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:
- The Counselor. Here’s what we said in our original review:
The Counselor doesn’t play as a movie so much as a Cormac McCarthy thesis statement rendered to celluloid. His script boasts lots of speeches – some of them hauntingly poetic – on the futility of trying to fix our mistakes and our helplessness before the implacably destructive force of the universe. But few of McCarthy’s wordsmithing monologues really fit organically with the dialogue. A deeper problem is that, with one big exception, none of the five major characters really do anything. There’s a lawyer (Michael Fassbender), who’s never referred to except as “Counselor.” (See how they did that?) Then there’s Reiner (Javier Bardem), a semi-retired drug trafficker living the highlife, and Westray (Brad Pitt), a middle man in the trade. The Counselor convinces the other two to help him set up a high-stakes drug deal after he falls into unexplained financial difficulties, and much of the movie’s first half is taken up with discussions and meetings to hash out the logistics.
OUT THIS WEEK & WORTH YOUR TIME:
- Inside Llewyn Davis. Here’s what we said in our original review:
The Coen’s trademarked humor is still there, with its dropped phrases, crossed communication wires, and odd verbal tics. But it’s less in evidence than in their other work. Inside Llewyn Davis is a slow, quiet, and observant film. It might be too painful to watch if it weren’t for the music, and for the modest capacity for kindness Llewyn learns. “That’s all I got,” Llewyn tells his audience after singing the film’s final song, and the declaration comes with a friendliness and generosity we haven’t heard from him before. But the line still lands with all the awful weight the Coens intend.
- The Broken Circle Breakdown. Here’s what we said in our original review:
The Broken Circle Breakdown opens with a bluegrass rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” an American hymn hoping for reunion with family in the hereafter. Given the juxtaposition with the title, you can imagine the film is a crushing telling of how that hope goes unrequited. And you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. But it’s also an incredibly observant and compassionate movie, wonderfully crafted, and ultimately not without grace. Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) is a shaggy Belgian farm owner who’s fallen in love with America’s folk and country culture. He and a collection of cohorts play in a bluegrass band, and director Felix Van Groeningen expertly weaves their music throughout the film. The songs are the only time English is heard, and the performances are universally fantastic.
INSTANT NETFLIX VIEWING OF THE WEEK:
- The Showtown Murders. Here’s Kenji Fujisjima over at Slant:
Whatever one ends up thinking about The Snowtown Murders, it’s difficult to deny that it’s a deeply impressive work. It’s Australian director Justin Kurzel’s first feature, and on the basis of this, he’s not only remarkably assured at telling a story as economically as possible through images, but also knows how to conjure up an authentic sense of place—in this case, the working-class milieu of Adelaide, Australia’s northern suburbs—and come up with the right visual shorthand to vividly evoke mood and reveal character. Kurzel also seems to have a sure touch with actors, judging by the utterly natural performances he elicits from a mostly nonprofessional cast. All of this helps to make The Snowtown Murders an indubitably unnerving experience; as a horror film about an innocent teen who somehow becomes an accomplice to a band of serial killers, Kurzel’s film is grimly, viscerally effective.
- Haute Cuisine. Here’s Tasha Robinson over at The Dissolve:
Based on a true story” films are necessarily problematic, particularly when they stray into biopic territory, and try to cover a human life over the course of a couple of hours, squeezing it into a pat narrative arc along the way. There are solutions, though, and the French film Haute Cuisine finds what may be the best combination possible: It covers a small period of time, it doesn’t force an arc, it focuses on the meaning of moments rather than the meaning of a life, and it lets viewers interpret what they see, rather than imposing windy statements of purpose. And on top of all that, it gives its subjects fictional names, to make it clear that this is intended first and foremost as a narrative story about people, not as a warped version of history. This all amounts to a principled, intelligent approach, but it’s also a recipe for what turns out to be a warm and enjoyable small-scale film.
- Factotum. Here’s what we said in our original review:
Charles Bukowski is the shit – there’s something endearing about an ugly, depressed alcoholic womanizer who writes novels about an ugly, depressed alcoholic womanizer. Not much happens in Factotum. Henry Chinaski (Matt Dillon) is an incompetent employee. He loses his job, and makes up for it by drinking and sleeping with insecure barmaids. The movie is worth watching for Dillon’s performance. He does an uncanny impression of the author, and manages to capture his fiendish moments as well as his fleeting moments of grace. For bonus points, you may want to check out the documentary Bukowski: Born into This, which gives more insight into the author.
That’s it for our weekly Netflix guide! Let us know what you’re watching in the comments.