The Shapiro Files

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Netflix Wrap-Up #18

Previous installments: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17

Yes folks, it’s time for a new Netflix DVD film review wrap-up. Marcie and I haven’t watched a whole bunch of movies since my last wrap-up in November, but the list has finally grown long enough to warrant a new one. So without further ado, here we go...

Idiocracy (2006) - This follow-up to the cult classic Office Space by writer/director Mike Judge received theatrical distribution for all of about five minutes, which is a shame because this film actually has a lot going for it. The premise is very clever (a future in which intelligence is extinct) and the film has more than its share of funny moments and quotable lines. I think if the studios gave this film half a chance, it would have found an audience. But at least it’s on DVD now. So if you’re looking for something that’s decidedly low-brow, but actually very smart under the surface, this is worth checking out. My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Fast Food Nation (2006) - Director Richard Linklater’s fictionalized adaptation of the non-fiction book of the same name. It’s a pretty dark portrait of the fast food industry (particularly the conditions of meat packing plants) and one I have no doubt is pretty accurate. It’s a little clumsy in its plotting, but that’s more than made up for in its solid dialogue and performances. As a warning, please note that if you choose to see this movie, you may not want to eat a hamburger for a looooong time. My Netflix rating: 4 stars

The Last King of Scotland (2006) - I’ve never really known much about the dictatorship of Idi Amin or Ugandan history in general, so I found this to be a compelling look at a place and time all but unknown to me. Yes, Forest Whitaker is very powerful in his role and deserving of his Oscar; but it’s worth noting that the movie’s main focus is on Dr. Nicholas Garrigan, played quite ably by James McAvoy. Thus, this outsider’s look is a little off-putting and keeps Amin at a considerable distance. Still the plot keeps things fairly brisk and the characters remain compelling throughout. My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Grizzly Man (2005) - Master filmmaker Werner Herzog has aimed to prove in film after film that nature can be mindlessly cruel and deadly. In this fine documentary, he found in Timothy Treadwell the perfect embodiment of this thesis. Treadwell’s footage is absolutely stunning in both its beauty and recklessness. And of course, Treadwell’s ultimate demise by the very subjects he so dearly loved remains the chief validation of Herzog’s view of nature. To that end, I wished that Herzog didn’t inject himself in the film as much as he did, as the footage speaks for itself. But still a very compelling piece of work. My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) - A gorgeous and surprisingly dark fairy tale that no child should watch. I was reminded a little of Last King of Scotland in that I once again found myself learning about a time and place about which I knew close to nothing. As such, the film ably serves as a cautionary tale about the horrors of Fascism — not that any of us need a film to teach us of this. But it’s the juxtaposition of such evil in the face of pure childhood innocence (beautifully portrayed by Ivana Baquero) that gives this film its power. Highly recommended (but please only watch it with its original Spanish language soundtrack). My Netflix rating: 5 stars

For Your Consideration (2006) - The first Christopher Guest film in years that’s not presented in a faux-documentary style, but otherwise still built upon a series of improvisations by his usual ensemble of comedic actors. For some reason this slightly different approach doesn’t work quite as well as some of his previous films — partially because the broad comic style much of his cast adopts is a little too “big” for a more traditional film narrative style. Far too many of Guest’s actors are going for the joke instead of playing their scenes straight and allowing surrounding circumstances to create the comedy. But that much said, there’s still a whole lot that’s funny in the film (especially Ricky Gervais and Fred Willard) and it’s quite on the mark when it comes to its depiction of Hollywood politics and players. My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Talk to Me (2007) - Take a little bit of Hustle and Flow, a sprinkling of Rocky, and a dash of Howard Stern’s autobiographical film Private Parts, and you pretty much have Talk to Me. It’s a mostly by-the-book look at what is actually a very interesting story about Ralph “Petey” Greene, a very popular and influential Washington D.C. DJ during the civil rights era of the 1960s. Don Cheadle gives yet another wonderful performance and his chemistry with Chiwetel Ejiofor makes for an entertaining, if not especially deep, film. My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Evening (2007) - Another nostalgic flash-back narrative along the lines of The Notebook and Bridges of Madison County. It’s about as formulaic and forced as it’s poorly cast (with the lone exception of a predictably fine performance by Meryl Streep). In a word: dreck. My Netflix rating: 1 star

Accepted (2006) - I suspected that this was not going to be a particularly good film, but hoped it would at least be funny. And I was right. There are enough funny (and quotable) moments with Lewis Black alone to make this an entertaining experience. Plus Justin Long and supporting cast are able to eke out a few additional chuckles. So I guess there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes. My Netflix rating: 2 stars

Once (2006) - A wonderful find. Marcie and I absolutely loved this tiny, ultra low-budget Irish film about musicians and the creative process. The action of the movie only takes place over a handful of days and there aren’t any grand sweeping plot arcs you’d expect in a film with this subject matter. Nope, you won’t get the moment when the “unknown musician” gets discovered by the wily talent scout and becomes an overnight sensation. You won’t get the predictable love story (guy finds girl, guy neglects girl in pursuit of his dreams, guy regains girl....oh and becomes a superstar to boot). You won’t even get the moment when the artist and friends are driving in a car, turn on the radio, and hear the artist’s song on the radio for the first time — an event that results in everyone hooting it up in joyful celebration. Nope, nothing like that. It’s just a simple story of musicians getting together and, well, making music. And what music it is! Marcie and I really loved the songs in the film (composed and performed by the extremely talented Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, who play the film’s lead roles). Very highly recommended. My Netflix rating: 5 stars


  • James McAvoy plays Dr. Garrigan in Last King of Scotland. Gillian is in the movie and plays a doctor but she's not the main character ... who is a man. Did you actually watch the movie?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/04/2008 7:16 PM  

  • Cous -

    The last 5 minutes of Fast Food Nation is jaw-droppingly disgusting...

    I never felt so bad for cows...

    Pan's Labyrinth was outstanding, dark, and creepy...I thought it would be more Bridge to tarabithia...and it wasn't!

    Nothing like Best in Show...or a Mighty Wind...I watch those over and over...have not seen one like that in a while fro Guest.

    By Blogger The Egel Nest, at 2/04/2008 8:00 PM  

  • Anonymous, thanks for the correction. That's funny! I sometimes write these things up pretty quickly (having two very young children forces you to work fast) and I simply grabbed the wrong name from IMDB. :) In all events, I corrected the entry. Hope you'll still come back despite the mistake!

    Brad, thanks for your comments. Sounds like we both had a pretty similar reaction to both Fast Food Nation and Pan's Labyrinth. As for For Your Consideration, I think it's still worth seeing. The whole "Home for Purim" movie within the movie is quite funny. But the movie as a whole just doesn't work as well as some of Guest's other movies. And by the way, my absolutely favorite Guest movie (besides the brilliant Spinal Tap, which is technically a Rob Reiner film) is Waiting for Guffman. Having worked in community theater for years, I found it to be really on the mark.

    By Blogger Steve Shapiro, at 2/05/2008 9:43 AM  

  • We were watching The Last King of Scotland when I went into labor, so I will never forget that movie. :) I thought Forrest Whitaker was good but almost over-the-top in the role. But I know almost nothing about Idi Amin, so I suppose he was just an over-the-top kind of guy (fitting for a dictator)!

    By Anonymous Jill Lewis, at 2/06/2008 11:46 AM  

  • Jill,

    That's so funny about your major life event occurring while watching Last King! Did you actually keep watching until the end or did you turn it off (maybe instead choosing to start packing up the car for an eventual trip to the hospital)? If the former I can't imagine being able to pay much attention to the movie! :)

    Please send my best to Uriel and cute little Nathan!


    By Blogger Steve Shapiro, at 2/07/2008 11:28 PM  

  • We did watch until the end. My contractions were still pretty light and spaced out, so I wasn't even sure at the time that I was in real labor yet. After the movie was over it was apparent that it was!

    By Anonymous Jill, at 2/11/2008 8:52 AM  

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