Tag Archives: Netflix and chill

The English Teacher

Julianne Moore is The English Teacher. That she is 40-something and unmarried seems to be a major plot point, one that made me immediately vomit into my mouth. Apparently because her standards are too high, a prim, stick-up-her-ass voice-over lady informs us. And indeed we witness several of Ms. Linda Sinclair’s dates, during which she mentally marks them up with red pen and assigns them grades – mostly failing. She is much more comfortable in front of a classroom of teenagers, discussing the authors, stories and characters who never disappoint her.

But then an older student returns, having failed to make a living writing plays in New York City. Linda adores his play of course, loves it so much she steps out of her comfort MV5BMTA3MDcyOTY0OTdeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU3MDQwNjczMjk@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1505,1000_AL_zone to help mount it at her school, with the help of drama teacher extraordinaire, Mr. Kapinas (Nathan Lane). Things do not exactly go smoothly. The play is costly; Mr. Kapinas is demanding; the leading lady (Lily Collins) is a temperamental trouble-maker; the school board objects to the violence. All the while Linda keeps clashing with Jason’s dad (Greg Kinnear), believing that the play’s dark themes have been inspired by their real life.

The thing is, Julianne Moore is great, but the movie that surrounds her is not. It’s kind of a mess. The movie begins and ends with the prissy narration, but forgets it entirely otherwise. These little gimmicks only detract from a movie that’s already a bit hard to follow. It’s a modest movie about a playwright being forced to insert a happy ending into his work – which then forces a happy ending on itself, which feels completely improbable and doesn’t fit with the underlying sadness of the film’s tone. I didn’t hate this film but I cannot figure out the point of it. Only because I was hot for teacher will I generously give this a grade of C-.

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The Outcasts

Jodi and Mindy are a couple of … nerds? geeks? kids who just don’t fit in? But they do have each other, which is not quite enough when their high school’s resident Mean Girl pulls a nasty prank. They vow to get even, and their brilliant plan involves uniting all the school’s Great Unwashed – every band geek, gamer, stoner, and whoever else resides on the outskirts of the Popular Clique. The popular gang only exists because the rest of the outsiders are fractured. Put them all on the same team and suddenly they’re the dominant group. Whoa, reversal! Will high school ever be the same again?

5x3tw-Y6XMQG2KXH5-Full-Image_GalleryBackground-en-US-1490285390734._RI_SX940_Jodi (Victoria Justice) and Mindy (Eden Sher) are our bike-helmet wearing heroes, but that doesn’t mean we know much about them. Even in a movie that champions the outcasts, we still relegate them to the thing that labels them: Mindy is the supersmart, MIT-bound nerd, Jodi is the aimless dreamer, there’s the guy who wears a cape to school, the guy who exists just to dance, the girl who’s obsessed with Paris, the girl scout…lots and lots of one dimensions.

The Outcasts can best be described as “harmless” – it adds nothing to the high school movie genre and is light on its message of inclusivity. The only mild amusement I derived from the movie was in reading the slogans on everyone’s tshirts. I was forgetting it before it was even done, and that’s probably for the best.

Buster’s Mal Heart

Buster is a mountain man on the run from authorities. He survives the cold winters by breaking into vacation homes and living off the spoils. He’s pursued by the police but also by flashbacks to his prior, family-man life, and by persistent daydreams of being adrift at sea. He calls radio shows to warn others about the impending “Inversion”.

The film, which eschews conventional story-telling, seems to have three distinct time lines, if I may call them that. 1. Buster (Rami Malek) as an overworked father and husband. He works as the night manager at a creepy hotel and the shift work is killing him. He lives with his in-laws, which might be killing him too, come to think of it. At the MV5BMzgzNjFhMmUtZDNmYy00N2M2LThiMzMtYjkwMjA4NjlkZjIwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUxMjc1OTM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,735_AL_hotel he encounters a drifter (DJ Qualls) begging for a room for the night, and this encounter will change the course of Buster’s life forever. 2. With matted hair and a dirty beard, Buster’s mind appears to be cracked. He lives off grid, barely surviving, almost no semblance to his former self. 3. He is half-starved, lost at sea in a small rowboat, sending letters in bottles overboard. We don’t know how long this has gone on for.

How many, if any, of these time lines is real? Are they manifestations of his wormhole conspiracy theory, or the product of a mind broken with grief and guilt, or just the insomniac’s daymares? That’s for you to figure out, without much help from director Sarah Adina Smith, who is perfectly comfortable with an audience full of head-scratchers and what-the-fuckers. In fact, she’s going to throw in a whole bunch of biblical allusions just to fuck with you some more.

One thing’s for sure: Rami Malek is ready to be a leading man. His minimalist style still conveys mental instability and eccentricity across all timelines. He contributes to the film maker’s ruse by making each version of Buster equally believe and unbelievable. All three feel authentic but all three cannot be. He gives away nothing. And in the end, if you’re going to enjoy this movie at all, you’ll have to be comfortable with that, with not getting any answers. By having bold questions shoved in your face and living with just discarding them. Is any version of Buster a real person, or are they all just metaphors for disillusionment? Or am I, the viewer, the one who’s disillusioned?

 

Little Evil

Little Evil is not an exceptional entry into the genre, but it’s a quirky little horror-comedy hybrid that’s just clever enough. This film is of the ‘possessed child’ variety but the focus is on Gary (Adam Scott), the demon child’s stepdad. Step-parenting is hard, y’all! And it’s slightly harder when your new wife’s kid is the spawn of satan. You really get put through the ringer. And of course his Mom (Evangeline Lilly) is always going to take her darling son’s side – how dare you suggest that he might be, you know – a little evil? He’s an angel! Besides, how much trouble can a 6 year old really get into, even if he is the Antichrist?

99e58ff3fb9373b5bb8760617c7674f23bddd0d1Director Eli Craig clearly has some fondness for the genre, and little odes to other possessed-kid movies pop up from time to time. Another thing that pops up is Craig’s own mother, Sally Field, as a social worker who thinks Gary just isn’t trying hard enough. It’s a small but terrific role for her – possibly the kind of role only her son could ask her to play.

The film’s weakness is that it never fully embraces its own identity. It doesn’t go full goofy, but it can never be full horror. The result is perfectly watchable but a little frustrating knowing what it might otherwise have been. It also sort of neglects little Lucas (Owen Atlas, the titular Evil himself). We don’t know him well enough to judge whether he truly wants to bury people alive, or whether he’s just not fond of Mom’s string of boyfriends. Our early impression is that he likes to dress like he’s in ACDC and he’s mostly silent, only talking through a creepy goat hand puppet. He’s only just turned 6, still small enough for us to feel naturally protective over, so if you want me to contemplate stabbing him through his unholy heart, you’d better give me good reason and some to spare.

All in, this is a fairly throwaway movie. The beats are familiar, it’s just that Gary’s merry band of misfits consists of a step-dad support group. There are some laughs to be had here, and if you’re a fan of horror, it’s fun to play Where’s Waldo with the references. This is Netflix original content, and it’s streaming there right now.

It Had To Be You

It Had To Be You is an interesting gender-role reversal. For once it’s the boyfriend who’s the serious one, ready to make a commitment and put a ring on it, and it’s the girlfriend who is reluctant to do the whole marriage thing. Unfortunately, Sonia (Cristin Milioti) and Chris (Dan Soder) haven’t really talked about their differences, so when he blindsides her with a romantic proposal, he’s pretty hurt when she balks and can’t accept.

She doesn’t exactly say no, but the ‘time to think’ required stretches on into infinity and MV5BNzg0NzE3ODUzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjY5OTgyMDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1776,1000_AL_pretty soon Chris is fed up with waiting. In the wake of their inevitable breakup, Sonia is inspired by a fellow subway rider’s thong (no I am not making that up, thankyouverymuch) to fly to Italy to find herself, and by herself, I mean some Italian guy’s dick.

I won’t pretend this is a super great movie, but I gave it a try because I really like both Milioti and Soder (any other campers out there?) as comedians, and it turns out, worth the risk. The script is just clever enough to revive a genre that usually stinks like a four day old walleyed fish, and the two leads are un-actory and quirky enough to be likeable, relatable, and not quite predictable.

So there you have it: It Had To Be You is like a nice, refreshing glass of lemonade on a hot summer’s day. Sangria would have been better, but lemonade will do. 😉

 

Naked

Naked is Groundhog Day for people who hate themselves.

Rob  (Marlon Wayans) is about to get married to a woman (Regina Hall) who’s maybe a little out of his league and maybe he’s a little nervous about it. Her dad (Dennis Haysbert, aka, the Allstate Guy) is a vocal skeptic and would rather see his baby girl marry someone a little more worthy – like her ex-boyfriend Cody (Scott Foley) who is inexplicably invited to this wedding.

One small wrinkle: he keeps waking up naked in an elevator and he’s got an hour to make it to the wedding. But he keeps not quite getting there, so when the church bells MV5BOTIyYjBhYjMtYzgzYy00NWQ4LWI3ZDUtOTU1M2NmMGQ2ZmQ3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDQ0MTYzMDA@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_ring without him exchanging vows, the day resets and he has to do it all over again. It’s the premise of Groundhog Day, only without self-respect or any laughter whatsoever. Bill Murray had to learn to be a better person, and while the script eventually decides that Rob’s goal is be a worthy husband, his real daily achievement is just covering up his nudity in a series of wacky outfits. Oh, and sometimes chilling with Brian McKnight – because that’s totally how I’d prioritize my time if I had an hour to escape a horrifying time loop: 90s slow jams.

This is a Netflix original movie that will make you question whether movies should be made at all. If you’ve seen it, I’m sorry. Take some time. Pet a dog. Drink some tea out of an inordinately cute cup. Maybe make a dent in your reading stack. But do come back. For every bad movie on Netflix, there’s a good one. One day I will crack the exact ratio, but until I do, know this: on our site, the category ‘Netflix and chill’ simply means the movie is found on Netflix, it is not an endorsement; good movies are categorized as ‘what to watch on Netflix.’ Netflix is a black hole of movies and finding something watchable takes some mining, but don’t despair, they do exist.

Naked tries to be Groundhog’s twin and winds up its antithesis. Hard pass.

 

Land of the Lost

Sean came across this on Netflix and was kind of astounded that it existed. What was Sean up to in 2009 that this one passed him by? Well, he made a giant move to a new city in search of a new job, and was dating new and exciting women, unaware that he’d meet his future wife in just a few days. But even if life was a little calmer for you in June 2009, this film may still have avoided your radar because basically it didn’t make anyone’s. It was a huge flop, and even the president of Universal (Ronald Meyer) disavowed the movie, calling it “crap.”

I’ve never seen the TV show upon which it is loosely-and-not-really based and now I MV5BODU5MGZlYTAtZmM3OS00MjFlLWEzNzAtZmY3YjU4ZjY1NzhjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjgzNDQyMjE@._V1_hope I never do, its legacy forever tarnished by this steaming piece of dung. Land of the Lost is intentionally camp. The effects are deliberately horrible. This doesn’t make it okay. I guess “camp” implies that you’ll be having fun, and I most decidedly was not. I was just sitting there with a pout on my face and a game of phone-Boggle in hand, just to stave off complete boredom.

The script was lazy, the characters confounding. Will Ferrell, who stars as paleontologist Dr. Rick Marshall, does little to endear us. For me, Ferrell’s pretty hit or miss, and in this movie he can’t land a damn thing. Paired with Danny McBride, it’s suicide city. It’s just inexcusable and I’m glad it was an embarrassment to the studio because they deserve to sit on the throne of shame wearing the hat of dunces while enduring finger pointing and aggressive sniggering for this sin. I can’t imagine who the target audience was – it’s too crude for a family movie but too tame for anyone else, and too unfunny to even become passable fare on late-night cable. This movie feels like Will Ferrell’s caution flag: his career has only slumped since this vulgarity was released. Has he been funny at all since? Frankly, he was only sporadically funny before. This is where his career jumps the shark. May it rest in peace.

Opening Night

Topher Grace plays a failed Broadway star turned production manager and we, the audience, are invited behind the red velvet curtain as he wrangles an eccentric and needy cast onto the stage for opening night of a new Broadway musical.

The musical is about one-hit-wonders of the 1980s starring NSYNC’s “other guy”, JC Chasez, and it’s an absolute pile of crap. But garbage or no, Nick (Grace) has to put out fires backstage (sometimes literally) because THE SHOW MUST GO ON. Even though the kind thing would be to put it out of its misery.

I always admire people who can laugh at themselves and JC Chasez certainly fulfills that opening-night-movie-topher-gracerole in this production, openly mocking his boyband status. But the script leans way too hard on these jokes, making it painfully obvious there’s just little else to this so-called film. It’s raunchy but without edge. The material wears exceedingly thin after the first several minutes and then you’re stuck behind the scenes of a musical you wouldn’t see for free. Supporting actors Anne Heche and Taye Diggs fail to bring anything interesting to the table, and Rob Riggle is downright irritating. Riggle does ONE thing, and that thing is annoying as fuck. It’s beyond time for him to just go away already.

Anyway, this is a too-short review just to say: skip it.

 

Bokeh

A young American couple is on a romantic getaway in Iceland when the impossible happens: everyone in the world disappears, except for them. They wake up alone on the planet. Well, presumably, since they find no other survivors but also have no way to communicate with the world.

Riley (Matt O’Leary) seems to embrace their aloneness as a challenge, and sets about building primitive tools to keep the water running. He enjoys the freedom to shop MV5BNmI3MWU2N2UtNDJmOC00YjdiLTgzYmEtZmI1NzBiYTNmY2ViL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTE0NzEyMzE@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_without paying and help himself to cars without stealing but he’s a little reckless in his adventuring, which irks his girlfriend Jenai, who points out that should he get hurt, there’s no more 911 to call. And she’s right. But she’s also contorted with anxiety. Jenai (Maika Monroe) misses her family. She searches obsessively for other survivors. She seeks understanding, not just of what happened, but of its greater, spiritual meaning. Have they been chosen, or left behind? What is their purpose here? She and Riley drift apart over these issues, which is extra tragic since they don’t have many other options.

On paper (or technically, a computer screen) this movie sounds interesting. But oh no it is not. It’s the slowest, most boring, most plotless post-apocalypiptic movie you’ll ever see. There are only two things Bokeh is good for: 1. the terrific Islandic travel porn, and 2. torturing yourself with bleakness and existential defeatism. So yeah, if you’re researching beautiful places to kill yourself, definitely consider Iceland. But I’m guessing that wasn’t their intention in making this movie.

Take Me

Ray (Pat Healy) is an unconventional entrepreneur: he runs a simulated kidnap business where he abducts people and holds them hostage for as many hours as they’ve paid for. He thinks he’s hit pay dirt when a beautiful young woman (Anna, Taylor Schilling) is willing to pay for a whole weekend’s worth of captivity and is prepared to throw in a little extra for some rough stuff.

But Anna’s abduction doesn’t go as smoothly as all the others: someone’s reported her MV5BM2Q5ZWUzMGYtOWEzNS00N2IzLTlhNTItM2RjN2ZhZDBlOTg4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTE2NzA0Ng@@._V1_disappearance to the cops, for one thing. And Anna’s claiming that whoever hired him, it wasn’t her. So now her kidnapping is for real, Ray’s in trouble with the law, and he can’t let her go until he sorts it all out. Too bad Ray’s not exactly the brightest bulb. Bumble, bumble, bumble.

First time director Pat Healy creates an interesting atmosphere that’s half tension, half farce, and the two leads toe the blurry line well together. It took me a while to get into this because it’s not your typical crime thriller; Ray is not a criminal mastermind, he’s actually just not very good at his job. Tonally, you might find it more in the vein of Mindhorn than Taken. It’s quirky, there are some great gags, the character study is fascinating. It explores this seedy fantasy\role play underground culture while keeping a fairly light, jovial tone. But at 83 minutes, it also feels like it’s stretching to make an interesting premise into a feature-length idea. It feels thin in places. So while it’s an interesting experiment in film, it doesn’t quite work the way you wish it would.