The great thing about Netflix is that it gives you a lot of TV and movie watching options. The bad thing about Netflix is that it gives you…a lot of TV and movie watching options. To cut down on your Netflix search and discover time, Netfix aims to ease the process of parsing the good from the bad. The great from the not so great. From action films to foreign dramas, we’re raked the catalogs to offer only the finest that the preeminent streaming service has to offer. So settle in, get your remotes ready and prepare for the red wave of Netfix to wash over you.
It’s been a long week – a final homestretch towards officially calling 2014 – that capped off in a very long flight, so this weekly is as stuffed as ever. After screenings of Into the Woods (review to follow) and Top Five, I watched a few films at home that I’d been meaning to get around to and a few that I had only heard of when the studio reached out to see if I wanted to review them. Included in this category is Tayla Lavie‘s excellent Zero Motivation. A 22 hour flight afforded me the chance to take in Expendables 3, Let’s Be Cops and The Hundred-Foot Journey (none of which I’d seen) as well as rewatches of Guardians of the Galaxy and Edge of Tomorrow (both of which I enjoyed almost as much the second time.) So let’s boogie down and Weekly Review.
ZERO MOTIVATION (2014)
An Israeli take on Joseph Conrad‘s seminal novel “Catch 22”, Zero Motivation looks at the hijinks of a female unit inside a Tzahal military base. Directed with zany aplomb by female Israeli director Tayla Lavie, this chaptered saga of woman in uniform vs. ennui is characterized by a soaring sense of voice and sees stars Dana Ivgy and Nelly Tagar face down the clock as they Minesweep their way through their deafeningly dull military assignment – paperwork. A dark comedy with as many barbs as points, Zero Motivation is a delicious and original vision, percolating with purpose. (B+)
LET’S BE COPS (2014)
I was expecting some horrendous abortion of a comedy with Let’s Be Cops after Fox canned our press screening back in August but what I encountered was an earnest, though underwritten, nugget of an idea. Though as untimely as can be – has there ever been a worse time to glorify copwork? – Cops potential is never fully realized even when it’s defined by an almost boundless sense of commitment from its leads. Riffing on the buddy cop subgenre, this perfectly affable comedy throwback may be short of laugh out loud moments but it kept afloat by the goodwill and easy chemistry of stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. With a smarter edit. a more joke-heavy script and better timing, this could have actually been something special. (C-)
IT FOLLOWS (2014)
One of 2014’s best horror films, It Follows imagines a STD unlike any other, one that claims the life of its victims not by whacking blood cells but by pathogenic haunting. You see, whomever the curse is passed onto is “followed” by a mysterious supernatural being sans discrimination. Like the leisurely-trotting slasher baddies of yore, the titular “it” is a beast of slow-footed intention, always marching towards its victim with its idle cadence. Director David Robert Mitchell deals in wild abstractions while still managing a very real grip on reality, allowing his characters to live on a plane of existence parallel to ours, rightfully ripe with many of the same headaches. Teenage angst and sexual frustration are equally important to the doubtlessly endeavored antagonist in It Follows making a horror film that’s largely inspired by the genre’s past and yet not quite like anything else before it. (A-)
A pretty costume drama dealing with ugly subject matter, Belle tells the true story of a mixed-race daughter of an aristocrat, with enviable fortunes and unenviable skin tone. Even with wealth beyond measure to her name, Dido Elizabeth Belle deals with upper-class racism like 1.) not being able to dine with her family when guests were present 2.) dealing with a handsy Draco Malfoy 3.) carriage rides. My greatest issue with the film is the territory left unexplored. For instance, the dichotomy of being too “low” to dine with the aristocrats but too “high” to dine with the maid staff. Or further exploring that dynamic between those employees of fellow race and her. Alas, Belle deals its Dark Equality Rising card with cliche, overly perfumed turns between fine performances and brusque costumery. (C)
Wild tells the true story of Cheryl Strayed, a wildly unprepared woman who embarks on the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) in search of her salvation. Following her mother passes away, a bout with freebased heroine and a nether-region looseness even a porn star wouldn’t envy, Strayed has alienated her way to middle-class pariah status and seeks a kind of fool’s gold redemption out amongst the wilderness. Her transformation is Kafkaesque in nature, with nightmarish reality checks that make us cringe and an sense of her own evils floating just outside the screen. Busy editing keeps us engaged as does Jean-MarcVallée’s adroit eye for drama, even when the Malicky whisperings almost get out of hand, but it’s a fine performance from Reese Witherspoon that anchors it all together and makes it great. Humming with spirit and sure to leave even the grumpiest humbuggers somewhat inspired, Wild is a powerful tale of reclaiming the soul. (B)
THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014)
Somewhat entertaining although completely and totally lacking in art, The Expendables 3 represents the most base of PG-13 action fare. With a cast of names that would have been awesome in the 80s, this star-studded third take on New Year’s Eve for dudes is a bloodless, often ball-less affair with weightless violence and fair measures of dumb fun. A committed Wesley Snipes, a batshit Antonio Banderas and a scenery-smacking Mel Gibson try to make matters worthwhile as Sly Stallone grunts and bellows amidst a sea of washed up wash-boarders like Randy Couture and Dolph Lundgren. Mindless and frustratingly soulless – though still just the kind of mind-numbing inflight entertainment it purports itself as – at least this third Expendables film shows off Terry Crews‘ absolutely inhuman muscle mass. (D+)
THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (2014)
Lasse Hallström, he of the reckless sentiment, takes on food porn in The Hundred-Foot Journey, a foodie movie more interested in relationships than it is in cuisine. The director of two too many Nicholas Sparks adaptation finds romance amidst good eats as hungry Indian cook Hassan (Manish Dayal) scales the great wall of Michelin stars while courting sous chef compatriot Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), all the while battling off the fervor of rival restaurateur Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren.) It’s hokey, predictable and totally unbelievable – essentially Ratatouille without the rat – but its not without its flavorful perks. As far as comfort food, it’s as easy to consume as mac and cheese, even if it does contain the equivalent artistry and is as easy on the eyes – and just as old fashion – as its headlining British actress. (C)