Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Micmacs, an exceedingly entertaining French flick, comes courtesy of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the celebrated director of Amelie (also streaming on Netflix). Both films have their share of Jeunet's trademark whimsy, but Micmacs is even zanier, faster-paced and more inventive. The plot is thus: a video store clerk gets hit by a stray bullet as a ludicrous shootout goes down outside of his store. Naturally, he is pretty upset about this. He eventually finds solace when he falls in with a band of misfits. What transpires is an incredible "mission movie," not unlike Ocean's Eleven, where each of the supporting cast's eccentricities plays a critical role in the mission's potential success. The team includes an unusually talented contortionist, a human calculator of sorts, and the world's fastest human cannonball, among others. The sheer quirk of it all is nearly impossible not to love. The comedy here is as physical as it is witty. When was the last time you saw a sincere Chaplin-esque bit in a film? That kind of thing is here in spades and it's a refreshing change of pace to the kind of comedy we're often subjected to in films.

If you love it, there's a couple of other Jeunet offerings on Netflix:
Delicatessen--a fantastical black comedy that is as surreal as it is grotesque.
A Very Long Engagement--a lush wartime romance with often stunning cinematography.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia!

If you’ve ever wanted to meet the kind of man who would get a single tattoo that incorporates Elvis Presley, Charles Manson and Jesus, here’s your chance.

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia is a rowdy document of the notorious White family. A motley crew of troublemakers, drug addicts and downright violent criminals, the Whites provide an incredible amount of salacious material in the single year that the filmmaking crew followed them around. I mean “incredible” in its most literal incarnation. You will not believe the shit that these people do.

This could have been an easily exploitative adventure for the documentarians. The vast majority of the people who watch this are going to get a lot of laughs. Often, it is impossible not to laugh at their casual disregard for the law, their utter lack of decency and the county’s begrudging acceptance of their existence. When you’re not laughing, you will be gasping in WTF-level disbelief.

These laughs don’t come for free though. And this is where the documentarians earned my respect. There’s a lot of hopelessness in these peoples’ lives. Tragedies abound, many of which were highly avoidable. Life expectancy is substantially lower if you’re a White, and so they tend to live in the moment. When these moments get really bad, you’re no longer laughing. There’s a certain amount of regard that they have for their subjects. This coalesces into something fairly unique: a movie that is often uproarious but tremendously sad at the same time.

The utter embodiment of this dichotomy is a scene in which two Whites order some food at a Taco Bell drive-thru. I won’t spoil the context or the dialogue of said scene, but rest assured you will never forget it.

The White family tree has quite a few branches but director Julien Nitzberg does an excellent job of keeping the audience abreast of who’s who. Using a slick family tree graphic and frequently displaying their names, he avoids the sort of confusion that could have resulted with a less organized presentation.

jackass fans will recognize the Dickhouse rainbow logo that appears at the beginning of the film. Johnny Knoxville and Co. share producing credits and this project is a huge success for them in my opinion. I hope they use their money to finance more projects like this. The trailer is below; it does a good job of showing both sides of the movie without spoiling much. Hooray!


Thursday, January 27, 2011


If you haven't seen Dogtooth, then you haven't seen anything like Dogtooth. It is one of the few movies I've ever come across that I can call truly singular. If you're already a fan of bizarre cinema, then stop reading now and stream this already. If you need more convincing, keep reading.

To watch Dogtooth is to peek in on a very private family as if they were an exhibit in some sort of humanoid zoo. The gist is this: Dad runs the show and wants nothing more than to raise his children without any outside influence. Mom is along for the ride, and the kids (more like 18- to 20-year-olds) just don't know any better because Dad has done such a good job of this. The kids are convinced that the world outside of their driveway is perilous beyond belief (just wait until you find out what their primary threat is!). Words are given new meanings; a "zombie" is "a little yellow flower." The parents stage little contests for the children. Competition is fierce; the winners are awarded stickers, which are highly coveted in their little microcosm. If this sounds boring, it's not. You will be surprised and sometimes altogether shocked at every new scene. You NEVER know what the hell you are about to witness.

As a whole, the film is very unsettling and disturbing. The frame of the camera, by default it seems, tends to cut characters off right above their shoulders, resulting in a reoccurring sense of depersonalization. Luckily, the film also has a dark sense of humor. You might be gasping in horror one second, but you'll be laughing uncomfortably the next. Thematically, I was reminded of the infamous Fritzl case. Although the movie doesn't quite reach that level of horror, it is similarly perverse.

Oh, and it features the single-best dance routine I've seen in a movie in a long, long while. 

Still not convinced? This stunning Greek film is now up for an Oscar at the 2011 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

WARNING: Aberrant sex and some shocking violence.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Parking Lot Movie!

First, a brief note about the lack of updates: sometimes Netflix goes through a drought and releases practically nothing I can recommend. I am still trying to come up with a good idea to keep the blog going during these dry spells. In other words, the blog isn't going anywhere. As proof, here's one I doubt you'll hear about anywhere else.

The Parking Lot Movie is not nearly as boring as its title suggests. This 2010 documentary is for anyone who has ever worked a job that they knew wasn't going anywhere. The kind of job where you spend most of your shift killing time. Most of all, it's for the people who've ever had to work a job where they were forced to interact with assholes. There is a scene in this movie where we bear witness to the single best tell-off I've ever seen. Watching it unfold, I felt a surge of joy rush through me. It made me want to travel back to my cashier days and give every last one of those bastards a piece of my mind. What makes it possible for these workers to do just that is one simple rule about parking lots: The customer is not always right. And so the employees are given free reign, more or less, to collect their dued amounts. This makes for good entertainment.

Prior to viewing, I was sucked in by a few reviews claiming this movie was a lot like a real-life Clerks. As it turns out, the claim is pretty damn accurate. You've got, as one character puts it, a group of otherwise unemployable misfits in, as another character puts it, a battle with humanity. Hell if that doesn't sum up Clerks, I don't know what does.

The Parking Lot Movie reaches a little higher though. The people who work there--many are grad students--are a little lost in life. They are poets and songwriters and dreamers, some all too aware that they are capable of something better. Some of them are incredibly spiteful, and perhaps a little too much of the movie consists of them bitching about people driving SUVs and kids with popped collars. Thankfully, their complaints are usually defined by an unflinching, often self-deprecating honesty.

The movie gets downright infectious when it focuses on the camaraderie between lot employees. At its most entertaining, you find yourself wishing you could spend a year or so working at the lot. You will want to play flip cone. You will want to pick the quote that ends up stenciled on the gate. You might even want to chase down a non-paying customer with a wrench! But you can't. Because in an ironic twist of sorts, we learn that you can't get this job. You have to know somebody. A little elitist, no?


Thursday, January 6, 2011


This one's for the skiiers and the snowboarders out there. In Frozen, three friends pay off a lift operator for one last run at the end of the day. This turns out to be a very, very big mistake. The negligent lift operator leaves his post, the park gets shut down, and a storm's rolling in. This leaves our three protagonists stuck 50 feet in the air. As witness to this situation, you're left feeling helpless. You wonder what you would do differently.You wonder if you could've fared better. This is survival horror and it's not for the faint-hearted. The middle act is without a doubt one of the leanest pieces of suspenseful filmmaking in recent years. The relatively thin plot isn't quite enough to deliver a full-fledged horror masterpiece, but this movie is short and utterly worth it to get your blood pumping.

Horror fans have it hard. It's tough to find movies that aren't overtly silly, or just gory for gory's sake; though both can be great if done properly, it's extremely rare. And so wading through the garbage has become par for the course for us horror lovers. This one's the real deal, a labor of love from all involved. Adam Green (acclaimed director of slasher homage Hatchet) shoots practically, meaning there's a refreshingly noticeable lack of CGI. Everything was shot on location, in actual frigid conditions, on an actual ski lift that really was 50 feet off the ground. It shows. Their isolation feels real. The threats are palpable and the terror of the situation is inescapable. Running under 90 minutes, Frozen is a cut above most of 2010's new horror films.

Ordinarily I'd post a trailer here. However, if you plan to watch Frozen, I urge you NOT to watch the trailer. As mentioned, the movie is short and the three-minute preview spoils way too much.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Scorsese vs. Carlin!

2010 is just about over and Netflix is set to release a LOT of movies after an end-of-year drought (hence no blogposts lately). The last big release of the year is an excellent one though.

Anything Scorsese touches is worth your attention. Shutter Island seemed to divide audiences a bit, which doesn't surprise me. It's a long film (128 minutes), heavy on paranoia and anxiety. The story follows Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), a U.S. marshal investigating a missing person case at an insane asylum. As the case proceeds, things only get more confusing. The menace mounts steadily, and it's not long before Teddy's haunting dreams become waking hallucinations that threaten his sanity.

Fairly early in the film, there is a dream sequence that ranks among the most cinematic scenes of recent years. With precious little context to work with, Michelle Williams (as Teddy's wife Dolores) takes command of the scene, only to be upstaged by the beautiful visuals. Ashen flakes rain down from the ceiling as Dolores' body burns away during a heartfelt embrace. This is the exact reason we watch whatever Scorsese decides to make.

Now supposing you're just too hungover from New Year's Eve festivities to deal with a mind-bending mystery, Netflix has unleashed a barrage of George Carlin specials. You will laugh your ass off, provided you could handle a LOT of four-letter words. See below for a full list. This is fantastic news!

George Carlin: On Location with George Carlin (1977)
George Carlin Again! (1978)
George Carlin: Carlin at Carnegie (1982)
George Carlin: Carlin on Campus (1984)

George Carlin: Playing with Your Head (1986)
George Carlin: What Am I Doing in New Jersey
George Carlin: Doin' It Again (1992)
George Carlin: Jammin' in New York (1992)
George Carlin: You Are All Diseased (1999)
George Carlin: Complaints and Grievances (2001)

George Carlin: Life Is Worth Losing (2005)
George Carlin: It's Bad for Ya (2008)



Monday, December 20, 2010

The Good, The Bad, The Weird! Nostalgia!

Here in the United States, we rarely hear South Korea mentioned in terms unrelated to conflict. Which is a shame, because some of the best genre films of recent years have come out of their country. What makes them particularly ripe for mainstream U.S. consumption is that many of them are highly influenced by popular filmmakers whose styles are already imprinted in our brains. Here we've got the blazing guns and kinetic camera of Tarantino, the boundless adventure of Spielberg, and of course Spaghetti Western pioneer Sergio Leone (his classic The Good, The Bad and the Ugly being the obvious reference here).

The Good, The Bad, The Weird is all about fun. The movie starts with a stunning and violent sequence aboard a moving train. It seems a little convoluted because you're not really sure how many teams there are, or what exactly they're all after. This is cleared up in due time, and that's when the fun really begins. Director Ji-Woon Kim (director of creepy/disturbing mood-piece A Tale of Two Sisters, also streaming) likes to give his actors big moments, and so the movie is full of them. The film is frequently funny; even when the bullets start flying, there is a levity to the action that will keep you smiling throughout. Chaotic and energetic, it's the Four Loko of Far Eastern Westerns. You will NOT be bored.

Season One of Inspector Gadget is now streaming. Go Gadget Go. And click below for a badass dubstep remix of the theme song. Even better though is the recent addition of Seasons One and Two of Ghostbusters: The Animated Series!