Thursday, July 19, 2007

Netflix Quick Picks

Due to the dearth of decent TV during summer months, I've upgraded my Netflix account to two movies at a time. Initially I had a free 3 month subscription from Film Independent as part of a promotion to enable people to watch and vote for Spirit Award nominees. I was really impressed by how quick and easy the whole thing was, so I kept it up after my free trial expired. But I downgraded to one movie at a time. Three was too stressful. They'd be sitting on top of the TV, taunting me. Not so much with just one or even two at a time. Hey there you in your little red envelope--just try to gang up on me now!

Anyway, I've been watching a lot of movies. So I thought I'd give a rundown of what might be worth adding to your queue (in my humble opinion) and what you can just skip.

1. The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy - rented these in anticipation of The Bourne Ultimatum coming out next month. Both are very decent action thrillers.

2. Croupier - Clive Owen's breakout role. It's OK. He's hotter in Gosford Park and Children of Men.

3. Garden State - Slightly self-indulgent--it has its moments. OK if you're a Zach Braff fan.

4. Closer - Very powerful performances. Definitely worth renting if you're into character studies.

5. Me and You and Everyone We Know - It has its moments but overall it was on the painful side. Skip.

6. The Squid and the Whale - Love Jeff Daniels (check him out in The Lookout!), hated this movie.

7. Junebug - Hated this one even more--although Amy Adams does shine here.

8. Lord of War and The Weatherman - Nic Cage double feature. For anyone pained by a lot of his recent acting choices (Ghostrider?), these are two overlooked and underrated performances. Both are very similar in that the protagonist is fairly unlikable and provides a cynical running commentary to the plot.

9. Inside Man - Clive Owen spends most of the movie with his face covered. What a waste! But all in all it's a smart caper movie.

10. Jacob's Ladder - Very strange, like being on an acid trip.

11. Spanglish - Has its moments--some amazing performances. Especially by Cloris Leachman and Sarah Steele.

12. Lawrence of Arabia - possibly the most overrated, tedious movie EVER! Snore.

13. A Man for All Seasons - I generally love stories about Henry the VIII, but this had long and interminable scenes of dialogue. Not active or visual enough to be a movie. If you loved Dinner with Andre (and I did NOT!), you might like this.

14. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - It's a bit long, but brilliant! Everyone should see this movie at least once.

15. The Magnificent Seven - Classic. Worth renting.

16. Bullitt - Part of my mission to figure out why Steve McQueen was "all that" back in the day. I still haven't gotten it figured out. Back in the 60s/70s, I'm sure action movies like this and The French Connection were groundbreaking, but they're hopelessly outdated and outpaced compared to todays. Rent any of the Die Hards. Or go see the latest installment in the theater.

17. The Getaway - Completely unwatchable, although it picks up some in the third act. Ali MacGraw is the most wooden actress EVER, the dialogue is stilted and I still don't get the whole Steve McQueen thing.

18. Rashomon - I'd heard a lot about this. It's pretty awful. I hear Seven Samurai is better. We'll see...

19. Man About Town - Skip it.

20. Soldier's Girl - Excellent performances. Heartbreaking. If you liked Boys Don't Cry and/or The Crying Game, put this on your list.

21. The Great Escape - More Steve McQueen, but also Charles Bronson and James Garner and James Coburn (who was so young he was still pretty instead of gritty!). Great flick.

22. The Dirty Dozen - Classic. Add it to your list.

23. The Aviator - Flawed, but it has its moments. I'm starting to like DiCaprio more than I used to...

24. Hotel Rwanda - Excruciating, but important to watch. Don Cheadle is amazing as always.

25. City of God - Brilliant movie. Great storytelling. Beautiful and heartbreaking.

26. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead - And the rest of you might die of boredom if you rent this movie...

27. The Constant Gardener - Good flick.

28. Malice - Good flick. The famous Alec Baldwin "I am God" scene.

29. Suicide Kings - Tries to be all smart and twisty but doesn't succeed. Might be worth it to watch Denis Leary being all Denis Leary and Chris Walken doing his spooky thing.

30. The Lives of Others - Won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Pan's Labyrinth really deserved it more, but this film is worth watching.

31. Hustle and Flow - Has its moments, but the Oscar winning song (Hard Out Here for a Pimp) is the best thing about this movie.

32. Infamous - The OTHER Capote movie. Just OK although Sandra Bullock does a good job.

33. Quinceanera - Amazing low budget Spirit Award nominee. Definitely rent.

34. American Gun - Uneven, but it has its moments.

35. A Guide to Recognizing your Saints - Before he was kicking ass in Transformers, Shia LaBouef was playing the younger version of Robert Downey Jr. in this memoir of Dito Montiel's life. Some great performances and innovative film storytelling.

36. The Devil's Backbone - If you liked Pan's Labyrinth, you'll like its predecessor as well.

37. A Lion in the House - Way too long doc about kids with cancer. Depressing material and agonizing to watch. And not just because of the depressing material. Should have been released as a series or edited more aggressively.

38. Stephanie Daley - Amber Tamblyn and Tilda Swinton. Uneven, but engrossing.

39. The Blossoming of Maximos Oliveros - Very unusual and oddly affecting story of a young Filipino boy.

40. You're Gonna Miss Me - Brilliantly neutral documentary about psychologically tormented psychedelic rock legend Roky Erickson and the fight between his youngest brother and his mother to be his guardian.

41. Conversations with other Women - Most of the "theatrical" pieces I see bore me to tears, but as dialogue-heavy as this is, it never gets boring.

42. Road to Guantanamo - Amazing re-creation of the wrongful arrest and detainment of the British Muslim men held in Guantanamo for over two years. Must rent!

43. Chalk - Micro-budget mockumentary about school teachers--it's a complete hoot! Definitely add to your queue.

44. Sorry, Haters - Oddly affecting post 9/11 film starring Robin Wright Penn, Sandra Oh and Abdel Kechiche.

45. Friends with Money - Wonderful performances.

46. Bubble - Odd Steven Soderbergh experiment. Skip.

47. A Prairie Home Companion - There's great Altman and there's not so great Altman. This is the latter.

I've still got a couple dozen picks in the queue--but if anyone has any suggestions let me know!

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