Thursday, January 31, 2008

Netflix Quick Picks - Round 6

It's that time again! Get ready to update your Netflix queues as I tell you what's worth renting and what's eminently "skippable." Here goes:

1. Finding Neverland - I'm on a major Johnny Depp kick lately and this sweet tale of J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, was enchanting. Depp manages to portray the inner child of the man without crossing the fine line into creepiness. Rent it!

2. Moonlight Mile - Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon--how could you go wrong? Oh, I almost forgot--Ellen Pompeo who is just as drippy and dreary in this flick as she is on Grey's Anatomy. I can't remember much about this movie because it really didn't hold my attention. Skip it.

3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the Prisoner of Azkaban, the Goblet of Fire, the Order of the Phoenix - I'll just do one review for my Harry Potter marathon because essentially it's all the same movie. Harry is wizard is training at Hogwarts whose parents were killed by the evil Lord Voldemort and who escapes death and danger with the help of his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. All the movies are good--although not quite "great," but the latest installment--Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix--was by far the best. Rent them.

4. What's Eating Gilbert Grape? - Another excellent performance by the talented Johnny Depp, but Leonardo DiCaprio is simply amazing as Gilbert's mentally retarded younger brother. Now I may be on a Leonardo kick...Rent it.

5. Shine - I like Geoffrey Rush but had never seen his Academy Award winning performance of troubled piano genius David Helfgott. While Rush is quite good, he doesn't really appear in the movie (except for two brief scenes) until an hour into it. Most of the heavy lifting is done by the excellent Noah Taylor who portrays the young virtuoso during adolescence and specifically during the time of his abusive relationship with his father and his subsequent breakdown. So how is it that the Oscar-worthy Rush was awarded the prize for Taylor's performance? Still, it's worth a look. Rent it.

6. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Many Wes Anderson fans were disappointed with this movie. Not me. I LOVED it! Perhaps not as much as Rushmore, but still--the colors, the music, the settings, the characters--pure Anderson. Wes Anderson movies always seem more like a party--a "Hey guys, let's put on a show!"--than high art. And this flick is no exception. Favorite cast members are back--Bill Murray (in an energetic and welcome change from his usual sad sack portrayals of late...), Owen Wilson and Anjelica Huston--and having a blast. The scene where Zissou and company run across an island armed with guns to rescue the "Bond Stooge" is priceless... Rent it!

7. The Tailor of Panama - Geoffrey Rush, Pierce Brosnan and Jamie Lee Curtis in an odd little political thriller. My copy was damaged, so I missed out on stuff. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. For Harry Potter fans, Daniel Radcliffe has a bit part and there's a lovely turn by Brendan Gleeson (aka Mad-Eye Moody) as a Panamanian rebel.

8. Whale Rider - There was a lot of buzz about this little indie film about a young Maori girl played by Keisha Castle-Hughes--who was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar at age 13. Castle-Hughes has an beautifully expressive face, but the movie's mostly scenery. Gorgeous New Zealand scenery, but scenery nonetheless. And you spend an hour and a half just waiting for the freaking whale ride. Skip it.

9. The Magdalene Sisters - Horrifically agonizing portrayal of Irish Catholic young women who were sent to asylums run by nuns as penitence for their sins. Two of the "sinners" portrayed in this film committed the heinous acts of being raped and being pretty. Absolutely shocking. And if the film isn't enough with its depiction of hypocrisy and cruelty by the Church, watch the documentary it was based on included as an extra with the DVD. Appalling. Rent it.

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