New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 4/29/14

 

Action/Adventure: Bullet

Don Jon

Comedy: The Benchwarmers, Don Jon, Sklar Brothers: What Are We Talking About

Documentary: Kiss the Water, Metallica Through the Never, Muscle Shoals, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology

Drama: Freedomland, The Selfish Giant, Weekender, When a Woman’s Fed Up

Foreign: Man of Vendetta, Shahid, You Will Be My Son

Odd Thomas

Horror: Odd Thomas, House of Good and Evil

Television: Camp Lazlo!, How It’s Made, Jungle Gold, Lost Girl, Malcolm in the Middle, Raising Hope, and new episodes of The Inbetweeners

Riverman

Thriller: The Riverman

Odd Berberian Thomas Sound Studio

Odd Thomas and Berberian Sound Studio are currently available on instant Netflix

Odd Thomas

 

Odd Thomas (2013) – Not rated

In a California desert town, a short-order cook with clairvoyant abilities encounters a mysterious man with a link to dark, threatening forces.

Odd Thomas is based on the first in a series of books by Dean Koontz featuring the titular character. For being based on a novel, this movie is unusually brief (1 hr 36 minutes). imdb lists rather a large number of scenes cut.

I’d be generous in calling this film streamlined but, while it seems a little choppy, it is not incoherent. Exposition is breezy and mostly done in voiceover by Odd (Anton Yelchin). Many things in Odd Thomas could use fleshing out – both ideas and relationships.

Yelchin is certainly a magnet for franchises. He was Chekov in the two most recent Star Trek movies, Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation, and Clumsy Smurf in the Smurf movies. Here he has the opportunity to anchor a franchise.

Writer (screenplay)/director/producer Stephen Sommers is no stranger to franchises either, having done the reboot of The Mummy (1999) which not only spawned two sequels but also a prequel that itself became a franchise (The Scorpion King movies). Unfortunately Dean Koontz does not have a track record of movie hits like Stephen King. Dean Koontz has eighteen writing credits including four movies based on Watchers. That and Demon Seed were minor hits, the rest not so much.

Clearly I digress. Odd Thomas ran into some legal and financial problems and was delayed and then dumped on the market.

Yelchin is charming. Stormy, our heroine, is played by a very attractive Addison Timlin (Derailed, Stand Up Guys). There are good, albeit brief, turns by Willem Dafoe, Patton Oswalt, and Shuler Hensley. Most of Oswalt’s scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.

I have not read the book but the movie seems like a Cliff’s Notes version. It is still a lot of fun though.

Berberian Sound Studio

 

Berberian Sound Studio (2012) – Not Rated

A shy sound engineer agrees to work on a depraved horror film, only to find that the dysfunction surrounding the project blurs fiction and reality.”

I like it when a favorite character actor gets a chance to be star in a film of their own, particularly when they are a character actor because they don’t fit the standard Hollywood model of beauty. Such is the case here with Toby Jones (recently Arnim Zola in Captain America).

Berberian Sound Studio is filmed and edited very well. Scenes end exactly when they should. Closeups occur often and are well-done. There are no wide or open shots leaving the film feeling very claustrophobic. Sound, as you might expect from the subject matter, is astonishingly good. Berberian Sound Studio is in a mix of English and Italian with English subtitles. Other than Jones, the other actors appear to be all Italian.

Berberian Sound Studio will reward your patient viewing. Gilderoy’s (Toby Jones) mental state being disturbed by the content of the film in the first two acts is gradual but very effective. No spoilers but the third act takes a brilliant turn. The camera movements and shots are central so put away your cellphones and ipads when you watch this disturbing, subversive film.

HBO for FREE – Amazon Woohoo!

The Sopranos

Well only sort of FREE. Something called the HBO Collection is coming to Amazon Prime on May 21st. If you have Amazon Prime then you get it for FREE. If you don’t, then you can always sign up for a FREE month and spend that month watching classic HBO.

True Blood

Full details are not yet available but it appears as though it will be the full series of The Sopranos and at least the first seasons of True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, Deadwood, and The Wire. I would expect Deadwood and The Wire to be the full runs as they have been off air for quite some time and are only three and five seasons respectively.

Deadwood

No word yet on other series like Rome, Treme, Oz, Six Feet Under, etc. nor miniseries like Band of Brothers, The Pacific, Mildred Pierce, and others.

A Fantastic Fear of Everything Jailbait

Jailbait and A Fantastic Fear of Everything are currently available on instant Netflix

Jailbait

 

Jailbait (2013) – Not Rated

Relentlessly abused by her stepfather, Anna is ultimately driven to kill him and lands at a dangerously sadistic juvenile detention center.

Okay who can resist the title, “Jailbait”? The Asylum Presents…Quick turn it off, turn it off! Just FYI the “relentlessly abused by her stepfather” portion of the film is over by the second minute of film. This atrocity to celluloid is brought to you by writer/director Jared Cohn.

Hrrrm. Asylum ripping off the major studios I understand but now they are ripping off Netflix itself and then selling the ripoff back to Netflix. They even prominently display “In the vein of Orange is the New Black” on the poster while featuring a young woman in a prison orange jumpsuit labeled both innocent and guilty.

While the lady playing Anna (Sara Malakul Lane) is attractive, she is also a 30-year-old playing a teenager. Erin O’Brien, who plays Kody, another juvenile offender, is 33. Not one of the actresses in the juvenile facility appears to be under twenty. While Jailbait is blessedly free of Asylum’s standard awful CGI, would it have killed them to hire a fight co-ordinator?

For those into that, there are ample displays of nudity and the usual cliched assortment of prison brutalities. Unfortunately, in a complete opposite of Orange is the New Black, the actresses are simply awful. It feels like they were all given drugs before allowing them to read off cue cards.

What’s next Asylum? Domicile of Dominoes? Apprehended Growth?

A Fantastic Fear

A Fantastic Fear of Everything (2012) – Rated R

While researching a book on Victorian-era murderers, author Jack Nife comes to fear they’re really stalking him and grows agoraphobic.

There’s a really great movie to be made of this subject matter. Unfortunately this isn’t it. Crispian Mills is writer, director, and producer here. He does make amusing use of some Goreyesque illustrations.

Simon Pegg is perfectly cast as Jack the paranoid author. He helps make the film fun as always but anyone expecting a brilliant satire like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, or even Paul, will be disappointed. Part of the miscue is that Jack doesn’t slowly go insane – he starts off nuts.

To handicap the film further, Jack is also intensely stupid. Discovering that his clothing reeks like garbage, he washes it in the sink (reasonable) and then places the clothing in the oven with an open flame, without using a container – something no one would actually do. This type of behavior occurs frequently and is meant to be funny but just pulls the viewer out of the film.

Dreams and flashbacks are occasionally handled well but are just as likely to be bungled. I would love to see the film that A Fantastic Fear of Everything should have been but this is just meh.

 

The Oculus Raid 2 – Berandal

I was lucky enough to get an afternoon off and immediately ran out to catch a couple movies. Luckier still, both Oculus and The Raid 2 were quite good, though not without flaws.

Oculus

 

Oculus (2013) – Rated R

A woman tries to exonerate her brother, who was convicted of murder, by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon.

I am not entirely sure why Oculus was rated R. Oh sure there were gory acts of violence in Oculus but they are few and far between. I am just not sure why the studio didn’t trim a few bits to obtain their teen-friendly PG-13 rating.

Back in 2006, Mike Flanagan made a short film entitled, Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man with the Plan. He was writer, director, editor, producer, cinematographer, and even appeared in it. It won Best Short at DragonCon and a few other places and launched Flanagan’s career.

Now Oculus is a full motion picture. As the film begins, the events involving the mirror have already transpired and the movie cuts back and forth between the adult siblings attempt to prove the mirror demonic/possessed/naughty and the original story involving the characters as children.

The adults are played by Karen Gillan (Amy Pond in Doctor Who) and Brenton Thwaites (Slide, Home and Away). They do a very nice job but it would have been for naught had their child counterparts, Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan, not been equally good. The stories parallel and they seem to have an equal emphasis and equivalent screen times.

The preparations Kaylie (Karen Gillan) makes seem sensible given the mirror’s history. Her brother Tim spent over a decade in a mental institution trying to forget what happened i.e. be rehabilitated. Oculus builds fairly slowly but is very involving.

As with Gravity, what makes Oculus so good (and it is) is not the story but the way it is told. As the modern story is interwoven with the flashback story, the characters come closer and closer to interacting with each other. The way shots are framed and staged and the editing are superb.

The only disappointment was the all-too-obvious ending. No details but I was very annoyed with the lazy finale. Other than that, I heartily recommend Oculus.

The Raid 2

 

The Raid 2: Berandal (2014) – Rated R

Only a short time after the first raid, Rama goes undercover with the thugs of Jakarta and plans to bring down the syndicate and uncover the corruption within his police force.

Now this is an R-rated movie. I have to say that The Raid is a much better, tighter film than its sequel. If you haven’t seen it, The Raid was very similar in tone and theme to Dredd (and both of them owe a nod to John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 but I digress). It told the story of a police raid on an apartment block that goes seriously awry.

The Raid 2 aims to be a gangland epic along the lines of Scarface and The Godfather while still attempting the policeman deep undercover angle. Ostensibly Rama is undercover to root out high level police corruption but this is not where the story takes us. Instead we are treated to a young criminal’s rise to power through his father’s organization.

The Raid 2 is too convoluted. Many characters are given wonderful introductions and then summarily dispatched. One character, whose backstory is given about five minutes before he dies, could have centered a whole movie.

The Raid 2 also tests one’s bladder at a two and a half hour runtime. I say tests because if you are an action violence aficionado, you won’t want to miss a minute of this film. While Gareth Evans the writer could use some more polish, Gareth Evans the action director is definitely one of the best in the business.

Violence in The Raid 2 even surpasses that in The Raid. It is omnipresent and brutal. I have to admit I loved watching a female assassin wielding dual claw hammers decimate a set of bodyguards in suits. The Raid 2 is a simple recommendation. If you enjoy action violence or martial arts and don’t mind subtitles, go see this film. Now.

FREE Summer Movies – Godzilla, Rio 2, Neighbors, Dragon 2

Lots of FREE summer movie ticket offers. As usual, make sure your purchase has a movie ticket sticker on it because the backside of the sticker has the number you need to enter.

How to Train Your Dragon 2

* Wal-Mart has FREE tickets to How to Train Your Dragon 2 on marked packages of How to Train Your Dragon.

A Million Ways to Die in the West

* Wal-Mart also has FREE tickets to either Neighbors or A Million Ways to Die in the West on marked packages of 2 Guns, The 40-Year Old Virgin, American Pie, Animal House, Bridesmaids, The Big Lebowski, Bruce Almighty, The Change Up, Dazed and Confused, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Get Him to the Greek, Identity Thief, Knocked Up, Paul, Pitch Perfect, and Ted.

Godzilla

* Your choice of FREE tickets to go see Godzilla, Blended, or Edge of Tomorrow on marked packages of Cloverfield, Crazy Stupid Love, Green Lantern, He’s Just Not That Into You, Jack the Giant Slayer, Life as We Know It, and Pacific Rim.

* FREE tickets to Rio 2 on marked packages of the three Alvin and the Chipmunks movies, The Croods, Fantastic Mr. Fox, either Garfield movie, Horton Hears a Who, the Ice Age movies, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Night at the Museum 1 & 2, Percy Jackson: Lightning Thief, Rio, Robots, and Turbo.

* Many of the retailers have FREE tickets to Amazing Spider-Man 2 on blu-rays of the Spider-Man movies.

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 4/22/14

Another weeks worth of releases, this time leaning heavily towards documentary and foreign

Jailbait

Action/Adventure: Jailbait

Comedy: Danny Deckchair

Kings of Pastry

Documentary: Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story, Kings of Pastry, Rising from Ashes, Exit Through the Gift Shop

Drama: Charlie Countryman, Come Undone

Here Comes the Devil

Foreign: Bliss, Here Comes the Devil, On the Job, On the Other Side of the Tracks, The Players, Instructions Not Included, La Maison de La Radio, Shuddh Desi Romance

Television: Freakshow and new seasons of Gold Rush, A.N.T. Farm, and Small Town Security

Iron Contracted Insidious Sky Chapter 2 – Director’s Cut

Contracted, Insidious Chapter 2, and Iron Sky – Director’s Cut are currently available on instant Netflix

Contracted

 

Contracted (2013) – Not rated

After a one-night-stand, a young woman becomes alarmingly ill — but what she thinks is a sexually transmitted disease turns out to be far worse.”

Okay umm so Netflix is using ‘one night stand’ as a euphemism for date rape. This is a low-budget chiller with a unique way of looking at a premise. There is very little violence and when it comes, it actually struck me as Pythonesque. There are some lapses in logic but luckily they are attributed to characters who have reason to have their logic impaired.

Contracted is an interesting, low-key story told from a good viewpoint.

Insidious 2

 

Insidious Chapter 2 (2013) – Rated PG-13

While the Lambert family struggles to overcome their son’s recent battle with evil spirits, father Josh must confront his own horrifying childhood.

Well the whole Chapter thing implies that there are going to be a string of these. I was not a big fan of Insidious. I though it was okay and well-shot but rather derivative.

I really enjoyed Insidious 2 which makes me want to go back and rewatch the original. Insidious 2 begins, as many sequels do, by showing us something we didn’t know about the past of one of our characters. Insidious 2 deftly weaves a main storyline with a series of flashbacks fleshing out a story of possession.

The first half of the film features all kinds of mysterious happenings (as opposed to the Paranormal series which seems to use the first half to sell more snacks and permit bathroom breaks). The second half picks up a lot of speed as we switch back and forth between locales. Almost none of the scares were of the cheap variety and there is a fair amount of atmosphere.

The family is very sympathetic. The researchers are nerdy but not overly annoying. The threat is gradually revealed in a very interesting manner. I suppose the only thing disappointing was the third act, which fell in line with the film’s PG-13 sensibilities.

Iron Sky

Iron Sky – Director’s Cut (2013) – Not rated

Okay I am a sucker for movies where Nazis are the bad guy. I love Dead Snow, The Boys from Brazil, Outpost, even the super-cheezy Shock Waves. On the other hand I’m not completely blind – Blood Creek was a ridiculous mess in spite of the sublime Michael Fassbender and Outpost: Black Sun clearly didn’t understand what made Outpost so much fun.

Iron Sky treads the middle ground. It is quite ludicrous (in a good way) but also tasteless (not in a good way). It is funny enough to be amusing (Nazi base on the far side of the moon) but many of the jokes fall flat (a faux President Palin) and some dip into the offensive (albinoing an African-American astronaut). I found Iron Sky to be worth a watch but only just.

Now Netflix advertises the director’s cut of Iron Sky as an exclusive. It is 18 minutes longer so there is substantially more goofiness on display.

Mid-April Netflix Updates

A huge influx of cartoons from Cartoon Network and Adult Swim

The Eagle

Action/Adventure: The Eagle

Anime: Fate/Zero

A Fantastic Fear

Comedy: Christian Finnegan: The Fun Part, Edge of Seventeen, Elon Gold: Chosen and Taken, The Family, A Fantastic Fear of Everything, Scoop, Wrong Cops

Documentary: 16 Acres, Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement, From One Second to the Next, The Last Gladiators

Drama: A Farewell to Fools, Hannah Arendt, Interior. Leather Bar., The Living End, Taxi Zum Klo, A Teacher, Time to Leave, Trap for Cinderella, Zaytoun

Family: Heaven is Waiting

Foreign: Breathless, Burnt Money, How Much Do You Love Me?, Iris: The Movie, Laurence Anyways, Leap Year, Me Late Chocolate, Mother of George, Night Train to Lisbon, Show Me Love, Uncle Boonmee, The Witnesses

Leprechaun

Horror: Leprechaun

Television: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, Chowder, Cow and Chicken, Crimes of the Century, Dexter’s Laboratory, Dude What Would Happen?, Ed Edd & Eddy, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Inside Man, Johnny Bravo, My Gym Partner’s A Monkey, Nazi Hunters, Powerpuff Girls, R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour, Rebel Music, Samurai Jack, TEDTalks: Trust Me, and new episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Ben 10, Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, The Boondocks, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Robot Chicken, The Venture Bros.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The same day I took off from work to see the dreadful Sabotage, I was able to catch a Captain America double feature. It really helped wash the taste of Sabotage out.

Captain America Winter Soldier

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – Rated PG-13

Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.

Wow. I was beginning to be disheartened. I enjoy all the Marvel movies but after The Avengers, Iron Man 3 was exciting but a bit of a letdown. Besides all the tomfoolery with one of my favorite villains, they seem to have written the script based on focus groups and added a cute kid sidekick.

Thor 2 was even more of a letdown. A movie about Norse gods should have just a bit less lasers and space ships. I like Christopher Eccleston but he didn’t make much of an impression as a villain. Even the humor was less.

They took Natalie Portman’s scientist Jane Foster and turned her into a pathetic god-stalker, someone who is only defined by her relationship to Thor. She was a strong character in the first movie and in the second, she just becomes a catalyst. Ah well enough whining – I honestly enjoy all of the Marvel films even if I nitpick them.

One Line Review: Superb storytelling allows all characters room to breathe.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier begins with a wonderful script. While the focus is obviously Captain America, the Black Widow, the Falcon, and Nick Fury receive ample time and a good fleshing out. Agents Jasper Sitwell and Maria Hill return from earlier movies. Robert Redford makes a rare appearance as Alexander Pierce, Nick Fury’s boss.

The scriptwriters, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely threw in a lot of callbacks and natural consequences. We find out what happened to Arnim Zola after the first movie and re-encounter the shadowy figures in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. from The Avengers. Fans of the comic book will have a hard time spotting all of the references and in-jokes but there are some obvious ones clearly planned for the future such as Brock Rumlow and Agent 13.

The direction by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo keeps things moving at a brisk pace. There is a lot of nice humor and banter in the early going before paranoia sets in. I did enjoy how much smarter Black Widow seemed than Captain America.

The action scenes are fine but there aren’t any real showstoppers. This actually works as the directors keep the film grounded and focused on the paranoia. We do get to see plenty of Cap, The Falcon, Nick Fury, and Black Widow kicking butt but it seems more martial arts oriented than superhero focused.

Oh and stay through the credits for two extra scenes as seems to be the new Marvel norm (Thor The Dark World and The Avengers each had two extra scenes). The first is a very nice teaser but the second seemed an unnecessary coda.