Archive

Posts Tagged ‘netflix’

Movie Review: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

March 1, 2012 7 comments

White and black dinner plates.Summary:
A liberal couple’s beliefs are challenged when their daughter comes home from a Hawaiian vacation with a surprise fiance who just so happens to be black.

Review:
I am chagrined to say that I saw the awful, horrible 2005 remake of this classic prior to seeing the classic version.  That attempt at humor (that was totally unfunny) thus had me coming at this film rather skeptically, but it was in my suggested films pile on Netflix, and given that I’d just finished up The Real Help Reading Project, I thought a classic 1960s film exploring the black/white issues in America just might be interesting.  It certainly was not what I was expecting.

First, the cast is absolutely stellar, featuring Katharine Hepburn, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Houghton, Spencer Tracy, Beah Richards, Cecil Kellaway, and Isabel Sanford.  These people have serious acting chops, and I doubt a lesser cast could have pulled off this film.  In particular, I cannot imagine another person in the role of the mother than Katharine Hepburn.  Now THERE is an actress.

The film feels more like watching a dramatic play in three acts.  There is a lot of dialogue and emotional speeches.  It may feel a bit heavy-handed to the modern viewer, but it must be remembered the world this film was made in.  One line really reminds the viewer, when the young couple are reminded that their relationship is still illegal in sixteen or seventeen states.  Wow, ok, suddenly both sets of parents’ concern that their children are choosing an incredibly tough life for themselves doesn’t seem like such an over-reaction.  It puts the whole film a bit more into perspective.

That’s what the film is really about.  It isn’t about either set of parents being prejudiced against a skin color.  They’re concerned that the prejudice of the world will make the marriage unbearable for their children.  The movie is about choosing to stand up and hold on to the ones you love in the face of prejudice.  That’s a powerful message and not at all the issue I was expecting to come to the surface in this film.

Now consider all of those to be reasons to watch this classic that’s a classic for a reason.  I now want to talk about one character whose presence was totally different to me since doing The Real Help–that of the white family’s maid, Tillie.  Tillie’s role seems to be that of reassuring the (white) audience that not just the white parents are concerned about this black man John.  She immediately is in fisticuffs over the whole thing.  She tells John, “I don’t care to see a member of my own race getting above himself. ”  She threatens him that she knows his type and although he may be able to fool the white folks, he’s not fooling her.  She even says, “Civil rights is one thing. This here is somethin else!”  The daughter tells Tillie that she loves her and loving John is no different, and the parents even have her come sit down for the big finale stating that she’s “one of the family.”   What is fascinating about this completely false and stereotyped role of Tillie in this film is that it is there in the midst of a forward thinking main plot.  It is as if the filmmakers wanted to give the audience the familiar, non-threatening, stereotyped role of the trustworthy black help that is in favor of the status quo to help them feel more comfortable during the film.  Perhaps that is the case.  But even if the choice was deliberate and worked for the audience at the time, I personally found the role to be Tom-ing and distracting from the much better main storyline.  However, it is also fascinating how a movie with a role like this *still* is better than The Help.

Overall, this is a classic deserving of the title.  Although it is a bit dated, if the audience bares in mind the actual world of race and racism at the time the film was produced, they will be surprised at how progressive it actually was.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

Buy It

Movie Review: Them! (1954)

Giant ants.Summary:
When a small southwestern town sees a spate of sugar theft mixed with mysterious deaths, a scientist and his daughter are brought in to investigate.  They soon discover that a new breed of giant ants have mutated from local nuclear testing and must fight against the odds to preserve the human dominance of earth.

Review:
I watch classic horror movies more for the lols than anything, but every once in a while, one manages to actually stand the test of time and still scare me.

Anyone who knows much about ants knows that they actually are rather awful creatures.  They’re vicious, disturbingly strong for their size, and single-minded to the point of obsession.  That’s the perfect recipe for a formidable opponent if they were any larger.  Combine this with the very real threat of nuclear mutation, and you have the recipe for an ideal horror film.

Something the classic movies did better than today is establish a strong plot-line.  The action is not constant.  It is interspersed with scenes in which the characters attempt to figure out what is going on and determine what to do about it.  This ups the tension for the inevitable “battle the monster” scenes that eventually play out.

Of course a strong idea and plot can still be undermined by outdated special effects.  These effects, however, have truly stood the test of time.  The ants look frightening, not comical.  The scenes are shot in such a way that it all appears to be fairly real, particularly for the decade.  When the sound effect given to the ants–a sort of high-pitched squealing–is added in, it becomes quite easy to suspend disbelief.

If you enjoy a good creature feature as well as an old movie periodically, you won’t regret your time spent watching Them!

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

Buy It

Movie Review: Metropolis Restored (1927)

April 26, 2011 1 comment

Robot surrounded by blue rings.Summary:
Fritz Lang’s classic silent film tells of a future dystopia in which the elite few who live in a shining city are supported by the low-class masses in the depths of the earth performing mundane jobs.  Joh, the son of the mayor, becomes curious and goes to the slums below where he becomes infatuated with Maria, a peace-loving woman the masses look up to and adore.  The mayor along with the sinister inventor, Rotwang, decide to steal her likeness for a robot in order to bring the masses back under control.

Review:
This classic film has inspired art, music, and other films for decades, so I suppose I was expecting something mind-blowing.  Instead I found myself and my friend creating a drinking game to go with watching it, because it is just that ridiculous of a movie.

Now I have an appreciation for older films, including silent ones.  What made the film disappointing had nothing to do with the trappings of the time–the overly expressive facial cues, the odd choice of dress, the exaggerated movements.  It had entirely to do with the plot.

Supposedly the “moral” of the story is “between the brain and the hands there must be the heart–the mediator.”  Ok, so, this whole incredibly unequal society is a-ok and the only thing that will work for everyone, it’s just that there has to be a mediator between the elite and the lower class?  That’s a bit….depressing.  One wonders why such a film has remained so popular for so long with such an awful final message.

Plus there’s the whole Maria and her double plot that makes almost zero sense.  Although the robot double was supposedly made in order to make the lower class rise up to give the elite an excuse to be violent against them, her first task is to go to an elite club and dance sexually before the men causing them to abandon the women they usually sleep with.  What does that have to do with anything?  Why was that even included in the film?

In the end, I’m a bit baffled as to how this has remained such an inspiring classic over time.  Although it wasn’t dull to watch, there was nothing mind-blowing about it.  Overall I would recommend it to fans of silent films and those wondering what the fuss over Metropolis is all about, just don’t expect to be blown away by it.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

Buy It

Friday Fun! (Netflix)

April 8, 2011 4 comments

Hello my lovely readers!  Sorry for the slow week on the blog.  Normally if I’m caught up in a few longer books at a time, I’d grace your presence with movie reviews, but *shocker* I haven’t really been watching anything lately.  In fact, I’m watching tv and movies so infrequently that I’m having this mental debate about whether or not to suspend my Netflix subscription.  There once was a time when I only very rarely watched a movie, and generally I would do so in the theater or borrow a dvd from a friend.  I think I’m shifting back to that persona.  There’s just so much else to do!  Even playing a videogame is preferable, because, let’s be honest, with my xbox I can either play an active kinect game or play on live with friends.

I’ve become so much more active now that I’m getting back to who I really am that honestly by the time I get home, I would rather spend a couple of hours making myself an amazing dinner or make something quick then snuggle up in bed with a book and my cat.  I know that might sound pathetic, but I don’t even get home until late most nights due to plans with friends or going to the gym or heck, just wanting to be outside.  I like it that I get home and am exhausted.  I like feeling at the end of the day like I’ve done something with myself.  I like that it doesn’t take me hours and hours to fall asleep.

So what’s the point of having Netflix?  I like watching instantly, but honestly, most of the time I watch things on hulu or mtv.  I’ve had the same disc from Netflix since the beginning of February.  The more I think about it, the more it seems like an unnecessary expense.  Yet whenever I go to suspend it I think *wait*, but what if there’s a movie or a documentary or a tv show I really want to see and Netflix is my only choice?  What then?!

I think I’m at a stand-still of indecision for the moment. 😛

Movie Review: Saw (2004)

December 14, 2010 5 comments

Creepy, dirty foot and hand.Summary:
Two men wake to find themselves chained on opposite sides of a worn-down, underground bathroom, the newest victims of Jigsaw.  Jigsaw doesn’t actually commit murder himself, but instead puts people into situations where they have to make horrible choices in an attempt to save their own life.  These men are told the only way out is for one of them to kill the other, and as their time limit ticks on greater amounts of information are revealed about the men’s lives and Jigsaw’s previous victims.

Review:
My very first comment as the end credits rolled was, “Holy crap, I can see why this became a franchise.”  The story is sufficiently complex to hold interest.  Jigsaw is incredibly creepy as he uses a voice distorted puppet to communicate to his victims.  Puppets are always creepy.  Bottom line.  I love the concept of a serial kidnapper/torturer doing so presumably to teach people a lesson as opposed to just really enjoying gore.

Speaking of gore, it definitely exists in the film, but the most gut-wrenching moments take place just off-screen.  Apparently this was re-edited as the original cut showed those moments on-screen, and the MPAA required the cuts for it to receive an R rating.  Personally, I think given their low budget, it works better letting the audience’s imagination fill in the worst moments.

Also, Losties will be pleased to know that Michael Emerson, aka creeptastic Ben, has a rather significant role in the film.  I loved his acting so much in Lost, and his work here is just as good.  I may have squealed a bit every time he showed up on screen.  One casting negative, though, is Cary Elwes, who plays one of the men locked in the bathroom, has the worst fake American accent ever.  He repeatedly slips in and out of it.  I have no idea why they didn’t either just let him be British or hire an American actor for the part.  Very odd.

Overall, this horror movie primarily gives viewers chills from the whole idea of such a situation far more so than gore.  If horror movies are your thing, you definitely need to give the Saw franchise a shot.  It became a franchise for a reason.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

Buy It

Movie Review: Shortcut to Happiness (2004)

September 9, 2010 2 comments

Male and female feet entwined with a red devil's tail.Summary:
Jabez Stone loves writing, and he wants to be a good writer, but he also wants to be a famous one.  When his friend sells his manuscript for a lucrative sum, and Jabez follows this news up by having one of the worst days of his life, he tells the mirror that he’d sell his soul for that success.  Of course the devil comes knocking in the form of a beautiful woman to cut that deal, but fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Review:
Even though they’re all rather obvious and quite predictable, I’ve always enjoyed “sells soul to devil” stories as a sort of movie comfort food.  Yes, we all know what’s going to happen in the end, but the selling the soul part and the part immediately after when everything is going right are actually quite entertaining to watch.  The thing is, these movies can easily go bad if they’re not careful.  There’s fun cheesy, and then there’s eye-rolling cheesy.  Unfortunately, this movie is one of the latter.

It features a fairly impressive cast–Alec Baldwin, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Dan Akroyd, and Kim Cattrall–yet they for the most part fail to deliver.  Jennifer Love Hewitt clearly tries; it’s not her fault she was miscast.  For some reason many of these movies persist in casting Barbie doll fake plastic type actresses in the role of the devil, when it’s obvious a classic femme fatale would be much more accurate.  The devil should be glamorous, not fake.  It’s much harder to see through glamor than fake bullshit.  Dan Akroyd does a good job, but he is underutilized.  As for Baldwin and Cattrall, I had no idea these two can’t actually act, but they can’t.  Either that, or they can only act one type of role.  Baldwin behaves in exactly the same manner here as he does in 30 Rock, and ditto for Cattrall and Sex and the City.  In Cattrall’s case, that’s fine because it suits her role, but in Baldwin’s?  Yeesh.  His character is supposed to be a good soul who has one bad day and makes a bad decision, not a slimy corporate guy, and yet he reads as the latter.

In spite of the casting, the movie still could have been decent with a good script, which is why the first half of the movie is quite watchable.  Unfortunately, it takes a serious nose-dive in the second half of the movie from interesting exploration of human behavior to….a court room trial?  Held in a cemetery?  With a jury consisting of people from Jabez’s past and famous authors such as Hemingway?  What the fuck?!  The whole entire court room scene, which seems to last forever, is from so far out of left field and so painfully boring that it really, truly ruins the movie.  This is the classic example of how the ending can ruin an entire story.  Seriously, don’t start out being all “yay NYC capers! Plus, the devil!” and then slam us with a court room scene more boring than Law and Order.

That said, I still actually watched the whole movie.  Granted, I was playing Angry Birds on my iTouch most of the time, but the fact remains I did finish it.  So it is watchable, but it certainly is not high-quality viewing.  If you have time to kill and are a fan of any of the actors I mentioned or are a fan of selling soul to the devil stories, you won’t hate it, but there are definitely better films out there to kill time with.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

Buy It It appears not to have been released on DVD. Interesting.

Movie Review: Slither (2006)

August 19, 2010 3 comments

Woman in bathtub surrounded by slugs.Summary:
When an asteroid comes to a small, southern US town, it brings with it alien slug-like creatures who infest a local man.  His wife is the first to notice something askew, but not before the slugs manage to impregnante a local woman.  Can she and the golden-hearted sherriff save the day?

Review:
The two most important things to know about this movie are: 1) It was written and directed by James Gunn Dawn of the Dead and 2) the part of the sherriff is played by Nathan Fillion of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog fame.  Fans of either absolutely must watch this movie, particularly fans of Fillion as there’s nothing quite like watching him face slugs.  That said, I can’t tell if this movie was actually trying to be scary.  It certainly isn’t scary at all.  It is deliciously disgusting and hilarious, however.  It kind of reminds me of Killer Klowns from Outer Spaceonly with slugs and a woman who looks like Cartman at his fattest because she’s so full of alien spawn.  If that sort of thing is up your alley, you’re going to enjoy this movie.

Probably the best part of this movie, besides watching Fillion, is the special effects.  The slugs look totally believable, and as the husband becomes more taken over by the aliens, he looks increasingly like Brundle in The Fly.  Plus the slugs naturally do all sorts of disgusting things and the effects aren’t the type that take you out of the gross-out moment.  

My main gripes with the film are that the husband is kind of miscast.  It’s really not believable that his wife ever married him to start with.  He at least needed a better looking face or something.  Plus his acting prior to all the special effects taking place is kind of iffy.  I also wished the slugs had wreaked a bit more havoc prior to entering the bodies whereupon we can’t see them anymore.  They were cool to look at.

Overall, you’re going to enjoy this film if you enjoy B-level, gross-out horror.  It’s not up the level of The Fly, but it is a fun watch. 

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

Buy It