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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Four Decent Movies (with Good Acting) That Will Bum You Out + Thoughts on the Netflix Queue

It’s time to start digging into our Netflix queues. They’ve gotten too long, and need to be trimmed down into submission. The thing about a Netflix queue is that it inevitably has a bunch of crap that you never really wanted to watch on it (especially the instant queue). People recommend stuff and you just stick it in there, because why not? A Netflix queue is also full of stuff you didn’t want to see in theaters or admit to other people that you wanted to see.

It’s the place of Transformers movies, cliché romantic comedies, and really messed-up indie films. Stuff like The Human Centipede is available on there for your instant enjoyment. Sometimes we add movies just because there's a hot guy in them. We know the movie is going to suck, but at least there will be eye candy, right? An Instant Netflix queue is a weird place. Of course, Netflix is great for TV. Lots of decent shows stream instantly. Scrubs, Ugly Betty, 24, the first season of Prison Break, Grey’s Anatomy, the British version of Skins and much more. That’s not even including what’s available by mail. Netflix is seriously the best ten bucks a month we’ve ever spent.

Yesterday, Tsotsi and Blue Valentine came in the mail for one of us, so that’s what one blogger will be doing this weekend. Recently, we watched four movies that are out on DVD. They are all at least a little dark. We wouldn’t say any of them are feel-good movies. That’s why we didn’t see them in theaters. None of our friends want to go out in a group to get thoroughly shat upon, emotionally.

1. The Kids Are All Right - Pure Oscar bait, because it’s about a family with two lesbian moms and two kids brought about by a sperm donor. The kids decide to meet the sperm donor and the family gets shaken up. This is one of the most overrated movies we’ve ever seen. If it were about a straight couple that used a sperm donor, the movie would have passed largely unnoticed by anyone. It’s pretty good, and the acting is great. It has positive portrayals of family, honesty, and forgiveness.

The main reason to see this would be to see Josh Hutcherson, future Peeta in The Hunger Games, in case you are curious as to whether he will be good enough or cute enough in that role. Our verdict? He will be just fine. The family in this movie is strong and you will care about them. The movie makes it clear who is a part of the family and who isn’t. But some of the scenes are just so sad and awkward. It isn’t awkward because of the sex or lesbianism, but because of the fact that you just want everyone to get along and they often do not. It’s like watching the fighting in Revolutionary Road. It wears you out. This is not to suggest that this movie is anywhere near as depressing as Revolutionary Road, because what is?

Movie grade: B
Instant Netflix? No, normal Netflix only.

2. Fish Tank - We got this movie due to the refreshing of our Michael Fassbender obsession. We readily admit most of our obsessions on this blog and this is no exception. The dude can seriously act. It’s almost enough to make us watch that stupid 300 movie again. (It was fun at the time, but once is enough). We don’t know how it’s possible, but he was better in Fish Tank than he was in X-Men: First Class. The girl playing the main character, Mia, was also good, even though she was not a professional actress. She was discovered fighting with her boyfriend at a train station and was offered the part. Too bad a pregnancy derailed her budding acting career. We hope she gets back into it. This movie is about a girl living in a poor area with a mom who takes no interest in her life or dreams. Then her mom starts dating Michael Fassbender’s irresponsible, oddly likable character and the 15-year-old develops quite the little crush on him, because he’s actually nice to her.

This movie has been called the British version of Precious, but we think it’s more entertaining. It’s not a redemption story either. It’s a coming-of-age story. Mia has a bad temper and a slick mouth. She’s not an angel like Precious, but you still feel for Mia just as much, if not more. Because if you have a bully for a mother, you are not going to be a nice, well-adjusted person as a teen. It’s not as melodramatic either. Sure, there is a lot of drama, but it feels more realistic. There are some funny bits too. Some people don't like sex in their movies, so if that sounds like you, steer clear. There is sex. The main warning for this movie is that it’s gut-wrenching. You may get depressed. Whether you do or not, this is a movie that sticks with you. No one gets AIDS though, so that’s good. That makes it happier than Precious. We’re rating this high, because we like movies that you still think about days later.

Movie grade: A
Instant Netflix? Yes. Stream this mofo.

3. Rabbit Hole - This is a movie about a couple dealing with the loss of their four-year-old son. You know if you want to watch a movie about that. One thing we found interesting was the determination of the writers to completely secularize the grief experience. The wife was not interested in any “God stuff” and wrote him off as abusive for letting bad things happen. This is understandable. The movie decided that there needed to be some hope, or it would be too bleak, so it briefly entertained the idea of parallel universes (the go-to concept for atheist spirituality beyond this world). It's as if the writers knew that no flirtation with spiritual concepts in a movie like this would render the whole thing bleak.

The movie wanted to explore grief devoid of easy fixes like, “It’s just a part of God’s plan and God needed another angel.” Which is awesome, but the spiritual side can be explored in a deeper way than what we see most of the time on-screen. Most of the time with movie spirituality, you see a miracle, an angel visiting earth to have sex with the main female character, some canned line, a simple message from a Hallmark card, or a gospel song. With the number of religious people in the world, this would have been a great opportunity for contrast and exploration of spirituality and grief. The husband, for example, could have used the idea of God to help him while the wife rejected it. It would have added more, we think. Any spiritual person who has ever lost someone can tell you what a powerful, changing time that can be in someone's life.

The husband and wife dealt with their grief differently and separately. The marriage was at risk throughout the movie. And speaking of awkward fights, there are some bad ones here. Mostly good acting though, with a Sandra Oh character nothing like Cristina Yang, and a good ending. We liked that the characters were often unsympathetic here too. We kind of wanted to see some sex in this movie, because it felt like it was needed for the marriage.

Movie grade: B
Instant Netflix? No, but it's not good enough to get by mail. Wait for streaming.

4. Dogtooth - Is your sense of humor darker than dark? Do you want a dead-serious, thoughtful, smart movie that will also make you laugh your twisted pants off? Then look no further. One of us has a cousin who brought this over. We will give you the premise: A really controlling father has kept his children on his property all their lives, keeping their childlike minds intact up to adulthood. He says that they are allowed to leave when their dogtooth falls out (either of their canines), which will obviously never happen.

The main warning about this movie is that it features lots of sex. It’s a Greek film, so there are subtitles. Watch it with people with similarly dark senses of humor and tough minds, and you will sure to have inside jokes for years to come. With a different ending, this would have been an A. Not that the ending is terrible; it’s good. It just might have been better. This is the most recommendable movie on this list, if this sounds like your kind of thing and you don't mind sex and nudity.

Movie Grade: A-
Instant Netflix? Yes.

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