Netflix is rolling out yet another graphical update. Due first on the Roku 3, PS4, PS3, and Xbox One and 360, it will roll out over a few months to other platforms. There will be a lot more information, better organization, and a much better search feature.

Much Better – God, The Europa Report Only Forgives Grabbers

Today we have a much better crop of movies on instant Netflix.

Europa Report

 

Europa Report (2013) – Rated PG-13

“In this nail-biting thriller, a private space-exploration company sends six astronauts to determine whether Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, can sustain life — and what they find terrifies and transforms them.”

Okay, I officially despise the found footage genre. It had its day but now it’s just lazy moviemaking. That said Europa Report is a really great low-budget science fiction movie. Unfortunately it is hard science fiction instead of high concept and has no big names attached to it so it will probably fly under most people’s radar. Like most found footage, there is a long buildup to a final payoff.

Europa Report has a good international cast, including District 9’s Sharlto Copley, genre veteran Embeth Davidtz (Army of Darkness, The Hole), Anamaria Marinca, and Michael Nyqvist (Dragon Tattoo series).

Look for scientist extraordinaire Neil DeGrasse Tyson appearing as himself.

 

Grabbers

 

Grabbers (2012) – Not rated

When alien monsters go on a murderous rampage on an Irish island, the only survivor is drunk — because alcohol makes blood toxic to the aliens. Now, as a sober cop tries to stop the carnage, the rest of the town must get wasted in order to survive.”

Grabbers is a highly amusing horror comedy from across the pond. The two leads, Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley, are very engaging and the monsters are very well-designed and executed. Look for Russell Tovey (George from Being Human) as the enthusiastic Dr.Adam Smith.

Only God Forgives

Only God Forgives (2013) – Rated R

“Ryan Gosling stars as British gangster Julian, who runs a Bangkok fight club, and Kristin Scott Thomas plays his crime-boss mom in this action thriller. When a cop kills Julian’s brother, the family matriarch flies in from London to oversee revenge.”

Nicolas Winding Refn knows violence. I haven’t seen the Danish director’s Pusher trilogy. Valhalla Rising (which I refer to as Valhalla Risible) was a laughable exercise in style and violence. Even though I despised it for its ludicrousness (a half dozen vikings invade America) and pretentiousness (pick a scene, any scene), I really enjoyed Refn’s next effort, Drive. I found Drive to be a nice neo noir with some astonishing violence.

In Only God Forgives, Refn ups the violence ante and tries to do the same with verbal violence. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and character placement is often very unusual.

Ryan Gosling plays Julian, an enigmatic man of few words, much like his turn in Drive. Kristin Scott Thomas plays his incredibly foul-mouthed and vengeance-fueled mother. Vithaya Pansringarm is superb as the stoic investigator and karaoke enthusiast, Chang. Dialogue is in English and Thai but there isn’t much of either. Refn is mostly a visual storyteller and his films are light on dialogue.

Unfortunately the violence will repel quite a few people, the seedy subject matter will repel some more, and those that are left will notice that, as with Refn’s last two efforts, there isn’t actually much story here. That said this is a beautiful film with good performances – it just doesn’t have anything to say.