Since we know how important at-home-entertainment is for all of us – every week we do a little “what’s getting released on DVD/on demand/Netflix this week” round up for you, with nice little excerpts of our past reviews and more. You’ll love it. Trust us. Now all you need is someone to watch these movies with:
OUT THIS WEEK & PROCEED WITH CAUTION:
- Oculus. Here’s what we said in our original review:
Oculus should have been a short film. It’s competently acted, relies heavily on atmospherics, takes place almost entirely within a small set, and director Mike Flanagan – who also co-wrote the script and edited the film – shows a subtle confidence with his camera. He doesn’t overplay the gore factor, and when demonic spectral forms do start showing up, they’re used more for psychological oomph than for cheap scares. Anyway, those are the positive aspects Oculus shares with short films. The negative aspect is that it doesn’t really have anything to say. At 15 minutes, a lack of real thematic substance is forgivable. Not at 105 minutes.
OUT THIS WEEK & WORTH YOUR TIME:
- For No Good Reason. Here’s what we said in our interview with director Charlie Paul:
With grotesquely exaggerated figures, Ralph Steadman is one of the most iconic artists working today. He started as a cartoonist, but only grew more ambitious as his pen skewered increasingly powerful people. The most important person in his professional life is the late journalist Hunter S. Thompson: in their pieces for Rolling Stone magazine, Ralph and Hunter invented Gonzo journalism, an approach to the story that abandons objectivity altogether. Ralph’s art defines Hunter’s words, and vice versa. Ralph’s gone on to illustrate more literature, write his own books, and produce commercial work for companies like Frederick’s Flying Dog Brewery. The upcoming documentary For No Good Reason is the story of Ralph’s art, but not his life. Director Charlie Paul and his producer Lucy eschew typical documentary storytelling for something more immersive and impressionistic. The cumulative effect is to get some sense of the man, but an overwhelming sense of his work. I recently talked to Charlie and Lucy about art, filmmaking, and strong local beer.
- Night Moves. Here’s what we said in our original review:
Kelly Reichardt never seems too concerned with entertaining her audience. Her past three films moved at a deliberate pace – her critics might say they’re glacial – and her latest Night Moves is no different. There are long takes where not much happens, except for obtuse symbolism in the landscapes, and Reichardt expects us to think about what her characters might be thinking. She does not make it easy: the script has natural-sounding dialogue that does not over-explain things, and all the character development is low-key. Still, Night Moves is an intriguing character study, one that demonstrates how the combination of extreme isolation and zealotry can be corrosive.
INSTANT VIEWING OF THE WEEK:
- The Machine. Here’s what we said in our review from the Tribeca Film Festival:
Under the direction of Caradog W. James, The Machine never looks like it has a modest budget. Its hallways are grimy and atmospheric, and the simple special effects are effective (the robot’s eyes radiate in an unnerving way). His plot leads toward a counter-intuitive conclusion: so many science fiction films are about the perils of robotics, and this one turns the premise on its head. We come to care about Ava/the machine because of what befalls it, and how its innocence transitions into hardened anger. James waffles in his middle act, however, when he dwells on an obvious sub-plot and the ambiguity over whether Vincent’s employer is pure evil (he is). But once the lines are drawn, the body count rises along with the thrills. The Machine ends on a curious note. Vincent finds some measure of piece, even if it means that the human race is probably doomed as a result.
- Grosse Pointe Blank. Here’s our capsule review of its excellent, excellent soundtrack:
In this scene, Martin is at the reunion and stops by his old locker. After discovering a joint he stashed away, he abruptly starts fighting a fellow hit-man. The soundtrack is “Mirror in the Bathroom” by The English Beat. We hear the song in the background at first, then the tension of horns and guitar gets louder as the men exchange blows. It’s a terrific fight sequence – Cusack and the other man sell the tough physical work of hand-to-hand combat – and the soundtrack undercuts the suspense before it accentuates the tension seconds later. The skirmish ends with a flash of horrific violence as the horns blare, so both the action and music reach their climax simultaneously. The song grows quiet as blood drains from the man’s body, but the relief is only temporary since Debi immediately discovers Martin with the body. Grosse Pointe Blank is filled with great musical moments like this, making it hard to pick just one, yet this is my favorite due to my nostalgic appreciation of ska and well-choreographed action.
- Monsters. Here’s what we said in our original review:
Despite my misgivings, part of me can’t help but recommend Monsters. With two mostly likable leads, I was won over by Edwards’ ambition and earnestness. There’s a message about humanity and fear, and while I wouldn’t describe it as nuanced, it’s certainly more subtle than a sledgehammer. I’m not sure who the right audience for this movie is. Horror and sci-fi fans will be disarmed by the lack of gore. Romance fans will be disarmed by the abundance of dead bodies. Like Red, maybe Monsters is another unlikely date movie. There is enough here even for couples with unaligned tastes, though I suspect their final complaints will be wildly different.
That’s it for our weekly Netflix guide. Let us know what you’re watching the comments!