Netflix Nourishment: 8th Edition
THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS
The western genre gets another round of the Coen brothers’ sharp signature style with their six part anthology film bounded by greed, solitude, love and death – plenty of death. Their wild drama and wacko wit fires off on all cylinders as their tales of mortality and morality fittingly allows the unruly ways of the Old West to wipe out any possibility of a happily ever after. But, what starts out with a bang ends in misfire as each segment rides down an unexpected trail while slowly losing interest little by little. Luckily, even when the gun isn’t fully loaded, nothing is ever boring when this family directing duo are aiming to tell us unsettling stories.
THE NIGHT COMES FOR US
A relentless, insanely violent Asian actioner that is the perfect movie for those looking for some out-of-control ass-kicking. If you’re familiar with The Raid films, then you know what you’re in for. Director Timo Tjahjanto provides a stylish bloodbath that will draw laughs while forcing you to flinch after seeing a thousand ways someone can die. Ultimately, there’s one fight it can’t win – when all of these bang-bang martial-arts sequences go from shocking to stodgy. The story is superficial while the gore is super-sized, yet doesn’t pack a punch after 2 hours like it did in the first 2 minutes.
THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
Maggie Gyllenhaal is tremendous as a desperate teacher whose gone numb and in desperate need of an artistic spark to make life meaningful again. She discovers a poetic prodigy in her class, and what starts out as encouragement creepily turns in to inappropriate obsession. In this subtle drama, director Sara Colangelo effectively shows a woman who has lost her way and attaches herself to a child who could become the hope for something more fulfilling. We sympathize with her as she loses her sense of reality because Gyllenhaal is so believable – and deep down her character knows talent is hard to come by and so easy to tear down.
A honest and heartbreaking dramedy about a couple struggling to have a baby. Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn are magnificent together, beautifully portraying people who have lost a sense of who they are because of their obsession for a family. It’s a marriage with something missing. Director Tamara Jenkins tells an intrusive story that’s rarely seen in such a loving, conflicting, personal, and funny way. This is a reality for a lot of people out there, and this film carries that awareness and the uncertainty of being a parent with gallant grace.
THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE: SEASON 1
With an ideal release in October, this haunted house show is chilling and effective in almost every aspect. Mike Flanagan does a tremendous job as creator, writer, and director to slowly reveal the dark truths of what’s in the house and its everlasting effects on those who visit it. Each of the ten episodes are creepy as hell as the Crain family is dissected. Their hope was to only be there for a few months as they flip and sell it – and as each night gets more and more terrifying, none of them are leaving as same people they were when they first stepped foot through the front doors.
The story jumps back and forth from when the family first moved in to Hill House to when they are all adults left dealing with their haunted past. It’s constructed so well and Flanagan gives his audience one perspective to only change it an episode or two later. The ensemble cast is sensational, all providing such emotional depth – only adding to the already built-up anxiety. The mysteries are fascinating while the ghosts are frightening, and I’m not just talking about the literal ones. Dread is all around and there are undoubtedly moments that if you blink you’ll miss. Halloween may be over, but there’s no reason not to watch this one. Just maybe with the lights on.
A deeply personal documentary about freedom of expression, love of cinema, and disappointment. But don’t be fooled by the detective story you think you’re in for. There’s no mystery as director Sandi Tan digs into her past when making her first film that’s stolen by a guy who loved to live through others. Coming to terms with time lost and finding closure without bitterness is admirable, but somehow not as alluring as you’d think.
THEY’LL LOVE ME WHEN I’M DEAD
An engrossing documentary of an iconic filmmaker’s transformation while hell-bent on his never-ending quest to complete his masterpiece. Orson Welles always played by his own rules, and witnessing his magic and madness is tortuous yet inspiring. Director Morgan Neville crafts a fascinating world in which The Other Side of the Wind‘s cast and crew put their trust in Welles’ exceptional hands and carries them through an insufferable creative process that he fought to his grave with.
ADAM SANDLER: 100% FRESH
His first stand-up in God knows how long, Adam Sandler reminds us why we fell in love with his quirky humor to begin with. New songs, new jokes, it’s obvious he’s on cloud nine having a blast in front of audiences who have grown up with him and aged with him. He’s our goofball pal whose talent we tend to forget at times.
I think it’s fair to say we often aren’t provided Sandler’s genius through his movies – yet on that stage, it’s front and center. There’s an energy when he’s on the mic that guaranteed he doesn’t receive anywhere else. Most surprisingly, in his latest stand-up, there’s verity from his personal life, especially his marriage of 20 years. There are as many tender moments as their are juvenile ones. And the Chris Farley tribute is Sandler on a whole other level.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND
Orson Welles’ final film ultimately being released is an amazing achievement of itself. With that said, his Hollywood satire of a legendary director – in hopes of a comeback -barely hanging on to the artist he was is a struggle to stick with. While I’m sure a story about desperately trying to make that last great masterpiece sounded familiar to Welles, it’s too convoluted and chaotic to piece any significance together. The difficulty here is trying to decipher the brilliance from the non-sense, and you could be totally wasting your time doing so.
Director David Mackenzie ain’t scared to stain his historical war film with mud, blood, and punishment. But, the epic he was hoping for isn’t here. Mackenzie captures the hostility that runs through the land, and the amazing battle sequences speak for themselves; yet, the fighting spirit that consumes Chris Pine and his commanding portrayal of Robert the Bruce isn’t carried in the storytelling. By not giving all of its might, this medieval dark horse tale gets simplistic and uninspiring in areas where it needs the exact opposite. Watching such a tenacious tale of retribution should be a rip-roaring experience instead of one being fearful of it fizzling out.
Chilling to the core, director Paul Greengrass’s assertive filmmaking puts you front-and-center of a murderous massacre that shook Norway back in 2011. He is a hard-hitter when it comes to realism and action. It’s put to heart-wrenching effect when re-enacting this domestic terrorist tragedy caused by a man who is afraid of change in his country. Its most pivotal purpose is witnessing one young survivor struggle to live again – to take back his life from the evilness that tried to snatch it away. It’s excruciating and extraordinary all at once.
“Nature Boy” Brandon Vick is the resident film critic of the SoBros Network, and star of Brandon’s Box Office In Your Mouth. Follow him on Twitter@SirBrandonV and be sure to search #VicksFlicks for all of his latest movie reviews.